I haven’t had a moment to blog this week, or more that I haven’t dared to take a moment to blog this week. I have found myself watching the children with hawk like eyes, following their every move, shadowing them with ninja like precision, my arms permanently out-stretched, poised and ready to catch them should they stumble, trip or fall. And you may wonder what has brought about this surge in neurotic parenting, perhaps notice that I have seemed more anxious, on edge, out right crazy, and the reason for that is that, a week ago, I diverted my eyes for just one second and I paid for it, absolutely.
Of all of the dangerous things that my children like to do, jumping off the sofa, hurling themselves off the swings, teetering on the edge of the highest surface they can possibly climb, they have never once seriously hurt themselves or had any injury worse than a bump or a scrape in doing so. And yet each of my children have had one dramatic accident, all at the age of two, and all four happening in the safety of our own home, right infront of my very eyes. And last week, it was Harrys turn.
Last Tuesday whilst I got dressed, Harry climbed over the stair gate where I had safely left him watching Twirlywoos, tottered up the stairs and surprised me in our bedroom with a, “Boo!!”. As I finished getting ready he had pottered around the bedroom and as I bent down to pull on my jeans he stumbled, right within arms reach, and landed on the edge of our wooden bed frame. And admittedly he cried, of course he did, but he wasn’t screaming, not at all as you would expect had a child been seriously injured, and I had checked him over, no bumps or scrapes, given his legs a magic rub, his tear stained face a little kiss and off we went on our way to visit a friend.
As the morning went on, having polished off an ice lolly, a packet of crisps and a biscuit, we left my friends house and met another friend at a local park, by which point Harry was fast asleep. And as I lifted him out of his car seat I noticed that his top lip looked slightly swollen, but thought nothing of it. Throughout the afternoon I noticed it swelling even more, even pointing it out to my friend who suggested that perhaps he had had a reaction to the ice lolly, perhaps it was a slight allergy to one of the ingredients but as he was fine in himself, happily charging across the playground, we didn’t think it was a cause for concern. By mid afternoon I realised that his entire face was slowly swelling, just across the left hand side, and when I looked a little closer I realised that not only was his lip swelling, but his gums were bleeding ever so slightly at the top and his inside lip blackening. And I had gasped in disbelief when he finally opened his mouth and I saw that his two front teeth were pushed right back at an angle. Stood there, my heart beating out of my chest, I wondered how on earth it had happened? Had he fallen in the playground without me noticing? Had something happened to him in the car? And then it came flooding back to me….the earlier fall at home, the brief tears, the absence of any bruises or scrapes…..and all I could think was, I never even noticed.
So we made a hysterical visit to the dentist who, judgementally asked me how on earth it had happened, told me that the nerves to his teeth were most likely dead, that they would turn grey, then black, and fall out or be removed under general anaesthetic. We were told he could develop an infection, that there was a risk of his adult teeth being damaged, the possible need for orthadentic treatment in later life. And again I sat there trying to digest the fact that my two year old baby, with his perfect little smile, was going to go through all of this and I hadn’t even noticed.
And reading this, you must be thinking what a terrible Mother! How on earth could she have missed that? And yet with a combination of the ice lolly, which clearly kept the swelling down, and the lack of any visible bumps or bangs, I hold my hands up and admit, I genuinely didn’t even think about looking in his mouth. I assumed he had done what I do ten times a day and banged his shins on the bed post, stubbed his toe on the corner, or bashed his hip on the side of the bed. And I absolutely broke my heart over it all, for the sorry look on his face, the swelling and bruising that came out over the following week, and the fact that I had failed him, just as I had failed his brother.
Because it wasn’t just about the teeth, not really. I mean of course I am utterly devastated that his beautiful smile has changed indefinitely, and it has killed me to see him suffer, but it was just the harshest reminder that just like with Joseph, something terrible had happened to my son and I hadn’t even noticed. I had gone about my day, in exactly the same way, oblivious to the fact that my child was suffering, blissfully unaware that everything had changed and I had done nothing at all to help him. And I can’t even tell you how hard I have taken it, unable to talk to anyone about it, so consumed with guilt and the flooding of memories. For every tear I have cried, it was for the both of them, and sat here looking at Harrys little face, it is a constant reminder of my failings.
And so this week I have ditched all of our plans, I have neglected the house work and my blogging, and I have become the most neurotic of mothers, dashing around in a heightened sense of anxiety, fuelled by guilt and a sense of failure. I have leapt up from my seat every time one of the children threatened to climb up on the window ledge, snatched back their hand when they have tried to break free and run down the path, closed the door, held them close, and kept them tightly wrapped up in my arms. And I also know that to carry on this way would be completely unachievable, cruelly restrictive and detrimental to all of our sanitys, and yet I am absolutely terrified of any harm coming to my children, of the crushing weight of this guilt and the worry that I am not the Mummy I had hoped to be.
And I’ll get over it, of course I will. I will find a way to let go of their hand again and let them run free, to bite my tongue when they climb up to the tallest slide on the playground or jump themselves crazy on the trampoline. I will find a way to stay calm, to smile and wave as they play out in the garden, to sit on my hands when I feel the urge to reach out and steady them, to look at Harry and his crooked little smile and not feel like the worst Mummy in the whole world. And one day, I hope to be able to think of Joseph and know that it wasn’t my fault, that there was nothing I could have done, that I can’t let that one moment define my whole life nor carry the weight of that guilt with me through the years. But today, just for one more day, I am going to cuddle up to my babies on the couch, watch Madagascar for the ten thousandth time this week and remind myself that even the very best parents have their bad days.