Thursday, June 20, 2013

And Then He Was Gone

Right after we ran that 10k on Saturday, we went to a parade.  Or rather, we stayed for the parade that immediately followed the race.  Or rather, we went to an amazing brunch at a local restaurant, then watched the parade.


We hunted down the packed street for a patch of sidewalk on which to install the kids so that they could see the floats and fire trucks, when we ran into some friends of ours.  Their 9-year-old and 5-year-old had claimed a patch of curb and happily scooted to make room for our boys.


Is there anything more wonderful than a parade for a kid?  Trucks and tractors, flying candy, music and noise and people.  It’s all fun and games until someone gets lost.


Our friend’s 9-year-old was sent to buy strawberry shortcakes across the street.  He ran, as 9-year-olds do.  We could see the shortcake stand, and he’s nine, so no big deal.  But then Charles saw him run across the street and without even so much as a “Mom, I’m going with him,” he jumped up and ran after the 9-year-old.  I was thinking, as I saw him run off, “Shoot.  Now I’m going to have to think up a suitable punishment for running off without asking permission and it has been such a good day up until now.  How do you punish a kid at a parade?”  I had my eyes on him until he got to the train tracks and hesitated.  Probably he lost sight of his friend, and also, a nearby train whistle was blowing.  The train never appeared, but I imagine that some latent sense of self-preservation made Charles hesitate to cross a railroad track when he could hear (and maybe see) a train.


And then he was gone.  I couldn’t see him anymore.  The 9-year-old came back.  I sent Tony to look for Charles while I stayed put and kept an eye on Jamie.  Our friend went to look, too.  Gone.


Right about the time I started to worry a little bit (I do a lot of pre-emptive worrying about EVERYTHING so when real situations happen, I am relatively panic-free), Charles was walked across the street holding the hand of a police officer. 


He was crying so hard.  The kid who panics at the thought of being left behind, for whom the only fruitful threat is that of me leaving without him, was scared to the point of hysteria.  It took quite a while for him to calm down.


This is not a cautionary tale.  I don’t think I was wrong to let Charles go after I saw him do something that was clearly against the rules and I don’t think I was wrong to not immediately go after him.  He has a pretty long leash, and it works for us… most of the time.  No one wants to ever lose their kids somewhere, but we all learned a few valuable lessons in this.  Charles was punished by being scared far more than I could have ever punished him (no ice cream, going home right now because you didn’t follow the rules, or any other thing I could have come up with).  And I learned that I have to repeat the ground rules EVERY time we go somewhere.  You are not to go off on your own: You must always ask permission to go somewhere with other kids; candy at a parade does not count as “candy from strangers” but you still have to ask me before you eat any of it; etc.


The most important thing we all learned, though, was that Charles actually listens to me sometimes.  I have talked to him many times, usually at bedtime or in the bath or some other calm time, about what to do if you get lost: find a police officer or another mommy and tell them your name and that you have lost your mommy.  Charles did just that.  When the police officer talked with me after Charles had calmed down, he said that he saw Charles sort of panicked and turning in circles.  Charles saw him and made a beeline for him and told him, “My name’s Charlie and I can’t find my mommy.”  The officer took him to the edge of the curb and had him scan to see if he could point me out.  The poor kid couldn’t get through the crowd on his own to get his bearings!  I guess that happens when you're only three-and-a-half feet tall.  Charles saw me, pointed to me, and the police officer brought him over.  I felt like world’s worst parent for losing my child, but I was so proud of him for doing the exact right thing.



I told him so, too.  We had a good talk about asking permission, not running away, and what to do if you get lost.  I’m sorry he got lost, I’m sorry he got scared, but I’m not sorry that he probably won’t do it again.  Experience is a good teacher.

1 comment:

Mom and Dad said...

There is a lot to be proud of in that moment.