Saturday morning. We bundled up and headed to the ice skating birthday party. It would be the big girls' first time on ice and they were pumped. We piled in a yellow cab. Minutes later, we arrived at our destination: Central Park South. We spilled out of the taxi, Husband paid the driver, I wrangled the babe into the stroller.
Where is my big sister? Middle Girl asked. And I stood up and looked both ways, up and down the avenue. Furiously, I scanned the streets for her purple parka. We all did. Nothing. We started to scream her name. Scream it. My heart about jumped from my chest.
Then I saw her. She came running around the corner, toward me. And I ran toward her. I bent down and hugged her harder than I've ever hugged her. My instinct to yell, to lecture, to discipline, faded when I saw how shaken she was. She was literally shaking, her blue eyes glossed with tears. Just like mine. I didn't see you, she said. I didn't see you.
We stayed there like that, wrapped up in each other for what seemed like forever. I'm pretty sure she saw someone that looked like Husband and me and just skipped along after... I'm not sure. Anyway, I took her face my hands and said things, things I've repeated countless times since. You cannot leave our side. We always need to be able to see you and you always need to be able to see us. I know you are six and getting to be a big girl but you need to stick close to us. Always. Always. She nodded and nodded, fear and sadness plain on her little face. I grabbed her hand and we all walked to the rink.
Later that night, I recounted the episode to my sister over dinner. She was gone for like two minutes, I said. Husband corrected me, telling me that it was more like 30 seconds. And he is probably right. But they were among the scariest 30 seconds I have ever experienced in my life. They reminded me, and immediately too, of something that happened a couple years ago with Middle Girl. After unloading our car in front of our home, she ran out into the street. It was dark and there was oncoming traffic. My heart, again, did its horrible dance. Again, mercifully, my girl was okay.
What's interesting is that years ago, I was full of blame and shame and hesitant to write about what happened. But this time. This time, I was just as rattled but I didn't plunge into an unhealthy canyon of guilt. Sure, I could have done more to make sure all of my girls were accounted for in those Saturday morning moments. But the reality is that things happen. We get distracted doing things. Kids turn corners.
Anyway, Middle Girl in the street and Big Girl around the corner have been among my most horrifying moments as a mother. Hands down. And I can only imagine that I am not the only one who has had things like this happen. I also imagine that things like this will happen again. No matter how hard I try to be perfect, present, protective.
Anyway, I am not sure what the point here is. But that's okay, right? I'm just beyond thankful that those awful moments have passed, that my girl is safe and sound, that all of my girls are, that today is a new day.
These moments do serve to do something good though. They wake us up.
Have you had any really scary moments as a parent? How have you processed and moved past these moments?