Ryan was off to S.E.R.E School for 3 weeks with no contact with our family. During this time my mother and I planned every minute with the boys to keep us all busy, to get out and have adventures. We also had lots of visitors during this time. First my Aunt and her family came to visit from Florida. They stayed at a cabin here and base and we had so much fun just spending our days together. Next up, Ryan’s brother and his wife were coming to visit. The boys were all worn out from their time with my family and we only had one day to refresh the house and replenish the fridge before the arrival of our next guest.
Forrest had gone to school that day and come home a little cranky. He was tired and out of sorts but there was no time to argue, we had to go to the grocery store. Now Forrest is my predictable, well behaved, mild mannered child. Even a grumpy Forrest is generally tolerable. I had my purse loaded with bribery tools and set Forrest and Walker in my moms cart with the OddBods playing on my phone with I loaded my own cart with supplies.
Just as my cart reached capacity, Forrest lost his patience and began whaling on Walker in the cart. I swiftly pulled him out of the cart, stood him on his feet and told him firmly that he would have to walk now. Then some demon spirit took over the body of my sweet boy and in the dairy aisle of Walmart he grabbed me by my braid and began hitting me and kicking me in the shins.
I was burning inside. I was well aware of all the eyes on us and I knew I had to act fast to calm the beast. I scooped him off for a time out in the bathroom while my mom stood shocked with two full grocery carts and two kids. Forrest is big for 4. He’s 4 ft and 40 pounds and I don’t work out. Never liked lifting weights. Carrying a tantrum throwing Forrest through Walmart was not an easy task. I have said it before and I will say it a million times over; if there is one thing I wish someone would have explained to me before I had kids, it would be how much such a small person can hurt you physically.
The restrooms are right in the front of the store near all of the check out lines. The acoustics are incredible. Unfortunately, Forrest was not signing A Capella, he was screaming like I was ripping him limb from limb. I remained calm. I tried talking softly and saying things like “I know see that you are upset. I know grocery shopping is now fun. ” The beast raged on. He threw every roll of toilet paper into the toilet. I tried bribery. “If you help me check out I will let you pick a piece of candy out.” He threw a great right hook to my cheek and began pulling at all my clothes. I got a little firm “This is unacceptable behavior. We are finishing our shopping and you are going to bed tonight without tv time.” He attempted to break the baby changing station. I gave him a warning “If you continue this destructive behavior I will spank you.” I did NOT want to do this. There was a constant buzz of activity inside the restroom and I knew everyone was waiting to hear what I would do. The behavior continued and I gave him a swat to the rear. The response was just as I had imagined. It was like watching a volcano erupt.
This had gone on for what felt like eternity but I am pretty sure was about 20 minutes. I could not rack my brain enough to find the right answer. I was in complete shock. He had never behaved this way. I gave up. Exhausted I dragged him through the store in search of my mom and other two children. I had two employees stop and ask me if I needed any help. I am certain they were concerned I was trying to abduct this child the way he was thrashing about, but I was more concerned about my own safety.
When I finally found my mother she offered to take Forrest to the car while I took the other two boys and two carts and checked out. As Walmart lines usually are, it was slow moving. Walker played on my phone while we waited so I did not realize my mom was trying to call me until he started to complain that his movie wasn’t working any more. When I finally answered she was completely panicked. “Forrest is gone” she said.
I remained completely calm while I got out of the check out line and met her. He had run off in his tantrum and she lost site of him. It had been at least 5-10 minutes. I was confident that he was in the store and we would find him. Everyone has a story like this. I used to hide in the clothing racks from my mom. She took Walker and started shouting his name down every aisle. I stopped every employee asking if they had seen a tall 4 year old in a neon yellow t-shirt. They put an employee at every entrance to make sure he didn’t leave the building. We searched every aisle twice. I started to panic. What if he made it outside before there was an employee at the door to see him. I took Leo out to the parking lot to search around. The realization hit me. If he made it out of the building, there was no telling where he was. I thought to myself I would have to call and pull Ryan out of S.E.R.E to ell him I had lost one of our children.
When I came back in the building hysterical, a manager told me it had been over 20 minutes and it was time that I called the police. I dialed 911 and spoke to a dispatcher who told me to stay on the phone until the police officer met me at customer service. I silently prayed while I waited. Finally an employee came running and shouting that they had found Forrest.
I was so overwhelmed when we were reunited. I have never felt so relieved in my life. I was also in complete shock and honestly, a little angry with Forrest. I scooped in him up in my arms and told him I was glad he was ok, thanked the nice people of Walmart and ditched two carts of groceries for Little Ceaser’s Pizza and drove home.
I learned in important life lesson that day. I am now the parent of a four year old. He has his own mind and makes his on decisions and I can guide him but I can NOT CONTROL another human being. This is a terrifying thing to accept.
Some of you may be reading this and judging the decisions I made that day, that’s ok. I am new to being the mom of a four year old and every day is trial and error and I go to sleep each night knowing that I tried my best. Also, I bet that means you have never been in this situation and for that I am thankful for you. If you have any advice for me I happily take kindly directed constructive criticism.
Some of you may be reading this and reliving some similarly horrifying experience that you have had with your own children. Know, that you are not alone. I hope this is like chicken pox and once we have lived through it we do not have to repeat it. I stressed over and over to Forrest that evening how scary it must have been for HIM to be lost and alone. I make him repeat the story to others and tell them how scared he was , hoping that what he remembers most was how he felt and how he never wants to feel that way again.
What is most important at the end of the day is that Forrest is safe and sound with us at home and I am once more reminded of how precious my children are and how thankful I am to have them. God is great at keeping that in the forefront of my mind.
“Children are a heritage from the Lord” Psalm 127