There are a few genuinely scary moments in life when your body reacts to a near death experience. When you are aware of coming as close to death as you can without actually going there. When you think ” oh my god – I nearly died.” Or “that was so close to being a tragedy”. A time when there is a raw primal fear for your life or that of others close to you. A point when you actually think it could all be over. When your brain starts to shut itself off from the emotional trauma that is about to ensue.
Like the time I was waiting for a tram. Standing in the middle of the road leaning back against the railings. I was in a world of my own when suddenly I felt someone blowing on the back of my head. I flinched as the hairs on my head fluttered. I turn round to see a truck speeding past – the wing mirror having just clipped the hair on the back of my head. I have short hair.
That was the closest I have come.
These experiences are more terrifying if it happens to your children.
The first was a month or two ago when I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of my front door opening. I hear a car. It is about 2am. It took me a few seconds to get my bearings. The baseball bat that I keep under the bed for just such situations was totally forgotten about as I sprung up and ran to the front door. My heart thumping through my chest.
I get to the front door and find it wide open. My youngest son’s bedroom is next to the door. His bedroom door, usually closed, is also wide open. I look outside and see the security gate to our driveway swinging open. Instantly I think the worst. My breath leaves my body. Someone has come into the house and snatched Zak. I run out to the driveway and shout his name. I’m not kidding when I tell you that nothing came out my mouth. A real primal fear had taken my breath away. It was like a dream. At that point I honestly thought he had been taken. I am about to channel my inner Liam Neeson when it dawns on me to go and check his room.
He is fast asleep.
Turns out we forgot to put the snib on the front door and it was a windy night. The door blew open. Same with the front gate. Zak must have got up at some point to use the toilet and not closed his door. A series of circumstances that combined, had me convinced, in my half asleep state, that the worst had happened.
It took a while to get back to sleep that night.
The most recent was only a week or two ago. We were out for dinner with friends. Dinner had finished we were all chatting. The children wanted to go outside to the park and play while we all finished up.
“Dad can I get the football from the car?” Max asked.
“No problem I will come with you while you cross the road.”
We go outside. It is dark. I stand on the restaurant side of the road. I remind Max to check and cross. He does and I monitor. He reaches the pavement on the other side of the road and I lose sight of him as he runs to the car which is parked about 5 cars up the road. It is a busy night, cars are parked bumper to bumper.
I hear my car door open and close. I wait for Max to return to the spot where he crossed.
He doesn’t return. All of a sudden I see Max run out, at full speed, between 2 parked cars. I scream out his name but he is half way across the road. His life flashed before my eyes. Thankfully there were no cars coming. But there could have been. It was a busy road. The driver would have had no chance. I’m in shock again. Speechless. What was he thinking. What are these fu&#ing boys trying to do to me.
I lose it. More shocked than angry. More relieved than angry. But still bloody angry at the stupidity of his actions.
“what are you doing????” I shout “you are nearly 8 years old, how many times have I taught you how to cross a road???”
His face drops as he realises the seriousness.
“Do you know what just happened??
“ I can’t believe you would do that”
“what were you thinking”
And so I go on. He doesn’t really seem that bothered. I am determined to scare the living shit out of him so he will never forget.
I want to show him You Tube clips of car accidents, people getting knocked over. I want to freak him out so he will never do that again.
My wife tells me I can’t do that, that I will give him nightmares.
“nighmares are better than dead” I say.
I don’t know if I want him to burst into tears and tell me how sorry he is and that he will never do it again, or for him to properly acknowledge what he has done. I don’t know if I am over reacting. I don’t really know what to do. I just can’t seem to get over it. I cannot get that image out of my head.
I find some clips of people getting knocked over. Visual is better than verbal I tell myself. Now he will realise the error of his ways. I will force him to watch some nasty accident. A Clockwork Orange style. Something he will never forget.
Does it work. No. He is fascinated and just wants to keep watching.
What do I expect really.
Apparently children should not be crossing the road unsupervised until at least 10 years old. It makes sense. My boys are so easily distracted that even after using the toilet 1000’s of times they still forget to flush and wash. Just too interested in getting back to whatever they were doing before. What chance do they have in remembering how to cross a road properly!
So it got me thinking. At what point, if there is a point, do you stop worrying about your kids? When they turn 18? When they leave home? Leave the country? Have their own kids?
I suspect the answer is never.