This morning, I received news that a friend’s little boy had died. During the weekend, he was wading in a river with his dad and brother, and he got pulled underwater by a current. He was immediately taken to hospital, and the doctors and nurses tried oh-so-hard to pull him through while we – friends and family members – held vigil at our computers, anxiously awaiting updates.
Luke was just seven years old. He was a vibrant kid with his whole life ahead of him. When he woke up one morning, he was excited about a day of fun with his dad and brother. Two days later, his parents are having to talk about funeral arrangements and child-sized caskets. There is no possible way for me to imagine what it’s like.
But when I look at my younger son, who is just a few months older than Luke was, my heart gives an almighty twist. I am hit hard with the realization that this is the kind of accident that could happen to anyone, that life is so incredibly fragile, that nothing should ever be taken for granted.
My mind offers up unwelcome images of my son lying in a hospital bed, with the warmth of life leaving his body. It is like looking into an abyss. It is a glimpse of the kind of blackness and despair that I hope to never experience.
It hurts me to think of a friend going through it. How will her heart handle the agony of burying her child?
What will these next days, weeks and months be like for her? What will she do on birthdays and Christmases? How will she and her other children comfort each other?
This tragedy makes me examine my parenting under a microscope. It brings home the reality that being a mom is truly a privilege, one that can be taken away at any time, by any sequence of events. It makes me realize that while planning for the future is important, so is living in the moment.
I hug my children a lot, and they know that I am there for them any time of the day or night. But they also see me getting way too stressed out about little things that don’t matter, and if this tragedy is going to change me in any way, that will be it.
So what if the floor is full of toys? Who cares if my kid gets toothpaste all over the bathroom floor? Does it really matter if they track mud into the house or fail to put their dirty laundry into the hamper?
The answer, of course, is no. It doesn’t matter. Yes, I will continue trying to teach them about taking responsibility, and cleaning up after themselves, and being helpful. But I will also try to keep things in perspective, and react to the little things in little ways instead of big ways.
Because the toys on the floor, the toothpaste on the bathroom floor, the mud on the carpet and the dirty socks draped on the furniture are reminders of what I have, and how rich I truly am.
What lessons have you learned from tragedies? Has anything caused a shift in an aspect of your parenting?
Photo credit: AdamSelwood. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.