One afternoon I sat on the couch pretty much topless, as one is when nursing a six-week-old around the clock. The couch faced the back deck and I had our garden doors open to the back yard. I wasn't watching TV or looking at my phone. I was just staring into space, exhausted and wondering how I was going to find the energy to make supper.
I could see my four-year-old son playing on the slide, but my two-year-old son was out of sight -- not unusual as we had a very large, gated yard.
I wasn't expecting anyone but suddenly I heard footsteps coming down the side of the house. I didn't even have time to cover myself before a woman came around the corner, a look of fury on her face and my two-year-old on her hip. She started yelling the second she saw me.
"DO YOU KNOW WHERE I JUST FOUND YOUR CHILD?" she screeched.
I was shocked, and of course couldn't find any words besides "Uh, uh, uh..." But in an instant I knew that she had found him NOT in our yard.
By then she had glanced down and noticed my nursing baby on one side, and me fumbling with a leaky breast and a nursing bra on the other. Perhaps she could even see the deep, dark bags under my eyes.
All at once I was horrified and ashamed, but praying that this woman would take pity on me. I thought, please let her see that I am already failing at life. I don't need her to tell me.
She regained her composure but instead of showing me compassion, chose to continue lecturing me. "He was on the road," she hissed. "Cars come flying over that hill and they wouldn't even have seen him! You are LUCKY I came along when I did."
I could be Chase Marten's mom today. And so could you. Because accidents happen, and when they do people need love and compassion, not lectures and blame.
"Uh, uh, uh..." I was trembling and trying to swallow the massive lump in my throat. "Thank you," I squeaked out.
I unlatched the baby, who immediately started crying. I put him on the floor and went to collect my mischievous two-year-old who was none the wiser. She handed him to me then twirled on her heel and stormed off, shaking her head as she went. It happened so fast I barely had time to process it.
Your two-year-old just escaped from your yard, I told myself. He walked out onto a busy street. He could have been hit. He could have been taken. He could have been gone for an hour before you went looking for him. And it ALL would have been your fault.
I cried, of course. It makes you sick to think that something serious could happen to your child, especially in YOUR care.
It's called an accident. And despite an accident being an accident, mothers will still blame themselves for it and carry the guilt for life.
We never figured out how he got out of the yard that day. It happened one more time, when a repairman left the gate open. That time my husband found him just as he was stepping out on the street.
A few months after that my oldest son fell in the backyard and split his head open.
A year after that our middle son (clearly the escape artist) was found wandering around outside in boots and a T-shirt in -20 degrees Celsius weather. That's how I learned he could unlock the front door.
Six months after that we were in a busy downtown area, and I lost my oldest son. We stopped to watch a street performer and he just biked away from us.
A few weeks ago I walked into the kitchen and my youngest (now two) had a butcher knife in his hands and was trying to cut a block of cheese on the floor.
And next month it will be something else. And next year something else. And we really don't know if one day a terrible tragedy will befall our family --because of a lag in supervision, a safety measure we forgot to take, a lapse in judgement, a child's curiosity, a teenage boy's risk... We don't know.
Because accidents happen.
A two-year-old boy died in our country this weekend. He wandered away from his family's home and he was found in a creek half a kilometer away, four days later.
There are rumblings online that this was "preventable." Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe people should shut their mouths and remember that these parents are going through the worst pain anyone could experience.
And they will blame themselves the rest of the their lives, don't you worry.
You all know that I have no tolerance for people who march around with the air of perfection. I could be Chase Martens' mom today. And so could you. Because accidents happen, and when they do people need love and compassion, not lectures and blame.
Let's show our fellow Manitoba family some love, please. Be kind, gentle and compassionate in your thoughts and conversations about this. We are all just perfectly imperfect humans, trying our best out here.
*This was originally posted on Jennifer's public Facebook page here.
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Buy medications with a child-resistant cap whenever possible and store all medications and vitamins in a locked box. Keep the box and key out of sight and reach of children.
Store household cleaners, like dishwasher detergent and bleach; car supplies, such as windshield washer fluid; cosmetics, like nail polish remover; and garden supplies like pesticides, in locked bins, cupboards or drawers. A child safety latch is an acceptable alternative.
If you suspect your child has been poisoned, call your local poison centre or 911. Add the number of your area poison centre to your cell and home phones.
Understand what your children are capable of, if they are climbers, if they sneak things from the cupboard. Just thinking beyond that to what else they might be likely to access. And then ensuring that those things are where they should be, that they're locked up tight.
Start by sorting your harmful products in higher areas. Book shelves, cupboards and kitchen cabinets are good storage options.
Follow Jennifer Campbell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mamalionstrong