You guys, yesterday I did a Periscope (in 2 parts because live streaming can be tricky and wonky at the same time!) that was pretty well received so I thought I should write a post about it. Let me start by saying I get it. I see clearly how accidents can happen in the matter of nano-seconds. How lives are turned upside down. How there really is no fault sometimes. We had one of these moments over the weekend with our own child. While it was happening it seemed like a big deal, but after I had a moment to process it, I realized it could've been a HUGE deal and one that could have also been easily avoided. I think sometimes we forget our kids, at particular ages, are not ready to do certain things. There are a few of reasons for this: maturity, preparation and guidance and prior experience. But no matter how well equipped we think (THINK) our children are we also have to take into consideration that they're are actually still children, and in this case, very young children.
We have some of our closest friends visiting us at the lake this week. We've been friends for over 30 years. Our kids are now friends. It's easy, fun and always a great time! We were hanging out at the lake on Sunday and the younger boys (ages 4 and 7) decided they wanted to go fishing, so the dads took them out in the boat. While the little ones and their father's were out on the water, the mom's and the older kids hung out at the pool chatting and relaxing. After the little's had been out for a while, we got a text from them asking where we were, so we answered and didn't think anything of it, assuming they were packing it in and coming to meet us at the pool. Then the second text came in and it said "Elias is coming". Now, let me set the stage for you....The boys on the boat are about 200 yards away from the pool. There's a marina with boat docks, a parking lot and tennis courts that have to be navigated prior to getting to the pool to where the rest of us were. After we got the second text I immediately got up and started making my way to the boat docks. Surely they would be waiting for me so I could pick up Elias and walk him back to the pool...he's 4. Well, that's not what happened. By the time I made it to the parking lot I saw his little head around a parked car and I called for him - he was fine, he said "Hi Mom, I'm coming to find you"...ok, great, here I am, let's walk back through this parking lot together and go swimming was my response. In my head I was screaming at his father, who by the way, is the greatest dad on the planet, so don't judge. After we made it back to the pool and he was happily playing with his friends did my friend and I dissect the situation. First of all, they dropped him at the end of a boat dock and expected him to walk a straight line to shore. That's exactly what happened (thank God), but think about what could've happened....he could've been distracted and wanted to check out a boat, he could've wanted to lean over to look in the water to see a fish, he could've tripped...all resulting in him falling into the water - and he can't swim! Imagine my blood pressure after thinking about this. Then after he got through that part of the obstacle course, he had to make his way across an oval shaped parking lot with a median (best way to describe it) of flowers and trees. He made it across one side and was coming through the flowers when I saw him. So basically my kid is a four year old American Ninja Warrior at this point, avoiding danger and living to tell about it!
Here's the thing. I KNOW there was not one ounce of intention by any adult in that boat to have harm come to this child. I KNOW THAT. I also know that we make decisions based on the capabilities we feel our children have. Elias happens to be a pretty smart kid. He's been around the lake environment since he was 18 months old. He knows what to do - except he's four and he can also be distracted, excited and well, a four year old. The decision to have him walk the path that he did was not because my husband felt he couldn't do it, it was because he felt that he could - and he did. It was only after the fact that when we looked at it, realized it was dangerous for a kid his age. As parents, it's only natural to second guess decisions, we do it all the time. We question whether or not we're doing right by our kids. In this scenario they should've sent us a message that read "hey, Elias wants to come in, meet us at the dock" so they could've passed him off to an adult. In hindsight, that's what they would have done.
My point here is that I get it. I get how crazy accidents happen. I get how quickly things can change. We hear every day about another horrible tragedy involving kids and the "mis-judgement" of parents. We're persecuted by society when things go wrong. It must have been the parents negligence, they probably weren't watching the kids, whatever the reason. I'm willing to bet any parent that's been in a questionable situation involving their kids DID NOT have intentions for a bad outcome. I'm also willing to bet most of the people reading this post have had some kind of "oh shit" moment when it came to parenting. Think about it, have you ever "misplaced" your child in a crowded place, or a grocery store? Have you ever given your child more credit for being more mature than they really are? I have. We're all just trying to do our best at this thing called parenting. Most of the time we're winging it, hoping for a positive outcome. There's no parenting manual out there for real life folks - sorry, but there isn't. We have to believe in ourselves and our abilities to do it the way we feel is right. Every situation is different, every parent is different, every family is different. Don't be afraid to make the wrong decision - because you will. My husband was confident that our little guy would be fine, and he was right. We didn't have to argue about it, he knows he should've handled it differently and I can assure you it won't happen again. I can also assure you that while we will practice more vigilance in places that are questionable for a four year old to navigate, we won't stop allowing him to explore his surroundings. We can't be there all the time - we just can't...and that's okay. Part of life is allowing our children to learn and take risks. I'm sharing this story with you because I want you to know we're all human and I get it.