Yesterday, Oliver and I went down to the toy store in Old Town Burien. Great toy store, lots of selection. We were buying a birthday present for a friend's little boy who was celebrating his first birthday.
As we were coming out of the store, he did what he often does - he went trotting down the sidewalk at a merry pace. I stopped for a second to put my bags in the car and he just kept running.
"Stop, Oliver," I called. He just kept running.
A second time: "Stop, Oliver." I heard laughter this time.
It was then that I noticed the parking lot for the store next to the toy store. All of the cars were parked head-first; all of them would be backing out, and it's almost impossible to see a little boy when you're backing up.
"OLIVER, STOP!" I shouted as hard as I could. He didn't stop. I went charging down the sidewalk, snatched him up by the front of his jacket just as he crossed over the threshold of the parking lot. I probably picked him up too hard. I pulled him back a few feet so we were standing on the sidewalk, and I began what must have been an old speech for him: listen to us when we tell you to stop, we're trying to protect you, don't ignore us.
And then I saw the first car in line in the parking lot begin to slowly back out of its spot. And my heart stopped.
If I had been a minute slower, Oliver would have been standing in that very spot as the car backed out. Just sixty seconds between a stern lecture and a trip to the hospital.
"Did you see that car come out?" I shouted at him, pointing furiously at the car. "THAT'S why you need to listen. That's exactly why I was telling you to stop." I continued barking at him in the back seat as I buckled him into his seat, and I think he started to realize that daddy wasn't just mad, he was also frightened.
If only he weren't so small, and I wasn't so paranoid, and the world wasn't so dangerous.
P.S. I shared this with some of my online friends, and Invisible Posse member AK mentioned this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. It seems like the perfect sentiment for all the dads out there (and moms, too) who know what it's like to protect someone who seems so perfect, so precious, and yet so hopelessly fragile.