It was an accident.
Accidents are never intentional, and he certainly didn’t intend for this to happen. But it did, and it scared him. It scared all of us. The sound of her head reverberated off the concrete floor with a sickening thud, and everyone near cringed and gasped, because that’s a sound that gets stuck in your gut and settles there awhile.
While we talked with friends, he was entertaining his sister nearby. She giggled with delight as he grabbed her and tossed her in the air. Until that last time when she flung her head back, slipping from his grasp and hitting the floor.
My husband immediately ran to her, picking her up and cradling her as gently as only a father can as she whimpered in his arms. And while my heart raced at the thought of a possible concussion, I couldn’t help but shift my eyes to him. My first born. The only one of our kids so far to suffer a concussion.
I’ve never forgotten the sound of him falling down the stairs. He wasn’t much younger than she is now, yet I can still hear the thud as he landed at the bottom. He whimpered just like her. But then he started vomiting violently.
We spent a day and a half in the hospital while he recovered from the fall, and I worked my way out of the cloud of guilt and shame that settled on my young shoulders. I should have been watching him closer. I should have taken off his shoes. He could have broken his neck. It could have been so much worse.
I know the regret that comes with the sound of a head hitting the floor too hard.
And so as Lee walked and comforted her, checking her eyes and soothing her fear, I went to him. Because I could see the horror in his eye. He adores his sister. He was terrified that he’d caused harm.
But it was only an accident.
He walked toward a corner of the room, trying to escape the prying eyes, and maybe the guilt that was shuddering its way into his heart, but I wasn’t about to let that happen.
I grabbed him, and pulled him in for a tight hug. He resisted at first, anger a mask for sheer terror, but I held tighter until he finally stopped pulling away. That’s when he started to cry.
He’s taller than me now, and he weighs almost as much as I do. Hugging him is a little like hugging Marmaduke – he’s a giant, but he’s still just a puppy.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to.”
Of course you didn’t.
I walked him (half dragged, really) over to see that she was okay. She was going to be fine. No signs of concussion. A little stunned and shaken up, but otherwise fine.
I could see relief swimming in his bright, blue eyes. But it would be a little while before the fear began to subside.
She really is fine. We watched her closely for a few days for any signs of concussion and saw none. We rejoiced in that, because we all adore her.
I’m writing this morning while the darkness still hovers over the ocean right outside my door. Lee and I snuck away for a night because we needed it. We needed to reconnect after an intense season.
I’ve been exhausted and fatigued the last few months. Early mornings followed by long days have pushed me to the edge of my sanity. It’s been a good season – I’m not complaining – but even the good can leave one drained.
It was as though life had settled upon us with the same reverberating thud that we heard when Annika’s head hit the floor. It’s left us stunned and a little disoriented, but not really wounded. We just needed a minute to collect ourselves.
We needed to look at one another and remember that we matter. Our marriage matters.
There’s something so unique and melding about family. All these personalities all meshed up against one another provide plenty of opportunity for conflict, and sometimes we do things wrong. Sometimes we forget how to love well.
But sometimes we don’t.
Wrapping him in a hug that afternoon instead of checking on her was the right thing to do.
Getting away, just the two of us, for twenty-four hours was the right thing to do.
Family is sacrifice – it’s finding the little moments of each day that matter and falling in to them. I miss the mark on this often, but every once in awhile I do it right.
And the right is what keeps us pressing on.
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