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Sometimes it’s the things that you never see coming that do you in. And those are hard to bear.

Worse, however, are the ones you SHOULD have seen coming, but didn’t. Because you were careless, or complacent, or stupid. Because you failed to do your job, the one job that truly matters.

My daughter had a choking incident yesterday, one that we’d been warned was possible ever since she was diagnosed nine years ago. She had a choking incident, a bad one, bad enough to leave her crying for a long time after and nervous for the rest of the day. And she had it because she tried to eat something that was forbidden, something that has always been forbidden for her to eat because of the choking hazard it represents, something identified as dangerous since she was first diagnosed with polymicrogyria.

Something that I gave her.

There are so many things that we watch for in protecting Schuyler. We try so hard to help build a successful school experience for her. We plan for the future, make plans to move somewhere with a good public transportation system so that one day she can live independently. We watch for seizures, wait for them to turn ugly. We try to teach her to be a good person, which for Schuyler is the easiest thing in the world since she does actually possess the biggest heart of any human being I have ever known. And we protect her from the things that can hurt her, including the foods that her condition makes it very difficult for her to eat without choking.

But the things that make us the most vigilant are the ones that are ever-present, and for Schuyler, choking is one that doesn’t come up very often. Part of that, hopefully, may be a lessening of the choking hazard as she grows older and continues to develop. But her success probably has more to do with the fact that she self-regulates and stays away from the things she can’t have.

As she gets older, however, Schuyler grows less patient with her disability, and is more determined than ever to be just like everyone else. That now includes eating things that she’s not supposed to have. So I would love to say that she snuck something behind my back. God knows that probably happens a lot, although after yesterday, perhaps not so often anymore.

But no. She asked me if she could have this food item, and I said sure, because it had been forever since she’d choked, and it seemed harmless enough, and I was complacent in the face of her monster. And her monster made her pay for my bad judgment.

I sometimes feel like a failure as a writer, and as a public speaker and advocate, and God knows I’ve had my personal failings as well. But nothing feels quite like failing my daughter, failing to keep her safe, giving her the very thing that could have taken her from me. I’d give just about everything I have to make this the last time I fail her like this.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this here tonight. This space is supposed to be about sharing something useful with you, something you can take with you and improve your own lives. Instead you get me, trying to exorcise my own monster, the monster of failure. It’s a big one, this monster, and its teeth and claws sink deep. And if you’ve ever felt that monster’s bite, then I guess maybe you understand how I feel, and we can just sit here and murmur sympathetically to each other, and then go about our day a little wiser, and a little more aware of the dangers.

Mostly, I just wanted to tell Schuyler that I’m sorry, terribly sorry for letting her down.



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