I like to think that I stay pretty vigilant most of the time – especially when it comes to my kids. If you looked up the definition of “helicopter parent” online, I’m fairly certain that my worried face would be front and center. This isn’t something I am proud of – or even okay with – but it’s a fact nonetheless.
When “dry drowning” came around on my Facebook feed, I think I spent 2 years, off and on, checking on my kids after baths or swimming – making sure that they were still breathing while they slept. When the alert about the white stickers on cars came around on the ‘Book, I went into my garage immediately to check my car. And then I checked it daily, even long after we learned it was a hoax.
So, you see, I have a slight anxiety problem. Which is why it completely surprised me when something DID actually happen, and I had no clue that it was even A Thing.
Like most kids, my children see a parent on the floor as an opportunity. If my husband or I get on the floor to pick something up or look for a lost toy under the couch, it is as if the kids have this pact where they HAVE to immediately climb on our backs. Sometimes they want a ride. Sometimes they just want to climb. Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure they are bound by some secret sworn oath because they could be totally engrossed in their tablets or even in another room, but the moment a parent is on the ground – ZOOM. It’s as if a signal goes off and a response is triggered. They HAVE to climb – it’s as if it cannot be controlled.
Normally, this is not an issue for us – even if they are collapsing our airways. I usually stand up and adjust their weight so I can breathe, and they can be easily deposited on the couch.
Until I couldn’t.
A few weeks ago, I was at my sister-in-law’s for a family birthday party. We were wrapping up a board game outside and my youngest had just walked out with an enormous bag of pretzels. It was hot outside so the kids were coming in and out and mine love to raid other people’s pantries. Snacks must taste better when they don’t belong to you.
Unfortunately, Milo doesn’t really understand yet how bags work and he turned the entire thing upside down to get a handful of pretzels. I bent down to clean them up and of course, he took that moment to climb on my back. You know, Secret Oath and all.
As he always does, he hugged my neck tight. I scooped the last of the pretzels into the bag and said something to my family. The next thing I knew, my sister-in-law and cousin were in my face and my husband was grabbing onto my arm. I was flat on my back and my son was crying next to me.
“You just passed out!” my sister-in-law said.
“No, I didn’t!” I said.
Of course, I couldn’t explain how I went from crouching to splayed out on my back. And my child was crying next to me. My husband affirmed that yes, I indeed passed out and scared everyone.
Immediately, I burst into tears.
Someone brought ice for Milo because he had hit his back on the house and he eventually calmed down and went back to playing. I became aware of my own hurt back and head. Someone brought me a glass of water.
Apparently, I had been bent down for too long with Milo applying pressure to my throat. When I stood up, I immediately staggered backward. Since I was mid-sentence, with a preschooler clinging to me, everyone thought I was joking around. Until I crashed against the house and slid to the floor.
I wasn’t out for long and I don’t even remember standing up. My three-year-old put a sleeper choke hold on me and if I had been even a few inches further back, we would have fallen onto the sharp edge of a grill.
Luckily, I fell slowly as we backed into the house. We both hit our heads and backs but were otherwise OK aside from some aches and bruising. I recalled this incident to my sister and she immediately said, “yeah! That’s why you don’t let your kids grab your neck. Ever.”
I didn’t think much of it – it seems like common sense. Until I told another friend and she said something similar, “I never, ever let my kids hug or grab around my neck.”
This conversation happened a few more times until I realized that it was A Thing.
More than that, it was A Thing that I didn’t know. Worse than that … it was a pretty common sense Thing that I didn’t know. I spent so much time worrying about the rare diseases and afflictions that I see online, that I didn’t apply common sense to something that was a definite – and, more importantly, realistic – concern.
It also brought to light my many anxieties about parenting and being responsible for another human being. I would go so far out of the way to circumvent any and all possibilities of tragedy, that I left a bit of reality behind. Of course, my affinity for murder podcasts doesn’t help – nor does the constant feed of fear from Facebook.
I wish I had an easier answer or resolution to all of this but, unfortunately, anxiety doesn’t work like that. It isn’t a switch we can flip or a podcast we pass up. While it continues to be something I confront every day, I am taking measures to root myself more firmly in reality. With this experience, I remind myself that it is impossible to prepare for every possibility. We just have to live in present and tackle the issues we face rather than plan against an unforeseen – and probably (hopefully?) unlikely – future.