Today’s playdate with Doodle Cakes and ShaMoo started out well enough – we met at a new-to-us indoor playground because the weather was iffy at best, and our usual splash pad get together didn’t seem like such a good idea.
Wasn’t so bad, not too many kids and ours all soon disappeared into the massive padded, netted, plastic ball and loopy slide laden structure of fun, except for ShaMoo’s Little Bit, who is still too teeny to toddle off. Cool beans. The amigos settled onto a bench to chat and watch. I took a few snaps.
This is one half of “Frank & Frank” (reference: Timothy Goes to School), ShaMoo’s youngest of two sons. Call him “Frank2”.
Wee One enjoying the ball pit.
Around about this time, the place experienced a flood of kids, including some far too old to be allowed in a play structure. Little kids started getting mowed down, and ShaMoo suggested moving the smaller kids into the more protected toddler area.
This is the part where I should have known better.
I looked for Wee One to let her know we were going around the corner of the structure to another area, but she was having fun, deep inside the structure. I decided to move my things with DC and SM and then come back to find Wee One and let her know where we were sitting. I was gone from that bench for maybe 90 seconds, and just around the corner.
I came around the corner on the outside of the play area to find the following.
1. My 4 year old daughter, outside the gated, supposedly monitored play area.
2. My sobbing, 4 year old daughter, practically in hysterics, putting her shoes on to come find me. (She admitted later she thought I might be outside in the parking lot!)
3. My 4 year old daughter speaking to a strange man.
Where do I even begin.
Of course I blame myself for leaving that bench. Of course I should have waited until I could catch her eye and let her know we were moving around the corner. I know she’s a sensitive child, and easily frightened by strange situations.
My thinking was that she was in a secure (I thought) area, and I wasn’t leaving – I was just moving. We have had talks all her life, from the time she could understand me, about staying safe and not talking to strangers. I was sure she would know what to do (or not do) if she felt lost, and that she knew I would never, could never leave her. Clearly I was wrong. She didn’t think, she just reacted.
I grabbed her and brought her to where we were sitting, holding onto her tight. I refused to think of what might have happened. It was a long time before the tears stopped.
Tonight at dinner, we had a little chat about what had happened, and what she did that she should never have done. I told her I was sorry for moving without telling her first, but that what she did wasn’t safe, and I explained to her why she should never have left the “safe” play area. She should have gone to the bench where we’d been sitting (she would have seen us as soon as she came near) and stayed there until I found her. Coming to find me was not a safe thing to do, even if it made sense to her then. Most of all, she should never have been with that strange man and talked to him the way she did.
It’s hard to know how far to go when explaining dangers to a four year old child. Especially one that has been so timid her whole life, and doesn’t need anything else to be afraid of. I have to tread lightly where this baby girl of mine is concerned.
Tonight I felt the need to scare her a little bit though. I needed to get through to her so she would know how I felt when I saw her doing those things, and how I would have felt if I had been 30 seconds longer and she really had gone off looking for me. I need her to know why talking to strangers is a bad idea, and what to say and do if a stranger wants to talk to her.
I cannot begin to explain how freaked out I was that I could have lost my baby today.