This prompt originates from this list.
Write about how you found your way back.
This was in a New Jersey mall I went to with my parents and brother. We were driven there by my cousins’ mother. What I remember most was goofing around with my cousins and my brother in a toy store playing with hula hoops. There was a distinctive area at the center of the mall where people could sit to take a break. I was told to meet there if I got lost.
My dad, brother, and cousins went into a coffee shop that was probably Starbucks. I got very uncomfortable being in a place I didn’t want to be in. I couldn’t bring myself to go further in, so I stood at the entrance against the wall. My dad repeatedly told me to stand closer to my family but I refused to take another step. He asked if I wanted anything and I shook my head no. Then he got distracted while my brother and cousins ordered stuff from the counter.
I had a hard time with the jumbled mess of emotions in my head. Being a child that didn’t really know how to express herself clearly in the verbal sense (due to discomfort and never actually learning the proper way to do it), I feel my pouting probably looked like (in my dad’s eyes) to be typical “my child is being uncooperative but not having a tantrum so I’ll just leave her be for a minute” type of thing.
No one could ever know except for me that in the moment I actually was feeling annoyed that we couldn’t just leave the coffee shop just because I didn’t want to be there. I also perceived my dad was giving attention to one of my cousins (who was a year younger than me). There was technically nothing wrong with that but I felt threatened because I perceived this particular cousin outshined me in a lot of ways even though I was older than her. She was one of the few playmates I saw on a frequent basis when I was a child, too, so I didn’t have that kind of broader idea of “hey, just because someone is better than you at this stuff doesn’t mean you aren’t good at stuff other people are not good at.” So when I was sulking and my dad was busy at the counter, I thought he was ignoring me. That could have just been the wrong impression I had due to my mood influencing me.
I thought, It will be fine if I just disappeared and no one would even care. So I up and left to go to the center of the mall where the sitting area was. I knew my mom and my cousins’ parents were already there waiting for myself and everyone else, so in a strange sense, it gave me the courage to go. I made no mention to my mom that I returned to her without informing my dad about where I was going. When my dad, brother, and cousins arrived, I played it off like I had been acting slick on purpose as a joke because I couldn’t voice what I had truly been feeling. But I also realized in the moment that I shouldn’t have run off by myself because my family thought I truly got lost in the mall. While I gained awareness about this, sadly my verbal awkwardness only got worse as I got older.