Yesterday, a terrible thing happened.
Let me preface this by saying that I am struggling to adjust to summer break. Struggling. Like … it’s good? But also horrible? Can something be good and horrible all at once? Because I’m pretty sure that is exactly what parenthood is.
Making the transition from having all three kids in school for 6+ hours per day (and working during those hours), to having them home all the time and trying to get my work done in addition to mothering in a loving fashion, is not going great. As I have already established in multiple blog posts from previous years, summer is effing relentless.
Thankfully, this year is somewhat easier than previous years simply because my children are getting older and more independent. Pepper will be 3 next week, so I think we’re finally on the upswing after a very dark time in the Valley of Motherhood.
Yesterday afternoon, we got home from playing at the park. The boys jumped out of the van, heard some kids next door playing, and asked if they could go over to play. I granted them permission and took Pepper inside. Her clothes were filthy — covered in layers of peanut butter and dirt — so I stripped her down to a diaper.
I ran to the bathroom with her trailing behind me, always my little shadow. And then, my mom called. She’s not feeling well and I can barely hear her on the phone. I was straining to understand what she was saying — did she just say she needed to go to the hospital?! — and naturally, my toddler got really loud at exactly that moment. As her shouting drowned out my mother, my stress level started to rise.
I went to my bedroom and closed the door. My daughter cried from the hall, and when she stopped, I was thankful. When I emerged only a few minutes later, the house was quiet. A panicky feeling started to rise in my chest, and then it felt like my heart stopped.
Our back door was standing wide open.
Screaming her name, I ran outside. She was gone. Or hiding. Or missing.
I heard a woman’s voice — our across the street neighbor — yelling at me that she just saw a little girl cut through the fences in the backyard.
“She went that way, sweetheart! I was standing here watching her!”
I was barefoot and it did not matter. I ran. I ran until I found her. I couldn’t feel my feet. I couldn’t feel my body. All I could hear was my own voice screaming her name, and my heartbeat deafening my ears. That is what blind panic feels like.
My 2-year-old was wandering one street over from ours, wearing nothing but her diaper. She was holding a toy pet carrier with a little stuffed dog inside. I will never forget the way her face looked when she saw the horror on mine.
“NEVER AGAIN,” I said to her.
“Not with my dog?” she said.
“NEVER, EVER. Do not ever leave this house without a grown up,” I said, as I wiped away my tears.
I’m sharing this story to demonstrate how quickly children can disappear. How many times have I heard stories of toddlers wandering the streets and thought to myself, WHERE WAS THE MOTHER?
That mother is me. I was right there. It happened anyway.
I’m a damn good mom. I am capable. I am aware. I am not negligent. But children are fast. And sometimes quiet. And things happen. So today I’m hugging my babies tight, grateful for their safety, knowing that sometimes other mamas aren’t so lucky.
(If you liked this post, then you should follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!)
I have to lock the doors when I go to the bat now after my neighbor returned my 2&4yo to me from the middle of the road!
They can stray so quickly.
I’m so glad your daughter is ok.
On the day we moved into our new house, it was complete chaos. We had several friends and families over helping us and I was keeping an eye on the kids….when i wasn’t helping lift and carry something from the truck into the house.
At some point, our neighbors from across the street came over to introduce himself, and bring back our 2 yo daughter whom he had found playing on their front yard.
Thank goodness we live on a quiet cul de sac and have wonderful neighbors.
It can happen in an instant.
Thanks for sharing. Such a scary experience. I was that mom one day in Disney. Literally 2 seconds and my whole world turned inside out. I felt my heart jump out of my chest. I’m thankful that I was able to recover my son and have him in my arms, healthy and safe. Glad you have yours as well.
All the internet warriors who say they never ever ever take their eyes off their kids for even one second, not even to take a photo at a family outing, are big fat liars.
Hi I’ve been following you on instagram for a while @moreton_clan and my hubby introduced me to your blog 😉 I recently experienced the intense sick, horror filled moment when you realise your child is missing – we just came back from a holiday in Orlando meeting up with our relatives from England (we’re in Australia) and our last theme park was Legoland. With a 5 & 3 yr old, you can imagine their excitement….fast forward to the end of the day…throngs of people exiting the park with 10 min before offical closing. We entered THE smallest of the shops…hubby & I had 2 strollers boys hopped out…approx 2 min after entering 5 yr old says “where’s Asher?” …. “I don’t know honey, where is he?…..” the employee on the door, said “I assumed he was with the man that he walked out with” THAT WAS THE MOMENT MY HEART LITERALLY MISSED.A.BEAT. My hubby ran to the exit…I ran outside standing on a wall scouring the crowds passing by with overtired, whingy children thinking how easy it would be at this time of the day to slip by with just another screaming 3 year old. In spite of tears running down my face, clearly distressed only one person stopped and asked if I had lost someone….”my little boy” “is that him” …..and there he was dressed in bright yellow with a red hat on (deliberately bright & bold – but pointless in Legoland 😉 ) in a photobooth …I raced to him, scooped him up & with big eyes he looked at me and said – “Mummy! you gave me a fright!” The man who stopped to help me was lucky I had my hands full hugging & kissing this little 3yr old or I’d have clung to him & kissed him with thanks. My husband & I never want to feel like that ever again – It was probable about 7-9 minutes in total but felt like hours. We know how careful we are….and yet he slipped away unnoticed. Don’t beat yourself up though, you’re a great Mum – and keep writing. Tara
LikeLiked by 1 person
It happens to the best of us. Thank you so much for sharing this scary incident. I have heard horror stories of toddlers getting out in the cold of winter…
We just got back from dinner at the food trucks, where they block off a side street and twelve trucks gather for a feast/street party complete with live music. Usually the boys (twins, age 3) stay close and run atound in circles, maybe stopping to gawk at babies or couples on dates eating.
Fortunately, it is also a favorite of the police in the bordering town. I say that because the boys always walk up , wave and say “Po Po”. Luckily these guys have a sense of humor., because tonight, while one boy rushed between the sawhorses that do nothing to deter beastly little boys from running into traffic, the other went undetected down the other end and ran down the sidewalk right past the police cars. After securing the boy playing chicken in traffic, i start scanning the crowd for the other. He’s on the other end of the trucks trying to dodge two people by going into the other street. I grabbed him just as his favorite “Po Po” walks up. He was nice about it, and then got to watch both of them throw a holy shit fit because we refused to give them ice cream. I had to sit them on the ground and out yell them about running away from us and getting hit by a car and going to the hospital where they give lots of shots and don’t let you go home with mama and dada.
Yup, mother of the year award, NOT.
FYI, we have to alarm our house doors, because the boys have been known to steal the minivan key fob and head out there buck naked while we are asleep. We ‘ve been awakened by the car horn, radio blaring and windshield wipers going with all doors wide open. With an audience of passers by watching my boys waggling their weiners at the crowd forming.
So whatever your cutie does, I promise you, the world judges twin moms, especially of boys, exponentially harsher.
And I embrace it when an A-hole comes up to scold me for leaving my PURSE behind as I rescued my babies from certain death. I told him to go ahead and take it. If he thinks I should stop to grab my 15 pound purse as a boy is rushing into traffic , then obviously he values money over human life and should just take it. The comment “it’s not an either/or thing” showed why its a good thing very few crotchety single middle aged men are mothers.
We moms may make mistakes but we ROCK in a crisis. There would be a dead baby epidemic if we left that loser in charge.
Remember, no matter what your kid does, just keep grabbing them back from the brink and you’ll be fine.
I was standing at the till in a large sports store with my six and four yr olds by my legs. I looked down and my four yr old had gone. He’d run out through the automatic sliding doors (while I was paying) and was twirling himself around a lamppost. It happens…its terrifying. Glad your little girl was safe
My daughter just did this at Food Lion. I was paying. The three kids 3 and under were all in my vision. Turned to pay. The just turned 2-year-old was gone. I screamed “where is she?” Guy with two KIDS yelled, “I think that’s her in the parking lot.” Hmm. Yes my fault completely. But was he really watching her leave the store and go to our van? Crazy! But yes, I am a hyper-vigilant social worker, attentive, strict momma who has a fast 2-year-old. Now she says “no food lion doors open” as we rehearse it on a daily basis.” Yikes!