As I said yesterday, we are in the Golden State for a wedding. The wedding has obviously come and gone but we thought we would stay for a few more days and make it into a little va-ca. A few things have happened on this trip that have made it memorable. For example, our truck broke down on the way here, but we were quickly up and running again, thanks to my grease-monkey husband; Adalei fell off a bed for the first time in her life, leaving behind a still visible bruise on her forehead; She also fell out of the camper, down the metal steps and onto her belly on the concrete pad – no injuries, thank goodness, but that was a painful lesson in just how quickly she can get things figured out (i.e. how to open the door); And one more thing, we lost our son in the RV park. The last one takes the cake.
In California, particularly in and around the largest cities, many people live full-time in their RV’s. So, as a traveling RV’er, you have to be aware that just because you see a listing somewhere for an RV Park, it might not actually mean you can stay there as they might be filled up with people who live in the park. In parks that do allow overnighters, you can be sure that there will be many full-timers somewhere on the property. We happen to be be staying in a park now that has a separate area for the full-timers, beyond a cedar-fence divider from the overnight spots. You can still move freely from one side to the other, though.
On the other side of the fence are many children who live there, and as soon as my son saw them he wanted to make friends. Any time they were within earshot, he asked them if they wanted to play and went right into riding his bike with them or showing them his new scooter. For the most part, he stayed right outside the camper, but he would wander a little too far away if he weren’t paying attention, so we really had to watch him closely. In addition to his distance, we had to watch for other vehicles, making sure to call him back when we saw someone driving our way, just to be safe.
Last night, as I was cleaning dinner dishes and watching Addy inside, Neil had Arden outside, watching him ride his scooter. I heard Neil talking to the couple in the neighboring camper, a friendly retired couple from Phoenix. I wondered a few times where my son was, but didn’t want to interrupt Neil to ask him, for fear of sounding like an overzealous and untrusting wife. Only about twenty seconds after I had set aside my concern, Neil came to the camper steps and asked inside, “Did Arden come inside?”
WHAT THE – ?
I swooped Adalei onto my hip and rushed outside as my husband mumbled, “I was only talking for a few seconds – he was just right here…”
I made a b-line for the part of the park where the full-timers stay, hoping that he had followed another child back there to play. I really started to panic when I didn’t see any of the other children – WAIT! There they were! But I didn’t see Arden’s little blonde head in the crowd.
I interrupted them, “Have you seen the little blonde-haired boy”, and made a motion with my hands to indicate his height. They knew exactly who I was talking about.
“No. No – Wait! Maybe he’s over there – he was playing with my cousin -” and the little boy quickly jumped on his bike and sped away. I thanked the remaining children and started back towards my camper. On my way back I past a man walking a dog so I asked him if he’d seen my little blonde haired boy (I was so embarrassed to be asking – paired with fear of where he might have gone). Oh, the guy acknowledged, maybe one street over, he said as he motioned for the next row of RV’s.
I jetted between some campers to the next street and as soon as I turned to look towards the fenced part, where the full-timers live, there he was, coming my direction with a few other boys.
“Mommy!” he exclaimed, oblivious and excited to see me.
I grabbed the handle to his scooter and forced him off of it so he would have to walk next to me. I wanted to get back quickly to our camper to find his dad and let him know everything was okay. In the distance, I saw the guy who had helped me locate Arden, and I gave him a wave.
Of course, all this hub-bub upset Arden, which would potentially delay things, so I had to try and calm him but keep him moving. As we rounded the end of a row, I saw the little boy who had jumped on his bike to go look for Arden and I waved at him and told him ‘thank you’. We made it back and I found Neil between the RVs in another row. We all went back inside our camper. Neil took Adalei and I held Arden and tried to get him calmed down, while letting him know what he had done.
Just as things started to get calmed down, there was a knock on the door. I answered the door, still holding Arden, to find a strange man.
“After you’ve had a few minutes to settle down from the shock of finding your son, you should know that those little boys really jumped into action to help find him,” he said.
“Oh, I know,” I said, “They were so sweet.”
“Yea, they really jumped into action. We’ve got some really good kids here.”
Again, I agreed as I reached for the door to pull it shut, signaling to the stranger to beat it.
As I shut the door, I thought, what the eff did that guy want and what the hell was he trying to accomplish by coming over here? What did he want – for me to talk to the mayor and get the kids a key to the city? Is is protocol to drag my son out and wander around the RV park, looking for every one of “those kids” to thank them for their effort in finding my precious child? Freaking weirdo.
As if momentarily losing my son wasn’t bad enough, now I have to listen to a pitch from the one-man-kudos-brigade.
Ultimately, I sort of wanted to beat my husband for not paying attention, but I knew that he already felt bad enough that he didn’t need to hear it from me. And I knew that it could have been me. But let me tell ya, my kid didn’t get to play on his bike or scooter again. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was when neighbor kids sprung into action to help return a little three year old back to his mommy but my fear was that it would warrant another visit from that reward seeking weirdo.
This entire incident brings back to light a question I have had since Arden began to walk: How do you explain to a young child why they can’t go further than a certain distance away from you? Do they understand the words “danger” and “safe”? When I use those words with Arden he just stares at me blankly, like he is trying to make sense of it.
I realize now that I should have been more swift with the consequences when he ventured outside the invisible boundaries I had pointed out to him. But still, what are appropriate consequences for a three and a half year old that just wants to play with other kids so badly and doesn’t understand that he’s could get hurt when out of our sight?