Never a dull moment around here, that’s for sure.
Seriously, this summer has been brutal. Seems like one good scare after another- stuff completely random and out of our control. I guess this is life, and it’s been throwing us a few curveballs. But I’m ready for it. Sure enough, this weekend was a good test of that.
Andrew has been out of town for the past three days, so on Saturday morning, rather than sleep in a bit and have some family time like we usually do, I gathered up the boys and we headed to the Botanical Gardens to enjoy the beautiful cool weather. We were some of the first people to arrive, so we took our time to enjoy our space while it lasted. Before long, it became very crowded, so we headed out of the Children’s Garden and walked down the long, winding, shady path to the koi pond so the boys could feed the fish. The fish food dispenser was broken, so I tore tiny pieces off the pizza crust we had brought for lunch with Emil strapped to my back in the Ergo carrier. Soon, he was arching his back and whining to get down so he could get a better look at the fish. I let him down and picked him up, holding him tightly around his waist while he peered over the edge of the bridge into the water as the fish teemed below. A little boy, not much older than Emil, had climbed up beside us and was leaning way over. I thought to myself, I would never let my kid do that without my arms around him. I wasn’t judging his parents. It wasn’t like that at all- just more of a thought about how little I trust my kids around water, and how freaked out it makes me when they get too close.
Emil wanted to join his brothers, so I followed him down the path which led to the water’s edge. At the small fence (really just two thin pieces of wood- one about a foot off the ground, the other four feet high or so), Milo and Oliver threw pieces of the bread into the water. Emil quickly reached the edge, and I stood behind him as he threw his first piece in. And then, he leaned over too far, and disappeared into the water.
As fast as lightening, my body reacted. I was right there. Arms in the water immediately, I felt, but could not see through the dark pond water, the back of his shorts, grasped in my left hand, suddenly pull away as he sank like a stone. I was in immediately, arms and head first, grabbing blindly in the murky water. I got him by his legs, pushed him up above me. I couldn’t touch the bottom, and my long dress and the carrier, still attached to my back, dragged and pulled at me, the water feeling thick as molasses around my legs. My shins and knees banged and scraped against the stone wall beside the pond as I tried to stay afloat. Emil was up and out of the water in seconds. As I surfaced, I yelled for a woman to grab him while I went back under to get leverage to push him the rest of the way out. She grasped his legs and pulled him out upside down. His eyes wide, he didn’t even sputter. All I can imagine is that he had held his breath. Not even a cough escaped his lips, no water had been swallowed. He rubbed the water out of his eyes and I exhaled, knowing he was okay.
I pulled and dragged myself out of the water with some effort and stood dripping and trying to catch my breath as I took Emil into my arms. He had started to cry, and as I held him and hugged him, trying to reassure him, I noticed that Milo was bawling. Oliver looked bewildered beside him, trying to process what he had just witnessed. A crowd had gathered, asking how they could help. People were literally patting me on the back and telling me that I had reacted like only a mama could: fast as lightening and before anyone could really tell what was happening, we had both been in, then out of the water. But I didn’t feel brave- all I could feel was sheepish, embarrassed, and shaky. And very wet and cold.
Once I knew Emil was alright, I carried him over to the stroller, where I had rolled up a small towel for the boys in case they had wanted to play in the splash ground. It was chilly, so they had decided against it. I removed Emil’s boots, socks, shorts, and shirt, and wrapped him in the towel. We walked the half mile back to the car, ignoring the strange looks we deservedly received: a soaking wet, drowned rat of a mama with a soaking wet carrier barely hanging from her waist, carrying a bundled-up mini version of herself while two shocked-looking, dry boys walked solemnly beside her. I left a trail of soggy footprints behind me. The whole time Emil kept repeating, “Unna wawa,” “Unna wawa,” “Unna wawa,” his version of “under water.”
Yes, buddy. You were under water.
On the drive home, I kept thinking of this video I had seen of a toddler who had been taught by his parents to turn over and float if he fell into their pool. How my kids didn’t know how to do this, and how even Milo doesn’t get much time in the deep end; how even though he’s getting to be a pretty good swimmer, I’m not sure he would have been able to swim himself to the surface of that pond. Oliver surely would have sunk to the bottom. It was a good reminder about how fast this sort of thing can happen, and how on top of your kids you have to be near water. Upon arriving home, I ran into our neighbor, who relayed that just last Friday, her four-year-old daughter had jumped into the middle of their pool without her life vest on and sank to the bottom. She, too, had jumped in, fully clothed, to save her daughter.
I can’t wrap my head around how much drama there has been in our lives this summer. How many close calls, how many brushes with… bad things… but I hope that the pendulum is ready to swing the other way please, pendulum, PLEASE start swinging the other way. The way to peaceful and easy and a little less life-on-the edge. It has been anything but boring around here.
A thought crossed my mind after I put the boys to bed Saturday night. That having children makes us vulnerable through their vulnerability. Anyone who has rocked a feverish or croupy sick child to sleep in their arms knows this. Any parent who has rushed a little one to the ER for any number of reasons knows this. Anyone who has grabbed her toddler’s tiny body merely moments before she ran into the street, inches away from a speeding car, knows this. Or choking. Or falling off of something, going under water at the swimming pool, or disappearing from your sight suddenly. It just makes me sick to my stomach thinking of their vulnerability. And yet, we can’t wrap them in bubble wrap and keep them indoors to protect them from every unforeseen danger…
… though right now, I’m seriously considering it.