My small children escaped yesterday and, for 5 minutes, I held the title of “World’s Worst Mom”. (After 5 minutes, a drunk mother somewhere forgot to feed her children dinner and then locked them in a closet so the title was all hers.)
My older 2 boys were off school and all 4 kids were in the family room watching a cartoon. We were planning to go to the recreation area and walk on some trails — my older boys said they were going to swim in the lake, too (nevermind it’s March in the Midwest and the lake is still covered with ice). As soon as they said that, almost 3 year-old Lainey refused to leave the house without her swimsuit as well. “I’m going to the beach! I need a swimsuit!” was the endless chorus.
I sighed and went upstairs to grab her swimsuit and a change of clothes for her and her little brother, Tristan (one and a half years). I didn’t realize it, but after I walked upstairs and into Lainey’s room, Devin (13) and Wesley (8) ran to their rooms (one upstairs and one in the basement) to put their swim trunks on. — they had high hopes of swimming in the ice lake. As I returned to the main level of our home, I noticed that 50% of my children were missing. You would think the 13 and 8 year old might have noticed this, but all they were noticing was cartoons…
“Where are Tristan and Lainey?” I was getting nervous. “Lainey!? Tristan?!” I began running around the downstairs calling for them.
“Oh… the front door was open when I came upstairs from the basement so I just closed it,” Devin revealed.
Oh no!!! Lainey had let her little brother out the front door! The three of us (me, Devin and Wesley) ran outside. There were no toddlers to be seen. How are they that fast?! I ran down the street, Devin ran up the street, and Wesley ran into the backyard, as we all called their names. Our next door neighbor has a pool, which is surrounded by a 6 foot locking fence, and I began to panic that somehow my toddlers found their way in, despite the fact that I could not find a way in.
Then life seemed to happen in slow motion. My sweet babies were running around the neighborhood. I couldn’t find them. Kidnappers had probably grabbed them by now. I had one arm on the gate and was getting ready to climb the neighbor’s 6 foot fence in my bare feet, when Wesley yelled that he heard Lainey’s voice and she was calling for help. I don’t know if that made me feel better or worse 🙁 I ran into the next backyard, and saw my baby Tristan sitting at the top of a backyard playground set, looking like he didn’t know what world he was in. Then I saw Lainey two more yards down looking through a fence at a little dog. Tears of relief streamed down my face.
Looking at Tristan and his confusion, I knew just what had happened… he followed Lainey out the door, as he always follows her. He followed her across backyards and climbed up the playset after her. But Lainey went down the slide before Tristan got to the top, and once Lainey disappeared, he looked around and knew he wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Ergo, the totally confused twilight zone look on his face when I lifted him off the play set.
Miss instigator was in no such state. Her calls for help had been because she wanted help getting to that little dog. She was delighted with herself and her big adventure, but NOT so delighted with the timeout in her room she received. (“But I’m sorry, Mommy. I will never run away again!”)
I should be used to moments like this… the ones where you can’t breathe because your heart is walking around in four bodies outside of you, and you don’t know if some of those bodies are okay. But I’m not used to these moments… these moments will always take my breath away. Tears are coming to my eyes again just writing about the fear I felt before I knew they were okay. I guess this is part of being a mother. I will worry about my children, their well being, and their safety, for the rest of my life.
Of course, the sort of children I have doesn’t help either (mine are of the “curiosity killed the cat” variety)… as we arrived at the recreation area and drove by the lake, Wesley announced that he didn’t care if the lake was full of ice, he was going to swim in it anyway. “Me, too! Me, too! I’m swimming in the ice, too!” Lainey echoed. Fortunately, the beach was closed, and we found a playground… Devin and Wesley jumped out of the car and started whacking each other with their pool noodles (yes, they were so convinced that an ice lake swim in March was happening that they brought their pool noodles). Lainey and Tristan played on the slide. They were all safe for the time being. Phew. Now if only I could follow them all through life protecting them every moment…
Today, I’m going to the home improvement store to buy a chain lock for the front door… maybe a motion detector, alarm, and stun laser system, too…