She was born different. The two before her had responded to my presence, my voice, my wishes. She rarely did. She wouldn’t cry it out, but would only get more agitated. Wouldn’t go to sleep unless dad was in the room putting pressure on her back or snoring quietly on the floor. She wanted control. She seemed to need it, like the universe was unfairly against her and she could put it aright.
She didn’t want to hold my hand, but wanted to run ahead. For this reason, we didn’t venture too far from our home and the parks near it. On this particular day we went for an adventure to visit a larger park. We run along the gravel trail my voice playing in my ears like a broken record, “don’t run too far ahead, come back, wait for mommy.” She waited for me at the road, but it was one of those nice neighborhood roads with a pretty island in the middle and landscaping that often obscures a driver’s view. We checked one way and stepped into the crosswalk. I grab her hand and feel her pull it away and start to run. She picks up speed and I scream as I see the car coming up the other side. I reach her just as the car screeches to a halt and the driver covers her face and mouths, “I’m so sorry” at the thought of what could have happened.
Shaking, I nod to the driver, and grab my child’s hand dragging her the rest of the way across the road. She wrenches free of my grasp, looks at me as if to say, ‘what’s wrong, mommy?’ and skips the rest of the way to the park. I let the tears fall knowing that it is the adult’s job to carry the burden of ‘what if’ while the child rests in the security of innocence.