|The face of innocence? |
As any parent knows, raising children is not for the faint of heart. When Sidney was born prematurely and spent eleven weeks in the NICU I had my share of scary moments. In hindsight, I spent every day literally holding my breath and was only able to exhale as each hurdle was overcome. When he was three days old and his brain scan showed no abnormalities, I felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders. When Sidney was removed from oxygen and breathing on his own, my own breathing was suddenly freer. From moving out of the ICU to the CCU and then receiving a medical clearance to be transferred to a hospital closer to home brought even more relief. Each time the doctors reported that he was exceeding anticipated milestones it became a little easier for me to breath. All was not positive though and Sidney's setbacks were my setbacks and with each one I felt as though I aged a bit. Even after Sidney was finally discharged from the hospital and we brought him home I continued to worry. Being too quiet during nap time made me fret that he wasn't breathing, refusing to cooperate during tummy time caused me to think his neck muscles wouldn't develop properly, and not performing on demand during a pediatric development appointment caused me to have fits of worry. Gradually these worries subsided and I naively thought things would get easier.
Alas, each milestone, whether it be crawling, walking, or his ever emerging independence, has brought about new rounds of worry. Would he fall and hurt himself? Would his desire to explore introduce him to an unanticipated danger? These were the things that kept me up at night but gradually, ever so gradually, my fears subsided. And then we would enter a new phase and I would start to worry all over again. Just when I thought I was getting the hang of things we picked up and moved to Albania; probably the most child loving yet un-child proofed place on earth. This land of concrete buildings, tiled floors, no green space, and exposed electrical wires is a child proofing nightmare. We had been warned that Albania's pediatric care was not only not up to western standards but that there wasn't a single trauma center in the entire country. These are just the facts a parent of an active toddler wants to hear. Our first few months here found me paranoid about Sidney's falling and hitting his head, ingesting something toxic, or getting impaled by a sharp metal object. (These were all realistic fears by the way). These fears slowly subsided and surprisingly continued to diminish even after Sidney fell on our concrete stairs, chipped his front tooth, and survived relatively unscathed. And then Sidney became a pre-schooler.
Last summer I had my first heart in my stomach, paralyzed by fear moment. We were on a weekend trip to a mountain village with a group of colleagues from the Embassy. Late in the evening, with Sidney safely (or so we thought) tucked away for the night in his pack and play in our third floor hotel room, a group of us were sitting outside on the patio enjoying a drink. Because the hotel lacked air conditioning we had set up Sidney's bed under the open window in the hopes that the evening breezes would help keep him cool. We had our baby monitor with us and we able to watch Sidney laying in his bed sucking his thumb and clutching his blanket. At least that is what he was doing one moment. In the next he disappeared from view in the monitor only to reappear in the third floor window. As he peered out over the ledge and made moves to hoist himself up I was paralyzed by fear. Glenn made a mad dash across the patio, into the hotel and up three flights of stairs as I stood there too petrified to move. Half of our group moved to stand under the window and talk Sidney down as the others moved in to comfort me. Too afraid to look I had to turn my back and in those short few minutes between the time Glenn leaped from his seat until he reached Sidney's side I felt as though I had aged years. It was a horrifying feeling with a fortunate result that I never, ever wanted to feel again.
Fast forward to yesterday. I should have realized that this moment six months ago was only an omen of things to come. In the past months Sidney has grown both physically and intellectually and is now in the "Sidney can do it by himself "phase. I have grown with him and have even gotten better about letting him test his limits (within a controlled environment of course). As such, Sidney has taken to wanting to go from the second to third floors of our house to retrieve things all by himself and for the most part I've gone along with this. He knows to turn on the lights, hold onto the handrail, and be careful with each step. We've also been teaching him to close the door behind him in an attempt to keep heat and cold in their respective places. Yesterday, however, the game changed.
|This looks like trouble........|
Shortly after Sidney had asked to go upstairs to get "his birds"--- actually Glenn's Kindle with Angry Birds
loaded on it, I heard a pitiful wail. The nanny was in the process of leaving for the day but we both immediately stopped what we were doing and bolted up the stairs. Now, we live in a traditional Albanian house with a center stairwell and doors at each and every doorway. Each door is slightly different in size and door handle height but the one consistency is that every door is locked with a key from both the inside and outside but not both sides at the same time. Each door is also configured with its own key meaning a "master" household key would be irrelevant. When we moved into the house the issue of doors and keys was irrelevant since Sidney could neither reach the door handles nor was he able to manipulate a key in the lock. Over the past 19 months he has grown and become exceptionally dexterous when it comes to turning things. As such, we've removed the keys from the doors and have them hanging on hooks well beyond the span of his reach. Or so I thought. Since we have been working with Sidney to close doors behind him, he did exactly this when he reached the third floor. He also took it upon himself to turn the key (something we have NOT been teaching him), that was somehow in the lock, into the closed position. The wails we heard were his scared cries when the door wouldn't open.
|as does this.....|
Realizing that I had no way of opening the door, I quickly called Glenn at work to have him send someone from the Embassy to come and take down (?) break down (?) open (?) the door. I wasn't exactly sure what I needed because my mind was focused on Sidney's painful and scared cries of "Mamma help me." The nanny had already taken off her coat and had it wrapped around her hand in an attempt to punch out the glass on the door (the other thing about Albanian doors is that they all have glass panels). In my broken Albanian I simultaneously plead with her not to do it since I feared the shattering glass would injure Sidney while trying to calm down my crying son through the door. I tried to envision any dangers that might be locked behind the door with him but it was his scared cries that really caused me to unravel. As he kept up his cries of "Mamma" I asked him to turn the key to unlock the door. My pleas went unmet but the nanny's requests in Albanian finally netted results. After what felt like hours but was in reality ten or so minutes, I heard the lock click and the door slowly open. Sidney was as pale and tear stained as was I. Again, I felt as though I had aged years in the matter of minutes and the number of gray hairs on my head had multiplied exponentially.
I would like to think that I will never again feel this level of fear but I know better. I am raising a mischievous, curious, and limit testing boy so I know my future is filled with moments like this and antics I don't even want to think about. Scrapes, bumps, and heart stopping scares are what the future holds for me. Glenn continually shares tales of his own childhood and I fear that Sidney will follow in his footsteps in all things mischievous. Although I know millions of mothers around the world go through this every day, I don't know if my heart can take this excitement. At least I have a good colorist who helps keep the grays in check, a husband whose nerves can't be ruffled, and a sweet boy who always gives me a hug when he realizes that he scared his Mamma.