A normal Saturday morning. Rising a little later, moving a little slower, we gathered ourselves and our things and loaded up for a trip to the farmer’s market. Routine, uneventful, rather boring. We snaked through the narrow streets of the older part of town, turning between the old mill warehouses and remarking how crowded it was for a cool, drizzling morning. The girls chattered in the back seat and argued over Fancy Nancy books while Josh and I sat silently and waited for a parking spot to open.
At nearly 3 and a half, Blair is a cautious soul and continuously looks to her Momma for approval and encouragement. The truth is, I don’t worry about her. Aside from the typical parenting worries, of course. She listens. In the shadow of her older sister’s untamable energy and will, parenting Blair is, honestly, easy. So, when we eventually parked and began to unload across the street from the market, I helped Blair out of her seat and mindlessly told her to stay nearby while I gathered our bags.
She did not.
Blair ran behind the truck and out into the street from where she was hidden in between the parallel parked vehicles. She ran to her daddy and sister who we’re waiting on the other side of the single-lane street. Just as a large black suburban came down the street, lost in thought. The driver was probably running through her list for the market – cucumbers, zucchini – no, yellow squash, – beef steak tomatoes, and a bouquet of flowers. But only if there were daisies. I can imagine her horror as a small tot with bunny ears sewn atop her hooded sweatshirt bolted in front of her vehicle.
I, still unaware that Blair left my side, heard my husband shout a deep bellowing command to Blair, telling her to stop immediately. She froze. Everyone heard him. Truthfully, I couldn’t figure out why he was yelling. I never for a moment thought that Blair was anywhere but waiting behind me. She would never run off. Until she did. The driver slammed on her brakes and I’m sure 25 miles per hour never seemed like a barreling speed before.
In a second, it was over. Blair was fine. Josh ran onto the street and scooped her up, her face nuzzled deeply against in neck in embarrassment and fear. I apologized profusely to the driver the driver shook her head disapprovingly. I grabbed Emery’s hand and hustled into the safety of the market crowd and people went back to their tomatoes and melons.
Life dangles so precariously. We plan and prepare and preach and convince ourselves that we have ensured our safety and, in turn, happiness. But it takes only a second for it all to fall apart on such a grand scale. I’m sure onlookers were appalled and probably thought their children would never run into traffic, just as I once did. But they do. No one expects accidents – that’s what they are. As parents, the sad truth is we often feel superior when we see others’ fail. When awful things happen, we vilify parents and curse them for not doing or seeing better. Yes, there is negligence. But most often, there is just life and mistakes and sometimes just a crappy series of events. I am horrified at what happened. I replay it again and again, considering the what ifs and every which way it could have played out. What if Josh had his back to the street and wasn’t watching? What if the driver had been going faster? What if I had made Blair hold my pant leg while I gathered our things? Hindsight is clear but offers little comfort.
I’m sensitive and truthfully, a bit anxious by nature. It’s taken me 29 years to realize it and begin to embrace it as a gift instead of something to apologize for. As much as I want to dwell on Saturday morning’s incident, I can’t let myself. It’s not reflective of who I am or my parenting abilities. But I can learn from it, remember it, and appreciate it. I take it as a lesson and am grateful.