For a brief period in October I was looking after a third child for a few weeks. I was hesitant to be entrusted with someone else’s kid because, to be honest, I’m a bit surprised that mine have survived as well as they have thus far. Safety is important to me, in a general sense, but I’m also from the ‘what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger’ camp and so whether it’s letting my son play with a sharp screwdriver (he did stab his little brother but it was an accident, and the resulting injury was minor), or letting them climb on things that seem a little unstable, I feel like my kids are taking little risks every day, but in the long run are learning important skills like managing risk and responsibility, and how to balance on wobbly stuff.
However, there are some moments where the lack of safety is less about letting them take calculated risks, and more about me being a terrible mother for real. The worst of these infractions seem to happen with shopping carts. I have bad luck with shopping carts.
Just a few weeks ago I had a close call where the shopping cart rolled with my baby still in it when my back was turned for a split second. He only went a couple feet and was moving very slowly but it was terrifying, and I grabbed him and hugged him and promised I would never let it happen again.
And then approximately a week later, I broke that promise.
We were coming out of Wal Mart in the pouring rain. I tried to open my van doors (I have a handy auto-open button on my key fob), so I could send the oldest to his seat while getting the baby out of the cart, but the battery was dead and the doors weren’t unlocking. This meant I had to manually open them, and I decided it was safer for my kids to be strapped in a cart than wandering free in a parking lot while I fiddled with keys, so I wedged the cart against the back of my van (it couldn’t fit beside it because of a parked car) and I went to unlock my doors. Now, this key fob has a key you can use manually but it’s kind of hidden and you have to push a tiny little button to get it which is always a little tricky. It took a moment but I wriggled it out and opened the driver’s door, and then leaned in to press the buttons to open both sliding doors. Task complete, I turned around to grab my kids out of the cart. Except that when I turned around, there were no kids. And there was no cart.
In absolute horror, I looked down the parking lot and saw my shopping cart, still holding two children, careening down the road way, picking up speed as it headed down the slope of the lot.
I have never run so fast in my life, and yet every step seemed to occur in slow motion.
I distinctly remember a rather large old man, having just exited his vehicle, standing near his car trunk and watching as this cart speed past him. He made no effort to chase it, possibly because he saw me moving at lightning speed and figured he couldn’t get there before me. It’s also possible that he assumed the kids in it weren’t real because WHO WOULD LET THEIR REAL CHILDREN RIDE A SHOPPING CART THROUGH A BUSY PARKING LOT ALONE?
I also vividly remember the look on my youngest child’s face: sheer, unadulterated joy. He was loving it. I caught the cart and just started laughing, but in that hysterical way that occurs when everyone nearly died but you all survived and you’re kind of shocked but pleased by that fact.
As I pushed it back to my van, the older gentleman was still standing by his car.
“I didn’t realize there were kids in there!” he stated, possibly to excuse himself for not trying to save them.
“Well,” I replied, “There probably shouldn’t have been.”
There but for the grace of God go I… and they!