It's been less than 2 weeks since the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo rocked the interwebs. Unless you live under a rock or on a remote island somewhere then you couldn't help but see the pitchforks come out and the sanctimonious parents--and parenting "experts" who don't yet have children of their own--weigh in on how awful a parent the mother was. I saw calls for the mother to be "put down," pleas for child services to get involved, and parents everywhere clutching their pearls at the very thought that their precious snowflake could ever be in such a predicament.
I was super empathetic towards the "gorilla mom." I have a toddler of my own and I know how fast he can be. I couldn't believe the hate and vitriol she was receiving after what had to have been the single most terrifying and traumatizing day of her life. I guarantee she was wracked with guilt far before the internet warriors took to their keyboards. Although, if I am being completely honest, though I could empathize with the woman I still thought, deep down, it wouldn't happen to Brady.
But here we are, less than 2 weeks later, and it did. It happened to me.
Yesterday, my son was playing independently out back in our fenced in yard, chasing the dogs and playing on his playset. Every few minutes he ran into house to bring me a flower he picked and check in so I knew he was okay. Since it was one of the few times of day where I could actually be productive I decided to sit down and respond to emails. He was right out back. I could hear him if he called for me.
And then there was a knock at the door.
I answered the door and my neighbor was standing there telling me that my son and my dogs were running towards York Road. York Road is a major city road and we live adjacent to one of the busiest intersections in our area. It took a second to register. "Brady?!" I yelled. At that moment my husband pulled up and I screamed at him that Brady got out of the yard and to drive. I took off running as fast as I could towards the road. I wasn't fast enough.
By the time I got to York Road my son was on the other side, holding the hand of a woman who looked nearly as panicked as I was. This woman, this angel of a woman, a complete stranger, saw my almost three-year-old son in the middle of the road and reacted. For this I will be forever thankful. She risked her own safety to make sure my son was safe. When I finally reached them I grabbed him and fell to the ground and hugged him and thanked her and everything else was kind of a blur. She told me that it was really close, that three cars had to slam on their brakes not to hit him. In the blink of an eye we could have lost him.
It wasn't until I got him back in the house and the shock wore off that the severity of the situation really hit me. I was hysterical. I was dry heaving. I was grateful and terrified and filled with guilt and what ifs.
I took my eyes off him for a few minutes and it happened to me.
One of our dogs had eaten a hole in our fence a few weeks prior. We made an appointment to have the fence replaced but they aren't scheduled to come until next week. We put a picnic table in front of the hole, on its side, to block it. We thought it was okay. Well, it wasn't. That same dog managed to move that picnic table and in the few minutes between my son bringing me a flower and that knock on the door they all escaped. Brady later told me he went after the dogs because he wanted to catch them for me. We thought our yard was safe. We have drilled Brady about traffic safety over and over and over again. He is the type of kid who is tentative about new experiences and never goes out of his comfort zone without us. But yesterday, none of that mattered. Yesterday, we almost lost our son.
I was in such shock when I got him that I don't think I sufficiently thanked the woman for saving him. I didn't get her name or where she lived. So, I posted a public thank you on the Neighborhood app for our area. I waited for the pitch forks and the blame and was sure that everyone would think that I was terrible mother. However, much to my surprise, I received an outpouring of support. Dozens of messages from complete strangers telling me that I am a good mother, about their similar experiences, and how it could happen to anyone. And they are right. It could. I AM a good mom. I just let my guard down. It only takes a few minutes, or even a few seconds, for the whole world to change.
So, next time you think about picking up that pitchfork, before you silently judge, before you and your friends rip apart the parenting of another mother, know that it COULD be you. It was never going to happen to me. But yesterday it did.