The Edge: Parenting at a distance

This past weekend, my second child escaped. It was in some ways, inevitable. He has always been a bit precocious – he tends to wander farther from me and his papa than his older brother ever did. He takes risks before his body can physically manage them, and so ends up getting hurt a lot – As most younger siblings tend to do. And, since I am a pretty relaxed mother, I tend to give him more freedom than I should. Letting him play by himself while I run upstairs to grab something, letting him go up and down stairs without my help, etc. He is a surprisingly coordinated guy, for his 20 months of life – climbing, walking, running, jumping. But I digress…

On Friday, a gorgeous, sunny perfect day, I was home with the boys for the day as Friday is my sabbath. We had been playing outside a lot, enjoying the weather, running errands here and there. We were getting ready to go to a friend’s house for a gathering of folks, and Jason was finishing up some work. I left the boys out in the backyard for a few (maybe 5 or 10) minutes while I ran upstairs and put a bag together with pj’s, blankets, sweatshirts and other necessities for the night. My oldest boy followed me inside shortly after, but the youngest was playing happily outside with bikes and cars, so I let him stay. A few minutes later I heard some rustling downstairs and assumed the youngest had followed suit, coming inside to play.

A few minutes later I heard only silence downstairs and wondered… so I headed downstairs to see what he was up to. He was not downstairs. Perhaps he went back outside? Nope. Hm. Perhaps he snuck upstairs without me seeing him? Nope. Wait…Outside? No. Downstairs? No. Upstairs? No. Basement….would be a surprise..but…? No. Upstairs.Downstairs.Backyard.Basement? Nowhere to be found. Ah! I started to totally panic, knowing the only other option was that he got out the front door, where the street was very close, and took off somewhere… Jason had gotten on board with the search, we started calling his name, checking the streets (we live on a dead end), and the neighbors joined in to call and look.

I found him, finally, in the neighbor’s backyard, swinging on their swingset, happy as can be. I almost puked.

He was safe as can be, of course. But there was about 10 or 15 minutes when I had no idea where he was – imagined him walking down the middle of the street, imagined my arrest by CPS, knew absolutely that I had been a neglectful mother. Like I said, I almost puked.

Don’t get me wrong – I know this happens to even the best mothers, and I know I will still be a pretty relaxed mother. I will still let them find their own way and get into trouble. I will still let them climb things without my help and take risks and fall down and get bloody without my gasping and running immediately to their aid, because well, that’s the kind of parent I am and want to be. I strive to be a parent that watches from a distance rather than hovering closely so as not to let them ever get hurt, but frankly, that means that they might get hurt. But the consequences of that kind of parenting can be completely and utterly frightening, even if I believe in it. And well – I guess I have to learn my own boundary, and perhaps I won’t let the little guy play outside alone for quite as long… at least until next summer….

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