Monday, April 17, 2006

The Great Escape

We visited my friend and her son at their new house today. Michael was doing very well playing with her son - he's actually interacting with him and engaging in true parallel play which is a tremendous stride for him. At one point, I went down their basement to take a look and she was standing at the top of the stairs while we were talking about the potential of the space when I heard a car out front beeping its horn repeatedly. The rest is a blur, but apparently one of them (I insist it was mine and she insists it was hers) opened the front door and escaped onto the front street. I remember running up the stairs and down the street to scoop Michael up and bring him back to the house, thinking that I hoped the cats hadn't gotten out since I left the door open behind me. Once we were all safely ensconced in the house once more, my friend was definitely shaken. I just remember trying to find ways to laugh it off, saying that we just had to be more careful in future and insisting that it was probably Michael who started the whole thing.

The thing is that I have not been able to let this go all day. John called as soon as we got home and was aghast when I told him the story - I just thought it was funny, the boys were safe and no harm was done. As the day progressed I have been constantly questioning my response to the whole thing. Last summer, Michael escaped from the room where my mother's group was meeting. I remember looking around the room and my heart sinking down through the floor when I didn't see him. He managed to get down the hallway and was happily walking into one of the offices to pull books out of a box on the floor. From then on, I always try to be aware of where he is, especially with his tendencies to just take off in any direction. I have a few long skirts and I'm amazed at the speed in which I can hike them above my knees so I can chase after him, needing my full stride to keep up with him. A few weeks ago I went through the dilemma of using a tether on him because he still doesn't respond to his name and would dash out into traffic if given the chance (or he's giving every indication of doing so, I'm just not willing to test it yet).

My obsessive nature being what it is, I've been questioning myself all day about this - am I too cavalier about my child? On Saturday we put a box fan in the window to help cool the living room off and John expressed some concerns about Michael trying to stick his fingers in the mesh. I told him not to worry about it - if we made a big deal about staying away from the fan it makes it that much more attractive and the worst that could happen is his fingers would get bruised and he would definitely know not to do it again. On Saturday morning, we went to a playground and he picked up a piece of glass and I followed him closely to see what he would do with it - he actually put it in the trash can. I tend to watch and see, trying to reserve big reactions for things that really merit it so that he'll learn when I mean business. Sometimes it's a matter of I've had enough and as long as he's not actively destroying something of value or trying to ingest something poisonous, I'll let him do what he wants because I need a break. I've been finding myself questioning whether I'm being too lenient with him, using his delays as an excuse for permissive parenting.

I asked John what he thought about my reaction to the escape, once he overcame his own initial shock, and he was of the mind that I was being the calm, collected one - a role that I excel in playing. My mother told me that that is just the way I am, I tend to be very laid back about some things and this was just one of those situations, and one that my being freaked-out in would have only made things worse. Both arguments have merit, but still I obsess. There is no doubt that I love my child, that I would throw myself in front of a bullet for him. John even said that I was made to be a mother, that motherhood completes me in a way that nothing else in my life has. For whatever reason, I just feel like I reacted "wrong" and that I am "unnatural". I don't know - hopefully another glass of merlot will help me figure it out. Here's hoping that I don't have a hangover in the morning.