I still feel sick about it.
I guess I've always known at some point I'd screw up and let my son down; that I'd do something I'd be ashamed to publicly admit.
I'm not talking about the minor everyday stuff. I mean, there have been plenty of things that I've done (or not done) that have made me feel like a bit of a crap mum. Leaving him to cry for a few minutes, only to discover his leg is trapped in the bars of his cot. Donking his head on the car as I've tried to wrangle him into the car seat. Running his bath a little too hot. Failing to catch him in time as he's launched himself backwards/sideways/forwards from sitting. The list goes on.
But what happened on the weekend was a real doozy. Something that trumps anything else I've done in terms of pure stupidity and risk to my child.
And here it is: I drove the baby for a good 10 minutes without strapping him into his capsule.
It was a stupid oversight. Ironically I had taken the capsule out of the car in order to reinstall the base because I was worried it had come a little loose. While I did that Joel popped Victor into the capsule as it sat on the ground. When I was done he clicked the capsule back into the car and this is where it all came unraveled.
Joel was leaning into the car and about do up the harness when I got impatient with how long he was taking. Thinking he'd already secured the baby when the capsule was out of the car and was now struggling with the tether strap, I shoo'd him out of the way in order to take over. I tightened the tether strap, closed the door, and off we went.
When we arrived at our destination and discovered little Vic was just lounging around in his capsule without his harness secured we were mortified. Truth be told, we laughed for a few seconds at first. It was that weird laughter that happens as a knee-jerk reaction when you're actually embarrassed and ashamed. Like when you do a cartwheel in a skirt and the whole school sees your yellow knickers, and when you realise you're horrified, but you laugh along with everyone for a moment before you burst into tears... it was like that but a million times worse.
Within seconds I was grabbing Joel's arm and telling him what an awful mother I was. My son trusts me to protect him, and I had let him down. We quickly scooped the baby out of the capsule and held him close, not daring to think about what could have happened as a result of my carelessness. Yes we were both there, but it was my fault. I thought Joel had harnessed the baby in, he thought I had, but at the end of the day I have to take responsibility for three reasons - I was the last one in contact with the baby, I was the one driving, and none of this would have happened if I hadn't been so impatient.
Perhaps a lot of parents have made this mistake in their time, or perhaps not - I really have no idea. In my distress I told a friend about what I'd done and it turned out she and her husband had done the exact same thing - that lightened the load a little. She's a great mum, and if she could experience the same slip-up then perhaps I didn't need to hand myself into CYFs after all?
In fact, that's why I'm writing about this today - because if you've forgotten to harness your child in their car seat, or done something equally as dumb, it might be reassuring to know you're not the only one who's been there. Even though we have the best of intentions, we're human beings and we screw up sometimes - that doesn't make us bad parents.
I feel incredibly lucky that we weren't involved in an accident that day, because if we had been I would never be able to forgive myself. That said, even though I will always feel bad about what happened, I'm not going to keep beating myself up about it because the one positive thing I can take away from it is a lesson learned. From now on I will do what I should have been doing all along; I'll take the time to double check that he's harnessed properly before we take off, whether I've been the one to belt him in or not. We were lucky once, and I don't plan on there being a next time.
Have you ever mistakenly neglected to belt in your child? Or maybe you have a story of some other major parenting fail that you'd like to confess so we can all feel a little more normal...
- Essential Mums