As a parent, I often think of worst-case scenarios. I don't want to, but they hit me in the darkest hours of the night and the mere thought of those incidents makes my heart freeze in my chest. Last week, one of those worst-case scenarios almost happened to Liam.
I didn't make a big deal about it at the time, but the reality is, it WAS a big deal and it could have ended far differently than it did. Fortunately, that worst-case scenario didn't happen and I was given the chance to learn from the incident.
Liam is a runner. Dylan, Lexie and Lily were not. This is completely new territory for me as a mother. Liam is fiercely independent, he loves to explore, and if he sees something that sparks his interest, he will head toward it at top speed. He has no fear whatsoever.
When you have more than one child, you quickly learn that every child is different and that you have to adapt your parenting style for each child. With Liam, I have to give him room to explore within reason, but also stay close enough to guide him out of harm's way. I try not to be a helicopter parent, but I also know that I can't let my guard down when we are outdoors or in a public place. Some situations call for me to follow closely behind him and some situations require him to be in a stroller or a shopping cart.
Liam is that typical toddler boy who would step off a 6 foot ledge, with a huge smile on his face, just to see what would happen. He would also walk directly into the arms of a stranger. He is just a little toddler tornado who wants to roll around in mud puddles and explore his world.
Last week, Lily, Liam and I were playing in our backyard. Lily and Liam were riding around in their Power Wheels Jeep while I was trailing behind. Lily stopped at the back corner of our house and jumped out so I could tie her shoe. I glanced at Liam and saw that he was pressing the buttons on the dashboard, so I bent down to quickly tie Lily's shoes.
20 seconds. TWENTY seconds was all it took for Liam to disappear. I stood back up and he was gone.
I didn't panic right away. I immediately headed over to look in the playhouse, because that's his favorite spot. Not there. I looked on the porch. Empty. The playset was empty, too. At that point, my heart started to beat faster.
That's when I heard Lily's shrill scream. "LIAM!!! STOP! LIAMMMMMM! Stay off the road!" I have never heard fear in her voice like I heard at that very moment. My heart stopped beating and dread filled my soul.
The only thing I could picture was my tiny two year old standing in the middle of the road, just waiting for one of cars that often sped past to hit him. I sprinted toward the front of the house, bracing myself for the worst while praying to God to keep him safe. There he was at the edge of the yard, so close to the road, and taking steps to go even further. It felt like time slowed down as I raced toward him. I truly didn't think I was going to make it in time.
Lily reached him just before I did. She grabbed his arm and held on with all her might. I reached them just seconds later, and pulled them both into my arms. I was a shaking, sobbing mess. All I could do was hold both of them as tight as I possibly could while thanking Lily for being such an amazing big sister.
The entire incident, from start to finish, was less than 40 seconds. 40 short seconds that could have changed our lives forever. I have never felt more fear than I felt the moment I heard Lily scream.
We immediately went inside and I called my husband. I was still shaking and high on adrenaline as I told him, "That's it. We need to fence in the ENTIRE yard." Because with kids, you can never be too careful. I know I won't feel comfortable until I know my son is completely safe while playing outdoors.
I'm not going to add much to all the discussion over the gorilla incident. But I will say this. There is NO such thing as a perfect parent. These things can-and DO-happen to ANY parent. Even the most attentive ones. Toddlers are fast and they have their own minds. Even the most well mannered child can have moments where they lose control. Fortunately, most parents are given the chance to learn from these incidents.
It saddens me that a gorilla lost its life. I'm an animal lover, but the reality is this: Human life over animal life. EVERY SINGLE TIME. The general public is not the expert in the matter. The zoo made the decision it felt was best and a child lived. End of story.
It wasn't the mom's fault or the child's fault. It was real life and it happened in an INSTANT. Anybody who has/had a toddler knows that. Anybody who doesn't needs to bow out of the conversation. And to those parents who think they're perfect? I wish them the best in life.
I'm a good mom. I'm with my children almost 24/7 and I love them with every ounce of my being. I expect good behavior in public, I set rules, and I teach them right from wrong. But I'm also a realist. I'm not perfect and neither are they. If the incident with Liam had ended differently, I guarantee I would be on the receiving end of the same backlash that the mom of the toddler at the zoo is dealing with. My "supermom" status would be ripped away so suddenly and everyone would become an expert on the matter and call me a negligent mother who deserved to lose all of her children.
20 seconds. 20 seconds was all it took for Liam to slip away while I was tying a pair of shoes. It happened to the mom at the zoo. It happened to me. It could happen to ANY of you today!
None of us are exempt. None of us are perfect. All we can do is learn from these incidents, be thankful that we are given a second chance and figure out what we can do better.
Have you ever had to deal with a scary incident involving your child?