Inspiration, Journal, Point of View

Today I Almost Lost My Child…

What I learned from this traumatic experience.

If you are a parent, try to imagine this: In a dark room of the local aquarium, you looked at your phone for 2 seconds and soon realized that you don’t see your child around anymore. You couldn’t spot him anywhere in the room, you panicked and your brain froze. The worst case scenarios started to play again and again in your head as you were running around like a maniac, calling your child’s name. The whole experience felt like a nightmare.

almost lost my child_cover

I’ve seen it on TV, in the movies, or on the news, but I have never ever thought this could have happened to me. Because, I am a helicopter mom. I am so cautious and careful that I always kept my two-year-old son under my wings. But today it happened. It was the worst nightmare that any parents could ever have experienced. I was lucky that I found him eventually, but I still couldn’t live with the fact that I actually let this happen under my watch. After hours of replaying the horrific moments in my head and regretting and feeling guilty for not being a good mother to my young child, I slowly calmed down and started to think about what I can learn from this accident, and how to prevent it from happening again. I learned two things from what I had experienced today: First, never say never! Second, do not over protect a child.

1) Never Say Never!    click to tweet

My son is very shy with strangers and is usually overly cautious. He was never like the other boys who always run around in public, because those places are filled with strangers. I took my son out to do activities all the time, usually all by myself. He always followed me as we walk and even if he ran ahead of me, he would always stop and check to see if I was there. So I thought I knew my son really well and he would never run off to a strange place without me.

What I forgot was how fast toddlers grow. Their little brains are developing every day, which is why their eating, sleeping or social habits could change overnight. Today happened to be the day that he decided to explore a new place without me. That’s why we should never assume that we know our kids 100%. We need to adapt as fast as they develop, always keep an open mind, expect something new to happen any minute, stay flexible and learn from the past. After what happened today, if I have to ever look away from my child again in public locations, I would make sure to keep one of my hands on my child, because you never know!

2) Do NOT over protect a child.   click to tweet

This might sound contradicting to what I had addressed above. I almost lost my child due to 2 seconds of neglect and now I want to advice others NOT to over protect a child? Yes, I am not out of my mind and I said it for a reason. Tonight before I put my son to bed, I tucked him in and asked him, “Were you scared when you didn’t see me at the aquarium today?” He smiled and said he was not scared. I looked at him in the eyes and said, “Well mommy was so scared today, because I thought I had lost you!” His expression changed immediately from smiling to frowning, and looked very confused. I was a little shocked by his reaction and continued, “In the future, can you promise mommy not to run away without me?” He looked very concerned and nodded.

This hit me! I didn’t know that the possibility of getting lost in touch with mommy never occurred to him. My son is a very happy and outgoing child when he is around people he loves, but he needs extremely long time to warm up to strangers. So I did everything I could to make him believe that the world was a safe place and everyone was friendly, in order for him to feel protected and less scared in social settings. But this somehow backfired today. In his eyes, I am a superwomen and even if he doesn’t see me around, I would always go back to get him. For instance, when he didn’t want to leave a toy store empty-handed, it never worked when I “threatened” him that I was gonna leave without him, because he knew I was bluffing. He was very confident and a little bit too confident with my ability to protect him from the world, because I was always with him every step of the way (except when he was in daycare three days a week) and I am a protective mother. The accident that happened today was such a wake-up call. It made me realize that my eyes can’t be always on him 24 hours a day. As young as two years old, he needs to know that mommy can make mistakes, mommy is only human. And most importantly, he needs to learn to protect himself (i.e. In the case of going out to public places, he needs to be more aware of my whereabouts and not to run off without me).

Parenting is hard and the more I experience it first hand, the more I understand how important it is not to judge the other parents for their mistakes. The fact is we are not living in a perfect world. As parents, we need to be fully aware of this and accept the fact. At the same time, we need to teach our children how to survive in this imperfect world on their own.

BBC interview interrupted by kids open letter to perfect parents
Inspiration, Point of View

An Open Letter to the “Perfect Parents”

My thoughts after the interrupted BBC interview went viral

Last Friday, I was browsing through Facebook on my phone as usual. Suddenly this funny video popped up in my feed and cracked me up. A professor was doing a live interview on BBC about the impeachment of the Korean president. Everything seemed like business as usual, until this little girl opened the door, approaching the professor in high spirit and dancing. The professor tried to stay professional while using his left hand to push the girl back from the webcam. While I thought things couldn’t get any funnier, her little brother quickly followed her sister and “rolled into” the room, followed by their mother, grabbing the kids, got them out of the room, and finally, the famous “reach” for the door. As a mother who always tried to work from home while taking care of my two year old, I loved how this video was unscripted, hilarious and just so real!! This is our life and it feels good to know that a highly respected professor, who gets to talk about serious political issues on BBC, also share the same struggle as us while trying to work from home. However, the fun kind of stopped as I stroll down to read the comments.

perfect parents social media comments
Selected social media comments on the viral video

These are only a few of the comments I found on different social media websites. Sadly, this was actually not surprising to me. Every time there was a parenting incident reported on the news, those “perfect parents” would jump in and quickly judging the parents, often started with phrases like “I would never…” or “If I were him/her…”. These parents (or parents wanna be) are just so confident that they would’ve handled the same situation perfectly, or at least better than the parents they see on the news. I have to say that before I was a mother, I had been one of them, the “perfect parents”. I might not have actually said or written anything, but I definitely had the same judgmental thoughts. I thought I was so rational and cautious that I would treat and educate my kid in the most perfect way. But little did I know what it takes to be a good mother. Especially, parenting a spirited child isn’t as easy as step 1, 2, 3. This eye-opening experience changed how I see the world, so I decided to address this issue in an open letter for the “perfect parents” to understand why for most of us things aren’t perfect in the parenting world, and the least you can do is to judge.

Dear “Perfect Parents”,

I know that you are always observant, rational and critical. You are always so together that nothing has slipped through on your watch. You may have raised a couple kids and they always listen to you and behave like you wanted them to be. You think you know everything about parenting or at least enough for you to be a good parent. And most importantly, you care about other kids. You care so much that (A) You have to offer advice to other parents, so that they could do a better job; or (B) You are afraid that something horrible would happen to your kids, so you have to say the “right thing” out loud to remind yourself and feel better. I know, I’ve been there and I was one of you. But everything changed after I became a mother of a strong willed child. I would never judge another parent just because something happened to a kid, or just because I witnessed a kid’s seem-to-be-troubled behavior, without trying to understand the background stories first. Here are my reasons:

1) Maybe you saw the worst side of the story.    click to tweet

work from home on snow day

So you saw this professor handling the live TV emergency on BBC improperly and immediately jumped into conclusion that he was not a capable or loving daddy. “He should’ve locked the door” someone commented. Yes he should’ve. But little did you know that he had been doing live TV interviews for 6 years and this was the only time he forgot to lock the door.  “He should’ve just picked the girl up and acknowledge the cute family” someone else said. Yes he could’ve. However he was just a professor who never got trained properly to handle emergencies on live TV. At that moment all he thought about was to finish his job as professionally as he could. If you got a chance to watch the “sequel” of the interrupted BBC interview, you would see a loving pair of parents trying to stay sane during an interview while two young cranky kids crawling around them. This is life. This is us! Toddlers are unpredictable, especially the spirited ones. When you see an incident happening, try to remember that it could just be a bad day or one single isolated incident. Don’t you agree that it is too harsh to judge another fellow parent simply base on one thing they did?  

2) Because you never know if you can do better.   click to tweet

doing something important with baby

We all know that cookie-cutter parenting doesn’t work, because our kids are all different. Some are sweet and laid back, and others are stubborn and strong willed. Some are chatterboxes and others are quiet observers. Some parents may think that they have raised “good kids”, so they must have done a better job, hence they get to judge others who didn’t do the “right thing”. But this isn’t necessarily true. Maybe you are just lucky that you were blessed with kids who were naturally easy going and more understanding than others. Or, on the contrary, in the worst case scenario, maybe the kids only “behaved” because they were afraid to speak up against their parents, or they don’t even care to communicate, due to overly strict parenting. Of course, I am not speaking against parents who did great jobs parenting their children. I am working very hard myself to be one of them and I strongly believe that good parenting can directly affect a child’s personality, mental health, intelligent achievement and happiness in life. I am simply saying that every family has a unique story, so nobody is entitled to judge others simply because they think they did a better job or that they know better. Because you just never know!

3) Parenting is a 24/7 job and parents are only human.    click to tweet

this is my life_work from home

“Parents are children’s best teachers.” This is an old Chinese saying which I absolutely agree with. However, parents are not teachers. Teachers greet the students in the morning and see them off in the afternoon, then they are able to get off work and just go home. But parents can’t. The kids do not obey parents the same way as how they do at school. And parents can’t always stay focused the same way teachers do (I am talking about those responsible teachers here). So if occasionally we are not paying attention or not treating our children properly, it isn’t because we don’t love our children or we aren’t responsible parents. It is simply because we are human and we are tired, especially for those who work from home or the stay-at-home parents. We love our children so much that we are always on top of everything, wanting to make sure the kids are safe, healthy, well-educated and happy. When we are doing this on a 24/7 basis, it drained so much energy from us and sometimes we just need a break. A lot of times, the improper things, which you witnessed or heard about, happened exactly when we needed a break.  Does it make us bad parent? I say not! On the contrary, we learn from our mistakes, get re-energized and become better parents.

Your fellow parent,

Strong Headed Mom

We often teach our kids to be compassionate and empathetic. And we, the parents, need to do exactly the same, learn to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, think and act objectively and responsibly. We all have made tremendous efforts to be good parents and there are so many bumps on the road that we can’t avoid. I really hope my fellow parents who are struggling and self-doubting to chin up and believe in what you’ve been doing. And I also hope the “perfect parents” out there to stop and think twice before you make any judgment on other parents again. We, the parents, are all in this together! 🙂