I suppose I should commend Oscar for his sense of adventure. And I suppose the fact that he’s determined and independent is a good thing, right? I listen to other parents talk about their children and how they never stray too far from their sides and I wonder why I ended up with three kids, that invariably head off in completely different directions. And although all three of my kids love to explore, there are two of them that get a certain distance away, panic they’re too far away from their mummy and scrurry back but a certain someone else, couldn’t care less how far they wander. In fact they’re far too busy having a lovely time, keeping me on my toes… and yes, you’ve guessed it, that certain someone, would be Oscar.
I’m not sure about you but even without three kids in tow, going through security at the airport makes me a little nervous. The mere fact you have to remember to take out your mobile phone, iPad, perhaps take your coat off and then time it so you walk through at the exact same time your belongings get to the end of the belt, for fear that someone in the line before you might pick up your bits… Well, it stresses me out. Combine that with taking all your own stuff, plus your three kids, all their stuff, your husband AND all his stuff… In those situations, you’re basically screwed.
So picture the scene. You’re about to go through security at geneva airport. Flo is in her baby carrier attached to me, both boys are strapped in side by side in the double buggy. You’ve put everything on the conveyor belt (did I mention they had to check the bottles of milk and baby food I was carrying for Flo too?) and watch it slowly start to be screened. Only at this point, security ask you to take your baby out of the baby carrier AND get the boys out of the buggy, collapse it as it’s too wide for the screening machine and then all walk through the scanner. You can imagine my face at this point. Right.
The boys, clearly thrilled at the prospect of getting out of the buggy, jump out and run through without a care in the world. Chris follows only for the machine to beep. (Of course it does. It beeps EVERY time we go through airport security because EVERY time it’s his flippin’ belt) By this point I can see Oscar and Alfie in the distance, running a muck and about to enter duty free.
Now, I mean this with the greatest of respect but Chris has always been a bit rubbish at doing more than one thing at a time or with any kind of urgency. While he was busy collecting his iPad, phone, keys, bag, BELT etc, having whizzed through the screening, I was basically dragging the kids back to where we were standing.
Flo, now out of her carrier, was equally delighted and having sat her on the floor was herself, about to make a break for it. Thankfully I could wedge her between my feet (where the frig else do you put a baby in those situations????).
“Stand there.” I say to the boys. They laugh excitedly and start to run away again. Obviously, my authoritative parenting voice appearing to work brilliantly in this instance. I drag them back.
“STAND THERE.” I’m a little firmer this time. They do. Right, now to grab all our stuff. I turn round to check they’re still there, Alfie’s stood quietly watching Chris and I, but Oscar’s gone. Panic.
“Where’s Oscar?”. Alfie looks at me like most two and three quarter year olds would, with a look of, am I bothered spread across his face
“Where’s Oscar?” I shout, perhaps a little too frantically/dramatically/like I’m auditioning to be the next Liam Neeson in the next “Taken” movie,
“I don’t know,” Chris shouts back, probably not as loudly as I had done but at this point we’re most definitely causing a scene (because we weren’t before with our out of control kids/conveyor belt debacle).
I run out of security, over to the duty free shop, look right, look left. Nothing. He’s not there. All I see are hundreds of people milling around, without a care in the world but no little dude in a green tshirt and red shorts.
I run back to security, the panic rising
“He’s here,” shout the men and women behind the security desk/screen. All chuckling to themselves, that they have a new friend. In the few seconds I’d turned my back, Oscar had obviously crawled under the security desk and was wandering around their little area, smiling, waving and saying “hiya”. They all thought it was hilarious. Chris even took a photo… but my heart was pounding.
You see the thing is, amongst the DS community, Oscar is what’s known as a “runner”. In talking to other parents of children with DS it’s not uncommon and contrary to popular belief he’s not just running for the sake of running… I truly believe his escapes are calculated. I fully believe in his head, he knows exactly where he wants to go. If a door opens, he out of there, quicker than a flash. We were sat in my mum and dad’s garden the other day and someone opened the gate. Quicker than the speed of light, Oscar was across the garden, squeezing his way under the arm of the person opening the gate, shielding himself behind someone else, hoping he’d go unnoticed. Dad says he must feel a draft, as as soon as a door opens, he seizes every opportunity to make a break for it.
So knowing what we know about Oscar, Chris and I have worked out, that when we’re out and about with him, we have to be on our guard. We were attending a party just a few weeks ago and a whole bunch of our friends were there. We knew that we’d probably end up chatting but said to one another that one of us would be on “Oscar watch” at any one time. This might sound a little dramatic and perhaps at times I go a bit over the top but knowing his ability to escape and the fact that he has a tendency to be a little over familiar sometimes (a polite way of saying he’s been known to bite from time to time) we always like to keep one eye on him.
When we go anywhere new or somewhere we haven’t been for a while, I always do a check of exits/escape routes. That might sound crazy but I honestly do. So on this particular day, discreetly, I had a look round the garden, checking there were no holes in fences or bushes, that gates weren’t open, that he couldn’t get through the garage and then I did the same with the front door. On this particular day I felt assured that there was no way he could make a break. So a few hours in to the party, and while I was on “Oscar watch” my attention was turned away from him for a minute or so while I got Alfie a drink… and then, just like that, he was gone. He’d been playing in the living room, happy as lorry but then the next thing I knew he wasn’t there. I wasn’t too worried at this stage. I suspected he had gone out into the back garden to find Chris. I walked into the garden, had a look round, scanning the crowd but he wasn’t there. Again not to phased, I decided he’d probably followed some of the older kids upstairs as he’d watched them previously and I could tell he’d wanted to go with them. So off I went, scanning the area as I went, up the stairs, opening all the bedroom and bathroom doors, calling his name… But he was gone. Panic began to set in at this point. If he wasn’t downstairs, he wasn’t in garden and now he wasn’t upstairs, where was he? He’s made it out the front I thought, but the door was shut, it was heavy and I surely would have heard it if he’d gone out? I ran down the stairs, out the front door, looked up the street but he wasn’t there either. He MUST be in the back garden I thought, I MUST have missed him. Maybe he was hiding in the garage, as he’d gone in there to have a look round earlier. I ran back inside, through the house, out into the back garden. At this point a couple of people had noticed the panic in my face and started searching too but he wasn’t there. I shouted to Chris that I couldn’t find him, whose gut reaction was to run out the front of the house, while I checked upstairs again. Maybe he was in a cupboard or under the bed? Realising that he definitely wasn’t at the party and must be out the front I raced outside too, heart in my mouth, hot, panicked, willing us it find him… only to see Oscar being passed to Chris by a gentleman and his wife who’d been walking their dog. They said he must have walked out of the cul de sac, crossed a main road as they found him walking on the OTHER SIDE of the main road, “talking” on his walkie talkie. They didn’t know which house he was from but saw the balloons outside our friend’s house and assumed he must belong there. I burst into tears. Relieved, grateful but mostly because I was cross with myself that I’d let this happen. The man who found him told us he was a police officer himself and a detective inspector…
And I cried a little more, not only because I was so grateful he’d been found before he got hurt or taken but mostly because I was so so mortified I’d let him down, when I was supposed to have been watching him.
Oscar was absolutely fine. Completely and utterly unphased. I, on the other hand, was a mess. You play out all the different scenarios in your head, thinking about what could have happened. The what ifs dont even bare thinking about.
But it was the shock I needed. The shock I needed to tell me that I was right to be vigilant and to always check new spaces for him to escape. It turns out I hadnt checked the utility door. A door I assumed opened out into the garden but actually opened out onto the driveway and accessed the street. It was completely my fault. I made an assumption and I was wrong to.
You see the thing is though, sometimes I think some people think I’m being over cautious about Oscar. That I’m perhaps being that over protective mum and who needs to give him the benefit of the doubt more. I think perhaps sometimes I do. I know he’s learning all the time. There was a time when the front door opened to our house, that he’d dart down the street. Now he may run, but nine times out of ten, he knows to run to the car door and wait patiently for me to open it. Or wait by the buggy ready to leave our driveway and walk alongside us.
But there are sometimes, like at the airport or at that party, that I was wrong to ask him to stand still while I collected our belongings and wrong to have turned my back on him at the party, even for a few seconds.
I’ve recently been asking myself, why he does the things and acts the way he does. And I’ve realised, that with his first day of school fast approaching, I’m so conscious of wanting Oscar just to conform.
The other day I got Alfie out the car and asked him to walk inside. I then got Flo out and at the same time Chris got Oscar out his car seat. As we all started to walk into our friend’s house I realised Chris was still carrying Oscar and I whispered to him so that others wouldn’t hear “Chris put him down, he’s 4, he should be walking”. Chris looked at me like I’d lost my mind, clearly wondering why it mattered if he was carrying him or not and as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I knew I was being a d#%k about it. Why did I care so much if he was carried in to a party? Does it really matter? I knew it wasn’t about anything, other than the fact that I didn’t want others to see him as a baby.
Likewise on Oscar’s trial session at school, I recently wrote about how well he did walking to school as I pushed Flo along in the buggy. I wasn’t sure if he was going to manage the walk to school. If the distance was going to be too much for him or it be too much of a challenge for me to manage the buggy and him, he who has little or no concept of danger and who has a tendency to run ahead or step out into the road. And even though it was successful, I realised Oscar walking to school that day was more about ME wanting him to be seen to be normal and to conform. I didn’t want him to sit in the buggy. I mean no one else’s 4 year old would need the buggy, would they? The stupid thing was, (and by stupid I mean me), as soon as I got to school and we were waiting to go in, I realised a lot of 4 and 5 year olds were in the arms of their parents. Obviously feeling apprehensive about their morning, they were having a cuddle with their mummies, while they stood and chatted to other parents. Were THEY bothered they’d had to do that? Of course not. And quite ironically again, as Oscar was walking home, me following with the buggy, I briefly got talking to another Mummy who was battling with her 4 year old because he didn’t like walking and she told me she usually takes the buggy everywhere for this very reason.
I’ve realised that my behaviour recently has been ridiculous and I just need to get over myself and stop worrying how things look to other people. Does it really matter as long as my son’s safe? He needs us at the moment. To shadow him, to watch him, to be his eyes and ears, I guess. He’s unpredictable. We can’t guarantee how he’ll behave or react in certain circumstances. We get that and are mindful of that. This is just the way it is at the moment but I’m pretty sure it won’t be like this forever. Having young children is hard work. Having young children, one with additional needs, can at times be harder than I first imagined. Not because of the DS but more because of the pressure you put on yourself as a parent, to be the best parent you can possibly be for them. For now all you can do is hope. Hope you’re doing your best. Hope they will learn what to do and what not to do. And hope, that although at times your heart pounds with panic and your nerves are shot to bits, you hope your little boy will always have the same adventurous passion for life that he shows now. Without that, life would be terribly boring, surely? ;0)