August 04, 2010

too busy.

yesterday was a lovely day.
my sister in law, lanette, and i took our 11 kids to the lake.
her van is broken, so we piled like sardines into my suburban.
kids, towels, toys, sunscreen, floaties, and bags.
the weather was perfect. 
the kids were good, aside from an occasional sand throwing time out.
when it was time to go we piled in all our towels, all our bags, all our sand toys and headed home.
then we unpacked and bathed and cared for the little ones while the big ones played.

i had just sat down to read a chapter of my book when the phone rang.
it was the police.
they had anna.
i had forgotten her at the lake.
FORGOTTEN my child.
i didn't even know it.

this was one of the WORST moments of my life.
horrible, pit in the stomach, how on the earth could this happen moment.
my mind raced over the whole exit from the lake 100 times on the way to get her...
i was just busy. 
busy with the group and i missed the one.
my mind was racing with replays of every moment of packing up to leave...

calling the kids, rinsing off the sand, packing the sand toys and the trash and the leftover lunch stuff.
saying goodbye to the people who sat near us and shared their dogs with us, carrying the babies, directing the bigger kids, towels on the seats, getting leah off the playground, encouraging lily to keep up while i carried the mountain of towels... calming ellie who didn't want to leave... piling all the kids into our suburban...
how could i have forgotten to count?  that is instinctual.

on the way home i was distracted by my silly 2 year old in the backseat who is infatuated with taking things from her 2 year old cousin and hearing her scream to get them back while she says,
"Say PLEASE Annie, say please!".
wondering if my conversation sounded too gossipy at the lake...
planning how we would unpack and de-sand.
wondering if i got sunblock on everyone and if they would be crying tonight because i missed a spot.
feeling the heat on my back and knowing that i missed a spot.
worried that everyone had seat belts, and that we were home in time for dinner...
i was too busy and too worried,
and i missed the signs...
i missed the many promptings that i was receiving...
i heard them all in slow motion in replay...
"will someone grab anna's flip flops and bring them to the car..."
the 100 times i looked in the back seat and felt "boy the car seams so much more empty on the way home."
grabbing anna's clothes from the back seat and feeling "i should call her and have her get dressed." and then my dismissal, "No, just let her play with her cousins."
i just thought she was part of the group.

anna was building a sand castle with a new friend that she had met.
when she realized that we were gone she wasn't scared, she thought i had just left for a minute.
that i was pretending to leave to teach her to come the first time i called her.
she walked to the office where we bought our entrance ticket and asked the man if he had seen her mom leave.
he called the police.
she said it was fun waving to everyone as they came into the park.
and really fun to ride in a police car to the station.
she told them the professor's cell phone number and they called us.
when i asked to talk to her on the phone she started to sob.
my poor, poor baby.
we raced to her side.
me yelling at the professor the whole time as he drove the scenic route
(he says it was faster because it had no stop lights, he was wrong)
and as he refused to go one mile over the speed limit.
i was a mother lion trying to get to her lost cub.
i would have driven at mock speed.

when i ran into the office she was sitting there in her swim suit surrounded by nice officers.
i was sobbing and couldn't stop touching her.
my child that i forgot.

i know that i was prompted to remember her.
and, i missed it because i was too busy and worried.

a friend of mine once told me that she wanted to have more children but was worried that she couldn't handle it.  that she couldn't care for all of their individual needs.
i told her what i know to be true.
you don't have to.
you just have to listen.
God will tell you when one child needs something, then you act.
He has trillions of children, and yet he knows each of us individually.
we do not have to be perfect, because He is.

i missed it.
but, He still held her in His arms.
He is good.
it was HORRIBLE.  horrible.
and it shouldn't have happened.
i am so grateful.
she was ok and i was reminded.
even on the crazy days...
i need to be still, and aware, and listening, and watching.

{feel free to call cps after reading this blog, or shake your head and say "i knew she had too many kids", or gasp like you do when you see pictures of my trampoline with no net and no pad...  i am not a perfect mother.  none of us are.  we try, and yet, despite us, our children somehow survive... and we learn.  thank GOD.}


Chase and Leah said...

this story sounds quite something similar might have happened when I was 3. Don't worry, I wasn't traumatized for life, I turned out ok I think. :)

valerie in TX said...

Oh my goodness, Jen, I'm so sorry! Made me think of "Home Alone". :) I know it must've been horrible for you. I got left at church once when I was little, and there were only THREE of us! Hello!? how do you miss one when there are only three??? So glad Anna was alright. What a great reminder to ME that I need to LISTEN so much more closely to the promptings of God.

Taneil said...

I am so sorry!!!!! It could totally happen to me!!! I have had dreams about leaving my baby in his carseat at the mall or wal mart or in the parking lot. You are an amazing mother. And Anna probably thought she was big and loved the attention. Call me

The Davis Family Three said...

Thanks for sharing this story. I know it is not an easy one to share. Love the lesson to be learned - Be still and listen! Sometimes I need to do that a little more... :)

My husband Jeremy got left behind at a gas station while his family was on a road trip years ago. He turned out fine and has a pretty funny story to tell now!

Brumbaugh Family said...

Little to close to home.... I am so sorry you had to feel all of those horrible feelings. What a wonderful blessing Anna found kind people!! BTW if someone does call CPS I hope you get one like the one I met who laughed and laughed then told me in a few year I would laugh too.

Ann said...

Oh Jen, you ARE human after all! Thanks for reminding us that it can happen, even to the BEST mothers.

Teachinfourth said...

Jen, I'm so glad that everything worked out all right in the end. That has to be the worst feeling of all time. A few years ago, we took a group of kids down the Goblin Valley State Park. One of the boys decided to go on a hike all by himself, I didn't notice he was missing until about 20 minutes later. I've never felt such a mad panic rushing through my body as I did at that time. It seemed that all the worst scenarios were playing themselves through my mind and I feared the worst.

Luckily, everything turned out all right in the end.

I'm glad everything is okay with you as well!

ashley said...

i love you.
so glad anna is safe & sound!!!

Alison said...

I loved this post. It made me cry! :) Glad it all turned out well. I love your blog. I know your husband's Gee cousins and found your blog through one of their links and I just think you are amazing! You have so many awesome ideas. My kids LOVE 'No Manners Night.' Thanks for everything you share!

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