July 24, 2010

Every Parent's Nightmare

It's been awhile since we had a Kenna story to share. Now that this incident is a few days behind us, it's a little bit easier to write about, especially since it has a happy ending. So, just a warning for the grandmas--this is not for the faint of heart!

Some background:
Wednesday the older three kids were on a field trip with the church kids' ministry. Two neighbor boys went along. I was to pick everyone up from the church at 5:30. Lucan had been sick with a high fever and runny nose since Tuesday morning, so Ted offered to come home a little bit early so I wouldn't have to take Lucan and Kenna with me to get all the older kids.

So, Ted comes home, we play pass the baby, I hop in the Suburban and drive off. About two minutes before I pull into the church parking lot, my cell phone rings. It's Ted, asking me if I brought Kenna with me. Uh, oh...I did NOT. I said goodbye to her along with Ted.

Rewind a little and I'll tell you what was happening at home. Apparently right after I left, Kenna informed Ted she wanted to go with me. Ted said, "Sorry, sweetie, but Mama's already gone." She started crying, but it was too late, and Ted had his hands full with a very crabby, fussy Lucan. He took Lucan to the bedroom so he could change out of his uniform. As he finished changing, he realized the house was quiet--strange, since Kenna was throwing a fit last he knew. He came out of his room to find that she was nowhere in the house, so he called me.

Not realizing that Kenna was upset that I had left her at home, I suggested that Ted try looking around the cul-de-sac in front of our house; perhaps she had decided to run around to find a friend. (She HAS done similar things before...but usually there is actually someone out there playing whom she wants to be with.) Ted left Lucan in the house, thinking he would step outside and find Kenna within moments.

Meanwhile, I was frantically gathering my brood from church and praying the phone would ring, since I had asked Ted to call me as soon as he had found Kenna. No call came in. I tried calling several times (at one point accidentally dialing my mother-in-law's number) and finally reached him at home, where a screaming Kenna was in the background.

Here's what had happened: Kenna REALLY wanted to go with me, and being three, had no concept of how fast she could run vs. how fast I was driving. She took off out of the neighborhood. And when I say "out," I mean OUT. She ran up the street that leaves our neighborhood and goes to a busy two-lane road. PRAISE THE LORD a man driving out of the neighborhood saw her at the CORNER of this intersection, got out of his minivan, and stopped her. A neighbor in the cul-de-sac behind us who was mowing his lawn got off the riding lawnmower and came over as well. We don't know anyone in the cul-de-sac behind us, but apparently the neighbor (who we later learned is Rich) thought he recognized Kenna. He told Mr. Minivan that this happens "all the time." (???)

Meanwhile, Ted is searching for Kenna in front of our house and toward the other cul-de-sac, the one where we know all the neighbors and Kenna often plays. Not finding her, he comes around the house and happens to look up the street and sees her pink shirt. He hurries up to her and finds her with the two men, who apparently had been asking her what her name was and where she lived. She never did answer them, and when Ted came, she didn't respond much to him either, keeping her eyes down, because she obviously knew she was NOT supposed to be where she was!

Rich slinked back to his lawnmower, and Mr. Minivan proceeded to completely chew Ted out, as if he wasn't already frantic enough. When Ted tried to take Kenna back home, the man wouldn't let him leave, saying, "Oh, no, the cops are on the way, and you're gonna stay here until they arrive." Ted tried explaining that there was a one-year-old in the house, but this man was pretty belligerent, insisting that he "should have thought about that before" and that he "needed to take more responsibility," among other things.

Ted, who does NOT like conflict and was understandably very shaken up by this point, waited the few minutes it took for the policeman to arrive. After a few minutes, the policeman was assured that Kenna indeed belonged to Ted and let them go, advising Ted to purchase a deadbolt for our door immediately. (As an aside, he obviously doesn't know Kenna if he thinks a deadbolt is going to contain her, LOL.)

It was a very emotional evening for all of us. First and foremost, we are so thankful to God that Kenna was prevented from running any farther and that she was not hurt in any way during the whole ordeal. At the same time, I still feel righteous indignation at the way Ted was treated by a complete stranger, who had (in my opinion) no right to speak to Ted the way he did. He doesn't know our family--he doesn't know anything about Ted. How would he have felt if the situation were reversed? I know I should just be grateful that he stopped to help, but it still angers me that he acted the way he did.

As for the neighbor, I just couldn't let it rest that he had told Mr. Minivan that this happens "all the time," and Mr. Minivan had even told Ted that Rich had told him the cops are called out here "all the time" because of this. What in the world?!?! As I assured Ted, the policeman could easily verify that this was not the case--police have never been called out because of any of our children! But I still didn't understand why Rich had said this.

So after dinner we went over and introduced ourselves and asked him about it. "Oh, yeah," he said. "She's running out here all the time. That's why I recognized her. I figured you guys just had free-range kids or something."


I cannot even begin to describe my shock. I will be the first to admit that there have been times when Kenna has "escaped" from the back yard or impetuously run across the street to play with a friend. But we have always gone right after her, and she has NEVER (to my knowledge) run in the direction of that neighbor's house, away towards the entrance/exit to our neighborhood. Why would she?! She doesn't know anyone up that way, and the only reason she did so this particular night was because she was in a screaming rage and was, in her mind, going to find Mommy and ride with her to church.

When I asked Rich if he could tell me what time of day, or what days, or anything about when this supposedly happens, he just said, "Various times." I don't know why he would say such a thing, but neither Ted nor I really believe it. I hope we're not in denial, but I just can't imagine that Kenna would run away multiple times and we would have absolutely no clue about it happening. She is rarely outside without someone else in our family with her, and when she's playing in the back yard by herself, I'm always in the kitchen where I can see her. She's not even allowed in the front yard by herself, for cryin' out loud! And honestly, if that were really happening, would YOU as a neighbor just let a 3-year-old run wild without at least trying to find out where she lived or who she belonged to?! "Free-range kids," indeed! Please!

So, I have no idea what to do with that other than try to let it go! We did ask the older kids if they had ever seen Kenna running in that direction, and they vehemently denied it, saying the same thing I've iterated here.

All's well that ends well, I guess. Now when I leave the house, we make a point to explain to Kenna that she'll be staying with Daddy while I go do such-and-such. We're hoping all the trauma from Wednesday will be a lesson she will long remember!


Jeni said...

What a story! I am so glad that she is safe. Unfortunately, these things happen. I think we have a "runaway" story for each of our 3 kids as well! I am very impressed with your patience with your neighbor and Mr. Minivan. I may not have been as tolerant.

Rachel Battey said...

I will post your first comment here to remind you, Beverly, you are an excellent mother. Your neighbor did not have a mother like you, and that is why he LIES. It makes him feel better, and he knows he has got you when he belittles you. Your family has made excellent decisions on your children's behalf, and I highly commend you. (I can think of a situation down at the end of our street where a 7 year old regularly flashes her chest to oncoming vehicals. Yep.) Kids do stupid things sometimes, and Kenna did. Maybe it scared her, and there might be more to come. But this time, she knew better than to go with a stranger, and she knew when she had done wrong when confronted by her dad. THESE are positive examples of her learning. We have a little pistol at our house too, that keeps me on my knees begging for mercy. I am really happy that everything turned out OK. I will give no advice because I just have BOYS, but I want to give you a cyber hug, and a pat on the back to "stay the course." God is also with our kids!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, Beverly, that you and Ted had to experience that. It's a reminder to me to not judge other peoples circumstances. I don't know about their family or how they do things.

Those men don't know your family and are quick to pass judgement. They probably are quick to judge in other circumstances as well.

I pray that God protects your family from intrusive people as you fight to raise them in the way God instructed you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to leave my name. The last comment was from me.

Mellisa Blackburn in Keenesburg, CO

Debbie said...


I know this can realllly make ya'll feel guilty but you know ya'll are great parents. The same thing happened with us and Ben and Caleb the day before their 2nd birthday. I was babysitting a slightly older friends daughter. I thought they were playing in the boys room and I was sitting in the living room clipping coupons by the front door and it got extremely quiet. I starting yelling their names and running all over the house looking for the three of them since I knew my boys did not know how to open the door. I did look out the front and looked both ways and did not see them and repeated looking around the house and started calling friends to come over to be at the house so I could go look. Now we lived on a Cul de sac on the left was the neighborhood and on the right was a arigation ditch and then a faeld tghat was still famed and then the highway. I was freaking out they went towards the highway but down to the left two neighbors down I saw the diaper bag.!!??? They were going on a trip with the diaper bag:) I did not have a cell phone so I finally got in the car and started driving around the neighborhood that was still being built I stopped at a construction team. The lady knew I was distraught and asked if I called 911. No I hadn't thought of it. While I was explaining my three kids the dispatcher said a policeman had found them. I drove to where they were and a Schwan's man had found them and called the police. Praise God!! My three little ones were in the back of the police car. But the police man made me feel horrible and took down all my information. We really thought we would be contacted by CPS. I was not able to contact the mom of the little girl. Josh was babysitting her when she was picked up so I could not tell her. I left for like 10 minutes to pick up some of the other kids from school. So finally at 7 at night I told the dad at his house what happened. I had been crying all day and he laughed at the event. Anyway the twins did like to run and another time a neighbor came down and just started laying in to me and I just stood there listening. She was telling me what a bad mother I was and how I can't control my kids... Matt was in the bedroom changing from work and finally came to the door and told her that was enough and asked her to leave. I felt horrible. We did have another 911 call but that time Ben was hiding in a closet but we were not taking chances

Anyway You and Ted are excellent parents and hopefully later you will be able to look back and laugh at the story with
Kenna when she is older. I think people do make assumptions when you have a larger family. May God bless your family and keep Kenna Safe!

Debbie Randolph

As For Me and My House said...

oh my goodness....what a story. I don't really know what to say except thank God Kenna is okay and hopefully she will remember this and NEVER do anything like it again. And, I guess you now have a neighbor to pray for you never would have thought to pray for before! :) (small consolation but maybe an eternity affected?)

Bob and Claire said...

Oh ((((Beverly)))), I can't even express myself. How traumatic, the whole situation. And the neighbor guy on top of it all--whatever!! I am righteously incensed for both of you!! You and Ted are indeed excellent parents, and you can't dwell on this horrible experience. At least 2 of mine--Luke and Jonathan-- had situations when they were around Kenna's age where they were found by a neighbor having wandered away, and just recently Jonathan (who is now 7!) had chosen NOT to go on a walk with us around the neighborhood, even though the rest of us all went (we live in a very small neighborhood!. Well, a little while later, our neighbor from across the street comes driving around and it turns out he is looking for us! Jonathan was standing on our front porch yelling, "SOMEONE HELP ME!!!" and sobbing away because he was scared --although we were only gone about 10 minutes and were literally right around the corner, and staying at home reading was what he wanted to do. Ack! I was pretty mortified. So these things happen; you just had a "perfect storm" to make it all potentially really bad, with the busy street there, and the misfortune of the character of the people around.

So here's another hug (((Beverly))) and I'll be praying for an extra special dose of wisdom as you parent Kenna, that you can channel her personality so that it brings honor and glory to the Lord.

Susie said...

Oh dear, what a story! I'm so glad the Lord protected Kenna from any harm!

Beverly said...

Thanks for all the encouraging comments, everyone! I also appreciate the righteous indignation on our behalf, LOL. Funny how everyone can so totally relate to our overwhelming relief that someone stopped to help Kenna while being mad at him for what he said!

It's so nice to know we're not the only ones who have lost a kid, LOL! May God protect all our little treasures from Him!

Amos said...

First, Praise God from whom all blessings flow, for His protection around your baby girl. Whew, what a large amount to process.

While reading this God brought to my remembrance something I recently noticed in the Family Fun magazine. A mom made these bracelets for her girls out of the "kid" beads and it contained her phone number. She felt if the girls ever got separated from her then someone would know who to call. I thought it was an ingenious idea. Not sure if Kenna would keep it on all the time, but just a thought to pass along.

You are GREAT parents and don't let some neighbor you've never really met tell you otherwise. He doesn't know what he's talking about.

Megan said...

How scary!!!! And, no, a deadbolt is not going to stop Kenna. LOL A deadbolt did not stop our 2.5-year-old either. She simply pulled a bar stool over to the front door, climbed onto it, unlocked the deadbolt, got back down, and left the apartment (while I sat on the couch, nursing the baby, and watching to see if she was really capable of what she was attempting). We bought one of those chain-locks that you see in hotels and installed it about 4" from the TOP of the door. But this isn't much of a solution when you have older kids in and out of the house all the time.

If you're not members of HSLDA, I'd suggest joining ASAP. If "Rich" thinks you have free-range kids, it probably wouldn't take much for him to call police or CPS. Things could go south very quickly, especially since you're also homeschoolers.

I once made a comment in a public online space about my 3-year-old playing ON OUR DECK in a little plastic wading pool with 3" of water in it, and somebody responded that if she saw a 3-year-old in the yard with a wading pool without an adult right there, she'd call CPS in a heartbeat due to risk of drowning. Great. When you have more than one child, it's hard to be in the house with a sleeping infant and outside with a rambunctious preschooler at the same time.

Janet said...

Wow! Thanks be to God that story did have a happy ending. I can feel what you felt, my heart is racing just thinking about it. Thank God our children are in God's hands. As much as I understand your frustration to the two men and their un-necessary remarks, I cannot help but also want to thank them for stopping Kenna from going any further. A huge learning lesson that is for sure. I can only take what happened, cry about it, hug my child so hard and say to myself that will never happen again. Praise God for protecting my child! Beverly, you and Ted are great parents!