Forgetting You Left Your Kids Behind

Posted: January 5, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Don’t you hate when you leave your kids behind at the mall or the grocery store? It happens. Like the parents in Home Alone, your fear is matched only by the terror you know your child must be feeling.

I can honestly say that I have never left my children at the mall or the grocery store. I have, however, left one child home alone, but not intentionally. And it was long before any of us had any idea of the harm that would befall a sleeping child left home alone while her mother was rushed to the emergency room.

What prompts me to write about leaving kids home alone is what happened a few days ago. My daughter-in-law and I took her 5-year-old son, Kaden (my grandson), to the store with us, leaving behind my son and their 3-year-old son, Zac (they were still sleeping when we left and their daughter, 10-year-old Taylor, was spending the night with a friend). While Zac was still sleeping, his dad stepped into the bathroom.

Not seeing anybody around when Zac climbed out of bed seconds later, he descended the steps to the first floor, calling out for Mommy and discovered she, too, was missing, at which time he cried out in terror. Then, when he realized Daddy was in the bathroom, he got angry at everybody for abandoning him.

Zac tends to hold a grudge, though, so we all heard about how we left him alone for hours after the incident occurred. (I guess when you’re three years old and you awaken to find the house empty, you can’t help but think that your whole family has disappeared.)

This incident reminded me of another home-alone event.

My oldest daughter, Keeley, was 8-years-old when I came down with the worst asthma attack and upper respiratory infection I have ever had. She and I were living with my parents at the time and my mother had driven me to the hospital earlier in the day while Keeley was still at school. I could tell when I left the emergency room that I would be back, because I was still having such a hard time breathing.

That night, around 9 p.m., before it got too late, I went upstairs to ask my mother to drive me to the emergency room again, because I could barely breathe. My dad insisted on coming with us, and I don’t know if I was just too out of it from not being able to breathe or if I justified leaving my daughter home alone because she was sound asleep, but in October of 1977, my father climbed into the car and lit up a cigarette while I choked my way back to the hospital – where I spent nearly three weeks.

During that hospital stay I was so “out of it” that I didn’t believe people when they later told me they had visited or called. I don’t remember any of them being there or calling.

I also didn’t recall leaving my daughter home alone until years later when my daughter reminded me of the time she awoke in the basement and couldn’t find me or anyone else at home. She then climbed the stairs and looked around for her Granny and Papa. Determining, even at the age of 8, that what she was experiencing couldn’t possibly be happening, because no parent or grandparent would leave a child home alone, she convinced herself that she must be dreaming and went back to sleep.

Today and in the latter part of last century, I would never consider leaving a child alone for any reason. Too risky. And I normally wouldn’t admit to doing such a horrendous thing, but I was so amused by Keeley’s thought processes at the time, telling herself that she was imagining everybody being gone, and by Zac’s anger at everybody abandoning him, that I just had to blog about it.

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