After taking the kids to see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World yesterday (which, btw, the boy deemed the very best movie ever and he wants to see again and again, and the girl also enjoyed), we walked over to the Eaton Centre to get the boy some pants.
The boy may actually be allergic to clothing stores, given the severity of his reaction in them. While he no longer drops to the floor and starts screaming at 10 like he did at, well, 9, he makes his displeasure clear to all within hearing range. This time, once he realized that the girl was going to be another short while, he calmly proposed a workable alternative: could he head up to the Indigo and have us meet him there?
He repeated himself slowly, not convinced I understood what I’d asked him. I repeated my agreement with the plan, told him to just keep going up the escalators until he got to the right floor, and that we’d be there in 10 minutes.
Without his ongoing painful narration, the girl and I finished up rather quickly, paid for way more than the three pairs of pants (he wears one kind of pants in the world, and thankfully isn’t picky about colour), and headed up to meet him.
And this is where I realized that a) Indigo is a big honkin’ store, and b) we didn’t specify a location within the store where we’d meet. Oops. First we went to the kids’ graphic novels, then to the adult section. I sent the girl into the toys to see if he was by the Lego. No go on all counts. The girl’s narration of how terrible it was that we’d lost him and OMG we’ll never ever find him and now what was not helping the building anxiety in my gut, but I still (mostly) believed he was totally fine and exactly where he needed to be. The kid has a better sense of direction than I do, and I trust him to not get distracted by things along the way.
That said, I did ask one of the staff members to look out for my blonde kid in the brown hoodie and backwards green t-shirt, just in case.
We retraced our steps, this time calling out his name a little on the loud side. We’d been in Indigo maybe 15 minutes at this point. Back into the toy department, right to the Lego. And sure enough, there he was with his head in a Lego book. He’d apparently been sitting on the floor the whole time. I looked over at the girl, and made sure she picked up on it.
“What?” she asked. “I looked! He wasn’t there when I checked!” Uh huh.
So, we survived, and with some new lessons learned.
1) Specific meet-up point.
2) Check with my own eyes when in doubt.
3) Just keep breathing and trust that all is well.
This was a good test situation for all three of us to figure out how and under which circumstances to loosen the reins. There are going to be some big changes in that regard this year with the boy, and baby steps will help me catch up to where he’s convinced he should already be. I’m far more concerned that my children will grow into adults who believe themselves incapable than I am of them getting lost, abducted or injured as children, though I admit I will feel far more comfortable once I can invest in an extra pay-as-you go cell phone for the times when independence is being tested.
I don’t think I’m ready for him to navigate public transit alone yet, but I also think it’s not that far away.
Deep breaths. Deep breaths.