Yesterday, Sarah over at Clover Lane, posted about a close call she had with her son. Good parents make mistakes. Mistakes that can endanger their kids' lives. I think we need to share with each other our close calls. Not so others can point fingers and show us where we went wrong. We KNOW where we went wrong and it makes us shudder and loathe (hopefully only temporarily) ourselves because of it. Sarah was brave enough to share her story, so I will share mine.
It was a cool day last summer. Miriam was a newborn. Jamey had the summer off from school and decided to stay home with us instead of taking a job. Sam (6 1/2) and Sadie (3 1/2) were outside playing. I was keeping watch from the kitchen and laundry windows as I started some wash and did some dishes. The play set is just out of sight from these windows, but is fenced-in from behind. The kids had been playing there. I had seen them. I knew that for them to leave this area, they would have to walk across the yard into my direct view from the windows where I was keeping watch.
I decided to get a visual on the kids, but there was no doubt in my mind that they were both under the playset in the sandbox where I saw them last. I walked outside and only saw Sam in the sand box. I asked him where Sadie was and he didn't know. I started calling for her and there was no answer. I sent Sam to check their fort and as he sauntered in it's direction, I yelled at him to run. I checked in Jamey's shop, in the chicken house and kept calling. No Sadie. I ran inside and yelled upstairs to Jamey (who was laying Miriam down for a nap) that I couldn't find Sadie. He came outside and ran through the barns and around the perimeter of our 1.5 acres. No Sadie.
I ran over to our closet neighbors. I banged on their back door only to startle our sweet neighbor lady who was sitting close by. I asked if she had seen Sadie. She had not. Her husband came into the room and I could hear him asking what was going on as I turned and left to go to the next neighbor's house. After I left, those neighbors came out and started looking, the husband, going down to the road, walking along it, looking. No Sadie.
The next neighbor was home as well and I asked her if she had seen Sadie. She hadn't and as I turned back to my house, she checked her pool which I could not do. No Sadie.
Our kids do not run off. Never before had Sadie gone where she shouldn't have been. I could not imagine her walking off our property and just wandering somewhere. This left only one possibility in my mind.
Someone had walked onto our property and taken her.
This made me sick. I kept thinking about how everyone thinks these things won't happen to them, but of course they can. I thought it was happening to us. I wondered where my Sadie girl was, if she was really with someone else just then- a stranger....
At this point I was headed back over to our house. I saw Jamey emerge from the barns where he had been re-checking. His arms were up in the air to show he didn't find her. Then I saw our van sitting in the driveway. Sam was near it as I was still coming from the neighbor's yard. I yelled at him to check the van. He tried to open a door, but it was locked. It was locked. This meant she was in the van.
Jamey ran in and got the keys, unlocked the van and opened the side door. It was hot in the van even though it was a cooler than normal day. Sadie had gotten into the unlocked van, crawled into her seat, and buckled herself in (which she had just recently learned how to do). She didn't learn how to un-buckle herself, though. If she had wanted to get out of her seat, she wouldn't have been able to. The windows were closed, so we may not have heard her.
She was sitting there, looking at a book. She was sweaty and sleepy. The heat had already started to take it's toll on her in the matter of minutes that she was in there. Jamey got the sluggish Sadie out of the van and took her inside for a drink. I collapsed into the arms of my neighbor ladies, finally allowing the tears to come.
I had heard of stories about parents who left their kids and babies in their car while they ran into the store, causing their child to die from heat exhaustion. I would NEVER do that. But, what did I do? I left the van doors unlocked on a summer day and allowed my child to climb in causing her to show the early signs of heat exhaustion. I know what we did wasn't intentional, but we often give our children consequences for hurting someone because they weren't being careful enough (even if it wasn't intentional). We have to be careful for the sake of each other.
Once we were all inside, we told Sadie that we weren't angry with her, but that she may not play in the van because it can make her very hot and very sick. She sensed our emotion and was comforting us, giving us hugs and kisses as we sat on the bench in the kitchen, Jamey and I trying to collect ourselves with her between us.
For the rest of the summer, the van was kept locked. If you don't keep your outside vehicles locked, please do.
I believe Sadie is old enough to know better this summer, but that won't stop us from keeping things locked up. It's a small inconvenience compared to what could happen. And we all need to be reminded that even us, even good, involved and alert parents can make mistakes. Scary mistakes. The kind that make you run through all the "what ifs" in your mind. I let myself go there last summer, but I can't today.
I can't imagine this past year without Sadie.
Lesson learned. Please learn it from me instead of on your own and spread the word. Thank God for close calls- they are so much better than tragedies.