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To protect and serve

Since the weather has been quite pleasant lately, Ethan is often out on the playground at school when I go to pick him up. Usually, as I am loading Henry and Miranda into the stroller in the parking lot, one of his friends will see me and holler hi to me or announce to Ethan that “your Mommy is heeeeere!” When he was younger, I was always met with a huge hug and a “Mommy I missed you so much!” Now? Now I get “PLEASE, Mommy, can I stay and play for a little bit? Please, please please please?”

Why not? The weather is nice, and the little ones enjoy watching the older kids play. We usually hang out for a while and while I chat with Ethan’s teachers and maybe another parent,we watch Miranda and Henry bounce in their seats and hurl Cheerios on the ground to wait for some lucky squirrel.

“Abi, would you let these kids down to play already? Look at them! They’re chomping at the bit to get down!” One of Ethan’s teachers often ribs me for keeping my two toddlers (Oh! They are TODDLERS now… eek!) strapped in while we hang out. At first I kept them strapped in because I didn’t have proper shoes for them… just moccasins. (I’m not a big fan on putting shoes on babies while they are learning to walk — the grip of bare feet on the floor is much better for the learning process, so I wasn’t in a huge hurry to go out and buy footwear.) My next excuse was that I didn’t want them eating the bark. “Nonsense! It’s fiber!” She wouldn’t relent. “They need to get down and play!”

And she is right. But ugh! The thought of chasing two of them around in the playground with a handful of three, four, and five-year olds barreling around them just wasn’t appealing to me, so I kept putting it off. But she is right. They need to get out and play, and the playground at Ethan’s school is a great place to do it. I bought them sandals. “You help me chase them, and I’ll let them down,” I gave in yesterday.

IMG_0898Miranda took off like a rocket, deposited herself down in the bark, and proceeded to shovel bark onto her dress. She loved it. Henry, my cautious little guy, at first sobbed. He can’t stand shoes. But once he was down on the ground and realized he was free, he loosened up a bit. It was pretty cute, I must say, watching the two of them wobble in these new shoes on top of unsteady piles of bark. I had to give up being able to sit back and just gab, and that was okay. I need them to learn, to experience.

It was time to strap them back in, and as I carried Henry on my left hip back to the confines of his stroller, my foot caught on the back wheel, and I bit the dust. Unable to wrench my foot out from behind the wheel in time, I came crashing down on my left knee, the side of my right thigh smashing into the bench of one of the picnic tables on the way down. My right arm instinctively flew around Henry to protect him (he was in front of me at this point) as my body continued forward toward another picnic table bench. My right foot slowed us down just enough so that when we came to a stop, Henry’s back was a hair’s width from banging into the bench of the picnic table.

He immediately started crying, sensing something scary had just happened. Someone tried to take him away from me so I could collect myself, but he was clawing for me to hold him, and I wanted to hold him. My knee was on fire, my toe uncomfortable, but I just wanted to wrap my arms around him. I inspected his back for any sign he had hit harder than I thought, and thank heavens he hadn’t. He held me tight, and I him, for several minutes. His crying ceased, I checked him again.Thankfully, he is fine. Ethan had him belly-laughing twenty minutes later.

On the way home, between Ethan’s repeated queries into the state of my well-being, I kept thinking about how much worse it could have been if that parental instinct to protect one’s offspring hadn’t kicked in. Sometimes we protect by letting go in order for our children to learn and experience new things, and sometimes we protect by taking the hits — by taking the bruises for our kids. Yesterday just happened to be one of those days when both happened.


  1. Chey says:

    Great post, Abi. The last two sentences got me all choked up.

  2. lailani says:

    🙂 SET THOSE BABIES FREE!!! My sister always watches her little ones like a hawk, chasing Madelyn (2yr old) around the playground. I let her run wild and just make sure she’s not climbing so high that a fall would break her bones. Black eyes, bruised knees, sand in the mouth and small falls off playsets are great teachers.

    Hope you’re all healed up.