Saturday, August 27, 2005

Sometimes things aren't funny any more

Today is one of those rare, serious, not very funny posts. Now I've spent a little time wondering if these are the things that I ought to write about. I think I want to write about this to keep it real. I know people who don't know me read this. And people are going to think what they are going to think. Enough of a preamble.

I was going to title this post "And we survived Friday, and social services WERE called." Yeah, makes the hairs stand on the back of my neck too. Aidan. Aidan Aidan. Friday afternoon was much like most Friday afternoons. It was 30C, not a cloud in the sky. I was outside in the backyard with the kids. A neighbour was over and her daughters were playing in the pool with them. Aidan is pretty manageable with a group of children. Sometimes he plays with, or around them. It has been well established that Aidan is a happy wanderer. He just walks in whatever direction is pleasing to him at the moment. The only time he will bolt, is when he sees me. There is no amount of coaxing or calling or bribing that will get him to stop. It really is a matter of me outwitting him and catching him - he's getting better at this, I fear. This is not an isolated thing - as many of you have read that he has done this to me before. Taking him to the store is becoming an increasing challenge. There is no strap or safety belt that I have found that keeps him in one place. (The belts on shopping carts, I have learned, are only there to make the stores look like they care and offer a false sense of security to parents. He can houdini out of his Graco stroller in 10 seconds flat. The car seat is good. He can't writhe out of that, in fact he has tried). I have actually looked into getting one of those leash-harnasses, but they are so philosophically out of favor that I cannot find one. Anyway.

Back to Friday afternoon. Aidan was not the cause of my concerns. It was Owen. He was having a hard time getting along with the other kids and there were a number of trips to his room. It was hot, and it was Friday. I was tired. It was one of those days when you can't possilbly be creative enough to come up with another meal plan. So I decided to do the pizza thing. I like frozen pizzas and figured I'd dash off to the store when Eric came home. I was expecting him around 4, but he did not arrive until 5. I was in full blown STARVING mode - which happens when you are on a diet and do not eat at the exact time every day. I heated up some Alphaghetti to satiate the kids. Eric went right to the shower. He stayed late and went out for a beer. (I could bitch and whine about this, but I won't. The sentiment remains however).

Eric said he would be 5 minutes in the shower (he had done physical training prior to his trip to the watering hole). I sat Aidan at the table and then sat myself in the livingroom. I was drained. And hungry. I spaced out. And then a couple minutes later, I realized that the blissful silence was ominous. I called up to Eric "Is Aidan up there with you?". No. I ran outside, imagining I would see him in his usual spots, in the sandbox, in the garden attempting to pick green tomatoes, behind the shed. No no and No. Then I ran to the front of the house. No Aidan. I looked and looked. In other yards, then down the street. No Aidan. My heart began to race. I ran back in the house. I checked the basement. No Aidan. I jumped in the van and drove down the street, looking in each yard. How hard can it be to spot a blonde boy in only a diaper? I drove around the block and there he was in someone's arms. I jumped out of the van and then felt the full brunt of her stare. She stood beside the woman holding Aidan. She had the cellphone. Dour and suspicious.

I grabbed Aidan and breathed a sigh of relief.

"He was sitting in the road" She said.
"Oh my God, Thank-you so much". I was shaking, my heart was not slowing. In times of stress I am known to show little emotion. Such was a moment.
"Don't you watch him?"

Okay. I am grateful that this woman stopped her car to help the woman who found Aidan.

I was about to leave when cell phone woman said

"I called the police, they asked us to stay put"

My heart sank. Was I going to get booked for being a bad mom? Was there such a crime? I could hear the jeers from the courtroom and the banging gavel rapping the bench "SILENCE!" "We the jury find this woman guilty of neglect and incapable of caring for her children". Now I know that this is pure fantasy, but these are the things that run through your head when you've lost your kid and is found by the moral high ground.

The next 20 minutes were long and uncomfortable. I did not much care for small talk. I was hyperconscious of everything I said. And then doubtful of my silence. I second guessed every word I muttered, thinking that it would be misconstrued in the worst of ways. The woman with the cellphone, with her arms crossed, glared at me and grilled me about the events which occured. "Where were you when we found him?"

Some of these questions are biting, "I was looking all over for him". She did not seem to understand how close we lived, thinking that Aidan wandered miles over the countryside to cross paths. We lived 2 blocks away. But she did not seem to appreciate that Aidan made a bee line through the backyards. It was a short dash for him. Meanwhile I was wasting time looking for him in other places.

Anyway. Then there was grumbling about how long it was taking the cops to arrive. The gravity was weighing heavy on me. When they arrived, I was briefly questioned. I was asked why I did not keep my doors locked. "Because he can open them?" I hope that answer was sufficient. It was true. In the end, he told me that any incident involving a child required a call from social services. That hit a nerve. I was assured that it was routine, although the words echoes in my head and my gut, and heightened all my motherly guilt which has already hypertrophied.

And that was that. So I am sitting with the aftermath, wondering what the hell is going to happen next. Eric and I, at the suggestion of my mother, decided to install another sliding lock at the top of each door so that I could control who came in and out of the house. With three doors (A front, back and side) I can't help but worry. The feelings of shame, guilt and failed responsibility weigh heavy. We've become hypervigalent, which maybe what I need. I may have become too complacent with his recent antics.

It would have been worse. Much worse. He could have been naked.

(and then there is that death issue, don't worry. I don't like to talk about it out of pure superstition).


Mary P. said...

Oh my. Poor you. I could see that judgmental woman with the cell phone.

A couple of people I know have had experiences like this. One was my sister, whose son has always been a very challenging child. He's 19 now, and still not cut from the usual mold.

It is enraging to be the victim of someone else's smug superiority. Of someone else who has no idea of your situation, but who thinks they know enough to judge, question, and demand answers. How dare she? On what authority does she grill you? The police have that right. She did not.

As for social services. It generally is "just a formality". If I might add a word of advice: don't admit to insecurities or uncertainties. Be sincere, but confident. "I was so frightened! Aiden has always been a wanderer, and it's obvious that we need to increase our security measures." Not, "I've tried everything and I don't know what to dooooo."

A cop friend of mine says, "Never admit anything. Never. Make them prove it." I guess he'd know. He was talking about a different issue at the time, but the principle probably holds...

Mary P. said...

If you'd care to talk about this a bit less publicly, feel free to email me. My heart just goes out to you.

Heather said...

Many thanks Mary,

And for the advice. It will be a wonder that I don't sound like a blathering fool. Grace under pressure is certainly not my forte! Thank you for your kind words and support - its one of those times when I really really need to hear it!

Kristan said...

Oh goodness, that must have been so scary for you. My youngest son is a bit of a wanderer so I do understand a little that heart stopping fear.

Hopefully the new locks will be better and keep him in.

Take care

Kim said...

What an ordeal! I'm sure everything will work out just fine. We all know (and I'm sure SS does too!) how kids can wander off in the blink of an eye. You are a good parent, and they'll see that. I probably would have told the lady, "Thanks for finding my child. YOU can wait, but I nobody said I was required to." ;-), I don't know how you took that! I'm sure my reaction would have been to run. I've often thought of getting an alarm system where the doors and windows beep even when the alarm is off--for this very reason. BIG HUGS!

hotboy said...

Someone I know had a kid who ran away from her in a supermarket, screaming blue murder. The kid was nuts. Ended up in the freezer with the chickens.
I know you might have felt guilty, but you should have given the woman your address and gone home. (Half the folk I know are social workers) Tell the social worker you'd like to have your children undergo a sex change. Off with the testicles.Wee boys are mad.Afflictive emotions unfortunately afflict. Nightmare though, eh? Hotboy

MC Etcher said...

I used to escape and wander off all the time as a kid - luckily for my folks, the 70's were a lot more laid back about kids wandering free.

robmcj said...

I take my hat off to anyone that's a parent. I'm not sure I could do it and stay sane.

I like serious posts at least as much as the funny ones.

I recognise the audience pressure to keep things light and funny, but I try to remember that many people like reading the real stuff.

In fact I need to think about writing some more serious stuff myself.

Candace said...

Not fun. Not fun AT ALL.

That woman was a bitch. Plain and simple.

I like Mary's adivce, "make 'em prove it."