SALT LAKE CITY — Have you ever had something happen that completely took the wind out of your parenting sails?
I had something happen recently that not only took the wind from my sailing ship but sunk me to the bottom of my figurative ocean: I lost my youngest child, and I was notified of this fact by none other than the local police.
The morning it happened was like any other morning, but it was a little bit extraordinary because I was actually getting things done.
I made a spread of tasty and healthy food for my family before getting the schoolgoing kids off on their way. I bathed the toddlers, cleaned the kitchen, made a doctor's appointment, homeschooled my 5- and 7-year-old boys, among other important parenting responsibilities.
My husband came home early from work and my oldest sons finished their schoolwork early, adding to the extraordinary day. However, unbeknownst to me, my husband decided to take my older boys for a bike ride. I noticed they left out the back door and figured they were all out back playing basketball or kicking the soccer ball around.
As I sat down to do some work on the computer, I saw out of the corner of my eye that my 22-month-old son had opened up the back door to go outside. Normally, I would stop him because our yard isn't fully fenced in, but I recalled that my husband and older sons were also back there, so I didn't stop my baby from leaving.
About 7-10 minutes later, I had a feeling.
"Check on Aero," was the accompanying thought.
I stood up, and as I did, there was a knock at my door. It was a police officer.
"Are you missing a child about the age of 2?" he asked.
"I'm not sure, but I might be," I said as I walked barefoot out the front door with the officer.
What would the neighbors say? Not only that, but there was now an official police record of my negligence with my name and my son's name on it. Tears welled up as I gave my information to the officer. I felt like a failure.
There, across the street, were three patrol cars and as many officers standing near a woman who was holding my crying toddler boy, who was also barefoot.
It seems my son had walked up the street, just two houses down from a very busy road, in what I'm thinking was a quest to find Dad. The kind lady picked up my son and, not knowing where he belonged, dialed 911 immediately. Within what I was told was about two minutes, the officers were there to help my son back to safety.
As I grabbed my son from the kind woman, I felt sunken. Suddenly, I was that thing I had fought against being: the woman who had too many kids and couldn't keep track of them all.
What would the neighbors say? Not only that, but there was now an official police record of my negligence with my name and my son's name on it. Tears welled up as I gave my information to the officer.
I felt like a failure.
As I rocked my boy to sleep, I couldn't keep the tears from coming. They were the warm kind that don't stop — the kind that come when you're scared or mad, and I was both of those things. I was scared of how I would be perceived and mad because it had come to this. How did this happen when I had always been so careful?
At that moment, I looked down at my sleeping baby and I felt gratitude for what didn't happen but could have.
My son was two houses from crossing a four-lane highway but didn't make it that far because a person was at the right place at the right time. That person was kind and didn't harm my son, but did everything right to get him home safe. Furthermore, my son was home safe due to the quick action of several police officers who went door to door searching for the parents of an endangered child.
The events on this day may have taken the wind out of my parenting sails, but none of that matters knowing that there are kind people in the world to help us when we make what could very well be the worst mistake of our lives.
Also, I'm getting a fence.
Have you had a similar experience? If so, what did you learn? Let us know in the comments.