One of the things that really, truly scares me as a parent is a choking child.
Give me bloody knees and elbows and hematomas sprouting from foreheads, even sprains, and fractures. None of that is a party, sure, but it’s all manageable stuff. A kid who’s actually choking is a race against the clock, and it makes me kind of panicky just writing that.
I’ve never had been put to this particular test, probably because the powers that be know it’s beyond my abilities. But a few weeks ago, my neighbor posted a late-night update that ruined any chance of sleep for me.
Her husband travels often, and she was home alone with her kindergartner and second grader. The kids were racing around after dinner, and her daughter, the six-year-old, tripped with a mouthful of food. Cue bug eyes and frantic hand gestures and most terrifying of all, absolute silence.
She was choking. And the countdown had begun.
Luckily, her quick-witted mother slipped seamlessly into rescue mode, performing the Heimlich on her little girl and, quite literally, saving her life.
After the hugs and the tears and the admonishments about running with food in your mouth, and after tucking in her daughter and then checking – and rechecking – on her and her brother, my friend probably poured herself a generous glass of wine and sat shaking on the couch before reaching for her phone.
I don’t actually know about the wine and couch part, but I will hazard a guess that she shared the excitement that evening online in part for some virtual hugs. What a freaking nightmare, right? And her online crew rallied, for sure, with eighty-some comments praising her quick thinking and generally commiserating with her about the whole ordeal.
But my friend was also adamant that everyone re-up on their Heimlich know-how, which I absolutely did. Kind of a real-life public service announcement, right?
A few days later at school, I saw this little trio walking past and called to them.
“Oh man, I just want to give you a big hug, little lady! That’s some scary stuff,” I babbled, feeling some bizarre need to reassure myself that, yep, this walking, talking six-year-old was definitely alive.
C, who’s normally so bubbly and outgoing, was having none of it. She looked away, mouth dipping into a tight little frown.
“She’s not very happy that I told everyone what happened,” her mom said to me quietly.
It’s so obvious to me in retrospect, but I had to see it in the stiff body language of this put-out little girl for it to really hit home.
Kids don’t always like elements of their lives made public. And some of it is obvious – maybe don’t share the one about your four year’s old hilarious description of his dad’s junk – but some of it isn’t.
For her mom that night, that online community was a place for her to kind of fall into our arms. And in general, it’s a space to vent and brag and laugh. It’s where we share potty training tales – hello! – and complain about mouthy seven-year-olds and remind one another that we’re good parents, in spite of our doubts sometimes.
But for our kids, there’s another side to it. And I’m still struggling to find an appropriate balance – not by my definition, but by theirs.
Can you imagine what it would be like to grow up in such a public forum? Where stories about your potty training will live forever, not in memories, but in writing that’s so easily accessible? Privacy setting aside, what’s it like for these generations growing up with their lives captured – and displayed! – in so many ways?
There’s a fine line between sharing experiences as a mother and putting your kids on display. But seeing that little girl’s reaction to a whole community of people knowing about something that happened to her in the privacy of her own home was an eye opener for me.
So, you know, post with care. And read up about the Heimlech, please.