Holy cannoli. I think I can safely say that this last Saturday I experienced the most terrifying moment of my life. What IS it with 2017?! I thought spotting large fins appearing in the surf at Waihi beach less than five metres from B and our three boys was bad enough. OK, so attacks by copper sharks are incredibly rare, but I don’t want anything bigger than a harmless little Scandie herring swimming anywhere NEAR my reasons for being, thank you very much. My heart just about jumped out of my chest. You’d think nothing could top that little moment of fear. You’d think.
Monkey is growing up way too quickly and unfortunately it turns out it is not good parenting to wrap him in cotton wool, prevent him from EVER leaving the house and have him in my sights at all times. Unfortunately. So I am trying to get over myself and have done my best to give him more responsibility and freedom, little by little. And Monkey? Well, he’s grown with each little bit and shown incredible maturity, my little shining star. Or not so little anymore given how it won’t be long until he is taller than I am.
So. Saturday B and I went to see friends on the south coast so were away from mid-morning to early evening. Monkey hopped on buses to get to his mates in Chiswick, dutifully texting at each change of bus and change of location, then back home at the agreed time to let himself in. He’d got back just minutes before us and he had tidied his room and done all the things I’d asked him too. It’s moments like that when this nervous, over protective mother draws a sigh of relief and feels so much, well, LESS nervous about continuing to give him freedom.
It’s all based in every parent’s worst nightmare, the fear that something awful could happen. It’s horrible thoughts about various horrible scenarios my child could get caught up in from being mugged to being in an accident, get kidnapped or worse. Unlikely all of them, but they figure in my mind all the same and if I’m really honest I sometimes have sleepless nights due to my anxious mind going into over drive and me powerless to switch those frightening thoughts off.
Once we were back, Monkey went downstairs to get his friend J, a kid his age who lives in the same building, for a kick-about in the garden. I do occasionally go and have a look out of the window, just to check. I am trying to be more relaxed but I am still ME so cut me some slack here. And oh, I do still to this day go in to his room – as I have since he was born – after he has gone to sleep and only when I can see his chest rise and fall do I leave.
A bit later the doorbell goes so I go to open, assuming that as usual it’s Monkey who’s just back up. It’s not. It’s J, who is panting and looking at me wide-eyed.
“You have to come, [Monkey] has fallen through the garage roof.”
At the end of the garden there is a row of old garages and every so often those two climb up on them to retrieve their footballs or rugby balls. We have of course asked them not to, but there we are. They are at a guess roughly three metres in height, we don’t know who owns them, they are all padlocked shut and who knows what’s inside. Has Monkey free fallen three metres on to a concrete floor? Landed on something sharp? These were the least horrific scenarios that went through my mind. B comes flying past, telling me in a stern voice “I’ll deal with it“, before running down. I run after him and God only knows how as I think I stopped breathing altogether. I get out, round the corner of the building and run down the drive way to the bottom of the garden. As I get to the other side of the garages to where their doors are, there is J, B and three other neighbours. I don’t know what we will find but I do know this: there is complete silence. I cannot hear my child. And as awful as it sounds, in this moment it would be preferable to hear him screaming. There is not a sound.
I move close to the doors.
“[Monkey]!” I call out and do my best to keep my voice calm. “Can you hear me?”
“Yeah, I’m OK,” comes the answer immediately and I’m so grateful there is no way to describe the utter gratitude and relief I feel.
“Are you in pain?”
At this point B and two of the neighbours are examining the door to see how we will get through it. It’s kicking it through or calling the fire brigade. B asks Monkey if he is close to the door. Monkey doesn’t know and now I can hear in his voice that he is crying, it’s a wail more than shouting back in reply. I’m desperate to get my child, desperate to have him out because I know he must be frightened. The doors are old and of wood, and we discover we can bend them open. Me and the three neighbours pull the doors all we can, enough for B to get through.
Monkey has fallen on to the roof of a car, which has luckily staggered his fall. He’s taken a good old tumble though as the car’s roof has a Monkey sized dent in it. As roof tiles have then landed on Monkey, he has rolled to the side to avoid them and fallen down to the side of the car, becoming wedged bottom first and legs up in the air between the car and the wall. That’s how B finds him and he cannot move.
It is in times of crisis we show our true mettle, and B does. This is why he is at the very top of a global company with thousands of employees. I would have tried to immediately get Monkey out of there. B keeps a cool head and first asks him what, if anything, hurts. Then to move his hands, move his feet, does his head hurt, does his neck feel OK and so on. Only when he has established all of this – only over the course of a few minutes but which to me on the outside feel like an eternity – does he eventually get Monkey out. I hold him close. He is covered in dirt, sand and has clearly had a real fright. His eyes are wide and filled with tears.
Turns out he has escaped with only a bump to his head, cuts and bruises, none serious. And all I can do is thank his lucky stars and mine as it could have ended very, very badly. There is no greater privilege or honour than being Monkey’s mother, no greater love anyone could ever feel. And there is no greater or more paralysing fear than the fear of your child coming in harm’s way, just like there is no greater torment than when they do. You wonder when something like this happens – something that didn’t end as badly as it might have – how people cope when there isn’t a happy outcome. And I never, ever want to find out. Perhaps it IS possible after all to keep Monkey wrapped in cotton wool and never let him leave the house?
Thank God for guardian angels.