Two years on from the Foxglove Poisoning

Two years. Two years have passed since Esme’s Adventure with Foxgloves. Today is a similar sort of day, it’s warm and dry, just the sort of day for running around the fields catching falling leaves (if you catch one before it hits the floor you get to make a wish), but today I’m staying in. 

I might wander into the garden later, let the wind blow away the cobwebs, but for now I’m content on this side of the window. Watching the bluetits squabble over the bird feeder, and the red kite get tossed this way and that in the gusty sky. 

Today is the day that I can’t pretend. I can’t pretend that I don’t hold a deep-seated fear. I can’t pretend that I don’t sometimes look at Esme and think, “What if..?” 

I have been so careful not to fall into the dangerous trap of overprotectiveness. It would be a false-safety to never let her learn that the world is not all soft edges. She is hardy and sensible and brave. 

Her younger brother is now older than Esme was when she ate those Foxglove leaves. It almost feels like an invisible threshold has passed. I have so many blessings to count. So very many, but today it is ok to just sit and wallow for a while. 

We don’t take enough time to wallow. Someone always has it worse. We can always look for the good, but ignoring pain just lets it sneak up on you when you’re not looking. I still cannot listen to the song that was playing in Intensive Care without tears. It came on the radio the other day. It didn’t know better, it wasn’t aware that it shouldn’t have. Oh the tears. Not even crying, no heaving sobs, or gulping breaths, just a silent river of tears that have to take their course and wend their way. 

Two years ago Esme ate Foxglove leaves and became incredibly ill. Today she is healthy and happy with a head full of golden curls and an impish grin. 

Just as I was frustrated two years ago about the lack of meaning in such a horrible accident, I am frustrated now by the same. There is no greater meaning when bad things happen. There is no personal growth. I have not learned and become a better person for it. 

But, that doesn’t mean you can’t create meaning. People shared Esme’s story and maybe one day it will stop another accident happening. I have learned not to fight against my anger and pain, but to let it wash over me. I’d prefer not to have the anger and pain, but hey, you can’t have everything, and they are different with time added to the mix. Those ripples in the pond are becoming smaller with greater gaps in between. 

The world keeps turning, children keep doing ridiculously stupid things, we keep doing our best. 

And the happiness? The happiness is in the little moments. Morning elbow drops from small people, feeding the birds, making wishes on oak leaves. 

Today’s wish will be for more small happinesses. You can keep your flashy ecstasies, I’ll take running through sheets hanging on a line, or watching TV cuddled in front of a roaring fire, or looking for shells on a beach over your big stuff. 

Give me small moments, and give me lots of them, and you can have your occasional river of tears. 


Being rational and reasonable doesn’t mean avoiding all the risks.

Spring has well and truly sprung, and for the first time, after a long and water-logged winter, we are heading back out into the garden.

I am going to be honest and say it doesn’t feel as safe as it did. I think the children are now utterly sick of my quick reminders not to eat anything, or to let anyone else eat anything, or to tell me if they think someone might have eaten anything, or or or…

I’ve spent a bit of time checking there’s nothing immediately deadly where the children will play, but I can’t quite seem to be able to get rid of the niggling doubt that I’ve missed something.

I won’t be planting potatoes this year, or rhubarb. There won’t be any dangerous leaves in my vegetable patch. Not yet. Not until she’s bigger.

I know that fear stems from failing to spot the danger when it happened. I know that I was too blasé about the likelihood of any of the children eating a poisonous plant. Or perhaps I was right to be blasé and actually we are just a strange anomaly.

All parenting is risk assessment. We look at how likely a bad thing happening is, we weigh that against the benefits of doing things and the negatives of missing out. 

I’m sure the risk of me crashing whilst driving the kids to school this morning, far outweigh the risks of any of the children coming to harm playing in the garden. But the garden makes me feel more anxious, for obvious reasons.

In a car you reduce risk by driving sensibly, using appropriate child seats, there are ways to minimise risk.

And that’s all you can do. Minimise risk and then let your children live.

I keep telling myself that once Esme is a vaguely rational human, she will understand, and the fear will go. But until then I want to keep her safe.

The urge to strap her into a swing or a chair is sometimes strong. I want to wrap her up in cotton wool. For the selfless reason of keeping her safe, and for the selfish reason, that I want freedom from the fear.

But then she’d miss out. She wouldn’t get to feel the warm grass on her bare feet in the summer. She wouldn’t get to lie on her back and look for monsters in the clouds. She wouldn’t get to watch snails unfurl, or worms wiggle, or hunt for grasshoppers and watch them leap. She wouldn’t get to touch and feel and enjoy the world. Not until she was rational. Then maybe she’d be too rational to enjoy it at all.

How many two year olds worry about the consequences of digging in mud? How many adults wouldn’t bother because they’d have to clean up?

I won’t be having Foxgloves in the garden any time soon. But I will one day. The bumble bees like them, and I like bumble bees.

One day Esme will be sensible, but if she gets there by being restricted, if she gets there by not experiencing as much, then I’ve failed her. I’m not going to fail her again.

Which means for now I’ll have to watch her that little bit closer. I’ll be that little bit less comfortable. Because to choose not to let her live would be to take the wrong lesson from her experience. It would be taking a meaning from her hurt, that would hurt her more.

And that can only be a bad thing.