The lake we were swimming in has a roped off shallow area that was swarming with people because it was the warmest day of a very chilly summer. One of our kids has had some swim lessons and the other hasn't. We were watching them like hawks.
Ted had gone to sit down in the grass after I'd had my turn reading my book. It was now me and the kids. The scene was making me uncomfortable because of two factors: my kids don't like each other most of the time and the place was swarming with people. So it's not as if our kids were together playing much. They kept going in opposite directions, no matter how many times we tried to keep them together.
At one point, B yelled for me "Look, Mom!" so I turned her direction. I immediately turned back to check Abe. Watching our two kids in this shallow lake was like watching a tennis match. Back, forth, back, forth.
In the time it took me to turn my head back to where A was, he was gone. No sign of him. The first two seconds, I didn't freak. I just called him name. He didn't appear. I called louder.
Second three: my heart started racing, and I started counting how many seconds it had been. I am aware of that two-minute mark of a kid being under water. I started screaming. Louder. Louder. LOUDER. Everyone in a twenty-thirty foot radius of me got quiet.
Where is Abe?! TED?! Where is Abe?! WHERE IS ABE?!
These seconds, which Ted promised me were not longer than ten, were the worst seconds of my life as a mother. I saw the blank, dark area of water where my son had just been. Try it: count to ten. Imagine the terror of thinking your child is under water, stuck, unable to get to air.
In the midst of my yelling, Ted appeared at my side, Abe with him. Our son has simply decided that he was tired of being with me and his sister. He simply decided to go find his dad who was sitting on a crowded grassy hillside. He simply decided to do this without telling me, though he knows he is never to wander away from one of us. His simple decision plunged his mother into the depth of terror.
As all four of us walked to our spot on the hill, many mothers looked my direction, concerned and sympathetic looks on their faces. I sat down. The kids immediately started asking for drinks and snacks. I put my head in my hands and lost it. The tears came pouring out as I shook, my body releasing all that adrenaline. Of course, I wanted to shake and yell at our son.
Instead, I pulled him to me, squeezed the bejeezus out of him, locked eyes with him and told him how terrified I was when he left my side. I think he got the message not to do it again.
I don't know if his wandering away was connected at all to the tough adjustment period we're in. It could be. It might not be. I just don't know. I know it's a phase we'll get through. But right now? It's not easy. B told me tonight as she was helping me with the laundry that she loves me, she loves Daddy, but that she doesn't love Abe. He has told me that he's finished with her and doesn't want a sister anymore. The two of them constantly antagonize each other.
People tell us this is normal sibling stuff, but I know it's not. This is adoption stuff and language acquisition stuff and changing family dynamics stuff.
Eventually, we'll get through it. Sometimes our kids get to fighting so intensely that they start laughing. I don't know how it happens, but it does.
Tonight after swim lessons, the kids were playing at the park. As B was going down a slide, Abe yelled from the other side of the playground to a kid near the slide, "Hey! That girl is my big sister!"
This simple declarative statement by our son gave me some hope. We'll make it through.