We almost lost a daughter today.
We’d had a play date at a friend’s place this morning, and JJ didn’t want to leave. She’d been having fun playing with the other children. But it was time for us to head home.
My friend was walking us up the driveway, saying goodbyes. Bee was strapped into her pram. I was trying to hold JJ’s hand, but she kept snatching it away.
We weren’t at the top of the driveway yet. My friend was chatting to JJ, saying that we need to wait until the road is clear before we can cross. “Look, there’s a big car coming” she said.
“That’s not a car.” JJ replied. “It’s a van.” Smart-arse.
My friend laughed. “Well, this one’s a big car” she said, pointing to a 4WD (SUV) coming from the other direction.
JJ twisted her hand out of my grasp again, and out of nowhere, ran straight out onto the road.
She ran onto the road IN FRONT OF A BIG-ARSE CAR.
My heart lurched inside my chest.
My friend ran onto the road after JJ. I also ran onto the road waving my arms like a lunatic trying to attract the driver’s attention. Luckily it’s a small road, and the car wasn’t going fast. It stopped with about a metre to spare.The relief was palpable.
I then spun around, and watched my pram rolling backwards down the driveway.
“My baby!” I yelled. (Actually I think it was more of a squeal).
I watched, seemingly in slow motion, as the pram rolled backwards towards a rut, then flipped head-over-heals, landing BABY-SIDE DOWN.
My heart lurched inside my chest again.
I ran over to the pram, turning it right-side up (baby-side up). Bee was crying, but not screaming. It was a that was scary cry as opposed to a I just hurt myself really badly cry. One of her ring fingers was bleeding slightly around the finger nail. The frame of the pram must have taken the brunt of the fall. Thank goodness she was strapped in.
My friend brought JJ over, and once we’d established that Bee was astonishingly rather unhurt, I took JJ aside.
“JJ, do you know what you just did? You must never, never, never do that again.”
JJ misunderstood. She thought she was getting in trouble for pushing Bee’s pram over. She tried to explain that she didn’t do that to Bee. So I had to back-up.
“JJ, you just ran out onto the road, in front of a car. You almost got hit by that car. JJ, are you allowed to run out onto the road?”
“JJ, when you ran out onto the road, Mummy had to let go of the pram to run after you, which is why the pram rolled and fell over. I know you didn’t push over the pram. But you did go out onto the road. JJ, you are in a lot of trouble for this. What you did was very naughty. Do you understand me JJ? You must never go out onto the road. You almost just got hit by a car. Do you know what would have happened if you had been hit by that car?
“I would have got hurted. My legs would have got broked. And then if my legs were broked, I wouldn’t be able to walk.”
“Yes JJ, that’s what would have happened. And it would have made Mummy very, very sad. I think you need to be carried to cross the road again for a little while, until you remember how important it is to never go onto the road.”And then I looked and my friend, and she looked at me. We had one of those moments, where you count all your blessings and then some. The relief was palpable. Again.
I briefly considered carrying JJ on my hip whilst I pushed Bee in the pram home. I would have done it. I’ve done it before, both as a preventative and as a punishment, when JJ has run off. But luckily in this instance Mr Banya was home and could pick us all up instead.
When Mr Banya arrived, I asked JJ to tell him what happened.
“I ran out onto the road. I almost got hit by a car and got my legs broked.”
I believe that JJ understands mostly the seriousness of the situation. She certainly seems to understand that she did the wrong thing, and that there would have been consequences beyond punishment. She understands that she is now to be carried across roads for a while, and is letting us carry her without fuss. She understands that we are no longer walking to friend’s houses for a while. She is keenly trying to redeem herself by pointing out situations when she has done “good sticking together”.
Carrying her across roads is difficult, but we’ve done it before. It means that I’ll have to leave the pram behind if we are going anywhere that involves a road crossing as I can’t easily carry JJ and push the pram at the same time. I’ll have to carry Bee in the sling on my front and carry JJ on my hip.
We used to carry JJ every time we crossed a road or car park until she was 2 years and 2 months old. It didn’t matter if it was a small lane or a busy highway. If it was at traffic lights or a pedestrian crossing. If I had my arms free or if I was lugging heavy bags. If I was by myself or with the rest of the family. Carrying her was our way of drilling into her that the road needed to be respected. That it was dangerous. That she wasn’t allowed to even step onto a road, regardless of the situation.
I copped a bit of flack. Some friends and family thought it was unnecessary. That I had too many rules. That I was making things hard for myself. That I was restricting them. That JJ should be able to walk holding hands, or holding onto my bag or the pram. That the rules didn’t count if we were walking down a small quiet lane.
They thought that an eighteen month old should be able to walk across roads and car parks holding hands with an adult.
And certainly, looking around, there are plenty of eighteen month olds who can and do cross roads and car parks, holding their parents’ hands.
But maybe those eighteen month olds aren’t as spirited as JJ.
JJ has always been extra confident. As an attachment style parent, I’ve avoided hovering. I’ve let her take her own risks, find her own boundaries, make her own mistakes.
But not around cars.
I felt that JJ, as an overconfident young toddler around eighteen months, couldn’t understand the difference between a quiet small lane and an ordinary neighbourhood street, that rules could be broken sometimes. I felt that JJ, as an overconfident young toddler, wouldn’t be able to hold onto my bag and resist temptation to run off. I felt that JJ, as an overconfident young toddler, would hold my hand one day, and think she was old enough to do it by herself the next.
Because the consequences were too great.
And so we carried her. Always. We left no room for interpretations.
But when she was 2 years and 2 months old, we judged that she was ready. She had started to resist being carried. She wanted to walk across the road like a big girl. So we slackened the reins and allowed that she could cross roads and car parks if, and only if, she was holding onto the hand of an adult. And she’s been so good around the road. Sure we’ve had plenty of times when she’s run off. But never onto the road. Never in front of a car. Not until now.
It seems, that at some point, she must have lost a bit of respect for the road.
And the consequences are great. Indeed they are great.
I can’t help but think ‘what if?’ How my day would have panned out – if the driver of that car didn’t stop in time or if Bee wasn’t strapped into the pram. I could be still up at emergency right now, or worse. Or worse. Heaven forbid, or worse.
And so it seems, for a while, we’ll be returning to the strict rules. She’ll be carried. Across every road. Across every car park. Until she shows again the respect that cars deserve. Until my heartbeat has slowed down somewhat, at least.