I think we can all remember at least one time as a child when we got lost, or separated from a parent, or felt certain that mom or dad forgot to pick us up after school. I can remember one such time like it was yesterday. We were on our family beach trip and I was maybe 6 years old. I wanted to wander around and look for seashells or something, so I started inching myself down the beach. Next thing I knew I looked up and didn’t recognize anybody. Every beach umbrella looked the same, every cottage looked the same, every person looked the same. I kept walking and started to cry. It seemed like I walked for hours — it had only been a few minutes — and a nice lady came up to me, held my hand, and told me she’d help me find my mommy. And then I heard a familiar voice calling my name from behind. I stopped and saw my dad hustling my way and I remember him saying, “thank goodness you have on that yellow shirt — it’s the only reason I spotted you!” I didn’t sleep a wink for two nights after that.
I thought about that today after I picked up my toddler, almost 2, from daycare. I arrived later than usual for a Friday evening and when I went into his room he was laying, seemingly dejected, in his teacher’s lap. Like always he ran over to me, but I could tell that he’d been crying — wet cheeks, splotchy forehead, runny nose, red eyes. He was one of 2 kids left in the classroom, and apparently as each mommy came in and picked up one of his friends he got more and more upset. His teacher said he started crying and calling out for me, and finally took refuge in her lap for some consolation.
So it made me wonder if children his age actually feel “worry”. Did he think I wasn’t coming to get him? Was he nervous? Was he simply jealous that the other kids got to leave before him? Or was there true anxiety behind his tears? Everything you read these days leads you to believe that babies and toddlers are a lot smarter and more intuitive than we give them credit for. So maybe in his little mind he was thinking, “Where is that lady?? All the other mommies and daddies showed up! Jeez I know I was sort of whiny this morning, but bad enough for her to leave me here??”
Or perhaps I’m over-thinking it. I will say that he was more possessive than normal when I got there though. The other child waiting to be picked up, a sweet little girl, walked over to where I was standing and said hi. Immediately my son gave her the stink eye, a little warning shove, and said, “No! Go ‘way!” He wasn’t taking any chances that I’d bring her home instead of him…