Our playgroup had to relocate yesterday, as our usual digs were unavailable for reasons that were beyond our control. As my tribe was in dire need of play space that was not someone’s house, the other moms graciously assented to my suggestion that we head for the playpark at our local mall, which has convenient restrooms for the potty training set and nearby foodstuffs that are eagerly sought after by all the tiny people.
Thus, four moms, trailing an assortment of very enthusiastic, pint-sized humanity, arrived at the playpark and settled in to watch the mayhem unfold. As I have three mobile children out of my four, I do near-constant head counts, since one of mine (Mr. Man, 21 months) is completely fascinated by flashing lights and has been known to sprint off in pursuit thereof. Baby Guy (6 months) can log-roll and wiggle at a pace easily matched by the average box turtle, Bugaboo (4 1/2) is generally too busy trying to organize a game of either tag, follow-the-leader, or hide-and-seek to even consider leaving the friendly playpark confines, and Beanie (3 1/2) generally finds the piece of equipment that is disregarded by every other child in the playpark and proceeds to have spectacular imaginary adventures with characters from My Little Pony and Care Bears.
It was, therefore, with horror that I did the head count and realized I could only account for three heads. I am thankful that my two friends (one mom had left already) immediately understood the absolute terror on my face, figured out who was missing, and we all trained our eyes in different directions looking for her. I spotted Beanie about a hundred yards down the trail of red shoeprints that marked the path from the playpark to the newest shoe store at the mall. Also mercifully, one of my friends snagged Baby Guy as I sprinted past her.
I ran track in high school. I would venture to say that I covered that hundred yards much faster than I covered any like distance when I thought I could be a sprinter twenty-six years ago. As I fled towards my errant daughter (who was thoughtfully detained by yet another mom, a stranger to us, who saw me pelting towards the unattended preschooler), I heard a young man’s voice from one of the stores, “Dang, man, look at that old lady run!”
It is possible for the human heart to literally sing. Mine did, as I swept my little girl up in my arms and profusely thanked the lady good Samaritan. I should have read her the riot act. I really should have, but I couldn’t, because I was holding her too tightly, was too out of breath, and was entirely too happy that the unimaginable had not happened. After we returned to the playpark, we decided that the best thing to do was to go have lunch together.
So we left, our little crowd, in search of the ever-popular chicken nuggets, fries, and chocolate milk. A celebration of some kind seemed to be in order. As we left the playpark, I looked at my precious daughter and asked her, “Honey, why did you leave the playpark without us?”
Knowing my Beanie, I should have known the answer already. “I wanted to see where the red shoes went, Mommy. Somebody left a lot of red shoes on the floor. See?”
Wendy’s has never tasted so good. Never. I hope it never does again.
Today’s prayer: Lord, even Your mother knew the fear of a missing child. Thank You for keeping Your blessing safe, and thank You for the friends who watched Your other blessings while I fetched her. Thank You for the healthy legs and lungs that carried me quickly to her, for the stranger who helped keep her from straying further, for children who are curious about the world around them. Lord, please help me teach them to explore their world fearlessly but sensibly, and give me eyes in the back of my head.