This afternoon the littles were getting a little antsy – they were so busy entertaining each other in their beds that they couldn’t fall asleep for their nap, and they had lots of outside kind of energy to burn. Ds3 ran outside, followed right away by ds4; ds3 jumped on his little bike with training wheels and ds4 was busy with a pogo stick. I had just told dd9 that I would make her a French braid when ds ran outside, so I told her to come with me so I could braid her hair while I watched them from the walkway outside.
Ds4 was having fun with the push car and pogo stick, which I was keeping an eye on since it looked like it might not be too safe. Ds3 started whimpering a little on his bike, but I glanced at him to check that he was okay, and he was just sitting on his bike, looking fine. Then ds4 went over to him with the pogo stick and right after that the tone of ds3’s crying changed, the kind of change that makes you look up fast. He was repeatedly moving his hands by his neck and I thought ds4 might have accidentally jammed the pogo stick into him, but it was the way he looked that alarmed me. His face was turning purple and he was crying hard but not much sound was coming out.
His tzitzis (four corner fringed garment worn under shirt by Orthodox Jewish males) had gotten caught in the chain of the bike, and the strings were wrapped so tightly that he couldn’t move forward or backward, and the garment was tugging against his throat – it literally was choking him. I quickly pulled it a finger’s distance from his neck so he could breathe while I worked the entire thing off him, then held him for a while until he calmed down.
My ds11 came home just after this happened, when ds3 was still crying. When he was told what happened, he soberly said, “It’s a good thing you always make sure someone is outside with them.” He’s right. I have six boys and this is my fifth to wear tzitzis every day from the time they are three years old, and never in fourteen years have we had anything like this happen. Oh, sure, the strings might get caught and tear a little on occasion, but nothing that would have led me to think of this as a concern to preempt.
The reason I’m sharing this is threefold: a) to be aware that something like this can happen and to be sure your little boys are well-tucked in when playing, particularly with something like a bike (or take them off when they ride). b) The second reason is because it’s a powerful reminder to me: things can and do happen quickly with little kids, things that you can’t always predict or preempt. Being close by can make all the difference in averting tragedy.
And finally, to remember that we have a Partner in keeping our children safe – it’s not all dependent on us staying constantly on alert. Even though I was so close by, if he had been riding in the opposite direction away from me or further down the block, I couldn’t have responded so fast, and it’s scary to think about how easily that could have happened right with me there watching and not realizing he needed help. It would be arrogant to think that we can protect our children from every possible situation. A parent can be incredibly responsible and something can happen in the two minutes she’s in the bathroom. But having said that, it helps to set the odds in our favor by guarding our children to the best of our ability like the precious treasures they are.
Yom Kippur is just a hours away, a time when the decrees for every one of us for the coming year are sealed. May you all be signed and sealed for a year filled with blessing and abundance in every area, a year of joy and growth, and a year filled with increasing appreciation of the protection and care that we merit every day.