She turned around and went back the other way, with me following. She was just running, jumping, and having a good old time. At the doorway to the uniform store, I told her to go in. She did. At least she listened. A woman was rushing to the front of the store calling for her, and when she saw her, she picked her up and held her close, so relieved. My heart felt a little squeeze, and I wondered how long had it taken her to notice her daughter was gone? I know that feeling of turning around and not seeing your child. That happened to me once or twice in a store, and it's the main reason why I like to keep Delaney in a stroller. There is nothing worse than that feeling. It's like free-falling, with my heart in my throat, unable to breathe until I see her again. And even though it felt like forever, I know that the once or twice that it happened, it was no more than about ten seconds max. The one to two minutes it took me to escort that little girl back to the store would be a long time to not know where your kid is.
The two of them disappeared among the racks of clothes, and we were off again. I tried to ascertain whether Delaney had understood what had happened. "Did you see that little girl running around in the mall? She was being naughty. She should have stayed with her mommy, shouldn't she?" She didn't say anything, but I'm sure hadn't missed a thing. Whether or not it was a lesson to her, I couldn't say. As I said before, she was very tired.
I take Delaney all kinds of places without a stroller, because even when she's not being the best listener, I can still keep an eye on her -- at a park or a playground, or walking down our street. At the stores in a mall, you can lose a kid and have them be only two feet away from you when it happens. There are too many places for a kid to disappear in a mall, and I've seen one too many episodes of Criminal Minds. So I always have her in a stroller at the mall, unless Tim's with me and he can help me keep track of her. She'll be three in July, and I see no signs of the day coming when she won't be in a stroller at the mall.
I wonder now, at what age can you trust a kid to stay with you when you let her out of the stroller? 10? 11? :)