A couple of Sundays ago, as I held hands with my son during the prayer at church, I was made painfully aware how fast time goes by. No longer was his hand tiny, like when I brought him home from the hospital. Nor was it miniature as when I walked him to his Kindergarten room.
Now, his hand was taking the form of a young man, strong and a bit larger than mine. He held my hand firmly, not grudgingly like a few years ago when he would die of embarrassment if he was caught holding his mother’s hand.
Memories flooded into my mind—the clay plate my husband made me with our son’s tiny hand prints embedded in it, the construction paper turkey my son made in 2nd grade.
Then a memory came back that was not so pleasant and whimsical, but downright terrifying. The memory began when my son was 3 years old. We were living in an apartment complex in Las Vegas. I had the day off and was busy doing laundry in the community downstairs laundry room. My son was playing outside only a couple of feet from me. The complex was in a courtyard design, with eight apartments surrounding the grassy park area in the middle. He was happy playing with his toy truck and I would frequently peak out the door to check on him as I did my chore.
Just as I put the last load in the dryer, I poked my head out, and he wasn't there. My heart skipped a beat as I ran outside. I heard him screaming and I dashed to the sound. I found my son crying by a parked bicycle parked underneath a stairway. I figured he got scared since he couldn't see me and I walked over to him, relieved I had found him so quickly. However, as I got closer, I saw why he was crying—his tiny finger had got stuck in the bicycle’s gear chain. I immediately rushed over and tried to pull the chain up to release his finger. Although I had plenty of adrenaline pumping through me, I wasn't strong enough to move the taut chain.
I knew I had to get his finger out of there or he would suffer a lot of damage to it, possibly even lose it. With this grim thought, I knew I needed help, but where would I get it? My husband was at work, so I couldn't race to our apartment. I figured I would start pounding doors, but didn't want to leave my son, who was howling in pain and panic. I looked up and saw an open apartment door. I screamed at the top of my lungs for help. In about a minute, a man came out on his patio. Now, I was engulfed in tears and cried for him to help my son. The man lunged down the stairs two at a time. Through gasps, I pointed to the bike and quick as a flash, he was able to lift the gear chain and my son was able to pull his finger out!!
I grabbed my son and held him close. The man smiled and patted my son’s head. He admitted he had heard him crying but thought it was kids playing, until he heard my primal howl. Then he asked in a concerned voice how I was doing, was I going to be okay? I must have looked like a complete wreak--my face blotchy from crying, my own fingers covered in grease and blisters, my breathing almost at a hyperventilating point. I managed to smile, said I would be fine and thanked him profusely. It didn't matter how I felt, as long as my son was safe.
Now, in present time standing there in church holding my son’s hand, I realized I had not fully forgiven myself for this incident. Periodically, just like now, it would play through my mind, and I would torture myself with guilt and blame. The “what ifs” plagued me to a point that I would physically relive the panic I felt all of those years ago.
I decided then and there I would find a way to forgive myself. I said a prayer of thanks for the upstairs neighbor for his tremendous help.
I will construct a mental fly swatter --when negative thoughts creep into my mind (you’re a terrible mother letting your child get hurt like that, what if no one was there to help?) I will bat them away with logical and positive tidbits— you were able to get help, my son doesn't remember the incident, his hand is fine and strong, it could have been a whole lot worse. Hopefully, the more I practice this technique, this instrument will start to resemble a Louisville Slugger to send these energy-wasting thoughts out of the ballpark of my mind.