I lost Grayson in Kohl's yesterday.
We were looking for a new pair of shoes for him and I had unstrapped him from the seat so he could walk around a bit, go up on his tip-toes, and see how they fit. We found a pair we liked (unbeknownst to me they were 25 bucks!) and he sat down to take them off while I started putting shoe boxes back on the shelves. He started walking away from me, down the aisle, and I asked him to come back. He turned back to me for a minute, but then I saw 'the look' and he took off running in the opposite direction.
You see, Grayson gets this impish, mischievous look when he wants you to chase him or tickle him or throw him around. If you ignore 'the look' for too long, he'll start pulling on your hand, begging you to "get me, Mom" or "chase me, Dad" or whatever it is he'd have you do to him. It's very endearing, generally. But not this day. Not in Kohl's.
I just happened to be sitting cross-legged on the floor while I was sorting out the discarded shoes, so by the time I got up to follow him, he was turning the corner at the end of the aisle. I turned the corner about 15 seconds later, but poof!
He was already gone.
I quickly strode past all the shoe aisles, scanning up and down. No Grayson.
I thought I heard a crash across the main aisle in housewares, so I scanned those aisles as well. No Grayson.
I started calling his name as I headed back to shoes, expecting to hear his little voice pipe up, "I right here!" like he does when we're playing at home and I pretend I can't see him. Still no Grayson.
I started panicking. He disappeared so quickly, I just knew someone had taken him. He was probably already outside now, headed toward her car. He wouldn't be screaming if she offered him candy when she picked him up. Does she have a car seat for him? What am I going to tell Josh? Am I going to have to do an interview for the news? Will anyone empathize with me, or will I 'get what I deserved'? Will witnesses give their testimonials that the other woman seemed like his mother? She kept him happy, smiling all the way through the store as she carried him out the door without blinking an eye. When he's with me, he screams "Help me, Dad!" while I try to bend his legs and force his feet through the legs holes so I can strap him into the cart. Without fail, when he realizes I'm about to do up the buckle, he looks at me so angry, yet defeated, and cries, "No, Mom, please, no strap!" in one last futile attempt at freedom. We make for quite the show.
By this time I had searched textiles and women's bras as well. Still no Grayson. I went back to shoes to see if he had magically reappeared when I suddenly thought to say a prayer. God was kind enough to answer me and it was good news! I immediately knew Grayson hadn't been taken and was just wandering the store. I also knew he wasn't scared and that everything would be all right.
I saw a worker in shoes and asked him to radio for help for me to find my son. He directed me to a register to have the woman there call it in. I totally butted in line (sorry lady) and asked her what I was supposed to do if my son was lost in the store. The worker called a 'code yellow' (description: 2-year-old boy with dirty blonde hair and a bad haircut; wearing gray shirt, gray shorts, and white tennis shoes with the tags still on) and instructed me to stay there so they could bring him to me when they found him. Instead, I parked my diaper bag at an empty register and started walking toward the registers on the other side of the store. I must have had the 'my little boy is lost and I don't know whether I'm going to cry or beat him to a pulp' look on my face because a worker walked up to me and said, "He's over here."
Grayson was standing in the entry way by the far registers. I don't know how long he had been there, but when he saw me he started laughing and ran into the juniors section. I sighed, a worker darted after him, another said, "Wow, he's fast!" and another customer said, "Oh, it's so hard to see the short ones through all the racks." She smiled at me and told me she'd lost her son once before. I can’t say I felt better, but I did manage to feel less stupid.
We eventually made it home. Because Grayson had run through the store wearing the $25 shoes, they came home with us too. I didn’t cry and I didn’t beat Grayson when he was finally back in my arms. I just held him. Tightly.
I’m still THAT mother who will wrestle her toddler into the cart seat no matter how loudly he screams. The one who will let people cut in front of her in the checkout when her cart is full and they only have a couple of items. The one who will compliment a store’s management when she has a good experience. The one who will kiss her boy and tell him how much she loves him for as long as he’ll let her.
But I’m now also THAT mother who will ask God and others for help, and thank them profusely when it’s given. The one who will be slow to judge other parents for mistakes they may have made, knowing she's made plenty herself. The one to spring for $25 shoes every once in a while because hey, Grayson can really move in those puppies. The one that remembers no matter how crazy he makes me, Grayson is the apple of my eye, and I want nothing more than for him to be safe, healthy, and happy.