My daughter was just two-weeks-old and my level of exhaustion was at its peak. I was a walking disaster of adrenaline, bliss, love, and fear. I kept telling myself, “It will get better. Sleep is coming. You will shower again. You will.”
In the midst of all of these emotions was my two-and-a-half-year-old son.
This brought my level of exhaustion up and over the peak and down the hill in a rapid avalanche. My two-and-a-half-year-old was typical for his age. He displayed constant curiosity and hyperactivity. My hands, my head, and my heart were operating in overdrive.
In addition to life with two children, we were selling our house and moving across the country.
Juggling isn’t a viable enough term to describe my situation. My husband and I were doing everything in our power to make every part of our lives perfect.
Here’s what you need to know: this is not possible. Perfect does not happen.
It was 9:40am and I had finally gotten the baby to sleep. I laid her down and moved into the kitchen to get started on meal prep for the week. My husband was outside with our son, tending to the lawn. The day finally felt settled, it was quiet and sunny. The house was clean, meals were coming together, and I knew my husband was happy working in the yard.
He came inside for a quick drink and I noticed our son wasn’t with him. “Where is he?” I asked. He turned and looked at me, “I thought he was with you.” We went back and forth yelling at each other while running through the house looking for our son. He wasn’t there. I finally noticed that the side door was wide open and I ran outside. I looked down both sides of the street and he wasn’t there.
My husband hopped on his bike and rode to the right side of our neighborhood, I ran on foot to the left. Everyone I passed stopped what they were doing to help us search.
Every open garage I passed, my heart would sink. What if he’s lost in a garage? What if someone took him? Every empty road I passed would make my eyes fill with tears. The neighborhood playground was empty. No sign of my boy.
The worst part of the search was when my husband and I crossed paths and neither one of us had our son. “It’s been 20 minutes of searching. I’m going home to call the police," I exclaimed. (20 minutes when looking for your missing child feels like hours).
Just as I ran into my driveway, I heard a car horn honk, I turned to see my neighbor driving and pointing down to her passenger seat. She had him. I fell to my knees and sobbed. I quickly grabbed him out of the car. He was crying and his feet were bleeding from running on the pavement with no shoes. We sat in our driveway and hugged until my husband came home. Once he arrived, he threw his bike in the yard and joined us.
If you're wondering, the baby was still asleep inside. We did so many things wrong that day.
Parenting is far from perfect. Parenting is hard, tough, and scary. Every decision we make, every situation we are faced with, is cause for a mishap when children are involved. They can put their fingers into electrical sockets, get a hold of knives, run into the street, fall into the pool, choke on their food, or come in contact with a dangerous animal. The list goes on and on, and you never once think any of those things will happen to you until it does.
That day I learned that it’s not possible to do everything. I learned that leaning on neighbors, friends, and sitters was okay. If your list is growing long, hire a sitter or mother’s helper to watch your kids so you can tend to other life-needs. It is well worth your money to know that your kids are safe. Let’s face it, kids require 99.9 percent of our attention. I figured that one out the hard way.
I’m not saying we need to be helicopter parents. What we need is to set ourselves up to not be helicopter parents. This includes baby proofing, even when you have big kids. Cover your sockets, put the knives up high, install chain locks on the tops of all the doors, fence your pools, childproof your fridges and pantries. I know, I know, this sounds like a lot, but the more you do ahead of time, the less helicoptering you’ll have to do, and more importantly, the less disasters you’ll have to clean up.
My kids are now four and two, and I am doing everything in my power to keep them safe while also giving them freedom. Once I figured out that parenting is not something that can be achieved, but something that is done in the moment, my days got a little easier.