I had promised the girls yesterday a trip to the park, and instead we went shoe shopping, so today we HAD to go. Everybody was dressed, water bottle and extra Pull Up ready, camera in bag. Off we went.
Normally, we go to a small, secluded playground at a huge park. It's off of a road that hardly anyone takes and I can sit and read and can keep track of the girls without a problem. Today, when I drove up to it, it was PACKED. Ugh - my secret playground is no longer a secret! So I thought it might be better to go to one of the bigger playgrounds. I don't know why I thought that... I guess being so antisocial, it's easier for me to get lost in a big crowd than a smaller one.
Now, the other playgrounds are all down the main road in the park. The speed limit is 20mph, but you're lucky if the average joe is driving 35 mph. On one side are several big jungle gym playgrounds that are set pretty far back from the road and on the other side are a few swings and a slide here and there. We parked and went to one of the playgrounds. There was one for the 5+ kids and one for smaller kids. Before we got to the playground, I stopped the girls and had a little talk with them. "There are a lot of people here and it's just Mommy to keep up with you. You listen to me and you do as I say or we will have to go home." They nodded that they understood.
We went over to the smaller playground, and as soon as I got settled, Olivia and Isabelle headed over to the bigger one. It was no big deal, because I could see them fine where I was. Then, I noticed Izzy wandering around looking lost, so I got up to head to a bench closer to them. She saw me, and went back to playing. I had just seen Olivia when I started heading over there. I got settled with Zoe, and noticed a little cluster of acorns that I wanted to photograph. I did a scan of the playground - found Isabelle... but not Olivia. Well, she's probably in one of the tunnels on the jungle gym. I got out my camera. Did another scan to see if she had popped back out, but still no Olivia. I walked around the jungle gym and asked Izzy if she knew where Olivia was and she started looking around, too. I started looking aroud the general area - she didn't go join the birthday party going on at the picnic table, she's not on the merry-go-round, not at the little playground... crap, crap, CRAP. There is an old train down the road, so that was my first thought and as I turned around to see if I could see her little pink tank top headed that way, I caught a glimpse of something across the street.
Olivia was at the slide. Across the busy street. By herself.
I grabbed my bag, yelled at Isabelle to follow me, and took off, screaming at Olivia to stay put. She headed to the side of the road but stopped there. I got halfway between the playground and the road, and turned back to see if Isabelle and Zoe were keeping up and Izzy was. But Zoe had not moved. She was standing at the top of the hill bawling because I ran off and left her all alone.
One kid across a busy street. One kid all alone in a crowd of people.
Isn't this every mother's nightmare? To have to choose between her children? To decide who to save first, knowing it could be worse for the other? I froze for a second.
Then I saw a guy jogging toward Olivia from the birthday party and he called to me "I'll bring her to you." What choice did I have but to take his help? I told Isabelle to run and hold Zoe's hand and help her walk to me. The guy was back with Olivia and I thanked him and hugged her and told her not to ever cross the street alone ever again. I turned around to find another guy (probably from the birthday party also) bringing me Isabelle and Zoe. I thanked him and then told the girls we were going straight home.
Not one of them protested. I think they all knew throwing a fit was not a good idea right then. Olivia bawled when we got in the van, because she knew she was in huge trouble. I explained to her that she could have been very hurt crossing the street and that someone could run away with her if she was so far away from me. Tonight we're having a very focused discussion on how important it is to have an adult with you to cross the street.
I'm so grateful that there were good people to help me out. I was too relived to even really be embarrassed, because I know I had to have looked like I was a totally incompetant mother. It would have been so easy to have lost one of my children today. Olivia was totally lucky the first time she crossed the street. And I ran off and left Zoe all alone. It was just a horrible, horrible experience.
Never again will we try to do the big playgrounds unless we have other people besides me to keep an eye on them. It's too difficult to keep track of them in the midst of several other children, with all the noise going on too. We'll just stick to our little secluded, not-so-secret-anymore playground from now on.