Just last night I told Clif that I had no idea what had happened, but my Facebook feed was cluttered with rants about how everyone should stop judging parents. Yet, I didn't see anyone judging.
And then I came to work this morning and browsed some websites and WOW. Judgy McJudgerson everywhere.
I have no idea what that kid's parents were doing. I have no idea if the zoo was justified in shooting the gorilla. I have no idea who is to blame for any of it. And I don't want to know. But what I do want to do is share the following story. But before I do, I want you all to know that I am a closet anxious person. I pretend to be really calm and collected, but inside ANXIETY ABOUT EVERYTHING. People think I have my stuff together and that I don't let things get to me. But inside WORRY AND OBSESS ALWAYS.
So when it comes to my kids, I worry. A lot. If I'm out and about, I'm constantly counting them and making sure my eyes are on them. One, two, three. Pause. One, two, three. Pause. One, two, three. Over and over again.
This past weekend, I took the kids to Virginia Beach to visit a friend. It was me and my friend and our 5 children, ages almost 3 to almost 9. On Friday night we walked about 5 blocks to a playground on the beach. It's in a very populated place. It's near a very large statue that Cohen immediately took a liking to.
"Mommy, what that?"
"Mommy, can my touch it?"
"Mommy, you throw me in the sky so I touch the turtle?"
I put him off for the 30 minutes that the kids played on the playground. Telling him we'd go look on our way home.
And there I sat, counting heads. One, two, three, four, five. Pause. One, two, three, four, five.
When it was time to go, it was dark and 5 kids and 2 moms were accounted for.
I told the older 4 to stay put and not run ahead like they had on the way. I told them it was dark and we wouldn't be able to see them as well. And then I walked Cohen to the statue, crowded with people. He touched a couple of fish and could not reach the turtle. I was gone for 3 minutes - maybe. I went back and only 3 kids remained.
Freddie was gone.
No one knew. I froze in a sea of people. He was gone.
"Where's Freddie?" I asked again. Blank faces.
One of the other kids said something about the direction he had seen him go. I left Cohen and Ainsley with the other mom and started running down the beach, screaming for Freddie. I could barely breath. Tears were hot in the corners of my eyes.
What if I lost him? What if I never saw him again? What if someone took him? What if he wandered into the ocean? What if he gets to the street and is hit by a car? What if, what if, what if?
"Excuse me mam?" A man stopped me on the boardwalk, "Are you looking for your son?"
"Yes!" I cried.
"He's about a block up with a police man."
I don't think I even thanked him. I just ran. And there he was. Fingers in mouth, crying, hiccuping, terrified, and with a police officer.
I called his name and scooped him up as he ran to me. Thank God, thank God!
I lost him. But I found him. I wasn't watching for a few moments and he disappeared, but then he was back. And I wanted to cry and scream and laugh all at once. My legs felt like jello and panic continued to course through my veins as we walked back to the rest of the group.
I'm a good mom. I'm not perfect. I make lots of mistakes, but I do lots of things right. I don't lose kids. Ever. But I did. I looked away for a moment, walked in another direction when I thought my instructions were clear, and poof.
I don't know what that toddler's parents were doing - maybe they were smoking crack in the bathroom. Or maybe they were distracted for a tiny moment by a phone or a stranger or another kid. I'm really sorry that an endangered animal was killed. But the idea that it can't happen to any of us. Well, that's ridiculous. And in that moment, what would you want done?