Things have changed. It used to be, back in the day, that the first thing Edward would run to as we entered the doors of Toys R Us would be the trains. There are always train tracks set up, and I would feel very comfortable wandering around the store doing all of his Christmas shopping and knowing that, when I was done, I would find him there, still sitting on the floor playing with Thomas and his friends, having never seen anything I had purchased. But that was so last year.
These days it’s the cars. Not the Matchbox cars or the Hot Wheels, no, I’m talking about the Power Wheels. I’m talking about anything he can sit in and drive. Normally the cars are all put up on a large shelf that he then climbs onto for some intense car-sitting-in, but every once in a while they have one out on the floor, with the battery attached. You’d better watch out if you are wandering the Toys R Us on those days.
He was at the cars a week or two ago when he noticed something else along the adjacent aisle: the bikes. Specifically he saw the Captain America bike, with the shield right on the front of it, and he knew that he had to have it. “Daddy!” he cried out to me, “Can I try it out, pleeeeeeease!” So, what did I know? I took the bike down and let him get on.
That was the last I saw of him. He’s a pretty fast bike rider for a 4-year-old. I sighed a deep sigh, knowing that I could never outrun him, and started walking slowly in the direction toward which he had just sped. I walked past the video games and the toddler toys. I walked to the baby area, and there was still no sign of him. I circumnavigated the store twice, but with no luck. He was gone.
Now, the most concerning thing about this situation is that, even though I can rarely see him, I can generally hear him from a mile away. In fact, the last thing I had heard was his evil cackling as he zipped off down the aisle, and it was a fairly loud “Mwah ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaa!” But now, there was nothing. No shrieks of glee, or of sadness. No kidnapping sounds, and honestly I was not worried about that. The media wants you to think that people are lurking around every corner to snatch your children, but it’s mostly B.S. Your children are perfectly safe, except from well-meaning people who want to ruin your life. No, he was around there somewhere, I just couldn’t see or hear him.
I really wouldn’t have been worried at all, if it weren’t for the medical history. I suddenly imagined that the reason I could not hear him was that he was having a bad episode and was unable to respond. So I raced around the store, looking up and down every aisle, making sure that he was not lying on the floor in need of my help. He was not. He was not anywhere. There was only one thing to do, as I made my way back around to the video game section again. I needed to ask one of the employees for help.
“Oh, that kid on the Captain America bike?” said the helpful teenaged person at the computer. “Yeah, he just went by here. I think I saw him ride into the baby stuff.” I thanked the guy and ran off toward the Babies R Us half of the store, but Edward was still not there. I did see another employee though.
“Oh, yeah, he just went by here a minute ago. Good luck!” reported the young woman. So I kept circling until I reached the front doors and the cashier area. They had also just seen him, so I took off again, continuing my circle until I made it back to the video game guy.
“Do you want me to stop him if he comes by here again?” he asked. I said that this was a good idea, and then I had my own epiphany. We were clearly circling the store in a loop, but on opposite sides of the circle. All I had to do was to switch directions and then I would catch him. And then send him to his room for the rest of his life.
I did an about face and rushed back to the front of the store, where another helpful employee had finally seen fit to stop his reign of terror and was asking where his parents where. I claimed him, scolded him, and made him put the bike back, which he was not happy about. “But Daddy, I want that bike!” Oh you do, huh? Well maybe you should have thought of that before disappearing and giving me a heart attack ! “And I had to go potty!”
And then it became clear. The bathrooms are located in the back corner of the store, right where toddler toys turn into Babies R Us. He had not disappeared. He had ridden the bike right into the men’s room, despite the signs forbidding unpaid merchandise that he could not read, and then spent a few minutes in there while I ran around like a crazy person. And when he came out to try and find me we ended up across from each other in a never-ending spiral of madness. So, pretty much like any other day.
I was relieved that his disappearance had not been a malicious in intent as I had feared, so I explained to him that the number one thing he did wrong was to take off in the first place without asking, or at least telling me where he was going, and that we were going right home and too bad and I don’t want to hear about it! And then, while I was away at a conference in Kansas all last week, his mother bought him the bike. So it was a happy ending.