**I have already had the yellow flag of "overreaction" thrown at me by Whitney on this post, to which I said something about her daughter being six and Henry being three.... but then I reread it and... yeah... she might have a point. So... you know... I see it. Just in case you were curious.
Between my class, vacations and other random life events, I haven't actually had many normal work weeks this summer. It seemed that nearly every week I needed to go to work on Wednesdays to make sure I got all of my hours in. But yesterday, yesterday I was FINALLY back to my normal schedule with my beloved Wednesday off with my boy. I had been looking forward to this return to normalcy and wanted to really enjoy our day.
We both slept in and got up and had breakfast together. I asked if he wanted to meet some friends at the pool, since it's the last Wednesday this summer that it's possible. "YEAH!!" He told me, then declared he would wear his Lightning McQueen swing trunks. We both got ready to go, then I told him to stay inside and play in the living room while I went out to put the extra carseat in the car. We were picking up Cici on our way, so I needed both installed.
And I guess I should have known better, but he has always listened before. He has been able to open the front door for months. He can unlock the real lock and the deadbolt, but he always listens and when we say stay, he stays. Always. Except... turns out not always. Because sometimes we are doing really fun things, and he just can't help himself.
I was out in the driveway, pulling the last latch tight on Cici's seat when I saw it. Saw him. Right in the edge of my peripheral vision, walking down the sidewalk in his Lightning McQueen trunks. Already past the car, heading for the main sidewalk... the one that runs right along the street. And you all, I lost it. Lost it in that way moms do when you have totally crossed the line of reasonable and moved into the "how COULD YOU think this is okay??" range. Or maybe I lost it in the way moms do when they picture all the ways this could have been SO MUCH WORSE.
"HENRY SHAYNE C. , YOU STOP RIGHT NOW!"
and he froze, turning to me with a little smile. He had no idea, NO IDEA that this was anything more than a game. We had talked about it. LOTS. DO NOT go outside by yourself. DO NOT open this door, DO NOT leave the porch. SAFETY. You gotta always be careful!
And he wasn't far, and I don't know... maybe I did overreact... or maybe I still am. He was just in front of our house. Not in the street, not out of sight. But still, out without permission. Out without me knowing. And maybe he originally was just going to come be with me, but he was past me. He had seen freedom and he was on his way down the road to see how far he could make it.
I ran to him, grabbed him by his little arm and his smile dropped. "Never Henry. NEVER EVER EVER do you open that door! Do you hear me? You ARE NOT allowed outside by yourself. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?"
And the tears started, this heart broken cry. But I couldn't let up, I couldn't hug him and say it was okay. Because it was anything but okay. The 'what ifs' and 'thank gods' were too fresh in my mind to not hammer home the point.
"You have to LISTEN to me. I said stay inside. YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO ME. It is dangerous! Something could happen to you! You could get hurt, you could get lost! You CANNOT come outside alone."
The tears continued. Getting harder. Getting more upset.
And I thought of the smile. The smile he had as he turned to see me in the car. The one that said "look mama, I am a big boy now". No clue, no CLUE that it was terrifying to me to see him out there without me knowing. No clue that things like that lead to terrible terrible things that are on the news, things that have all parents sitting in their homes thinking 'Thank god it wasn't my baby."
And of course, we weren't anywhere close to that. I was outside with him. Technically. I was at least outside at the same time, not in the shower or cooking in the kitchen, completely unaware. He was coming to be with me, I was the thing that drew him out. Because hadn't I just told him before I walked out that we were about to go out and have fun? Hadn't I told him we were going to the pool? Hadn't I just told him that something amazing was happening just as soon as we go through this door. Then I left him inside looking at that door, with me and the pool, with Cici and FUN on the other side. So as I was yelling at him, it was becoming more and more clear to me whose fault this really was.
I finally felt like I had made my point, made it CLEAR that this was not allowed. I picked him up. I hugged him and told him how much I love him. That it is because I love him SO MUCH that he can't be outside without me knowing. He said okay. He said he wouldn't do it again. When we got in the car he told me he had put on his own shoes. He was proud again, he was happy again. I looked down and saw his shoes were on the wrong feet. My little boy, getting so big. Getting so independent. Big enough to want to do stuff by himself, but too little to understand that he might still be too little.
I remember being the child, a teenager, a young adult, on the other side of these kinds of things. Getting yelled at for being unsafe, and when I said I got it, I saw, I understood, I was told again and again and again. 'Be safe, be careful, I love you TOO MUCH for you to not hear me on this. I set these rules for a REASON.' And I never got it. Never understood the repeating. The hammering home. I thought it was more guilt. Just making me feel worse when ' OKAY, OKAY, I GET IT. '
But I didn't. But after yesterday I do a little more. Because the key that the kids are missing when these big conversations happen, when the big hammer drops and there is yelling and telling and retelling again, is that what the parents are trying to protect you from is sometimes something they did wrong to start with. How do I protect him from my mistakes? My assumptions that he gets it. That he is big enough, understands enough, when maybe he doesn't. When I am yelling at him, I am actually just asking him to help me keep him safe. I can't do it by myself. And I tell him again and again because I really need him to hear me, and to help me.
This parenting stuff... sometimes it's hard.