So. Today someone called the cops on me.
I took the kiddos out to run an errand and we had to stop for gas. We stopped at our local GetGo which is at our local grocery because I had 60 cents off a gallon. Then I parked the car and ran into the grocery to get supplies for dinner. I asked Dags if she’d rather come in with me or wait in the car. She asked to wait in the car and I ran in, leaving her in the car with Bode.
I walked directly to the broccoli, brushing my hand across a mango on display as I passed. I chose a large, firm bunch of broccoli, placed it in a bag, and quickly walked to the bread aisle. I scanned the hot dog bun selection and decided I was likely to find healthier options in the bakery so I sped over to the bakery. All bakery buns had high fructose corn syrup so I rushed back to the bread aisle and read several labels until I found hot dog buns without high fructose corn syrup. From there I sped to the meat case, taking a 5-second pause to look at a tea cup lid display and trade my white buns for some HFCS-free whole wheat buns on a display table in front of the meat counter. There was no “Nature’s Basket” beef in the case so I had to go over to the meat counter. I was immediately waited on and ordered a pound of ground sirloin and then rushed over to the hot dogs. I read 5 or 6 packages looking for a natural option without a bunch of added crap. I selected Coleman Natural All Beef Hotdogs, grabbed a bag of shredded pizza cheese and headed for the checkouts. I paused to scan the health and beauty sale bin and passed through one of the makeup aisles scanning for waterproof eyeliner. Not seeing any, I headed for the shortest checkout lane. Thinking of the kids, I grabbed a package of Twizzlers and quickly checked myself out.
I rushed out to the car and Bode flashed me a huge grin as soon as he saw me approaching. But then my joy was shattered because once I got within a stone’s throw from the car, a lady several cars away begins yelling at me, “Why did you leave your kids in the car?!” I just shook my head, put my groceries in the trunk and got into my car. She continued to yell at me, “You can’t do that!” Something was mentioned about waiting for me for 15 minutes and by the time I had buckled myself, checked the kids and put the car in reverse, she had parked her car behind mine, blocking me into my parking space. She was visibly taking down my license plate number and had her cell phone to her ear. I watched for a few seconds and when she appeared to stop talking I got out and said, “Would you please move so I can get out?” She said something to the effect of, “Oh no, I called the police, you’re not going anywhere.” I could tell she was on the verge of tears. At this point an elderly lady parked next to me chimed in with, “What? We can’t leave?” The good samaritan moved her car so the elderly lady could leave but carefully blocked mine in. I sat in my car trying to figure out if I could squeeze out somehow, blocking out the nervous voice in my head that was wondering if they could take my babies away. My heart was jumping out of my chest with every beat and I was fighting tears and a level of fury that was vibrating my entire body.
The officer arrived and I could see the good Samaritan waving him over in my rear-view mirror. By this time I was on the phone informing James what was going on, and I had to disconnect when the officer arrived at my driver’s side door. I stepped out and he asked me what happened. I managed to get out that I ran into the store for 10 minutes, although she says I was in there for 15, I came out and this lady is berating me, then she blocked my car in and called you. Wait a minute, he says, she blocked you in? Uh, yes. She did. He walks over to her vehicle and I can hear her affirm that she did in fact block me in, and then he gave her a little talking to about how that is illegal. To say I was shocked would be a huge understatement. I stood there, waiting for whatever was next. Wishing wishing wishing he would hurry up and get it over with. Ironically, I wanted to go over to the good Samaritan and thank her for caring so much about my precious children. Indeed she cared deeply for my two kids to go to such lengths. In the end I did not have the chance to do that. I thought it unwise to approach from behind the officer.
And in time, he did return. He informed me that it is in fact illegal to leave my children unattended in the car like that. I told him I had no idea. That is the truth. I had no idea. ILLEGAL. Against the law. Not up to the parent’s discretion. As in, not just a parenting fail, the parent could in some cases go to jail. A conversation ensued and I can’t remember all the details now, a mere 4 hours later. He asked me why I left them in there. And, incredulously I asked if he seriously wanted me to give him some kind of excuse. I told him of how Dagny chose to stay in the car and he told me that is a parenting decision and kids cannot decide such things for themselves. OK, yes, that’s true, you’re right, I said. Admittedly I was exasperated. My mind was reeling. I was angry at being judged, I was terrified of the impending punishment. He said some other things, things that are foggy now. Things like, we just want your kids safe with you. We want you to come out to safe healthy kids just like you do. He told me that the safest place for them was with me and that they get called out to parking lots ALL THE TIME where elderly people have run into parked cars. He expressed how awful it would be if some old person had hit my car while my kids were in it, and truly, he was right. I had never thought of that. My pride, my armor crumbled to my feet. He asked for my address and I gave it to him, then he wanted my driver’s license, which I also produced. I presume he ran my motor vehicle record, but he disappeared into his SUV with it and returned to give it back.
In the end, I received a blessed, blessed warning. I was not given a citation. I did not have to shriek hysterically in the parking lot of my local grocery as some public servant pried my precious babies from my desperate arms. Of course, that blessing was not nearly enough to keep me from reliving those moments over and over in my mind today. Not enough to stop me from replaying every possible scenario and outcome and all of the things I should have done or said differently, starting with my decision to leave them alone and ending with my… never ending.
I’ve cried so many tears of shame today. So so many. I’ve thought of all of you, and how many of you might offer me kindly support, but still feel appalled at what I did. Or perhaps just silently dismiss me as a friend, quietly withdraw from our relationship. I thought of my mom, who would either say well that’s what you get or equally as plausibly (and slightly more probable) tear into that nebby good Samaritan’s credibility with the ferociousness of the infamous mama bear. I thought of all my loved ones who wished me Happy Mother’s Day yesterday, and how I failed them, and even more crucially, failed my beloved babes. My sweet sweet baby girl, who brought me a giant stuffed giraffe to snuggle as I sobbed into James’s shoulder when we got home. Who also gobbled down her peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I salted with abundant tears and then asked for another one. Sigh. Shame has a loud, boorish heckle once I invite it in. Oh yes, and nothing is spared. Every fiber of my existence is saturated.
Who do you think you are, putting on mascara today? Do you think you deserve mascara? Look at your hair, you take better care of your hair than your children. Disgusting. And you thought you looked pretty. You’re pathetic. Everyone saw you, what a spectacle that was with the police car, the woman’s yelling and you, with your makeup and your curly hair. No one that saw that is gonna forget your face, or your car. Everywhere you go…you might as well put a decal on your car that says I leave my kids in the car while I go shopping. They deserve better. They deserve a better woman, a better person as their mother. Oh and now you’re going to stuff your face with food. Slovenly, fat pig. You should be nauseous. You should be so nauseous you can’t even THINK about eating and you’re shoving Twizzlers in your mouth like it’s your job. You make me sick. But not sick enough to stop gorging myself on fried rice and candy. Speaking of candy, how completely transparent you are, giving the kids candy after lunch. Oh yes, try to assuage your guilt by giving them treats. THAT’S good parenting. Stellar. Five Star. And all this because you are taking your night off tonight and not even cooking dinner for them before you go. You don’t deserve time off. You’re checked out the whole time you’re with them any way, why do you need time off? How utterly vain.
I wanted to drown all that out with… well, pills to be completely honest. Back from my pharmaceutically medicated days. But those are long gone. So I tried the next best thing, a nap. But all those scenarios and maybes and what-ifs were just too loud. So I’m giving it to the internet, though I’m pretty sure the noise will not abate, whether I hit publish or not.
And so, in conclusion let me send a quick message to you, good Samaritan. I don’t know what you think of me, but I can almost guarantee you are making assumptions about me that are untrue. Nonetheless, I receive your love for my children and I deeply appreciate it, in spite of my fury. I hope there are bold, caring people like you around when creepy men are stalking my daughter at the mall 10 years from now. Or when my son rebelliously bolts away from me in a crowded amusement park some day. I love my children more than anything else in my existence, I really do. There are moments when I get caught up in the daily grind and there are issues about which I am ignorant. I do my ABSOLUTE best, and today has been a painful reminder that one can not become complacent. One must always strive for the highest standard. I promise you, I will NEVER leave my kids unattended in the car again. So, to you and everyone else out there keeping score, please cut me some slack the next time my kids are shrieking through the grocery, knocking down the tower of oranges and driving me to scream and holler and/or ply them into submission with my iPhone. And if you see a woman pushing a cart full of groceries, with a toddler buried under half of them and carseat perched on top…please, please…don’t lecture her about how it’s wrong. Offer to carry something. She is doing the best she can.
For those of your curious as to what the weather conditions were…warm drizzle.
And today’s moral of the story is don’t leave your kids in the car unattended. But, if you want to spank them, or feed them Burger King day and night, or smoke in the house, or smoke in the car for that matter, or market your unhealthy food directly to children, that is all fine. Carry on, warrior.