October 20, 2011

Mother of the Year

It's a lot worse in person.  I promise.

Well, she had her first big bump today.  I guess there was that one time she jumped headfirst off our bed onto the hardwood floor.  But for some reason I feel like this is her first big injury.  Maybe because it happened in public, maybe because it was three concrete stairs she somersaulted down, maybe because it's the first time she hurt herself in such a way that it made me cry.  For whatever reason - it was just different this time.

I usually feel pretty proud of my parenting.  I feel good about the choices I make as a mother, otherwise I wouldn't do them.  One thing I've decided is that I don't want to hover.  I try to give Eleanor her space, let her explore and learn on her own.  But oh, when I saw her leaning precariously over the top step I called out to her to be careful.  And when I saw her jump enthusiastically with both feet, I just knew she didn't have the balance yet to land it.  Her feet hit the second stair, her head smashed the first, and she rolled over onto the ground.  My feel couldn't carry me fast enough to get to her and I wished in that moment that I had made an exception to my rule.  I wished that I had been hovering.
"How could I not be there to catch her?"  That of course was my first thought as I scooped her into my arms.  Having seen the fall and quickly assessing her little scrapes, I knew that it was not a serious injury.  She was mostly scared and yes, definitely had a bump coming on.  I didn't freak out, but as I calmed her, I felt my own tears coming on.  Tears of guilt and frustration with myself.  My baby had hurt herself on my watch.  

I am so thankful to the kind woman who sat with us and told me how her 8 year old daughter has had every injury in the book.  She said, "I spent the first 5 years feeling guilty all the time, but now, I'm done with that."  She looked me right in my tearful eyes and said, "It happens to everyone."  Her words helped heal my little wound.  And of course Ellie was back to her smiling self already by this point - easily distracted by a favorite toy.
"I see you," she says.

This whole incident has got me thinking about all the ways in which we try to be the best.  The best mother we can be, the best wife, the best student or employee, or whatever.  And all the many many ways we fall short.  We tumble and we get scraped up.  We feel embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, humbled.  We cry because somehow our efforts just don't measure up.  How thankful I am for the lesson that we have to be PATIENT.  Patient with ourselves.  Kind and forgiving and loving with ourselves and with everyone around us who is also trying to be their best something.  We all get scrapes and bruises of the heart.  Give a hug (to yourself or your neighbor) and just remember that truly "it happens to everyone."
As for Ellie - well, she comforts herself by chewing on the plastic bag full of ice that was meant for her head.  Toddler chewing on plastic bag?  See, I told you I was mother of the year.


  1. And thank heavens they get over things so quickly, or we would be even HARDER on ourselves : ) It's true, it does happen to everyone.

  2. I once accidentally tried to feed Charlie sour milk and got frustrated when he wouldn't drink. I totally felt like the worst mother in the world. Thanks for the post. Really, thank you.

  3. I feel you. I had to call poison control a couple of days ago for the first time. The lady told me to write the number on the fridge- that I'd probably have to call it again sometime. She told me she had to call twice with each of her children. She was my lady in the park telling me it happens to everyone and I'll love her forever for it.
    Every parent has a secret cache of stories like these- the moments where we feel like failures because our kids got hurt. In hind sight, I think they're good for us. They remind us how precious those noisy, dirty little fiends are. I think they help us to have an open heart.

  4. I am crying for you, lovey.

    But I am also crying because I have to be away from that sweet face. Ellie is just a (bruised and broken) doll.

  5. Thank you for making me feel so much better about myself today, we had a rough one in our house. You made me smile a little bit through my tears. ;)

  6. Here's a virtual hug for you across the oceans and miles. Even with a scrape and a bump, Ellie's still a cutie! Great lesson from her tumble.