It was way too early to have his exuberance thrust into my slumber. The butt crack of dawn — and a very wide awake Elad was ready to go.
My 3-and-a-half-year-old knows he can only gain entrance into the wondrous kingdom of “Mama Bed” after sunrise. “Night? No! Day? OK” is a most sacred principle.
But this Friday morning, after weeks of build-up at his local preschool, we were going to the zoo! With all his friends!! And his preschool teachers!!!
Several hours and two cups of coffee later, we met his class at the entrance and began our three-hour tour.
Being an active boy, he ran and jumped and climbed and fell and skipped and got scuffed.
Being a mom of six (Elad is our youngest), I made sure he drank enough water, didn’t wee his pants, stayed relatively in sight, had his hat, and wore his trademark band-aid on his forehead.
Until winter, that band-aid will remain his signature look and, for me, a constant reminder to stay humble.
A few months ago, we were at the playground in the center of the community where we live. It was time to go, so I began collecting our debris while Elad chatted with a friend from preschool.
I looked away for a second to pick up a book and… it seems his scream still reverberates. When I turned back, he was doused in his own blood.
It had taken one fraction of a second for him to trip on some shrubbery’s drip irrigation tubing and split his forehead open on the playground’s wicked iron fencing.
Had he fallen one centimeter in either direction, he might have taken out an eye. Had he fallen with more force, he might have broken his skull. The cut was deep.
I grabbed him and washed his head in a nearby water fountain to locate the wound. A father handed me a thick wad of tissues from his pocket, and I held it to Elad’s forehead as a makeshift compress, while phoning for backup (in this case, his 10-year-old brother).
Eventually, we made it to the hospital where all my children were born. By then, he was no longer in pain, and, with the help of a few cookies, was enjoying his one-on-one time with Imma. He sang and danced in the hall as we waited our turn.
Stitched up by a plastic surgeon — internally and externally — he was complimented on his bravery, given a little present, and the whole event passed for him without any lasting trauma.
Late that night, while I recounted the whole episode to my husband, I found myself saying, “And I had just turned away for a second.” As if by having Elad in my line of sight, my sheer will to keep him safe would have prevented his injury.
Whether you believe the world is 4.5 billion years old or 5776, the creation of life happened in a blink. Its destruction can be just as quick.
At the zoo on Friday, Elad was excited. He tried to climb like the monkeys and peer into their cages. I stopped him — and a few other boys whose parents weren’t right there at that particular second. And those parents stopped Elad from following through on his crazy 3.5-year-old antics when I wasn’t right next to him.
I am lucky to live in a community where people watch out for each other. This means that when I see a couple of girls not using the sidewalk on their way to school, I’ll say something to them — and mention it to their parents. Or when one of my kids is spotted doing something questionable, I’ll hear about it too. Like the guardian angels of Bil Keane’s Family Circus comic strip who step in from time to time, we try to be there for each other, with compassion.
Just like every mother, every now and then, I ask myself am I a bad parent? And the answer is: of course. Not when Elad had his accident, but when I take a chance passing cars on a two-lane highway. When I work from my phone more than I interact with my children. Obviously, like every fallible person — which is every human being — I am imperfect in so many ways.
So when a 4-year-old falls into a gorilla’s cage while doing normal boy stuff, or a preoccupied father catastrophically forgets his toddler in a car, I know that so easily these tragedies could have been mine.