Let’s talk about today. I’d rather not, I mean, it’s not the pinnacle of my parenting life. But who wants just the rose-tinted edit of being a Mum?
Today. Today we went to the park. We saw friends. We laughed. We talked. They raced around and swung on swings and slid down slides. The sun was shining, the birds were singing. It was a pretty perfect moment in time. But then, it’s always in these perfect moments that the little slips happen isn’t it?
The park is gated, within a playing field which leads onto a road. Between the field and the road there is a black wrought iron fence, with a gate that has a sliding bolt on it. It’s secure. It’s safe. It’s the kind of place where for a moment you let your guard down and that’s when the what if’s happen.
We had left the park, Ev and his friend were running gleefully across the field towards the exit gate and my friend and I were following closely behind. As Ev approached the gate I called for him to stop. But he’s been experiencing a sudden onslaught of selective hearing recently and, low and behold, he continued to bound to the gate. Reaching it, where he’d usually wait the few seconds for me to catch up, he started to slide the bolt. I heard the clink. I saw the gate open even before I could finish my cry of “DON’T OPEN THE GATE!” and I saw him starting to run, towards the road.
I don’t think I have ever been more terrified in my life. I could see his little feet stepping through the gate. I could see cars whizzing past on the road. And as I screamed “STOP!”, and my own legs ran towards him, it felt like time itself was standing still.
My heart leapt into my throat and I watched in horror, then relief, as Ev came to a complete and utter standstill. A second after his feet stopped on the pavement just inches from the gate, a car blared past on the road ahead. And, as I hugged him and scolded and praised him all in one go, I felt the dread and fear of the ‘what if’.
My hands shook and my heart pounded for the entirety of our walk home. And the ‘what if’ has hung over me like a black cloud all day. What if he’d chosen to ignore me? What if he didn’t stop? What if I hadn’t been that close to him? What if, today, the unthinkable had happened on a perfect sunny day?
I have cried. I have scolded myself for not making him hold my hand across the field. For somehow failing as a mother because he doesn’t always listen to me. And I have had to face again what I already knew; I’m not a perfect mother. And I can berate myself for eternity, or I can hold my hands up and say “today was not the best of days, but I’m beyond grateful it wasn’t the worst”.
Tonight I’ve hugged my little Ev that bit tighter. I’ve kissed him just those few times more. I’ve promised myself to try to box away the what if’s. And to be grateful that’s all they are.
I’ve battled with the fear of typing this, the fear of being judged, and decided that actually posts like this are what this blog is for. Because there’s probably another Mum or Dad sat there tonight with the ‘what if’ black cloud. Who’d feel even a tiny bit better to know they’re not the only one. If it’s you, I see you. Today was a bad day. Chalk it down to experience and know that tomorrow will be better.