When I had my son just over five years ago, my biggest fear wasn’t dropping him, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or even my long standing go-to: “fear of fire.”
My biggest fear was leaving him somewhere. On the top of the car. Next to the car. In the parking lot at the grocery store. I was haunted by a vision of him sitting on the ground (on top of the car?) in his carrier as I unknowingly drove away..
Now that he’s a bit older, it would be much harder to leave him anywhere as we are usually having a conversation as I strap him in to his car seat.
“Mommy, the big boy swings make my penis tickle.”
“Awesome! Now let’s buckle your seat belt, big guy.”
But since the break-up, there is always threat of a misstep in the coordination between distant households, with schedules being patched together on Google calendars. And a couple of days ago, two years into this post-break up journey, it finally happened. G fell into the Black Hole of Broken Family Communication:
X’t: I am leaving from my office downtown to drop that stuff off at your house
Downtown? Wait, then where is G? Does the X’s girlfriend have him? That doesn’t seem right, either.
I glance at the clock. It is exactly 6:30PM, the very minute his distant, suburban daycare closes. I blaze through a quick text message that becomes too slow a means of communication before it even leaves my phone. I dial X for a rare voice to ear conversation.
Me: do you have G?
X: Uh oh…no. You were supposed to pick him up.
He was right, too. We had changed the schedule. This one was on me. I was the ball dropper. I had driven right by the daycare, too, sure of a plan that didn’t exist.
I forgot to get my son. What do you do with THAT?
"These things happen,” said the slightly annoyed/not quite rude daycare worker when I called to tell her we were “on our way to get G and ohmygod I’m so sorry about this.”
My son had fallen off of my radar before my parental responsibilities to him had been satisfied. To make matters even more reprehensible in my own mind, I had been consumed with excitement about the activity I had planned for that evening, and had not even given him a second thought.
What does that say about me as a mother? Where were those unflappable “maternal instincts” of mythical proportion that are supposed to rise above the mundanity of the everyday; to rule and protect my kid’s world at any cost, armed only with the Superpower of unconditional love and a bag of snacks? Simply put: What the hell was wrong with me?
This is not the first time I have asked myself these questions.
In the movies, when they hand the child to the mother for the first time at the hospital, she is overcome with a love she has never known. The connection is immediate and dramatic, and there is usually some crying involved. That wasn’t my experience. With G and me, there has been a learning curve of love on both sides. Certainly, there was a connection woven into our shared DNA from the start; an ancient protection mechanism that closely resembles fight or flight. But aside from that, ours was like any other relationship between two people. My son and I discovered each other, spent time getting to know one another, and gradually fell in love.
In the movies, mothers beg the monsters/vampires/zombies/dingos to take them instead of their child. I have yet to bargain with a monster/etc about anything, but I do know that if there is a last cookie/piece of chocolate/sip of milkshake, I’m not giving it to my kid. I’m gonna eat it, myself.
In the movies, mothers are Love Robots whose radars are programmed to “Offspring.” But I know many, many women who struggle mightily to access their inner Love Robot. I also know some who have never quite succeeded in finding it.
We don’t often see these kinds of Moms portrayed on our big and little screens. The closest we get are the sassy “You’ll eat what I give you, cuz my house my rules” Moms. They are usually underscored with a laugh track to let you know that their snark is only for comic effect. It is much less often that we see “Holy shit, this ain’t comin’ that easy or naturally for for me…” Moms. And why would we? That’s not entertainment. That’s just real and uncomfortable.
So I lost track of my kid. And while I mostly forgave myself, and suspect that we are not the first or last “broken family” to experience the consequences of a similar miscommunication, the fact is unchanged: I’m now a Mom who left her kid in the lurch. And it was okay this time, because the fall-out occurred in a highly supervised daycare setting. I will of course take new steps to assure that the safety net is up next time the schedule is changed. But as much as I wish I could, I know I can’t promise G 100% that it will never happen again. And when it happens again, where will he be?
Watch out, "Fear of fire." I think your days at #1 might be numbered.
(The second worst part of this story? Even after five years of full time enrollment at the daycare, without ever being late one time, they just HAD to charge us the dollar a minute fine. Is it too much to ask for one “get out of jail free” card with every $35, 000 spent, fellas? Jeez…)
Time is precious, and you gave me some of yours to read this piece. I thank you so much for that. Carry on...
Old Single Mom
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