Readers — Here’s a dilemma almost every “good” parent will face at some point. Does it take just one, normal, harried parenting decision with ZERO consequences to make others find us BAD? Sometimes it seems the parenting path is narrow indeed.
Dear Lenore: I am currently reading your book, am only about halfway, but I have to write and tell you my story.
Even now, in relating this, I fear your judgment of my decisions. A part of me is thinking that you will read this and say “I’m all for Free-Range, but that was just plain dangerous of her to do!” This is what my friends and family have done.
What did I do? I left my kids in the car. My 5- and 2- and two-year-old girls. For, like 10 or 15 minutes. And I almost got the police called on me for it. Here’s hat happened:
I came home from work and the babysitter told me my dog was bleeding. Somehow he had obtained a large gash in his head–one that clearly needed stitches. He actually bit me in pain when I probed it and this dog has never bitten me in 12 years. The babysitter had worked a full, long day so, although she offered to stay with the kids, I sent her home and took the kids along with me to the vet. My husband, by the way, was out of town.
The vet is in a small retirement town (read: full of old people and extremely low crime rate) 30 minutes away from my own small town. I got the kids into the office,set them down in the waiting area by the fish tank (ooh, look!) and went back out to get the dog. So far so good. Except that the 2-year-old had fallen asleep in the car on the way there and was none to happy to find herself at a vet’s office, fishes or no. So she started scream-crying. And continued to do so to everyone’s dismay and discomfort throughout the visit. The vet affirmed the need for stitches and asked me to leave the dog there for an hour. Fine. Meantime, I took the girls to McDonalds.
When I went back, it was five minutes to closing time for the vet. I had already given them my credit card and signed for the charges. All I needed to do was get the dog and any medicine. The girls had already shown that they did not tolerate the vet’s office well. They were happily drawing in their car seats. The temp was a pleasant 68 degrees. Did I mention this was on a side street from main street in a very small retirement town? Not wishing to handle screaming children and a dog that has just come out of anesthesia with stitches and a cone over his head, I cracked the windows and left the girls in the car.
As I was waiting inside for them to bring the dog out, I poked my head out the door every two or three minutes to check on the kids. My inquiries were starting to annoy my 5-year-old. “We’re fine!” she said. Finally, the vet was ready to give me instructions. I was in the examining room for all of five or six minutes.
As I was half-dragging my dog out the door, I noticed a well-dressed man in a black Audi parked perpendicular to my car. He was talking on his cell phone. When he looked up and saw me, he slammed the cell phone shut and sped away. I checked on the girls, who were still happily drawing in their car seats, I put the dog in the car, and we went home.
Later, as I was relaying the story to my husband, I said “I think that guy might have been calling the police on me!” His response was not, as I expected “Wow, what a lousy situation. That must have been hard.” His response was “Well, I would have done the same thing!” He meant he would have called the police, too.
So I told my mom about it. Her response: “Well, he should have called the police on you. That was dangerous of you to do!”
So I told a friend about how no one had any sympathy for me and didn’t that stink and you know what she said? “Of course you know that man was probably a kidnapper.” And proceeded to lecture me about how I had learned my lesson and would never do that again.
Despite all of that, I still think I would have done the same thing given the same situation. I don’t think I am a bad mom at all. It was 68 degrees out. It is a small town. It was five in the afternoon. They were without my watchful eye on them for no longer than 5 or 6 minutes. They were okay!
Anyway, that’s one of my stories. I keep thinking of more as I read your book. Thank you for writing it, for standing up for reasonableness in parenting. And for helping me to realize I am not a bad mom for what I did.
That’s exactly right: This women is not a bad mom, she is a mom, period. Everyone who has kids or works with them finds some point in the day less than optimal and that is NORMAL. If children needed absolutely perfect, doting, hands-on care every second of every day, there would not be a human species, because that is impossible for any parent to provide. So here’s to a very responsible lady and a movement that refuses to castigate her for living life on the fly, as we all must do. Good luck to her, her family and, of course, her dog! — Lenore