Sam got lost today. I mean, she was really lost for the first time ever. It was kind of a good experience.
We were at Macy's where I was shopping for new maternity clothes (yes, I'm growing out of most of my current ones already). We were both exhausted - my feet were killing me and I just wanted to be done as soon as possible. After picking out a few items, I told her it was time to go to the fitting room. She said, no, she wanted to lay down on the floor and rest. The maternity section was actually housed in a glass room within the store (the place they used to keep the fur coats), and it was deserted but for one saleslady. The fitting rooms were just outside this room. So, in keeping with our constant efforts at free-range parenting (it really takes effort to let go), I decided to let her stay. She was half asleep under a rack of clothing when I left.
We did this at IKEA recently - we left her lying on a bed while we went around the corner to pick out handles for our cabinets. We just told her to stay put and, that if any adults asked, to tell them that she was fine and mommy and daddy know where she is and will be right back. She also knows my phone number and how to "find a mommy" if she needs help. IKEA worked out fine.
But this time, after about, oh, seven minutes (quite a long time, really), I returned to find her gone. The cool part was, I didn't freak out at all. The saleslady thought Sam had gone with me and gasped when she found out otherwise. I just calmly brought my clothes to the register and told her to hold them for me. Then I did a methodical walk around the surrounding area, calling Sam's name as loudly as I dared. I was sure I'd find her quickly (one reason I feel okay leaving her alone is that she is not the type to bolt), but when I didn't, I realized that this might be a problem.
The problem wasn't that I was worried about her having been abducted or hurt or anything. I was really just worried that I was going to have to walk around for a while on my aching feet. Seriously, that was my main concern. Like, "oh shit, this might mean I have to stand up for another half hour." And when I noticed that the escalator was nearby I did have a moment of panic, because that would have doubled my search area.
Anyway, I was just about at the end of what I thought was a reasonable perimeter and was facing the necessity of deciding what to do next when I heard the Macy's Muzak stop. I knew exactly what would happen. A voice came over the speakers:
"Attention Macy's customers. Will Amy Mossoff please report to the customer service desk behind ladies lingerie on the lower level. Amy Mossoff, please come to customer service on the lower level."
Whew! What a relief. I had just covered lingerie and it wasn't too far of a walk!
Of course, what had happened was that some good citizen had seen a child without an adult and had immediately taken her to the authorities. If she hadn't done that, I probably would have found Sam in less than a minute (she's not much of a wanderer, and I know her habits - she probably would have been right there in lingerie, pinching the push-up bras). But I can't really blame people for trying to help this way. You just don't see four-year-olds wandering around alone in the mall very often.
Anyway, it was a good, safe situation for Sam to be lost in. I was hoping she might learn a lesson from it, but she wasn't really scared and I don't think it had much impact. Since I wasn't truly worried, I didn't fake it and make a big deal of it to her. But I did tell her that she's going to have to come to the fitting rooms with me until she's just a bit older.