we were at one of these outdoor fun-fests this week with a bazillion bounce houses and almost as many people. its sorta like a mom's worst nightmare. you know, an amber alert waiting to happen... where's bennett? ok, there he is going head first down the slide. where is ella? oh, in the middle of that group of 20 jumping children. wait, where is bennett now? who is that standing on his head? ok, mason, you are fine and i really don't want to get you out of the stroller because then you'll never go back in so please stop screaming. wait, where did ella go now?
it was in the midst of this that i felt a little tap on my arm and turned to see this adorable little blond girl (a.l.b.g.) (name withheld to protect her innocence) standing behind me with tears rolling down her face and terror seeping from her eyes. "i c-c-c-c-can't... i c-c-c-c-an't..." she's trying to say through her sobs. yeah, you guessed it. can't find her mom. well, actually it was her grandma.
the POOR thing. she was scared to death. so i'm hugging her and looking all around me and clearly there is no one in the near vicinity looking for her so i tell her we are going to find her grandma. i then drag my children out of line and plead with my eyes for them to can their protests in light of this terrified 4 year-old holding onto me. and off we walk to find grandma.
we end up with a very kind police officer at the lost and found station who is trying everything he can to keep her calm and reassure her. the poor thing was wildly looking all around her and i tell her i won't leave until she finds her grandma, at which points she climbs into my arms and breaks down sobbing. seriously, i was having a hard time holding back my own tears on behalf of this girl. 4 years old! it could have been ella.
about 10 minutes later, i see this lady strolling up and she stops with her hands on her hips, eyebrows raised and zero compassion/kindness/emotion on her face (at least none i could detect) say, "well, are you scared?" yes, let me introduce grandma. c.l.b.g. practically leaps from my arms to her and doesn't stop crying. she clearly wants to be held and consoled while grandma decides to take this moment to educate, with a rather flippant attitude. "well, i bet you'll never run off again." and then to me says, "and WHERE was she?" (mind you, all this is said in some very condescending tones.) what i wanted to say: "walking around scared to death... and where were YOU!!!"
allow me to say now what i feel should be obvious. God forbid... should we ever face a moment when we are reunited with our lost child, who is experiencing some real fear about being all alone in this scary world... it is SO not the time to educate on what they did wrong. because, if i may be so bold, its not so much what THEY did wrong. they are the child. we are the grown-ups. we are the responsible one. if we have issues with our child wandering off and not listening, then maybe that should be addressed before a police officer gets involved. (of course i'm not trying to heap guilt on you if this has actually happened. because we have ALL turned our back and had those moments...i'm just talking about our children here...)
if it doesn't come naturally for you (and seriously, if this is the case, we have bigger issues to address) at least muster up some sort of emotion over your missing child. hysterics of any sort, even if it is anger over them not listening, communicates to your child that maybe you were just as scared as they were. that your love for them is overwhelming and their disappearance terrified you.
ok, i'm going to put my soap box away now. i just have to say that c.l.b.g. has not left my mind since that moment. first, the fear she faced. but then second, the lack of care expressed at her reunion. i mean, chances are high this family expresses love in different ways than mine, but little children need to know they are loved. and valuable. and that we would desperately search to the ends of the earth if anything ever happened to them.
so yeah, go hug your kids.