Have you ever had one of those parental moments when your heart jumps to your throat because one of your children may be in danger? I've had a couple, like the time when Maria decided to hide silently under the desk in C's room and I couldn't find her for a few minutes, or the time when C was a toddler and climbed on top of his dresser/changing table and it tipped over. Those were scary moments, but I think that what happened yesterday was perhaps the most dramatic yet. Here's what happened:
We had gone to the neighborhood playground with a couple of other families, both of whom have kids that are just slightly older than C. Usually, C will spend the entire time hanging from the monkey bars or climbing on the jungle gym, but yesterday he spent most of his time following "the big kids" around. After a few minutes, one of the 6 year-old girls suggested that the kids go for a nature walk on the trail just behind the playground. She had gone on this trail just last week when her cousins were visiting, and her mother seemed confident that her daughter knew the way and that the trail was harmless. From the beginning I felt nervous about letting C go, especially because I wasn't going to be able to see him from the playground, but I told myself to relax and let him have this adventure with his friends. I was able to hear the kids laughing and talking, which made me feel better about the situation. However, after about 10 or 15 minutes I started to worry; while some of the other kids had come back for a drink of water or a snack, C hadn't checked back in with me.
Feeling silly for being "that mom" who is overprotective, I decided to follow my intuition and go looking for C. I handed Maria off to one of the other moms and started up the path. That's when one of the kids came running up and said, "C is stuck in the water and he's calling for help!" I of course ran ahead as quickly as I could, and finally saw a soaking wet, covered in mud from head to foot C walking towards me! He was crying and looked so pitiful, and all at once I felt a huge wave of relief and a terrible feeling of guilt come over me. C was safe, but I hadn't been there when he needed me! Praise God, some older kids just happened to be on the trail as well, and they pulled C from the muddy creek that he had fallen into. Apparently he slipped on the trail and slid all the way down a hill into the creek, and then got stuck in the mud and couldn't climb out. Of all of the things that could have happened, we are very blessed that C walked away with no injuries - his Guardian Angel was watching over him indeed! And those kids who helped C were incredibly wonderful - they were very worried about him, and told him stories of when they were little and had had similar accidents on the nature trail :) C was a little bit embarrassed and very upset about being all wet and dirty, but he felt much better after a warm bath and a talk with daddy about his "big adventure"! As for me, I think that we'll stay away from this particular nature trail for a little while unless an adult is along for the adventure!
Last night, as I reflected on what had happened, I realized that situations like these are only going to continue as my children get older. Sometimes, it will be very clear to me that there is a safety issue involved and therefore I will be confident in saying that a certain activity is not appropriate at this time. Yesterday, for instance, I should not have let C go on the nature walk without going along myself. However, there will be other times when it will be appropriate for me to let my children participate in certain activities - being on the football team, for instance, or going away to camp, or getting a driver's license :) I may worry at first, but I know that it will still be important for me to allow my children to take controlled risks.
I know that you mothers who have older kids have faced these types of situations a million times before. Do you have any nuggets of wisdom to share with us mothers of younger children?