This morning Lena and I were at the library, as we are most Thursday mornings when Sam is in school. Lena was at a computer playing a game and I was about 10 feet away in the picture book shelves.
I looked over and saw she was in the chair. I bent down to find the two titles I was searching for and when I stood back up, literally less than a minute later, Lena was gone.
Lena is a wanderer (for further evidence, please revisit this post recalling a near miss at the zoo last year), so I tried to remain calm. I looked up a couple of rows when another mother said she had seen a woman, who she thought worked there, take Lena toward the doors.
Panicked and instantly sweat drenched, I jogged toward the doors ready to go ninja on somebody when, thank God, I saw Lena hand-in-hand with a library employee walking toward the front desk. I hollered Lena's name, and she turned around, all smiles. I picked her up, hugged her for dear life, and asked the woman where she had found her, thinking she must have wandered off in the minute I had my eyes off her.
But no, the woman replied that Lena was just sitting in the chair at the computer looking around for me. I told her that I was only a few feet away and didn't hear her cry or even same my name. And the woman said, "No, she didn't seem upset. She was just looking for you".
I was furious at her for taking a perfectly calm young child away from her location so quickly instead of staying with her for a few minutes to see if a parent showed up. And I was furious at myself for taking my eyes off Lena for even that quick minute. But all I said to that employee was, "Okay", and we checked out our books and left.
Lena got an earful in the parking lot - that she should never go with someone she doesn't know, that she should yell "NO" and "MOMMY" if someone ever tries to take her again. But honestly, I doubt she understood. She's two. And she trusts everyone. And she's friendly. And she's a wanderer. She's the perfect storm.
After I put Lena down for her nap (which took forever since I held her and sang her about 1000 songs, because I can't shake the thought that she could have been taken), I sat Sam down and talked to him about it.
His school went over stranger danger a few weeks ago, but I don't know how much he absorbed. So I told him a short version of what happened and reiterated the fact that he and Lena can never go with anyone they don't know, yadda, yadda - you know the spiel.
Sam looked like he was really listening and told me that he should come with us next time we go to the library so he can "keep an eye on Wena" and "tell dem NO and yell MOMMY if dey trwy to take my sister again". "Or you", I reminded him. "Yeah, dey can't take me eidher", he said. I think it was a good teaching moment. And it made me proud that he listened and wants to protect Lena.
I don't want to scare my kids to death, but I kind of do, you know? A healthy fear is a hard balance to strike in 4 and 2 year olds. So which way to you trend until they're old enough to learn that balance? I don't know.
What I do know is that: I wrote an email to the library, not complaining per se, but just explaining what happened and that maybe they need to review their protocol; Lena will be at my side in public from now on - no more 10 foot radius, even at the library; that it really sucks that I have to worry about some sick %$*&# trying to hurt my kids; that Lena is friendly and trusting; that Sam is protective and kind; that I'm probably going to have intermittent tears flowing today at the thought of what could have been; that we'll be reviewing stranger danger a lot more often at home; that while I was panicked and sweat drenched, I also felt like the Hulk about to bust out and smash some shit up trying to find my kid, which was kind of nice to know I had in me; and that I eventually need to let this go, thank God that everything turned out okay, and pray that He always protects my kids like he did today.