The Chill Mom

When I was eighteen or nineteen, I was home for the summer and we were at the softball fields watching someone in the family play ball. There were two fields adjacent to one another and the entrance to both was right off a large and crowded parking lot. And since this is small town Colorado we're talking about, rec league softball means mostly tailgating and driving through busy crowded parking lots with very little caution. Because you need to show off your muffler that doesn't really muffle. Or whatever.

At the game there was a family from church - they had one daughter (the oldest) and six sons (they later had one more girl). At the time their sixth son was about a year and a half old - big enough to toddle off. And toddle off he did...right out the gate and into the middle of the parking lot.

I happened to be arriving just then, recognized him, and just as I was about to leap out to save him in super heroic fashion, his mom came meandering out the gate and walked in what I recall was this agonizingly slow pace toward him, caught him by the hand and wandered back into the gate with him.

I remember thinking to myself, "Wow. That could have been disastrous. I can't believe his mom wasn't watching him better and that when she realized where he was, she wasn't moving faster...Maybe that's what happens after you have several children. Stuff like that just doesn't get you any more."

As the years went by, I grew to love and admire his mom in a million ways. But I've always remembered how chill she was, with her toddler running out into a parking lot of chaos.

Today I took my four little boys to a new swimming pool. (We just discovered the joy of the city association's awesome pools, so we've been making the rounds, trying them all out. This one is the best so far, and it's quite close to our home. Yay.)

I loathe donning a swimsuit in general, but there are things you do for your kids. You know.

Anyway, at today's swimming adventure, there is a wading pool with the sloped entry for tiny people and splash fountains and sprayers all around and one end that's just deep enough for the more adventurous non-swimmer, but not too deep. To make it totally awesome, there is a fenced in sand pit that the boys loved playing in during the safety breaks when they couldn't be in the water.

It was during one of these safety breaks that there were three parents standing in the gateway of the sandpit area, with the gate completely open. I was in the sand area and decided to take our bottle of water over to our chair in the pool area before it got sandy-fied and was no longer potable. I counted all four boys - Charlie was playing next to Calvin - and I stepped out for fifteen seconds.

When I came back, I counted heads again and there were only three - Charlie wasn't in the sand area anymore. I looked into the pool area and spotted him walking to the edge of the wading pool (it's zero inches deep - a very gradual slope into 12 inch deep water and he wasn't there yet). There wasn't anyone in the pool, since it was safety break, and I headed over to get him. (We're talking a total distance of ten yeards, maybe, between the sand pit and the pool...)

At the same instant that I saw toddling Charlie and was excusing my way through the three parents standing at the open gate through which Charlie had walked without their notice, a random mom who was lounging in the pool area shrieked (it was quiet, safety break time), "He got out!!!"

Yeah, I'm getting him. Sheesh. By then, I was out of the tangle of chatting gate parents and walking over to him, but I wasn't moving fast enough I guess. Because the lady shrieked again, "Run!!!"

I felt really awesome right then, having donned a swimsuit for the occasion, as everyone in the quiet, safety-breaking pool area looked to see what the drama was. For a second I couldn't believe someone was screaming at me to run. Seriously. And then I was trying really hard not to laugh to myself.

I didn't run. I didn't meander, either, but I reached Charlie just as the water was covering the top of his wading little toes, caught him by the hand and made my way back to the sand area with his perfectly safe toddling self.

I thought of my friend, the chill mom of the parking lot, and felt like I had arrived.


Blog O' Beth said...

I've had this EXACT same experience. Too long to go into details but I thought of a hundred things to say to the woman in MY story about 20 minutes after it happened. Just goes to show you how quickly we judge.

Liz said...

Oh the things I want to say to the parents who let their kids wander in church - and then my daughter excuses herself 3 times to go to the bathroom, when she can hold it for hours when we are in the mall.

Yes. I thankfully kept my mouth shut.

The Amazing Trips said...

The one yelling at you to RUN must only have one child. Because I know that when you've got a bunch of them, you are more seasoned. Or, more chill.

I do an internal risk assessment each and every time my children do ANYTHING. If I reacted QUICKLY to every situation they got themself in to, I'd NEVER SIT STILL. So instead, I ask, what is the probability of injury? My response time is purely a function of that factor.

Linda said...

Seriously - YOU HAVE ARRIVED!!!! Besides, who wants to run in a SWIM SUIT??? After all, I am NOT baywatch babe material - to the point that I don't even OWN a swim suit; but the whole meandering thing is so much easier to pull off for me that having to worry about being hit in the chin when I'm running. More than one parent has made a spectacle of themselves by running and causing a child to panic when the situation could have easily been handled just the way you did... the calm, cool, and collected parent that you are. MY HERO!

NOBODY said...

I love "I had arrived" but laughed my BUTT off at "I felt really awesome right then, having donned a swimsuit for the occasion"

I'm trying to picture some chick actually feeling okay yelling "RUN!" to someone like that. If she's so worried---get up and save the kid herself. And I say "save" loosely.

I've adopted the method of "natural consequences" with my older two. It's really just a way to say, "I'm not chasing my kids every 2 seconds, thank you very much" and sounding like I plan it.

I hope Charlie's toes are okay.

Shannon said...

This happened to us once in Syria. Joey was actually walking toward Savannah (who was approaching a busy street) when he was judged to be moving too slowly, by two cloistered women. Cloisters not withstanding, they sprinted after Savannah and snatched her up. Joey was NOT amused. . . . But I was.

Qtpies7 said...

I was gonna say how I don't think that having a bunch of kids gets you to that "chill" place, but in some areas it does. (I have 7) But in a parking lot that is busy? Not so much! I wouldn't have been running for my kid going into a shallow wading pool, either, but the parking lot I would have been.

There is also something to be said for staying calm. Some kids BOLT when you are running after them or yelling and think it is funny. Maybe she had to be chill for his safety.
I wouldn't have been chill after I caught him, though, lol. There would have been trouble for leaving mama and for going in the street.