The Meaning Of Fear

Yesterday I was walking with my kids to the car when Sean pulled his hand from mine and said he didn’t want to go to the car.  He wanted to walk in circles around a pillar on the sidewalk while I got his sister buckled in. I agreed, since 1. he would be in my sight the whole time and 2. he was on the sidewalk and I was OK with that.

I don’t know what made him decide to bolt into the parking lot. Was it the father that had pulled up to my right and was walking toward the day care to pick up his child? Was it a bird that swooped by? Was it nothing at all? Nonetheless, he went from slowly circling the pillar in safety to sprinting into the parking lot — on the opposite side of the car from me.

I screamed at him — screamed as I’ve never screamed before. By the time I caught him — or he stopped, I can’t tell which — he was three adult-sized steps past the rear bumper of our car. As I pulled him back to me and into a hug, a car flashed past us and whipped into a parking space nearby.

“Mommy, too tight!”

I pulled away from him, opened the door and swept him into the car. I didn’t realize I was crying until he touched my cheek as I was buckling him in and asked “Why Mommy sad?”

“You scared Mommy,” I said. “Remember — cars are dangerous. They can’t see you. They’ll give you a really big owie and then we’ll have to go to the doctor. You can’t go into the parking lot unless you hold Mommy’s hand. Do you understand?”

“Cars dangerous,” he repeated. “They can’t see me. I get big owie. Wait for Mommy … Mommy got scared. I scare Mommy.”

“Yes.” I kissed him. “Sean scared Mommy. Don’t do that, OK?”

He lifted his chin for a kiss. “OK, Mommy. I sorry.”

I cried the whole way home. Had he not stopped when he did, the car would very likely have hit him. We talked more about how to be safe around cars as we walked into the house. Unprompted, he pointed to the street in front of the house and told me “cars can give Sean owie. Stay out of the street unless I hold mommy or daddy’s hand.” Then he looked up at me. “I scared Mommy. Mommy loves Sean.”

“Yes. Mommy loves Sean,” I answered.

I couldn’t hug and kiss him enough that night. We talked a lot about being safe at the house and around cars.  He knows these things, we talk about them a lot, but he’s still a little kid and that means I’m guaranteed to have more scares as he grows up.

But that fear — I never want to experience it again.

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