Moments in Mothering ~ If Nothing Else, Keep Calm

It’s the kind of phone call no parent wants to receive. The one that begins with your child sobbing on the other end.

No matter what’s happening at that moment, life stops. If you’re anything like me, every conceivable (and many down right impossible) situations run through your head.

Last week I got one such phone call. Here’s how it played out:

Me: Hey Baby Girl, I was just thinking about you.

Alexzandra: (sobbing hysterically) Me? Why?

Me: Oh my god, are you alright?

Alexzandra: I need a minute. Let me call you right back (through more sobs).

The line went dead. As much as I tried not to imagine the most horrible scenario, I’m a writer. My mind went there. My daughter is an avid cyclist ~ I tried not to picture what could’ve happened to her. She lives in a sketchy neighborhood ~ I didn’t want to know if she’d been robbed, mugged, beaten up. She’s my baby and I was hundreds of miles away from her.

In those few precious seconds when she left me in silence to freak out, I mentally ran through my calendar. I could be on a plane in an hour if there was a flight. You know how it goes, you try to keep calm and carry on while simultaneously rearranging your life to take care of your baby.

When she called back and started to explain what happened, I cut her off and asked if she was okay. There was surprise in her voice as if I was a little loopy for worrying about her at a time like this. Oh, children, you have so much to learn about parenting. Yes I worry about you. You will be fifty years old and I will still call to make sure you’re okay.

Once I’d established that my daughter was fine, she told me that she’d been riding her bike down a mountain when she saw a truck, the big kind with trailers attached to the back, lose control and jack knife before flipping over. A few minutes later paramedics arrived and put the driver in a body bag.

My daughter watched someone die.

It was one of the few times in my life when I didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry” seemed trite, but it was all I had. I wished I could erase the image from her mind, but there was, underneath the horror of what she witnessed, something good.

My daughter didn’t just shrug her shoulders and ride away. She couldn’t because the death of that stranger affected her at a core level. Like an earthquake far out in the ocean, the effects of that day may lie under the surface, but there will be long lasting ripples of change within my daughter. It made her view life a little differently. She saw in that man’s death her own mortality. When you’re twenty-one you think you’re invincible. She’s questioning that a little bit.

As much as I wish that accident didn’t happen ~ any senseless death is a tragedy in my mind ~ I can’t help but be proud of my daughter. Her visceral reaction was to care. In a world that is too fast and sometimes devoid of humanity, Alexzandra showed compassion for someone she’d never met. What an amazing young woman she is.

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32 thoughts on “Moments in Mothering ~ If Nothing Else, Keep Calm

  1. Poor Alexzandra!! Ohhh…such a thing to witness. Please tell her my heart goes out to her and I’m sending her thoughts of comfort. I can only imagine how terrifying that must have been. I am with you on your thoughts though! At the same time, to be aware of your own mortality at 21 so that you embrace life a little more richly and you are just a smidge more grateful for every waking day…well it’s a beautiful thing. We can often get lost in the assumption that we all have “forever” to love, laugh, and live…which is healthy and wonderful. But at the same time, we all need to take a moment here and there to realize how fragile life can be, how things can turn on a dime and how grateful we need to be for those days of bliss and wonderment!
    HUGS to both of you!

    • Thank you so much, Natalie! I’ll pass on your sentiments (better yet, have her read your comment). Being grateful for those days of bliss and wonderment… such a lovely statement. You have a fabulous way with words, my friend.

  2. What a sad experience at any age. Shocking … definitely a tough way to learn a life lesson and your beautiful young daughter’s response shows a touching sensitivity that would make any parent proud. You are SO right with your parenting comments. Our children never stop being just that … even when they begin having their own children. The love simply multiplies.
    Hugs to you both.

    • Thank, Patricia. Life is so precarious, but that’s not something we can teach them, is it? I’m sad that it was such a traumatic event for her to have to witness. Or anyone for that matter ~ I can’t even imagine being witness to something that horrific.

      The love does multiply, doesn’t it? What a sweet thought.

  3. Seeing death upfront and personal is so difficult, even if we don’t know the person. Your poor daughter. I think we all remember the first time we saw a body, whether we had a relationship with the person or not. and it’s a visceral moment – one that remains etched in our memories forever.

    and yes, we remain parents forever, don’t we?

    • Yes, we do remain parents forever. I like to say it’s a job I will never retire from. Thanks for your kind words, Louise. I know I saw a dead body once when I was younger and the memory has stayed with me all these years. Makes me love life just a little bit more.

  4. Poor, poor baby. And you, too, Mom. From the child’s point of view, they’re standing their in their own skin, safe and sound, and think we’re silly to worry. But from our seat, we’re picturing ourselves as the truck driver’s parent.

    They say empathy is the last thing you learn on the road to maturity, and you typically don’t get it until your mid -twenties. It sounds like your dear daughter has learned that lesson early.

    • Thanks, Gayle. You are so right! My daughter just didn’t get why I was worried about her. Sweet thing. When she has her own kids, she’ll get that lightbulb moment and understand. You’re also right about the empathy and I’m so glad that she did learn it early. I suppose that’s what makes her a fabulous preschool teacher as well.

  5. Oh, wow. Your poor daughter, but yes,you should be a proud mama. I shed tears for her, for the driver, and for you.
    A tough moment, for sure. But she sounds like the type of woman who will gain strength from it.
    Hugs to you all.

    • Thanks Elena. Hugs to you as well. I didn’t mean to make you shed tears, but am so grateful for friends like you who are full of grace and sensitivity. It’s all of you that make this world a lighter place. Again, thank you.

  6. It makes me happy to know that your daughter was touched by this. (I know that sounds weird…)

    I’ve seen more and more people callous and indifferent to what happens to a stranger. While I feel awful that she experienced this, I am happy to see that you raised such a caring individual. Hugs to you and her!

    • I get you, Amber. When I thought of how proud I was that she felt for this unknown man, I thought it might be construed as weird, too. But it’s not for exactly your reasoning. Too many people have tuned out to their fellow man. It’s heartening to see compassionate people are all around us, and especially nice that one of them is my daughter. Thanks so much.

  7. Aww, your poor daughter. I’ve been in her shoes and it does make you reassess your life. Life is so precious and in a blink can be gone. {{hugs}} to her.

    My kids are young enough that I haven’t gotten one of those calls yet, but it’s around the corner, oldest will be driving in a few years. So I can only imagine the heart stopping terror of that call. {{hugs}} to you.

    • Thanks Raelyn. That’s crazy that you’ve had a similar experience. I’m sure it happens often, but it’s not something one generally thinks about. I hope you never get those calls from your children! To be fair, she doesn’t do it often, which also means that when she does, I know it’s major. Oh, the driving years… I still get night tremors and I still have one with a few years to go, so it will continue on. Hugs to you as well.

  8. My heart goes out to you and Alexzandra. This is a horrible experience, and I’m sorry she had to witness it. We, mothers, want to shielf our babies from all the ugliness of life but we fail, over and over.

    Many years ago I’ve witnessed a young man loosing control over his car and hitting an older woman, who was just crossing the street. The impact was so strong, that her body flew up several feet up in the air, then crashed down onto the pavement. She died instantly. The driver was in shock, crying uncontrollably. A huge crowd formed in seconds, and then a child squeezed through, running toward the body of the woman and screaming. The old woman who just died, was the kid’s grandma. I don’t think I will ever erase this terrible incident from my mind.

    I will keep you and Alexzandra in my prayers.

    • Ohmygosh, Angela. That’s such a traumatic thing to witness. Then to have the little boy go up to her, makes me tear up for you, him, and his grandma. Dang, that’s a tough one. Like Alexzandra, you keep it in your heart because you’re a compassionate soul.

  9. There are some things you just can’t un-see. My heart hurts for your sweet girl, and for the truck-driver’s family. Death, in all it’s creative forms, has the uncanny ability to rock us all to the core. Seeing it happen is brutal.

    But isn’t it beautiful how good can sprout up from even the ugliest of experiences? Here in KS, every year they burn the Flint Hills – a huge, really huge, parcel of pasture-land that is some of the most beautiful in the world. For a time all those rolling hills are parched and black against an endless blue sky. But then little shoots of green emerge, and before you know it, the all the world as far as the eye can see is shocking, breathtaking, vibrant green. Beauty from ashes.

    I think life does that to us sometimes. It scorches us, blisters us…but then, hopefully, we heal. Stronger and more vibrant for having gone through the fire.

    Big hugs to you and your lovely daughter, Tameri. Keeping you both in my prayers.

  10. Oh, so sorry your daughter had to witness that and sorry for the driver and his family. Devastating! I was right there with you, though, through the fear, worry, anxiety and efficiency of making a plan to get to her in a matter of a couple of minutes. Being away at school or moving out on their own is scary for us because we know the dangers, but it’s the best experience for them, since they grow up with every new learning experience. She won’t forget this but will hopefully be able to put it into perspective.
    A similar thing happened to my 24 yo son last week. He was driving on the highway and saw someone lose control and hit another car. Lots of damage. He almost ran into the mess himself, but was able to pull over safely while dozens of other cars continued speeding by. He and another young man smelled gasoline and hurried to pull the driver and passenger out of the car, while someone else called 911. I was proud of him, but he felt a deep satisfaction that he was able to help someone in desperate need. Fortunately no deaths occured at the time, so he was saved that experience, but he’s no stranger to death as he was witness to his father’s passing. It’s painful for the kids and for us to watch them go through it, but it is a part of life and more often than not our children come through the experience stronger than before.

    Hugs to all of you!

    • Your son is amazing. You must be so proud of him for stopping to help. Children are so resilient, aren’t they? But you’re right, all of their experiences teach them valuable lessons in life. Maybe not right away, but in time. You’re a good mama, Marcia! Thank you for sharing this with us, it made my heart smile.

  11. She’s amazing indeed and I’m sure that’s in huge part, thanks to your awesome parenting! As a parent, I can’t imagine how I’ll handle hearing my daughter on the other end sobbing (I know it will happen) but, I hope it’s as good as you did.

    • Ah, Molly, thanks so much. You’ll handle it just fine. Remember, keep calm ~ you can always freak out when it’s all over and you’re kids are safe (and preferably not around). That’s what I usually do. My kids think I’m fantastic with blood, but really the whole time I’m bandaging them, I’m quaking inside. Shhh, they don’t need to know. ; )

  12. I’m so terribly sorry that your daughter had to witness such a tragedy and to learn about life’s fragile moments in such a way. She sounds like a wonderful daughter Tameri. It’s no surprise though, she happens to have a very caring, wonderful mother. I’m sending lots of hugs to you and yours.

    Love Kate

  13. So sorry for your daughter. That’s something that will stay with her for some time. And sorry we have to go through these parenting moments that sometimes seem to hurt us more than our babies!

  14. Oh Tameri… I felt your panic and your daughter’s heartbreak, both of which stem from the fact that you’re such loving individuals. I’m so sorry she had to see something so horrific, but as you pointed out, her compassion is admirable and pronounced.

    As you saw in my Lifesaving Resolutions post, my hubby and I witnessed a similar accident a few months ago. And chances are, her heartache, doom and sick feelings will gradually minimize and she’ll stop reliving the experience repeatedly in her head. Considering her character and heart, she’ll never forget what happened or the lessons she’s learned. Simply by living more fully, she’ll honor the victim’s memory. Big hugs to you both!

    • I do remember your post, August. What a beautiful statement, by living more fully, she’ll honor the victim’s memory. That’s something I’ll take into every day as well. Thanks for your kind words and hugs!

  15. Oh Tameri, I am so sorry for your sweet girl. It’s a hard thing, witnessing an accident like that. I really love Myndi’s analogy – beautifully put. I was very young when I witnessed my first fatal accident. You never forget, but you find a place for everything. It’s heartwarming to know what a compassionate person she is to feel for a stranger like that. Bless her soul. And bless you for raising such a wonderful girl. <>

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