An interesting thing happened to Carter and I the other night… While we were picking blueberries in a large orchard surrounded by some new friends and even more acquaintances, Carter took off with a group of kids. I didn’t think much of it and figured he’d be fine playing with everyone. Well, apparently he felt that some of the other kids weren’t being nice because they were kicking dirt around and they didn’t want to play hide and seek with him. He also had to go to the bathroom (#2 to be exact) but couldn’t find me to tell me as he had forgotten where I was picking blueberries. As he was scared and felt lost and alone, he went back to our car, got inside and closed the doors. I saw some of the kids that Carter had run off with but I did not see Carter so I asked if they knew where he was. They said he had gotten in what they were assuming was my car, but didn’t know why. As we approached the car Carter was screaming. He is very capable of opening the car doors from the inside, but this time for some reason, he felt he couldn’t get them open.
Even though there was a very strong and horrid odor that escape the car as I opened the door, I hugged Carter. The poor thing had run away to hide in our car because he felt none of the other kids were being nice to him and he had gone to the bathroom in his pants because he couldn’t find me to take him to the bathroom and he thought he had locked himself in the car. What a horrible experience!
I’m sure many could find fault with my parenting tactics in this scenario—heck, I’ve found a lot! I share this experience in hopes of shedding some light so you can hopefully learn from my mistakes. Carter and I had a good long talk on the way home from the blueberry orchard and we would like to share a few things we talked about.
1. Carter needs to ask if he can run off and play with friends. This might sound obvious, but it had not crossed either of our minds before this experience. Granted, we’d never been in a giant blueberry orchard with 50 other people before.
2. Set a point of reference. I’m so grateful that Carter at least knew where the car was and he knew that he could go back to it and I would come back at some point too. Getting in the car wasn’t the best idea, but we talked about that. Next time, before he runs off with friends I will ask him where he is going and what he’ll be doing. I will also talk with him about where I am and what identifiable things are around me so he can find me again.
3. If Carter feels like he’s lost he needs to yell “Mommy Manning!” as loud as he can until I answer. I talked to him about how my full name is Emily Manning and that if he’s ever lost he needs to yell “Emily Manning” until I answer, but he said, “No mom, I’ll yell ‘Mommy Manning'” and I thought it was adorable so I agreed.
4. If Carter sees other kids doing things that are not nice he can come talk to me about it. The kids Carter was playing with were not doing anything mean or bad, Carter just felt like they were because they weren’t playing hide and seek with him. This was a hard thing to explain to a 3 year old, but I tried very hard to explain that the other kids probably wanted to play a different game and that it is okay. I told him that next time Carter could ask what they were playing, if he could play, and if they could teach him how to play. He was playing with a few kids that were several years older so I think it was just a different experience for him trying to play with kids not in his age group.
5. If something goes awry and a horrible experience does ensue, we will be willing to ask forgiveness and to be forgiving. One of the first things I said to Carter after he had calmed down was that I was sorry and it was my fault that he got lost and felt alone. He immediately exclaimed, “No mommy! It was my fault and I’m so sorry I did that!” We hugged. It was precious.
Goodness, as I was driving us home from the blueberry orchard I felt like I was talking with an 8 year old Carter. He had so many valid concerns from this experience and I did my best to talk through all of them with him, but I wasn’t prepared to have a conversation like that! Welcome to parenthood I guess, right? We’re still working on the ‘no talking to strangers or getting into their van’ thing and I’m no where near ready for the ‘birds and the bees’ talk! Carter needs to stop growing up! Since I can’t make that happen, we’ll just try to make the best of where we’re at.