When my daughter was little, I had a magical belief that my force of will kept her safe. I thought that if I just kept my focus, no harm would come to her.
Some people would call that focused intent “prayer.” I did not. I did not ask a celestial being to safeguard my daughter because I did not think a celestial being could ever love her as much as I did.
But here is the truth.
No mother – or father – can focus that intently all the time. And, despite what our children believe, we don’t have eyes in the back of our heads, so there will be times when we do not see our children.
All you can do is hope that, during those times, your community, or fate, or God, if that’s what you believe in, will watch when you can not.
A few days ago, a South Carolina mother at James Island County Park told police she looked down to pack up the family’s belongings and, just like that, her 3-year-old son was gone. She searched frantically, as did the police.
The story ended tragically. The body of the little boy was found, an apparent drowning, in a pond near the Spray Play sprinkler where he had been playing.
Immediately after, the news had interviews with other parents, parents who looked shaken and relieved that tragedy had missed them this time.
“You have to watch your child every second,” one parent said, or something similar, and maybe it was my imagination, but there was the slightest tone of “the penalty for inattentiveness is death.”
But you can’t. It is not physically possible and it is not even really healthy for the parent or the child to have that kind of vigilance.
And even if you do, things still happen. Lightning. Plane crashes. Cancer.
I can not imagine the heartbreak that poor mother is feeling, and I feel angry at even the suggestion of blame.
Hypervigilance doesn’t stop tragedy. Not even the magic of love can do that. Although now that my daughter is grown and living in a different state, I can’t stop myself from trying to cast that protection magic from afar anyway. And just hoping that it sticks.