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Thursday, March 14, 2013

One Mistake Is All It Takes

I had a scary reminder today as to why I chose Mediocre Mom as my blog name.

Most days, if we don't have time for a walk, I put Juliette and the toddlers into the car to pick up Luke from school at 3pm. We drive the 2 minutes it takes to get there, and I park very illegally in the loading dock area for the cafeteria, because it's right next to Luke's classroom and I can leave the car running and walk up to his classroom door without ever having to take my eyes off of my car or travel more than 10 yards from them.  It's a huge blessing that his classroom is situated in this way--last year I had to unload the stroller and all 3 younger ones because his classroom was deeper inside the school.

I'm getting to the scary reminder...

When we get home I pull the car up right in front of the house, unload baby #1 and older two kids get out on their own. I open the front gate and plop Jackson down in the grass, closing the gate behind me. Older two let themselves into the house.  I don't try to bring baby#1 all the way into the house at this point because A.they prefer to be outside, they cry if I take them straight from the car to the living room without giving them a chance to play in the front yard. and B. bringing baby #1 inside means I am leaving baby#2 in the car by himself longer than I feel good about. It happens, but it freaks me out. So anyway, I put baby #1 into the yard, close the gate behind me, and unbuckle baby #2 from his carseat.

I gave Lincoln a few cheek kisses while I'm unbuckling him because he was so patient, and he's smiling, grabbing the sunglasses off of my face as I walk back toward the gate, and my heart stops.
The gate is wide open.
In the same moment that I notice the gate I do a scan of the yard but he's not there. When I look down the sidewalk I see him, past the neighbor's house and standing on the edge of the sidewalk, about to step onto Virginia St, an unnecessarily busy street about 15 yards from my house.
I scream his name, but he doesn't acknowledge me. My heart is racing, I toss Lincoln into the gate and slam it shut as I take off toward the baby, who has now stepped into the street. in the next 3 seconds I see him walking into the center of the street, I see a woman on the other side of Virginia, trying to get off her bike to get him, and I see a stopped car, that had the driver not been paying attention, would have hit him. Myheart is in my throat as I scoop him into my arms, barely able to slow myself before I make contact with him. I wave a quick thank you to the strangers who may have saved his life, and I walk back to the house, holding him close. He is whining and squirming because I ruined his adventure and am holding him too tightly.  I notice I am barefoot and discover my sandals on the sidewalk that I don't remember kicking off during my sprint. I walk back in to the yard and find Lincoln contenting himself with the wheel of a bicycle, which is where I would have found Jackson if the gate had shut all the way when I put him down in the yard. 
And then the tears come.
I am conscious of my breathing so I don't become hysterical but the tears come anyway, and I stand there, staring at the boys, with my hands covering my mouth and nose to stifle the crying. Even as I am typing I can't stop the tears from welling up again, I can't erase the image of seeing Jackson's little body, standing with his back to me, 15 yards from me, walking into the road, ignoring my voice, too far away to save him if a car came right then. I would have had a front row seat to the worst image I would ever encounter, but it wouldn't have been close enough to do anything about it. I can't stop my mind from imagining what he would have looked like getting hit and killed in front of me.
I could have lost Jackson. I could have witnessed it. I could have ruined my family. I was careless. I didn't deserve to have a chance to pick up and carry him home. 

It's all so real because three nights ago a 2 yr old boy in Key Largo wandered from his house and before his family noticed, he was gone. Hit by a car on US1, in the middle of the night. His mother found his lifeless little body on the side of the road. A hit and run right before midnight. He had managed to unlock the door and he left the house, unbeknownst to his parents.

When I heard about it two days ago, I mindfully squelched the judgemental thoughts about the parental neglect, and I instead let my heart break thinking of losing a child that way, and for that mother.  But I pushed it from my mind right after, because it was too painful to even try to imagine.

And now, as if my mind is broken, I just keep seeing my 1.5 year old walking into that road, about to repeat that horrible tragedy that befell that little baby boy from Key Largo.

I don't care how many times I smile at you and say it isn't so bad, that twins are not as demanding as everyone suspects.  It IS harder. Twins change the rules of parenting and exceptions are made: what was unnacceptable for my singletons suddenly becomes par for the course with the twins.  If I didn't have to go back to get Lincoln out of the car, I never would have left Jackson's side in that moment. I would have noticed that the gate wasn't closed all the way.  I would have seen him pulling it open the moment he did so. I would have at the very least, caught him taking his first 2 steps out of the gate, instead of letting 60 seconds go by before I noticed he was out.
I don't care how capable you think you are, or how careful.  Being the steward of one of God's children is hard, and being the steward of 2 is harder. The challenges and risks increase. Most of the time I feel very in control; competent in my abilities to keep them all safe. But after today I am shaken to the core, I am no different than that mom from Key Largo, except that I was allowed to keep my baby and bring him home alive, and she wasn't.

One mistake and he's gone.

Dear God, forgive me for neglecting to pull the gate closed. Thank you for protecting Jackson. Help me to get this image out of my mind.  And please Father, help that mother in Key Largo to do the impossible--to someday be able to forgive herself. 
Amen.