How I almost lost it

Despite the fact that this could really make you think less of me as a mommy, Tim said that I should write this story up here for posterity. You know, one of those things to point to once August has his own precocious two-year-old and say, ‘You think you’ve got it bad? Look what you did to me!’

This afternoon, I was putting groceries away while Auggie played in the backyard. He was coming in and out of the kitchen and each time he headed out, I reminded him to stay in the backyard. (We’ve been working on that a lot lately, since Auggie often makes his way to the front yard and garage around the side of the house.) I went to put some veggies in the fridge and then glanced out the window. I didn’t see him on his playground. I went outside and called his name. Nothing. I stomped my way around the side of the house towards the front yard, thinking of how I was going to try to phase my reprimand for him this time to try to get the message to sink in. No Auggie.

I frowned and went back around the house, thinking that maybe he had come back inside the house while I wasn’t looking. He wasn’t anywhere inside. Now I’m beginning to get a horrible feeling down in my stomach. Where was he?

I went back out and ran out to the common ground that runs behind our house. He wasn’t there. So now I’m running back out front, looking in neighbors’ garages and up the sidewalk as far as I can see. I knock on our immediate next-door neighbor and ask if they’ve seen him. I’m way beyond the point of caring whether anyone thinks I’m a bad mom because I can’t find my toddler.

To tell you the truth, I couldn’t get over this horrible feeling that he was gone and I was never going to see him again. You cannot imagine the terror.

So I went back through the house — again — looking in every nook and cranny, just praying that this time I would find him playing quietly in a corner in his room. It’s back out to the yard, praying with every step that if God would just help me find my son, I would be perfect from now on. I was walking along the fence at the top of the hill at the back of our yard. It’s right in front of a wooded area and I was thinking that maybe he might be back in those trees.

All this time, I’m calling his name in all timbres and variations. That was another thing that was freaking me out. I couldn’t hear him at all. Normally, if I call his name, he will respond. The fact that I was calling and calling for him and hearing nothing in response meant that he couldn’t hear me, wherever he was. Suddenly, I was certain that he had wandered around front at the same exact moment that a kidnapper was turning around in our cul-de-sac and was taken.

Several times over this period, I was wondering if I should call Tim, who was on his way home from work. I had decided against it, thinking that there was nothing he could do anyway, other than drive way too quickly to get home. I was also wondering when to call the police. I mean, I had nothing to tell them, other than my son was gone and I had no idea where he was. I had no car description or anything.

I walked to the bottom of the hill and scanned the common ground one more time. And, eureka! Through the fence at the other side of the common ground, I saw Auggie, standing perfectly still, like a deer catching a scent, looking back at me. He had been playing in the backyard of the house that backs up to our common ground.

My two-year-old walked across the common ground, opened the gate and crossed a narrow drainage ditch to get to the neighbor boy’s toys.

Auggie and I had talked about this particular yard before. And, let me tell you, it is really hard to explain to a toddler why they can’t play in what is obviously (to them, at least) a park. They don’t get that you don’t just go into other people’s yards and play on their swings and teeter-totter or playhouse. In fact, this yard full of fun playground equipment was the inspiration for the slide playground-dealie we got for him earlier this summer. We had hoped that having his own super-fun playground would keep his attention off of the outdoor paradise that lay across the common ground.

I ran as fast as I could across the common ground, through the gate (which he had closed behind him, politely) and over the narrow drainage ditch and scooped him up, kicking and screaming because he didn’t want to leave. I was sobbing, hyperventilating with joy. I couldn’t believe that he was there, safe and sound!

Auggie had been missing for maybe ten minutes. It felt like at least ten hours.

I held him tighter than usual as we made the trek back to our yard, explaining in the calmest voice that I could muster that he had frightened mommy and we don’t play in other people’s yards without mommy’s permission. We reached the yard at the same time as my neighbors, who were nearly as relieved as I that Auggie was found.

My neighbor instantly made me feel better by telling me the story about the time her daughter did the same thing, except the neighbors took her inside and didn’t tell my neighbor. She was sure that her daughter had been kidnapped. Later, I called my mom and she told me about the time my brother fell asleep under a pile of quilts and no one found him for half an hour.

So maybe I’m not the worst mother ever in the history of time. And the cold reality is that I can’t watch him every second. But he’s probably going to be watched a little more closely than usual for the next few days. Absolutely no playing outside without me being right there with him, that sort of thing. Of course, this is all in addition to the fact that we’ve had to keep the doors locked at all times for months, since he knows how to work the door knobs and make his way outside alone.

This whole thing makes me think of Tim’s question a few weeks ago — can’t we just chip him like the dogs?

I’m going to be perfect, starting now.