Ever since I saw the invitation, I've been dreading the birthday party I had to take William to today. It's at one of those Ark E. Ade places where you have to follow your child around urging him to be sensible with his limited tokens, and then watching as he finds out that all he can buy with his 100 tickets is 5 Tootsie Rolls, and that all the other prizes on display are DENIED.
When we arrived, the mom of the birthday child (I'm assuming it was the mom: she seemed to be in charge, so I introduced myself, but she didn't say who she was) said I could leave him. I said I could stay, and she said no, she had helpers, and she pointed to a group of nice- and responsible-looking teenaged girls. She really seemed to hope I would go, and a little impatient with me for hesitating---as if I were some sort of overprotective weirdo. So I asked William if that was okay with him, and he said yes, and I left.
I should be delighted: I don't have to stand around watching him waste tokens on gambling games set up to disappoint children! I don't have to try to figure out who everyone is, as I keep introducing myself and people keep saying, "Oh, hi!" in a friendly way but not volunteering their own names! I don't have to stand there as all the other mothers turn down cake with a little laugh, and then feel like they're all thinking, "That explains the size of her BUTT" as I accept a plate---when actually they're probably thinking, "Aw, dammit, I wish they'd asked her first so I could have said yes too!" I should be really glad to be home doing whatever I want while the three youngest all take naps and Paul plays Risk with Rob.
Instead I am a big mess of nerves. William is a first-grader, and I have left him in a building full of people I don't know. Worst of all, I told him to obey instructions, but I neglected to say that he should not obey anyone trying to get him to leave the building. How could I have forgotten to tell him that? It would be the most natural thing in the world for him to obey someone who said, "Okay, now we're going outside for the next part of the party!" I can see him following cheerfully! Who would be watching out for him? NO ONE!!!
In vain I remind myself that we live in a relatively crime-free area. In all the years I've lived here, there's only been one thing that even SEEMED like attempted kidnapping, and it turned out to be some drunk idiot. Nothing bad is going to happen. There were five teenagers and several adults in charge of about a dozen children. I'm going to go back to the arcade in an hour and a half, and William's going to be there, pink-cheeked and wired and full of cake, with colored frosting stains on his shirt that won't come out, holding a goody bag and covered in germs from the vile ball pit, and with no answers to my anxious questions designed to discover if we sent a present of approximately the right value. And all the way home, I am going to drill him about not leaving the building with strangers.
Follow-up: Of course he was totally fine and safe. On the way home I said tentatively, "Was it okay, not having me there with you?" and he said, "I had so much fun, I forgot all ABOUT you!"
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...