Monday, August 5, 2013

My little "runner"

On our way back from Western NY to New England, Owen and I stopped in NYC for 2 nights to visit one of my dearest friends, her husband, and their 2 year old boy. My friend and her husband had to move to Abu Dhabi and they spend their summers in NY to get away from the heat of the Persian Gulf. She "had to" move there because her husband did not get tenure in his professorial post at X university in my town, and was lucky to get another academic job T an American university with an outpost in Abu Dhabi. The tenure nightmare was a painful process that went on for over two years and unfortunately culminated in my friend moving all the way to the opposite side of the world with her then 2 month old son. It was a sad time. We had so many plans about raising our boys together. She was my closest confidant and best emergency support person in my town. And I haven't found a replacement.

But we had a wonderful time in New York! Wait, let me preface: I was scared. Owen is what I would characterize as a "runner." Ever since he could walk he has put me through hell by taking off RUNNING in public places. Unlike many children who run and look back at their parent and then return, Owen would just go, go, go. As he has gotten older, I've started to run after him less (if I can still see him) to show him that Mommy doesn't just start running when he does. This isn't a game. But it can be really scary, especially when there are dangers. For instance, he will tear full speed around a corner in a store and have no sense for the potential of a careening shopping cart on an adjoining aisle. Or, as in NY he will run down the sidewalk toward the cross street barely heeding my voice of warning as I run after him.

I've had many moments of hyperventilation as you can imagine. Just last spring, he "took off" (ie: I turn my back for a moment and he is gone) while we were are at a very crowded outdoor plant sale. The tables were set just so, just at his height, and on little hills, so that I absolutely could not locate him. After about 3 minutes (3 minutes is a LONG TIME when you cannot locate your 3 year old child), I seriously started to panic--chest pain, shortened breath, the whole 9. Every. single. scenario was going through my head, and I was trying to calm myself so that I could seek out the proper help. After another minute or maybe two, there he was, coming around the end of a table.

This summer we went to a large complex of retired battleships with Owen's cousins. I could NOT believe how UN-kid friendly it was. These huge old ships had almost no railings and many many drops and falls. Well, Owen took off up a very steep ladder/staircase to another "deck" of the ship. I started after him but by the time I was at the top of the stairs he was gone, into the inner cabins of the ship (circuitous does not describe it) and to god knows where. I couldn't see him or hear him, and there was a 20 foot drop onto the deck below. He wouldn't answer my calls. I COMPLETELY panicked. I was yelling his name at the top of my lungs and had lost all control of my senses except to keep looking and calling. Time ticked on. It must've only been a couple of minutes but it felt like hours. I finally found my way to the other side of the deck and there he was with my sister-in-law.

I try to impress upon him the dangers of this behavior (and how it affects me, too), and I DO think it is finally starting to sink in. Suffice to say, there was a lot of prep work for our trip to New York. And I've started to talk to him about consequences. Firstly, of course, the danger to life and limb and the danger of losing Mommy, and secondly, consequences. Like, if you do this, you will be in trouble.

Discipline does not come naturally for me. I am working on it.

It went fine (although I must say, props to you NYC moms. I don't know how you do it day in and day out! All that stroller hauling and door pulling and not-very-helpful-fellow-citizenship!). We even took a subway ride (a big fear of mine for obvious reasons) and with my consistent coaching and reminding he stayed near me. In fact, he did great. He held my hand consistently as we trudged through the world's biggest toy store and stayed within arms' reach. I think the whole thing made an impression on him. Since then, we've been to the grocery store here at home and rather than running out of my sight as per usual he stayed nearby and checked in with me. This change in behavior is a godsend, I cannot tell you. My blood pressure will surely benefit.

A picture of Owen and his friend on the piano at said toy store:

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