It all happened so fast. One moment Anders was standing by the pool on the back deck and the next he was below the water. I watched him lose his balance, teeter-totter for a split second on the pool’s edge, and then tumble in.
I would like to tell you that I followed quickly behind, that I plunged into the water fully clothed and pulled him to the surface, but I didn’t. I am still not sure if I froze or panicked or if perhaps my brain just didn’t work as quickly as my mother’s, who leaped in to grab him before I even managed to stand up, but a year later this thirty second space in time is one I think of regularly.
I relive it over and over — the moment where my mom, not me, pulled my 4-year-old sputtering and coughing from the water – and I ask myself “Am I confident that I can protect my children in an emergency?”
I think of the panic I felt when Anders and his sister were babies and they choked on a bite of food, the way the blood rushed to my head leaving me feeling light-headed and confused. Occasionally, I retained enough sense to give their backs a firm pat, but there were many instances when I managed only to cry “Choking! The baby is choking!” an appeal to my husband to render the aid of which I was incapable.
We are lucky that, so far, we have not had to deal with any major catastrophes — the worst injury being a head wound suffered by Anders that required a trip to the emergency room and two staples — but my fear that if and when the time comes I will fail to keep my composure plagues me.
As a child I believed my mother could protect me and keep me safe from harm. It was a comforting thought that I want my children to have of me as well, but more than anything I want to believe this of myself.