A minute and a half.
It’s not a lot of time.
Unless your child is missing. Then it can feel like an eternity.
We went to Science World today. It was busy. It was crowded. There were seven buses in the parking lot as we walked over from the skytrain. I knew it was going to be a madhouse.
It was such a madhouse that I had three different kids tell me they lost their teacher / school group. I found a Science World staff member, passed them along and carried about my day.
We were there a week ago with a friend of mine who owns a daycare. She brought her seven kids and another friend of ours who works part time for her. Three adults, nine kids. It was great – it was decently empty and the kids were all keeping close by.
In the past I have used a harness in the bigger, busier rooms so that I can physically feel when Sammy moves away and I can visually watch Dean. It just cuts down on the stress in a busy situation when you have two active boys. Because last week was so smooth, I didn’t even bother to bring the harness backpack.
And today was great, too. The boys were never much more than arms reach away. We spent two hours running around from room to room, exploring. We went outside to meet a lady who was generous enough to show me her bike (more about that in another post!) and the boys had fun playing on the grass with their daughter for a bit. Dean wanted to do one last room before we left so after checking out the bike, we went back in.
Sammy was not interested in staying close the moment we stepped back into Science World. I had to chase him twice as he ran for the exit, once as he ran into the exhibit, the opposite direction of the bathrooms we were trying to go to. I put him in the stroller, gave him a snack and enjoyed a moment of peace as he was strapped in
After about 10 minutes we moved on to where he found something that kept him occupied for a good 15 minutes. He hadn’t moved from the water/ball table for a while as I looked over to see an older boy push Dean over to get one of the parachute men that Dean was about to catch. Dean, crying, started coming towards me. I glanced at Sammy, still occupied, walked the seven or eight steps to meet Dean in the middle and turned so Sammy was in front of me. Still there.
Dean needed a moments pep talk to calm down (we had been pushing 3 hours there, after all!) and as I was standing up, my eyes still on Sammy, Dean had asked for a hug. I leaned down, hugged him and stood up tall.
. We explored a bit of the final room, starting at our usual exit side. Sammy doesn’t care about the stuff on that end (at least not more than he cares about food…) so he stayed content in there. When we got to the ball area, he wanted out. I stayed closer than usual to him since he was still a bit more of a flight risk than normal. My eyes were off him for two seconds. And even that is probably an exaggeration.
He was gone.
I have this rule of thumb when we are out in busy places. Ten seconds. I give them ten seconds of me calling their name and of me not being able to see them. If I can’t find them by then, I get help – be it another parent, a friend or staff.
I counted as I scanned the room. I got to eight when I saw this woman in a Science World shirt and asked her for help. I gave her a quick description of Sammy (19 month old boy, purple shirt, black tights, blonde hair, scabs on his nose from a fall last week…) and she put a lock down in place. Within thirty seconds, there were five or six other staff members scanning the room we were in and the area just outside the room.
Somewhere in that minute, I had rounded up Dean and he was in hand while we power walked through the room. I could hear him crying. Or maybe I was just imagining it.
I was relatively calm during it all. I felt assured that he had just wandered and that he hadn’t been grabbed – there’s no way that someone could have left with him. He’s comfortable with stairs and wouldn’t take a tumble. It was just a matter of finding him.
After scanning the room we were in, I felt in my gut that I needed to go out of the room and follow the crying. The first staff person had asked me to stay close (to help identify Sammy if they found him, I guess?) but I decided to check out the crying anyway. With Dean along side, we went out into the hallway.
There was Sammy, towards the opposite end of the hallway upstairs. He was crying, wandering around.
I called to him and he ran so fast and into my arms. We both bawled. I sat on the floor crying with him in my arms. So much for calm and cool…
I went back to the other room to call off the search. I set Dean free in the room, with strict boundaries, while I hugged and kissed Sammy until he was pushing me away and trying to squirm free.
Ninety seconds. That’s how long he was gone.
It felt like a lifetime.
My anxiety was through the roof and I needed to get out of there while I still had a bit of my sanity. I strapped Sammy into the stroller where I knew he wouldn’t be able to escape (easily that is, because you know, a five point harness is apparently nothing to that Houdini) and we headed out. Sammy was due for a nap and I was due for that heart attack that was building up.
No parent ever wants to go through even a moment of losing a child. Not a second of it.
Even hours later, I am still tearful thinking back to it.
I’ll be hugging him closer for quite a while, that’s for sure… Regardless of how much my little independent man pushes me away. ❤