Life with Two Kids, Sophie’s Choice Style

Life with two kids, Sophie’s Choice Style.┬áThis one is long– it’s been a long day.

True panic moments. Those times that you blink and one (or both) of your kids have disappeared from your line of sight, and cannot be found within the 60 second no-panic window. That’s what I have for myself– about a minute of doing the full, slow turn, eyes scanning the crowd, processing and rejecting ownership of other people’s Small People until I lay eyes on my own.

It starts with curiosity (where did my kid go?), followed by concern (seriously, did he get past me?), then a more fervent fear (that’s an exit to the street, or a flight of stairs, or weird looking smelly guy– I can’t find my son), morphing swiftly into panic (ZACCHHHAARRRY? ELLLLL–I—OT? rushrushrush, where are they, OMG I lost him, he’s left the building and is going to get run over in the street. Weird smelly guy snatched him). For most of us, most of the time, it ends in the relief of finding him peacefully playing with XYZ, totally oblivious to the drama that has played out in your head.

I feel like there’s this child/parent full-circle/parenting milestone phenomenon. It seems to parallel the same emotional/developmental milestones my children achieve. Remember this post? As it would happen, it’s not just the metaphorical riding away that can make one tearful. Metaphor has nothing on the reality-based version of one of them just taking off and getting too far, too fast for you to catch them.

Which is exactly what that numb-skull and his 2 little buddies did this morning. In hindsight, there were a series of unfortunate choices. Oh hindsight, how I hate you so.
What I neglected to consider in my own danger assessment was:
1) Previous bike rides included a shit-ton of hills. Going uphill slows down the average four/five year old adventure seeker. Conversely, the return trip downhill is slightly daunting to the “I still have training wheels” bike rider. Flat, open greenway boardwalk? Pretty much an invitation for riding hell bent to the wind.
2) Of the four Small People riding, all have new, bigger bikes, and three are boys. One of whom (mine) also happens to be wearing his Captain Flame Thrower super hero cape.
3) Of the four Small People, only one listened to the screaming STOPs being yelled. That one listener also happened to be the female. Coincidence? Yeah, probably not.
4) I assumed they would stop and explore, since that’s what had happened each time the boys and I have been down this path. See above, # 2.

I was eyeballing my friend T in front of me doing the yelling run/walk thing when the numb-skulls took off. I’m doing the ridiculous over push/pull with Elliot on his bike, and the other 2 moms are doing the stroller push behind me. This was the period of concern–though I knew they were ahead of me, I didn’t know how far ahead of T they were. But I knew she was going faster, which is never a good thing when you are watching someone chase runaway kids. As I came to the gazebo, the fervent fear set in. Not only were they NOT stopped, they had cleared a corner 100 yards ahead, and were now headed straight for a really busy road. A road that my kid would recognize as being on the way to his cousins’ house. It still makes my heart clench to think about what would have happened had the mom leading the Child Recovery Charge not started to chase them as early as she had. They would have been in that road. Absolutely.

I still have a slightly sprained ankle from a week ago. I didn’t wrap it this morning because I had no intention of running. Full panic sets in as I pass the gazebo and approach the bend. Now I’m full-out running, with one hand dragging Elliot by the handlebars of his little 12 inch bike. HE started freaking out about going too fast, and begins slapping at my butt, yelling for me to slow down.

Remember, I’m in full panic mode–so I scoop E off his bike, put him and my backpack on the ground and start running after Zach. The way the path turns and dips, my other friends and the strollers aren’t in my line of sight yet. I was only about 20 feet away before I turned around and ran back to Elliot. And there is my Sophie’s choice– Zach is at least 1/4 mile ahead of me, and only about 20 yards from the road. There’s no way I can run a 1/4 mile, carrying Elliot, fast enough to stop Zach from getting in the road. Maybe without a sprained ankle. Maybe. But I also couldn’t leave my 28 month old alone in the middle of a boardwalk over wetlands, without an adult. At that moment I had to trust that my 4.5 year old would stop, that T would catch up to them in time, that a group of bad-decision-making preschoolers would get a clue before something horrific happened. I was near sobbing as I stood for what felt like 15, but was actually only about 3 minutes, before I could see S and K coming around the bend, close enough for me to yell, “WATCH ELLIOT” and take off after my other escapee.

All’s well that end’s well. A kid has to see that kind of fear on his mother’s face every once in awhile to remind them of why there are rules. I don’t make them up just to be a controlling asshole, they exist to keep them safe, while allowing all of us to have a good time. And, dammit Zachary, I will yell, and cry, and tell you exactly the level of terror I felt. I will then kiss you, tell you I love you, and then drag your whining butt back home. I will explain that the rest of the day will spent in a type of probation–the kind where you do every thing I ask, without complaint or hesitation.

But I will also tell you about that time, when I was 4, that I disappeared for an hour (two hours?) on a birds’ nest hunt with the 10 year old neighbor boy. Only to nonchalantly return to a playground/housing quarters crawling with MPs (military police), a crying Mom, and a really pissed off Dad. I will tell you how they both hugged me, then both spanked me, then grounded my adventuring ass. Then I will write about it, so I can let it go, and take a nap.

Child/Parent full circle? Met.
And to my mother? Dude, I’m SO sorry.