I would like the record to reflect that in the following saga, I was never more than 50 feet from my son at any point in the story.
As a general rule, I try not to shop with my kid. It takes longer. I get irritated. He wants 100 things he forgot how badly he needed before we even get to the car. It’s generally a miserable experience.
This summer, I haven’t had the luxury of the kid day storage school provides. So he’s had to run errands with me. A few weeks ago, that meant going to Michael’s for some yarn and a couple of other craft things I needed.
Michael’s is not stupid. They know lots of 7-year-old boys are pulled through those aisles against their will. So right at their eye level they stock all manner of items that have nothing to do with crafts, but are quite appealing to my kid. That day it was a Star Wars coloring book.
I told him he had no less than 30 coloring books at home, most of which had barely been touched, so NO, we weren’t getting it. Well, could he just *look* at it? Fine. Until I realized he intended to look at every.single.page.
We had somewhere to be. I was running out of time and patience. The last item I needed was one aisle over. So I told him, “I’m going around the corner. When you finish looking at the book, come over there. OK?” He mumbled OK. I made him look up at me. “Where am I going to be?” In a big huff, “Around the corner!” Straight back to the book…
I’m comparing two items about three minutes later when a VERY stern woman appears, “Are YOU Kerri?”
It was all I could do not to ask, “Who wants to know?” But I was honest, “Yes.”
Well, your son is VERY upset you lost him! Come with me.
I’m sorry. Say WHAT?!?! Lost him?
I came back to the place where I’d left him. It took all of ten steps. My bawling child was circled by a gang of mommies. And not just any mommies: crafty mommies. These women will.cut.you. And for crying out loud, they’re standing in the store that arms them to do just that! There are LEAST 438 kinds of scissors in there.
Jackson runs straight to me, and we hug and kiss. I tell him he’s safe and everything is ok. The gang begins to slowly disband, while my son is sobbing, “WHY.DID.YOU.LEAVE.ME?” I’m all, “I didn’t leave you, baby. I told you where I was. You knew I was on the next aisle.” The memory started to dawn on him, “Ohhh…yeah… I thought you got in the car and drove away.”
I promised I would never do such a thing. And since I had never come close to doing such a thing, perhaps he could trust me on that. He considered if he would or not.
I told him I was very proud of him. When he was scared, he found a mom. That’s exactly what I’d told him to do. I didn’t realize he would round up a posse, but still, he followed directions.
(Not that I’ve told him this, but sometimes predators dress like security guards because kids can’t tell the difference between them and police. Also, statistically speaking, a woman with other children is extremely unlikely to harm him and highly motivated to get him back to his proper people.)
About this time, one of the mommy gang came over. I didn’t realize she’d been listening, but she told me she was really proud of him too. He knew his name. He knew my name. He knew what I was wearing. They were able to find me very quickly because he knew so much. (And I was 20 feet from them, but I didn’t bring that up again.) He was settled down now and basking in the glory of his good behavior in the face of adversity.
And I am really proud that some of the things I say are sinking in. What to do if you’re lost: got it. Where I’m going to be for the next five minutes: not so much.
He held my hand while we went to pay, so we could leave. He let go only to pick up a small stuffed dog that he NEEDED. The cashier, who had witnessed this whole scene, was all, “You know, he has had a really tough morning. Being lost by a parent is scary.”
Arguing any of it was fruitless. Fine. Get the stupid dog.