I had a mothering fail today. I took my girls on a play date to a local park. The two older ones were running around and playing, and I was sitting on a picnic table under the shade with the baby.
It had been a stressful morning, and I was happy to have a fifteen second reprieve while both big girls were taking breaks from climbing on the high parts of the play ground. I turned around to grab my phone to check the time, and I heard screaming. I looked down, and I saw little Mae lying face first on the ground. Sobbing. Somehow, even though she can’t even flip over yet, she had managed to wiggle out of the stroller, flip, and land on the ground. All in the matter of about three seconds.
My heart stopped in that moment. I picked her up, half expecting to see her whole front covered in blood. There was nothing there. I held her and consoled her, and after about a minute and a half she had stopped crying and was back to her normal self.
She had recovered, but I was shaken to my core.
Two hours later I was resting on the couch, listening to my babies sleep, and I still couldn’t shake the feeling. I went onto Facebook, our generation’s version of the village square, and I posted about the incident. Within five minutes, I had other friends post their own stories of their babies falling.
I felt a wave of relief. I’m not the only one. Other moms make the same mistakes. Other moms have felt this way. If my daughter grows up to lament the day I allowed her to fall on her face at the park, I can say that I’m not the only one. Other moms have done it too.
And I thought back to trips we had taken as a family to the museum. There we walked through the lives of ancient peoples. We saw dioramas and paintings of villages, people all working together to raise their children and themselves. Mothers, walking together, with loads on their heads and babies on their backs. Old grandmothers sitting around with many children at their feet, telling stories of their youth. I thought of books I had read about ancient communities of women, working together toward common goals. I thought about women teaching women how to care for children and how to birth children and how to breastfeed those children. Many women of the same age, all learning together, all mothering together, all sharing the same road as they travel down their own paths.
And it makes me long for those days that I never knew personally because in our culture with private homes and self-sufficient families, with day care and big box stores, automobiles and fenced in yards, there is so much that we have lost. There is so much we have sacrificed to live the lifestyle of relative ease that we do.
And that’s why I think stories are so important. In a world where many of our connections happen over a computer screen, the only way we have to reach into the life of another is in the stories they tell. It’s our way of understanding how others live in the world and for bridging the gap between what is shown and what is actual reality. It’s our way of forming community when we lack the presence of a physical community in our daily lives.
Storytelling is an art form but it’s also a bridge. It’s a way of presenting information but it’s also a way of receiving reassurance and community and companionship, of forging bonds and of cultivating relationships.
When we come home and the doors are locked, and the children rest silently in their beds, it’s the stories that we tell others and that they tell us that let us know that even in our loneliness, we are not alone. Even in our darkest places, there are others there, traveling along side us, parallel sometimes, but on the same path nevertheless.
And so as mothers, I think it’s a duty we have to those around us to share our stories. The stories of triumph and of joy but also of failure and of heartbreak. It’s a lonely world, but when we reach out a hand, we just might find someone grasping on.
Amanda Knapp, M.A., is a stay at home mom to three little girls. One day she looked around her life and realized that it was all going by much too quickly for her tastes. She wasn’t finding the time to savor the moments and the lessons they had to teach. So she started a blog to document it all, and she realized that through sharing these stories, she was finally able to really savor them. Writing about being a mom actually made her more of a mom. So she continued to write. She shares these these writings on her blog, Indisposable Mama.