Saturday, June 13, 2009

9-1-1 Emergency!

I have a love/hate relationship with Summer.
In my community, it's been the topic of conversation for weeks with all my Mom friends. They have all been longing for school to get out so they can lounge by the pool with their kids, let the family sleep late, and take off on their extended family-vacations to their beach houses or mountain retreats.
My family? Not so much. As a working Mom, summer represents a whole new level of anxiety as I bounce Little Man from day camp to day camp to fill the weeks. Lego camp, Tennis camp, Science camp, Lacrosse camp, Football camp and on and on. And I have to make his freakin' lunch every day. It's a beating.
One of the nice things about summer is that with the change in season, it gets dark a lot later in the evening (around 9:00 pm). This means after dinner, we can still get outside and enjoy each other's company. I am fortunate to live on a fantastic block where almost every house has kids under the age of 10, so there is always a gaggle of kids running up and down the street playing ball or riding their bikes.
The other night was a typical example of what an evening on my street looks like. There were about 12 kids playing outside and Little Man was right there in the thick of it. Around 8:30 pm I was inside the house and when I hadn't seen him run by the window for about an hour, I went outside to investigate and just lay eyes on him for reassurance. I stumbled across a couple of my neighbors who were hanging out in one of the backyards talking. 4 neighbors turned into 6, then into 8 and before you knew it we were having a neighborhood block party.
Our neighbors are a spirited bunch and we have a lot of fun recounting stories about "who was your first kiss?" and debating "who is the greatest band of all time?" Now, keep in mind, that we have these little impromptu gatherings ALL THE TIME. We're talking primarily about 5-6 houses on our block who hang out together, so you are never more than 3 houses away from where your kids are.As the night progressed and it got darker, we brought the kids inside. A couple of the boys decided to watch "Indiana Jones" at my house. A couple of the girls wanted to watch "Hollywood Chihuahua" at another house next door. And for the parents who had little kids (under 5) they went home, put them to bed and when they were asleep the parents came back over to continue the conversation/debates.

One father in our group last night had a 7 and 5 year-old asleep at his house, about 3 houses down from where we were. He left us frequently throughout the evening to go check on the kids. And every time he would come back and say, "Still dead asleep." He was not the only parent there who had kids at home asleep. One Mom was holding a baby monitor in her lap listening for sounds of movement from her kids asleep in the house across the street.
Our gathering broke up about midnight and as we started to walk out from the backyard we see FOUR police cars at this guys house. He bolts towards his home and we are all standing there in shock wondering what the hell is going on. Turns out his 7-year old daughter had woken up, couldn't find her Daddy (the Mom was out of town), got scared and called 9-1-1.
He had just been at his house not 10 minutes earlier! I felt so bad for this poor guy. And for his sweet baby girl who was just doing what she had been taught to do - call the police in an emergency. The police grilled him for a while before they determined that all was well and it was an honest mistake. Poor guy. I can only imagine how horrible he felt. And how his wife will probably never let him live this down.
I couldn't help but think back to the case of Madeline McCann (Baby Maddie) who, about a year ago, was kidnapped from her vacation condo while her parents were having dinner and drinks with friends at the resort about 100 yards away. I had a lot of judgment about that case. I said, "How could those parents leave their small children sleeping and go out to dinner? And where they couldn't even see their house from where they were sitting?"
Yet, that's exactly what we were all doing. We were in someones backyard, where no one could see us. I know have a whole new perspective and sense of empathy for the McCann family. Looking back now, we can all say "That was such a dumb thing to do." Almost everyone I've talked to has told me they've done the same thing at one time or another. It was a scary situation I know will all keep with us for a long time to come and reminded me how every decision you make can have lasting repercussions.


Anonymous said...

it is so hard to balance their lives with your life isnt it? Being a single parent, wether it is be all the time or like this father because the wife is out of town, brings so many challenges. If you dont allow yourself the opportunity to have fun, to unwind, to have adult company then I think it really affects the parenting skills, we tend to not be as patient or impartial in our time with them.
I empathise I really do, I am single too, with three young kids, it is a struggle. But i would not change it for anything, i am just going to have to find the balance arent i?
much love to you.

Womans World Magazine said...

I know what you mean Cynthia. I really feel for the Mcanns and what they are going through and passing judgement on them is not going to help at all.