It was an accident.
It happened on a seemingly normal winter’s day. My girls were still toddlers then — a 3-year-old who was full of life (and questions), and a 1-year-old sporting tiny pigtails and an infectious smile (who was also desperately trying to keep up with her big sister). I was struggling to start dinner in the Crock-Pot, and simultaneously serving them lunch, as the two of them darted in and out of the kitchen. They were giggling, playing, and exerting the last bit of energy they had before eating and eventually, being put down for a much-needed nap.
With my mind preoccupied by so many things at once, I put their plates of macaroni and cheese into the crook of my arm, and used my free hand to grab two sippy cups full of juice. Concentrating on this balancing act, I walked to the table quickly so I could deliver their food before it all fell to the ground. But at the exact moment that my knee lifted off the ground to take my final step, it also collided into my 1-year-old and propelled her forward.
Her head stopped the trajectory by slamming into the kitchen chair in front of her — hard.
“It was an accident!” I screamed through the phone to my husband just moments later, as my baby sat tucked into my lap, open-mouthed and silently screaming. I attempted to stop the bleeding that was coming from the ever-growing goose egg forming on her forehead; yet just an hour (and two frantic calls to the pediatrician) later, we found ourselves speeding to the doctor’s office.
She would be fine. There was no concussion. No stitches were necessary. That is, unless the bleeding persisted.
“It was just an accident,” the doctor reassured me with a kind, knowing smile.
My now 4-year-old little girl has no recollection of this day. For her, it’s a silly story — a funny anecdote — just like every other memory she has of a time she’s scraped her knee or bruised an elbow. The teeny, tiny white scar on her forehead is from what she would lovingly joke as “the time Mommy kicked me into the chair!”
But I will never forget.
Her little scar reminds me not just of that day, but of the thousand other times I have unintentionally hurt her. The times I was so frustrated with her for having colic at 7 weeks old that I would have to lay her down in her crib and walk away as she screamed.
The times when her stubborn, defiant attitude (undoubtedly inherited from me) held us up as we tried to get out the door and I would yell.
The times when I looked into her big blue eyes and promised that I would play with her later — right now, I had things to do — and she would walk away feeling sad and defeated.
The times when I expected as much from her as her older sister, forgetting that (while they look identical) they have completely different personalities and strengths.
That scar reminds me of all the times that I’ve failed her, in a million different ways and on any given day. These moments might not have left scars on her body, but they did leave scars on her heart.
It may have been just an accident, but it left its mark — on both of us. I’m a mom, but I’m not perfect. I yell, ignore, and act out in frustration. Sometimes, I do all of these things before it’s even noon. But, I try my hardest every single day. And, when she wraps her tiny arms around me and tells me that she loves me “more than cupcakes,” I’m reminded that scars fade and love heals.
So this is what I envision will be the silver lining of our accident together: One day, she will be all grown up and have a family of her own. She will be rushing out the door for school drop-off with lukewarm coffee in one hand and a piece of burnt toast in the other. It is then, right before heading out, that she will hurriedly glance into her bathroom mirror. The light will hit that thin, silvery line of a scar on her forehead, and she will be reminded (just when she needs it most) that her mother wasn’t always perfect.
And then she will smile, knowing that she doesn’t have to be either.