This morning we had a primary activity for all the children (ages 3-11) at the church. Following games and prizes and lunch, we gave each of the children a helium balloon with a scripture (Psalm 82:6, “All of you are children of the most high,”) printed on a card and tied to it. We told them we would take our balloons outside and release them on the count of three.
As we exited the building the wind picked up a bit and the kids had to hold tightly to their balloons as we all counted together, “One! Two! Three!” They let go and we all anticipated watching the balloons float high into the air; but it didn’t happen quite that way.
The wind was too strong. Loft was replaced by rapid horizontal movement. Towards the busy state route on which our church building is located. Several children, enthralled with the racing balloons, began running through the parking lot, towards the road, chasing the balloons which were still much too close to eye level. I shouted for them to stop. Another adult or two shouted for them to stop. All of the children quickly turned around and came back. All but two.
One of the two was Tank Boy.
He and the other boy continued racing after their balloons, towards the busy road with a speed limit of 55. I shouted again and they kept going.
I started running after them and shouting.
They kept going.
I began screaming at them to stop.
They. kept. going.
Some men who were there started shouting for them to stop.
The boys didn’t even turn around to look at us.
Apparently the two men also started running after the boys. I didn’t know this at the time, because I was outrunning them. Impossible to believe, because I can. not. run. I couldn’t catch my four-year-old son. I knew I couldn’t. But I kept running. And screaming for him to stop.
The other boy stopped a few feet back from the road. But Tank Boy kept running. I knew cars were coming. I knew I couldn’t catch him.
I was terrified.
He ran, and ran, closer and closer; and just as I was about to drop to the ground, knowing that I wasn’t able to save my son, his balloon raced across the street.
And he stopped himself. Right at the edge of the road.
And then a car sped past.
And then another (coincidentally enough, an emergency squad).
Tank Boy turned around with a look of joy and utter abandonment on his face. He obviously expected to see a gaggle of other smiling, laughing, running children behind him. Instead he saw my terrified face and began to realize that several adults had been yelling at him.
He quickly ran to me, and I held him close, and I stooped down to his level.
And I screamed at him.
“When people are yelling for you to stop, you stop! Do you hear me???? You stop! You stop!!!! You don’t keep running, you stop!”
It was not my finest moment.
The terror had so totally consumed me, and I lost it. I screamed at my four-year-old son who actually was responsible enough, was paying enough attention, to not run into the street. I screamed at my four-year-old son who had barely had time to begin process what had just happened. I screamed at my four-year-old son while the entire rest of the primary was standing back by the church, watching.
Then he screamed one of his famous blood-curdling screams and continued to scream as he said, “You hate me! You hate me! Do you hate me mommy? Do you hate me?”
By this time A~ had realized what was going on and had caught up to us. I had to send her back to tell the rest of the primary to go back inside. I’m not sure why the other adults hadn’t done that yet. Frozen with fear themselves, perhaps? Frozen by the shock of hearing a screaming primary president?
But they went in at my behest, and Tank Boy and I stood out on the church lawn, in the wind and the rain, crying and talking.
When we finally collected ourselves, when I was sure he understood that I was scared and not mad, when I was sure he understood that I do love him, we headed back inside and he went into the gym to play with the other kids. I went into my primary library, locked the door behind me, and sat on the floor and cried.
I have prayed prayers of gratitude that my son stopped when he did.
But? I have not been able to get over it all. I have been an emotional wreck all day today because my son almost ran out into the road where he probably would have been killed.
I keep telling myself to suck it up and just be glad it didn’t happen, but somehow I can’t get past the fact that it almost did. I keep seeing his back, in his gray and blue striped shirt, running away from me and towards the road, completely oblivious to my screaming for him to stop. I keep seeing in my mind what I was sure was going to happen.
It didn’t happen, but I still can’t shake it.
I have been worthless ever since. I came home and helped my husband plant some trees (in the rain) (and by help I mean I told him where to dig the holes, and I held the trees in the holes while he put the dirt back in), and then I took a nap. I woke up in time to make dinner, but I didn’t. McH did. Then I went out and royally ticked off one of my bee colonies.
Other than that I’ve just been fighting back tears for what almost happened. I don’t know how parents who lose a child survive. It would break me into a million and one pieces.
Tank Boy, on the other hand, is fine. Thank goodness.