Whenever I get in a car with my children, I can see how nervous they are.
Four of them were in a traumatic accident just two weeks ago, and they've been anxious ever since. Our family was blessed: None of them were severely injured, but the aftermath is real.
Sometimes I don't know how to help them, given that I wasn't in the car and I was too emotionally wrecked to even go to the scene. A friend of mine drove my husband to the scene; he made sure everyone was okay and handled the sight of the multi-car pile-up pretty well. My friend suggested that I not see the pictures of the upturned, unrecoverable Honda Odyssey. It's been a couple of weeks and I still haven't looked.
For a few short days the children wouldn't ride in a car, but now at least they are willing. When the ride is at night or along a winding road, their responses show that they're each still in shock. My 6-year-old, YPW, begins to pray while he covers his head with his coat. My 8-year-old son starts to talk about his seat belt and asks me questions about my driving or the condition of the car.
"Mommy, are you driving the speed limit?" or "The brakes on this car are really good, aren't they?"
My daughters were the least injured in the accident physically, but they couldn’t shake the images of being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance or being examined by doctors without their mom present. My sons and eldest daughters had been rushed from the scene to John Hopkins, while my husband and youngest daughter were taken to Sinai. Meanwhile, it took me hours to get the hospital myself: Our one family car had been totaled in a hit-and-run accident just two short weeks prior to this family trauma. I asked one neighbor to come over and take our toddler while I waited for another neighbor to finish picking up her family in her family’s second car so that I could drive that car to Johns Hopkins. By the time I arrived there, my husband and youngest daughter were being sent over from Sinai. Does this sound like a bad episode of ER? It felt like it.
I was reluctant to discuss this at The Parenting Post because I feel like we celebrate parenting and all of its great days or interesting days, but parenting can be scary and uncertain too. My heart skipped a beat when I received a call that they were in an accident. "What if one is more hurt than the other, how will handle the hospital visits and maintaining the house?" All of the crazy thoughts that I try not to discuss related to having a large family came into play. "I'm only one person. My husband has to work. How can I do this?"
The guilt that I felt for weeks after these accidents was real. Neither one of the accidents was our fault, but it didn't change my feelings. Maybe if we had more money and could have bought new cars this wouldn't happened. Maybe I have my kids in too many activities and I shouldn't have asked my friend to carpool my kids and her kids to dance and to flag football. Even after the kids were given a clean bill of health, I felt pressure every time they said that their backs hurt or that their neck was sore. And I feel bad that no matter how much I comfort them and encourage them, only time is going to strengthen their faith when riding in a car again.
Then there's the paperwork that follows such an ordeal requires: It requires mental focus and tenacity, neither of which I have right now. My life requires a secretary. Do you know anyone who will work for free? I'll feed them and provide them with a nice computer near a window with a view.
Under normal circumstances, we would be on the road today driving to Detroit for Thanksgiving. or we'd be driving to a friend's house to celebrate. Instead we're going to relax and stay at our home in Baltimore this year.
I am so thankful for our friends and family who came to support us in this crazy time. I hope my children will see the support when the fear clears. People brought us food, came over to baby-sit while I talked on the phone with the insurance companies.
I am humbled because even the most together mom needs help sometimes.