I ran, right into the road myself without looking because at that moment there is no common sense for safety when your child has been hit by a car. I picked him up and carried him out of the street.
It was a hot summer day. I have never tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk, but I imagine on this particular 4th of July, it would have worked.
Summers in southern Utah are always hot and it was no surprise that this day was particularly bad. When most parents are telling their kids to play outside, we were telling our children to get inside with the air conditioning. That’s almost impossible on a holiday when there are parades, cotton candy stands and several events to attend.
My oldest had just turned eight and I was several months along awaiting the arrival of my second child. We were outside waiting to climb on one of the floats to lead the parade. Our small southern town was home to about 5,000 residents and an organized 4th of July was one of the things it was lacking. Cars were everywhere. Luckily, in small towns, there is still a lot of common sense. We were used to driving slow, stopping at any moment down the main street because a family of chickens will cross the road whenever they please. Not kidding.
This was before my son became a teenager and riding his bike was more cool than the Playstation. But he was also a kid. We were in the police station parking lot which was directly across from my home. I told my son to put his bike in the garage so we could get on the float. I turned my back after hearing a parade volunteer call my name. Then I heard the shouts.
There were no brakes screeching, the mayor’s car had not been driving that fast. But I saw the look on the face of my former sister-in-law, staring in horror at the scene playing behind me. I turned, already knowing I was going to dread what I saw. Already knowing, from some maternal instinct, that it was something I never wanted to see as a mother.
One shoe was gone. His bike had been thrown. He was hobbling toward me saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please don’t be mad.”
In that moment my only thoughts were: “He’s walking, he’s talking. It can’t be that bad.” And then I ran, right into the road myself without looking because at that moment there is no common sense for safety when your child has been hit by a car. I picked him up and carried him out of the street. Then I talked to him calmly, telling him it was OK, and no, he was not grounded. I told him not to move.
The scene around me was blurred and my only sense working clearly in that moment was my hearing. I couldn’t see anything other than my son looking up at me with dirt covering his camouflaged BDU’s I had bought them the year before. He liked the military gear that resembled the fact that both of his parents had once been security forces in the Air Force.
But I could hear everything around me. I heard the mayor telling an officer he had hit my son with his car. I heard the officer on his radio calling in an ambulance. I heard someone clicking away with a camera. Family members were asking what they could do. And then I heard the ambulance sirens.
The paramedics cut his BDUs and my son complained. I was telling him I would buy him new ones; these ones were too small anyway. He was so calm and I figured there couldn’t be any broken bones, but I still worried, as a parent always does. What if there was internal bleeding? What if he had a concussion and that’s why he wasn’t talking much? And where the heck did his shoe go?
They cut off his bike helmet and loaded him on the stretcher. I sat in the front seat and watched him behind me. He was completely calm. Right up until they put the IV in his arm in which he screamed bloody murder before the needle was even within an inch of his skin. And then I text my family. I didn’t exactly want to deal with it alone but my calm text (He was hit by a car. He’s alert and awake and so far the damage can’t be that serious.) spread like wildfire through my family across the U.S. and was interpreted like this: He was hit by a car and he’s going to die.
Every test at the hospital came back normal. He was completely fine. His bike helmet probably saved his life, the doctor told me. That bike helmet that he had begged me to let him not wear because it wasn’t cool and none of his friends wore them anyway. We were both glad he lost that argument. The mayor had been going less than 10 miles an hour according to a police investigation by another city. My son had pulled out in front of a parked fire truck. He had stopped before the truck, but not after, and neither he nor the mayor saw the other. The car insurance companies battled it out for several months, but eventually they both paid the hospital and ambulance bills.
It was an accident. Accidents happen. But he was my son and for a moment, I thought he was going to die.
That was five years ago and today the only thing that concerns me is when my son tells people, “I survived getting hit by a car. That’s how tough I am,” as if he’s invincible and can survive anything. Just a few months ago he crashed a pocket bike going pretty slowly with a worried mother standing guard, again hitting his head, and again getting saved by a helmet. I don’t want my children living in fear (although I have pretty much banned all pocket bikes and anything that resembles a motorcycle), and so I let them do things knowing accidents happen. But I also don’t believe in being reckless.
As spring comes upon us and our children head out to play, the one thing I ask of you is to make wearing a helmet a mandatory rule in your house. It saved my child and it can save yours. Because no matter how careful you are, accidents happen.