Dear Target Baby Chaser,

I’m sorry. I really am.

I saw you, four kids in tow, the youngest one squirming in the front of your cart, and I saw your ease, your comfort, you confidence.

Not that you have it all together, not that you’re the best, better than all; but ease with your children. I saw comfort, gentleness, unity, in your relationships with the four there, tagging alongside your cart.

We crossed paths, there in the back of Target. You moving towards food stuffs, us winding our way to the toy section, but five minutes later, there you were again in the toy section.

Kids will do that to you.

As I stepped between the Lego Friends aisle and the Elsa/Frozen aisle, heeding alternating calls of Natalie, come here! and Natalie! Look at this! I saw your baby again.

Chubby feet bare, miniature shoes no doubt kicked off in the bottom of your cart, he was squatting in front of an endcap display, toddler-fat fingers running inquisitively over the toys there.

I didn’t see you, but I heard your voice, recognized the faces of your other children, and I trusted you.

You know your children after all.

I heard your voice again, some five minutes later. This time calling, repeating a name, a nickname.

Chasing the baby.

And standing right there in the Lego Friends aisle, while two little girls exclaimed to me in excitement about the latest Lego set they wanted, your baby boy came running towards us.

Bare feet smacking on the cold linoleum, hands outstretched in the funny way of a baby still learning to balance his movement, his momentum.

He ran, moved, escaped.

And I let that baby boy run right by.

Of course, you caught him soon after. You came stepping down the aisle, quickly, calmly. Calling after, following, your youngest son. Little ones can’t go that far, and it wasn’t long before he was in your arms.

I stood there, frozen, as you passed. I pointed in the direction he had gone, as if you didn’t know. And you moved, and you found him, and you squeezed that baby boy, moved your cart right on down the aisle.

The problem is, friend, that I’ve been in your shoes, in your place, before.

Just weeks ago, a miniature charge slipped out of her Sunday School class in the moments after I arrived to collect her. Her own feet bare, black church shoes sitting next to me on the classroom carpet, she was up the stairs before I caught her, pulled her thrashing body against my chest.

At the bottom of the stairs, the security volunteer, his earpiece balanced precariously, watched me huff and puff the child back to collect her shoes, her jacket, her craft.

He’d almost stopped her, there at the bottom of the steps; almost grabbed her little hand, kept her safe, nearby, until I could leap to me feet, until I could catch up with her.

But he hadn’t and I shook my head in frustration; it’s okay to stop an escapee, no matter if she’s a little one, I said as I passed, panting from the brief chase and the weight of her in my arms.

Yes, I’ve been in your shoes; I’ve taken those hurried steps past inert strangers, in pursuit of a child who’s outstepped me just this once- and probably will again.

I’ve been there, too, and I’m sorry for not helping, not stepping in, not delaying the escape of your little one.

But chasing him and catching him, following him and tucking him safely into the cart once more, you were calm and you were kind and you were gentle, and for that, I thank you .

~Natalia

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