We’ve all had it happen to us: a child runs off without our notice, away from our supervision. It’s a learning experience for both parent and child. Life as MOM contributor Deanna shares what she learned when Addison ran off without her last summer.
Scrolling through my facebook feed these days, I see a lot of posts giving inspiration for summertime activities. School is out, and it’s time to plan! And honestly, I love these posts. I love these ideas.
But no matter how much I read these inspiring posts and take detailed notes for my own little brood of children, I know in my mind that I really only have 1 summertime goal.
My goal for the summer: Not to lose a child….again.
It was last summer when I planned a playdate with friends. I cleaned up the house, made a pot of coffee, and I’m sure there were some muffins or something in there too. Certain minutiae of the morning have faded to make way for other details.
Balancing the baby on my hip, lecturing (and bribing) the 2-almost-3-year old within an inch of his life, and asking my 4 year old to please be kind with her hands (no pushing!) to the children coming over to play– I thought we were prepped for a good morning.
The thing is, my 4 year old (now 5 year old) is what you might call “a runner”. She has Down syndrome and sometimes her gross motor skills — of running! — far exceed her verbal skills of telling me that she wants to go somewhere else!
This results in a lot of added stress for outings and such. A triple wagon with buckles for each seat has become my best friend.
But this was a playdate at our house. On our very tightly secured, locked deck that Daddy built up with our sweet little runner in mind. No one was buckled down because there was no need!
The only thing I didn’t take into consideration was my 2-year old son’s desire to impress his 2-year old friend by going out to the big slide. He opened the deck gate. The gate was firmly latched but not double locked because:
- He knew better than to open it and never ever disobeyed when he was told to not leave the deck.
- Addison couldn’t open it even with just the normal latch.
- We were RIGHT THERE — except for those 30 seconds when he did open it, and he and his friend headed off to the play-set.
Addison departed right behind them — and headed the opposite direction…straight for the incredibly busy road.
Thirty seconds later I was RIGHT THERE again, and I called Carter and his friend back onto the deck before they even reached the slide. Due to the chaos of the extra kids and a fussy baby, I thought Addison was still in the house, so I didn’t even notice that she was missing…for several minutes.
I will never forget the feeling of realizing that she was actually not in the house at all. The panic as I left all of the other children with my friend on the deck and ran around screaming her name. The horror as I spotted her….in the middle of the road…with traffic stopped all around her.
I think God put that bright yellow shirt on top of the laundry pile that day…telling me to dress her in THAT. Because there she was, in her bright yellow, wandering aimlessly in the middle of the busiest road imaginable.
I think God also sent a cop car into traffic in THAT INSTANT because it was a cop who spotted Addison in front of the vehicle…and it was a cop who stopped traffic that day.
I think it was also God who stopped the discussion of: “You need to take better care of your children” and the stop by the house later that day to determine if it was necessary to call in CPS because of a negligent mother.
I will never forget this day last summer. And as I look to the summer ahead, now with a 5-year old, a 3-year old, and an 18 month old, their safety is my #1 priority above all else. We don’t host playdates anymore. All it takes is 30 seconds of distraction.
I’m not willing to play safety roulette with my daughter who is better about running away…but is still not as reliable as a typically developing 5-year old might be.
Why do I tell you this story? Because I have had a year of reflecting on this incident, and it has taught me several things that I want to share with you.
What I Learned When My Daughter Escaped My Supervision
1. Sometimes things just happen
I have gone over and over and over this day. Was it my fault? How was I to know that I should have double locked the gate like I normally do when I need to keep children contained while I am home alone with them?
I honestly believe I was doing my very best that day, and this entire incident slipped through the cracks of my “very best”.
A few weeks later Addison escaped from the church nursery and waltzed up into service and down the middle aisle while the nursery workers had no idea she was even gone!
The problem was not in my mothering, it was in her “running”. Letting go of the guilt is a tough, but necessary thing.
2. Guardian Angels are a real thing
Of course, I use the term “guardian angel” to describe a loving Heavenly Father who looks over my children’s safety even when I can’t. We can’t possibly protect our children every second of every day, somethings things just happen. I go through my mothering days doing the very best I can, but I am in constant prayer that the Lord would please have mercy on my children and keep them safe.
As mothers we have to trust someone much bigger than ourselves to protect our children otherwise the anxiety alone will kill us.
3. Be vigilant
My husband always laughs at me because when planning an outing with the children, I often have a back-up plan…and a back-up to the back-up.
After this incident all of the doors in my house got magnetic alarms that sound if a door is opened.
I also bought a gps bracelet for my daughter that would send alerts to my phone when she was a certain distance away from me (which we used for about six months but then I discarded because it really wasn’t doing what I needed it to do…and she improved dramatically during that time).
I also have spent a lot of time teaching with the wagon. For example: we go out somewhere, and she can walk next to the wagon, but as soon as she starts to run off…she gets buckled back in the wagon. This teaching time has helped immensely. She hates to be buckled back in after she has tasted freedom! When we go on outings that include water or where I can’t effectively use the wagon, I take a helper.
And most importantly, I don’t put myself in situations where there might be “30 seconds of distraction”. Someday we will be able to host playdates again….or go to playdates at other people’s houses. But for now? Her safety is my #1 priority.
Anyone else out there dealing with a runner? First of all, I feel your pain. You are not alone on this! Second, I do have encouraging news to report. Between last summer and this summer, I have seen HUGE improvement. Here’s to growing out of it completely!
So there you go, my big summer goal: Keep 3 children safe ALL SUMMER LONG. I dream big.
What’s your summer goal?
Deanna is passionate about special needs advocacy and new motherhood- two things that go hand in hand for her right now. Three kids four and under, the oldest of which has Down syndrome- keeps her quite busy. But there’s always enough time left at the end of the day to write all about the insanity at her blog Everything and Nothing from Essex. And to laugh- always, always there is time to laugh.
Technically labeled a “special” mother, Deanna really finds nothing special about herself. Truly, special needs parenting is just about taking it one day at a time- enjoying the highs, sloughing through the lows, and stumbling through the mundane while drinking too much coffee. Read all of Deanna’s posts here.
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