Or, rather, where is MY KID in the biblioteca???!!
Today, in a long overdue first-time trip to the library in our new town, I lost Ethan. Yeah, it was that experience. The one where you turn around, and realize the little frenetic source of ants-in-his-pants energy that was just here two seconds ago is now....somewhere else.
It happened at the circulation desk as I filled out an application for a library card. We'd already wandered around the building for a bit, getting to know the children's section. When I said it was time for mommy to go get a card so we could take out books, Ethan reacted with much consternation at the idea of being separated from these rows and rows of Knufflebunnies and Pigeons wanting to drive buses. I promised him we'd be right back as soon as I had a magic card which let us take allllllll the books home with us. He grudgingly came along, after the whole "need card to bring books home" thing was explained roughly 87 times.
I'm big on "hold my hand, honey" when we are any place in public, but I am thinking that perhaps being given free reign at Chuck E Cheese the other day might have gone to his head. He's been little Mr. Independent since Monday and hand-holding is so last week for him right now. Fine. Be independent. Just stay where I can see you. Mkay?
I filled out my form, handed it to the lady, looked down at Ethan (who was playing with the measuring tape type stuff they use to make a check-out line in libraries, banks and airports--why are kids like moths to the flame with that stuff?), told him to be careful or he'd smack himself in the eye with those weird retractable ropes. I looked back up at the librarian (who talked REALLY loudly for a lady of the library, by the way) and then when I looked back down for Ethan five seconds later....poof! Vanished.
It took me a few seconds to realize that he wasn't just not in the exact spot he'd been in when I last looked. But that he was nowhere where I could see him. In a new building we'd never been in before. With people walking in and out constantly. Within about four seconds, every organ in my body liquified and caught in my throat. I won't even go into the thoughts that went through my head. Because, really. A high anxiety mama (who had already had a high anxiety day--which is another story for another time) does not tend towards the rational when her baby is suddenly not at her side.
Fortunately, the whole thing was over quickly. My first impulse was to bolt back to the the children's section, which he had been so loathe to leave in the first place. As I approached the stacks, I saw a librarian looking around. When she saw the look on my face, she called to me, "Are you looking for a sad little man in a blue striped shirt?" And then I heard him wailing. And when I rushed around the corner, I saw him wailing.
Poor little man got a bit ahead of himself on the independence track. He got himself all the way back to the books (and in one sense, I'm so proud of him for that), but once he got there and found himself alone, he freaked out. There was much weeping and a waterfall of big, cheek-soaking alligator tears. We sat on the floor in a big pile of hug until both of our heart rates found their normal range again. It was the worst. Except oh, my heart, how that hug and how he wouldn't let go, made my heart happy.
It's such a fine line between independence and danger in his life right now. He pushes back and forth against wanting to need me and wanting to be free of me (well, as free as a 3.5 year old can be). As his mom, I don't know which I want for him. As much as I love to see him taking some risks within his own bubble of safety (today's being a bit outside of both of our comfort zones), my heart breaks that one day, finding himself separated from me, he won't fret and seek me out. I know that's good and healthy and all of that. But, sigh. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Holden Caufield, that punkass teenager, he knew what he was talking about. I wish I could freeze the moment, so he would always be the same as he is this very moment. But then? I'd miss out on who he's going to become. And I think that's going to be pretty amazing, too.