Thursday, May 17, 2007

I Am That Mother

I had a lovely, relaxing morning, from the time my snooze alarm went off at 7:35, and for about 6 minutes thereafter. And then I found out the price I had paid for that relaxation!

Some background: Wake-up time for all of my kids has started to get earlier, although I'm not sure why. Zack tends to be the first one up, somewhere around 6:30-6:45, but by 6:45 the other boys are usually up too. But as the first one up, Zack comes into my room to get me to turn on the tv for him, and fetch him a morning beverage. I can do this half-asleep and then get back in bed until the alarm goes off, knowing that shortly the other kids will be up, and none of them do anything other than watch tv and bicker that early. Even the bickering is only half-hearted most of the time.

So when I slept straight through to my alarm this morning, I didn't think much of Zack not waking me up. I figured he had wandered downstairs to find someone else already watching tv. This was not the case.

I was stretched out on my bed alone, because apparently my pregnancy snoring has finally driven the wedge into our marriage that unemployment, children, and other stress has not, and he has found some other room to sleep in. Okay, I'm just joking here - this doesn't reflect on our marriage, just on the fact that he is a light sleeper and my snoring has gotten as loud as a bull elephant thundering through the savannah. Even with the white noise machine (sounds of the ocean), a fan on, and earplugs, he has had a hard time sleeping.

So it was nice and peaceful this morning and I enjoyed it for about 6 whole minutes. Then, just as I was about to get up and see Brad off to school, he walks into my room and says, and I quote, "We got Zack back."

"Back? What do you mean? Where was he to get him back from?"

"He was at the neighbor's house since 6:30 this morning, and they just brought him back."

"HE WAS WHERE??!? SINCE 6:30??!?"

"Yeah, she brought him back a minute ago and said he was over there playing since 6:30."

I went downstairs and sure enough, there he was, sitting on the floor in his pj's, watching Arthur with his binkie and blankie. When he saw me, he requested a cup of milk, which I made like an automaton, because I couldn't think about what I was doing, I was too busy processing what had happened during my extra hour of sleep.

I realized that I am that mother. The one you think about when you hear stories of a two year old in just a soggy diaper wandering down the side of a freeway at midnight. You think, Where is that kid's mother? And when the news report says she had been asleep and the kid had left without her knowing, you think, Yeah, right, and how much had she had to drink that night? She's passed out on the couch, right? With her trailer trash boyfriend or something? And you're picturing where she lives and it's a total dump with a weedy front lawn and a rusted out pick-up truck in the backyard, a early-90's model Ford Escort in the driveway next to a brand-new Chevy truck, the kind that requires a stepstool to get into, because the boyfriend needed proof of his manliness. And when she opens the door for the police and the news reporters, she's obviously pregnant and has a one year old on the floor and when they give back the two year old, she hadn't even realized he was missing yet.

Well, folks, that's me. The details (other than the obviously pregnant part) are different, but it might as well be me. I had a two year old wandering the neighborhood and didn't even know he was missing until after he had been returned. I had visions of myself being interviewed in my ratty pajamas and bed hair, saying over and over that he had never done this before, none of my kids have, with the reporter silently judging me the way the rest of America would. Thank goodness he had gone to a friend's house instead of heading for the gas station to pick up a cold one!

I went outside to get the newspaper and the neighbors who had found/rescued my son were in their garage getting ready to leave. I went over and apologized and said, "If you ever see my kid at 6:30, please call me!" She said that she rang the doorbell, but no one answered, and didn't want to wake me up, so she just kept him. She said that he had told her that he had gone out the back door, through the gate, and out into the front yard, which is pretty much what I had imagined had happened. She said her main concern was that I would wake up and not be able to find him and panic... Which is right on the money, had I woken up and not found him I don't know what I would have done. I reiterated to her to please just wake me up next time and I apologized over and over.

Although I hope that there never is a next time, I'm not dumb enough to think that I've dodged that bullet forever. If it's not this kid leaving the house at 6:30, it might be my next one. Or it could be my other kids doing something equally as stupid that is going to make me look like That Mother on Television With No Control Over Her Kids.

Just yesterday, DH and I had a discussion about how every single prayer we say includes a request for the safety and protection of our kids, and it would sound like vain repetition, except that we both mean it fervently every single time. That discussion was spurred by another incident involving Zack. This time he and his twin friends (the same ones who rescued him this morning) had gotten out a big yellow dump truck that we have, dragged it to the top of the driveway at the top of our cul-de-sac (which slopes downward), sat Zack in the back of the truck, and let him go.

He flew down the driveway, across the cul-de-sac, while I watched, hoping that when he crashed it wouldn't knock out a tooth, like Noah did trying the same type of stunt (on a tricycle, though, the dump truck aspect was new). Fortunately, he veered to the left and ended up running into the curb right in front of my house, where I proceeded to tell him to "Never, Ever, Ever! do that again, do you understand me?" He agreed, as did the other kids involved whose mothers gave them similar lectures, because it was obvious that they all considered this a successful test run and they were just waiting their turn to try it.

As I turned my back to walk over to my chair where I had been sitting, he dragged the dump truck back out into the street, but instead of taking it up the driveway for a good running start, he just plopped in the back of the truck and took off again. Our street is slanted downward, and within a few seconds he had picked up some speed, so much so that no matter how fast I attempted to run after him to stop him (quite a sight as you can imagine) he was way faster than me. The problem is the other road that meets our street - no car would think to look for a two year old in a dump truck flying out of the intersection, and I knew that if he got that far it would be terrifyingly dangerous.

Again, fortunately, he veered to the left and crashed into a curb in front of the last house in the cul-de-sac, and this time when he was dumped out of the truck like so many boulders, he hurt his arm and leg and started crying. Good, I told him, that should teach you a lesson. I carried the dump truck back up the street and threw it into the backyard, intending for it to stay back there, although you can see that what goes in the backyard doesn't necessarily stay in the backyard.

So as I pray today, I will not only add thanks for keeping Zack safe during his morning constitutional, but for the dump truck incident, and for all of the other incidents that I am not around to witness and the kids are smart enough not to tell me about. For as many injuries as our kids have had (many, many stitches, smashed fingers in doors, a concussion) I am realizing that the ones that happen are just the tip of the iceberg of narrow escapes, most of which I think I don't want to know about. Like the girl riding her bike through the school drop-off area today, who had her head turned behind her to talk to her friend, who would have hit my stopped car except that I honked at her - you better believe she's not telling her mom that she almost got hit by a car today. (I wouldn't have hit her, I saw her and stopped, but she was about a foot away from hitting me!)

But for now, I'm going to ask you, the next time you see a tv report of a child who did something stupid, think a little more kindly on the mom. Next time, it could be me!

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