It's a common enough issue for many a parent. One moment they're there, the next moment they're gone, without so much as a puff of smoke. It is familiar territory for many a parent. It wouldn't be so bad if there was some kind of warning or preamble:- “Hey mom! I'm just going to trot up to the top of that mountain o'er yonder to investigate the sparkly thing on the top. Catcha in 5!” Then they'd be the chance to intervene, deflect or distract. Perhaps they already know the IDD tactic that we parents employ? Whatever the case, the truth of the matter is that an AWOL child produces an instantly insane parent. It's a given.
Exceptionally good parents, such as myself, know that the only solution is constant supervision, never let your guard down, never assume anything. This is the relationship that me and my bolter have enjoyed ever since his legs started working in a vertical propulsion kind of way rather than a horizontal kind of kicking the air kind of way. I've had seven years to perfect the art of padlocking the bolter.
But of course there's always jet lag.
We slumber, all of us in our second floor flat in the holiday let at the seaside in the pitch black of the silent hours. Their father is with his mother, on the other side of town. The click of the unfamiliar latch is the only clue as the door closes with a sigh. I stagger out into the hall. For some reason my brain clings to the false clue, the empty unworn shoes on the mat. I force my mind to the land of reason, where no-one around here ever wears shoes voluntarily. I hover, can I leave two children asleep and unsupervised? I grab the keys and lunge out the door, down the stairs to the front entrance with the even bigger lock that closes automatically as a safety device. I whip outside to the forecourt and parked cars and the empty road. There is no sign of him in any direction. I hop from one foot to the other, which way to go? How far could he get in five seconds, or is it ten seconds or maybe several life times? Horror stories, headlines and urban myths percolate through my last functioning brain cell.
Cell phone! Who should I phone?
I cross the road to check in both directions down the dip.
Nothing. I dash back strangely breathless with the deafening thud of my heart beat. Blood rushes through my ear drums. No! Waves! The beach. The sea. The water! I rush around the building to the side entrance to punch in the secret code to the gate. This is ridiculous, he'd never remember that code, alpha numeric. Did we even tell him the code? I should be looking somewhere else. Where else? I burst through the gate, over the concrete, up the steps to a vista of silver starry beach. My son lies face down drained of colour in the moonlight, slowly making sand angels with his arms and legs. I plop down next to him. I wait before I squeak. I put a hand on the small of his back and take a deep breath. This isn't my bolter but his older brother. He rolls over lazily, “hi mom,” he beams. We return to the slumberers as we watch the moons together, the one in the sky and the one reflected on the water.
The sixth time he bolted in the same hour I had a sense of humour failure and decided to sit on him!
Well…..more like drag him into my bed and admit defeat. I’m sure I’m not the only one who adopts the parental padlock pretzel position?