Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Healthy Heart But a Major Scare

Well, I confirmed this week that all those doctors who said my heart was healthy and my chest pain is all joint/connective tissue pain must be right.

Because if they were wrong, I certainly would have had a major heart attack the other night.

We went to Costco, the first time I've been there in at least a couple months. Did our usual -- had dinner, then shopped 'til I dropped. Actually, I use the electronic scooters they very kindly make available to customers who need them. But still, Costco shopping is an exhausting experience for me.

The scooter is actually an issue because Ellie, my almost-4-year-old is fascinated by it and wants to ride on it with me. That wouldn't be a problem except she inevitably tries to fight me on who gets to steer and/or hold the lever that makes the scooter move.

Ultimately, I end up having to tell Scott that it's too much for me, I don't have the strength to fight Ellie for control of the scooter, and he scoops her up and puts her screaming into the seat on his conventional shopping cart.

But it didn't start out that way. One of the first things I noticed when we got to Costco were adorable fleece coats for little girls. I had to ask Scott for help digging through the piles for the right size (and of course the first and possible only size 6x was in the farthest stack back on the table and discovered only after we'd gone through five other piles of mixed sizes) and after we had it and confirmed that yes, Ellie really did love the coat as much as I did, we put it in the basket.

"Pick me, Mommy! Next time, pick me, Mommy," Ellie said.

"Pick you for what?" I asked.

"To get something! To help," she replied.

So I promised she could be my helper while we shopped. And she did great for awhile. I sent Scott off in one direction to get muffins, while Ellie and I picked out the best pack of kitchen towels and then searched for some socks in her size. She was great -- she walked next to my scooter, holding on to the basket, and we chatted as we headed to catch up with Scott where we said we'd meet.

It was a little later that we had our usual battle for control of the scooter, even though when I gave her permission to ride on it with me, she promised that she wouldn't try to drive it.

Scott and I had again split up to look for different stuff and by the time I found him again, he'd already made it through the check out. I'd gotten sidetracked by the clearance pile of Disney Princess summer outfits (Only $7, down from the $13 or $16 I paid at the start of the summer -- who could resist stocking up for next summer?), and needed to go through the line myself to pay for the stuff I'd picked out.

Ellie decided she wanted to be with me, and so we sent Scott to get the car and bring it to the front door after unloading his cart. Meanwhile, Ellie helped me put four outfits on the conveyor belt thingie after admiring each one. But it was Costco, so there was a line and we had to wait our turn. And almost-4-year-olds are not good at waiting.

Suddenly Ellie decided she was going to go find Daddy. I told her repeatedly that he was out in the parking lot and she needed to wait with me and then we would go find him together. That wasn't good enough, and suddenly she pulled away from me and started pushing her way through the line at our checkstand and heading for the front door.

At that point, I think I swore, and kind of froze, half standing up as I called after her telling her to "come back! Daddy is in the parking lot and it's not safe!"

I didn't know what to do. I know from experience that the scooters don't move fast enough to catch up with a racing and determined Ellie. I also knew that physically I didn't have it in me at the end of a long day to run after her fast enough to actually catch her.

As I was panicking, a very nice youngish guy behind me in line, who was there with his wife and a daughter who looked about a year younger than Ellie, asked if I'd like him to catch up with her. "Oh G-d, yes! Thank you!"

And off he ran.

Ellie was out of my sight when he caught up with her, but I could just barely see him. He tried talking to her to coax her to return to me, but that clearly wasn't working. "He'll know to just pick her up and bring her back, won't he?" I plaintively asked his wife. She assured me he would, just before he bent down to pick her up and began striding back to us.

I should have just abandoned my purchases where they were waiting to be rung up. Instead, I held onto Ellie tightly as she squirmed and wriggled and screamed to be let loose to go find Daddy.

My heart was racing and I physically shook as I imagined all the things that could have happened to her -- from getting knocked over by someone's cart in the store as she dashed in front of them without looking to being snatched by a pervert to being hit by a car as she ran into the parking lot.

When we finally got into the car, Scott and I were both telling her she can't just run off like that, that it is dangerous and it scared Mommy badly.

"I wasn't scared," she insisted.

"That's because you don't know enough of what could have happened or you would be scared too," I said. "It was very, very dangerous!"

"What could happen?" she asked.

And I explained, listing the various things that could have happened to her (and having to explain what a stranger is -- how did she get to be almost 4 and not know what a stranger is?).

Still unhappy at having been captured before she got out of the store, she muttered to herself several times, "I wasn't scared. It wasn't dangerous. I wasn't scared."


And of course Scott and I agreed that obviously if we split up again in a store, Ellie must stay with him because she clearly hasn't outgrown her habit of taking off running in public places. It was dangerous enough when I was perfectly healthy and could chase after her, but now ... I shudder to think what could have happened if it weren't for a very kind man with a family of his own.

And it still kind of bugs me that even though I was shouting at Ellie to stop and come back from a scooter, not a single Costco employee tried to stop her or even offered to help. That's disappointing from a store that usually has extremely helpful and friendly employees, although I do understand not wanting to touch someone else's child for liability reasons.

But still -- clearly I had a disability of some type or I wouldn't have been in a scooter, but none of them even seemed to notice that I was shouting at a child to stop running and come back. I don't know.

I don't mean to suggest that it was the store's duty to help me parent my out-of-control child, but I wonder if she had made it to the door, would the person there checking receipts have let a preschooler run out into the dark and the parking lot without an adult? Would someone have noticed and stopped her?

And it did worry me a little bit that Ellie allowed this strange man to pick her up and was actually smiling at him and chatting away as he brought her back to me. I'm sure he told her that her mommy sent him, but still! We tried to have the stranger danger talk last year but she wasn't ready for it and didn't understand. I think it's time to really do it, even if her lack of fear of strangers was to my benefit during this incident.

1 comment:

Sherril said...

I used to volunteer with CASA, for abused and neglected kids in our court system. You might find this helpful, this site is the best I've seen for helping kids stay safe without scaring them:

There's a trailer for the Stranger Safety DVD; the Safe Side Superchick is very funny. She's an advocate for child safety in her own right, a victim of child sexual abuse herself.