Let me start by saying that it wasn’t bad. Or at least, nothing bad happened in the end. But it could have been. It could have been very, very bad and the thought of it makes me sick to my stomach.
It all started out innocently enough. Shucking corn on the front steps with four children – what could be more perfect on a summer evening?
We finished shucking the corn (Fletcher ate half his cob raw!), Raymond had the grill fired up in the back, and the kids and I walked down the block to visit with some other neighborhood kids. At one point I shooed the kids away so I could talk to my neighbor, saying something like “Go play, have a race, go, go, go.”
And that is when things turned bad.
The kids raced down the sidewalk. When they got a house or so away, my neighbor yelled out for them to stop. And the five or so older kids all stopped. But Lola Gray and her friend didn’t stop. I yelled to them. They didn’t stop. The neighbor and I both put on our angry mom voices. STOP!
They didn’t stop.
The two of us take off running down the street screaming bloody murder for the girls to STOP.
They didn’t stop.
They were headed straight for a very busy street and they never even slowed down. Fortunately, at this point a car driving down the street stopped, a girl jumped out of the back of the car and grabbed Lola’s friend who was leading the race, then redirected the girls back towards the hysterical women running down the street after them.
Thank God for that girl! I feel certain the kids would have stopped at the corner . . . but then I was certain they would stop when we yelled at them. Never, NEVER, has Lola Gray run like that. NEVER. But it only takes once.
I took the girls home, gave them a good yelling, and put them in time out. Lola Gray was sobbing, so I’m pretty sure she understood how angry I was. Beyond angry. Terrified. If it had been just Lola Gray without her friend over, I would have spanked her – and I never spank.
But really, I am the one who needs to learn a lesson from this.
I love playing in the front yard. I love letting the kids ride their scooters down the sidewalk, play hopscotch, eat popsicles on the front steps. I love the opportunity it allows for interaction with my neighbors, even if it is simply a wave to a passing car. And I really think it is important to give my children little bits of freedom, let them know that I trust them to follow the rules and do things independently. Fletcher and Lola run up and down that street all the time . . . but I have to remember that Lola Gray is only three years old. She acts so much older sometimes, but she is still just a very little girl.
And I have to remember that throwing friends into the mix changes everything. That pack mentality takes over. The girls we just running. They were having fun, racing to see who could get to the end of the block first. They should have stopped. But I should never have let them get so far away from me.
I keep going over the “what if” in my mind and it is making my head throb. My knee-jerk reaction is to say that I will never, ever let the kids beyond arms reach again. But I know that isn’t true. I will let them run on that sidewalk again as soon as the sting of this scare has faded a bit. I will eventually let them cross the street by themselves. I hope I will even let them walk to school by themselves one of these days. But not now. Now I am just so grateful that everyone is safe, and hopeful that I scared those girls so badly they will never run away like that again!