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July 29, 2008

Earthquakes Are Scarier When You Have Children

J0104976 When the earthquake hit this morning, Caius, my two year old, and I were sitting on the couch together, pretending to feed each other imaginary food. Cedric, my newborn, was on my bed, napping. As our windows started rattling and the floor shook beneath us, Caius looked up at me, his face filling with fear and confusion. Suddenly realizing what was happening, I grabbed him and leapt towards the bedroom doorway. Telling Caius to stay in the doorway, I ran to scoop up Cedric (who had woken up from the rumbling and was contentedly sucking his fist) and turned around to see my toddler crying in front of me. He had run away from the doorway. Crying and bewildered, he whimpered over the rattling noise, “I’m scared Mama!”

Still clutching Cedric to my chest, I grabbed Caius’s hand with my own free one and muttered, “I know baby. Now get under the table right now.” Pushing him under our dining room table, I scooted in next to him.

I have never moved so fast in my life. And I have never been so scared.

By the time we were all under the table, the whole thing was over. Caius was trying to crawl out from under the table, all the while crying, “I’m scared Mama! I’m scared!” Worried that the shaking might start again, I tried to get him to stay but he was having none of it. I finally decided that the worst must be over and I followed him out from under the table and gathered him in my arms.

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I was eleven during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. It jolted me awake in the dark hours of that morning. Our house was old and the windows rattled so hard I was sure they would shatter, but they didn’t. My parents, I remember, stumbled into our rooms, yelling at us to stand in the doorways. Although the initial quake seemed to go on interminably, once it was over my brothers and I all crawled into my parents’ bed and rode out the aftershocks together.

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I know what it’s like to be a child, scared and confused as the ground moves beneath you and your possessions tumble and crash to the ground. It can only be worse when you’re only two, so far from the faintest grasp of comprehension. As a mother, however, comprehension is a double-edged sword. Unlike my toddler, I know that people can get hurt and even die when earthquakes strike. I know that I should be prepared, but I also know even the most prepared are not entirely safe.

After the earthquake this morning, I put Cedric down and held Caius in my lap as he sobbed into my shirt. “I’m scared Mama,” he repeated, over and over again. I reassured him that everything was okay, that we were all safe and that the shaking was over, and his cries subsided and he soon wandered off to play again. But as I picked up Cedric, who was now crying, still oblivious but hungry for milk, and started trying to call my husband, my hands shook as my fingers passed over my phone.

This is an original post to Los Angeles Moms Blog.

Nina blogs over at Charlie and Nina, Being Savvy Los Angeles and Kimchi Mamas.

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