A three-year-old boy had died in a farm accident. It happened somewhere north of Edmonton, if I recall correctly. His father, apparently, took the boy along while doing some spring field work on the tractor. The tractor hit a stone, and the boy was jolted off, falling under a tractor wheel.
That was it. Just one of countless such items which we hear while going about our daily business. Our normal reactions to such stories often involve little more than a shrug or a brief, angry thought along the lines of, “what in the world was a three year old doing on a tractor?”
This one, though, hit a nerve. Or perhaps it hit something more than a nerve, something deeper. When I heard the 15-second item, a shudder went through my bones. I had an instant, unpleasant flashback to one of my worst moments as a parent.
My episode didn’t have the tragic consequences of the farm accident, but it shook me nevertheless. It happened when my oldest son was just at tricycle age, and my daughter was a toddler. He was wheeling around on his trike, so I jumped on my old one-speed bike with its wing-style handlebars.
Wanting the family fun to be shared by all, I propped my little girl on my lap, and off we headed down the back lane. All was fun and laughter and delight until, suddenly, the trike turned and the bike didn’t.
We all plunged to the gravel in a tangled heap of bicycle metal and human limbs. My full weight came down on my two-year old’s thigh. The resultant deep contusion left her scarred for years afterward, and left me shaken. How suddenly good intentions can turn to grief.
Those incidents have nothing to do with Mother’s Day, but they trigger emotional charges that have everything to do with mothers and children.
It is my theory that children, by the very nature of being children, can’t do justice to their mothers on Mother’s Day. They don’t understand it all, and they shouldn’t.
Many of us, I suspect, have our first real insight into the depth of our own parents’ emotions when we become parents ourselves.
When a child is born, the landscape of a parent’s life is forever changed. Changed not only by new responsibilities, but literally by new emotions.
Up until that crowning, breath-taking moment when a new life enters ours, we are complete beings within our own bodies. After the birth of a child, it is as if our being has divided, and an element of the parent’s soul resides in the infant.
We want for our offspring as we do for ourselves. Sometimes even more. I want my children to have more opportunities, more friends, more success, more happiness than I experienced at their various ages.
Tied to that desire is the parent’s bone-deep feeling for the child’s pain, or potential pain. “Oh, so this is how mom felt,” I realized when my daughter had grown up and, as a teenager, talked about going skydiving. My girl, skydiving?
It is silly to wish these adult insights upon a child. It would be nice, I suppose, to go back to the Mother’s Days of the past, and give more. More love, more attention, more admiration. More understanding. But a child isn’t burdened with adult complexities, and that is just fine with mothers the world over.
Loving a child is the easiest thing we will ever do, and the toughest. Tough because the child takes so much of us, so much of the self, with him or her. When I heard that news item about the boy dying under his father’s tractor, I felt a tiny touch of the horror that must have rocked his parents.
Such an incident can send a surge through any parent. On one level or another, at one time or another, all parents experience it. Until they are grown and have children of their own, most kids are incapable of fully knowing that.
The rest of us, though, can help make up for the child’s natural limitations. I’m not a huge believer in special days created to market greeting cards, but I do believe in acknowledging the power of a mother’s love.
Mother and child: within that bond live all the possibilities, all the wonder, all the aches, of life itself.
“Hearts Explored” qthomasbower @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
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