I think it’s safe to say that everyone has parenting moments they’re not proud of. For some, those moments have tragic consequences – like the larger-than-I-ever-want-to-wrap-my-head-around number of children who are forgotten in cars every year. In almost every one of those cases, the culprit is a change in routine – it’s not the usual parent taking the child to daycare, or not the usual grandparent looking after them, or they’re being taken to a different babysitter.
*time out, because it makes me sick to my stomach even to write about this*
Even so, when we read about one of these tragedies in the news, we collectively draw a sharp breath in and then reassure ourselves that it would never, ever happen to us. Because the alternative – that at any given time, any one of us could be that parent – is simply unthinkable.
Yesterday I went for coffee with a new friend. We had a blast – we drank coffee and chatted for literally hours. Being good moms, of course, we checked the time regularly to make sure we weren’t late picking our kids up from preschool. And when that time came, we went straight to our cars, because as I said – good moms!
And out of habit, as I got into my car, I checked my phone one last time, and my stomach dropped right down to the soles of my feet as I read the message from my neighbour:
“Ben’s at my house and he’s okay.”
Ben’s at my house and he’s okay.
How could he be okay? How could be possibly be okay? How could he possibly be okay when his mom forgot him? Forgot that he even existed?
Forgot that he would be coming home from school
Forgot that he would sneak up the driveway and throw a snowball at the living room window in the hopes of scaring the pants off her
Forgot that he would fling his boots off and run into the living room, grinning, his glasses still black from the bright sun outside
Forgot that he would search the house from top to bottom smiling nervously, expecting her to jump out and surprise him
Forgot that he would realize he was alone and start to cry
Forgot that he would look outside and see no car in the driveway
Forgot that he would go back out to stand at the end of the driveway and look up and down the street waiting for her to drive up any second
Forgot that he would stand there, alone and scared, until a neighbour stopped to help, assured him that everything was fine (How? How could it be fine?), had him leave a note, and took him to her house to wait for the mom who forgot him
He was okay, and it was fine.
But not because I could never be that parent.
He was okay, and it was fine, because I got lucky.