So Ben, Clara and I headed off to the mall with promises of playtime and lunch at "Old McDonalds" if they would just oblige me my errands. We hit Norstroms first and, while we still did not manage to find the pink and brown Robeez, we ended up with these shoes instead, which may just be the cutest things ever.
Notice the polka-dots. These shoes were made for us. And they have soft soles so everyone was happy.
Then, after a romp at the playplace, we headed to the foodcourt for lunch. It was this point that things started to deteriorate.
The line was long and I stood there for quite a while trying to pacify a Clara who saw other people were eating while she was not. She sat crying in her stroller while frantically making the sign for "more food, more food" to everyone around her. That girl is passionate about eating. Can't imagine where she gets that from. By the time I finally ordered our food, I was frazzled and irritated. I stepped aside to wait and turned around to ask Ben to hold his milk.
I didn't see him. The panic wasn't immediate. I glanced around expecting to see him standing just out of view behind another stroller. But after a moment of searching my stomach turned upside down. He was nowhere to be found near the McDonalds or any of the attached restaurants. I realized I couldn't remember exactly when the last time I had noticed him standing beside me in line. I had been preoccupied with his sister. I grabbed Clara's stroller, with her still whimpering, and started combing the area while calling his name. A minute ticked by, and then two, and suddenly I was in a full out frenzy. It was the first time in my life as a parent that I actually feared someone might have taken one of my children.
And then I spotted him...sitting contentedly on one of those mechanical cars that you feed coins into. The whole episode couldn't have lasted more than 3 or 4 minutes. But still my relief was overwhelming. I can't imagine what it must feel like to have your child missing for an hour, or a lifetime. Tears stung my eyes while I ran and scooped him up hugging and scolding him in intervals, while he squirmed in confusion at my manic behavior.
I headed back to McDonalds while pushing Clara in the stroller with one hand while keeping a pincer grip on Ben with the other. We picked up our food and I was forced to let go of Ben to carry it. Giving Ben a stern command to hold on to the stroller we started shuffling, mom balancing bags, cups and stroller and attached boy, towards the mob of people and tables at the center of the foodcourt. At this point, Clara managed to finally wiggle her way free of her stroller and slide halfway out onto the floor. I, of course didn't notice this until I started running over her. I thought about it for just a second and transferred our food and drinks into the stroller, picked up a writhing, wailing baby and continued the awkward migration towards the relative sanctuary of food and seats.
Once we were seated the children settled happily in to a greasy munch-fest . They had failed to substitute apples for fries in Ben's Happy Meal as I had requested, but I certainly wasn't going to attempt the trek back to rectify the situation so fries it was. The weekids at least, were thrilled with their fried windfall.
Sitting there catching my breath I started hearing bits of conversation from the table near mine.
"Bless her heart, she sure has her hands full"
- Suddenly mortified, I realized they were talking about me. I covertly checked out the women talking. There were three of them. Moms if I had to guess, but with no children anywhere to be seen.
"Yeah, I remember that, having two so little, so close together. Those years were really, really, hard."
Awww, well at least they are being kind after watching my less than graceful trip past them to my seat. Mommy grace. Gotta love it.
"Yeah, I was about crazy then too. If I hadn't asked for help eventually, I think they would have had to take me away somewhere to wear a white jacket."
Wait! What? Crazy too? Oh, I'm not that bad. And I don't think they even saw the lost kid incident. Besides I think I have moved past the white jacket stage. I actually enjoy my kids now. Well most of the time.
They talked on after that going into their own stories about their children being young and I eventually tuned them out. But my face was still burning. I know I should have just been happy to have witnessed such a wonderful of example of the grace I am always preaching about, but I just couldn't get over the humiliation of needing to be the object of it.