Every parent has had those nightmarish, heart-stopping, makes-your-blood-run-cold moments with their children. Whether you’re in a store and lose sight of your toddler for a few seconds because he wandered out of your sight while you were reaching for a box of cereal, or when they make a sudden dash for the street or get away from you in a busy parking lot. It’s happened to all of us, multiple times. Most of the time everything turns out ok, thank goodness. My grandfather (who I called Papa) used to say, “99 percent of the stuff you worry about Jen, never happens.” And he was right. (I don’t even want to think about the other 1%).
Shortly after my first baby, David, was born my mom made plans to fly up to Boston from Houston to visit for a few days. Traveling was no easy task for my mom, who had advanced multiple sclerosis. Because she traveled with her caregivers she chose to stay in a hotel in Boston which was about a 30 minute drive from my home. My sister, her husband, and their 10 month-old daughter were coming in from Minnesota and staying at the hotel as well.
As soon as everyone arrived and got settled Mark and I bundled up the baby (it was January in Boston) and packed all his supplies for the short trip to the hotel. We were still in the early days of new parenthood so we probably took a week’s worth of stuff. On top of that we were blearily exhausted because David never slept for more than two hours at a time. Anyway, we arrived at the hotel, parked the car, and transferred David (in his carrier) onto the stroller. Once we got to my mom’s room I hugged my sister and my mom and then took the blanket off of David so that I could get him out of his carrier. And to my instant horror I realized that I had never buckled him into his car seat. The straps were still tucked underneath his body. I looked up at my sister feeling absolutely horrified, with a jaw-dropped, wide-eyed expression. She looked at me calmly, and very kindly said, “Everybody does that at least once, Jen. He’s fine.”
I wish I could say that that was the only time I have ever forgotten to buckle my kids it, but it wasn’t. Once they reached toddlerhood though, they would remind me if I forgot. Page’s words have stayed with me all these years, I think, because they are what every parent needs to hear. Every parent makes mistakes, and most of the time it turns out just fine. My mom used to say that God looks after children and drunks. I’m not sure where she got that from (it may have been a Southern-ism that has since lost traction), but I am mighty grateful for the ‘looking after children’ part.