Her heart pounded like it was going to explode out of her chest. This was a nightmare that every parent dreaded. It began with holding your breath and waiting for your child to appear.
Second, the dread bursts through your body when you can’t find them. She rounded the corner … and couldn’t believe her eyes.
Jessie watched as her daughter Maribelle ran ahead again.
She was at that age where everything was an adventure or magical discovery. As cute as it was, it also came with a very unsettling side effect. It wasn’t only stressful. It could be dangerous – especially when strangers were involved.
She watched as her little girl clutched a fist full of coins to give to the homeless.
They would chat for a little and their eyes would light up. Jessie could only imagine how hard their lives were and how nice it was to be really seen. But only moments later she had to chase after Maribelle again. This time it was through traffic.
Her little one had spotted an old woman picking up some dropped groceries, and she wanted to help.
There would definitely be a lecture on safety. But watching the tiny girl with such a big heart … what kind of mother would she be if she squashed it? She had no idea that there was another “escape” on its way.
Next was a trip to their favorite hamburger restaurant. It would be cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and far too much ketchup.
Suddenly, there was a string of odd questions from the little girl. It started with, “Mom, are you sad when you eat alone?”
Where had the question come from? Jessie did her best to answer, explaining that eating alone didn’t make her sad.
Instead, it was other things in her day or life that followed her when she sat down to eat. Jessie turned to grab a wet wipe. When she looked back, Maribelle was already walking away.
“Bathroom,” the little girl announced with confidence – a clear sign she didn’t want help.
It was a nerve-wracking new stage, but one this mother had to respect. However, that didn’t mean she wouldn’t watch the door like a hawk. Many minutes passed… and she didn’t come out.
Jessie jumped out of her seat and resisted the urge to sprint to the restroom.
When she stepped inside and saw that every stall was empty, and her little girl wasn’t there, she started to panic. How had she slipped out without Jessie seeing?!
The frantic mom was about to call the police. She would drag the entire restaurant as a search party if she had to.
Had her little girl’s big heart and trusting nature finally brought on a mother’s worst nightmare? Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a black shirt and curly hair.
There was Jessie, plopped on a stool and talking with a new stranger.
Normally, she would dive in and give some sort of reprimand. However, the customer was one person she would make an exception for. Her daughter had cornered a police officer.
The policeman sat there with a huge smile as the girl peppered him with lots of questions.
It turns out she had seen him sitting alone while he was waiting for his food. She had seen sadness in the man’s face. Why was that?
Officer Stevens invited them to sit with him. He explained he was on the night shift and it wasn’t sadness – he was just very tired.
In an act of super cuteness, her daughter shook what was left of her milkshake and offered it – saying sugar helped. But the best part was still to come.
Jess and Stevens talked about the phase her little girl was going through.
It was amazing to see someone who hadn’t been jaded by the world just yet. But it was also really hard on the parents. He offered Jessie some safety tips. He also had a special invitation for the beaming young girl.
Stevens pulled out a large sticker. It looked just like his police shield.
He handed it over and said, “You can be my honorary partner for the day. And if mum says it’s okay, you guys can come to the station for a tour and play date.” Jessie saw Maribelle’s excited smile. She knew there was no way she could say no.
In the days that followed, Maribelle wouldn’t wear anything except that black shirt with the police sticker.
The generous and warm nature of her tot was still there. Except now, it was lined with anything in her closet that looked like a police uniform.