A Simple Distraction That Almost Led to Tragedy


A Simple Distraction That Almost Led to Tragedy

The details of that morning are a blur.

Even when I strain to remember the details, only flashes of memories come to mind. And though I can’t clearly recall what led up to that moment, the related feelings are still raw and real. 

I know that it started with an unexpected call from a friend.

Morning phone calls are rare. So rare, that I’m sure that’s why I answered the phone. I would have been wondering if everything was OK.

Everything was OK. And though I don’t remember the details of the conversation, I do remember that it was something good–a quick call with happy news my friend couldn’t wait to share. The problem was that I had answered the call while my husband was on his way out of the house to work. Now, we were both distracted.

I don’t remember if I heard the door shut.

A mom’s subconscious is tuned into all of the noises, the movements (or lack thereof), and the general connection to her children. I often joke that moms have a built-in spidey-sense, but really, it’s no joke. A mom’s mind is constantly scanning for threats. And when the subconscious mind senses danger, the escalation from peacetime to DEFCON1 is often quick and jarring. Time stops, your body freezes, and your heart catches.

“Where’s Rachel?!!!”

And then, panic. From 0-60 in 2 seconds. All I recall is that I instinctively headed for the door. And once I made it to the sidewalk in front of the house, I instinctively cried out from a deep place in my soul toward my husband who had just started backing the car down the driveway. His windows were up, but he heard me. Or maybe he saw me. Either way, thank God, he stopped the car.

And then I saw her.

My sweet girl appeared from the other side of the car that had been backing down the driveway. That moment, I recall clearly.

I can still see her, thumb in her mouth and favorite stuffed animal in hand, sweet and innocent and without any idea of the potential tragedy that had just been avoided.

While I was distracted and my husband was busy heading for work, she had slipped out of our care for the briefest time. And in the span of a minute or two, she had toddled out the door, down the steps, and over to daddy’s car, presumably to give him more hugs and kisses as he left that day.

We knew what had been avoided.

We were simultaneously physically sick knowing what the outcome could have been and utterly thankful for being spared that heartache.

My mind spun as I tried to make sense of what had gone wrong:

What was I thinking…or not thinking? How did she get out the door? Did we think she was too little to figure out how to open it? She never tried to toddle out of the house before (and never did again). Why today? Had I not answered the phone… Had she been in the playpen…Why wasn’t she? 

But truth be told, it was just a random distraction during our family’s time of morning transition. 

I’ve still never told my friend that her call was a distraction that almost led to tragedy. And there still isn’t a time that we think about those moments that we don’t feel sick to our stomachs.

The call can wait.

Save the distractions and the phone calls and the text messages for later. Transition times already tax the family system. 

Even now when I’m pulling out of the driveway, we have a rule: “Quiet until we get on the road.” We’re talking less than a minute of silence to help me stay mindful, to check the area, and to remain distraction-free as we start on our way to ensure that I “Do no harm.”

Plan for and be mindful of changes in routine. Think ahead about how you’ll handle possible distractions. And do your best not to make assumptions about what your child can and can’t do…and what they will and will not do. Just because they never did it before doesn’t mean that they won’t do it today. 

Be safe, mamas!