With the approach of autumn, I’m trying to make the most out of every nice day with outdoor activities for the boys before are cooped up with snow for another six (eight?) months. Earlier this week, I decided to try a new park I’d heard about through the playschool. It was down in the river valley and supposed to be a kind of “wilderness adventure” that was still suitable for small children.
Off we set with our water bottles and snack packs, the three year-old bubbling with excitement over that “special surprise” he’d been promised, and the baby squeaking with delight because his brother was happy.
When we arrived, my bigger son immediately recognized the surroundings from his field trip earlier that summer, so happily trundled off to explore, all the while emitting short shrieks of pure happiness. The little guy and I followed behind, his newly-achieved bipedalism still requiring practice on sand and wood chips.
As the small one and I negotiated on the edibility of sand and sticks, stumble-tripped along bridges and walk-ways, and careened without much respect for gravity down the slides, the threenager popped back and forth, encouraging us to “come!” and “see!”, and especially to “look at me Mumma!”.
The trick of entertaining two little ones at a playground, or anywhere they might roam freely, is to keep a hand on one and an eye on the other. It can be reasonably managed when the location is wide-open, but becomes much more of a challenge when, in keeping with the wilderness theme, a clear view is occluded by trees, covered picnic areas, large rocks and play-structures.
As I tried to prevent the smaller of my boys from clambering up the rock wall like a stocky monkey, and in so doing putting the bigger kids to shame despite the encumbrance of the large bib he requires to soak up the constant stream of teething-induced drool, I scouted around for my older son: he was no-where to be seen.
After calling his name a few times, I grabbed the baby and carried him off despite his loud and plaintive protests to search for his brother.
I spotted him soon enough, standing on the other side of a faux boulder, but he was too small to see me. Tears streamed down his red, sweaty face and he was clutching his little hands together as they shook with fear. I ran to him, jostling his brother and spilling some of their sippy cups in the process.
I lost! I lost Mumma! I lost!” was all he could say, his little heart beating rapidly through the hug he gave me.
When he had calmed down and was fortified by several grubby handfuls of cheerios, I talked to him about what to do if he was lost again.
“Look for a Mummy,” I told him. We played spot the mummy for a minute or two. When we had successfully distinguished between mummies and other children, park attendants, trees and flowers, I gave him a script:
“You say, “Can you help my find my Mummy?'”.
He repeated it back to me, and we rehearsed it, each time with a bit more confidence.
At home later, he said again, “I was lost, Mumma!”. I reminded him of what we’d discussed he should say. I wondered if it was sinking in, if the reiteration was just going in one ear and out of the other.
Then this morning walking our dogs, he met a new dog and their owner.
“That’s my Mummy! Are you a Mummy? Mummies help me find my Mummy!”