Scary Mommy Moment: You can’t find your child!!


It is one of every mother’s worst fears, a child being separated from her in a crowded public place. 

Imagine taking your children out to enjoy a pleasant afternoon together and what had the potential of becoming a memorable afternoon turns into a horrible nightmare.   You and your children are together and then suddenly you aren’t.  Your heart begins to race; you can hear it beating in your head. The sweat begins to pour down your face. It is as if everything is going in slow motion and yet it feels like it is taking a lifetime to scan the room in hopes of an inkling of familiarity.  But your brain gets its wires crossed and you struggle to remember what your child was wearing.  Was it a red shirt or did he wear the blue?  Did he grab his new shoes or was he wearing his old ones?  You think so hard it hurts. Then the guilt hits you like a freight train. You are the mother, you are supposed to watch over and protect your children, and here you are searching for your child, how did you let this happen? You try so hard to hold it together, to maintain composure for the outside world while inside you are crumbling fast.

Unfortunately I am able to express these feelings and emotions so candidly because it happened to me.  I hate to admit it. I wish I didn’t have to but something in me tells me that I need to be honest and share my story no matter how embarrassing.  And yes, I do realize this will leave me vulnerable to ridicule and judgment by others but perhaps this story will resonate in another mother’s mind and she will learn from my experience.

My toddler, preschooler, and I met up with two other moms and their toddlers at the Toledo Zoo yesterday.  It has been gorgeous here, definitely unseasonal weather temperatures, the past few days have been in the high 70s – low 80s. So we figured what a wonderful day for a visit to the zoo. We met at the Polar Bear exhibit.  My toddler unlike their sweet baby girls was out of her stroller, running around, and simply curious about the world and everything the zoo had to offer.

We slowly made our way to Natures Neighborhood, the area dedicated to the children.  It is a really cool space for children to explore and play. There is an area where they can do face painting, there are large honey combs’ to climb in and bee costumes they can play with, a climbable spider web located next to real live spiders, a forest with hidden wonders, and so much more inside. Outside, in a fenced in area there is a playground, small wading stream, small animal petting area, and much more.

He is at that age where he will only look at the camera on his terms.

My children always look forward to going to Nature’s Neighborhood. My sons favorite part of Nature’s Neighborhood are the hidden passageway between the face painting area and the large room and the smaller kiddo sized doors to the outside (similar to a doggy door but for children).

We arrive in Natures Neighborhood and it is pretty empty but within minutes a school group enters followed by a mommy brigade. It is getting too crowded inside so we decide to head outside for more fun in Natures Neighborhood but first I need to bypass the mommy brigades to get to my stroller.  I have my toddler and preschooler stay in the corner together while I get the stroller.  I arrived back in the corner with the stroller and my curious little Toddler took off outside while my preschooler went running over to the secret passageway. I had assumed her was going through the passage in order to go through the fun kiddos door on the other side. I figured we would just meet him outside. Once outside my toddler, being the brave little kiddo that she is took off up the stair that led to a hidden slide.  This space is a danger zone for toddlers due to a drop offs. So I was watching her like a hawk, actually more like her shadow, I was right behind her waiting to grab her before she got to close to the edge.  After a couple of minutes I realized I had not seen my preschooler on the playground equipment and began searching for him while standing on top of a manmade cliff, at least it was the perfect lookout.

After scanning the ground below a few times I grabbed my toddler who began kicking and screaming and headed down the ramp, off the cliff, to locate my preschooler. At this point my heart started pounding; it was like it was in my head.  The sweat began rolling down my face, time stood still yet it seemed like an eternity. 

I have always explained to my children what to do if we get separated.

  • First, and foremost, do not panic; when you panic you cannot think clearly.
  • Second, do not leave the area or the space that we were in to go find me, stay where we were at, I will come back to that space to find you.
  • Third, find a mommy or someone who works wherever we are at and tell them that we have been separated.
  •  Lastly, never, I repeat, NEVER leave with another person! I don’t care what they tell you, they may say they saw me outside somewhere and to follow them, they could say they will give you a ride home, or that they may have candy, whatever they say don’t go with them, NEVER leave with another person!! Then I explain that there are some sick people out there that want to hurt children, sometimes so badly that they will never see their mommies and daddies again. I realize it might be a little scary but if it keeps my child from going with a stranger or even an acquaintance, no matter what that individual says to them then I have done my job. As our children get older we will address issues of sexual predators, human trafficking, etc. in more detail but at the age of my kiddos not seeing mommy or daddy ever again is scary enough.

As I walked through the kitchen area of Natures Neighborhood I could see a little boy in the distance sitting on a bench with one of the young zoo volunteers just looking around. There he was, my precious boy. He came running over to me giving me a huge hug and began crying. I held onto him so tight, gave him a kiss, and exhaled. As I stood there holding him I could not recall a prouder moment, he listen to me.  All those times I explained what to do in a situation like this one he actually listened. I had thought for sure it was going in one ear and out the other but  he was actually listening.  Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to relish our reunited moment because our little toddler was off and running again.

We take our play seriously, mud and all!

We managed to stay together for the remainder of our zoo visit but yesterday will go down as one of the most terrifying and satisfying day of my life.  For it was the day I lost my son, the day I found him, and realized all my labors, words, and lessons proved valid in a true life experience.

Have you ever been separated from your child in a public space? Or maybe when you were a child you were separated from your mom? What happened? How did you feel? How did the experience change you?

 

 

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Categories: Uncategorized, When your child is lost

You're off to great places! But do keep in touch!

In the words of Dr. Seuss, You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go. And when you get there take us with you!

8 Comments on “Scary Mommy Moment: You can’t find your child!!”

  1. March 20, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    A mother’s worst nightmare.
    I’m glad your little one was listening when you taught him that very valuable lesson. And glad you found him. I have talked to mine about what to do if someone tries to take her, but I need to go over what to do if we are separated. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. Pauline
    March 23, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    I have a similar story. I lost my little girl at the zoo in the splash area, it was only for about 1 minute, but it felt like an eternity. She had just gone into a tube structure. I ended up running through the splash pad fully clothed. So scary and it only takes a second.

    • March 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

      It is amazing how quickly we go into mommy mode and our adrenaline starts pumping as we focus on locating a child. We could care less about our own well-being or how others perceive us, as you mentioned, jumping in the splash area fully clothed, our main priority is locating our child. I would not wish that feeling on anyone; sorry you had to experience it but thankfully you located her quickly. Thank you for sharing your story Pauline.

  3. March 25, 2012 at 4:22 am #

    My heart is racing after just reading your story nevermind actually experiencing it! As the mom of two young girls myself, I can empathize with your fear – it has got to be one of the scariest feelings in the world to lose sight of your child. I’m glad your story had a great ending to it and I’m sorry you experienced such a horrific feeling. A friend of mine recently developed and launched an app called Rescuehood for situations just like these. The founder developed it after witnessing a frantic parent at the mall lose her child and with no system in place at the mall, the mall staff did not know what to do to help. This app could possibly be a game changer in terms child safety. I’d love to know your thoughts on it as a mom and, in particular, as a mom who recently experienced that feeling of dread after losing sight of her own child. You can type in the keyword Rescuehood in the iphone app store or visit http://www.rescuehood.com for more details.
    Thanks for sharing your story!

    • March 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      I think the Rescuehood app sounds like a great idea. That way if this, or let’s be honest, when this happens, to another parent they have a means for getting the news across to others quickly and hopefully the child and parent will be reunited quickly as well. Thank you for your comments and sharing the app Robin.

  4. March 28, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    AHH That is the scariest thing ever! It’s happened to me too…I think it happens to all moms – even the “perfect” moms! But you were so smart to teach your children those rules for if you ever get separated. I’m glad you found your little lovebug. Man, when that happens, even for a couple minutes, it seems like forever. It’s just the worst feeling in the world. 😦

    Nikki
    http://gingermommy.wordpress.com

    • March 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

      Thank you for your comment, it is greatly appreciated, especially the statement that even “perfect” moms experience scary moments like this, thank you. It makes me feel better.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Scary Moments When Your Child Goes Missing - Rescuehood - March 25, 2012

    […] when they lose sight of their child in a public place – in her example the local zoo.  Read her full story, and  imagine how that type of situation would be dramatically improved if she were able to […]

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