I never really paid attention to tragedy before Addie was born. Sure, I followed the local controversies, sports and other prominent stories, but I rarely paid attention to stories of tragedy. I don’t know if I was just oblivious to those types of stories or if those stories didn’t seem all that relevant to me. It isn’t that I wouldn’t have cared, I just don’t remember any.
Something changed when Addie was born. Stories about tragic accidents involving kids seemed to pop up out of nowhere on a daily basis. I quickly learned that I did not have the mental capacity to handle such stories.
I specifically remember the first story that I read over and over again, wondering what I would do if something like that happened to my Addie. The story involved a three-year-old girl who had been playing on a dock near a lake in Utah. The parents were on the dock with her, so it wasn’t like they were off watching TV or having a drink on the shore. They briefly turned their attention to some random detail, just like most distracted parents often do. When they turned back around, the little girl was gone.
The story of the incident played over and over in my head. Gradually, the little girl in the story turned into Addie. No matter how hard I tried, I could not picture the little girl who disappeared into the water as someone other than Addie. Thoughts of Addie falling into the water not knowing how to stay afloat, quietly sinking to the bottom of the lake, played like a horror film in my mind. I couldn’t help but wonder what thoughts would go through Addie’s head as she fell in the water. I couldn’t let it go. I figured that she would be silently screaming out for me to save her with the belief that I would come diving after her at any moment; that I would fix whatever was wrong no matter the dilemma at hand.
As I imagined Addie taking the place of the little girl on the news, the toughest part was thinking about how I could potentially let my little girl down; that I might not be able to save her from every accident. I couldn’t shake that thought, because no matter how hard I tried, the real story didn’t end with the dad saving his daughter. In my nightmare, Addie would sink to the bottom of the lake and eventually accept that her dad didn’t make it in time.
Ever since that time, I have avoided child tragedy stories like the plague. I know that’s a cliche, but I’m not sure there is anything that can really explain just how hard I try not to pay attention.
Yesterday was one of those days where I accidentally ran across one in my local paper. Because I am an attorney in the town where the tragedy occurred, I’m not going to link to the article or explain the tragedy in detail. What I can say is that the headline of the story left little to the imagination. I remembered the three-year-old girl at the lake in Utah. And I began having similar thoughts about the current article in my paper. I realized that no matter how hard I try to avoid reading these stories, it won’t change the fact that my family could suffer from such a tragedy.
As a parent, I do whatever I can to make sure my girls are safe. We have child proofed our house and I follow my kids around as much as I can to make sure that no harm will come to them. Occasionally, circumstances arise that force a parent to turn his/her attention to something other than the child. And one such occasion did happen to me recently.
My wife was in Texas doing what she does in the social media world. I took Addie to work with me and I dropped Vivi off at day care. At the end of the day, I picked up Vivi and we headed to the grocery store to buy some groceries. We got home and I unloaded the groceries from the car into the kitchen.
I had a large bag of groceries that needed to be put away. The main level of my house where the refrigerator is located is basically one giant room. It is all child proofed and there are toys scattered throughout the main level that Vivi and Addie play with. I asked Addie to watch Vivi while I quickly put the groceries away. Addie agreed. After no more than a minute and a half, I noticed a silence in the house. And anyone who has a mobile baby/toddler knows that silence is never a good thing.
I quickly turned to Addie and asked her where Vivi was. Addie said she didn’t know. At that moment I heard, thump, thump, thump, thump. I sprinted around the corner and saw Vivi finish her first fall down the stairs. Just like that, one momentary lapse in judgment and my 1-year-old daughter ended up crashing down the stairs.
Vivi was alright. In fact, moments later she took her first series of steps and she was off playing just like that, but I couldn’t help but wonder how stay-at-home parents do it. I’m at work most of the day and only spend a couple hours with my kids if Im lucky. I don’t know how stay-at-home parents are able to juggle all the errands around the house and still prevent those momentary lapses of attention that could result in harm.
I’ll say this. My wife, a stay-at-home mom, is definitely a stronger parent than me.
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