So. Yesterday, we did” Go for What You Know” for dinner. You want cereal? Have a bowl or two. Leftovers? Nuke it to your heart’s content. A sandwich and chips? Jordan and Kaelyn usually go for PB&J, while the twins generally prefer ham and cheese.
Kaelyn and Jordan to have ramen. Groovy. I put a pot of water on the stove and then went to do some editing while I waited for it to boil.
I got lost in the zone. I snapped out of it 15 minutes later by piercing scream coming from the kitchen. It was the type of scream in which you know from the second it stabs your ears that your kid is hurt. And not just a little hurt–it’s the degree of hurt that jolts your heart and moves you at light speed to your child. One second you’re where you were and the next you’re where they are, and you can hardly recall getting from Point A to Point B.
It was Kyra. She took the initiative to help me out and make the ramen, something she’s done a hundred times before. The wrong burner was on, and the pot was turned in such a way that its metal handle was positioned over the heat. I don’t know if Kyra accidentally turned on the second burner as she was cooking or if I did it and didn’t notice. It doesn’t matter, because it was my fault either way.
Her left hand (which is her non-dominant hand, thankfully) has very mild first degree burns, particularly on the tips of her first three fingers, the upper part of her palm, and the heel of her thumb. It’s not anything that needs professional medical attention. Basic home first-aid should heal her will over the next few days.
There were lots of tears and lots of hugs.
After I slathered her hand in cooling burn ointment and wrapped it in sterile gauze, I cried and snotted all over Kyra’s shoulder.
Ever the stoic, she said, “It’s okay, Mommy. I was a little scared at first, but I knew that I was going to be okay as soon as you put my hand in the water. See? I’m not even crying.” And she wasn’t. The girl never even shed a tear. She squeezed her arm around my shoulders and patted my back with her good hand.
Which naturally made me cry harder.
Because if only I’d been there, she wouldn’t have gotten hurt in the first place.
If only I’d made a real dinner instead of punking out with Go for What You Know, which is usually reserved for an occasional Friday or Saturday night.
If only my career paid a bit better, I wouldn’t have to pick up extra little writing/editing gigs here and there to help bridge the gap between the needs (which we can provide) and their wants (which are few, but we have to be choosy based on what we can afford).
If only Frank were already finished with school and our burden could be eased with the addition of a second income.
If only I were a better mom….
That’s the way it goes, isn’t it? We let the guilt of one parenting failure blow up into a trick mirror which distorts the things we do right into something disturbingly wrong. Everything we wish we could be for our kids waves a mocking finger and belittles us. We shame ourselves into believing that we’re not already good enough the way we are.
I didn’t say any of this, but I think Kyra sensed it in the way I hovered over her for the rest of the evening. “You’re a great mom, Mom. I’m going to school tomorrow, even though you said I could stay home tomorrow if I wanted to. Just put some more of that stuff on my hand and wrap it up. I have to beat my record on the mile run in P.E., I have a science project to finish, and I’m trying to get Perfect Attendance.”
I want to be like her when I grow up.