There’s bound to be some consequences
Sneaking under other fences
~ Clay Walker, Then what?
We took the girls out for ice cream last night. Despite a bitter wind, 54 degrees and sunny had us feeling giddy. Our SUV was parallel-parked along the left side of a one-way street. Brooke stood beside me as I opened the back hatch to grab my jacket. As always, I said, “Stay close, Brooke.” As always, she did.
I reached into the car to grab the coat, standing on my toes to see over the tailgate. I looked into the car for approximately three seconds. It couldn’t have been more than that. It didn’t have to be.
I didn’t feel her next to me. Her little shoulder wasn’t grazing my leg as it does when she’s ‘staying close.’ I looked down in slow motion, like I was falling off a cliff in an old movie. She was darting around the side of the car, a good four to five feet into the road.
It was 6:30 p.m. We were parked right in front of a busy train station, right in the center of town. A car whizzed by, stirring the wind and blowing her hair back in its wake.
I yelled out sharply. “Brooke, BROOKE! NO!”
I grabbed her. Hard. I crouched down and pulled her to me.
I couldn’t breathe.
She was fine. FINE. But I held tightly her to me. I just couldn’t let her go. She let me hold her. She was eerily calm. She didn’t scream when I screamed. She didn’t pull away or fuss when I held her against me. She stood there with me, cheek to wet cheek in baffled, stunned silence.
When a child yells in a store, Brooke yelps in response. The few times that I’ve raised my voice to her, she has let out a scared shriek. Even if I yell to Luau across the house, she shouts in response. Brooke is not silent. Nor still. Her reaction to all of this just wasn’t HER. At all.
We took a few deep breaths and gathered ourselves together to walk to the ice cream shop. By the time the kids were halfway through their scoops, all seemed fine. Brooke was still a little quiet, but it was getting close to bedtime. We had a nice walk back to the car, a calm ride home. The girls played through shower/ bath time and no one seemed any worse for the wear.
After her bath, Brooke sat on the floor of her room, huddled under her lion towel. I snuggled her up for a ‘Brookelion hug’ and told her I’d be right back. I just had to run to the bathroom. I came back a minute later to find her crying. Nothing in the room had changed. She sat exactly where I’d left her. She was alone. There was nothing around her that appeared to be the culprit.
The cry worked its way into a full blown sob. She cried so hard she gagged and choked. She caught her breath and then cried harder. She ran headlong into me and let me squeeze her, then bounced off of me like my skin was burning hers. Then again. And again. Just like she did when she was little and I called her my little ‘hit and run.’
I tried to hold her, to soothe her, to tell her she was safe. She looked terrified. Nothing I could say would calm her. She was yelling through the sobs, “You love me!” and “No boo boos. I don’t have any boo boos.”
I tried to rock her, to hold her. I tried to get her to breathe, but the jagged sobs had turned into hiccups. Her tiny little body was shaking.
Finally, feeling helpless, I pulled out the biggest gun I’ve got. I brought her into my bed to cuddle up under the covers. She was still sobbing as I turned on the TV. The sobs eventually subsided about halfway through Dora. I gotta give it to that little exploradora, she knows how to draw my kid in. Brooke even eked out a “Mochila” to help Dora call her backpack.
In the bed, Brooke held onto me for dear life. She curled herself around me, clamped her little leg around mine and held my arm across her chest. Finally, she was calm.
Katie piled in for the end of Dora and all seemed to have returned to our version of normal. Luau and I split off for bedtime and Katie showed me the latest children’s book that she’s writing about a camp-out. She dismissed my only narrative suggestion because, “Mama, this is for little kids. I don’t think they can read the word settled”. Oooookay.
I headed into Brooke’s room for songs and snuggles. She looked around on her bed and realized that someone was missing. “Mama,” she began, “COULD you go downstairs and get JoJo PLEASE?”
The language was fabulous! “Sure, honey. I’ll be right back, OK?”
Off I went to grab the errant JoJo. Blissfully (and uncharacteristically), I knew right where she was, so it didn’t take but a minute. I came back with a grin and a JoJo only to find Brooke crying again. She pulled me to her and yanked me down onto her bed. “We would cuddle!” she said as she buried her face into my neck. The sobs overtook her again.
She couldn’t tell me what was upsetting her, though it didn’t take Encyclopedia Brown to put it all together. The ‘no boo boos’ was the kicker, I think. She was reassuring herself that she hadn’t gotten hurt. That she was OK.
We did our best to talk about it. I asked her if she had been scared when Mama pulled her out of the street and yelled. She said that she was. She asked, “Do we go in the street without a grown-up?” The same question I answer every single time we cross the street on the way to school. Every. Single. Time. We stop, we look both ways and then I ask her, “What do we need before we can cross?” She answers, “A grown-up.” I ask her if she has one. She points to me and off we go. Every. Single. Time.
Some water, a toaster waffle and a lot of snuggling later, she finally calmed down and went off to bed, calm and seemingly happy.
I tore into myself for the three seconds that could have meant disaster. Please don’t tell me I shouldn’t have. You would have done the same. My stomach churned for most of the night.
I thought about Brooke. About all of us.
Our emotions ~ they’re there, aren’t they? The good, the bad, the ugly – they’re all there. The fear, the joy, the anger. The pride, the confusion, the insecurity. They may hide for a while; they may be stunned into submission, but they’re still there. We may be able to squelch them long enough to get through the day, but ultimately we can’t deny their existence. They come out somehow, somewhere. They creep under our splintered fences and make themselves known one way or another.
But according to Brooke, once we let ourselves FEEL them – as messy as they may be – we can go to bed, calm and seemingly happy.