I've commented before about my hardest parenting moment, though I don't think I've written about it. I'm changing it to my second hardest parenting moment because I'm reserving the "worst" title for what I'm sure lies ahead somewhere in my future that I can only imagine now. This one was painful at the time but laughable now...if you've heard the story you can remember how I completely fell apart for about two whole days afterward.
Setting the scene: I was at home with the kids. There are only two of them, though at times it seems like there has to be at least five hiding somewhere under furniture causing trouble. Sean was on a trip for work and I was just beginning to feel like I was going to survive on my own. Feeling just a hair confident, competent, capable, choose your word. Charlie was I think three months old, making Ty 17 months old. Both sleeping soundly in their cribs when I went to bed, Max in his pen, and it was going to be, I told myself as I went to sleep, a good night.
All was well until 1:14 a.m. I know the time because when I first heard the sound I looked at the clock hoping it was the next day at 6:30p.m., about the time Sean was expected home. It wasn't the next day--well it just barely was--but 1:14 a.m. and my smoke detector was going off. In my room. In about four seconds the one in the hallway was also going off, followed by the one downstairs, the ones in the kids' rooms (how many do we have, you ask--I think 7. And two carbon monoxide alarms.) My husband is very thorough, especially about things like fires and leaving his wife and small children alone. By the time the ones starting going off in the kids' rooms, the house alarm was also going off. So were both of the carbon monoxide ones, one upstairs one downstairs. A perk to this house, Sean thought, was that the system is wired so that all of the alarms set each other off so no one sleeps through a fire. I do not, after this incident, look at it as a perk. The house sounded like a nightmare. A bad bad nightmare that you pray is just that.
The kids have fans in their rooms so while I was sure they were awake and terrified like I was, they weren't crying. Not that I would have heard them if they were for all the ringing in my ears. I was trying to wake up to figure out what was happening when the phone rang. The alarm company asked if our house was on fire. I think I said, "Well how should I know? I can't concentrate with all this racket..." Without laughing at me the woman told me to call 911.
Now, looking back, it should have occured to me to do that first, before someone told me to do it. At the time, sleep was so precious and a stretch of sleep was so rare that I didn't care if the house was on fire as long as I could go back to sleep. I was delusional people. Sleep deprivation is, in my opinion, the cause of all things bad in the world.
I called 911, Sean, my parents, my neighbor Jan (love you for coming that night), and the alarm company all within the next minute and a half. It hit me while talking to Jan that I had to figure out what to do once I got off the phone asking all of those people what to do. I didn't respond well under pressure. What I did do is hang up the phone, let Max into the back yard because he's a dog and he has to be resourceful during times like that, make a bottle for Charlie and a cup of milk for Ty, grabbed my cell phone, put all said items on the front porch and put a coat on. I don't even remember if it was cold outside I just know I thought a coat would be a good thing to have during a house fire. During this whole process while running around like a mad woman around my house, I never smelled smoke, which I found odd. Surely with all of this alarm mayhem there was a fire somewhere.
Now would be a good time to throw in that when I talked to the fire department I told them to turn their sirens off because as much as I hoped my house wasn't burning down I really didn't want to scare my kids with a loud noise. That was of utmost importance, I told them. To their credit, they did turn them off as they approached and they were there within 3 minutes. Frisco Fire Department, well done. I was crying hysterically by the time that 3 minutes got there, wishing I had 1)my husband, and 2) my momma. Wanted to let the husband take over the house fire issue and my mother take over whatever my kids were needing. I just wanted to sleep.
During the confusion, Jan arrived and helped me calm down. I had one crying kid on each hip when she got there, and during times of stress who do kids want? Yep. They were both glued to me. If Ty had been about two years older, he'd have thought this was the coolest night of his life! Except he wasn't two years older, he was afraid of the lights, and any time one of the firemen or Jan got remotely close to us he cried louder. Then I cried louder.
To draw an end to this only-funny-now story, there was no fire in our house. There was no carbon monoxide. The firemen scattered in the house with their gear on, then with a carbon monoxide detector gadget. There was absolutely nothing wrong, just a faulty smoke detector that didn't do its job. Its job was to beep when it needed a new battery instead of going off. That one single blasted alarm caused the whole mess. That same blasted alarm went off again the next morning at 8:30 a.m., causing me to do the only thing that I could do after that night: grab it off the ceiling and disconnect the little wires. It left me no choice.
Did you know that if you do that it makes them all go off until you fix it? I didn't either. Once every hour, the whole house full of alarms went off. I got to where I would just take the kids outside into the yard until they turned off, usually it took about 10 minutes. I called the fire department about 4 more times during the day and they came every time. God love them. That last time I think the chief came too, and I told him that I needed one of his nice men to unplug all of the smoke detectors in my house and I didn't care what risk that put me in. He declined my request. "M'am, that goes against everything we do." Like my file at my OB's office, I'm sure our house has a red flag beside the address reading, "CRAZY LADY: USE CAUTION."