At dinner last night, with a few good friends, we were chatting about our kids (and other things too) as women with children are wont to do. We were laughing about the silly things they say and do, bitching about how hard it is sometimes, and moaning about eating issues, bed-wetting and cheekiness. Then my friend J mentioned that she had changed the way she approaches parenting since a good friend of hers’ child had died. How she is more lenient, softer, and a little less hectic. How she tries not to sweat the small stuff. I think every single one of us got goose-bumps at the thought of losing one of our children.
About a year ago, in one of the local pre-primary schools, a young boy choked to death on a cherry while at school. They allegedly tried everything they could, and even asked the Vet in the property next door to help. He was then taken to a nearby hospital, but sadly the little guy did not make it. I don’t recall his exact age at the time, but he was 4 or 5 years old. At the time of the incident, I remember thinking: Imagine getting THAT call from the school. “Hi, this is um, the principal, your, um, child had an accident at school. He is, um…. DEAD.” And just like that, in a two minute phone-call, your life would change. Forever. No more hugs and kisses from a small boy whose parents are the most important people in his life. No more giggles, silly discussions and a thousand questions. No more arguing over eating dinner, putting on shoes or tidying up the playroom. No more goodnight kisses and playing with reckless abandon. No more anything. Gone. Forever. Dead.
The very thought still makes the hair on my arms stand up as a cold shiver runs over me. It makes me nauseas in the pit of my stomach.
It has been a year since the untimely passing of this young boy, and apparently his family have tried to move on as best as they can. They have had another child, and are trying to be a normal family. But I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it must be for all of them. How the trauma surrounding the death of their child must haunt them daily. And how they must always wonder what it would be like if the accident had not happened. How they must think about that child. Every. Single. Day. How they must long for one last hug, one last kiss and even one last argument. How they must ache with sadness every time they see his photograph or remember something that he said or did.
So we all vowed to not fight with our children today. To let them wear whatever they want to. To let them eat ice-cream in the car. To let them be silly, laugh and mess around in the Pick ‘n Pay. To just let them be kids without forcing our grown-up boundaries onto them. To relax with our rules, just a little. To not shout at them for dirtying the newly-washed floors. But most importantly: to not sweat the small stuff, and to hold them tight and love and cherish them. Today and always.