Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'll tell you right off the bat that she's ok.

Anna fell off the dock yesterday.

Anna fell off the dock yesterday, without her life vest on.

We'd all been down there for a couple of hours already. Blue skies, warming in the sun, eating crackers, goofing around, jumping off hand-in-hand (not me!), paddling about around the dock. The girls kept coaxing Anna to come in, telling her it's not that cold. Making her laugh by counting to three and then all leaping in. But she wasn't buying it, this day. She stayed on the dock with Tim and me, the whole time.

All good.

We were getting ready to go...collecting towels and flip flops and life vests: even the big girls wear them down there, sometimes. Just for fun: they're all strong swimmers. But Anna, she puts it on in the house and wears it all the way down Pink Street, and all the way back home.

We have it all gathered up, and have even turned to walk towards the ramp.

And then:
Callie shouting "she fell in!", and me, still thinking she had the vest on, not even moving quickly- smiling, even, thinking Anna must have decided to finally go for it.
The sound of Callie jumping in, and the sight of Anna, her head above water now, but with the duckie towel wrapped around her, pulling her down, even as Callie was holding her up. Grabbing on to the dock while gripping underneath that little shoulder. Wrapping her up in dry towels and cradling her like an infant, holding my breath as she coughed out water and started to cry.
Callie collapsing next to me, still in her wetsuit, and looking stunned.

And Anna's next words, and all of us laughing: Callie was wrong. The water is too really cold today.
Everything is ok.


A few years ago, when Lindsey was six or seven, we were on Block Island with my family-brothers and parents and cousins and all. Anna was an infant, and Tim and I strapped her in the Baby Bjorn and spent a few hours walking around the island while the kids were all together with the rest of the family. When we came back up the hill to the house, my niece was waiting in the driveway with the news that Lindsey had been hurt and we had to go to the medical center immediately. She'd been with her older cousins at a make-shift petting zoo, and had been bitten by one of the animals. She'd lost part of one of her fingers.

The horror I felt when I first saw her hand is with me to this day. I didn't let her out of my arms for the next several days, and by the time we'd returned home, I'd blamed myself so completely for this accident, for not being there, that I could barely tell people what happened. Everyone told me not to think that way, that it wasn't my fault. But Tim and I knew: if we'd been there, it wouldn't have happened. We just knew.


We were wrong. As parents we all have a catalog of near misses, tragic events and dangers-real and imagined-that haunt us. And I know that when my kids were little, I, for one, really believed that if only I could be with them all the time, I could keep them from harm.

But now, even as I know I'm doing all I can to keep them safe, I know that there's only so much I can do.
Even as I'm keeping them close, I know its as much my job to let them go.

I just don't know how to balance the terror of what could happen, against the freedom of watching them grow.

Obviously, the thing with Anna yesterday is a different case. We're still not sure why her life vest got taken off-something about wanting to wrap up in her towel, like her sisters. We know that it is our job to keep a four-year old safe around water. We know that Anna can swim well enough, and certainly if not Callie, some one of the seven of us would have gotten to her in time.


Last night, long after everyone had fallen asleep, and before the lobster boats started revving their engines at four thirty or so, I went in and scooped up that little girl, and brought her in to our bed, and lay there just holding on.

At least I can still do that, for now.

More tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

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Anonymous emily said...

so so glad she's safe. (a beautiful piece of the story is callie jumping in after her, by the way.) so glad you're all safe.

parenting is so scary. be gentle with yourself today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. it takes time for those mama-hackles to lie back down.


August 27, 2009 12:28 PM  
Blogger julochka said...

oh, how completely frightening. thank goodness big sister was right there and acted so fast.

and on the bright side, you are rocking that D60 big time. :-)

i have horrible moments whenever i'm at a crosswalk with sabin, that she will step out into traffic (which she won't, she's far too sensible for that), but i have a very clear vision of it in my head. every. single. time. it's really quite nerve-wracking. when she was a baby, i used to see her whole baby carriage rolling into the traffic. awful. happily, it's never happened anywhere but in my mind.

August 27, 2009 1:23 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

okay...I'm crying just because that's how I've been feeling these past few weeks. Letting go, but keeping them safe.

I jumped in to get my little brother when he was four. I understand how Callie feels. So glad it all worked out fine. You need a glass of wine tonight Tara :)

August 27, 2009 3:28 PM  
Anonymous jen j-m said...

yikes, that's so scary. i'm so glad she's okay. i can totally relate to eerything you've said here!!

August 27, 2009 4:44 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Dear me, that's exactly what I needed to hear today! I'm one of those non-leavers ... because I know I can be a better mother than everyone else. I am learning to let go soon (tomorrow to be precise).
Thanks for your word.

August 27, 2009 5:09 PM  
Anonymous Alicia A. said...

Oh Tara.

I'm glad she's safe. What a scary thing to happen.

Just know we all understand. Completely.

Much love to you all.

August 27, 2009 5:15 PM  
Anonymous betsy said...

Oh yikes, Tara, how completely terrifying. And I really get everything you've written here. I think we all do. Honestly nothing about this journey is easy or simple or straightforward. And after an experience like that, everything is so damn raw. I'm glad you're babe is fine.

August 27, 2009 11:56 PM  
Blogger Anna Ander said...

So glad she's ok. And Callie. What a hero! What a sister.

Wilhelm did that last year. He was four then and just dove into a pool without us noticing. I'll never forget it. Never. But I have forgiven myself. I think.

August 28, 2009 4:33 AM  
Blogger shari said...

so scary! i'm so glad she's fine. thinking of you.

August 28, 2009 8:39 AM  
Blogger RW said...

parenting is scary and heart breaking
I agree.
Glad your daughter is alright.

August 28, 2009 10:52 AM  
Blogger Grey Cottage Studio said...

wow. that was scary.

So beautifully written -- I was right there with you on the dock and my vision is blurry with tears of relief for a little girl I've never met, and yet, we all know her.

It's a big challenge, this parenting thing. you just want everyone to get through in one piece.

August 28, 2009 7:19 PM  
Blogger Char said...

I'm so glad she's ok and yay for big sis. *whew* I have trauma about that as a cousin fell off the dock too (he was fine too).

I know you were scared - I'm thinking of you honey.

August 28, 2009 9:40 PM  
Blogger Adam Glenn said...

Oh Tara, my heart goes out to you, thinking about that feeling later of horror over what might have been. Hold her close today. Tomorrow will bring what it brings. ... And Callie, what a hero!

August 28, 2009 10:15 PM  

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