In an Instant

There are some moments that change our lives. Sometimes the change is small. Sometimes it is a complete change of direction. In my case it was both, with the biggest change being an indirect result of this catalyst.

We had been living in our new home for a week. I was still getting used to the new locations of my belongings and navigating the nooks and crannies of my new abode.

It was early. My youngest son had a habit of getting up before 7am. By 7.15 the whole house was awake.

In the kitchen, the kettle hissed. Blarey eyed, I pulled the mugs down from the overhead shelf. I needed coffee if I was going to get through the day.

I placed the mugs on the kitchen bench. I filled my coffee plunger. The sweet smell of coffee made me pause for a moment. It was going to be a long day. Then I poured the boiling water into my partner’s tea cup. I would let it soak before pulling out the teabag and adding the milk.

Knowing we were in a hurry, I decided to get breakfast started while I waited. I turned to the pantry to get the bread for my son’s toast.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my 15 month old son near the bench. I turned back just in time to see him pour the cup with the boiling water and teabag down onto his head. It poured over his blonde hair. Then he seemed to pause for an instance, fright in his eyes, before tilting slightly to the right and pouring the water over his shoulder, arm an torso.

It seemed like the moment happened in slow motion. I felt like my feet were frozen to the floor. My limbs felt heavy as I tried to move to him to knock the cup out of his hands. It didn’t seem real.

After an eternity, time seemed to come back to normal pace as I swooped him up and raced out of the kitchen. At the doorway, I ran straight in to my partner. Screaming, I managed to get out “Hot water!” and “Need to put him in the shower“.

My partner grabbed my baby out of my arms and turned to run. Being a new house, he got disoriented and started heading for the bedroom (which would’ve been the right way if we were in our old house).

“What are you doing?” I screamed.

He quickly realised and raced to the shower. We turned on the cold taps and stood our startled toddler under the cold water. Before long he was shivering and crying from the shock.

As our baby stood in the shower, the skin started to blister. It looked as if the skin was melting away and sliding down his arm. I gulped.

“This is bad,” was all I managed to say.

“You need to call the ambulance,” my partner managed.

I raced to the phone and dialed the emergency number. I was shaking as I tried to explain the situation to the operator.

Returning to the bathroom, I took over holding my trembling baby in the shower. My partner had only been in his dressing gown when the incident occurred and had no clothes underneath. He had removed the dressing gown to hold my son in the shower and was now naked. I sent him to get dressed while I held him in the shower.

I looked in to my baby’s eyes and could see the confusion and terror. I felt awful. It was all my fault.

The ambulance soon arrived and my son and I went to the children’s hospital. Fortunately our quick reactions had saved most of his body and the burns on his head, back and chest were now only superficial. The only problem was his arm.

The emergency staff dressed his arm and we went home. We then had to visit every week for about 6 weeks to have his dressings changed. For the first week, he wasn’t allowed to go to childcare as the sand might have aggravated his wound.

The week off meant that I no longer had any annual leave left for the Christmas period. It also gave me time to re-evaluate. I blamed my tiredness on my work hours and never having time to myself. Not only was I working four days a week in an office, I was also writing from home for two different companies to try and pay the bills. I knew that something had to give.

It was this experience that made me see that I had to slow down. I gave up my office job and decided to work freelance writing training materials. This gave me more flexibility so I could be there for my children.

My son’s arm is now healed and you wouldn’t even know that the incident occurred. There isn’t a mark on him. We were very fortunate. There were many children at the hospital who were less fortunate. Some would be terribly scarred for life.

I still blame myself. I was so focussed on making money and trying to do everything that I wasn’t paying enough attention. My partner blames me as well. He mentioned it the other day. I should have put the cups back further where he couldn’t reach. I see the advertisements on TV and at the health nurse offices all the time.

However I am glad that I took the time to re-evaluate my life. I just wish I didn’t feel so guilty about my catalyst for doing it.

This was written in response to this week’s Writing Challenge. To see more information about the challenge, go to


8 thoughts on “In an Instant

  1. I know ‘mother guilt’ well; lived with it 24/7 for years. A single mom, I had no choice but to provide for my two boys and left them in the care of others after school while I worked. There were accidents, of course, and when those old memories creep into my consciousness, even today that hollow, numbness rises out of the diaphragm, a tiny hitch in my breathing for only a moment. They both have their own children now, and accidents continue to happen. You made a tough decision to work from home, and I hope you are proud of it, and you! Che

    • I know the guilt of childcare. Even though I work from home, I still rely on others to look after my children. It is nearly impossible to work from home with them running about and making demands every 2 minutes. I am sure we will have a lot more accidents. My older son managed to end up in emergency only a month ago with the aerial of a remote control car sticking out of his big toe. I’m still not sure how it got there. Working from home isn’t easy. I do project work so it is less secure financially. It has improved my life though. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is nice to know that other mothers understand.

  2. I am constantly — and I mean CONSTANTLY — yelling at my kids to get out of our (tiny — and I mean TINY) kitchen when I’m cooking. I hate yelling, and I feel bad because I’d always dreamed that cooking would be a more cooperative thing, but there just isn’t the room and I know that if I turned my back for a second …

    All that to say … I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. And I’m still sorry I yell at my kids to shoo, but after reading this, I’m going to keep doing it.

  3. Oh what a heart wrenching story. I can feel your guilt, your pain and I am so happy to read that your child is okay after such a tragic accident.
    I think it is important for you to recognize how utterly traumatic it is for a mother to watch with those “heavy feet” as you described, their baby get hurt and have no way to protect them. Of course you didn’t intentionally set the mug on the edge of the counter so your baby could reach it! I am sorry your partner is blaming you for what has happened. It sounds like you have made some serious life choices in the wake of this accident. I hope you can sit with yourself for a while soon and have compassion on yourself for how heartbreaking it is to see your baby so hurt, and to turn around those feelings of blame and guilt.
    Thank you for sharing this story, it is written beautifully. From one mother to another, sit in the heartbreak of this accident a while and you will heal yourself of the guilt and blame. It was an accident in the truest form that has now turned into more, enjoy your new path with passion and joy! Good luck.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. In one place I do know it was an accident but is hard to shake the guilt. However, I am enjoying my new path so I guess something good came from this traumatic event. Again, thank you.

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