Most can look at this picture for what it is. A kid jumping – pretending they’re a rocket ship soaring across the pit of fire below. What a great shot too, right? The sun perfectly hitting her, the wildness of her fly away curls, the way she’s hovering just at the right angle to make it appear she’s much higher than she is. She is having a great time! She really is.
Yes. She’s having a blast, while I sit right behind, flinching with every jump. Every land. Every skip, or spin or run across the concrete. My heart seizes in my chest and I worry every time that she will land wrong, or trip on her own feet or a bump in the sidewalk. I consciously try not to react every time. I know this wouldn’t be fair to her, because even though it’s been almost a year since she broke her leg, it still plays fresh in my mind on a daily basis. I wouldn’t have thought twice about those wild child moments before.
How do parents get past that? How do we put traumatic memories into a compartment in our brain that we just ignore for eternity? How do I pretend that my throat doesn’t constrict when I look back at photos of her sitting on the floor in that stupid cast. Or sitting on the couch in that stupid cast. Or sitting in the stroller. In. That. Stupid. Cast. I couldn’t WAIT to have the damn thing off… until the doctor told me that it would take 2 weeks for her to learn to walk again.
LEARN… to walk again. Then another 2-3 weeks to be able to resume regular activity. I had to take another deep breath and refocus on that portion of the process. I didn’t think of how hard this would be on her… the after part. It didn’t register for a second that she’d be afraid to walk again. That after so much time, she’d found comfort in it.
More tears. Mostly from me. Still in the closet. I had prepared for the cast… I had not prepared for a pressure sore that would delay her recovery. One that still exists on that precious little heel. It may never look the way it did before all of this… a constant reminder that I can’t always protect my children. That sometimes, things will happen that are out of my control and I’ll just have to be there to pick up the pieces and hold their tiny hands with words of encouragement.
It was heartbreaking. Easily one of the most difficuIt things I’ve ever had to go through. She was set back physically, emotionally, socially. If she were older, they’d have given her crutches. If she had broken a finger, an arm, her wrist… our lives wouldn’t have been as dramatically effected. But, that wasn’t the case. It never is.
I hated the looks of pity on people’s faces. They felt sorry for her, but the thing is… they didn’t see how she was happy in those moments. Those few moments she would forget.
What nobody realized, was how she wore the same 3 sweatpants for almost 2 months. Having to do sponge baths in the sink while she screamed, begging to skip it while I tried to get her to sit still while I scraped the drying skin from her tiny toes. All of the logistics were hard, but that doesn’t even measure to the disappointment I saw on her face everyday. I saw it brighten, then fall just a tad when her friends would run and play and she couldn’t. There was a short time she didn’t even want to go outside at all. She’d want to get up and run to Daddy when he got home, but had to drag herself instead. I cried alone more times than I can count because she told me how her arms were tired and if I could please take the cast off now.
But, she made do, and that’s what inspired me. That strength she had, was more strength than I was ever able to muster in myself in the entirety of my life.
She made me buck the fuck up.
But, here we are, all healed up and so blissfully close to the holidays! I always loved the holidays and especially the second I found out I was pregnant with her. All I dreamed of since that moment, was getting to pick Halloween costumes, and choosing recipes for Thanksgiving and planning our Santa surprises for Christmas along with all of the other glorious traditions. However, now, I hold my breath. I pray constantly that they don’t get sick or hurt themselves to that extent again. My mind floods with worry each day that passes. My heart can’t take that look on her face again. The look that desperately wants to be excited, but knows she’s limited… thus taking all the fun away.
I know it could have been worse, I told myself that then, and I still do now. Maybe I am just a wimp. Maybe I’m just way too sensitive because that part of my brain just can’t let shit go. But having to teach your three-year-old to walk again… it’s not a fond memory.
I live to watch my girls explore their world. I wake up everyday knowing that I will ask them before bed, “What was your favorite part of the day?” And I want them to have several options. I should remind myself, too, that Cori still had a favorite part even when she cried all through the night in pain from her pressure sore. Even when she couldn’t stand up to play with all the toys Santa brought her. Even when we had to celebrate her birthday in April instead of February.
So, because of that, I will continue to work on my anxieties. I will try not to ask her not to jump as high as she can. I’ll work on being less ‘helicopter-y’ when she’s pretending to be a ballerina in the living room. (But that’s what got us in this mess so if she could chill out with that, it would REALLY be cool of her.) We always joke about her wild curls, her golden hair, and those gorgeous blue eyes… and how she couldn’t possibly be ours… I mean… I swear we are her parents… I’m almost certain… like… a solid 98% sure. Let’s face it… she smiles just like her dad in pictures, and literally won’t do anything without asking 445657 questions (again like Dad)… but she gets that horrible clumsiness from me.
Sorry about that. I promise, it’s not what I would have passed down if I had control over it… and it’s probably the ONLY thing she got from me as it is, which is doubly insulting. But as I sit here, writing this out, I also remind myself that the photo that inspired these thoughts… is of her jumping. Something whispers to me every time I get that perfect shot of her, seemingly flying through the air… “These are the moments to cherish and not fear.” I swear the whisper is so loud I wonder if someone is actually speaking them to me.
In other words.
I will never take for granted how magical she looks in flight. No fear. All giggles and joy.
But I have to whisper back…
Just be REALLY careful, though… please?