Recently I had the unfortunate opportunity to feel the complete terror and panic that occurs when a parent cannot find a child.
I had told the kids we would go for a walk later in the day. We had chores to do first. Since it was such a nice day out, our front door was open to let in the light while the storm door was closed. This is actually fairly common in our house.
Will and Lana were running around and playing in the house. At one point I did see Lana looking out the door and wanting to go out, but I reminded her she's not supposed to go out there by herself and that we would go for our walk later. She wandered back into the living room to play with her doll house.
So I was busy doing dishes. Then I switched over a load of laundry. I came back into the living room and sat down to watch a movie or tv with the kids. Will sat next to me and suddenly I looked around realized I didn't know where Lana was.
I asked Will to check in their room. And I was glancing around making sure she wasn't just playing quietly in some random corner. He calls down that she's not there.
I race upstairs and see she's not there.... and not in my room.... and not in the closet.... or the bathrooms....
I'm calling her name and there's no answer. I rush out the front door to see if she's hanging out in the side yard or in the blind spot of the back yard. Nothing.
I race back indoors, grab my shoes and still do not hear her answering me. She's not in the laundry room or the garage.
Let me tell you, the panic is beginning to grow. The fear of something happening to my baby girl is creeping into my chest.
Across the street is the playground and I see children playing there and some parents. I tell Will to stay at the front door where I can see him and rush over looking around frantically. I shout to another parent asking if she's seen a small girl by herself, blonde, 3 years old. She says no.
As I turn around to gulp down my terror my neighbor yells to me. They had just pulled into their driveway and asked if I was missing my daughter. They think they just saw her walking along the sidewalk down the block. She tells me she'll stay with Will and I begin racing down the street.
Here's the thing... I had just run 3 miles that morning and my lungs hurt. My comfy yoga pants were sliding down and I only had a normal bra on so I couldn't go very fast - and I'm sure I was quite the spectacle (one arm across my chest and the other hand holding up my pants).
Finally I see her! She's nearing the end of the second block (yes, she had crossed a street!!!) As I glimpse her I also see a father picking up his kid and begin to walk over to catch Lana since it is unusual in our neighborhood for a small child to be wandering around on her own. Oh, and she's only in a t-shirt and underwear. No shoes, no pants.
The guys sees me coming and hears me call out so he stops and stays in his yard. Lana in the meantime hears me and races off around the corner and out of sight again.
I wanted to scream. At this point I'm more angry than scared.
I round the corner and see her racing full speed away from me. Then something awesome happens. A couple of moms are taking a walk with their kids and pushing a stroller. They stop when they see Lana then grab her looking around for her mom... and then they see me loping up, red in the face, sweating.
They hand her to me and I begin the short trek back to our house (since by this time Alanna had nearly completed the loop we take for our little walks we go on. I'm lecturing her on how what she did is bad. It's unsafe. A bad person could have taken her away and we'd never see her again. She'd never see her brother or puppy again. Maybe a car could have run her over and she'd be very hurt!
When I got back to the house I thanked my neighbor for her help. Then we went inside where Alanna was disciplined.
Daddy talked to her more once he got home. And she is consistently now reminded not to go outside without mommy or daddy.
I posted on FB about the ordeal and my family basically said she must take after me. Yeah -- long story short here, I was 4 or 5 and decided to walk (almost 1/2 mile?) on the side of the 2-lane country road from my grandparents' house to my aunt & uncle's house so I could go swimming with my sisters. Some strangers stopped and I got in their car and they took me back to my grandparents' house. My mom didn't even know I had left.
I don't remember much of what she said to me, but I do remember laying in a room later and staring at the ceiling. Apparently I got a very stern talking to... wouldn't be surprised if I got a spanking too. I've been told that for months afterwards I would be leery of going anywhere I could not see my front door. I guess I was given a good dose of fear.
Let's hope we have shared that fear with Alanna. The outcome could have been much different! I'm so thankful we live in a safe neighborhood and that she was alright.