On Saturday, after playing in the unexpected snow, I helped my son out of his snow gear and told him: “Warm yourself by the fire.” There was nothing exceptional about the command; we spend about two-thirds of our waking hours in the family room by the gas fireplace, occasionally reminding our children not to get too close. On this particular Saturday, my boy marched over and planted his tiny palms against the glass pane in front of the fireplace, burning himself badly. He is fine. One hand has more or less healed; the other blistered but is recovering quickly. In the grand scheme of things, a modest injury and a lifelong lesson. But Magpies, can you tell —
How wounded I feel?
Did I send him to this injury? Did my language distract or mislead?
He insisted I carry him like a baby for over an hour after in the incident, whimpering and wailing, his tiny jaw shuddering in pain. My arms ached from the effort and I felt as though I might vomit. There was something about the pierce of his cry and the hunger of his arms that made me feel physically ill. I knew even then, after a visual assessment and quick WebMD search, that it would be fine. Immediately after, we rinsed his hands in cool water, and he played with various implements in the sink for a few minutes, distracted by the magic of pouring water this way and that, before he started whimpering again. “We will get through this. You will feel better,” I assured him, before moving into distraction mode, bouncing dramatically down the hallway in search of his half chuckle. I told him to play the pilot. “That way,” he’d say, gesturing into my husband’s office. And we’d bounce in there and pretend to hit a wall, and he’d shriek with laughter. “Now that way!” he’d command, and we’d bounce into the dining room. We spent an hour like this, pausing sporadically to see whether he would let me deposit him on the couch (“no mommy!”), until he finally he let us cover the wounds with gel pads for burns that my husband had found at CVS, and then wrap those loosely in gauze to keep them in place. He was better, then, and has been in high spirits since. He will, however, run over to the fireplace with his hands extended wildly to warn any and all house visitors: “HOT!”
I share this because I know many of you have been here, especially recently, in the face of COVID. I have had siblings and friends tell me: “I feel as though I can’t keep my children safe,” or, after a positive test, “I feel as though I didn’t keep them safe enough.” I have responded the same way each time: “We are living in a pandemic. People get sick. You are doing your best.” It is so much easier to deliver that grace to loved ones than it is to grant myself the same. I woke up two nights after the incident in an anxiety spiral. Why had I told him to go to the fire? Why had I not reminded him that it would be hot and that he must not touch the glass? I could have sworn we told him that just yesterday but still — why hadn’t I voiced that caution? I imagined myself as a friend. What would I say to her? I’d probably think she was overreacting because, well, the boy is fine. But I would probably also tell her: “I can empathize with wanting to protect your son, but you can’t protect him from everything. Things happen. Life happens. And you are doing your best.”
Still, it is hard, in these moments, to resist the urge to helicopter. I have been working the past few months on reining in commands like “Be careful!” and “Get down from there!” I’ve read enough to know it’s supposedly better to ask: “Do you feel safe right now?” and “Check to make sure your feet feel steady.” I do not want to raise my children to be over-cautious; I want them to take calculated risks. If anything, I wish for them to exercise more boldness and confidence in their lives than I did at a young age. And yet, in spite of what I theoretically want, I find myself prone to wrap my son in my arms at every possible opportunity. I find myself thinking of a nursery rhyme from Christina Rosetti:
“Crying, my little one, footsore and weary?
Fall asleep, pretty one, warm on my shoulder:
I must tramp on through the winter night dreary,
While the snow falls on me colder and colder.
You are my one, and I have not another;
Sleep soft, my darling, my trouble and treasure;
Sleep warm and soft in the arms of your mother,
Dreaming of pretty things, dreaming of pleasure.”
I know it cannot be this way forever. I cannot carry him through this life warm on my shoulder, while he dreams of happy things. I know he will walk into the wideness of the world with all its perils and promises and I will not always be there. But oh God, do I wish it were so.
Written partly for my fellow Magpie moms, who “wish it were so,” too.
But written mainly for Hill. You are my one and I have not another.
+On doing small things with great love.
+Attention is a form of love.
+To the new mom nursing her baby at 3:11 a.m.
+Bloomie’s is offering an interesting promotion — a $25 gift card with a purchase between $125-$249, $50 between $250-$499, and up. This includes many items on sale, too, for extra savings, including —
FLORAL LSF DRESS PERFECT FOR A SPRING WEDDING
ADORABLE ROLLER RABBIT JAMS FOR LITTLES
THIS VEST WAS SO POPULAR EARLIER IN THE SEASON THAT IT SOLD OUT — BUY NOW FOR NEXT WINTER
PRECIOUS NIGHTGOWN FOR A LITTLE LOVE
+I used a promotion at Bloomie’s last year similar to this one to buy our Nuna Rava carseats, BTW. Those seats never go on sale and so I appreciated having a little money back in this way! You could do the same if you’re eyeing a Yoyo or any other baby gear that rarely goes on sale — or maybe to snag that Naghedi we’ve all been eyeing.
+This $31 pajama set looks much more expensive than it is. Love the Liberty-inspired blue floral set!
+This mixed-floral dress is in my cart. I can’t stop with all the new pretty florals!
+Thanks to the reader who introduced me to this Etsy seller with beautiful pearl statement necklaces!
+These rope sandals are elegant.
+These Oscar de la Renta x Larroude slides are beyond perfect in the begonia pink.
+FUN colorblocked sneaks for a little one (on sale!).
+Will try not to talk about this again but I have not gone a day without wearing this lip/cheek pigment since I bought it in NYC two weeks ago. I JUST LOVE IT. It is so easy to apply and I love the “temptation” color. I think I want to try the “before today” color, too.
+THIS LACE MIDI SKIRT! Wow. Brides — yes! Actually, everyone — yes!
+Such a pretty pillow cover.
+Great dress for a lazy summer Saturday. Would work with bump!
+Speaking of bumps, this looks like a good wedding guest option if you’re only a few weeks/months along.
+Major nostalgia with these butterfly hair clips. I’m tempted to buy them for mini’s Easter basket!
+Love the colors of this half-zip.
+This dress is absurdly gorgeous.