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My Happy Wandering Child

I am a cautious person by nature. David Scott is not. He is all-boy and always has been. If he is fearful, I’ve never seen it—except for his absolute fascination/terror of arachnids: spiders.

He used to say to me when he was little, “I am my own person, Mom.” He meant that, too. He cannot be talked into anything. If it’s not his idea, he’s not interested. And if his mind is set on something, he is committed to that idea unto death, or until the next good idea comes along.

When he was just four years old, I took him, Danielle, and Dean to the Metro Center Mall in Phoenix (AKA “hell”—little “h” because it doesn’t deserve a capital h), Arizona. Before we went, we’d stopped at their Granma’s house, where she gave back some play clothes from a former visit, which she had washed for me. (Remember this part.)

Once we got to the mall, we walked all over it. There are probably 1200 stores there. I’m not kidding. Well, exaggerating a little. More like 120 stores. Honestly, we used to go there a lot because when you live in hell, you are always looking for a cool place—not “cool” as in a P-diddy/J-Lo kinda cool, but as in a “North Pole” kinda cool. So we went a LOT. I grew to know the names of my favorite clerks in Dillards, JCPenneys, Mervyns, and McDonald’s, because I could never get out of that mall without having to buy three chicken-nugget kids’ meals with a Sprite.

Anywho, on this day we were nearing the end of our visit, and I just needed to go into a Photo Shop to pick up some photos.

I had quite a contraption to get around with three kids under the age of four. It was a stroller with a “handholder” strung through it. A “handholder” was comprised of two velcro strips on either end of a long, red curly cord. Made so that one end was for an adult hand and the other for a child’s. Only for my purposes, I strung it through the handle of Dean’s stroller with David Scott and Danielle attached on either side. It worked well, and only embarrassing when both end kids would stretch across entire aisles in the mall, blocking all traffic, which gave cause for total strangers to roll their eyes at me, and little huffs of impatience behind me. But I only have two hands and three kids—do the math.

Okay, back to the photo shop. It was right smack next to a pet shop. David Scott asked if he could just go look in the window while I picked up the photos. I didn’t normally let him loose, but thinking it was a harmless request, knowing I could see the kids from the register in the store, I said, “Sure”.

I let him loose, got my photos within three minutes, and upon returning, could not find him. Not at the window, not inside the pet store ... not anywhere in sight. At first, I am perturbed—“Darn kid, we need to go!” Then the minutes ticked by, and my heart turned frantic. I called Mall Security. More minutes went by—still no David Scott. Three and a half-feet tall, bright blonde curly hair, big green eyes, wearing a red and blue baseball shirt, red shorts. Nowhere. I called his Dad at the office. “I’ve lost David Scott at the mall. It’s been fifteen minutes. Yes, Security is helping. Yes, Police are on the way. Yes, I gave them a picture of him and description.”

I was sucking a lot of emotion inside, trying to keep calm.

“Hey MOM!” I hear from the second story level. I look up. It’s David Scott! But wait, he’s not wearing the same clothing I just saw him in! He’s all happy, I direct him to take the escalator DOWN, and by this time tears are falling as he reaches my arms. I am full-on bawling in the mall.

What did he do?? He did what all four-year-olds do—he went out to the car in the parking lot, and because the car doors weren’t all locked, crawled inside, CHANGED his clothes (mint green tank and plaid green shorts), and came back in!

Why? Why did you do that to me, David Scott? I didn’t even know he could have found his way to the car. He was a lot smarter than I ever imagined!

After that, he set me up for more and more hide-n-go-seek adventures, to the point where when I would take him ANYWHERE, I would say, before getting out of the car: “David Scott, I am your ride home. Do not wander off; I will not look for you this time.” I am not kidding.

Every time we went somewhere, we would spend twenty minutes looking for him when it was time to go. Ugh! When he got to be around nine, I stopped looking. I left him at church numerous times. We’d go home, have lunch or dinner, then he’d inevitably call home, and I’d tell him that when we were good and ready, we’d come back for him. Same thing happened at Target, Walmart, the mall, etc.

When he was twelve, we went with some good friends to Disneyland. At the gate, I told him, “Do not wander off—stay with us.” Uh-huh. We were there about thirty minutes when we looked around to see that he and the friend’s son were gone. At first my friend, Dee, was worried about her son. She even looked around for him. I did not. When she asked me why not, I said, “Just watch. When he gets hungry, he will come and find me.”

Three hours later, we were standing in line for the Matterhorn Bobsleds, when I feel a hand on my shoulder followed by a “Mom, I am soooo hungry!”

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