Every Friday this month, I will be posting fiction. This is a challenge from my friend Molly Field over at her blog Grass Oil, and several other women are also participating. Please visit their sites as well so you can read what they wrote with the same prompt!
Winter vacation was over, and it was finally time to get the kids back into a routine. Baths and showers, then some reading and cuddling before drifting off to dreamland. The older boys, fourteen year old Brad and seventeen year old Steven, both had classes early in the morning and athletics zero period. They took less prompting during the bedtime rituals but inevitably stayed up later than the two little boys, five-year old Anderson and nine-year old Robert, who responded well to their mother’s bedtime structure. The middle child, a twelve-year-old girl Ella, was at that age when she wasn’t quite little anymore, but she also wasn’t quite grown up and independent. Tweenagers float around in that in-between stage for a while, looking up to the bigger kids and looking down on the littler kids.
Amanda Keilsth quit her job as a teacher to become a stay home mom when her fourth child was born. She was thankful her husband, Richard, had a thriving practice as a neurosurgeon and that she had the opportunity to devote her life to her kids and the running of the household. They were both well-educated professionals and spent their lives building their family one step at a time. Even as a busy teacher, when she was pregnant she read all the “what to expect” books and went to the Lamaze classes. She got prenatal care for all the babies, read parenting books, and did the best job she could at balancing her job at school with her job at home as a wife and mother. When the fourth child was on its way, she and her husband decided it was time for her to stop teaching and stay home full-time. After having three children already, she knew the demands a new baby presented and wanted more time to be available to her family. When their fifth child was born, Amanda and Richard decided to stop having kids, and they were most thankful for the blessings of a big family.
The alarms started going off at 5:30am. She got up without hitting the snooze button, despite feeling exhausted, and made a hot breakfast for her teenagers before they headed off to school for athletics. The sun wasn’t up yet, and she praised them for their tenacity in sports and their self-discipline to get up so early without complaining and go on their way to meet expectations. She gave them big hugs and told them to do their best, just like she did every day.
“No texting and driving. I love you!” she said as they got into the car. No response. Oh well, teenagers were never known for their shows of affection to their mothers.
Her husband left next and told her he loved her and that she was a good mom. She smiled to herself and thought she was doing a good job and how nice it was to hear it. Being their mom was the best and most important job she could imagine.
Ella had to be at school about ten minutes earlier than the two little boys, so after breakfast, brushing teeth, getting dressed, and packing backpacks, they headed outside to her brand new BMW. Mr. Keislth knew how much his wife wanted a new car, so he surprised Amanda for Christmas, complete with a giant red bow just like in the television commercials.
She buckled the boys into the back seat, and her daughter asked if she could sit in the front seat since it was a brand new car.
“Honey, the sign on the visor right there says children under thirteen are at risk in the front seat because of the air bag.”
“Mom, come on. I’m almost thirteen. Please, I’m sick of you treating me like a baby. Anderson doesn’t even have his booster seat in this new car. Why does he get to ride without it? There’s not enough room to fit all three of us in the back seat” she complained, trying to persuade her mom to change her mind.
“One time. That’s it. And I don’t want to hear any more about it ok?”
“Deal.” Ella said as her smile grew as wide as her face and the look of anticipation lit up her pretty green eyes. She got in the front seat, buckled up, and little Anderson sat right on the seat not really sure what to think.
Amanda’s phone went off as she pulled away from the house and turned right to drive out of the neighborhood.
“Oh yea, I’m totally Instagramming this.” Ella said as she took a selfie and posted right away about sitting in the front seat of the car.
Amanda tried to see who just texted her but couldn’t quite tell since she was also navigating the wheel and a hot cup of coffee. Her phone kept going off as it lay on the center console.
“No texting and driving mommy.” Ella reminded her sarcastically.
“I’ll check when we stop at the stop sign” she replied with authority. “And stop sassing me young lady” she added.
Robert was playing minecraft on his itouch in the back seat oblivious to the quarreling in the front seat. Anderson tried to see out the window but wasn’t quite tall enough, so he started squirming.
When Amanda stopped at the stop sign, she put her coffee in the holder and picked up her phone to check the texts. Before she finished reading the first one, they were hit from behind. Another teenager in the neighborhood was late for high school and was speeding while also on his phone. He didn’t see the stopped car in front of him.
The noise was incredible. Broken glass, metal crunching, airbags, and screams echoed as the moment took place in an instant that felt like forever. Amanda fell unconscious. EMS arrived on the scene, and they were careflighted to help at a nearby hospital.
Amanda woke up in the hospital. The last thing she remembered was putting down her coffee and checking her texts. The next thing she knew, the doctors told her that only Robert survived the accident. The front airbags deployed, and since she wasn’t quite tall enough to be sitting in the front seat, the passenger airbag broke Ella’s neck. Anderson’s seat belt didn’t fit him right properly on his lap and chest, and he died from complications of the trauma to his neck and stomach. Only she and Robert, who were restrained properly survived the crash. They had injuries and faced months of physical therapy, but they had their lives.
“How could you let this happen?” Her husband asked her frantically. They were both in shock and disbelief.
Amanda felt empty inside. She knew that the children were trusted in her care, and she failed to follow basic safety instructions. She felt responsible for her two children dying. She learned that no matter how much you do for your children, no matter how good of a mom you feel like, a momentary lapse of judgement when it comes to safety can make it all a moot point.
She never got the chance to make a little child sit in his or her booster again, but she never let Robert ride in the front seat before the age of thirteen. The Kielsths started a foundation called EllAnderson to spread awareness of basic safety precautions that every parent should take using the CDC’s recommendations found here:
They could never get their kids back, but they hoped to prevent future tragedies from happening. Lesson learned.
- What Is the Minimum Age a Child Should Be to Sit in the Front Seat? (newgrandmas.com)
- Airbags Safe Insane? – Special Report (motortrend.com)