I turned around and she was gone. My daughter was lost.
We were in Tiny Town for a birthday party. After a full morning of birthday fun, we decided we would ride the train one last time before departing. We needed to purchase tickets before we could ride, but right before we were heading to get our tickets, I was asked to take a picture for a friend. I stepped over about ten yards from where I was, gathered our things, took the picture, and when I turned back to load up, I realized my 5-year-old was gone.
Had it been my 3-year-old, my wanderer, who went missing, I wouldn’t have immediately panicked. I would have known that I would find her playing somewhere after a few minutes of searching. But this wasn’t my 3-year-old. This was my 5-year-old. My extremely obedient first born!
Have you read, “The Shack?” My mind immediately went there. To me, she was gone. Someone had taken her up I-70 and I would never see her again.
I looked for her on my own for a total of about thirty seconds before frantically enlisting the help of another friend.
I was yelling for my daughter, and every step I took, she was farther and farther away from me. Why was no one around me concerned, why wasn’t anyone or EVERYONE stopping what they were doing to help me find my baby? My baby that doesn’t do this. The one that obviously had to have been taken.
The panic overtook me.
I gave my 3-year-old to another friend and ran towards the front of the park. I had to find my baby and I had to do it fast. I hadn’t gotten more than twenty yards or so when I spotted her walking towards me with my friend. She was crying. I was crying. I scooped her up and held her. She thought I had gone to buy the train tickets without her.
I took this time to tell her what I should have told her long ago: If she is ever in a situation where she can’t find me, that she needs to stay put and I will find her.
Honestly, I never thought my kids would do that! Famous last words of any and all parents, right? As I was telling her that she needed to stay put, I was doubting my words. What do you do in this situation? My friend that found her told me she once heard another parent have this conversation with their child. Their instructions included finding another mom and asking for help. This sounds like solid advice, but, no thanks to Hollywood, I wondered if this was actually good advice or not? What if the mom she finds isn’t a good one? What if she is working with a child abduction team? Of course this is a bit over the top. The chances of this are pretty darn slim. I imagine if my children found another mom and asked for help, they would, 99.99% of the time, find someone who would be more then willing to help them find me.
Not only had I never talked to my kids about what to do, I had never came up with my plan either. I had dressed the girls in matching outfits that day. I always jokingly said I would do this, so that if they ever got lost, anyone who spotted them would know they went together. Turns out this matching outfit “joke” is more useful than I thought! When I realized my 5-year-old was missing, I should have gone with my 3-year-old to the very front of the park immediately. There I should have showed the employees her dress and told them not to let her matching 5-year-old sister leave the park. Putting them in the same outfit when we go to new or big places is definitely something I will continue to do.
Once we were home, I needed to process. I was mentally and physically exhausted from the worry.
What bother’s me now is that I’m still not sure what is the “right” thing to do in this situation. I would love for you all to share some advice and hear what you have taught your children to do when they end up “lost.”