Life happens when you least expect it
December 19, 2009

When I was four, I regularly woke up before my mom. Most of the time, I watched Scooby Doo on the black and white tv. A few times I came across an really interesting show. It was kind of like church, but the man in charge spoke very differently than any priest I'd ever heard before. I knew that Mommy was concerned about my asthma and allergies, so when the man said he could cure anything, I put my head up against the screen like he said ... but nothing changed.

And one morning, I got it into my head that all little kids run away from home and I had not yet done this. I couldn't have been more than five at the time, but I already felt like I was behind the curve.

But where do you go when you run away? I mean there's all these pesky details about it. You need to have somewhere to sleep, you have to find food ... and how is a little kid supposed to do these things alone, for Pete's sake?

So, I decided to go next door. To Megan's house.

I walked out into the winter morning ... and left the sidewalk! Oh the blasphemy of it all.

I knocked on Megan's door. Her mom answered ... pointed out that Megan was still sleeping and that perhaps, just perhaps, I should go back home. Not having any clue where else I could safely go, I returned home. On my way back in the house, I snagged the morning paper and put it on the kitchen table for Mommy.

She never knew I'd been out of the house.

Know this - my mother was ANAL about keeping track of me and my little sister. Most of the time, our every second was accounted for. This was long before the internet. My mother was not so involved in tv as most stay-at-home moms. Her job, as far as she was concerned, was watching our every move.

But a mother has to sleep. In fact, if we're really honest about it, there are many things that we adults must do every day that take our attention away from the things ... or people ... that are most important to us. Ultimately, it's just impossible to watch anything, even our children, for every second of every day. We blink. We sleep. We answer the phone while they wander off into the other room.

No matter how diligent you are.

Life happens when you least expect it.

My sister and I were adept at getting up in the middle of the night. My sister went for the cheese - I went for Mom's Dr. Pepper. We were all lucky. Neither of us was determined to leave the house and wreak havoc. The toddler across the street, on the other hand, was notorious for escaping her stay-at-home Mom, big sister and big brother, running out into the front yard and throwing off all her clothes.

Now, most toddlers go through a "nakkies" phase when they just don't see the point of clothing ... or diapers. Still, it's startling to see a naked toddler in the front yard, running around like a mad thing, enjoying her freedom. Depending on time, we'd either step back in the house and call over to the Koskas' and let them know she'd escaped again or head over and try to corral the errant toddler and walk her back in the house. It's not that the Koskas' were negligent, but there's laundry to do, dinner to make, life to live. And it's simply physically and emotionally impossible to eyeball a child every second of the day.

So a mom and two of her boys were out back the other day. Mom was working with the animals and the older boy was helping. She tweeted from a mobile device a couple of times about her animals and the chores. The toddler was "helping" her and his brother as toddlers are wont to do. Mom sent the older boy to do one last thing and head in while she finished up something else. The toddler had been shadowing big brother. Mom figured both boys were in the house as she headed in.

The youngest wasn't. She ran back outside. The older boy suddenly dove into the pool.

The toddler had fallen in.

Paramedics were called. Arrived. Took the baby to the hospital.

From the chapel where she was panicked and grief-stricken, she posted to Twitter again, the equivalent of "please pray, my baby fell in the pool."

An outpouring of sympathy began. People do tend to be good and sympathetic.

But almost as quickly, came some people recommending caution. After all, how do we know this person is telling the truth? Maybe it's a scam for attention. Maybe it's a scam for donation money. You never know. It's happened before.

Caution where your money is concerned, I understand. But why be so cautious with a word of sympathy?

Unfortunately it only grew worse from there. Someone, probably several someones, took it upon themselves to use this as an opportunity to bitch about how other people parent. All of these mommy-bloggers spend too much time online. They spend too much time not practicing the CONSTANT VIGILANCE that Mad-Eye Moody recommends in his parenting tome, Parenting Without A Magical Eye. Nothing would ever happen to wee little baby children if these mommy-bloggers and tweet-addicted women would just get off-line and pay attention.

And of course, the so-called "mommy-bloggers" grouped together and defended a woman who had only tweeted for prayers. For support. She reached out through Twitter much like a mom in the 50's might have reached out to the church prayer circle. She thought she was reaching out to friends.

The arguments I've heard now are both that she was trivializing her child's death (not long after posting that tweet, she was told he had not made it - so she thought he was still alive when she tweeted) ... and that she was wasting time on the internet when she should have been watching the baby. And, of course, the inevitable tirades about pool safety.

It seems that there are far too many people who would prefer to believe that we are 100% capable of guaranteeing someone's safety.

We live our lives with a thin veneer of fantasy. That we won't be the one to go through a green light and be t-boned by someone running a red light. That we won't be present when our bank is robbed at gunpoint. That we won't be on a bridge when the structure fails and collapses. That our airplane won't fall from the sky. That our building won't collapse and fall.

These things happen to OTHER PEOPLE. Not us.

And it's a necessary fantasy because you cannot live a life ruled so completely by fear of everything that could go wrong. At some point, you have to trust. You have to believe. You have to make a decision and move.

Yes, there are certain measures you can take to be more safe. Yes, you can be aware of your environment and watch for signs that something is off.

But we're human. We are going to get tired, get busy, get caught up in a moment and miss something. If we lead lucky lives, no one gets hurt or at least hurt too badly.

We're discovering more and more that some of the decisions we've made to protect our children are actually harming them. If, for example, they come from lives so clean they're practically sterile, the child is less likely to develop basic immunities. It impairs their immune system and makes them more sickly adults. Of course, a filthy living environment doesn't make them stronger, necessarily.

It's all about a delicate balance. And until something tragic happens, no one really knows where that tipping point of too much/not enough actually is.

Have you seen the movie, Dead Poets Society? The dad in that flick thinks he's building the perfect life for his son. He's going to force him to be a doctor come hell or high water. (Spoiler from hell if you've not seen the flick .....)

The boy tries to lead his own life for a bit, and seeing no way out of the stifling protection his father has created, he kills himself.

(Oddly enough, that actor has grown up to play the doctor Wilson on House, which I find hysterical.)

Our lives are about balance. About doing our best to maintain the balancing act of a thousand different pieces - pieces of history and circumstance that no one else knows anything about. Hell, sometimes we don't even really know what all the pieces are, just that we have to keep them in check, balanced, in order to keep moving forward.

For someone else to judge a mom based on the tiny slice of pieces that her Twitter stream revealed is a ridiculous conceit made by, in my opinion, a narcissistic personality who is sure they know the answers to everyone else's life-puzzle.

And how far this particular story went? Wow. I wish I had the leisure time and then disposable cash to go calling around the country to verify stories I hear on Twitter and Facebook and even on other people's blogs.

There was another, similar scenario this past week.

The headline battered about news services and Twitter was something to the effect of Drunk Four Year Old Steals Christmas Presents.

And of course, everyone starts judging the mother and the father. Without even knowing anything beyond the headline.

The story is heartbreaking, to be sure. But not quite the story you might think from the headline.

The story is generally presented sensationally - drunk four year old breaks into neighbor's home, steals Christmas presents and is found wearing a brown dress, beer in hand.

But a story containing more of the pieces is more sad. Turns out Mommy and Daddy are getting a divorce. Daddy is in jail.

And the four year old wants to be with Daddy.

His four year old's solution was to break the child safety device off a door in his house, escape, snag one of Granddad's beers from a cooler outside and walk in through an unlocked door of a neighbor. There he stole presents, one of which was a brown dress, which he put on, and then wander back out into the night, waiting to get caught and go to jail with Daddy.

Mommy woke up at 1:45 a.m., in a panic, trying to find her little escape artist.

And the comments I've seen people make about this story? Utter bile blaming the mother for not watching him.

I'm sorry, folks, but you have to sleep sometime.

Why do we feel such an intense need to judge others' lives?

There, but for grace, go I. There but for grace, go you and I.

What really kills me ... is the people vomiting forth the most bile, judging the most, vocally lambasting anyone who disagrees with what they've decided are all the pieces and the solution ...

... are the ones most likely to claim that they are fervent Christians.

And as they prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christian messiah who preached love, understanding and cautioned against judging others ... who repeatedly preached on fixing yourself before "fixing" others ... they are spewing some of the most horrific bile.

Honestly, I just don't get it. Rather, I don't think that they get it.

Life happens when we least expect it. Due diligence, preparation, even CONSTANT VIGILANCE ... none of these render anyone safe from harm. Perhaps safer ... but life is as much about luck in circumstance as it is your skill in living it "perfectly."

News Articles:
An article from Florida Today about the toddler who drowned
An article about the four year old who wanted to join Daddy in jail

Remember, if you want to leave a comment here, to enter only the first LETTER of the Turing-Test word. Not the whole word. Just the first letter. :)

Posted by Red Monkey at December 19, 2009 7:07 AM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Tara R. said:

That whole exchange made me sick. I felt total empathy for the mom and was shocked and disgusted by the feeding frenzy caused by hateful people. Where were their children, how much time did they take away from their families vilifying a mother who had just lost her child?

I don't get it either.

December 19, 2009 11:00 AM


inthefastlane said:

I felt so bad for this mom. I did not know her, nor did I comment, not wanting to glom onto tragedy. However all I have to say is that I have three kids and I DO NOT watch them every second. It is impossible. Not only do I not hover over their every moment, one time, my four year old was running in the house and slipped and fell, right in front of my eyes. He had a bad concussion. We had to go to the ER. I had some terrifying moments where he was unresponsive. So, what am I saying? That we should not judge. Accidents happen. And some accidents happen no matter how vigilant we are. And my heart breaks for those mothers who have to deal with the horrible results.

December 19, 2009 9:49 PM


Robyn Flach said:

Thank you for this post. Simply thank you.

February 2, 2010 7:29 PM
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