Mason got lost at the mall this afternoon.
I know it sounds clichéd but its true. Lost. At the mall. Two parents on-duty, and it still managed to happen. Scariest five minutes of my life (was it really only five? It felt like so much longer). And yet … and yet, it seems like all parents have at least one “lost child” story.
So I suppose this was Jamie’s and my parental coming-of-age today. We now join the ranks of other parents who “just turned my back for a minute”. Thank god it had a happy (and quick) ending, and thank god we can laugh about it now. Because the alternative …. eeep.
We were in Old Navy, rapidly adding to the stack of children’s clothes in Avery’s stroller when it occurred. Panic on his face, Jamie came suddenly up behind me and said “I can’t find Mace”.
And my heart stopped.
We fanned out, scouring the store as quickly as we could. Each time we passed one another it was hard to supress our growing fear, as we’d been hoping that the other had found him. We enlisted the aide of an employee and continued our search, Avery in tow.
Still no luck. Jamie left the store to search the surrounding mall hallways while I continued retracing our steps inside.
Its hard to explain the thoughts that go through your head at a time like this. You’re rushing through the store, trying to find your child but still not allowing yourself to succumb to the outward signs of sheer panic because you don’t want to be “that” mom, who’s freaking out and falling apart. And yet you feel yourself getting closer and closer to that moment, because there’s only so long that your brain and heart can disengage.
The helpful employee finally called out over her radio to the other staff, citing a “Code Adam” and giving a quick description of what Mace was wearing. For some odd reason, hearing that Old Navy had an actual term for this incident made me feel relieved. And a bit like a fool.
A minute or so later, around the corner came Jamie carrying a giggling Mason. Jamie, I should note, was not giggling.
I felt that gorgeous, amazing rush of “Oh, thank god!”, turned to the gathered staff and thanked them, and then non-chalantly ambled to the till to pay for our purchases. As though losing my eldest child at the mall was something I did on a regular basis.
But once I got outside the store, the fear I’d been holding back spilled over and I cried while chastising Mace for his actions. One of the hardest parts of being a parent is punishing your child when you don’t want to; all I wanted at that moment was to wrap him in my arms and hold him for a very long time. However, Jamie and I were both aware of the fact that we needed to imprint this moment in his mind, and we tried our best to act as angry as possible.
We still have no idea where he actually was for he had run up to Jamie, laughing, when Jamie was standing outside in the hall. He told us that he was playing hide and seek, and was obviously thrilled about his adventure. Thrilled, that is, until he realized we weren’t sharing in the joke. Then, in typical terrible-two’s fashion he became dismissive and rude.
“No, I not in trouble, you’re in trouble!” he kept repeating.
But I could see it. I could see that he was confused, upset, and even a little ashamed about what had happened. He refused to look me in the eyes the entire conversation, and the moment I gave him the opening he took it.
"I sorry mom. It won’t happen again, I promise”. And then a hug.
Love you, buddy.