When we first moved to Seattle, I found myself lost in almost every area of life.
In my career: Should I attempt to find a full-time publicist job? Cobble together part-time freelance writing/editing? Learn to love full-time stay-at-home parenthood?
In my personal life: How can I maintain a strong connection with the CDR during long separations? Suck up the guilt and drink caffeine, despite the fact that I’m still breastfeeding Kel? Help my homesick toddler Mo communicate his feelings without violence?
In the little things: Where is the nearest grocery store? A gym that offers free childcare? A reputable preschool? The best indoor playgrounds for dark, rainy days?
I have found answers to some of these questions. I’m drinking a half-caf latte every other day (God bless the Starbucks drive-thru). I know the three nearest grocery stores (God bless the suburbs). And I’ve found the local mall with the ideal indoor playground: A really big ship.
Every day that it rains (and some sunny ones in between), Mo asks if we can we go the mall and play on Daddy’s big ship. I get a little emotional every time Mo throws off his shoes, clambers aboard, and yells, “Mama, I’m the XO!” (That’s Daddy’s position on his ship.) Then my type-A toddler elaborates every detail of his departing procedure: The crane lifts up the brow, the people on deck pull in the lines, and the people on the bridge start the engine and pull away from the pier. It’s good, clean fun for everyone.
So, after three nights of very little sleep (constipated Kel), I ditched my good intention to attend church this morning and drove instead to the mall to let Mo have some playtime (and me, some downtime). We had been there only a few minutes when I realized that Kel’s constipation had offered him a reprieve… and a very dirty diaper. Not wanting to pull Mo away from his fun, I tucked myself between two strollers and changed Kel next to the play ship.
You know how people say that really important things can happen in an instant? Like falling in love or, in J.K.Rowling’s case, creating a seven-book series that would make her richer than the Queen of England? Well, after today, I think it’s true. It took only an instant for me to lose my toddler.
I finished changing Kel and looked up, fully expecting to see Mo in his typical spot atop the ship. He wasn’t there. I looked toward the stern of the ship, where there is a little slide. He wasn’t there, either. I then did a 360-degree walk-around of the play space. No Mo.
That’s when it hit me. He was gone. I had lost my beloved child. Anxiously, I looked down all three major corridors and established a plan. We had ridden the escalators earlier in the morning, so I made those my first priority. I quickly gave the other parents in the area a physical description, then asked them to keep an eye out for Mo while I headed toward the escalators. Two other moms offered to look with me, so we fanned out and started yelling my son’s name down every corridor.
It didn’t take long for someone to find him, but those few minutes felt like forever to me. As I scanned the escalator area, one of the other moms ran up and reported that a salesperson in Chico’s (upstairs and halfway down the mall) found my son wandering through the store. She brought him to mall security. Mall security brought him to me.
As I grabbed Mo out of the security guard’s arms and felt my tears soak Mo’s polo shirt, he looked concernedly at me and said, “Mama, I was missing you. Where did you go?”
Praise Jesus, my toddler is found. But God help me, I’m still a little lost. And I’m not sure where to go. But great comfort comes in knowing that wherever my life path may lead, my children will be there with me… Securely strapped in their stroller.