Not On My Watch
By Kathy Koches
The worst feeling in the world, or so I was told, is to have to impart the bad news that a child has been injured, while under your care. When my son was about eight, my dad took him ice skating. My son had never been on ice skates before, but after some tentative attempts he was soon circling the rink and having a great time with his grandpa. Suddenly some much older boys skated right up to my son, cut in front of him, and several of them went down in jumble of bodies, arms and legs flying. At the bottom of the heap lay my son, valiantly trying to get up, with one arm at a distinctly odd angle.
When I answered the phone, I immediately knew something was wrong from my dad’s tone. “Meet me at the ER, there’s been a slight accident” words that no mother ever wants to hear from anyone. I raced to the hospital to find my son, smiling and happy, sporting an electric blue cast on his left forearm, eagerly anticipating showing it off to all his friends the next day at school. Meanwhile, my dad, the WWII Navy pilot, a black belt in karate, had turned into a quivering mass of Jello when faced with the task of calling me to let me know that his beloved grandson had been injured “on his watch.”
The years passed, the children grew up, and we all survived their childhood mishaps and a few broken bones. I became a grandmother and then a great grandmother, and I loved the times when I could babysit the little ones and take them on outings and adventures. That is until the day I had to make “the phone call.”
I was at the park with three of my great grandkids and was enjoying watching them run and play on the swings, slides and jungle gyms. “Watch this, Grandma,” they would shout as they performed feats of daring do. Then, without warning, my great grandson decided to see if he could fly, leaping from the top of the jungle gym only to land in a heap in the sawdust at the bottom. As he struggled to his feet and I ran to him, I could see he was trying his best not to cry. But then I saw his arm, bending back at an unnatural angle, and I knew.
As I bundled all three of them into the car and headed straight for the emergency room, it hit me that I had better call my granddaughter to meet us there. As I told her what had happened I was struck by an overwhelming sense of guilt. How could this have happened while the kids were with me?
As my great grandson emerged from behind the closed ER doors, smiling and sporting a fluorescent orange cast, I was instantly transported back to that day so long ago, when Dad had called to tell me about my son’s accident. As with so many things he taught me, he was right. The worst feeling in the world is when you have to tell a mother that her child was injured “on your watch.”