I did it. Epic parenting fail this week. I left my child. Just left. Forgot she was with me and got home, flopped on the sofa, talked to the hub. Then I asked, “so where’s the Princess, I promised her a book tonight?” The Man of the House looked at me as if I’d lost my mind and said, “you had her.”
That was all I could say as I raced to the car, coatless and panic-filled. I said it 74 more times as I drove the handful of blocks to our church.
Well, 74 is a good estimate.
Luckily, my singing group had gotten out early that night and when I arrived, the Princess was just finishing up and heading out to look for me. If I hadn’t parked crazily by the door as I sprinted into the church saying a little prayer that all was well, she might never have gotten a confession out of me.
And despite the fact that I got “busted,” all was well. If you’re going to screw up and leave your kid somewhere on accident, church is probably the best place to do it. I would trust the women who run the evening program for kids the same age as the Princess with her life, to be perfectly honest. They are spectacular moms. If I had forgotten her completely, the worst thing that would have happened would be that I caught some hell from them. I suppose they would tease me every time they saw me until roughly the end of time. As it is, I hesitated to post this as I suspect my minister is already compiling some zingers at my expense as he reads it – a hazard of becoming friends with the holy ones in charge, especially if they are particularly ornery.
But, it made me think: WHY did I forget her? It is simple. My routine changed. The Princess hadn’t attended the evening activities for some months, I was used to motoring to and from rehearsal solo. A simple change of routine. And that can be deadly.
A quick Google showed me that, on average, 40 kids die each year when their parents accidentally leave them in the car – mostly due to heatstroke. That’s a big number for deaths and, just as bad, 40 families each year who will never recover from the accident. I’ve tried to imagine how I would handle the guilt and utter despair those parents must live with for the rest of their lives. I don’t know if I could survive it – I’m not that strong.
When the girls were tiny, strapped solidly into car seats and vulnerable to that type of disaster, I always placed my purse beneath their feet in the back of the car. I forced myself to get in the habit while pregnant. I figured I wasn’t going anywhere without my purse and that I had decades of experience remembering it, but not much time to adjust to having a newborn or toddler. In just about every news report about children left in sweltering cars there was one common thread – a change in routine. Mom had to pick up doughnuts for a meeting at work and then, in work mode, headed off to the office. Dad usually doesn’t take the little one to daycare, so he got into his morning routine on the highway into town and forgot his child was sleeping soundly in the backseat. Routines change and we’re creatures of habit after all, so that’s when things can turn bad.
When Doodlebug was little, the Man of the House would take her to my mom’s for daycare. We called it the House of Spoils Daycare. A decade later, yep, still spoiled. But, one day he was home ill with the flu. I called and told my boss I’d be in late. Got all packed up for me, for Doodlebug and set the Man of the House up with soup, tissues and some good drugs. I felt energized, organized, like I had just accomplished something as a wife and mother. I was ready to tackle my day at the office – and as I pulled into the parking garage I hear “ooooooo!” from the backseat. Doodlebug, at about eight-months-old, had never been in a tunnel or parking garage before. She was impressed. I was distressed. I had completely forgotten to take her to my mother’s house. Now, I had put my purse in the floorboards beneath her feet, so I believe I would have discovered her in moments. But, the panic that flooded me of what might have been? Pretty hard core.
That’s the same way I felt last week. Hard core guilt. Thank goodness she was at church, surrounded by people that I’ve known for almost 20 years and that have literally known her since birth. She was safe. And lives to tease me about it. And still loves me. She also thinks I’m a good mom, so I’m going to carry that in my heart. But somehow I still feel like I should wear a scarlet hashtag on my forehead for all to see…