Monday, November 19, 2007

Mommy, look! I did it.

We were at the dining room table, Avery was taking a nap and Sean was trying to fix yet another Hmm, wonder what could cause that? kind of quirky, old house, breakdown. I had scooped a handful of tea lights and a couple of tin candle holders along with a box of wooden matches. It was early enough that the candles were more to entertain than to actually illuminate, but I still had the mild hysteria associated with anticipating being without power in the Adirondacks in the winter.

I was prattling on about getting everything just so when Briar slapped the table and squealed.

"Mommy, look! I did it!"

I couldn't imagine what she'd done and wasn't ready to focus on anything but the task at hand, but I did. I turned to look at her and the sight of the flame, so alive and close, rocked me at a primal level. She'd opened the box, struck the match and lit it in seconds. The emotional and intellectual assault of the countless images that careened from the recesses of my memory, matches on counters, tables, on the toilet and in the desk drawer, were almost too much to bear. I lurched forward, snapping the wooden stick from her fingers and pressing my lips to her forehead.

"You did do it, sweetheart. That's amazing." Then I blew the match out and immediately lit another. I placed it between her still-chubby-to-terrified-eyes fingers. "Hold this for mama and light the candle. I waited, holding the candle ever so slightly out of reach before placing it in front of her. I watched the flame go and warned her that when lighting we need to be quick. "Remember, matches and candles are hot," and I let her feel the quickest twinge of heat from the flame. She gasped and a lump, part guilt and part terror of all that is yet to come, took root in my throat.

Her blue eyes looked up at me, wide with fear and expectation. I put my hand on her face, "I am so proud of you for lighting that match and helping me with the candles, but I don't ever want you to do that again, ok? It's too easy to get hurt." I watched her, she looked at the candles and then back to me. "Very hot. Dayn-guh-ruhs! I'm not gonna light 'em. Can we go play piano?" She asked and, upon my nod, scampered out of the room.

I stood feeling intense, head bowing shame. Her bouncing curls, spindly legs, tiny yet nimble fingers, I felt I'd let them down. Did I do the wrong thing? Should I have put another match in her hand? Let her feel that burn? Was I punishing someone? I had never considered the danger of matches, never imagined she could possibly light one, with that ignorance gone a whole new world of possibility opened, a giant chasm of how-can-I-keep-them-safe. It's been five hours and I am still reeling, still suffering that distinctly parental torture of numbness and blinding pain.

I don't know how this will change things, but it will. It has to.

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Amy Y said...

Oh that is a tough one!
I think you did the right thing... Really I do.
And if not, she'll have a good story to tell her kids one day. ;)
Seriously, you are a great mama.

painted maypole said...

i think you handled it beautifully. you showed her the danger without hurting her, and told her in no uncertain terms to never do it again, without making her feel bad about doing it in the first place. i would, in fact, say it was artfully done.

flutter said...

things can change in that instant. It's so amazing.

jen said... did what you felt in the moment. a thousand moments like this every single day. we do our best each time. and it all comes out okay.

you are a lovely mom.

Crystal said...

I think that was a totally appropriate response.
There are new fears every day. We do our best to stay on top of them all and protect in every way we can think of at the time.

Occidental Girl said...

If I ever forget what makes parenting exhausting, this is one reason! I'm so glad everything was okay. They do new things in an instant, it's hard to keep up! No wonder all mommies are tired.

karla said...

Amanda, you always handle things with grace and beauty.

sha said...

I think that was beautifully done. I would have had a cat, while I screeched and scared the crap out of her.

You are truly amazing.

Heather said...

you were much more calm than I would have been. To your credit, of course.

Colleen said...

I think what you did was perfect. Because she experienced a little of the danger... she will remember. Had you just yelled at her, you would have startled her... and probably upset both of you, but she wouldn't really understand the danger. I'm sure she's seen both you and Sean very nonchalantly light hundreds of matches and candles. Looks safe. Now she knows you have to be careful... it's not so safe.

The Hotfessional said...

I think what you did was brave and beautiful. I would probably have screamed and yelled and smacked fingers. Which would have been wrong. Because that only provokes curiousity.

Now? She's made up her mind that it's dayn-guh-ruhs and she probably won't do it again.

And you? You know that she's done it once, and is capable of it.

Deep breath sweetie. You're a great mom.

BetteJo said...

Different people would have handled it differently! Doesn't make what you did wrong in the least. You were very gentle with her. I, like a lot of people, probably would have yelled out of fright. I was admiring your composure!

iheartchocolate said...

I totally think you did the right thing too. I really do.

Not too long ago, Madison (nearly 2) brought my husband and me a lit candle from the table. I had no idea she could reach it, but she had no idea what it was. I wish I had thought more about my reaction that to tell her no and quickly take it from her. She didn't learn anything but how to give me a heart attack.