You’d think that after that traumatic incident of losing Liam for the first time some 7 months ago, I’d be more watchful of my son and even have some protocols in placed (which I’ve worked on) just in case we lose sight of each other again.
Well, I’ve been a lot more vigilant when I’m out with the boys since, often reminding Liam not to run out of sight even in his excitement (especially when it comes to lifts, trains and buses). Then once in a while, life throws me a parenting curveball to shake things up and put those reminders and lessons to test.
Today was it.
I had just found out that the bus we usually take to go home would take us to the newest shopping mall – Waterway Point – if we sat through a few more stops. And so I decided to take the little brood and helper out for a bit of bus route exploration after picking Liam up from school. He loved bus rides anyway, sometimes even complaining that the ride was too short. Plus this particular bus was his favourite: a double-decker.
“We’re going on an adventure!” I said to Liam when he asked why we weren’t pressing the bell to alight at our usual stop. “Ooh! where to mommy?” my thrilled little boy queried, as he saw LRTs whizzing by, and the bus approaching a huge train station. Hated to be a bit of a killjoy as I observed his first-confused-then-annoyed reaction when we bypassed the train station and walked towards the mall. I promised that we were just going to walk through the mall once before making our way back home (and maybe buying him a talking Gordon train if we came across one which we unfortunately didn’t, because all 3 kiddy shops including Kiddy Palace didn’t carry any Thomas merchandise). Until my helper spotted platform sandals at a steal which I happily obliged her to try and buy while I watched the kids…and the damn sale at Cotton On Kids. Argh.
I had a class to attend this evening and so I was on a rather strict time check. Was intending to either bus or cab home when Liam asked if we could at least take the train back home to lessen the disappointment of not being able to find any Thomas and Friends train sets. I couldn’t bear to reject his request despite my unfamiliarity with the Punggol train station and lines and decided that I was at least going to give this a shot and make it happen.
It was evening peak hour at the train station of a new mall so you can imagine the exceptionally heavy human traffic. My helper was managing Ollie on the stroller and so she headed towards the bigger/wider fare gate which was at one end while I went through another because not all of the gates were in operation. We did what we usually do, Liam would stand in front of me while I tapped the card and both of us would walk right through. Except this time round, the gates almost shut a bit of Liam’s tee as he walked by and suddenly we were separated.
Liam loves trains so much that he’s made it a point to familiarise himself with train stations – he knows that the lifts are usually located way behind the escalators if he can’t find them in the middle – but this abrupt shutting of gates separating him from his mommy was something none of us anticipated. I yelled and motioned for him to stop while I scurried to the nearest train staff I could find, who was ushering the crowd. I told him what happened and how my kid was stuck amidst the evening crowd while trying to shout to my helper to quickly get to Liam before we lose him. “You have to go to the passenger service centre”, he said hurriedly, brushing me off as I asked him if there was other alternatives for me to get in first to be with all of them and that it was our first time at this station. “You have to go from the outside to the passenger service centre to get them to reset the card and ask them (pointing to helper and the kids) to take lift down and up to meet you on the other side.” he said again, in an even more hurried tone, seemingly disinterested in my explanation that I had a helper who was clueless on where to go and 2 kids who were shocked that their mum was on the other side of the barrier without them.
I wished there was another staff which I could speak to but there wasn’t. So I repeated what the staff said to my helper, hoping that she could hear me amidst the noise and understand the hasty instructions that I didn’t. I didn’t even know how far the passenger service centre was and wondered why couldn’t there be a more direct way instead?
What I really should have done was to tell them to stay put instead of meeting me on the other side as suggested twice by the impatient staff. After taking a while to re-set my ezlink card, I started to worry when I didn’t see them. I also realised that there were 2 separate lifts – one leading to the LRT platform and the other leading to the MRT platform. Oh goodness. Even I was confused, let alone a helper who was unfamiliar with this train station who also had to keep her eye on 2 kids.
Maybe because I knew my helper was with them and trusted her to be a rather bright girl. Or I’ve realised that getting all anxious as in the first incident would only make the situation worse. I calmly made my way from one lift to another, one platform to another and one concourse to another to search for them. It was only when I went in a loop for the 3rd time and realised that my helper didn’t bring her phone with her with the several unanswered calls that I started to panic. “Why didn’t I leave my mobile number in the diaper bag for emergency situations or get helper to memorise my phone number?” “Why didn’t she bring her phone?”, I started to berate myself. I could start to feel my rising tension. This was not good. I hadn’t brief a contingency to the helper and she was not back at the last seen spot…how was I going to find them? How would she know where to go next or how to make her way home? How was I going to get to them?
It didn’t help that I was already running late for my class which I had to eventually reschedule and the husband kept calling me on the phone. I just wanted to focus on getting back to my family. All that was preventing me from hyperventilating and blacking out from stress was the mental encouragement that I kept feeding myself. I tried shouting Liam’s name along the platform concourse to no response, and the security folk would only throw me quizzical look despite seeing me pacing past him 3 times.
Eventually I decided to try walking back to the Passenger Service Centre for the fourth time and that’s when I spotted Liam’s bright tee from afar and screamed his name in relief. “Mommy!!!”, he squealed as he ran towards me. My helper did get lost by taking the wrong leave but thankfully we had taught her enough english to read the signs and some kind strangers also pointed them in the right direction. Phew. So proud of my super helper – another accolade she can add to the list apart from being a super care taker and cook.
While on the journey back home, I noticed Liam was unusually quiet, especially for someone whose always so lively when it come to train rides (plus we were in the LRT which usually excites him even more). I held him closed and asked “what’s wrong baby?”
“Mummy, I was so scared just now. I was so worried. I thought we lose you.” before bursting into tears. My helper then explained that Liam started crying when they got lost and when people whom she ask for directions started to point them in all sorts of direction causing them to be even more confused…he got really scared at the thought of not being able to see me.
“I love you so very much mummy. So much mummy. I love you.” he hugged, “I so worried about you just now mummy. I don’t know where you are. The man keep saying go here, go there but I never see you.” he continued, in between sobs. That very moment sent my eyes into teary puddles. I’ve not seen my little boy so affected.
I love you so much too, Liam. It pained me to have to put you through that emotional drama but hopefully this was a good lesson for us both – for you to realise how much mummy means to you and take heed when she tells you not to run too far off and for me, to put a better protocol in place or insist on a more viable solution the next time a technical fault separates us.
With all my love, always. xoxo