"He is running the wrong way!"
"(crackling) What? Can you see him?"
"HE IS RUNNING THE WRONG WAY!!"
Thus began one of the most stressful twenty minutes I have ever experienced.
My three hundred and sixty six days of walking have been going so well. I often take a child with me if it is an evening or weekend. This particular Friday, I had lured Mr. L to join me with the promise of bringing along his walkie talkie so that he could chat with his twin brother whilst we were out. They were going to discover "how far the walkie talkies could be apart and still work." This is how exciting my Friday nights are.
It was a clear cold night, Mr. L and I donned our winter coats and set off in our usual path around the block, chatting to Mr. G all the while.
"Can you hear me?"
"Yes, can you hear me?"
"I can see a green window and a red window."
"Oh. I can see Dad."
We ambled along and stopped so that Mr. L could play at a little park near our house. Mr. G became jealous of the playing and wanted to join us. We could have anticipated this situation. Twins are like any siblings but with their relationship amplified times a million. I thought it would be fun to have Mr. G join us so a plan was hatched.
I see so many people give their children such a wide berth when out in public. Minuscule children are zooming around on scooters and balance bikes, toddlers are running blocks ahead of their parents. I never do this. It is not because I am a helicopter parent, I am really the opposite of this most times. Having an autistic son with a tendency to run, twins with tendencies to not listen, and living in Canada where it seems that people call the police if they see a child not tethered to an adult will create some insecurities in a person. That particular night, I thought we could take a chance and see if we can give a little more freedom to our boys. I was so wrong.
It was decided that I would wait on the corner and all that Mr. G would have to do is go around our house and he would see me. He could then walk straight to me. He would literally be walking past one house on his own. One. Totally doable. He is nearly seven, we did not see how this could be a problem. I stood patiently waiting. He was taking his time it seemed. My partner told me on the walkie talkie that he was on his way and to say when I saw him. A minute passed, and then I spied his little yellow hooded head bobbing along as he ran at full speed in the opposite direction! I shouted after him but he did not pause for a second. WHY did we not have him take a walkie talkie? I will never know.
As Mr G. ran further and further away, I shrieked at Mr. L to come with me. I resolved to not lose two children. In characteristic fashion Mr. L took his time listening so I ran to him, grabbed his little hand, made him drop the massive stick he had found (great complaints ensued), and we started to run in the direction of Mr. G as I shouted his name.
We rounded the first corner. No sign of him. I figured he may have decided to attempt the entire block on his own so we kept running. We arrived at the second corner. Still no sign of him. At this point Mr. L asked if we could stop running because he couldn't breathe. I told him that if we stopped his brother would be lost forever (I can be dramatic too) and we soldiered on. As we were nearing home my partner drove by with a confused barefoot Mr. K in the car beside him.
We thought that Mr. G may have misinterpreted our instructions entirely and headed to the playground a few blocks away on his own. In the dark. In his pajamas and wellies. Crossing busy streets. My partner said that he would head in the direction of the park and it was decided that I should stay at the house incase Mr. G was headed home. The stress was so much that I nearly vomited -we are a dramatic family.
My partner slowly drove to the the park peering in every dark corner and shouting my son's name. He parked the car in a spot that made him uncomfortable (that's just typical life in England really) and dragged the barefoot Mr. K out of the car and up a hill in the dark to check the playground. There was no sign of Mr. G but there were muddy feet.
As I sat wondering if I should call the police, a light knock sounded at my door. I answered and found a well dressed older gentleman. He asked me if perhaps I had a daughter missing? Mr. G is very pretty and speaks in a high register so I understood the confusion. I said that yes, my son had wandered off. He looked bewildered for one second then told me that his wife was with my son and that my son was quite upset. He had refused to get in their car as they were strangers (I was proud of Mr. G for this). It turns out that this lovely couple live in our neighbourhood and are grandparents themselves so when they saw a small child wandering around by a busy street in the dark, of course they stopped to help. We still do not know where Mr. G wandered to and when prompted, he doesn't really know either. He was very lost.
I am so relieved that Mr. G remembered his address and that these real life angels found him. Within five minutes after the knock at my door, he was back home. He was crying, I thought because he was scared and relieved to see me, but then he asked if we could still go to the park and cried even more earnestly when I said no. Six year olds have priorities that are way off in my opinion. We chatted with the kind couple and thanked them profusely. My partner returned in time to thank them as well.
Our cortisol was so high that I think we are still recovering from this event. I know that Mr. G felt extra special and loved as we were all so happy and relieved to see him. Just days before this he collapsed to the floor and declared, "I don't remember what it feels like to be loved," because I had asked him to brush his teeth for the third time. So a little reassurance was probably good for my dramatic gorgeous child. His twin brother even stated that "he would not have missed him for two weeks but then he would have missed him very much and cried." Mr. K was extra jovial and probably hopes for a repeat of barefoot muddy hill running in the dark with his dad.
The next morning we baked chocolate chip cookies to take to our angel neighbours. By we, I mean I made them and the children sampled because I don't give other people children saliva cookies. Mr. G made a thank you card which stated "Dear Grandma and Grandpa from (their address), Thank you for helping me when I ran away. Love G and L my twin." He then drew some very suggestive pictures of two bald people with large lips kissing, he said that they might like it to be their Valentine's Day card as well.
The twins and I walked over to deliver the card, the cookies, and a bottle of wine. The "Grandma and Grandpa" were so pleased to see us and made certain to let us know that we didn't have to give them anything, they were happy to help. They visited with Mr. G and asked him what he was doing outside in the dark which made me remember that I am weird because I always go outside in the dark with the children.
This is not the first time that we have had neighbours help us with our boys, although I sincerely hope for the sake of my blood pressure that it is the last. Mr. K has wandered off quite a few times, although he has never gone as far. The lovely people of our cul-de-sac come ring our doorbell and let us know where he is within minutes. I have also had a stranger at the door letting me know that there is a child hanging out of a window, a child standing on top of our garden wall, idiot twins throwing rocks onto the road. I cannot watch my kids every second. A person has to use the toilet occasionally. Who knows what they are doing while I write this.
I will keep walking, even at night, even with the children because I would hope that we are learning from these experiences and because I know that heroes exist and because they all seem to live in my neighbourhood. May this Friday night be the most boring ever, this is my wish for us all.