Yesterday (Nov 27th) was not a good day for my blood pressure.
Once in a blue moon, when the stars are aligned, the wind’s coming from the right direction and the gods are favourable, me and the minxes manage to get up, breakfast, get dressed and get to school without me having to raise my voice once. Yesterday was one such day. We strolled down the hill chatting about stuff (…just ‘stuff’) and I spent a precious 3 minutes watching my eldest daughter giggle and smile about something I’d said. Far too often our morning routine is of me yelling commands and reprimands, then virtually Drill Sergeant-marching them down the hill. So it burst my bubble when we got to the first bend and heard, then saw, the girls’ friends being walked to school. Don’t get me wrong, the minxes were happy about it! In an instant, they forgot all about holding hands nicely, watching where the cars were coming from, keeping away from the edge of the road, sticking together and looking out for their sisters, or anything boring old Mummy was saying, and enjoyed being made a fuss of by their friends’ grandparents. Well they’re kids, who wouldn’t?
I found myself at the front of the queue of 5 kids and 3 adults and because I’d taken Mini in the buggy instead of the sling (been feeling a bit yucky recently), I couldn’t hold a minx hand. I craned my neck around to check Maxi and Midi were at least holding someone’s hand and were safely away from the kerbside. Suddenly the granddad went skipping past us all with his grandson, with Maxi hot on his tail. I called Maxi back, who studiously ignored me, turned to check on Midi who was now unattended at the back of the queue, and fussily brought her forward where I could see her. By this point, Maxi was being held by the hand and was running down the hill with the granddad, getting further and further away. I yelled to her to keep in away from the road, but I could barely speak in horror an my voice cracked.
So this was what it would be like for someone to abduct my child. This was how easy it would be for someone only slightly known to Maxi to take her by the hand, say, “Oh it’s ok, your Mum knows!” (as she later told me) and lead her away out of my sight. She wouldn’t even look back, dancing and skipping happily and trustingly. And it would happen in an instant: 20 seconds to be out of earshot and 120 seconds max before she’d be gone, completely out of sight.
Now, I’m not saying that the granddad meant any harm by it. I could see that after I shouted the first time that he’d held her by the hand. But I’m still perplexed why he thought it would be ok to take the hand of a little girl he barely knows (I don’t even know their surname) and without checking with me first, run so far ahead with her that she was out of my sight. I accept that I’m on the clingy side of normal when it comes to my kids. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t put my foot down immediately and call her back again when I noticed how far she was going ahead of me and her sisters – a bit of analysis paralysis, as I chewed around the idea that perhaps I was massively overreacting. But when is it ok for a strange adult to take a child away from her mother without checking first? When is it ok to just do it, and assume the mother will immediately sort it all out if she has a problem with it? Is it always ok? Is it only me who thinks that’s creepy and frightening? Do I need to work a bit harder on letting my children go? Yes, I knew they were only going ahead to the school. But how can I teach my children that you don’t go away from your mother with anyone, yet I let it happen that morning?
That afternoon the grandma grabbed me and said that she’d had a word with her husband because “I know you like to keep your kids close”, and reassured me that he’d taken good care of Maxi and had meant no harm by it. She was so apologetic that I gave her a big hug and thanked her for being so kind. I’m not a huggy kind of person at all, but (a) I felt quite overwhelmed, and (b) it absolutely showed her better than I could articulate just how grateful I felt. It also reassured me that my inner turmoil (seriously, I hadn’t known whether to cry with anger or anguish) was justified; that his behaviour hadn’t been completely ok.
On the bright side, it gave me and The Boss an excellent opportunity to have yet another ‘little talk’ with the girls. We covered Stranger Danger ages ago, but I’m very aware that more harm comes to children from people they know than outright strangers. So yesterday we also revised whether it’s ever acceptable to go away with someone you know (No, Never, No, unless they physically hear me, and only me, say that it’s ok). I impressed on them again that if a stranger, or someone’s Dad or Granddad *ever* asked them to come with them “and it’s ok, your Mummy knows” or “it’s ok your Mummy sent me”, that it would be a lie: I’d never do that. I asked them what they’d do if… and ran through some scenarios: some possible, some outlandish, some so feasible that it scared me. Midi got into the swing of it and gleefully enjoyed saying what she’d do. I swear that child is only a heartbeat away from extreme violence! Though to be fair she is also a sweetly kind and empathic girl with her sisters and classmates nowadays (seriously! She even gave her upset friend the longed-for puppet that she’d been awarded to take home from school overnight because her friend wanted it). We talked about times when the girls aren’t with me or The Boss. We talked about what to do or who to go to if they’re not sure about something. We talked about times when it would be very ok for the girls to bite, scratch, kick, poke eyes hard, try to pull off ears, scream and shout; Midi cackled at the prospect, whereas Maxi cried and said that she could never hurt another person. I worry about letting Maxi out of my sight most, of all my 3.
So going back to yesterday morning, after the school run… I sat festering over my churning stomach with a coffee and the internet for 15 minutes (say hi to some relatives; order some more Christmas presents; check the news headlines). For some reason, a little local report of a car accident made me click to read the whole article. Mistake. I read about how a car had collided with a transit van on the stretch of road The Boss had driven on, at the time The Boss had driven, and oh my pierced heart, the photo of the little that was left of the car looked exactly like The Boss’s car. The poor driver had been cut out and taken to hospital, condition unknown. I grabbed my mobile. I told myself to calm down and stop jumping to conclusions. I looked at the photo in the article again. I dialled the Boss’s number. He didn’t answer. I concentrated on just breathing for a few minutes. I looked at the photo more closely – was that a pink car seat in the back or not? Did our wheels really look like that? I dialled the Boss again. Still no answer. I left as normal a message as I could. I distracted myself with a game of dollies and Mini for 10 minutes. I rang the Boss again. When he answered, I nearly cried. I mean, his warranty ran out 7 years ago and there’s still plenty wear in him yet… 😉