I’m usually overly-cautious in stores with my kids. The parking lot is the worst part, though. It starts when I get them out of the car seats when we arrive—I’m a nervous nelly about it all. I have to do one kid at a time, so while I’m getting the second kid unbuckled, inevitably the first kid has to stand by me and wait. I’m always so nervous that the first one will walk away towards a car while I’m distracted getting the second kid out of the car seat. We all hold hands as we make our way into the store and then I immediately get them buckled into the double seater cart. Getting back into the car when the shopping is over also makes me nervous, because again I can only buckle one kid at a time, so one child has to wait in the cart while I buckle the first. I’m paranoid about the cart rolling away or that another car won’t be paying attention when backing out. But if I get them both out of the cart at the same time, I’m worried one will wander towards a car while I buckle the first. See what I mean? Basically going into a store is a whole juggling act just to keep them safe. I probably overthink it way too much.
On one particular shopping trip, all I needed was some toilet paper. It was going to be a quick in and out, but I still had both boys with me.
“Can I walk in the store? Auden asked.
I thought about it for a second and told him he could. It’s not like we needed to get a ton of groceries, and I figured he could stay close for just three minutes while we picked up toilet paper. It’s the parking lot that gives me anxiety, not the inside of the store, so it was fine with me.
We grabbed the toilet paper and I decided on a whim to pass by the clothing aisle. No intention of buying anything, but looking never hurt. Auden was acting silly, shuffling his feet and making goofy noises with his lips, but he stayed right by my side. George sat contentedly in the cart.
I was looking at a top for two seconds when Auden’s startled cry made me whip around. He was on the floor. He must’ve tripped over his own feet or something, but he was sprawled out on the ground, bawling. Immediately I saw a large mass forming on his forehead. It was huge already, within seconds of whatever impact had just happened. He pointed to the bottom of the metal clothing rack—a sharp edged corner. His face must’ve hit it just right.
Of course the one time I don’t have him securely buckled into he double cart is the time this happens. Of course the time I’m paranoid about the parking lot is the time I don’t see the danger inside the actual store.
Auden was inconsolable and I made a few mental calculations. We needed to get out of there, ASAP. A screaming kid inside the store was no good. Also the lump on his forehead seemed to only be getting bigger, and my mind raced as I assessed the damage. What was growing on his face? Did he need immediate medical attention or was this just like a goose egg type of situation? I didn’t know. Panic swelled in my chest as I realized I was wholly unprepared for this.
I hurried through self checkout as Auden continued to scream. I held him on my hip and pushed the cart with the other hand, awkwardly and slowly out into the parking lot and to the car. Once they were buckled, I snapped a few photos of his face on my phone to send out with pleas for help. Do I ice? Do I go to the doctor? Do I do nothing?
We ended up in the pediatrician’s office an hour later. Everything turned out fine. The lump looked a lot more gnarly than it actually was, especially as a bruise started to form over top of it. Over the next few days, the blood would drain down and he’d develop a black eye. He didn’t have a concussion, which was the main worry, and the brutal-looking-battle-wound would heal in time. I vowed to buckle both boys in the shopping cart until they were 18 years old.
I’m reminded that I only can protect my kids so much. As much as I try (and I do try!), I can’t keep my kids protected perfectly. Even if I overanalyze the parking lot situation to death.
I’m a naturally nervous personality. I worry a lot, but that worry is not going to change the inevitable fact that my kids are human and will be hurt at times. They are going to trip and fall. They are going to make mistakes. They are going to get their hearts broken. They are going to get giant goose eggs on their otherwise perfect little faces.
What I didn’t anticipate is how much their hurt would hurt me. After Auden hurt his face, I had a real ache inside my chest, and a pit in my stomach, about how bad it looked. Even though everything turned out okay, I felt so icky about it. Is this how it’s going to be for the rest of my life? Will I always feel this bad when my kids get hurt? Maybe it’s a mom thing.
This part of parenting is hard. Realizing the humanness of your children is humbling. And scary. There is so much pain out there in the world. By choosing to get pregnant and have kids, I’ve chosen to expose my offspring to that very real pain. But I believe that life, of course, is beautifully worth it, and I know Auden and George have so much to look forward to.
So I’m moving forward, starting a new day, a little more aware of the pain that awaits my children. There will be more tears, more injuries. I will feel their pain deep down in my own chest, as all moms probably do.