Sometimes I feel like the worst mother in the world. This morning was one of those times. It was a gorgeous day to run, overcast and in the fifties, and so I loaded the boys in the double jogging stroller, left twenty minutes early for Will's school, and ran them through the gorgeous brook path and up to Will's school through back streets.
I didn't want to block the pathway to from the sidewalk to the gate with my double wide stroller during drop-off, nor did I want to maul all of the grass (the school is in a home, so it's really the director's front yard!). So I left Andrew in the stroller off to the sidewalk and walkway, with the wheels on the edge of the grass of the director's front yard. It was slanted sideways, I figured it wasn't going anywhere. I should have put more thought into it.
I know the brake on my jogging stroller isn't great - it's a hand-me-down stroller from my uncle which I've been so grateful for, because it works amazingly well, and it saved us the $700 - $1000 we might have spent buying our own. (Or more likely, I just wouldn't have gotten into stroller running at all.) But it's over a decade old, and it probably has thousands of miles on it, and the brake should be looked at. I've never prioritized it, because I usually just run, then come back home, and it's always just parked empty on my porch.
I wasn't thinking about that at all when I pushed it onto the grass and parked it, then headed down the walkway to drop Will off.
The stroller was on grass. Then there was sidewalk. Then MORE grass. Then the road. I was going to be less than a minute giving Will a hug and sending him into school, right? (I say this like I thought about it. I really didn't. I just put the stroller where it wasn't in the way of other families and felt like it was far from the road, and then I started to drop Will off.)
One minute turned into two while I talked Will out of the heavy jacket he didn't need to be wearing and gave him a hug, and then I heard yelling and turned to see Andrew rolling backwards...
Off the grass.
Over the sidewalk.
Through the next patch of grass.
Into the road.
Across the road.
Into a parked car.
I freaked out. I ran. If someone had been coming, besides another parent waiting to pull out of a parking spot who saw the whole thing, would I have been fast enough? I don't know.
The rest is a blur. Another mother holding the stroller so I could say goodbye to a now stricken Will, and cry all over the preschool teacher who gave me a hug when I started to lose it, and get paper to leave a note because I scratched the car Andrew's stroller rolled into.
The preschool director sent me a lovely text reassuring me... but I still wanted to crawl under a rock and hide from Social Services who some small part of me felt should come take my children away because Andrew could have been hurt and I can't bear the thought of something happening to him.
I cried to Will's teacher. I called and cried to Greg. I'm crying to you.
None of that really matters, though, none of that makes it better.
What will make it better is learning from this and being a more cautious parent in the future.
I won't be haph-hazard about where I park a stroller with a child in it, ever again.
Another close call & Lesson Learned: A few weeks ago, Will ran out into a parking lot in front of a car while I yelled at him from ten feet away, powerless to reach him in time. That was a horrible experience. Since then, we hold hands, we talk about how important it is to stay next to me in parking lots and on sidewalks, and even Andrew looks for cars and says "not safe" when we're in a parking lot. I've taught Will to keep a hand on the car and stand next to me while I put Andrew into his car seat in a parking lot so he stays right next to the car. I've responded thoughtfully and consistently, and there hasn't been another close call. I hope there never will be. I know I'm working hard to teach my children to be safe around cars... and never be far enough away from them to respond if they forget.
I do a lot of things right
Today, I did something stupid and dangerous... I left a stroller with a faulty brake unattended near a street. I'm lucky Andrew is ok. I feel guilt, remorse, and shame. I need to use this experience to be more careful in the future and never let it happen again, and then I need to move on. One way I can do that is by remembering all the things I do right.
You'll never know what safety precautions you take with your children that PREVENTED something bad from happening. As mothers, we only know when we mis-step, and that horrible accident or close call occurs.
Yesterday, I went to the beach with the boys and took my babysitter with me so that I wouldn't be alone with two children near water with no lifeguards. What disaster might I have prevented there?
How many times have Will or Andrew mis-stepped on the stairs, only to have my hands sturdy them from behind?
The first time Will showed interest in climbing over the side of his crib, we converted it to a bed. Did we prevent a concussion?
I watched Forks Over Knives and switched our family to a whole foods, plant-based diet. We'll never know if we're preventing them from a cancer diagnosis in the future.
Andrew is fine.
Every parent I know has a story like mine, when something happened to one of their children that they felt they could have prevented.
Every parent I know does countless things, every day, to try to keep their children safe and happy.
I'm going to take some deep breaths, I'm going to learn from this, and I'm going to keep on doing the best I can, every single day.
Please - watch where you park your stroller. Think about where your knives are on the kitchen counter. Don't drive your kids somewhere if you're exhausted. Don't text or fumble around to take a phone call when you're behind the wheel. Supervise your kids near water. Make the BIG safety things, the ones that save lives, a priority.
I'm not saying we should live in fear (let your kids climb the playground structures!) - but if the worst case scenario is death, let's take it seriously.
The boys are still napping, so I'm going to make myself a cup of tea and wash my face... which, as my mother promised me many years ago, always makes you feel a little better.