It is a parent's worst-case scenario: your child turns a corner in a public place, you are slow to catch up, and when you turn the corner, there are a half-dozen places your child could be, and you can't easily see which direction they've gone. This was the plight I got myself into yesterday at the aquarium, when I took the kids and caught up with a friend of mine and his two kids. In this case, it wasn't a corner Jada darted around but a big circular fish tank. By the time I had gathered Aaron and the stroller and gotten to the other side of this tank, Jada was out of sight, and with way too many places she could have gone for me to quickly check them all.
I left Aaron with my friend and starting checking all of them, my mind and heart racing faster and faster after each failed direction, knowing the radius of her possible locations was widening with every second, and wondering if she was gone because someone had taken her. Finally, after a painfully long time - probably less than two minutes, but seeming an eternity - I located her, secured her, and brought her back to the group, trying desperately to express relief while at the same time strongly warning her that she was not do wander off like that.
Of course, it was only after that incident that she really started wandering, at times actively trying to elude the group. Over and over again, I had to chase her down, pull her back, and scold her. It is a metaphor for this phase in her life in general: her wandering and not knowing or caring about the consequences, me having to reel her in and explain to her what's OK and what's not OK. But it's a hard age to keep an eye out, because she doesn't comprehend (or want to), and she's lightning fast.
We're going to be at the aquarium again today. This time I'll be leaving Aaron at home, which makes the task easier. But don't think I won't be watching Jada like a hawk.