Currently Reading: Finished Anna of Byzantium last night, as I was unwinding from a chat. Still haven't gotten to the e-books yet; I've been too busy. Given the content of the following, today will be a lot slower!
I happened to watch a disturbing Oprah yesterday. This mother of two, on a hectic first day back to school, accidentally left her two-year-old in her car all day.
In her defense, she had broken her normal routine: Her husband, who would have normally dropped off the toddler at daycare, had a dental appointment and was unable to do so. The mother left at her normal time, completed what she normally did, and since it was still too early to drop the child off, ran another errand before heading to her job as an assistant principle at a middle school.
8 hours later, someone ran into her office and reported seeing the child in the car.
I couldn't watch anymore, because they began to play the heartbreaking 911 tapes, plus my MIL was returning from surgery at that moment. My first reaction was, "My two-year-old was perfectly capable of unfastening his seatbelt and unlocking the car..."
My second reaction was, maybe her little girl wasn't as precocious as my three.
As horrific as this sounds, I believe the rest of Oprah's show (had I watched it) was about how moms can get so over-stressed about getting each member of their family to where they need to be, and sometimes that stress can have deadly consequences.
I saw this in myself back in 2000.
I was running a baseball concession stand, and during the tournament season, I literally fell out of bed running. I raced through my morning routine, loaded the kids into the car, and took off for the stand. I took inventory, counted the money, made the deposit, and then was off to Sam's for restocks. In the afternoon, it was run through McD's for lunch, and return to the stand to unload.
Then it was return home, do any laundry that needed to be done, feed the kids a quick meal, leave a plate for my hubby in the microwave, and back to the ballfield we'd go.
My son was involved in Cub Scouts and their 3-day Day Camp was about to start; I was asked to be a walker on the first day. Stupidly, I said yes, because my son's team had been knocked out of the tournament, and I was looking forward to my first day when I didn't have to rush rush rush!
Monday morning, I looked at the schedule and realized we would be returning too late to run by the house for the cash box, so I took it with me, burying it under a blanket in the back of my van. I picked up the other scouts and we headed to the park. Rain was threatening; I was whole-heartedly hoping they would call it off for the day, or at least cut the day short! But no...this is the Scouts. When rain came, they bundled us under the shelter and sang songs. I was miserable and wishing I was home!
It hadn't helped that the minute we began our activities that morning, I stepped in a hole and nearly broke my ankle. An hour later, my six boys decided to run down a hill to the next activity and I fell down while following them. The other adult managed to stay on his feet!
After the day camp was finally over, I said goodbye to the other adult; found the parents of the extra boys in our group, and herded my 5 scouts toward my van. I'm not a person who's fond of the a/c in the car, so I rolled down the windows, called out, "Everyone buckled?" and put the van in gear.
I checked my watch; we were doing fine on time, and there would be ample time to warm up hot dogs for myself and my son before setting up for the tournament and going home when the workers showed up.
We were just about to pull onto the county road which led to our small community when a farmer pulling a bale of hay turned onto the road. I mentally fumed, because he was going slower than I normally drive on that road, and I wasn't in the mood for any delays.
If I'd listened to the little voice in my head five minutes earlier, the following wouldn't have happend. I nearly rolled up the windows and turned on the a/c, but it is cool in the woods, so I kept the windows down.
About a mile from passing our house, an insect flew in the window and landed on my leg. I slapped it, and then lifted my hand to see what I'd swatted.
It was a bee. And it was still alive.
Alarmed, I took my eyes off the road to try to blow the bee off my palm. We were on probably the only straight section of that twining county road, and I was fairly certain I could get rid of my unwanted passenger and stay on the road.
Wrong. My third puff, the scouts let out a yell. I put my eyes back on the road and realized we were not longer on the road, but in the cornfield! Instead of instantly stopping, my second mistake was to jerk the wheel to the right, to get us back on the road.
BAM! We connected with a tree. My head hit the steering wheel; the scout in the front seat beside me bit his tongue when his airbag deployed; I looked up and there was a scout clutching my headrest and looking relieved he hadn't gone through the windshield!
I swiveled around and everyone was accounted for. The passenger door was wrenched open by the people who owned the house across the street from where we were, and they began to unload the boys.
I climbed out and went around to help, but suddenly I was being led across the street to sit down. I was concerned for the boys, and wanted to stay and help get them out, but my son appeared, looking scared.
"Mommy, you're bleeding!"
I did notice at that point blood was running into my eye, but I reassurred him,
"Mommy's okay, honey. Head wounds always look worse than they are." We went over to the grass; a phone was brought out. I tried to call the sitter who was watching my daughter; no answer. So I looked at the time and called the neighbor at the entrance to our street, letting her know my hubby would be passing her house soon, and to please flag him down and let him know we'd been in an accident?
I then tried my house again; success this time. I relayed the information and all of a sudden felt faint. I handed the phone to my son, and put my head between my legs to ward off the spinning world.
The ambulances arrived and we were taken to the local hospital. I had a concussion; the scout who had bitten through his tongue needed three stitches in his tongue; the scout nearest the passenger door had a broken shoulder bone from the seat belt. My son had hit his head on the window, but no injury. The scout who had landed on the one behind me had a chipped ankle. The fifth scout was uninjured.
It was a warning: I needed to slow down! I didn't have to do everything, and my three days of bedrest showed me my concession stand workers were perfectly capable of running the stand without me doing everything. My kids were a heck of a lot happier the following year, when we only made stock-up trips twice a week. If we ran out of pretzels, it wasn't going to start a boycot or anything; customers would understand. I didn't have to be perfect.
Moms need to learn that while yes, we are valuable to our families and responsible for getting our kids here and there, we cannot put our own needs last. We need to prioritize, and to have friends willing to say, "You're doing too much! Let me help..." Or slap us across the face with a reality check every once in a while.
I'm not saying we should slack off. Just watch out for your friends, and if you see a train wreck about to happen because yourself or friend is scheduled too thin, offer to lend a hand if you can? It should have been a huge sign when I had everything scheduled to the exact minute, and would feel myself stressed if I hopped out of the shower and noticed I was 5 minutes behind schedule already. If you find yourself cutting your 'Me' time to do something for someone else, take a breath and ask yourself, "Is this really necessary?"
And maybe your warning won't be a bee in the car.
Or worse, have no warning at all.