Tuesday, April 23, 2013

When the car is quiet...

This is going to be my most serious post to date. There will probably not be one joke. It is taking quite a bit of courage for me to write this and include my own confessions, but having had these experiences compels me to share them and to help my fellow mommy and daddy friends learn about this problem and how to avoid it.

Years ago I saw an Oprah episode that included an interview with a mother who had forgotten that her daughter was in the car. She drove to work and got out of her car, leaving her daughter there asleep in her seat. Her daughter tragically died that day. It was horrific. How on earth does that happen, I wondered. The mother explained that it occurs too often when there is a break in routine. She almost never drove her daughter to day care in the morning -- her husband always did -- but he had a dentist appointment that day so it was her job. Despite the fact that she had loaded her daughter into her seat minutes earlier, she quickly forgot about her and drove straight to work as was her normal routine. It was impossible for me (on that day) to imagine that this could ever happen. And it didn't happen with my first child. 

There was no "routine" to break with baby #1. I was a typical first time parent -- my every thought, every breath was consumed with my new son. I would never forget he was in the car, even when he was sound asleep, as my "routine" was to coexist with a baby, whether it was in the car, house, etc. 

Two years later I had forgotten about this Oprah episode and now found myself with a chatty 2-year old and a newborn. It had been 2 years since I had driven around with a sleepy baby in the car. One day I was out doing errands with only the baby and had left my toddler at home with Daddy. This was a break in my "routine" as my car was never quiet anymore. I came home and entered the house, leaving her asleep in the car. I FORGOT she was in the car. After about 20 seconds of chatting with my husband in the kitchen, he asked if I was going to get her. My heart dropped into my stomach. What if I had forgotten while we were at the store? Thank goodness -- no THANK GOD -- I didn't. And THANK GOD it was winter and she would not have baked in the heat. And THANK GOD my husband was home, not out somewhere with our son, or when would I have realized? I believe I would have remembered within seconds, but I will never know.

That day shook me to my core. I left her alone in the car for no more than 20 seconds, in our garage. The point was that I had forgotten she was in the car. I was so used to a 2-year old voice and a 2-year old face looking back at me through the rearview mirror that without him there, the car seemed empty. I vowed to never forget again and I believed at the time that I never would.

Now that little girl is a talkative 2-year old herself and my son is 4. I now have 2 faces looking back at me through the mirror and 2 voices chatting my ear off in the car. And we have another newborn. Last week I went to a doctor's appointment with him and left the big kids home with Grandpa. On the way there, I recalled this exact incident and said to myself, "Of course I won't forget. I am heading to the OB -- the doctor who delivered him, whose office is in the same building as the hospital where was born." But not a few minutes later, my mind was onto other things and by the time I pulled in the parking lot, I had forgotten. Again. I took about 5 steps away from my car before remembering he was still in it. I frantically looked around as I turned around to go back for him -- was anyone watching this horrible unfit mother who FORGOT her kid go back to retrieve him? I could not believe it had happened again.

Again, the whole incident was seconds long. And thankfully I remembered on my own. But it could have been so much worse. I truly thank God for both of these minor but also terrifying incidents. I believe they are both gifts sent down to teach me a valuable lesson. It truly can happen to anyone.

To the handful of parents who I know are reading this, especially if you are having your second or third child and are used to loud kids in the car, KNOW your routine. KNOW how tired you can get, how distracted your mind can become thinking of a 100 things. I have taken a pledge to myself and to my kids. EVERY TIME I am driving alone with the baby, I am going to put my purse in the back with him. I would never leave my car without my purse, so this will force me to look for it and remember he is back there. I have also heard the suggestion of keeping a teddy bear in the front seat to remind the driver. There are already teddy bears and dolls all over my car, so this probably would not help me much. But find something that works for you. 

I feel sick telling this story but I am also incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share. If that mother, who accidentally caused the death of her daughter had the courage to go on national television and tell her story in order to educate others, I can at least share mine. Summer is coming and it is 106 degrees for 3 straight months where I live. It takes only a couple of minutes for a baby to die from the heat inside a parked car in the summer. 

I pledge to never text and drive.
And I pledge to keep my purse in the back when I am alone with the baby in the car.
What do you pledge?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Fun Mommy" pledge: Day 1

If you read yesterday's post, you know of my pledge to be more fun with my kids. Today, on a dreary, rainy day, despite sleeping about 18 minutes last night, I decided to kick off Fun Mommy Day 1 by... making cookies! I checked the pantry and figured out that I did have all the ingredients for basic oatmeal raisin cookies (basic being the operative word because this momma is NOT a baker).

This endeavor fell somewhere between "not very successful" and "epic failure" due to a variety of factors:

1. My 6-week old son, who has been constipated for days, decided to start pooping again today-- like every 12 minutes all morning long (and cry through all of it).

2. My older 2 kids had no interest in helping bake. This is because:
--My son never has interest in helping with any kitchen activity (or really any activity non-Lego-related these days)
--My daughter wants to do everything my son does.

So, despite the lack of enthusiasm, I remained optimistic. That's okay! Mommy will start the process, they will want to jump in and help, and we will all have fun! The baby will cooperate and let me put him down and the cookies will be delicious! Or at least edible!

Wrong. On all accounts.

Cookies burned. Even my 4-year old, who will eat anything in cookie or muffin form, gnawed through half of one and finally said, "I will finish this later, mom." Batch #2 was not quite burned, but is still dry and tasteless.

Well, as our gal-pal Scarlet O'Hara once said, "Tomorrow is another day!"

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The curse of the un-fun parent

Last night while giving my older two kids their baths, my son started kicking and splashing water everywhere. I, of course, flipped out on him, as splashing and making a mess everywhere is not allowed! I permit a very controlled "splash" at the end of bath, as the water is draining, with the curtain closed. They know the rules. And there are a lot of them. Because I am not very fun.

As my voice escalated and my head snapped around in my typical disciplinary fashion, my 4-year old son asked, despondently, "Can we play with Daddy when he gets home?" (Daddy is, in fact, quite fun. He is the anti-mommy in our household.)

Lately, as I am adjusting to life with 3 kids (my youngest is 6 weeks old), I am realizing more and more just how little fun I have with my kids. My days are spent doing laundry, washing dishes, feeding baby, cooking for the rest of us, cleaning, doing more laundry... feeding baby again... etc. And my brain is consumed with: Did they all take their vitamins? Which day am I signed up to bring snack to school? Did I send in the check to register our son for soccer? When is their next pediatrician appointment? Did I remember to make the pediatrician appointment? And the dentist appointment? And the eye doctor appointment? Did we do enough academic activities today? Is anyone developmentally behind on anything? Is everyone hitting their milestones? Did I put lotion on our daughter's rash? When did he/she poop last? Did he/she have enough fruit? Too much cheese? Do I have anything for dinner?... etc...etc...

And all day long, the words out of my mouth are one of the following two phrases:
1. "No! Stop doing that."
2. "In a minute. I will get it for you / be right there after I ______ (fill in blank)."

I fear that my kids hear "no" and "wait a minute" from Mommy ALL DAY LONG.

This is why, when I asked my son to put his socks and shoes on the other day (and we were obviously running late for something) and he instead made sock puppets, I was angry rather than amused. And he was sad. He had been excited to show me something funny and clever and I snapped at him rather than laughed with him.

The look on my son's face in bath last night almost brought me to tears. Why can't I be more fun like Daddy? Because too often "fun" for my kids = more work for Mommy. Who cleans up the water all over the bathroom after the splashing? Mommy. And Mommy is already so busy and her head is so full of serious stuff that there does not seem to be room or time for a whole lot of fun.

Well with my husband's 3 week long work trip looming in the near future, I am reflecting on the life I am providing for my kids. I am vowing to myself and to them to be more fun. They deserve laughter and giggles and the right to make messes and with Daddy gone, Mommy needs to buck up and allow a little splashing now and then. Even if it makes more work. Someday far too soon they won't be here all day to make sock puppets and play pirate ship in the bathtub.