Car accidents don’t announce themselves. So, when my family and I found ourselves face to face with a real emergency situation on our hands, I was surprised to learn a few things like how fierce my reaction would be, and how lucky we ultimately were.
In the backseat of our SUV sat our two boys and daughter. They were laughing over the fart sounds that a family friend taught them how to make when you pump your arm whilst your cupped hand covers your pit. Pfff! Pffft! Reverberated from the backseat. My husband and I were trying to be the adults and not laugh since we know that would fuel more uproarious energy from the back seat.
In front and perpendicular to us, a white sedan sailed through a stop sign and slammed on its brakes, stopping immediately in front of our SUV that was traveling 45 miles an hour and had no time to stop.
My husband swerved so hard around the car that for a moment, we were up on two wheels.
The kids went silent.
When everything stopped, I honestly wasn’t sure if we were hit, or where we landed. It took a moment to reorient myself and to reach out and touch my three children to make sure they were all safe before a flood of rage that I have never felt before surged through my body. I looked out of the front window and into the eyes of the clearly drunk woman sitting and laughing in her white sedan that was idle and, more impressively, didn’t have a scratch on it.
I remember screaming directly at her and struggling to open to my car door. I didn’t realize that I was still buckled in. I want to rip this woman’s head off for putting my family in mortal danger.
The reality was that my family was safe, shaken to the core, absolutely, but we were unharmed. What shocked me, and what still resonates with me to this day is how given the choice between fight or flight, my lizard brain puffed out its chest and was ready to brawl in the middle of the street.
Motherhood famously brings out of the softest parts of humanity and helps us to recreate ourselves into nurturing and kind people who can absorb all of the sharp parts of raising children. The lack of sleep, the loss of identity, the frustration and loneliness that often accompany motherhood are totally there, but we tuck them away as much as possible while in front of the kids.
But when faced with a near death experience or a threat that cracks that resolve to smile through the hardships of parenting, mothers can become fiercely protective in a way that for me on a humid summer day felt intimidating and raw.
Every morning as I adjust my mirrors and slowly pull out of our driveway, I fear that some other person out there will casually and foolishly put my children’s lives at risk. As a mother, I can do everything in my power to make sure that we are prepared for the worst, but that may not always be enough.
To stay safe on the road, it is imperative that babies and toddlers be buckled in five-point harness car seats. Follow the manufacturer guidelines and your state’s regulations to make sure you’re using your car seat correctly. Kids who are not yet old enough or heavy enough to sit in a seat with an adult seatbelt must use a booster seat. Car safety for kids should be taken seriously. No child should be in the front seat until they meet your state’s guidelines for weight and age. You can learn more about car seat and seatbelt safety here.
Always make sure you have emergency numbers in your phone and that your phone is charged enough to make calls in case you in an emergency. It is a smart idea to always keep a first aid kit and bottled water as well as a flashlight, blanket, and spare tire and tools in your trunk.