Well, I think I’ve written before trying to summarize or paraphrase for myself as well as others, what it is that actually changes when you become a parent is that, suddenly, everything matters. Or rather, everything always mattered but maybe we just couldn’t see it quite so clearly before. The results of all of our actions become plainly visible. No choice is made lightly. If you’re like me, you become very sensitive to the fragility and beauty of life, you question your purpose, you start questioning everything everyone else does, you see others with greater empathy and at times, greater scorn. I’m probably not being very articulate right now. I have a problem with that. Even though I love words and I love to try to describe things, my words often fail me, I get tongue-tied and flub everything up.
Just take the other day, for example. We went for a walk in our local natural area when it was pretty warm with the kids, pointing out birds and bugs and overall, just letting them get good and sweaty and dirty and just GO. At one point, Greg lagged behind while I went up ahead with the kids to a “castle” they had spotted near a manmade pond. It is actually a really old structure left over from the days when Henry Ford owned the area and what, to us is a large wilderness area, was actually his backyard. The castle is actually called the gazebo. It is a big stone structure with a couple stairs going up and a couple going down and is otherwise kind of a raised platform in the middle of the woods, a perfect place to meet up with your boyfriend to make out, meet with your stoner friends to get high, or, if you’re like me, a perfect place for your kids to run around in pretending it’s a castle.
In any case, when I finally caught up with them (big bellied lady comin’ through), I saw that there was a pile of broken glass on one end from a smashed beer bottle, one of those large brown ones (ok, I know it’s called a 40, let’s not be coy here). I looked at it, feeling bothered and a little wary, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew something could potentially go wrong in this situation, but I was too slow to react and soon, both kids were running over the glass area like it was the most fun thing they had ever encountered. I think I mumbled something about staying away from the glass, and a thought of someone tripping and falling was foggily forming in my mind, when Joel, clumsy 2 year old that he is, tripped and fell and skidded on his hands. Right in the glass shards. “Oh, shit!” I yelled, running over to grab him up, not wanting it to be true but knowing what I would find, the image that had been slow to upload in my brain suddenly crystal clear and before me. His hands were all bloody with multiple glass cuts.
Greg ran over and asked what happened. “He tripped and fell right in those broken glass shards.” I said, incredulous that in a place like this, where everything is so beautiful and seemingly safe, something so hazardous could be lurking right when I least expected it. “Why did you let him run in the glass??!” Right, good question. I simply wasn’t in caution mode, I guess, lulled into a sense of security by this place that I have been to a million times before and have pretty much nothing but good memories from. “I don’t know. Greg, we might need to take him to the ER. There’s got to be glass embedded in there. He slid right into it.” We immediately headed out, our pleasant and relaxed mood replaced with stress and anxiety, feeling many things. Stupid, for one. Concerned about the potential glass in Joel’s hands and dread about possibly having to spend the afternoon in the ER. And something else…hurt and…sort of violated. By someone else’s carelessness.
Of course, it looked worse than it was with all of the blood everywhere and most of the cuts were pretty superficial. When he finally calmed down enough for us to get a good look, there was something in the cuts, but it seemed more like dirt than glass and since that say, the cuts have all pretty much faded away and seem devoid of glass particles (we never went to the ER).
When I think of that day, I think of how naïve I was to let my guard down just because the kids were having fun. But more than that, I think of how everything we do affects other people. I try to picture the person who broke that bottle, and figure out why they would do that. I mean, I can see going there and drinking beer. I would do that. I could even see leaving the bottle. I don’t think I would do that, but ok, I can see it. But to smash it? Why? I can’t understand that. Whoever it was who was venting frustration or showing off or just being careless, may have been releasing aggression in a seemingly harmless way. But my young son, an innocent baby, someone that person has never met, ended up being on the receiving end of that aggression,was impacted and hurt by this person that I have no idea who it is and never will. That person’s actions were not harmless. None of our actions ever are. Everything has a consequence.