Yesterday morning, I had to make a stop at a local department store. I had Sean with me and we were in no hurry, so I took some time to browse, always on the look out for new and unusual ways to blow through my husband’s money.
Sean’s idea of browsing and my idea of browsing are somewhat different.
I like to browse through the racks. He likes to browse in, under and between the racks.
The upside to shopping with a four-year-old, as opposed to shopping with a baby, is that four-year-olds are mobile, no lugging. The downside to shopping with a four-year-old is that they are mobile.
Probably like every mother in the universe, my biggest fear is that I will lose my child in a department store. Truly, is there no thought more terrifying than that?
Consequently, anytime we go shopping, I sternly remind Sean that I need to be able to see him at all times, that hiding in a store is not funny and it is a punishable offense — the punishment so harsh and severe it has not even been thought of yet. I also remind him that if we do get separated, he is to stay put — he is not to go looking for me. And that if anyone offers to take him to find me the answer is simple: NO! I DON’T KNOW YOU!
So yesterday morning I’m looking through the racks and out of the corner of my eye, I see Sean disappear into a rack of skirts. I call to him that I can’t see him and that I need to be able to see him at all times. He does not immediately answer, so I casually call out, “Okay then, see ya later dude,” and then I duck around the corner where I can still see him.
After about 10 seconds, I see him peek out from under the skirts and look both ways. His expression says this: Uh-oh.
I watch him scramble out of the racks and look here and there and this way and that for me. Now his expression says this: UH-oh!
He walks to the main aisle and nonchalantly stands off to the side, eyes darting for my familiar form. He takes two or three steps in each direction. He stops to stand on his tip toes and crane his neck left then right. Nothing. Now his expression says this: UH-OH!!
I can see that he is making a heroic effort to stay cool. But the furrowed brow and nervous eyes belie his outward calm.
If this had happened to me when I was four, I would have done one of two things: Thrown myself on the floor and burst into loud wailing sobbing snotty tears or latched onto the leg of the first passing grown up and then burst into loud wailing sobbing snotty tears. I guess that explains why my mother didn’t worry too much about anyone snatching me.
I stood behind a display for a good three or four minutes watching to see what he would do. And he did exactly what he was supposed to do. He didn’t panic. He stayed put. He was semi-frantically looking for me the whole time, but he stayed put. Good boy.
Honestly, part of me was hoping that he would break down, crying and calling for me. Not for my own ego trip, but because I want him to know the bitter taste of fear on his tongue and because experience is the best teacher.
When he finally spotted me, relief flooded his little face. He ran and jumped into my arms and squeezed me so tight I could barely breathe. I could feel his heart beating through his shirt. Like a balloon with a tiny pinhole, I could feel the stress draining out of his little body.
“Sean,” I scolded, “When we are in public, I need to be able to see you at all times. Do you understand how important that is?”
“Yes ma’am,” he said hanging his head.
I lifted his chin with my thumb. He eyes were watery with tears he would not release.
“When I call your name, you answer me immediately. Do you understand?”
“Okay then… Were you worried?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I was worried that you had gotten lost,” he said.
And then shaking his finger at me, “I need to be able to see you at all times!”
“Yes you do,” I said.
The experiment was a success. It satisfied my need to know how he would respond in the event that we became separated. And he learned a hard lesson in the safe confines of a retail laboratory.
I pray that it is a lesson on which we will never ever be tested.