Posts Tagged ‘mistakes’


Monday, September 17th, 2012

There’s a post I’ve almost finished in my drafts folder right now that I was going to put up today. It’s long and a little rambling, but basically boils down to “Check me out, I am an awesome mom!”

I will not be posting it.

On Friday, I took the kids to the playground for a playdate with one of Evan’s best friends. We had the same playdate exactly a week earlier, at which Caroline fell off a step and bumped her head. She had a little mark but was fine within seconds, although she told me about her “pay-ound bump” at least 10 times a day.

That is what we call “foreshadowing”. I also call it “Suzanne is too stupid to learn a lesson the universe tried to teach her and her baby pays the price.”

At the playground, Caroline decided she wanted to play with the boys instead of swing. I was glad for the chance to just sit and talk to my friends while the kids ran around. It’s not a huge playground and there were only two other parents there. I laughed when one of the other dads volunteered to help Caroline climb up to the slide – she turned her back on him and said “NO!” as she scrambled up herself. Hahahaha my silly daughter, so independent! I love that I can let her do her own thing! Look at me over here, chatting and checking Facebook!

I’m not exactly sure what happened next. My friend Cheri had walked over to check on the kids and I was replying to a message on my phone when I heard her say “Evan you can’t push Caroline!” I started to get up, snapping “Evan! Don’t push your sister!” like I do at least hundred times a week when I saw Caroline fall backwards off the very top of the 6 foot tall playscape.


She fell flat on her back, or as flat as you can fall when you head is half your body weight. My world divided into two at that moment – my physical actions and things I said out loud versus my racing thoughts and worries and the part of my brain that was so terrified it froze in one long high pitched buzz.

In my head it registered that it was good news that she was crying – it meant she was conscious and breathing.  One of us picked her up, but I can’t remember if Cheri grabbed her and handed her to me or if I sprinted from my picnic table fast enough to scoop her up myself. I stripped off her dress to check for obvious bruises or bleeding or anywhere a bone might be sticking through her skin. No bones, no blood. She was crying pretty badly, but I couldn’t tell if it was a scared cry or a pain cry.

Then my brave, independent girl pushed me away and tried to climb back up to take her turn on the slide. She only made it one step before she started crying even harder, grabbing the front of her throat and saying “neck neck neck!” over and over. My brain started buzzing louder, shouting at me that I never should have picked her up at all and who knows what kind of damage I could have caused to her neck or spine. My body held her gently and walked back to the picnic table to grab my bag so we could go to the hospital. I calmly ordered Evan off the playground and into his car seat. He was not happy about leaving. Thank God Cheri knows my kids well enough to be totally comfortable wrestling the screaming 3 year old into the car while she explained to him that pushing Caroline was naughty and she was hurt so we had to go to the hospital. He was pretty upset and by the time we reached the ER both kids were tear-soaked, not to mention filthy from the playground. I think the second luckiest part of the day was that no one called CPS on me. (In fact, the entire staff was nothing but kind and sympathetic and ready to do anything to help us.)

The luckiest part of the day is that after two CAT scans and a chest X-ray, the pediatric emergency doctor cleared Caroline of a concussion, head injury, or spinal injury. Her lungs are fine, her brain is fine, her speech is still clear. Her collar bone, on the other hand, is not. She broke it on the left side, a clear break on the chest X-ray although from the outside all she has is a tiny bit of swelling.

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything they can do for a 20 month old with a broken collar bone. For the next 4 to 6 weeks her little body is going to spend all its extra energy healing the break and I’m supposed to keep her still and quiet. She is only allowed Motrin or Tylenol for the pain (and all the popsicles she wants).

In the meantime, I get to spend every day of the next 4-6 weeks (and probably the next 40-60 years) thinking about what a crappy mother I am. I let this happen. If I had been right there next to her I could have grabbed her arm. I could have caught her. I could have stopped Evan from pushing before anyone got hurt. Yes, it was an accident, but a more cautious, careful, attentive mother would have stopped it. My “let them do their own thing!” approach means my baby is literally broken. I can’t stop thinking about how lucky I am that she wasn’t injured more seriously – if she’d fallen at just a slightly different angle the results could have been tragic.

I appreciate people trying to make me feel better, but I don’t think I actually deserve to feel better. She could have fallen, even if I was right there. Maybe trying to catch her would have made it worse. But the combination of being distracted by my phone and her breaking a bone is the kind of thing that gets written in newspaper stories filled with words like “negligent”, “unfit”, “irresponsible” and “failure”. I now have definitive proof I’ve been doing this mothering thing wrong, and it’s an X-ray of my tiny little girl’s broken part. My own parts feel almost as broken.

I wasn’t paying enough attention and Caroline got hurt. The end.

Smack Judgement

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The internet, from Facebook to Instagram, is full of scathing reports of parents behaving badly in public. From shouting at their kids in Walmart to spanking them in the bathroom stall at Disney world, we love to call out others for their mistakes. We can make them sound like monsters, terrible adults taking preying on the defenseless, unable to control their emotions and anger. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT, we shout into the series of tubes, SO SHOCKING.

Today, I am sure someone is gleefully reporting on the mother they saw hit her three year old at the zoo. AWFUL.

That mother was me. I smacked Evan, right out in the open for God and the Italian ice girl and the wrinkled, judging eyes of the elephants to see.  He staggered sideways, his eyes filling with tears as I picked him up and held him while casting furtive glaces around to see if anyone was calling Child Protective Services. No one went that far, but the looks I got made my scalp prickle.

The whole thing was an accident, but even if you suspected that you have already started judging me. I was explaining elephants to Caroline, crouched slightly to point out their ears and tusks and big feet at a level she could understand both physically and developmentally. Evan was tired of the elephants – “Mommy, don’t wanna see the elephants! Wanna see the tortoises, fighting tortoises Mommy, this way!” (To lighten the tone of this post, I’ll tell you the tortoises weren’t fighting but since that’s what Evan called the thing they were doing – and doing loudly – I didn’t correct him.) In his excitement, Evan grabbed my leg and yanked, twisting me off balance. As I tipped toward the pavement I flung my arms out involuntarily and one of them connected with the side of his body. It hurt me more than it hurt him, truly. He was surprised and shocked but not actually injured. I swallowed my quick flash of adrenaline and hugged him as tight as I could, murmuring apologies and looking for bruises.

But if you had also been looking at the elephant’s ears and tusk and big feet you would have turned when you heard the unmistakable sound of flesh hitting flesh followed by a crying child. You would have seen a mother looking guilty and ashamed and a little boy saying “I sorry Mommy! Please don’t hit me!” You would have judged and condemned. You might have tweeted or taken a picture of us as we walked away to put on Instagram. You might have shared what you had seen with your message board. I might have done the same, before I was on the other end.

We are reminded all the time not to judge other people’s choices. “You don’t know what they’re going through” we chant, “You don’t know their circumstances. Do what is right for your family.” But we make exceptions for the Really Bad Things. We know we are better than Those People and Those Choices and no matter what they say there is No Excuse. And sometimes that is true. I’m not saying you should doubt your instincts if you see a child being harmed or in danger. But I am saying things are not always what they look like, even when you see them with your own eyes, and maybe a private yet public social media shaming shouldn’t be your first reaction.

Parking Lot Police

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Yesterday morning at Target I had an experience that left me feeling alternately overwhelming guilt and extreme anger (neither of which seems warranted but I’m really tired and overly emotional right now).

The kids and I haven’t left the house since last Thursday and if it was up to me we probably wouldn’t leave again until it’s consistently above 70 degrees, but a lack of cold medicine and Goldfish drove us from our cave and out into the world. And by world I mean Target. We actually did pretty well getting ready and packing up to go so it was early when we got to the store.

Now, with one child, my standard method of getting said child into a store was to park as close to a cart return as possible, toss my bag over one shoulder and carry the child to one of the carts in the return. Then I don’t have to worry about anyone running away or distracting me in a Dangerous Parking Lot Situation and we roll right into the store. The problem is with TWO children – especially when one weighs upwards of 30 lbs and the other is sleeping in a bucket seat – is I cannot carry them both safely at the same time. It is possible but not easy and not something I like to do, especially with the toddler in his current state of extreme defiance. I just don’t trust him not to thrash out of my arm when I’ve only got one to hold him with. So what I try to do when I have both kids with me is park directly next to the cart return (even if it means parking super far away from the store)(I actually prefer far away because then no one parks so close to your doors you can barely fit in the space to get the kids into the seats), lock the car, grab a cart and bring it back to the car to load the kids one at a time. I’ve always felt very comfortable with this situation, because my proximity to the car at all times means even in the extremely unlikely circumstance that I were to suddenly – KNOCK ON WOOD – drop dead while the kids were locked in the car, someone would notice them.

Unfortunately, because it was still really early and I was at the Target Less Traveled (you should be so lucky – brand new gorgeous store, almost always empty) there were only 2 carts in the entire parking lot and both were in a cart return in the only row full of cars. I drove around for a minute, hoping I could stalk someone out of the store to their car and grab a cart from them but no one came out. So I decided to pull through a spot one row over from the return. That way although I would have to trek across a row of cars to GET a cart, I’d only have to cross the lane of traffic to put it back.

So I park the car, turn around to tell Little Evan I’ll be “one minute”, which he repeats back and holds up one finger, and get out of the car. At that exact moment, cars pull into spots near mine. The guy in the truck on one side smiles and heads towards the store. No one gets out of the minivan on the other side. It isn’t until 5 seconds later when I’m on my way back with the cart, being extra-super-careful not to ding anyone’s car on my way through the row that I can see two women in their van making dramatic motions and pointing towards my van, where you can clearly see Little Evan sitting in his seat drinking his milk. I get back to the car and press the “unlock” button as dramatically and obviously as possible, wrestle the toddler then the infant seat into the cart and start towards Target. Only THEN do the women get out of the van.

After picking up all the essentials – cough drops, graham crackers, tiny pink cowboy boots – I successfully navigate checkout without accidentally stealing anything or letting the toddler fall out of the cart and head to the car. I open the right door with the remote, lock the (still sound asleep) baby’s bucket into the base, drop my bags under her seat, and close that door. I roll the cart around to the other side, wrestle the toddler into his car seat, put my diaper bag under his seat and close THAT door. Now I have an empty cart and two kids secured in their seats, so I press the lock button, dash across the lane of traffic and shove the cart into the (still empty) cart return.

As I get back into the car, I look to my left and notice those two women are sitting in their van, just watching me with their judgy, judgy faces.

I can’t prove they were waiting for me to come out and they never said a word while we were in the store together, although I passed them several times, but I would bet a MILLION DOLLARS the conversation they had when they pulled into the parking lot was whether to call the police and report children left in a car. I wouldn’t be surprised if they wrote down my license plate.

Or, hey, maybe I’m just being paranoid! Maybe they were waiting to see if I needed help! They’re just Concerned Citizens and they want to watch out For The Children! Such As.

So here’s the thing: Am I doing this wrong? Is leaving my kids in the car for less than 30 seconds at any given time worth the looks of scorn and horror these women were sending me? Trust me, I am VERY AWARE of the dangers of leaving your kid in the car but…I don’t think that’s what I’m doing here. I would bet the number of children hit by cars in parking lots is a lot higher than the number of children who are kidnapped while their mother grabs a cart. Even if you add in children who were left in a car for up to 5 minutes while their mom runs into a convenience store to pay for gas or buy some milk I think “hit by car in parking lot” would be significantly higher. I am making what feels like the safer choice in a situation that doesn’t really have a better option – at least until Target gets valet parking.

What say you?