So yes, I must confess: I left my newborn in a grocery store.
Before you freak out on me and deem me a terrible mother, I should also say that it was my 4th (because that makes everything better…:-) and it wasn’t for very long. This same child locked herself in our car when she was 2, in the middle of a Texas summer, while we searched the neighborhood for her. She thought the idea of playing in the car was fun and climbed back into the car when noone was watching. (I’d guess the temperature inside the car was about 120 degrees.) This same child also walked off from me in a huge shopping mall the last few days before Christmas when she was 5. Security was called, we all frantically looked for about 40 minutes, and were 5 minutes away from locking down the entire mall when someone spotted her and returned her to me. She is, and has always been, a very independent thinker.
Of course, that doesn’t explain me leaving her in a grocery store. I just shared all of that to free some of you up from the grip of perfectionism.
On the day in question, she was probably 2 weeks old and it was the first time I was venturing with all four of my kids to the grocery store. Admittedly, I was quite distracted. My hands were really, really full. So full, in fact, that while I had come in to the store with my hands very full, I left with my hands still very full – just not quite as full as they should’ve been.
I approached checkout, set my daughter in her car seat carrier in the next checkout lane over to free up some necessary space, finished my transaction, and walked out. It wasn’t until I got to the car, having secured my other 3 kids in their seats, that I counted. Yep – I was missing one. I ran back in, very discreetly picked her back up, and walked out. No one had even noticed.
As parents, in spite of our best preparation, reading up on all of the latest theories on parenting, things happen. The baby that you eagerly anticipated for 9 months won’t stop crying. The bliss that was supposed to be the first few weeks of your child’s life is shrouded with postpartum depression. All of the great advice that you’ve been given fails the first time your child looks at you and says, “No!”
I’m not advocating a cavalier, carefree attitude towards the supervision of your children, but even with the best of intentions, mistakes happen. Let’s free each other up to have honest discussions of what we’re going through, and strip the veneer of perfectionism. I am so far from perfect – and yet my kids have survived, are respectful, love each other and love their dad and me. And this was achieved in spite of the fact that I might’ve, maybe, possibly, occasionally left my children unattended in public places.