Why? Well, let’s see. Neve was late getting down for her nap, so we knew she’d only get about 40 minutes of sleep before we had to scoop her up, take her out into the winter cold, and buckle the infernal five-point harness on her.
Joe thought maybe, if we were lucky, we could get her into the car quickly and smoothly enough that she’d fall back asleep when we started driving. To that end, he went out to put the packed diaper bag in the back of his car, and Lily ran out after him. She climbed up into her car seat to wait, while the car warmed up, and I gathered the things I thought we should have that didn’t make it into the diaper bag – Neve’s hat and mittens, Lily’s hat and mittens, an extra snack “just in case” – and went outside to join Lily in the idling car.
Joe appeared on the sidewalk, speed-walking with Neve – who looked dazed, wrapped in two blankets – in his arms. He tried to figure out how to buckle her into her seat with minimal fuss, but the blankets were a logistic nightmare, and in the middle of dealing with them, he said, “Oy. Her feet are bare.”
“I’ll go get her some socks,” I said, unbuckling my seat belt and running back into the house. I grabbed a pair, came out and put them on her little pork chop feet, and watched her as we drove off. She didn’t fall back asleep, but instead, looked bored and vaguely disgruntled throughout the half hour trip.
Upon getting to Ann Arbor, we were running a little late, so Joe inched forward at an intersection to turn right, not seeing an elderly man on his bike in the crosswalk. I yelled for Joe to stop, he stomped on the brake, and I suddenly felt and heard Lily’s body press against the back of my seat.
In our frantic rush to not forget anything – like Neve’s pajamas, since we’d be coming home at her bedtime, or a change for Lily in case she had an accident – we’d somehow each forgotten to check and make sure that Lily was strapped into her seat.
“Sweetie, are you OK?” I said in a panic.
“I’m OK, Mommy. I’m OK,” Lily reassured me repeatedly, though she was clearly a little shaken up. Plus, there was a little swell of pink skin beneath one eye.
Guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt. Oh, the guilt. “Holy crap,” I thought. “I am the world’s worst mother.”
I contorted my body around my own seat to reach for Lily’s seatbelt and buckled her in as Joe drove off. “Oh, kiddo. I’m so, so sorry. That’s our fault. We forgot to check and make sure you were strapped in.”
“That’s OK, Mommy.”
“No, it’s not. We need to be more careful. But if that ever happens again, you tell us you’re not strapped in, and we’ll do it right away. But hopefully, after this, it won’t happen again. OK?”
“And just to warn you, you might get a little bruise under your eye. But even if you do, it will get better and fade away. I promise.”
“I have a bruise?” She asked, tentatively touching the skin beneath her eye.
“No, not now, but there might be one in the morning. We’ll see. I just wanted to warn you that there might be one later.”
While frantically dividing and (questionably) conquering the pre-trip tasks, Joe and I had both made bad assumptions. I thought he’d buckled Lily in when she first came out. He thought I’d done taken care of it while he went to get Neve. Regardless, I suppose the up-side is that I’ll probably never, ever NOT check her seatbelt two or three times before going anywhere from now on.
We soon arrived at the Temple, and my husband said, “Did you get shoes for Neve?”
“There’s not a pair in the diaper bag?”
Bad assumptions, take two. (Though the socks I’d retrieved for Neve were the kind that look like Mary Janes – so they were socks that LOOKED like shoes. That’s close, right?)
At this point, we shook our heads and chuckled at our own utter incompetence at parenting. Clearly, though we’ve been doing this for nearly five years now, and we occasionally feel like, “We get this now,” we still haven’t quite got as good a handle on things as we’d like, obviously.
So it came to pass that that Joe and I walked our slightly pink-faced 4 year old and our shoeless 1 year old into the festive atmosphere of the Temple on Sunday, hoping in our hearts that loving the girls like crazy and trying our best – since that’s all we can do – will, in the end, be enough.
Here’s hoping that parenting is graded on a generous curve.