Last week, as I drove Mr. B to kempo practice down our long winding mountain, the roads were empty and desolate as usual at that time of day, and suddenly, and in less time than it would take you to say “hippopotamus” there was a little boy running in front of my car after his ball.
As I put my brakes to the test, and swerved to the right to avoid him, I clipped the telephone pole hard with my mirror.
That little boy was just as oblivious as my own little boy to what had just occurred. They had no idea that in those split seconds all of our lives could’ve been altered irreparably. And maybe, lost.
It was one of those moments, that in retrospect, I’m thankful for. It was eye-opening and a good refresher of what is valuable and important in life, and what isn’t. Life is precious. And in a split second that happy ending can be gone forever.
I don’t blame that little boy’s parents. I don’t begrudge them for not watching him close enough, or for not teaching him better. Because I’m a parent. I get it. My kids play outside by themselves all the time. Even the two-year-old has free reign of our yard. He knows the boundaries, I keep an eye on him up in the window, but that doesn’t mean something couldn’t happen. And just because a kid, of any age, knows what is and is not allowed, or even what is right and wrong, doesn’t mean they’ll always follow it. Adults don’t. Children at least have the excuse of not having impulse control. Their brains are genuinely not capable of it. It’s hard to fault child for simply being a child.
Life happens. Mistakes are made. And I don’t think children should be helicoptered in order to keep them safe. You hope for the best, but at the end of the day, that’s really all you can do. Our children deserve the freedom to learn, play, grow, and even make mistakes all on their own. And the majority of the time those mistakes will be small in the grand scheme of things. They will be learning opportunities, teaching moments, ways for them to better grow as humans. If you’re too busy protecting them at all moments, they don’t get those moments that benefit them in the long run.
So yes, a little boy ran in front of my car. It could’ve been tragic. Instead I have a shattered mirror from swiftly averting my vehicle that I bear the brunt of replacing. And isn’t that how it should be? As adults, shouldn’t we be the ones looking out for our children, not the other way around? We teach them and we teach them, and we model for them, and we pray. And in their moments of unhindered childhood, we hope we have a village that is willing to take on a shattered mirror so that our kids can be kids and we can allow them the freedom of childhood that they so well deserve.