Posted by: Kate | May 1, 2009

Near Miss

Everybody has them.

Those parenting moments during which you just glide through, but later you’re awake at 2:00 in the morning thinking, “Holy crap, that could have ended badly.”

I’m of the opinion that you get at least one free pass with each child. With Emily, it happened when she was about two. I was elsewhere, somewhere, and Willem was in the kitchen, when he heard a snick-snick-snick sound emanating from the living room. He peeked around the corner, and there is my toddler, holding a full-size pair of kitchen shears, opening and closing them as fast as her fat little arms could manage. He was able to scurry right over and remove the weaponry, and she didn’t get a single cut on her. A close call, averted, but with plenty of sleepless nights thinking about the what-if’s.

Jacob had his last night. He’s had his share of spills and injuries, but never anything that I would consider really dramatic. But last night, we were at Emily’s softball game, Gretchen and I watching the game, with  Willem arriving after school, bearing plans to scoop up Jacob and go home to cook the kind of dinner that makes you want to lick your neighbor’s plate when you’re all done (grilled tuna steaks, fresh summer squash and zucchini, wild rice, warm German chocolate cake… yeah). Willem showed up as planned, watched a bit of the game, and then walked off toward the nearby playground to – I thought – gather the boy. He returned a few minutes later to report, “Jacob is not interested in going home right now.” He watched a bit more of the game, and then headed for home.

Here’s where the problem manifested. I assumed that he meant, Jacob didn’t want to go home at that very second, so he was giving him a few more minutes and then would gather the boy and head home.

No. Willem meant, “I’m leaving him on the playground, and can you please gather him up before heading home?”

Oh, dear. This park is about 15 minutes from the house, and has a very long, one-way, 5mph driveway looping around it. I did call as we were leaving to provide an ETA, but just said, “We’re heading home now” – meaning Emily and I, but “we” is such an all-encompassing word, and Willem assumed I had Jacob, too.

Luckily – and in a brand of luck that has been sadly scarce in my life just lately – about five minutes before the end of the game, it started to rain, and Jacob scampered over from the playground to sit with me. I was shocked to see him, and did my best to keep it cool and not immediately rush to the worst-case-scenario thoughts (you know, the ones where you realize that you would have been gone from the park for at least half an hour, with your somewhat-timid four-year-old wandering, aimless and sad and scared, around the property). And I waited until we were in bed, doing our typical stay-up-too-late pillow-talk thing, before telling Willem; no need to get the kids riled up about their own near miss.

But, seriously. It provided a bad moment or three, but the good news is, it all turned out happily in the end. And next time, Willem and I will be a smidge more explicit in our communication…

What’s your near miss? Please tell me we’re not the only ones…



  1. I’m getting chills thinking about our near-miss.

    We have a concrete basement, with concrete steps leading to the basement. Those steps are somewhat curved in their descent, rather than a straight shot. LouLa was probably about 18 months and somehow tumbled down those steps (Josh was down doing laundry). I had always thought I’d be the cool one in an emergency. She was crying, and I just walked away from the doorway, yelling (okay, maybe screaming) to Josh, “IS SHE OKAY?? IS SHE OKAY?? JUST TELL ME SHE’S OKAY!!” I couldn’t bear to even look. She was scared, but just fine and didn’t have even a bump.

  2. Whew, those what-ifs are a killer. I haven’t blogged about this, but a couple of weeks ago, Hank had a high fever, so I was doing the thing where you alternate tylenol and ibuprofen, every three hours. It lets you keep them better “covered” with fever meds. I had already taken him to the doc, and they pronounced it to be “just a virus.”

    So twenty four hours after he started running the fever, I realized, in a flash of clarity, that I had not been alternating tylenol with advil. I’d been alternating advil with advil. Giving him doses from 2 different bottles, every three hours. I sat down right away and wrote down every dose I’d given him and how much. It was about 800 milligrams in 24 hrs. Then I called poison control. They were like, “It’s fine. Even if you’d given him that dose all at once, he would be fine. Just wait 6 hrs before the next dose.”

    But all I could think was, what if I’d been giving him tylenol on top of tylenol? Much more toxic. And it could just as easily have been that mistake. I don’t know what I was thinking–it was like a total mental blindspot.

    So yeah, sometimes you get a free pass.

  3. My near miss happened when Maggie was 5 or 6 months old. She was still in her infant carrier, that big clunky thing where the base stays in the car and the car seat/carrier part comes in and out. I had a habit of laying her in the car seat (in the house), then gathering my things, and carrying it all — baby included — out to the car at once.

    On our first day of Kindermusik, which required a 25-minute drive on the interstate to downtown, I pulled in the parking lot only to realize that I had never strapped her into the car seat/carrier’s harness! I’d laid her in the seat, got our stuff together, but never fastened the straps. The seat was secured into the base, but my baby wasn’t secured in the seat AT ALL. When I realized what I’d done, I just started crying; I was so scared thinking about what could have happened if I’d been in an accident.

    Even now, occasionally, I’ll forget to buckle Maggie’s straps. She can do the top strap, but she has trouble with the buckle between her legs. At least now she’s old enough to say, “Um, Mommy, aren’t you going to buckle me in?” Which she’s done several times!

    I still beat myself up thinking about that first incident though. Ugh.

  4. I was actually left at a playground. We were visiting my mom’s friend in a town that was a good 3 hours from our house. Her friend’s older daughter was supposed to watch me, but she and a friend of hers left… without me. I didn’t know anything except the name of the street where they lived, so I went up to another woman who was there with her child and asked her how to get back. She took me there, and we went up the street until I recognized the house.

    These things can end badly, but don’t beat yourself up like crazy. They don’t always have to.

  5. i was left at school once, after high school play rehearsal. It was a Friday, so there were no late busses running, and Mom had said she’d pick me up. After sitting outside for a couple of hours (thank gods it was spring!) mom came rolling up…she’d gotten all the way home (a 35-40 minute drive from home to my HS), sat home, wondered when I was getting home, then realized she had to come get me.

  6. gulp – that near miss just had my heart beating at mph.

    I am rattling my brain for any near misses – I know there have been a lot but I can’t think of any.

    However – when my husband was 7 years old, his family was taking a vacation to Montana. They had a motorhome and a truck full of people and stopped at a park to have lunch. After lunch and 30 minutes down the freeway, his grandmother asked, “Where’s David?”

    They had left him at the park. David remembers it all – seeing the motorhome driving away leaving him there all alone.

    When his 20 year old brother returned an hour later, in the truck, to get him, David was so hysterical that his brother gave him a beer to calm him down. (Now it is a story to laugh at – but I’m sure it took many years to reach that point!)

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