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.
Oh Karyn, that just rips my heart out. Thank you for writing something so beautifully raw and honest, something that puts you in the line of fire for criticism from the “I’d never do that” crowd. Back in the summer when I read all those stories about parents leaving their kids in the car, I too was that person saying “how could anyone EVER forget their child?” But, as I’ve parented longer and realized the huge margin for human error in this whole parenting thing, I’ve stepped off my high horse and admitted that it easily could be me in those shoes someday, any day. I hope you’re not beating yourself up too much about this. Your son is fine and children have short memories. One mistake doesn’t change who you are as a mother, just as one success doesn’t either. Go easy on yourself, mama 🙂
Thank you so much for the kind words! =)
Karyn, my heart was breaking for you as I read this and can totally relate as somedays I would forget my head if it weren’t attached to my body as I truly am just that forgetful sadly. I have no excuse myself either except that I truly have that much I suppose to remember. I write myself notes and still I can totally forget. The worst was at the end of the summer when I missed my older daughter’s kindergarten orientation, which I had on my calendar for months as I messed up the days somehow still. So, you truly aren’t alone here on this by any means.