Friday, May 15, 2009

How The Mighty Have Fallen

It's already apparent, at the tender age of 5, that my daughter has inherited her mother's grace.

Which is to say, she has none. Sorry baby girl.

My poor Kays is a bastion of bumps and bruises, scrapes and scabs. It doesn't help that she plays as hard as she can, full-out balls-to-the-wall every time she goes outside. It really doesn't help that she prefers to wear dresses, so her long legs and arms have absolutely no protection between them and the hard, hard ground.

If CPS ever gets a look at her, I'm gonna be in trouble.

JT, on the other hand, has an innate sense of balance and poise that showed up early on. He learned to walk at 9 months, with a lot less of the bumbling and stumbling than one comes to expect from a child at that stage. In 3 1/2 years, he's only had one goose-egg that I can think of. He puts his whole heart into attempting to do everything his adored big sister does, but somehow manages to come out of it with none of the damage that she inevitably accrues. And even on the rare occasions when he does happen to faceplant, he usually bounces right back up, relatively unscathed. It's almost eerie, really.

She's gonna hate him when she realizes this.

It's safe to say that I have, for the most part, stopped worrying about JT hurting himself while he's running pell-mell down the driveway or climbing onto random pieces of furniture toys that are made for climbing. Not that I don't worry a little bit - hey, come on now, I'm a mom not a heartless bitch ... okay, well, that aside, I'm still a mom - but point being, he just doesn't make friends with the asphalt (or dirt or carpet or etc. etc.) nearly as often as his sister.

So earlier today, I felt as much shock as I did horror as I watched my baby boy stumble and fall ... right down the stairs.


Down the stairs.


Our dog, who outweighs JT by a good 15 pounds, pushed past him in a rush, and JT - who was decidedly *not* holding the rail like he's been taught to do - couldn't keep his balance. He wobbled, wavered, tripped and went down. I was standing at the top of the landing, just a few feet away, and it was like I was watching in slow motion. I saw every little misstep, but I couldn't do a damn thing about it.

I watched my child pitch head-first down the staircase.

Instinctively, I knew I couldn't just reach forward and grab him, as I would very likely overbalance myself and take us both down. Visions of broken arms, legs, necks, were all running through my head even as my body's auto-pilot kicked in. I dropped my butt straight down on the stairs, reached one arm out for the rail and the other for my son.

Four steps into his downward flight, I grabbed him.

My hand came clamping down on his ankle like a boa constrictor around a particularly feisty rat. I actually knocked his shoe off in the process. I pulled him up and into my lap, and clasped my arms tight around his little body. JT went from screaming incoherently to wailing at the top of his lungs, clinging to me with all his strength while tears dripped off his face. I held him.

I held him.

With the amazing resilience that kids are born with, JT was dry-eyed and happily walking down the rest of the stairs less than 5 minutes later. I watched him, his chubby little fingers grasping the rail and his sturdy little feet placing themselves carefully upon each step. He didn't hesitate, had no fear of what could have been. That was left up to me; that burden of sitting there, feeling sick to my stomach and shaky in my limbs, was all mine.

I know that there will be many times in my boy's life that he will again feel the terror of that long, scary fall. Sometimes it will be because of an unexpected shove, a hit from behind ... sometimes he will miscalculate the distance from one step to another ... sometimes it will simply be because he's too damn busy to watch where he's going. My job as a mother is to stand there behind him as often as possible, ready to be his lifeline and pull him to safety.

And for those times that I just can't reach him, those spectacularly bad times in which a hard landing just can not be avoided, I hope and pray I will have taught him how to get back up, grab the rails, and get on with life, as quickly and confidently as he did today.

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