Learnings Tangents

For the mom who did everything right

The first thing I kept thinking after reading the blog post about the mom who did everything right only to have a perfect day that ended in a shattered world, was that I had no words. Those words kept repeating, “I have no words”. I wished with every ounce of my being that I could un-read it. And then I found I definitely DID have words. So many words I needed to get out of my head as fast as possible. I tried venting a bit about it. I tried talking it out with some of the people who are special to me. I feel raw from the words this mom had to write.

I absolutely understand her writing this. Trying to make sense of it. I can imagine her fingers running over her keyboard, reliving that day… The perfect day that she created for her precious little boy. And my chest aches as I feel her getting closer to that moment, I can feel an almost desperation that, as the words made their way onto the screen there will be a sudden shift in the narrative. That this would be just a regular blog post about the loss of a close friend, followed by the sharing of a day of living life fully in the moment and the pure joy that she shared with her littlest. I can see the blog post ending differently…

I can see other moms nodding at the lesson of losing somebody important, but not central to your survival, and giving all of yoursef to LIVE and reaffirm love and all that is good and pure and simple in the world… A day with family enjoying an outing, a spontaneous beach pitstop, a late afternoon splash in the pool, the warmth and satisfaction of doing the regular household chores, cleaning and cooking, with the neverending chatter of an almost-three-year-old humming alongside you, every day life continuing. We all learn from these awful things, right?

And then I can see the words where I finally gave up believing that this wasn’t really that story. The story so many of us moms heard just days after Christmas, of the loss of a 2 year old – our children are all 2, about to turn 3, just like that little boy. The story of the little boy who managed to vanish into the swimming pool in less time than it took to respond to a simple message. ” I took his last 3 beautiful photos and posted all 3 on Facebook right there.” His last 3.

I believe that there is a thing that happens online when we read about a mother who loses a child. It is like every mother is momentarily hit solidly in the solar plexus, literally knocking the wind out of us. There is an endless ripple effect, every time another mother that hears the story until the end of time. It is as if, in that moment, we are all connected. Every one of us who has a child – no matter how that child came to you and no matter how long they stayed with you – has the flash of primal pain where, just for a millisecond, we can’t NOT picture it being your child.

You did everything right ripples

We all react differently to it. Most try to find and hold their children as fast as possible. Many jump immediately to it will never happen to me – I have learnt in the past year that this is a very real survival mechanism. Some will reach out to that mother, online, sharing the story, sympathising, trying to find the thing to say that will help that mom to KNOW that she could not have done anything more. Others will go the other way, lashing out, throwing blame anywhere and everywhere… If it is somebody’s fault, then you can be sure it will never happen to you right, because you would NEVER do or not do what that person did.

Every time I experience it, I want to literally seek the person out and just hold them. Squeeze them so tightly that the breath that is stuck in their chest that they just can’t let go of, is freed. I am overly empathic. If I am not careful, I will feel all the things, I will absorb that hurt like a sponge if it means they have one moment of respite. And I want to write about it, here. But I never do. I have always felt that there is this line when it comes to talking about others. That speaking of their pain is in some way wrong.

Just this once, I am going to move past that, because, while there are lessons, there is one very important element that is the opposite of the lesson most people will want to take from it.

Lesson 1 is certainly to get your child into swimming lessons as early as you can. You can get your baby water familiar and water safe from very young, 6 months old is the perfect time. Do it. Today.

I have been finalising Charly’s swimming lessons this past week, and her first lesson is on Tuesday. I hadn’t read this story yet when I started investigating, but Charly has asked to be in the pool every single day since October. It has been a source of endless tantrums and some of her hugest surges of defiance – rain, wind, green pool, pool chemicals – she understands every one of these things clearly and why they mean no swimming pool, but she remains adamant that it is worth it. If she could get out of the house, past the security gate that is always locked, out of the garden gate (that is deadlocked 80% of the time), if the last person by the pool hasn’t locked the gate to the pool area, she has watched people pull that giant pool cover off the pool and I guarantee you she would try to get it off herself. She has put on her own costume and banged on the gate screaming. And she is quick. And even moms need to pee. She would be in that pool in a flash. THAT is why I have booked the timeslot…

Do you know the first time I looked into swimming lessons for Charly? When she was 6 months old. And again when, at 1, she showed an obsession with our complex swimming pool with the total lack of fear that makes you want to lock them up forever. And at 2, when she started school and they had lessons – BUT the transport they use to get the kids to the pool is a combi and there are no car seats. And then I was going to look at getting one-on-one lessons at that swim school at another time, because she really wanted to. And then I had the Entertainer app and there were multiple swim schools in it and I could have gotten 2 for 1 lessons for her. And then as summer started last year and she started confidently swimming with her floaty suit or her water wings. Life happens. Mom life happens even faster. Working mom life is almost a constant blur – whether you are working part time, full time or from home and whether that work is external or home schooling or being a full time rockstar mom entertaining your child 24.7. After school activities don’t seem like a priority. They are still so small, it can wait a little longer… Well no, no it can’t. Go book your child into swimming lessons now.

The second lesson I can see, that you should take away from this is to triple check that your child has multiple barriers between them and the pool and that they are all active at all times. Jane is certain that she locked that gate. She does it automatically, as all of us do. She yells at others if they forget. It is a hard rule, because she IS a great mom and she knows the dangers. What happened that day? She will likely never know. She will likely play that over in her head a million times a day for the rest of her life. Anything could have happened. Sometimes gates stuck, sometimes the catch is just a teeny bit tight and the latch rebounds, sometimes kids find ways to climb over pool fences – my almost-3-year-old climbs our burglar bars as if she had adhesive hands and feet. The chances are, most of you that have children and a swimming pool are exactly like Jane. You are fanatical about keeping that gate closed no matter what. The only lesson then, is to triple check, to never assume that it “always” slams shut, to make sure there is nothing your child can stand on to get a boost over that fence.

Here’s the part that is truly the most devestating, the communal solar plexus punch… This mom, Jane, she did everything right that day.

You did everything right

You did everything right. You poured your heart and soul into that day, with that heartache for your friend and concern for your bigger boys making you more conscious than ever of being in the moment. Where most of us moms were exhausted and complaining that we had no help, especially in that gap between Christmas and New Year, and our children were doing their very best to drive us mad… YOU chose to see that time with Nate as precious, as time that you and he could deepen your bond and spend real quality time together. You did everything right.

Every choice you made that day was that of an amazing mom. We all promise to do more with our children. We promise to be more spontaneous, to make them giggle that little bit longer, to play with them more, to talk to them more… To stop at that beach, because the air is just right, the mood is just right, the moment is just right. Most of us get distracted by other things, work, the time, a strange place, a delay in getting on with the day… Where are we trying to get to anyway? You did everything right.

You gave him your whole heart all day. Those photos of him on the beach, he had the BEST day. He was so very happy. He was so very loved and secure and he knew that. It is there in this face. You kept up with his banter and his circling around you while you went about the chores, you made him his snack, you gave him his play dough. You didn’t NOT stop to play with him. You answered a message from a concerned husband. A minute, 2 at most. You went looking for him immediately. You would have played with him. I know it. Because that day you did everything right.

You tried to save him. You ran to get help to save him. You did every single thing right.

The lessons are NOT that, as moms, we need to do more. That we need to pay more attention. That we need to have our eyes on them every single second of every single day. That we should never check our messages or answer the phone.

The lessons are – Be more like Jane. Be excited for the days where there is nobody to come between you and your little one. Days where you can make last minute decisions to make magic moments with your child. Take a breath and find the humour in them playing with dog food, instead of getting cross. Let the non-stop chatter wash over you, listen to the madcap stories, answer the random questions, don’t shoo them away so you can keep doing whatever thing it is that is so important in that moment. Choose time with your child over the open screen on your laptop, constantly reminding you that there are things to be done. They will be asleep soon enough, and you can do it then.

And, as devastating as this single instance of it is, you can take 2 minutes to respond to a Whatsapp message from the person you love checking in that you are ok. Because it is a phone, and we all have this underlying guilt over the time we spend using it, it is so easy to think that it is because it was the phone that something like this happened. But it isn’t. We all try to steal a few quiet seconds on the toilet when we know our child is happily playing in the other room. We don’t pick up our toddler and take them upstairs when they are enthralled with creating a play doh monster, because you need to grab a jersey for them. You don’t interrupt block castle building when you need to step into the kitchen to turn the food or pour yourself a cup of coffee.

2 minutes is a moment in time. You’ve spent more than that reading this. Something like this could have happened while you believed your child was asleep at night, or napping… You can’t watch them every second of every day. But you can be more like Jane. You can be in the moment with them when you are with them. You can make choices to prioritise the things that are urgent, but to prioritise your child when they aren’t.

I am including the link here. You don’t have to read it. It will shatter you. It will make you ache. It will knock the breath from you. I read it without knowing where it was going. I never made the connection until it was too late to not finish it. It is a beautiful horrifying read that will shake you to your core.

My wish for the mom who did everything right, is that one day you will be able to read your story without reading it all the way to the end. That you will see the incredible gift your gave your baby on that day. That you will clearly be able to feel love and joy and fun. And that you see that on this day, you did every single thing you could, you did everything right.

Rest in Peace Nate.

For the mom who did everything right

Sending all the love xxx



22 replies on “For the mom who did everything right”

Hello Mandy,

A friend recently shared this post with me, I had not read it before… I am her. Yes, I am Jane. That mother that took her eyes off her precious toddler for the exact 2 minutes that he’d decide to get in the pool they’d just recently had a swim in…. 18+ months later I STILL don’t know how it happened. My brain cannot and will not make sense of it. I have (as you predicted) played it over and over and over in my head. It still doesn’t add up.

Reading your post brought it all back and made me cry. But I wanted to say thank-you. Thank-you for understanding that I loved him so much. Thank-you for recognising that I was trying to give him all my attention – willingly – that day. Thank-you for noticing that I wanted to spend special time with him alone, on those 3 precious holiday days of just him and me, and it was not seen as a burden. Thank-you for reminding people to prioritise the damn swimming lessons (we too had tried unsuccessfully to get to them for about 18 months).

And most of all thank-you for saying that is was actually ok that I checked the phone. Because it’s not realistic to never ever respond to anyone else, or to not EVER take your eyes off your child is it. No matter how in tune, connected and attentive we want to be…. But I still kicked myself for months and months for doing that. It is so hard to get the balance right of giving everyone in your life enough of the right kind of attention.

I still don’t know why Natey did it. I probably will never understand it. I know I will never ‘get over’ it. But as I type this new little baby Benjamin is nestled on my lap, breathing his sleepy newborn breath. I love him with a deep and protective ferocity I have not felt before. And I am acutely aware that he only exists because Natey left us… which is achingly painful and beautiful at the same time. Such bitter-sweetness fuels my gratitude. I hope I am worthy of this little boy.

Thank-you for your kindness, insight and understanding. I so appreciate it.

I am glad that you found it and that it brought you even a moment of feeling understood. I hope you read the comments from the other moms as well. You really did every single thing right. I went back to your blog and read all the way from that day to today. And I sobbed for your pain and for your unbelievable bravery and strength. I am so incredibly sorry you had to experience any of it, and the fear and confused emotions around the investigation is more than I can process – sharing that may well save some other mom the most horrific of experiences compounding something already beyond the understanding of most.

Your crows. Two days ago I shared a story with the wife of one of my oldest friends. Of a crow that crashed into a classroom window right next to my head, followed by me fainting during an exam. It was roughly the same moment that my friend was told his mom died of a heartattack. We were 13. The crows stayed for a while before going where they were needed more I assume. Not an omen, just a messenger caught between two worlds.

Your Benjamin is the most beautiful baby and he is so very blessed to have you as his mommy. You are not just worthy, you are the hugest gift to him. I doubt there is a mommy in all the world who could love him as fiercely and poignantly as you will. I can only imagine the smallest fraction of that feeling of knowing he would not be if it were not for your gorgeous Natey. I wish you only the greatest peace and joy in this newest journey through motherhood.

Being in a particularly vulnerable space right now, going and reading your journey since and seeing how much grace you have navigated it with; along with seeing your perfect baby Benjamin, has provided me with something like momentary peace. Thank you for taking the time to let me know you found this, for letting me know that it made the smallest of differences and for sharing the joy of your Benjamin.

Be blessed Jane xx

Yes, I did read the other comments. I am very touched by how kind and sensitive people have been to me. I know how easy it is to judge and imagine/assume the person was just not careful and attentive enough. I am glad that instead people have tended to realise just how horrifically quickly and easily it can happen – and to be that much more careful as a result.

I do hope the warnings and info around the investigation helps others to prepare and deal with it better. It’s really so awful…

The crows are something else. I am so aware and in awe of them now. They are so beautiful and aware.

Thank-you again, I hope whatever has made you vulnerable has resolved, or will soon.

I will never forget the exact moment i read Janes story. I was at gym and a friend sent me the link. At that stage my baby boy was 6 months old. He is now nearly a year.
I stopped on the treadmill. I remember i could not hold back the tears. I left gym immediately ran to my car and cried. I could not get home fast enough to my baby. Since that day, i have followed Janes every blog.
What an AMAZING mother. Much better than i am.
Her words ring in my mind over and over about living in the moment.
I feel guilty everytime i am exhausted and want to nap.

<3 Never ever feel guilty. It's a trap! Sometimes you need a nap to be able to give your bubba your full attention. Nothing is more exhausting that being a mom xx

I have been thinking so much about Jane and Natey and the whole family since the news broke.
And I see we’ve had similar thoughts.
I kept thinking about Gorilla Mom, remember her? And how a lynch mom went after her blaming her? The fact remains, even when we do everything right, accidents happen, we cannot watch our children 24/7 it’s impossible and sometimes with truly tragic and life altering consequences.
My heart hurts for this family and I think the reminder you have highlighted are so very very important. Because life is short and precious and it can be snuffed out in a second, no matter what precautions we take.

Thank you love. I have thought of that mom as well, and I was terrified that the trolls would come out for this tragedy too. I am still reeling from her post and I can’t quite shake it no matter what I am doing 🙁 xx

Hey M. Yes. There was a huge feeling of a complete lack of any power, of an awful inevitability. Heartbreaking. Don’t read it. The better the writer the more devastating the story and she is an incredible writer

Jane’s story has been on my mind all day. I’ve cried over it numerous times. I’m like you in that way, I just want to absorb some of her gut wrenching pain for just a moment. I am so desperately sorry that this happened. She did everything right. I hope and pray that she will be gentle with herself and know that she did everything right.

I felt the same when I read it yesterday. …It had no idea where it was going. I was like…the doc dying was the worst day? Okay the story continues…why?. I missed the warning words….’last pictures’ …’probably dead when I found him’….and then it was too late. I sobbed and ached reading…and bound I read it over and over…..reliving her worst nightmare.

On 20th December I was almost Jane. I arrived home to find my 15m old waist high…on the 2nd step of the pool. I didn’t do everything right… I took my older 2 kids out and left my baby at home with the nanny…because he’d just get tired and cranky and and and…. It would have been inconvenient for him to celebrate his 5yr old brother’s birthday with us.

Something steered me home that day….and something kept him from trying to get into the deepside first, because heaven knows if he managed to be standing on the 2nd step…2nd slimy algae ridden step…waist high….how long he’d been there ij the water. Standing. So proud of himself. In a moment where the nanny left the pool gate open and she thought he was playing inside. No clue he was outside.

I would have berated myself…because I didn’t do everything right. I didn’t savour the moment with all 3 my kids that day. But from this awful story….I’ve learnt from Jane. ..and Andrew (the eulogy tells you so much about their life) that I need to make every moment count and stop complaining all the time. I’m tired. I’m sore. I want me time. Be like Jane…do everything right. 😢

I am so very glad that your story had a happier ending honey. You are a great mom. You were doing the best thing for your children, not overexposing your little one to an event that would have upset him and giving your 5 year old have your full attention for his birthday. Sending love x

I read and cried.. someone else I knew lost their 19 month old yesterday (only diagnosed 48 hors before). My heart is shattered for these mom’s x I cannot begin to imagine the anguish. Hold our little people tighter. I too believe that that day and I’m certain many many many others, she did everything and more right x

I was taken right back to when I read her piece. That gut wrenching, solid pain. Feeling for Jane and for just a moment, experiencing the terror and fear through her words. I felt it again now reading yours.

She really did do everything right….

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