Lost Child Found… Not The Reaction You Expect


hot-air-balloonI was preparing a special dinner for the evening when John called me on his way home from work and told me about the lost balloon boy.

Immediately, my mood dimmed. Significantly. This is why I don’t watch the news.

I hate to admit that I’m perfectly content living in the dark about most horrible things going on in the world. It takes its toll on me emotionally. Perhaps more than it should. This was one of those times. And it caught John off guard.

My reaction was not what either of us expected. But my kids are 4 and my nephew is 6 and I kept thinking of them in that scenario. My heart ached for his parents and for him. How scared he must have been. I can’t imagine losing a child in any manner, let alone like this.

Then they found him or he came out or whatever the story is. And I was as relieved as I was angry. Once I tried to explain to John the reaction a parent has when faced with a ‘found’ child. He didn’t get it, until today.

I had it once in the mall. My sister and I were shopping with 3 kids. Mine were 2 1/2 and my nephew was 4 1/2. We were in Parisians (aka Belk) trying on clothes. Shuffling between racks and dressing rooms and the kids, I realized Jacob was missing. She thought I had him, I thought he went with her to the room. Neither of us panicked in a screaming fashion or ran about hysterical calling out his name. He was probably just hiding under a rack of clothes, right? But what if? What if?

Every parent knows the thoughts that I fought inside my head. I forced them down because it just couldn’t happen to us and I refused to let the hysteria take place front and center. Yet as I walked around the store looking for him, the terror rose up inside me in a heated flush that spread across my face. So much so that a woman, a customer, walked right up to me and said, “That look on your face tells me your child is missing.” “Yes, a little blonde boy. He’s two, wearing an orange jacket. His name is Jacob”, I replied in a calm collected fashion. She went one way, I went the other. A few minutes passed before I heard her shout to me across the store. “He’s here. I found him.”

I rushed over, falling to my knees and hugging him as tightly as I held back the tears. Thank God! He was ok. He got under a rack and turned around and headed off in the wrong direction. But the words came spilling out anyway. You know the ones, “Don’t you ever do that again!” We had many talks about staying with an adult, not hiding under the clothes racks, blah, blah, blah. But he was 2 1/2. Old enough to follow most directions but not old enough to get it right most of the time.

I was more angry and frustrated with myself than with him. As it should be. We were the adults, the responsible ones in charge. Had we been paying more attention to him than to the clearance rack deals, it would probably have never happened. But it gave me a taste of that feeling. Of the panic button that instinctively goes off in a parent when your child is in danger. The feeling I never want to have again.

Call me crazy but as the kids started getting a little more independent and rambunctious in stores. I added a few new lines to the usual spiel.  Bad people will take you away from me and hurt you very badly and you will never see mommy again.

They rarely leave my sight.

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