December 21, 2003 - Sunday
I suppose kids can get lost in stores all the time, but I can't image it's really ever by choice, at least not with very little children who rarely ever want to be out of eyesight of their parents. And, neither Harry nor Jeremy got lost today, but Jeremy proved he wasn't as afraid of it as I would have thought or hoped.
We were in the mall this morning doing some Christmas shopping and for an hour and a half both boys really did surprisingly well. But, as we headed back toward our car, and as it got closer to lunch time, Jeremy started to dawdle, first with his mother, then with me. As we approached the Sears (our car was parked outside that store), Jeremy started to fall behind again and I made an offhand comment about him keeping up lest he get left behind. He immediately stopped.
OK. That's a fairly straightforward, child-parent power struggle kind of reaction. But, if Harry were to have done that and I were to have kept walking, Harry almost certainly would have slowed down, whined a little, then run to catch up. I expected the last from Jeremy. I did not get it.
Jeremy had stopped cold at the entrance to the store and my walking ahead didn't seem to phase him. Another random father happened to be going by at the same time and I made a quip about a game of chicken. The father smiled, knowingly. Jeremy still did not come and the game, apparently, was on. I ducked into the clothes near the front of the door so Jeremy couldn't see me. It didn't matter. He stood stoically at the entrance to the store. I peeked out from the clothes to make sure he wasn't going anywhere, and to calm the surprised looks of the passersby who at first just saw a small child standing by himself in a mall, but I don't think Jeremy saw me. He did not come. After a minute or two, I moved a little closer through the clothes to try and see his face. Was he anxious? Worried? It seemed like he was just standing there, looking and waiting, confident that I would come back. After, I'm guessing, three minutes of this little game of chicken, Jeremy won. I went over, grabbed his arm, and walked him into and through the Sears. Of course, I pulled on his arm firmly whenever he slowed down, but that didn't happen too much. He tried to play dead legs a time or two at first, but he seemed to understand that there would be no more fooling around. And I didn't say too much. Somehow it felt like it would have come out as either 'OK, Jeremy, you won' or 'don't stand up for yourself.' Better to let the ambiguity be its own lesson.