My Dad flew down from Michigan to San Antonio this weekend to stay at my sister’s house. (it’s a long story why he was there, but just so you know it involved my sister and her husband in wet suits in the Bahamas). We decided to take advantage of this rare event and take the kids and my dad to Sea World. After David and I sold off any unnecessary organs to pay for the tickets (and oh, parking? that will be 1 kidney please. A glass of water? that will cost you an eyeball), we packed up the double-wide stroller and hit the park.
It was a glorious day in Texas. It was one of those beautiful spring days where you start off wearing a light-weight sweater and by noon you are in shorts and flip-flops. These are the days that I’m glad I live here and not in Michigan where you would start the day at “freeze your lips off cold” and end it with “my eyelids are frozen open” cold.
After a brief crisis at the beginning of the day when Lucy burst into tears because “I can’t look up mommy! The Sun is too bright” and an emergency purchase of $12 sunglasses, we fed the dolphins, saw the Clydesdale horses, caught a show and then stopped for lunch. So far everybody was holding up well and having a good time.
There is a climbing playground for smaller children in the middle of the park and I thought after lunch it might be a good time to let the kids run around. This park is similar to the play areas you would see at McDonald’s but about 50 times larger. Max and I got to the top of the rope wall and he climbed into the first mesh tube. He was doing great. He crawled all the way through the first tube and started into the second one. When a bunch of older kids came through, knocked him down and he started to cry. He got confused and couldn’t find his way out. I began shouting to him, but he could neither see me nor hear me. At this point I sent David in after him. I realize I should have been worried about my child, but honestly it was funny. David gets through the first tube and rolls out on to the ground. I start laughing and then I see it. A strange woman picks up Max and shoves him into the next tube and then she follows after him.
I stopped laughing.
I scream to David that he needs to hurry that somebody has taken Max and placed him into the next tube. David, unable to see either Max or the woman is confused. Although I can still see both of them the woman is ignoring my screams for her to stop. David is trying to move as quickly as he can but this woman is making good time pushing Max through the series of rope ladders and tubes and there is no way David can keep up with her. And all I can see is my child moving further and further away from me and nobody stopping this person. My heart stopped, I don’t even think I was breathing at this point. I felt like this was all a dream and could not possibly be real. I realize that she is getting close to the end of this maze and I run down the rope wall and run over to the exit. As I get there she is emerging with Max under her arm – he is screaming. I run up and grab him from her and she says to me “He is too young to be in this playground by himself”. I say nothing and leave.
It was only hours later that I began to think of all the things I SHOULD have said to that woman. Things like “keep your hands off my child” or “He wasn’t alone and if you had just taken a moment to look” or “My husband has been chasing you for the last fifteen minutes” or “do you always pick up random children” or “I’m going to kick your ass” or “I know kung fu and you are about to find out”. I don’t know – it just seemed like surely I should have said something.
Sometimes the things that are truly important to you become very clear, very quickly and there are no words to express that. There was nothing to say to that woman because for that moment she held my entire life in her hands and all I wanted was for her to ever so gently and quickly hand it back to me.