"If you run away again I'll get one of those dog leashes" I screeched, all exasperation and empty threats. He knew I would never follow through, and I knew it would take something far stronger than a child restraint dressed up as a monkey back pack to rein him in.
I recalled other children I had come across, the sort who did not need to be chased and wrestled to the ground in order to execute a nappy change; the sort who stood stock still, without even a whisper of protest, while mothers applied sunscreen and tied hat ribbons firmly under chins before heading to the park.
I wondered what karmic force I had offended to end up with a tribe of such endlessly disagreeable children. On a better day or when sharing a coffee with another mother of wayward children, I would feel compelled to trot out some tired old speech about not wanting to raise robo-kids, talk of celebrating and even cultivating such rebellious spirits, but at that moment an even-tempered moderately obedient child held great appeal.
I held his arm a little more firmly than required on the walk down the hill, as he wailed "I'll stop, I'll remember now. I promise I won't do it again."
The moment I relented and let go he was off again, weaving his small body between adult legs, hiding behind poles, oblivious to the terror that consumed me each time he disappeared from my line of sight.
And then he returned, and thoughts of my boy crashing three floors to his death or being abducted by the most determined of kidnappers were replaced by a desire to unleash my pent up fury while simultaneously wrapping him tightly in my arms and never letting go.
A few days later, as I walked back to the hotel - alone for the first time in a week - another small boy shot past me, no parent in sight. I watched him go, racing to be first, not caring that with each frantic step he was moving closer to a different sort of finish line.
I called out to the adults coming up behind me. "Is he yours? Does that boy belong to you?" And they looked away, only half wrong in their presumption that the wild eyed woman standing before them was what we called mad in less polite times.
Then I spotted her, a mother holding a tired child, keeping her eyes fixed firmly on the small figure in the distance.
"He'll get himself run over," she said a little too matter-of-factly. I wished there was some wood I could quickly reach out and touch to undo her words but I was surrounded by nothing but cold hard metal and concrete, materials chosen solely for their utility.
The boy kept running, four-year-old legs carrying him swiftly up the ramp to the fifth floor. A metal railing stood between the boy and the railway tracks that ran beneath the car park. But I couldn't see the railing - only the gaps in between - gaps sized just right for a small body to slip through in an effort to see what lay on the other side.