Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Runaways and the Police

Sunday afternoon we went for a lovely family walk. And by walk I mean, Ben and I lugged the kids down a 1.5 mile trail along the river (3 miles round trip). We took a break to play by the riverbank, but for the most part our kids didn't have to exert themselves. Ben hauled one in the backpack and I pushed the other in the stroller.

The trail had us cross the drawbridge, and on the way back we even got an up close view of the street rising vertically into the air. We all thought that was pretty cool. We also went out onto a pier, and Reid was fascinated by all the fishermen.

As we approached the last quarter mile of our hike, Nell begged to get out and walk. Reid was content to keep riding, but I demanded he get some exercise. Which he interpreted as running. Once their feet hit the ground he and Nell both took of in a dead sprint. Nell quickly had two big falls and ended up in my arms after just a short distance. Reid on the other hand, he was out of sight in no time. We rounded the first turn and I was immediately impressed by how fast he must have been running. He'd already made it passed the second curve and was therefore invisible to the eye. Ben started hollering for him, in hopes that he'd hault his sprint and wait for us before he went out into the main road where we'd parked our car. I hollered a few times too. We also warned a passing biker not to run him over around that second turn.

Then we made the second turn, and my little Reid was no where to be found. I asked Ben to run to the car (which was just barely out of sight) and find him, but he insisted Reid would just be waiting by the minivan. Not satisfied with that response, I handed Nell to Ben and ran to the van myself. When I made it to the street I saw one proud, proud little boy.

"Mommy! I win a point!" I have no idea how long he'd been waiting for us, but it was long enough he knew he'd won the race. I couldn't even get mad at him for running so far ahead, he was just so proud of his victory.

Then I noticed his shirt, tucked into his shorts. "Did you go potty too?"

"Yeah, I had to pee so I just went while I waited for you guys to get here."


I quickly looked around a spotted several passing cars and a couple of pedestrians. That must have been quite the view -- a naked little butt (or penis, depending on which way he stood) right next to a minivan with no parents in sight. What a cute little runaway I had on my hands.

A runaway super proud of his independence. I really didn't know whether to get mad at him for running so far ahead of us, or compliment him for knowing what to do when he got to the end of the trail (well, not the peeing in public part, but the waiting patiently by the van part). I decided not to make a big deal either way, and he kept up his proud "I won a point" line when Ben and Nell finally arrived.

Juxtapose that with an experience we had last Wednesday, up near our Turtle Tot class. We were just about to turn off the highway and enter the freeway when I noticed a parent-less little girl running down the sidewalk between a bank and a Wendy's. She didn't look much older than Nell. Still in disbelief, I quickly turned into the Wendy's but lost her on my way around the parking lot. I finally caught up to her in the bank drive thru. When I asked where her mommy was it was clear she didn't speak much English. Another mom had pulled up behind me and thanked me for stopping as well. We took a moment to talk about how crazy it was that she was running just a few feet from a fairly busy divided highway, and then we came up with a game plan. The other mom would take her over to Wendy's and see if her family was there, and I'd drive through the trailer park behind the two establishments and see if someone was searching for an escapee.

Calling the cops was not our first reaction. We both figured there was a frantic mother somewhere nearby, and we'd be the moms who eased her worst fears.

I asked a woman taking groceries from her car if she knew of anyone looking for a child, she didn't. Soon I found a trailer with the door open and some little girl bikes right outside. I pulled over and went inside, certain this was where the child had escaped. Inside I found a delightful family doing house chores. The father clearly had all his children in sight but offered to come to the Wendy's with me and try to identify the girl.

He didn't recognize her, but he did speak a bit of Spanish with her. Unfortunately she was just too young to identify herself or what had happened just before the other mom and I had found her. The other mom pointed out how full her diaper was and asked if I had one on hand. I gladly took the girl to the bathroom to change her diaper while other mom called the police. We were both so heartbroken that the worried mother was nowhere to be found.

The reality of child neglect started to sink in. I tried not to think about the custody battle or the foster home disaster that could potentially arise from the situation, but it was clear no one was looking for this child. Just to be sure, I drove through the trailer park one more time and asked some teenagers if they were looking for a sibling. Then I drove through the neighborhood behind the Wendy's and freaked a poor mother and father out. The mom ran inside to make sure all her daughters were accounted for. She was eager to help once she knew her kids were safe, but at that point I knew the police were on their way.

And Reid really wanted to see the Police show up and help the little girl. So we headed back to Wendy's and killed some time with a drive thru order of fries (which, by the way, Wendy's has totally revamped their menu -- at least since 2001, the last time I went there -- and the fries were great!). Just as we came out the drive thru we saw a Police car arrive. We watched as the little girl excitedly climbed in the back seat. The officer was kind and loving towards her. It eased my poor heart a little. The other mom shared our story and we quickly all went on our way.

On the drive home Reid and I had a great talk about staying safe and who you can talk to when/if you get lost. I felt a little guilty telling him to talk to another mommy, since that makes it sound like I don't trust any daddys. But I just don't think Reid is able to differentiate between daddys and childless men. And truth be told, I don't trust all childless men, at least not as much as I do childless women (although, the only trailer park people I didn't stop and talk to were two scary looking white women, seriously their expression as I pulled up beside them said one of two things "we just finished up some meth" or "we're going to kill you if you try to talk to us" -- maybe it was both).

I did try to stress "find a mom with a kid about your size," and we talked about how both the women who pulled over to help the little girl had a little boy Reid's age. I pray he never needs to use that advice, but I also trust that this real life experience was the best teaching moment either of us could have had.

Mostly I pray that little girl found a safe, happy home to stay at for the night. 


Anonymous said...

Loved the story about Reid finishing the race first!!!
Saddened by the second story. I hope the little girl will be okay. Strange world we live in...

Claudia said...

My, my what exciting adventures you Szilagyi's have! Wish I would have been one of the drive by drivers to see that cute little boy doing his thing!! Just wonder what ever happened to the little girl.

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