If you know me, you know I love social media. I do. I love reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in years and I love all the funny and sarcastic (and often inappropriate) things my friends post. I love getting all my news stories (and gossip) in one place and I love getting to see the (intelligent) viewpoints of friends, even when they don’t align with mine.
But, there are downsides. I hate that people are mean and ugly because they can hide behind a computer screen and keyboard. And I hate that the minute people see something they “would never do”, they instantly become high and mighty and completely judgmental. Judgy Wudgy was a bear …
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the 3 year old (or 4 year old) that fell into the gorilla exhibit at the zoo. For 10 minutes, this child was in the gorilla exhibit … with a gorilla. We won’t ever know exactly what happened because everyone has their own version (and many of them are conflicting). The only thing we know for sure is what we saw on the video. And even that is up for debate because some animal experts say the gorilla was seconds away from tearing that kid from limb to limb and some say the gorilla was trying to protect the kid. Either way, the gorilla is dead, the child is okay and the perfect, sanctimonious “That Would Never Happen To Me” brigade of parents (and non-parents as well) is alive and well on the Internet.
Dear Perfect Parents,
Do us all a favor. Sit the hell down. No, really. Sit down and shut up. Because no one cares what you would’ve done. It didn’t happen to you and chances are that it never will. So playing Monday Morning Quarterback is useless. Unless shaming yet another mom (because it’s always the mom and never the dad) was on your to-do list today. If so, go ahead and check it off your list and move on.
Listen. I know what it’s like to think you’re the perfect parent. Sydney and Myles (wild as they are) were pretty easy babies. And toddlers. Sure they didn’t sleep through the night and threw tantrums and ran me ragged. Because they’re kids and that’s what kids do. But they weren’t Jude. Jude is the game changer. He’s smart. Smarter than he should be at this age. And he’s fast. Faster than me. Recently, he’s become a runner. Last week we had to add an additional lock on the doors because he unlocked the deadbolt and walked out the front door. But hey, Perfect Parent, your kid has never done that, so congrats to you!
2 weeks ago, at a school PTA meeting, where both my husband and I were both in attendance, Jude wandered away from his sister and walked to the playground. Alone. He was missing for about 2 minutes and I was on the verge of a breakdown when The Husband found him. But again, that’s never happened to you Perfect Parents. Hold on while I get your Perfect Parent Plaque.
And if those 2 things aren’t enough to make you feel a tiny bit superior, I also left my baby in the car. No, really. This isn’t something I’m saying for shock value. I literally left my baby in the car.
Let me start from the beginning. Now that the kids are a little older, we have things scheduled almost everyday. A routine, if you will. Dance, choir, Girl Scouts, soccer … something every day. That day was Tuesday.
On Tuesdays, I pick the boys up from school at 2, pick Sydney up at 3 and then we pick my dad up from work at 4pm. It’s what we do on Tuesday. Sometimes I run a quick errand between pick-ups or we run to the house for a quick snack, but it’s basically the same every week. But that Tuesday was different.
It was 2 days before Thanksgiving and a little different from our average Tuesday. The boys didn’t have school and I’d spent most of the day volunteering at Sydney’s school. And The Husband was home.
I got home from Sydney’s school about 2pm. The plan was to put Jude down for a nap, run back and pick Sydney up at 3pm, make a few phone calls and then at 3:30pm, leave to pick up my dad. But when I got home, Jude didn’t go down as easily as I’d hoped and The Husband had an errand to run so he offered to pick up Sydney while he was out.
The Husband was a few minutes late in getting back so I was late getting out of the house to pick up dad. As I was getting ready to leave, Sydney and Myles were taking off with their iPads and I guess Jude knew he was the odd man out because he started to cry when he saw me leaving. And since he hadn’t had a nap …
If you follow me on Facebook, you know at that time, the car was not Jude’s favorite place … unless he was asleep. From the time Jude was born, until really about 6 months ago, he would basically scream the entire time he was in the car seat. I’m talking 500 decibel, anxiety inducing non-stop screaming. He hated the car. And I hated to take him anywhere. But that day I decided the benefits outweighed the risks and took Jude with me in the hopes he would fall asleep. And he did. He slept the 30 minutes to pick up my dad, the 30 minutes it took to get my dad home and the 30 minutes it took me to get home from my dad’s house. 90 minutes he slept and never made a peep.
When I got home, I pulled into the driveway, gathered my stuff from the passenger seat and got out of the car. I wasn’t 5 feet from the car when I heard a noise and stopped. I looked around but didn’t see anything. I started to walk toward the front door when I heard the noise again. It sounded like a baby crying. I looked around the neighborhood looking to see where it could have come from and nothing. I started to walk toward the door again and then I froze. In that second, I realized what I’d done and ran to the car. The crying was coming from MY car. It was MY child. Jude had fallen asleep in the car and I’d left him there. I had left my baby in the car.
I walked into the house, holding Jude tightly and looking horrified. I looked at The Husband and said, “Holy shit. I just forgot Jude in the car.”
Now this is where the judgy-wudgy parents appear.
“How could you forget your baby?”
I don’t know. I wasn’t on the phone or “distracted”. My only “excuse” was that my routine was off. When I go pick up my dad, I either have all 3 kids or no kids. Never one without the others.
“You should put your phone in the backseat. You’d never forget your phone.”
You obviously don’t know me. I routinely forget my phone, my drink, my purse … I leave stuff in my car all the time because I live in it.
“You should have been paying better attention.”
No one is more aware of this particular issue than I am. After Jude was born, I suffered from some serious postpartum anxiety that I still struggle with today. Being born in August, leaving him in the car was my number one fear. For the entire 1st year of his life, I left my right shoe in the backseat. When I left the car, I didn’t just crack the windows. I rolled them down a good 8 inches. And even with all that, I would randomly have minor anxiety attacks thinking I’d left him in the car. I am hyper-aware of this issue. But when he was 27 months old, I left my baby in the car.
This is why it pisses me off to hear people make snap judgments about parents who make mistakes. 8 months later, I still beat myself up for leaving Jude in the car. He was in the car in November, for less than a minute. If the circumstances had been different, it could have been a horrific outcome. And I’m a good mom. Hell, I’m a great mom. But I left my kid in the car.
Obviously I’m sensitive to this issue but not because I’m defensive. I’m not defensive because I don’t think I’m a bad mom. In fact, I know I’m a pretty good one. I also know that people make mistakes. Even good parents. So when I see parents who make mistakes being accused of being bad parents or being neglectful, I get pissed. Especially when that judgment comes from other parents. We’re supposed to be in this together. Solidarity. We’re supposed to be helping each other, not tearing each other apart. We’re supposed to be an extra set of eyes when a kid threatens to climb into a zoo exhibit instead of videoing that kid when he actually does it. We’re supposed to be comforting and helping a frazzled parent instead of pointing out their flaws.
But not you. Right, Perfect Parent? You don’t need to rely on other parents for help. Because, you’re perfect. You never turn your head for a second or get distracted by another kid, because you’re on top of everything and those kinds of things would never happen to you. Right?
You think it couldn’t happen to you. But it could. Because it happened to me.