A couple of weeks ago, M and I went to WalMart. As a general rule, he hates shopping, but since he wasn’t having much luck coming up with reasonably priced ideas for Christmas gifts, I suggested (and eventually insisted) he come with me. I was looking for Christmas greenery and since WalMart has a good-sized toy department, I figured we could kill two birds with one stone.
M grumbled about coming with me during the entire 10 minute car ride to the store. When I stopped at the entrance to pick up cedar and pine boughs, he insisted on going ahead of me. He was anxious to get home and watch Phineus and Ferb. I’m usually a little nervous about letting M go off on his own in a store, but I was only going to be a few minutes behind him and despite that fact that this was a very large Walmart, the toy department was easy to find. So off he goes.
Five minutes later, boughs in hand, I walk into the toy department. No M. I walk back and forth several times and check the ends of the isles to make sure he’s not crouched down looking at something. Still no M. Figuring he did a quick sweep and got bored, I walk back to the front of the store to find him. No sign of him.
Still carrying my armful of boughs, I trudge back to the toy department, but M’s not to be found. By this time, I’m starting to get a little bit worried. So I head back to the front of the store and ask the lady who is standing at the door greeting customers if she’s seen a boy in a brown ski jacket. She hasn’t and suggests I have him paged.
At this point, I have no idea where he might be. On the off-chance that he might have wandered back to the car, I pay for my greenery (which by this time is getting rather heavy; I figure I can move faster without it) and head out to the parking lot to see if he’s waiting by the car. He’s not there.
So I go back into the store and head back to the toy department. He’s still not there, so I go back to the front to see if he’s finally turned up there. The greeter lady hasn’t seen him and suggests I check the electronics section. I’m quickly moving into panicky-parent mode, envisioning the worst case scenarios. I don’t think M would go off with a stranger, but you never know.
There’s no sign of M in the electronics department. I walk past the toy department and am heading down the main aisle to have him paged, when I spot him rushing in the opposite direction. I call out to him, but he doesn’t seem to hear me. I’m now practically running behind him, calling his name, when he finally stops and turns around to look at my, a panicked expression on his face. “Mommy,” he says, with obvious relief.
Me: Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you for over 15 minutes.
M: I was in the toy department and then I went to the electronics department.
Me: You were supposed to meet me in the toy department.
M: I didn’t find anything interesting there, so I went to check out the games.
Me: How would I have known where you were?
Despite my anxiety about having lost him in the store, I purposely keep my voice calm. I can tell he’s upset and there doesn’t seem to be any point in raising my voice and getting him more worked up. M tells me that he stopped to play a game in the electronics department. He looks a little chagrined, having figured out that this was probably not the smartest move on his part.
We head out of the store and back to the car. I can tell he was genuinely worried, because he’s clutching my hand, something he never does any more. He also tells me repeatedly that he’s sorry, something he tends to do when he’s anxious about something he’s done.
We make it home, both a little wiser. Next time M and I go to a store, I will make sure he knows where to meet me. However, I rather expect that the next time, he’ll stick pretty close to me. It turns out getting lost in Walmart was a good life lesson for M, but not one I think he wants to repeat anytime soon.