Thursday, April 19, 2012

Driving Me to Drink

"Wherever you may go. No matter where you are. I never will be far away." -Billy Joel, Goodnight, My Angel

I needed this
I don't do a lot of day drinking anymore. Between parenting and half-marathon training I simply can't drink as much I used to pre-Peanut. I still remember when three beers was breakfast. Now I'm such a lightweight that after three beers I can't function for the next two days. All of that went out the window Saturday afternoon. A car came inches from changing our lives forever. It frazzled me so much I popped open a Brooklyn Pennant Ale at 4:15, shortly after this disturbing incident that still gives me chills when I think about it. I was still on the clock by myself with Peanut. I didn't care. I had to take the edge off. This was my exception.

The encounter that literally drove me to drink took place as I was walking Peanut home from a play date. Her friend  lives down the street from us, on the other side of a busy two-lane road that separates our two blocks. We live on the corner of that busy road; so I see drivers speed by pedestrians all of the time. Drivers in our town are notoriously fast, obnoxious, dangerous, and impatient. You're supposed to stop for people in the crosswalk. Even when they do stop, I see the drivers behind them try to pass on the shoulder with the pedestrians (and their children and dogs) still on the shoulder waiting for the drivers in the opposite direction to stop.

Knowing this, I am always vigilant when crossing this street with Peanut and Luna. Peanut, however, was in one of her moods all of a sudden. She didn't want to hold my hand or walk on my right side away from the traffic.This had me on even heightened alert because when she's difficult she's almost impossible to corral. What five year-old is?

The crosswalk of peril
I saw that the driver in the lane closest to us had stopped, and that it was one of our neighbors. We weren't in the crosswalk yet and I like to show Peanut the rules of the road. I saw the traffic in the other lane stop for us as well. So with her in her current state and cars waiting, I didn't have time to explain proper daddy-daughter street-crossing safety procedures to her. Big mistake.

Out of nowhere, a car came speeding past the stopped traffic on the shoulder. I had no idea. Peanut was still on my left-hand side, closest to the traffic. I pulled her towards me not to protect her, but because I was angry at her. Turns out, my impatience probably saved her life. I am not exaggerating. I didn't even see or hear the car coming. It happened so fast, I couldn't even register the make and model. I looked up to see it buzz by on the shoulder, recklessly enter the lane of traffic, and never look back.

Frazzled and scared out of my mind, I bent down to find Peanut crying. She was as clueless about the car as I initially was. Instead, she was upset that I had yanked her, hurt her, and scared her. I squatted, hugged her tightly, and apologized. Even though I knew how close we had just come to a potential tragedy, that didn't matter in Peanut's world. Internally, I'm freaking out. My stomach is in knots, my nerves are frayed and I am doing all I can not to tremble so out of control that I collapse to the ground in a crying heap. After all, had I done that, another jerk passing on the shoulder would have run me over and never looked back.

All of this happened in about 15 seconds

I looked up to find my neighbor still sitting there in his car waiting for us. He waved us across. Once outside of our house, I knelt down to Peanut again and spoke to her about what really just happened. How we could have been hurt, or worse. I wanted her to know how serious this was, without scaring the living sh1t out of her.

"When you're crossing the street with mommy or daddy, you need to listen. No more arguing. No more saying you don't want to hold hands. You don't get to choose where you walk. We're in charge. It's very dangerous. Cars are going fast and the people driving can't see you because you're little. If they hit you, you can get really hurt. Or worse. They could... take you away." I couldn't bring myself to say the word 'die.' My emotions were still so raw from what had just happened. Minutes later, I cracked open that beer. For the rest of the day, the close call was all I could think about. It consumed me. I kept a brave face for Peanut. Every time I looked at her, though, I was just so relieved.

That night, before I went to bed I made my usual stop in Peanut's room to kiss her goodnight. She was lying there, off in dreamland, not a care in the world. I knelt next to her bed, kissed her cheek, put my arm around her and snuggled with her. I laid there for a good minute or two. Just looking at how perfect she is, amazed that we made her, and thankful that she's ok. You do all you can to protect them, to make sure they're safe and happy. Then you turn your head for a split second and everything could change. Somehow, some way, by some unknown miracle, it didn't change for us. And I am so thankful. So blessed.

As I got up, I whispered in Peanut's ear. "I love you so much. I'm always going to be here to protect you."

Suddenly, she stirred. She twitched. She thrashed her left foot hard and landed a kick square in my chest, sending me reeling backwards. Stunned and woozy, I checked to see if I had woken her up. No. She's a sound sleeper and was still out like a light. That's my girl. My little independent fighter. She's going to be just fine. A kick in the chest never felt so good.

This happened the same day as the unsolicited advice from the two d-bags. Yeah, it was THAT kind of day. 

15 comments:

  1. Scary stuff indeed... I am like Marlin from Finding Nemo. They can't cross the street unless there are no cars for miles around. They like to run and it scares me every time. Seems like Mr. TV man should get something done about this intersection.

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  2. Wow, man. That would've scared the hell out of me, too, and I could definitely see cracking open a cold one in its wake. Now that the Twins are just starting to walk, I'm really wary of taking them out. With two, it's much harder to corral them by myself, so I have no problem keeping them on lockdown in the stroller until they're better listeners. Thank God you're both okay.

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    1. Yeah. I let her run free when she and I take Luna for a walk. Our street dead ends into a park. So there really are no concerns there. I think that's given her the idea that she can walk anywhere anytime. No more, though. I'll carry her across the street until she's 25.

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    2. That'll be me, too. I'll probably throw out my back one of these days carrying both of them, but I hear you. Before I ever put either of them down I do a safety assessment and make sure to batten down any necessary hatches. There's no way I'm going to let a rushed moment become a permanent tragedy.

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  3. Those moments when your heart leaps out of your chest are horrible. You hope they never happen again and you definitely deserved that drink!

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  4. There is nothing worse than that feeling. My heart is pounding and I just read it. You should have cracked 2 open.

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    1. Oh I had another. And another after that. Might explain why I didn't exactly set the world on fire on my 10 mile run the next day.

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  5. Just reading this makes me feel like drinking to take the edge off. I get where you are coming from. One day I was coming out of the grocery store with my 22 month old holding my hand. We had just stepped out of the door when a woman in a big truck drove up over the curb and across the sidewalk toward us. She stopped about a foot from my daughter. We were literally just outside the door and it happened so quickly and unexpectedly. It was a moment that haunts me weeks later and probably will for the rest of my life. I keep replaying it in my mind and thinking what if? What if?

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    1. It's five days later, and I'm JUST starting to get over it to the point where I don't freak out when I think about it. That's why I was able to finally write about it. But still, there's always, "what if."

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  6. Oh boy. You know my feelings about this subject, so I won't go on and on. But thank goodness you were impatient! I used to try to explain to my students that the parents they see yanking and smacking and yelling at their kids on the sidewalks of Brooklyn are potentially better parents than they think. It's anger borne of fear.

    So glad it turned out well. That's when I wish I had a can of kidney beans to hurl at the back window! If I could throw, that is. And if I could guarantee that it wouldn't glance off the car and smack me in the head.

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  7. Just happy to hear Peanut wasn't hurt.

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  8. Sometimes being a parent is scary - when you face those 'what ifs', when they start bringing home boys...

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