By Contributor Eve Curley (@eveyandidotcom)
Do you know that feeling when you’re swimming under water at a public pool and all you can hear is the muffled sound of screams, laughter, cries and chatter? It’s a surreal, almost trapped, blurred, out-of-body feeling until you come for air and breathe. That is the only way I can describe how I felt on Saturday.
Time stood still. I’m not sure for how long (I’m told only a few minutes) because all I can remember is we couldn’t find our daughter.
Those that know me well know that at times I can be a “little dramatic” …a “drama queen” even. Heck I even describe myself as one…I can totally admit that sometimes I can over-react. Today, however, while my screams may have seemed dramatic to those sipping lattes in the café, there were no dramatics, just pure fear. I would have done ANYTHING in those moments to find our girl and I did not care what anyone thought.
To start the weekend we headed off as a family to a birthday party at a local play centre. It’s been a big few months for me at work and, while we had a nice little trip to Melbourne during the week, I did have to halt holidays and go into work for issues that weren’t exactly pleasant and something that wasn’t in my control (which I don’t like). I felt like the week ended on a downer and I was finding it hard to shake.
I was on edge. I asked Hubby to come to the party with me as I was tired and let’s be honest feeling a little “anxious” about taking my very confident and daring little “threenager” to a play centre on a Saturday which I knew would be hectic.
Seems stupid, doesn’t it? We'd just returned from Melbourne where we caught planes, public transport, pushed her through peak hour traffic in a pram, stayed in a double storey apartment with very steep stairs, peered through glass at sharks and a damn huge crocodile and walked through the Bourke St Mall where only last month a car had ploughed through and killed innocent people. We put her in danger every day.
I’ll admit I probably click on news stories I shouldn’t, but I have always been a bit of a news junkie. I work in the industry and it is in my face constantly. Now with the 24/7 news cycle, I find it hard to stay away from what can sometimes be toxic. There is no doubt that it is an addiction (there’s a whole other blog on that) and I like to be “in the know” and “connected”.
I had recently read some stories about accidents at play centres. I’d obviously been affected by the Dreamworld tragedy and just this week clicked on an overseas story about an accident that I cannot shake from my mind. You get people saying “don’t read the stories”, “don’t get click baited”, “turn the TV off”, “turn the radio off”, “stop talking about it”. To the people with that advice, I salute you, but I don’t care what you think nor will I take your advice. I’ll continue to read, watch and listen to the news every day. I’ll continue to feel empathy for people I don’t even know and I’ll continue to share news if I think it might just help someone else or make them a little more aware in a situation.
I’ll also continue to do all I can to keep my daughter safe from danger, at the same time as making sure any anxiety I have doesn’t make her live in fear. I will however instil a good amount of fear into her to ensure she is never too complacent or too trusting.
Unfortunately, as we know, not all parents are “good people” or “responsible” and not all are “doing their best” but if you know YOU are doing your best to protect your cub that’s all you can do. We are never in complete control.
Anyway, today we stood inside a centre while our three-year-old jumped, slid, weaved, ran and crawled her way through what can only be described as a relatively safe environment. One second she was there smiling at us with her pigtails and colourful jumpsuit in the main part of play centre and the next minute she was not.
It’s bizarre as we have had situations when Isla has been sick in Emergency not knowing what is wrong and during those times I have been pretty calm. That’s because she is with me. She was sick and I worried but she was with me. I was not calm today, not one bit.
I thought the worst. I couldn't hear anything but children screaming and the beating of my heart through my chest. I wanted everyone to just disappear out of the centre as I screamed her name. A few parents came up to me and tried to calm me as Hubby continued to search.
I was not interested in anyone calming me down. I was on a mission. I thought she was stuck and in trouble, suffocating or being crushed. Hubby, on the other hand, thought she was okay until a few seconds before she was found where he said panic started to set in and he thought maybe she had left the centre completely.
Then, just like that, she appeared. Somehow, she had managed to completely exit the main section and find a way into the baby and toddler area without us seeing her. Hindsight…why didn’t we look there? Well I don’t really know. It was a blur and I couldn’t get my head around the fact that she could vanish that quickly from such a big area when we were literally standing below her.
Afterwards, I did send a text to the friend who was hosting the party to apologise. I’m not sure why I did apologise, but that’s me and I’d hate to think that that all the people at the party thought I was a complete and utter nutcase.
After I’d had time to calm down and realise Isla was safe, I started to worry I had scared the kids or ruined the fun they were having at the party. My friend, of course, told me not to stress and that it is “natural to think the worst”.
It did really make me think about “fear” and “reaction” and to stop worrying about what other people think. Do not ever feel bad for doing what comes natural! If that means screaming your child’s name and commando style moving through tubes so be it!
At the end of the day, you can be the most cautious parent in the world and lose some control. We don’t know what each day has in store for us.
Starting now, I am just going to be thankful for the troubles I DON'T have, and that my daughter is safe…. pass me wine and some Botox. I legitimately think I have aged 10 years.