the Empathy List #74: No Takebacks
No matter how much we wish it away, the past stays with us.
Hello friend, Liz here.
A few weekends ago, early on a Saturday morning, my husband and I were sleeping late. We could hear the kids chattering above us in the kitchen, happy and presumably full of cereal.
And then we heard a splintering noise and piercing screams.
My husband made it up the stairs before I did, and he’d already scooped my son into his arms and was running to the bathroom, even as he demanded of my daughter, “I need to know exactly what happened.”
She began to weep, peeled off her shirt, and there, a large welt had already begun to form.
The next few moments were spent in dressing wounds, jogging between kids to deliver children's ibuprofen and band aids and Neosporin and ice packs and water bottles.
Eventually, on the drive to urgent care, we reconstructed the events: the kids had decided to make tea. They’d boiled water in the electric kettle. They’d selected a glass carafe—a vintage filagreed cocktail carafe—from the bar cabinet, they’d placed a handful of tea bags in the bottom, and they’d tipped the boiling water into the carafe.
It shattered immediately.
In the aftermath, my son was skewered by glass shrapnel and needed four stitches. My daughter ended up with a second-degree burn across her belly, which she needed us to cool down and bandage on-and-off for two weeks. (In the first hours, we iced and cold-showered and every few seconds blowing on her belly, like we were blowing up a balloon, in order to help her manage the pain.)
This is every parent’s worst nightmare.
That weekend was traumatic for us parents, sure, and I’m devastated that my kids experienced it. I hope we never have to go through such a thing EVER AGAIN.
But as I’ve thought backward on that Saturday morning, the standout moments were the utterances from both kids, each expressing to me that they wished this had never happened. If only we had avoided this altogether.
As my daughter stretched on the couch with an ice pack on her stomach, she wailed, “I just wish I’d never decided to make tea in the first place.”
Boy, do I understand the feeling. Haven’t we all had those moments? My kids’ expressions of regret seem to me highly applicable to our cultural moment, in fact.
Us adults need to do some reflection of our own. Over the past handful of years, we’ve learned many lessons the hard way: that power corrupts, that violence doesn’t pay, that the internet is a dirty liar, that our planet is fragile, that our bodies are fragile.
Are we listening? Are we paying attention?
I believe that my own kids have a lot to teach me about the humility required to take an experience to heart.
Though my kids are young—seven and nine—neither needed a lecture to understand what had gone wrong on that fateful Saturday. Neither needed to be nudged toward an apology. Neither needed their parents to spell out the fact that they should NEVER EVER DO THAT AGAIN, PERIOD.
They were doomed to learn the hard way. And it was terrible, and as their parents who adore them, we hated that they had to find out that glass is fragile at such a high cost.
But I hope that their spirit—a spirit humble enough to listen when truth screams in their direction—is catching.
Thanks for reading. Warmly, Liz Charlotte Grant
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