Running While Panicking (aka My Kid Is in BIG Trouble)

Wouldn't you think that in a panic you could run faster? I found out yesterday that my body actually can't. Maybe if I were being chased instead of doing the chasing......

This blog isn't just about running or just about parenting. Those two worlds collided yesterday with less-than-good results.

In an attempt to be Adventurous, Fun Mommy, I took my five-and seven-year olds to a paved bike trail in the woods about 10 miles from our house. It's called the Bicentennial Trail and it's out in the middle of nowhere. They were on bikes and I was on foot. I thought I might as well get a few miles in on our adventure.

The last thing I told them before getting out of the car is to not ever get out of my sight. They could ride a little ahead, but I must be able to see them at all times.

Our goal was to ride two miles, rest/turn around, and come back. The complaining started around 0.5 miles. My seven-year-old Nathaniel was not enjoying the trail. It crossed a few wooden bridges, and that freaked him out a little. There was also a ravine on one side of the trail, and even though I told him to ride on the other side, that freaked him out, too. (In all honesty, the ravine freaked me out a little, as well. I positioned myself in between the kids and the ravine though.) We saw lots of families out for a stroll, kids on bikes (many even smaller than mine), and other runners. It was a beautiful day (sunny and 75), and the trail scenery was amazing.

Finally, at about 1.8 miles, my son mutinied. He said, "I'm not going any further." I let him know the 2-mile marker was just ahead. We could see it. He said he was turning back NOW. I told him, "No, we are going just a little further, then we'll turn around." I assumed he'd follow us, he's typically a fairly reasonable being, so Annabeth and I kept going. (You know when you have a small child who refuses to follow you and you act like you are going to leave them, then they give in and follow you? Doesn't work at age seven.) He called my bluff and not only did not follow, he actually turned around and headed back up the trail. Alone. Not a stellar parenting moment on my part, by the way.

When I looked over my shoulder and realized he'd left us, we immediately turned back. I could not believe he'd done that. He was on his big-kid, geared, FAST bike while I was on foot with a five-year-old on a little bitty bike. I hoped he'd go just a little distance, stop, and wait for us. Or head back in our direction. I called his name over and over. I scanned the distance for his red shirt and red hair. I tried not to panic.

For nearly TWO MILES and about 19 minutes in the woods in a strange place, I saw no sign of my son. I constantly checked the ravine as I ran, I even looked in the water as we crossed the bridges. I asked strangers if they had seen a little boy in a red shirt (one said yes, he was far ahead). I imagined that people I passed----middle-aged men alone on bikes or jogging---might be that "bad" kind of stranger. At times we passed long stretches where we saw no one else and I worried he would panic if he realized he was alone in the woods. I felt so helpless and I literally could not go any faster or get to him any sooner. Annabeth was so tired, but I told her we could not stop until we found Nathaniel. Emotionally, I alternated between really, really scared, mad at him and myself, feeling helpless, and just plain sad.

Finally, at the front entrance, I saw him with a couple on their bikes. He had told them, "I went too fast and Mom went too slow, so we got separated." Not exactly. I'd like to say I ran toward him and embraced him, forgetting all my anger, filled with relief that he was ok (like in the movies), but that's not how it happened. I just eyeballed him and said, "This is NOT OK."
He knew he was in trouble and just said, "I'm sorry."

There was punishment (continuing throughout the week). He understands (somewhat and without any exact details about the stranger part) the dangers of what he did and the unkindness of making me crazy with worry.

Anyway, that was our unfortunate afternoon. Thank God he was safe and it worked out ok. That's the last time I'll try to be Fun, Adventurous Mommy. Regular, Safe Mommy is better.


katieo said…
UGH. I hate stuff like that!
Once I lost my two oldest boys in a department store (they happened to be hiding from me. ahem.)
Anyway, I think I was mad at them the entire way home. Not really out of anger, just more because I was so relived they were ok, and was just releasing all that emotion and panic.

I'm so glad everyone was ok!!
Anonymous said…
I think God does this to each of us mommies at least once to keep us from judging other mommies when it happens to them. Ours was on the soccer fields with about 800 other kids milling around. SCARY! It sure makes you count your blessings. Take care and enjoy each one of those babies. Love, Mandy