I've obviously moved on a bit from the initial dramatic reaction because, not 7 hours later I'm re-telling it for all to read. Its one of those times in parenting when you can laugh within moments (well, OK 7 hours) because nothing bad actually did happen, despite all indications to the contrary.
I should preface the story with a word that I kinda set my self up for whats to come because I really, truly trust Jamie (obviously to a sensible, nearly 4 year old level - or maybe not that sensible, you can be the judge..) and always have. He stops reliably at roads, waits for help, and is genuinely careful and aware.
That and the saga of the peeing. It always comes back to the peeing.
This is my confession...
By the time we had arrived at our local big grocery store this afternoon, J was in full whine mode about getting a comic, which for some honest to god valid reasons was just not going to happen. We were only stopping in for broccoli and club soda, so I suggested to Jamie that he might stay in the car with his book. Fine.
It had all the elements of a sensible, responsible mummy plan. I took Noah, left J in seat belt entertained, opened the windows a crack and locked the doors. (remember here this is small town southern England, not inner, or even outer city anywhere.)
I was 10 minutes getting the food, and on my way to pay when I spot a small, blond, stripey shirted boy heading down an isle away from me. I seriously took 5 full seconds for brain to catch up with eyes, and another 5 for me to restrain impulse for measured reaction.
The story that emerged from the hug is simple. Jamie needed to pee, it came too soon and he wanted to tell me. He undid his seat belt, unlocked the car door from the drivers side (take that child locks. ha.) and walked across the parking lot (thank goodness there weren't any actual roads..) and into the store to find me.
Jamie, you walked in the parking lot by you self?????? I was very careful Mummy. I stayed on the side away from the cars.
No one saw, or at least thought it strange enough to stop him (I think I'm glad for this, but that may be only because I saw him so quickly.)
The many possibilities for the unthinkable are not lost on me.
But here's the thing. I am actually a little, teeny bit proud. He thought it all through and took all the precautions he knew how to. So many little things conspired to make the outcome of this story good, but some of them came from my smart, sensible boy, and I'm impressed.
Of course he knows none of this, other that I was pleased he was sensible in the way he navigated the parking lot. What he knows is:
A) NEVER unlock the doors or get out of the car alone.
I see that I'm being simplistic here - as I write I can see hundreds of situations where this is in fact bad advice, but, well, I can't go there yet, and he's only 3. Its a fine line that all parents navigate every day between teaching caution and exposing a child to bad hypotheticals in the world that he can't understand.
B) If you are in a store and you can't find your grown-up, find a lady who works there, and say 'My name is Jamie Settle, and I've lost my Mummy'.
We do this drill style all the way home...
'My name is Jamie Ivan Thettle, I'm 3 and a half and I've lotht my Mummy' The details seem important.
This, it turns out is my most lingering fear of the day. What if I hadn't seen him, and he had been left wandering in that big store? what would I have felt if I had found the car empty? Would he have tried to go back to the car alone? Would he have been afraid? What if no one had found him. The other possibility, involving someone 'finding' him is too huge, and I can't give it space in my mind.
Jamie, in the meantime, is nonchalant about the whole thing. As he sees it he did a completely rational, sensible thing. No biggy. I try and instill that it was a bit of a big deal, not safe, and that it can't happen again. I can see the future teenager roll his eyes.
It seems to me that a lot of parenting is, in fact just a series of barely missed, sidestepped disasters. The Children are resilient through these trials, but we're old. I'm surprised we make it past their 5th birthday!
Lets try not to loose each other shall we?