Thursday, July 29, 2010

Walking with Angels

A great way to learn about our new town is to take evening walks, so that is what we set out to do. It started in contention. I wanted to take the girls in the double stroller which is easier for me to navigate, but Mark wanted to use the wagon. Alexander wanted to ride his green machine, but I knew the rolling streets and narrow sidewalks would be a problem, so we compromised with his big wheel. I should have seen this as a sign of trouble to come. Once these disagreements were settled we headed off in a direction we hadn't yet taken on previous evenings strolls.

We have moved to a strange and beautiful area. This Midwestern girl has a lot to get used to. I often thank our lucky stars (bless you Darcy!) for finding our house. It is in the burbs, yet a stone's throw from the big city. Our neighborhood is perfect for us. It is a relatively quiet street filled with homes that regular people live in. We have met many neighbors and each one is friendlier than the next. Sure, it looks different than what we are used to. It is more condensed with limited yard space, the homes are tall (often with 3 stories) rather than sprawling like our old ranch. The street is narrow and crowded with cars which sometimes feels like an obstacle course to drive, but it is a great place to be. Mark will be able to ride his bike to work or if he feels so inclined, he can hop a train. A renowned hospital is less than a mile away. A fire station is within a block. We are just off of a major artery filled with everything from luxury car dealerships, to fast food, to Mom and Pop shops.

Of all the things to adjust to, three stand out the most. 1. The landscape is hilly and meandering. We moved from the flatlands so it is a big (and welcomed) change. 2. We are surrounded by unimaginable wealth. This area is one of the most affluent in the country, and it shows. I don't mean 1 or 2 million dollar McMansion level wealth. I mean people more wealthy than several small countries, and they all live here. Our lovely neighborhood is a little pocket of normal in an area of many, many multi-million dollar estates. I've been so tempted to take some snap shots, but that wouldn't be right. Instead to illustrate my point, here are a few pictures taken from of homes for sale in my neighborhood. This one is 0.85 miles from my house with a listing price of $6,500,000. If you put 20% down, your estimated monthly mortgage (not including taxes) is a mere $27,000.

Doesn't impress you? How about this one listed at $17,900,000 a mere 4.83 miles from our house (or 2.5 miles from Alexander's elementary school)?

The 3rd thing that stands out is the age and history of our new area which is infinitely more appealing and interesting. One block away from our home is a farm house (currently occupied) which has a plaque dating it to 1752. The farmer built two similar one-room width homes for his sons, which also are currently being lived in. It's very cool and hard to wrap my mind around. On our walk we passed a few churches. The first was celebrating their 125th anniversary. Others we passed were of a similar age.

As usual, I had my camera with us on our walk, just in case. I really don't know why, but as we crossed a bridge, this warning sign caught my attention.

View from the bridge to the train tracks below.

Off we went to explore.

Though the light wasn't quite right, I couldn't help myself from snapping a few shots of this church and graveyard.

Beautiful architecture surrounds us.

Again, I have no idea why this sign caught my attention, but it did. I wasn't getting it. I wasn't understanding the messages that the universe was trying to send me for in the next few minutes our experience took a few years off of my life.

We have rules when going on walks. Alexander may ride across quiet streets only if we are sure there are no cars coming and he has been given permission. Otherwise, he must walk - with us. If it is a busy street, we walk or carry the bike across - together. I don't know why I snapped this shot, but I did.

He knows the drill. He knows to stop at every intersection, to look, to wait for our direction. At an intersection with 3 roads, we prepared to cross the width of a driveway onto another quiet residential street. We pointed to our destination and gave Alexander the go-ahead to ride his bike. He misunderstood where we were headed and set out to cross a very, very busy four lane street (35 mph speed limit, I think). Seeing his mistake we called out to him to stop. He didn't. He kept going. So did the oncoming traffic.

Cats have 9 lives. I wonder how many children have. I wonder how many guardian angels went with us, unseen on this neighborhood walk. As parents, we sometimes worry about emergency situations and how we might handle them. Would we run in front of traffic to protect our child or would we stand helpless with our feet glued to the ground? It's not something you ever actually want to find out.

The next few seconds are a blur. Mark and I were both screaming at Alexander to STOP. Panic set in and he began pedaling faster, screaming and crying all the way as he tried to make it across. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the approaching traffic and I ran, screaming and screaming "STOP!" The first car to get to us did stop as did the 2nd. Alexander didn't stop pedaling even as he hit the curb, popping his big wheel up off of the street. I reached him in an instant, but it felt like an hour.

Like I said it was a blur. I paid no attention to the stopped cars, but instead took hold of my son who could have been flattened like Frogger. There were many tears (his, not mine as I was too scared for tears) and lots of hollering. I don't know if the stopped cars stayed there to see if everyone was ok or to see if this child was going to get a beating on the side of the road. Believe me it crossed my mind to spank his bottom, but I didn't. He was beyond frightened and I could feel his heart pounding out of his chest. His dad, nearly dead from fright, was across the street keeping our daughters from rolling away in the wagon. Later he would tell me that he too jumped into the street, his hand out to stop traffic and then making the sign of the cross Catholic style when we made it to the other side.

Neither Mark or I can get this near tragedy out of our heads. We play it over and over in our minds. Mark couldn't sleep last night. I know it was our fault for not making sure he knew which street we were going to. I know he misunderstood our directions. Once he realized his mistake, he was in fight or flight mode. He may not have been able to hear us or rather process our command to stop. Still, in the crucial moment, he did the wrong thing and could have lost his life. Instead of obeying his parents and stopping, he went faster. I own this.

I can't help but think about what led to this disobedience. He has been testing the boundaries lately, as all kids do. I fear we have been too lax in disciplining him. Why wasn't it automatic for him to obey us? Mark argues that we cannot compare an emergency situation to when he pushes us on issues at home. I know there is some truth to that, but I take responsibility for much of this.

The very worse thing we can do as punishment is to take computer privileges away from our son. So, we did. I'm blogging instead of cleaning and unpacking as therapy. Waking up this morning, I searched my head for a streak of white hair that people sometimes get as a result of trauma. I don't have one but it wouldn't have surprised me. Cats have nine lives. I don't want to know how many my children have.

Thank you Jesus. Amen.


Tom P. said...

I don't think you can expect a kid to obey when they are scared. Once the adrenaline starts flowing they are not disobeying you, they are responding to you. He was not deliberately disobeying you and no matter how many times you re-ran that he would be unlikely to stop.

It looks like a nice area. Beth will be on the other side of the Delaware just north of Trenton.

Becca said...

Omg, I held my breath reading this, and it brought tears to my eyes to think of how such a seemingly small, ordinary moment in time could have become so tragic. Could happen to any of us. I'm SO glad he was okay, and can't even begin to imagine how terrified you must have been. Don't beat yourselves up on the shoulda, coulda, woulda. You can't anticipate something like that.

Makes my next comments about the area in which you live seem kind of shallow and wrong here...

I've mentioned to you before that we loved living in that area. So much character, so many nice people, so much to do. And day trips galore. You're only about an hour and a half from the beach, too. We felt very comfortable living there, and while we were dirt poor at the time (living in a small apartment above a shop), we never felt uncomfortable spending time with folks that lived in some of those mansions (okay, well maybe not the $17 million one). Enjoy! And stay safe... :-)

Sorry, didn't mean to write a book...

RK said...

Holy cow. I can imagine your panic!

And I get the frustration... I ask myself often why they won't listen when they KNOW better?!? We've started a "listen AND obey" chant around here. When they're told to do something, and it doesn't get a first response, I tell them they need to "listen and obey" and then I state the instruction again. They've been chiming in with "...and obey!" when I start to say listen. Who knows if it's working fully, but it seems to be helping the concept...

That said, I think in that situation, at least at the point he was frightened, he just reacted. But wouldn't it be nice if they heard "stop!" and did it? I have hope!

Breathe, my friend. I know this will eat at you for some time. But don't let it get you. You're more of a safety mom than most any other I know. Keep doing what you do.

JRS said...

Thanks everyone. Yes, it will be a while before my heart rate returns to normal. I guess the thing I didn't explain too well was that it was an intersection of 3 roads. We started on the closest road which meant when he went the wrong way, he had the width of the middle road to cross before entering the busy street. When we said stop right away, none of us were panicked yet and that's when I feel he disobeyed. He was confused I guess, then terrified and it happened so fast as these things do.

I keep learning the same lesson about not being uncomfortable around the truly wealthy. Apparently, I've not learned it too well. Maybe living here will help that.

Here's to looking forward to exploring some more, with pictures of course.

Larkinsmom said...

Reading that made me excited in the beginning. I love being there with you via your words and learning your new world with you.

The ending .... not so much but am beyond relieved that he is ok.

I am sure the nightmares continue as I know they do after such trauma.

Catch your breath ~ this is parenting at it's finest!!

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