When they fall over a cliff calling our name and we know our hands won't reach them in time.
When they walk away from us, through a schoolyard door, and we can't follow them inside.
When they pass through an invisible wall, while we remain trapped on the other side. When their decisions and actions lay beyond our reach. When we realize we can't save them...
Maybe this is what we are here to learn. Over and over again. That we aren't in control.
And we can beat ourselves up with finely crafted barbs but this was never our show to direct. We don't write the script. We can try to pry back the layers but there will always be more mystery inside than meaning. More questions that hang above us like clouds that may or may not rain.
I took Olive for a jog around University Lake yesterday after Elias's first day of school. I needed to run so I convinced her to ride in our BOB stroller instead of jogging along with me. I wanted to push her and not think about my son wearing diapers in 5th grade. Pound out my anxiety about another school year of balancing my role of school counselor and Elias's Mother in the halls of Airport Heights. I wanted to look at the mountains and the water and just move my body across the well-worn trail.
Half-way around the lake, Olive wanted to get out, so I told her we'd stop at the beach and let Tonsina swim. Up the hill from the beach I spotted a good stick at the edge of the trail and stopped running to pick it up.
I looked up in time to see the stroller rolling backwards towards a small cliff to the lake. I saw Olive's face, eyes wide, my name on her lips, and as I lunged, the stroller slipped down, past my reach. The BOB flipped over twice before downed trees stopped it from falling in the water.
I scrambled down after and as I held Olive in my arms on the side of the steep embankment, I repeated, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." I checked her body to make sure nothing was broken and found only scrapes and bruises.
When she stopped crying she said, "I want to go home Mama."
"I know Babe, that was really scary."
Olive nodded and I carried her up the hill, holding onto a tree to help pull us up the steep incline. I gently put her down on the trail and said, "I'll be right back after I get the Bob."
Amazingly, no one walked past during this whole ordeal, though we had run past several groups of dog-walkers. And I guess I'm a bit relieved that my Mom fuck-up didn't include multiple witnesses, just my daughter, who after four and a half years knows I'm full of faults.
When I finally muscled the stroller up the embankment--(not realizing till we got back to the car that my keys and phone fell out and lay hidden in the brush)--Olive held my hand and we slowly walked together down the trail. "That was my mistake Olive. I forgot to put on the brake. I messed up and I'm so sorry. I know it was scary."
"I'm kinda hurt but kinda OK now."
I smiled at my strong little girl. "You are so brave. I love you Sweetie." And it was fine that she didn't want to get back in the stroller and that our pace resembled a tortoise more than a hare because she was OK.
And so is Elias, OK, even if his processing speed, movement and development are nothing like his peers. Even if I cant stand beside him to smooth out every social encounter. Even if I can't catch him every time he falls.
And as we all know, he falls. A lot.
We all do.
"Mom," Olive said as we walked out of the woods and into the field, "When I fell it was a little bit scary and a little bit fun."
And that's childhood, and parenthood, and this painfully beautiful life of ours. A little bit scary and a little bit fun. If we take away all the scary we rob our children of the fun.
When we let ourselves grieve, little by little, joy returns.