We put up a small greenhouse in our backyard, growing flowers, shrubs, and vegetables. We're also tending a small garden and cut out 6 large flowerbeds throughout the yard. Abby now thinks we live on a farm. She says we need a barn and ponies. We can't give her the pony, but we are planning to build a new shed, so we might have to paint it barn red just for my little Ab. I find myself in front of a computer the majority of most days, so it's been a great release for me to get outside working with nature and doing some hard physical labor. Since we drive a small tractor as we haul sod and rocks and mulch, Bean now pretends he's driving a tractor quite often. The tractor noise he makes as he pushes around his "tractor" is pretty good and seriously cute.
We have a rule at our house that the kids aren't allowed to play in the front yard without adults present. So one day, a couple of weeks ago, when we were working out back, we told Abby that she needed to come with us to the back yard. She said something to us about "going to visit Joey", a friend of her's from school, but we kind of brushed her off and said something like, "Well someday we can, but right now it's time to go to the backyard and play." We left it at that and went to the backyard, figuring that Abby would make her way back in her usual distracted, pokey-puppy manner.
My husband went inside to change Bean's diaper and after no more than 5 minutes later asked me, "Where's Abby?"
"In the front yard." I answered.
"No, she's not." he said, clearly concerned.
We all started searching and calling for her. No answer. She was no where on our property or in the house. We live fairly close to a small body of water, so we immediately dispersed to make sure she didn't walk to the water. My husband and brother-in-law found her walking in the opposite direction of the water (thankfully!) down the side of our cross-street. She told us she was walking to Joey's house. It was really scary, but we stayed pretty calm and talked about why she couldn't leave the house without us. I couldn't help crying and I could tell she felt really bad, though that was not my intention. I was pretty shaken up. Later that night, at bedtime, she brought it up again and then stopped talking suddenly, simply saying, "I'm sorry, Mom." It was a pretty scary and heart wrenching experience.
I learned a pretty important lesson from it though. She told me she was going to go to Joey's house. I didn't take her seriously. I didn't really listen. While not excusing my actions, I think I had grown used to having her not communicate with us verbally. I'm still catching up to her new-found communication skills. She talks a lot. It's really wonderful and I was letting so much of it slip right past me. Since her big adventure, I've really been trying to make an effort to sit and talk with her more often. Ask her questions and just listen to her answers. Sometimes they are way off topic and sometimes it's kind of hard to follow, but more and more often, she shows me the amazing strides she's made this past year and half that she's been in ECSE (Early Childhood Special Education). She's has the sweetest voice and it's in those quiet times that she shows the greatest parts of her personality. She's not just the child who is often on sensory overload, screaming and whining and dancing around the room with her ever present string twirling obsessively between her fingers. She tells great stories and has great ideas. She even encourages me with, "Oh, that's a great idea!" when I offer up a suggestion to build on one of her stories.
I'm so thankful she was found safely that day, and while I'm sorry I had to learn the lesson through such a frightening experience, I'm so very thankful that I figured out what I was missing when I didn't take the time to really stop and listen.