Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We sleep with the light on and/or we'll leave the light on for you

Just checking whether this photo is funny yet or not.

(You know how you take a picture of a tantrum or nose picking or some such thing (not that the nose picking goes on with my children, no, no), on purpose or inadvertently, and are of course embarrassed/worried about your parenting/tempted to delete? But then, months or years later, you treasure it? Or just think it's hilarious. I keep checking with this one from the successful Eugene attempt at the Guinness Book of World Record's Largest Ballet Class. It's been a year.... Nope. Not funny yet.)

Anywhat, my kids are always funny. Sometimes not funny hah-hah, though.
The other day Laura (not quite 2) woke us up with hysterical (not using that word lightly) screaming at the front door at 4:00 in the morning. The house was pitch black and I stumbled down the stairs and through the laundry, kitchen, dining, front room to find her. So disoriented was I that I didn't turn on any lights on my way. She had apparently either walked in her sleep or wandered in search of us, and since she can't reach any light switches either, I am glad she made it all the way through the house without falling.
Her door is right next to ours upstairs. We sleep with our door open. Why didn't she just walk into our room? Why was she so panicked, the horror of abandonment radiating from her tiny chubby self? She who has never been so much as alone for 30 seconds was in full-blown terror.
I scooped her up, switched on a lamp. She snuggled in to my shoulder and said, "thanks, light, Mama."
We sleep with the hall light on now.
Anyway earlier today I read this fantastic post over at the Women's Colony all about the village it takes to raise a child, the struggle and the juggle of single parents and the responsibility (should we choose to accept it) of seeing that need and helping to fill it in small and big ways. It's about having compassion. Who couldn't use a little more compassion, given and received?
And then it got me thinking about the time that my 2-year-old ran away from home.

Well, specifically, the time my third 2-year-old ran away. (Because there was also the time my first 2-year-old decided to leave me for daddy-at-work-he-loves-me-better. 'Nother story for another day.)

And then again maybe I'm not strong enough to face the fact that at some point, and apparently very early, my children have all declared their independence from me in a very decisive manner.

Shake yourself off, Miri, it's too late at night for melancholy!

So anyway when Grace Hannah (charming 5-year-old in picture featured above) was not quite 2 the pilot light of her independence already glowed bright. It was more than just reading Sesame Street's "I Can Do It Myself" a minimum of ten times a day that clued me in. In small ways she regularly reminded me, as they all do, that it's our job as parents to make them confident to go forth in the world with their own goals and objectives clearly defined and in the scope. Blah, blah, blah, separation anxiety need not apply here. (Actually all the separation anxiety is usually proven to be mine. Don't tell anyone.)
So. Picture if you will, a bright spring day in a tiny village in the Oregon countryside. Picture further a mom of (at that time) three visiting on the church lawn across the road from her home with two neighbors while dad-of-three is puttering in the man cave (shop) and their three children are playing in line of sight and earshot and within five steps of Dad.
Toddler Grace needs a diaper. Mom is unaware. Dad is unaware (line of sight and earshot, not odor range). Older siblings are not about to go near a diaper.
So Grace crosses the English-daisy-covered lawn on short legs and grabs a box of baby wipes that reside on the porch for hand cleanups after playing outside. She likely looks at Mommy visiting across the road. She possibly calls out to Dad. This part is unclear. What is clear is that she shortly says good-bye to her siblings and starts off across the property line to the south, behind Dad's shop.
Out of range of sight. Out of earshot. As my radar pinged slightly (panic comes easily to me), I realized that she was no longer in the white picket fence of our front yard. I called out for my husband, who immediately marshaled the troops. It took less than a minute, maybe 30 seconds, to find her in the dry swale of our roadside, marching with her wipes box on her shoulder, headed straight for "Gamma Nita's" for a "di-prr."
The relief! The flood of relief! And after less than a minute of freak-out. Unfortunately I have since lost (and found) a child for a much longer length of time. And I know at least two things: one, the entire village including myself was as committed to his return as was his own mother and as were the sheriffs; and, two, the panic of 30 seconds is much, much easier to recover from than the panic of hours.
My family is blessed to live in an intentionally chosen community (I did not mean commune, people) of caring neighbors. It's the family you choose, really. Even if they're in no way related to you other than shared property boundaries and nods from behind the windshield, these people are in it with you. I have very little doubt that had my baby made it more than half an acre away, the first person to see her would have known her and hollered for us to collect her. It's part of what makes me glad to live here, the never-alone aspect of life. (It's also part of what makes me crazy, but, again, 'nother story.)
I would not have made the choice the woman in the Women's Colony story made -- I would not have driven my older child to school while the baby was asleep, home alone to waken in an empty house. But I would have sat with that neighbor baby on the porch until his mommy got home and I would have offered to carpool to help the harried mother.
I hope we can all be that neighbor. Because it's a big scary dark world and we all need to create a village around ourselves and our neighbors so there's always someone to turn on the light switch in the dark.


Suburban Correspondent said...

How sweet!

And yes, close neighbors can be both a boon and a bother. But not having close neighbors is not acceptable to me. I'll take the bad with the good.

Katie said...

That was truly a sight to behold, little Miss G prancing herself off to Gamma 'Nia's with her wipes in hand...be still my beatin' heart.