Fair warning: This post is words. Lots of words. Not many pictures.
Or, not any pictures at all. None. Zip. Zilch.
Ok, so for those of you who don't know, there's lots of thing that people don't warn you about before you have kids.
Like, how good the odds are that you will end up with your child's poop, pee or vomit in your mouth at least once before they turn five. Or like, how the odds of your child ending up with their own poop in their mouth at least once before the age of five are even better. OR, like how there is a very good possibility that your child, yes YOU, person who is highly educated, successful with above average intelligence, YOUR CHILD is likely to paint on your walls with their own poop, at least once, before they turn five.
For your sake, I hope they do it before the age of eighteen months, because it only gets bigger and stinkier from there, y'all.
And then there are the really scary things people don't warn you about. Things like third degree perineal tears, postpartum depression and how you aren't allowed to make any mistakes as a parent.
That last one, well that's a big one. Social media and the internet, I really feel, have created a generation of parents who are terrified of every decision they have to make in regards to parenting, because making a mistake these days isn't just a personal learning experience, or an opportunity to be an example for those around you to learn by. No, making a mistake these days sometimes creates an opportunity for the entire world to create a lynch mob and come after you in a matter of hours or in some cases even minutes. Even if you don't put your story out there, it is all too easy for someone else to do it for you. And it seems like everybody has a quick opinion these days. Not only that, but so many people feel it their personal duty to go a step further and not only have an opinion, but to make sure the person who inspires the opinion knows that they are inspiring opinions. And some truly industrious souls not only go out of their way to make their opinions about other people known, but they take the time to hand down virtual judgements, sentencing and punishments as well.
So I'm going to share this story, knowing full well that in the eyes of some people, it will make me look like a bad parent. Like a parent who deserves to lose their kid because they are terribly neglectful. I'm going to share it because I know that's not true, and because maybe there are other parents out there who are beating themselves up tonight over close calls, near misses or even horrible mistakes. You need to know that you are not alone. We all make mistakes. I'm convinced that most of us probably aren't even fully aware of just how many we actually make, and the fact that any kid makes it to adulthood is a miracle. Truly.
I couldn't sleep last night after watching the DNC coverage, so about midnight, I started combining paint remnants into a single can so I could begin painting the tannish colored walls of my living room. I'm an enormously paranoid person, and I have OCD, so this was a slow process(once you add it in, you can't take it out man!), adding yellow to blue a little at a time, and then a shade of brown and peach until I arrived at a green I liked. Around 2 a.m. I had this conversation with myself:
"What THE HELL are you doing? I mean, really, it is 2 a.m. And you're mixing paint. The kids will be up in like, four hours. You're gonna be so damn tired..."
"I know, I know. What's new? But, I just can't look at those walls anymore! So uninspiring."
"If you go to sleep, YOU WON'T HAVE TO LOOK AT THEM!"
"Ugh, why are you always yelling at me? Lame."
"Look, ok, I can compromise. Paint a big swatch and then let's meditate and go to sleep."
"Oh alright. But I'm doing it under protest."
So I painted my swatch and meditated and finally fell asleep.
My three year old was up before the sun.
He was pissy. I was pissy. Then the seven year old came downstairs and the three year old made her pissy which made me even more pissy, so we were all thoroughly pissy until nap time.
Naps did little to help defuse the pissiness. At that point I had had enough. It was time for cookies. Because dammit, when everybody is pissy, cookies and sprinkles never fail to make things better.
So we made cookies. And everybody was magically happier!
And then the three year old peed on the potty, and I mean literally ON the potty-it was like watching a monkey with a fire hose-that shizz was going everywhere, but I didn't care that I had to clean it up because he's actually trying and that's a big milestone!
This is how the day went on, just the normal ebb and flow of emotions and events that any stay at home mom experiences during summer break with more than one child-small moments of misery(tantrums and fighting) mixed with victory and joy(all the other stuff).
I've been doing a major possession de-stash over the last couple months(goal is 75% of our possessions to local charities), and was in the middle of cleaning out our small appliance cabinet when their dad decided to go to the library. He left and called me a few minutes later to ask if I wanted to read the next installment of the Outlander series. I said yes and walked from the kitchen to the dining room with the phone in one hand and a book that needed to be put away in the other. I noticed my son trying to put my tall, back rubber boots on.
"I don't think you wanna do that, Dude, you're gonna hurt you thighs," I remarked as I passed him on the way to my pie cabinet, where the book was headed. I walked back into the kitchen, phone call finished, and that's when I noticed my son was gone.
We have a fairly large home. It used to be a duplex. So when my son is not within sight, I holler so I know where he is, then go check on him if he isn't with his sister or in the next room where I can easily check on him.
I hollered. And waited. And hollered again. He didn't answer.
This is not unusual. So I started going through the rooms(there's 14), and I hollered up to his sister. I assumed he was up there(where he isn't supposed to be during the day, unless I am with him).
But he wasn't. And he wasn't answering. At this point I was starting to feel panicky. He's hidden from me before, if he's found a piece of candy or something he isn't supposed to have, but he usually gives himself away pretty quickly because he's terrible at hide and seek. Even when he hides in the house though, I worry, because he could choke on something and suffocate or who knows what else(paranoid person here).
My daughter started searching for him at that point, and I could tell that she could tell that I was starting to freak out. I went back to the kitchen thinking maybe he had lured me out so he could hop the counter to the candy jar, and that's when I noticed that the back door was wide open and my boots were gone. A glance out the back door showed me that the gate to the fence was open as well.
And that's when the literal panic set in. I barreled out the door, screaming my son's name, fear gripping my heart and lungs and throat like a vice.
All of this happened in the span of less than five minutes, but it felt like an eternity as every worst case scenario I could imagine ripped through my brain like the claws of a thousand tiny demons. You see, I am not that parent that lets their kid wander the neighborhood. I am that parent who doesn't let my kids out of my sight for fear of sex offenders, sex traffickers and rabies carrying stray cats. My kids don't even play in our fenced in yard unless I am outside with them.
I almost collided with him, for as I was running out the gate barefoot, he was plodding his way back towards my voice, wearing my black rain boots up to his thighs, a diaper, a tie dye shirt and a grin.
As I scooped him up and clutched him, arms quivering and hands shaking, a torrential rain of tears
soaked his shirt and mine.
He found it hilarious when my voice cracked as I said only the words, "You scared me!" before whisking him into the house. "Please don't ever do that again!" I croaked, as I held his squishy face in my hands.
He sighed this, like he was doing me a big favor that he didn't want do, but would do so long as it didn't inconvenience him too terribly.
And even now, several hours later, my eyes are full of tears and I feel absolutely sick to my stomach because I know all the ways that the situation could have gone wrong. I've gone over all the "what ifs". He could have been kidnapped. Or bitten by a dog. Or hit by a car. Or wandered into any one of the abandoned houses in our neighborhood and been hurt, or worse.
He didn't. But he could have.
And how would I have looked, having to explain to the police that my three year old literally walked out the door, out of my yard and into the dangers of the world, completely alone, with nobody stopping him?
Because he didn't endure or cause any harm(beyond almost giving me a heart attack) this will likely end up being just another of the many, many, MANY, funny anecdotes we look back on someday(less embarrassing to him than the myriad poop and penis stories, I'm sure), but the thing is, the fact that no permanent damage was done doesn't change the fact that a mistake was made in the first place.
Had this story ended in a different way, there's a good chance that in this day and age, I'd have people sending me death threats, calling CPS on me, telling me that I don't deserve to have kids, that I'm the worst parent in the world, and that I should go to jail, because of a very simple mistake that a very intelligent and opportunistic child took full advantage of. And I am in NO WAY blaming my child, he's three FFS, but I think sometimes we forget that children aren't little dolls that you sit and pose in a doll house, with full control over their every move. Even the most on guard parent gets one-upped occasionally. And if it has never happened to you-congratulations on your perfect life, man. Or woman. Some of us are human, and have human children, and we make mistakes.
Which is why I'm even bothering to write this post. There's so much pressure on parents these days, especially moms, to be perfect. Which makes the punishment for mistakes of every size, even if only in your own head and conscience, so much more severe.
Interestingly, my wayward son's father is not 1/10th as concerned about the incident as I am. He carries no internal pressure to be perfect, and thinks I am making a big deal about nothing. "These things happen." he said. And that's that. Can you tell he doesn't visit the interwebs much?
But me, I'm beating myself up over it all. Totally.
But only for tonight. Because you know what? I love that kid, and his sister, more than life itself. I have never been so scared as I was in those moments when I was frantically searching for my kid, thinking there was a possibility that I might never see him again. And I have never been so relieved as I was when I found him. I'm not a bad parent, just an exhausted one, who let one thing out of a thousand slip by her today, and who will pay better attention to the doors from now on.
I'm also that parent who will put herself out there for the other imperfect parents. Yo, you made a mistake and want to talk to somebody who won't judge you? I'm your girl. Let's do this.
And if talking about it doesn't make you feel better about life, we can always make cookies.