I took the gang into our local town center so they could each buy a football (of their chosen colour) from the poundstore. To kill time before our bus journey home I was letting them play on the large assortment of those stationary "penny" rides which can be found in the shopping mall while the Hubster has gone to the post office.
Ayla is pretending to ride a carousel horse (because I won't put any pennies in it), Gaius is serving me ice cream through the bus window, Zarek is scoping out the new Thomas engine and Quinn is pretending to drive a digger.... when disaster.
The Mall fire alarm goes off.
For any mother of three or more kids, I'm sure you can understand that this is a living nightmare.
I'm quite content to ignore the impending blaze (sure it's a false alarm) rather than attempt to extract four small children off their respective rides - but no, a flood of other shoppers and general shop staff are sweeping towards the exit, and it looks like we have no choice.
We are in emergency mode.
I call Ayla to tell her to come to where the boys were playing, but she can't hear me over the noise of the fire alarm.
I go to her and usher her over to the "bus" where the boys are. Both boys are hiding in the bus, the picture of fright, confused and alarmed by the continuously loud noise.
I tell them to stay put while I go to round up Quinn. I grab Quinn from the other side of the rides and shepherd her towards the others, who, as it turns out have ignored my suggestion that they should stay put and are following me across the mall.
I realize for a moment, that while I'm sure this is a false alarm, we can use it as a trial (who knows if we will ever be in this situation for real) and they can learn what to do in an emergency. Particularly as we know that children under the age of 4 are more likely to hide from a fire, than try to escape it.
I bend down, anxious not to lose my kids in the stream of exiting shoppers and tell them "this is an alarm, it means there is an emergency, you need to hold hands NOW"
Quinn is, of course, trying to escape to climb back onto the digger I am dragging Quinn back off the digger.
Ayla and Zarek link hands, Quinn is shepherded back to the others and forced to hold Gaius' hand.
Happy that I now have a clear vision of my four, I tell them to link hands together (into a line) and walk calmly through the exit (with me following behind).
They walked brilliantly, calmly, and holding hands.
Outside, far enough away from the building I tell them they can stop now and I sit down on the ground. They are all afraid and bewildered. I explain that the alarm means there is a fire. It might be a little one, or it might be a big one, but that the alarm means we need to get out of the building to somewhere safe.
We discuss whether Fireman Sam might arrive, I give them all high-fives for staying calm and doing good listening in a scary situation and answer their general questions and curiosities, they are all quite concerned that daddy is still inside. (he's not, he's in another part of the town centre)
Eventually the security guards get the all clear on their walkie-talkies and we can go back inside.
I feel awesome for having kept cool under pressure. While the building was hardly burning down around us, it had the potential to be a very stressful situation, with four kids running off in four directions.
I consider now whether I looked panicked on the outside, all I could think is dear God, I'm going to lose someone in the rush. But I kept calm, authoritative, and they did a brilliant job listening and following instructions.
I'm proud of all five of us.
|Shrimp Girl just being awesome|
(What? You haven't heard of Shrimp Girl?!)