Recently, on a walk in the woods, L got mad at me and ran away. She took off down a trail. I waited about 3 minutes before doing anything, figuring she'd get just out of sight, realize how far she'd gone, and come back.
Slightly freaked, I set off down the trail and finally caught up with her. There were a few moments of real panic there, when I got to a fork in the trail and realized I couldn't see her. At all. When I found her, she was on the trail, but she had run past two other trails and frankly, I think I just got lucky when I took the same trail she did.
For reasons I'm still trying to sort out, I was fairly sputtering with rage by the time I caught up to her. Underneath the anger is fear, of course. But my mind is churning, and my heart is churning.
I like to think that I'm pretty easygoing when it comes to safety concerns outside. I've written about risk here and here. I've given it a great deal of thought.
And really, I'm surprised at how strong my reaction to this was. Of course, running away is a pretty big no-no. And the possibility (remote though it is) was there that she could have gotten lost, or hurt and I wouldn't have been able to find her.
But how much risk was there, really, in running off? Chances are, I would have been able to find her. Chances are, she wouldn't have gotten hurt. Then again, she's only 4. Things happen.
But here's the thing: After days of thinking about this, I don't think my problem here is that she ran away outside. It's not that fact that is pushing my buttons. I am just not OK with either of my kids just getting mad and running away. Not in a grocery store, and not in a crowded public place, and no, not even the woods.
What it comes down to is this: the fact that I got scared has little to do with the fact that we were "out in nature" when it happened. It has everything to do with the fact that she took off, far out of sight, and for a few terrifying moments, I couldn't find my daughter.