Despite my recent assertions to the contrary, had you been in the parking lot of my local supermarket last night you would most certainly have wondered if I were a bad mother.
You would most certainly have been shocked at the sight of me, right down in my child’s face, screaming at him at the top of my lungs. You would most certainly have wondered why I continued to rant and rave long after the wee thing ducked his head away from me and long after tears started to flow down his ruddy cheeks.
You might not have realized that I was more frightened than I have ever been in my life.
Graham and I had stopped off at the supermarket on the way home to pick up the steaks for the barbecue and, as usual, I was pretty lax about letting him gleefully race up and down the aisles. This store is not the one where I saw my life flash before my eyes, it’s a small, local store where I’ve been going for years and where everyone knows both of us by name.
Once into the busy parking lot however, as is my habit, I clutched Graham’s hand tightly, pointed out all of the moving cars and sternly admonished him to stick close to my side.
Except he didn’t.
Just a few steps out of the door he shrugged off my hand and ran ahead of me with a mischievous giggle.
“Graham!” I shouted. “Get back here right now, Graham!”
But he ignored me and continued running.
And then I saw the car.
The car was backing out of a parking spot at a rapid pace, the kind of jerky, jaunty pace a driver sets when they are absolutely certain there is absolutely nothing in their path.
Except there was.
I dropped my groceries and started to run, only vaguely aware that my screaming had a throaty, desperate quality that sounded unlike anything that had ever come out of my mouth before.
But Graham didn’t stop.
There was a sickening screech of brakes just as the car’s back bumper kissed Graham’s back. As I ran towards him, the woman driver turned and caught my eye: the terror on her face was a perfect reflection of what I was feeling.
Oblivious, Graham turned to me, casually patted the car, and giggled.
That’s when I lost it.
I have never yelled at Graham like I yelled at him then. I yelled at him for a good five minutes in the parking lot and I yelled at him all the way home.
I gave my anger and my fear full license because I wanted Graham to remember it. I wanted to traumatize him, to cement in his head that bad things, very, very bad things happen when little boys run into the paths of speeding cars.
It wasn’t until we pulled into our driveway that I lost steam. Graham was sobbing quietly and I was teary-eyed. I parked, released him from his car seat, brushed his tears away and hugged him to me tightly.
“Mommy was so scared Graham. You ran right into a car back there, right into a car.”
He sniffed and buried his head further into my shoulder.
“You could have been killed Graham, do you understand that?”
I brushed away my own tears.
“I love you more than anything in the world Graham. If something had happened to you back there Mommy’s heart would be broken forever. Do you understand that?
Mommy’s heart would be broken forever.”
And we hugged then for a good long time before he raised his tear-stained face.
“I understand Mommy, I understand.”
He doesn’t, of course, but such is the nature of children and of childhood.
I can only pray my son, and my heart, survives it intact.