So after not being with T for a week, I got him for Saturday and Sunday. And Sunday morning he gave me the heart attack of my life. Background: every Saturday and Sunday morning he gets up and watches cartoons while I shower. We’ve been doing it that way for at least a year, perhaps longer. Never had any problems. So, that’s what I did on Sunday morning. He was watching a Justice League DVD and I jumped in the shower. Afterward, I was drying my hair and decided to check on him (something I always do because he usually ends up sneaking snacks or something while I’m occupied – no biggie really). I had only a bra and underwear on, with a towel wrapped around my head, and I walked out into the living room and called out his name. The DVD was paused, the living room window was open. Strange. And he’s not responding.
And then, I saw it.
The front door was unlocked. I ran into my room to throw on the first pair of pants and shirt I could find and then flew outside yelling his name. (I keep asking myself, should I have just gone out there as I was? Nobody would blame a mother searching for her child for being half-nakkie. But I wasn’t thinking really. It was, I guess, instinct to put clothes on first?)
He was standing out in front of the apartment chatting with a woman. She looked up and said, “I was just asking him if you knew he was out here.” I didn’t even focus on her face to see if she was a neighbor we know. I didn’t even say anything to her. I just took his hand gently and started asking, “Why are you out here? Why did you leave the house?” as we walked back into the house. (By the way? Can I mention how proud I am that I didn’t once scream at him during the entire ordeal?)
The interesting thing was that I noticed he had his shoes and jacket on. Over his pajamas.
We sat on the couch and talked about why he had left the house. From what I can piece together, he opened the living room window because he wanted to let the light in. But instead of just opening the blinds like we normally do, he opened the entire window. Then, I think he started talking to the lady as she passed by and decided to go outside to chat with her some more. He couldn’t have been out there more than a minute or two talking with her when I came outside.
This is all speculation after the fact. I feel like maybe I should have talked to the lady to find out what happened, but I just really wanted to get T in the house so I could snuggle him and thank my luck that nothing bad happened.
(I really wish I had stopped to talk to her, or at least looked at her face. We know several of the neighbors around us. And if he saw her through the window, did she know which apartment he belonged in? Why didn’t she tell him to go inside the house? This is why I think he couldn’t have been out there very long. I choose to believe I interrupted her telling him to go home.)
After he told me what happened, we talked about how he should not leave the house without his dad or myself and we talked a little bit about why. I tried not to sound too crazy paranoid because I don’t want him to grow up fearing everything and everyone like I did, but I do want him to understand the seriousness of what happened.
He told me that he was scared I would be mad at him. This means he knew what he was doing was wrong but decided to go anyway. I was very careful to explain that I wasn’t mad at him, but that I was very scared when I came out to the living room and couldn’t find him. He told me, “Mommy, I will never do that again. I promise.” But what do promises mean to little munchkins like him? He’s only 4 1/2, can he really comprehend what it means to make a promise?
I was terrified when this happened, but also extremely frustrated. With myself. You see, the deadbolt on my door is low enough that he can reach it (stupid apartments). I tried to put a chain on the door a while ago, but one good yank (forgot the chain was there) ripped it right out of my flimsy walls. I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do to be sure this doesn’t happen again.
For now, he is going to have to sit in the bathroom while I shower. I told his dad what happened, and he’s going to do the same thing.
I am also spending a lot of time sitting here convincing myself that this happens to other people, and it’s not because I am a bad, negligent or inattentive mother.
Because this happened once before. When he was almost 2. I thought I wrote about it before, but I can’t find the entry. This was back when he actually slept in his own room, in his own bed. Back when his dad and I were still married. Back when he had to climb on a chair to open the door, got outside and the door closed behind him. Then he realized he didn’t have Buddy (stuffed dog) with him so he started crying out for Buddy. Because he couldn’t open the door.
Then-husband and I wake to the crying (did I mention it was like 2 in the morning?), follow it and find him standing outside the front door. He slept in our bed that night, and several nights later. Eventually we put him back in his bed and nothing happened again.
His dad started sleeping in the living room when we decided to get a divorce, so I was never worried about T leaving the house as long as his dad was sleeping out there. On the rare night his dad wasn’t around, I would have T sleep in my bed. Then the bed-sharing became more and more often. Pretty soon we were bed-sharing every night. It was comfortable.
And I never fought it really, because I would know if he got out of bed.
Then my ex-husband moved out and I can’t imagine having T sleep away from me, because I do not feel that I can protect him if he is down the hall.
So that’s why I have no problem sharing my bed with a 4 year old. It is literally the only way I feel that I can keep him safe, and keep him in the house.
Although after the events of Sunday morning, I’m not even sure what I can do anymore.