Timing is Everything
So. On the way home from work tonight, I picked up a toddler who was standing at the side of the road.
Yeah, it surprised me too.
I once picked up a tween out here, on the 55 mph main road, who was walking along with clenched fists, crying, in his pajamas, in the snow, barefoot. I let him settle down a bit and then drove him home, where I imagine he had not been missed. (I’ve often wondered if I did that kid a disservice.)
But this was a baby, maybe 20 months old. Certainly not yet two. And no, this kid hadn’t been missed yet either.
Okay, so I’m speeding along this flat stretch and I see a dog on the road up in the distance. If it had not been for this dog, I don’t know that I would have seen the child at all. I would have driven by at about 50 miles per hour and maybe he would have just blended in with the scenery. A couple of days ago, I got almost to work and couldn’t remember half of my trip. Clearly, I passed all the same buildings and crossed the railroad tracks and went over the bridge like normal, but for the life of me, I could not recall a bit of it. What if that had been today?
But there was a dog in the road. A yellow lab. You can’t predict what people or animals will do, so I had slowed to maybe 15 miles an hour – and I still didn’t see this little boy until I was almost right on top of him. He was standing maybe two feet off the road, on the other side of a ditch, right next to a driveway. He had both his hands up over his ears, as though the traffic was too loud or something. Of course, I was the only traffic, but it made me wonder about other cars going by before me. I stopped and said, “Hello!”
I don’t know…a lot of things were going through my head and I was pretty surprised. So, that’s what I said.
He immediately started talking to me and walking toward my car. I said, “STOP!” And he did. I said, “Stand Right There.” And he did. All I could think about was how I had to back up without him following me so I could then pull into the driveway without running him over. But he was very good.
When I got out and walked around the back of the car, he hurried right up to me and took my hand like he belonged to me. I should have kept him. But…well…I guess that’s just wrong. So we walked up to the house, both of us talking all the way. I didn’t understand a word he said, except that the dog’s name was Juno.
When we got there, Dad answered the bell. He seemed…weirdly unmoved. I think he was surprised and disoriented to find a strange woman on his front porch with his son. I asked him if he had lost a child. He asked me where I found him. He told the baby that he was supposed to have been on the back porch. I think Dad was probably embarrassed, too. As he should be. I sure hope he keeps a better eye on his child from now on. “You were supposed to be on the back porch, buddy.” What was this guy thinking? I bet he doesn’t tell Mommy about this.
As we were walking up to the house, I was mentally preparing myself for all manner of tragedy and mayhem. I mean, why else would a toddler be on the road? Clearly, someone had a heart attack or had fallen down the stairs. I was prepared for blood or death or anything that I might find. But all I found was just regular negligence.
Oh, yeah…the timing.
The thing is, I was supposed to get off work at 2:30 this afternoon. But with one thing and another, it was 4pm before I actually left. I ran an errand and then I had to go back to work for something I forgot, etc. So, I was on that road a full 2 hours later than I had planned. When I got home, I thought about that, about how timing is everything.
And another thing: when I wrapped my mind around the fact that “this is a child I’m looking at”, surprised as I was, I kind of felt as though it were simply a matter of course. Like it was my job to take him home; like he had been waiting for me to show up or something. Just me.
He was an awfully cute kid. Maybe I should have kept him.
Yeah, timing is everything. Lucky little guy that you happened along. Unfortunately, I doubt if this were an isolated incident. Afterall, he knew to say, “Stand right here” and did! Wouldn’t that be the sort of thing repeated with practice?! He’d probably be better off with you, but maybe he is aware enough to not be in the road.
Actually, I told him to stand where he was. I’m glad he did, though.
I wonder how long before he crossed that road? I don’t know if he knew not to or was just scared of it. Or if I got there before he had time. But I bet much longer and he could have been anywhere. If you search the house first and then go outside, that’s a lot of time. They have woods across the road and tall grasses to one side of the house (corn grows there in summer). That kid could have gone any number of places and been near impossible to find.
He might be a little escape artist like my daughter was. She climbed out of her crib, unlocked doors, climbed over fences, she did it all. Hopefully this Dad learned something from this experience. He’s lucky it was you that found his little boy.
Yeah, I’ve known babies like that! I got the impression that this guy left the kid alone on the porch and he escaped.
The thing that bothered me is how long had he left this little child alone? It had to take a while for the baby to get out and make his way to the road, as the house was set pretty far back. I’m thinking maybe 15 or 20 minutes. That’s normal if you think your child is taking a nap. But not if you’ve put your 20 month old on the back porch to play. At least poke your head out and take a peek. This guy had no idea his child was missing.
“I should have kept him.” Awwww, I love it. It always amazes me how nonchalant people can act over the most frightening things. I rescued someone’s dog last spring–not an easy task since he was very distrustful, called the number on his tags (no answer), then took him to his house. A young guy took him like it was no big deal, didn’t even thank me, and walked away like I had bothered him from something more important. Sometimes I pass his house when I walk my dogs and he never says hello. Shame. I had the same thought, too, when I gave the dog up: “I should have kept him.”
I wondered if it was a guy thing. I really think this guy didn’t know what to say or how he was supposed to respond. He just seemed awkward. I’m sure he would have behaved differently had he already missed his son. But the whole thing seemed to throw him. Like he had to adjust his mind to the fact that, “yes, this is my son, but not where I left him, so I’m confused.”
But your dog guy seems kind of like a jerk. It’s different if you keep a found dog, though. People don’t frown on that as much. Plus the DNA tests are less conclusive, so you would have been more likely to get away with it that me.
My nephew once wandered out of the house sans pants or diaper or shoes, with three adults, his twin brother and the dog all inside. Sometimes it’s just an accident rather than negligence, and I’m still terrified of what could have happened to him. I had seen him walk by me in the living room and thought nothing of it until a couple minutes later when I realized I didn’t know where he had gone, and then his parents and I searched the whole house twice – and went outside – and didn’t see him. He came back on his own, at the front door, crying. He had walked four houses down before “a big girl” came outside and told him to go home. He was scared. I could still wrap him up in hugs over the whole thing.
That kind of thing happens – you turn your back for a minute and they’re gone. But I bet you guys wouldn’t purposely put him outside on a porch and then go back inside and then not check on him. That’s what I meant by negligence. My sister got lost in a mall once when my mom turned around. Plus she used to be one of those escape kids, always getting out the front door when no one was looking. So I know it happens. I think part of my judgemental feelings were based on his strange (to me) reaction.
How lucky that you came along and actually stopped! That’s scary.
I’m glad too! I’m mostly glad for the dog, because I wouldn’t have slowed down otherwise and maybe wouldn’t have seen him.
This is a really disturbing story- I am so glad you happened along. Both the stories you told were haunting. It does make you want to scoop them up and keep ’em, doesn’t it?
Hi Melissa! I was just thinking about you and how I hadn’t seen new posts from you in a while.
It’s true, you do want to scoop them up and take them home. But I don’t think any of those parents meant to hurt or lose their child. The older kid was losing his home and just wanted to go back, but I could understand why they couldn’t let him for the simple matter of time and no room. Still, my heart was breaking for him. The other guy was just a young dad. I think he didn’t know any better. At least I hope he wouldn’t leave his child alone outside again.
I’ve never lost a kid, misplaced maybe. They are quick and have very curious minds with no sense of boundries. Scary stuff.
I know! I was thinking about when Logan was a baby and you were at Aunt Mart’s. You and I walked into the kitchen and a few minutes later heard this terrible bang. He had climbed out of the crib and was maybe two feet away, on his back, screaming. We couldn’t believe he was able to climb out! I’m so glad he didn’t get brain damage – must be the hard head.
Awe the poor baby! Could you imagine telling the dad “finders keepers” lol. Hopefully, it opened the dads eyes up! Thank you for being a good person. If I were that childs mom and somehow I found out I would probably annoy you because I would send flowers or candy (hoping you weren’t diabetiic) like evryday!
Yeah, I would have been falling all over myself with thanking. But he was surprised. That little boy was so cute, though.