Two weeks ago I was visiting a friend's house with my son. She lives on a fairly busy road with a speed limit of 40 mph or so. She has a big back yard and a pretty small front yard.
We were all inside the house and our sons were running around inside. We were sitting in the living room in the front of the house, and the boys ran into the back room. Less than a minute later my friend looked out the front window and said, "They're in the front yard!"
I walk quickly out the front door and into the yard. There is a car in the driveway and an SUV parked in the grass right by the road. My son is running right toward the street, next to the SUV. I run after him and yell, "STOP!". Apparently he can hear the terror in my voice, because he stops immediately and turns around. He is inches from the street, next to the huge SUV, so that the traffic in the far lane can't even see him. I'm still a few yards away from him. As soon as he turns toward me, I slow down, walking quickly because if I run after him he might bolt. I'm saying, "Do not move Do not move Do not move," as I approach him. I'm aware that he could run away from me, into traffic, at any second and I would be powerless to save him. I reach him and grab his arm, pulling him away from the road, and seconds later a car speeds by. I can easily envision him running in front of it and being killed.
I don't think he even knew he was about to run into the road. It was bright out and he was squinting at me as I approached. Apparently he was trying to find the other boy, who was hidden beside the car in the driveway. I told him he almost ran into the street, and he could've been hurt, and I was scared and blah blah blah, but after that we just went on with our playdate and I just pushed it out of my mind.
So now I have two problems: 1) How do I make sure this never ever happens again? and 2) How do I deal with this traumatic experience?
Problem 1: Lately my son doesn't really listen to me in any circumstance. Whenever we need to leave somewhere, he runs away from me. He also has run toward the street at our house when he doesn't want to go inside, but we have a huge front yard so I've caught him easily. I've told him how dangerous it is, and that a car could hit him and break his body and we wouldn't be able to fix it, but he still isn't cautious enough of cars and the street. How can I make him listen when it's important?
Problem 2: I keep thinking about this incident. It's not in my head all the time, but when I start to think about it it makes me ill. I've lost a loved one before, so I know that bad things can happen to me and those I love, and that my son could die, but before this I guess I never really felt it. Now I can feel it in my gut; my son could die, and so easily. I could look away for one second and he could be gone forever. I keep thinking, what if my friend hadn't seen them in the front yard? What if I had been a second slower in getting out the door? What if he had run away from me instead of stopping? I can just picture it, while I'm approaching him and saying "Do not move," he just decides to turn around and run right into the path of an oncoming car.
I feel like I could lose him at any second. I'm scared to death when he's around cars. I don't know what to do.
I've been there, and I am not over the trauma, although keep thanking my lucky stars that I had the learning experience and I'm now very cautious.
My DDs are not allowed - at this age - to cross a street without holding my hand. They're not allowed to wander a parking lot without holding my hand. No ifs, ands or buts. I constantly remind them - it's second nature. We sent older DD to bike camp that talked a TON about roads, signs and road safety.
As for the trauma... (sigh) When DD was 3, she pulled something like that - totally innocent. DH and I were cleaning our garage and she was with us. We probably had our back turned to her for maybe 20 seconds to talk about something in the garage, and she took the opportunity to go to put her little bicycle cones IN THE STREET (something we do to make it safer for them to ride in the street - they're little). By herself. In the middle of the road.
I still shudder. And I live in a keyshaped neighbourhood where we're in the cul de sac, so safe anyway.
It's a good learning experience.
Oh, I'm so sorry, mama. What a horrible experience to go through.
As for what to do now, I'd say definately that he's not big enough to be outside by himself, especially that close to a road. My ds2 is 3, we live on a gravel dead-end road on 4 acres, and he's still not allowed outside by himself yet - there's just too much trouble he could get himself into.
I don't know if this is the "right' thing to do, but this is what I would do. I'd carry him to and from the car and to and from the house until he understands that it is not acceptable to break away and run (I'm assuming your son is like mine and that the novelty of being carried would wear off very quickly!). Tell him he can walk like a big boy when he agrees to hold your hand/follow directly behind you/whatever like a big boy. If we were outside and he ran away toward the street because he didn't want to go in, I'd catch him, and that would be the end of outside time for the rest of that day and the next. Period. Tell him he can play outside when he agrees to play safely.
I understand that those ideas might seem kind of negative, but I think they're pretty natural consequences for his actions. I think they're appropriate as well since you *have* talked to him about safety but it's just not sinking in. I guess too it depends on the child's personality as well. I'm very interested to hear what other mamas have to say.
When I was little a neighbor kid ran into the street and came INCHES from being hit. The car that was coming couldn't see him b/c he ran right in front of a parked car. My dad SCREAMED at the top of his lungs - the driver heard him and slammed on the breaks. The neighbor kid was standing about 6 inches in front of the car when it stopped. I think I was 5 - and I remember it like it was yesterday.
I have no advice for you, but I wanted you to know that I'm also terrified of that happening to my son. He's not old enough to run out in the street yet, but he's starting to walk so I don't have much longer.
If you live in the same city or county as your friend, you could also contact some local officials to ask if they can lower the speed limit in that residential area. Depending on where it is, that may or may not get results, but it's worth a shot.
I can relate. I have been there. the only thing i have added to your story of broken body is finding something that my dd really relates to. i would say her body would be broken and her daddy and i would cry and cry and cry because we would miss her so much. the other thing - my vocabulary. using 'danger' when describing things that were dangerous. purposely giving her opportunities to run out into hte street to test and give her the 'danger; talk. i never used that word otherwise. it was reserved only for dangerous situations. however in that situation my reaction was what had its biggest impact on my dd. the hysteria, the panic, the side of mommy she had never seen before. she never ever ran out into the street again.
2. time mama. time. it took me a lot of time to recover from that incident. and rhe time when i lost her for a moment and couldnt find her. but you do recover eventually. plus for me what helped at that time was thinking of the future. that one day she would be driving. she might get into an accident and still continue driving. i then realised this was just the beginning. how much scarier it is going to get - and that i will have to let her do it. it would indeed be dangerous not to. and that helps. looking at the big picture.
Oh, I remember when my DD was in 1st grade, we were walking home from school and it was late and the crossing guard had left. We were waiting and I probably said something like "After this car..." and all of the sudden, DD goes out in the cross walk and runs across the street as a car is coming. I screamed really loud and thankfully the woman driving was paying attention and stopped. I don't know who was more traumatized, me, DD, or the lady in the car. She just stopped at sat there for a few minutes before she went on, I think she was very shaken up!
My DD was really scared, she had misheard me or something. I explained to her how she had to not only listen to me but also look for herself. But she was much older at the time.
You said your son doesn't ever listen to you but I just wanted to point out that he *did* listen to you. He stopped when you told him to. He just needs more time to learn about the road. The carrying is a good idea but hard to do if you can't get a hold of him because he ran off. I have a friend who had an imaginary line in her yard and whenever her child crossed it, he had to go into the house. Maybe try something like that?
As for the trauma, you just can't go through your whole life worrying about what could happen or you'll drive yourself crazy. I think you have to do what you can to make things safe and then let it go.
It's very normal for 3 year old to just run, run, run without a care in the world, right into danger. I simply never left my 3 year olds outside without my constant supervision, especially in someone else's yard. In my own back yard, I could be a bit more sure of safety, knowing that the gate was securely closed and locked and there were no small holes/gaps in the fence that a 3 year old could squeeze through.
I'm sure we all have a memory of that one time that our children managed to find someone extremely dangerous to do. When my son was 2, I had all the doors locked (as usual) and I hopped into the shower. In my towel, I came into the living room to check on my son and couldn't find him. The doorbell rang and I could hear my son babbling. Grabbed my robe, went towards the door, all the time calling for my son, opened the door and ...a neighbor had my son!! He had crawled out an open (only a sliver) window after pushing the screen out!!! It terrified me so much and I would wake up with nightmares for a while. I can still remember the feeling vividly but thank goodness, it waned and with a bit of time, I stopped stressing about it and just made sure all the windows were closed during my showers.
That scared voice was probably the best lesson in the world. I'm afraid the only way to ensure a lo that age and younger won't run into the street is to be right on top of them when they're anywhere near a street.
I am very paranoid about this myself. I don't even let the kids play in the driveway. When my DS was a preschooler, I showed him animals that had been run over, and told him that's what will happen to you if you go out in the street! The cars will squish you flat! Maybe a little harsh, but he won't go near the street.
My kids are a bit older so I've been having this conversation for years. I constantly tell them about the dangers of being in the road or parking lot as we are near/in them. I have told tehm that they will be hurt, need a doctor and could die. (We're a very blunt family...I know it's too much for many families, but the "hurt" part is important-no kid likes to be hurt).
My boys are 4 and 5 now and can handle themselves most of the time in the situation...a ball bounces out into the street, they stop and look before continuing. Walking to the store from the car...I rarely have to hold hands anymore. But they do forget. One of the things I say very often when we are out is "You are in a parking lot." And thanks to the years of hearing my warnings, they usually shape up and walk where they are supposed to.
We also do a lot of role playing and practicing when it comes to these kinds of talks. When we talk about strangers, being lost in a store, crossing the street etc. I have said every day on our walks "This is the curb, it's where we stop." "You cannot cross with out me." "Now, what do you do when you get to the curb?" (Stop) "Good and why?" (The cars will get me-or something like that) "And if you don't stop, you'll have to hold my hand for the rest of the walk." I've found this kind of conversation to be very helpful with all my kids-the key is repitition and practice.
I'm so sorry that happened to you and so happy that it was not more then traumitizing. My ds1 did a very similar innocent thing when he was 2 that I'd almost forgotten about until reading about you yelling "Stop" and being surprised it worked. That's exactly how it happened for me as well. I remember being proud of him at the moment and falling apart later. You will come to terms with it.
In my opinion, a 3 year old child should not play in the front yard unsupervised, or wherever the yard meets the street. At 3, they don't fully understand the danger of being hit by a car, and, let's face it----they aren't the greatest "listeners" at this point.
I would allow a 3 year old to play in a fenced in back yard, making sure that the gates were closed, locked and secure.
You can't spend the rest of your life worrying about things that are beyond your control. Yes, you have a certain amount of control and influence, but ultimately, what is going to happen is what is going to happen. You can't keep him in the house all day----but when he is outside, take that opportunity to teach and reiterate about not going in the street because of cars. He may not understand the concept of "If you got hit by a car and died, mommy and daddy would be so upset......." He doesn't know what death is and he doesn't know what upset is. What I would do, and I am sure some people will flip out over this, is: I am quite sure that he doesn't like getting shots at the doctor's office and usually hate the doctor.. I would tell him that if he goes in the street, and gets hit by a car, he will have to go to the hospital, see lots of doctors and get lots of needles. THAT is something he will understand!!
I feel sorry for you---I know the kind of adrenaline flow something like that produces, and it can haunt you. But---it is over, and he is fine. You will drive yourself crazy worrying about the future and what the future will bring. A truth about life is that nothing is guaranteed, but we can't go on every day and wonder who will be taken away from us. It is over---move on and be happy that you DO have him!!
Thanks everyone. Just to clarify, I had NO idea he was outside, or that he could even get outside. At our house, the door knobs are hard to turn and he can't get out. This was only the second time we'd been to this friend's house, so it didn't even occur to me that the boys would be able to get outside. I won't make that mistake again.
Originally Posted by RiverSky
It's very normal for 3 year old to just run, run, run without a care in the world, right into danger.
Do you think so? It seems like everyone else's kids are so much more careful than my son. I've seen mamas letting their toddlers walk near the street or parking lot without even holding their hands, and it doesn't seem to be a problem for them. And I don't see any other kids running away from their parents EVERY SINGLE TIME they leave somewhere. I guess part of my problem is that I feel like I've failed my son, like there's something I should have done to get it through his head that cars are dangerous and that he shouldn't run away from me.
Originally Posted by duchess_of_dork
How old is he?
He just turned 3.
i can only talk about my dd.
she is a high energy girl. she NEEDS a lot of activity to get 'it' out of her system. after 10 hours at dc at 2 she still had to go to the park afterwards and run and swing and climb for at least an hour till she could calm down. as a 10 month old she had to climb the stairs in the evening for an hour before she could sleep.
so two things here. your son could possibly need more time in physical activities.
2. running is just his personality. there are climbers and runners. and just coz you know no one like your son - doesnt mean he needs to be like everyone else.
it just means you have to stay on top of him more.
childhood is 18 years. you have no idea when children start 'running'. some may at 3, others may at 13. you just never know.