Yesterday, I lost my oldest child.
It was for approximately 2 minutes but it was the longest 2 minutes of my life.
The whole of that two minutes was spent telling myself how I was going to kill her when I found her. Then I found her.
I suppose I should start from the beginning.
Yesterday me and my little brood made our way to the library to do what most do with their littles at the library: find books and whisper-shout to be quiet.
Hubby and I have almost successfully potty-trained our lil’ Bean. We are at that stage where we can go out in public wearing big girl pants but have the occasional accident when we get too wrapped up in what we are doing to let mommy and daddy know we have to go. Any of you who have potty-trained a child, or are currently in the throes of it, know where I am coming from here. So when my Bean tells me she has to go potty, and we haven’t checked out our books yet, AND the only bathroom we are allowed to use is in the lobby (who thought of that, by the way!?) and in order to get into the lobby all books need to be checked out first– I have a mild panic attack.
As we rush to the check out stand I am trying to pull my wallet out of my purse, which is in the bottom of the stroller, to have my card in hand and ready to scan– amazingly I was successful, didn’t even have to break stride, truly it was a thing of beauty. I scan the card and I plead with the touch screen to cooperate as I type in the passcode to my card but it makes me do it at least twice before it reads it.
Fun theory I randomly happened upon one day about the self-scanners at our library is that you can set multiple items on the checkout stand and it will read ALL of them at once– I put that theory to the test. I drop our book bag on the scanner and pray it reads all of them. It takes a little shuffling of the bag but it does, indeed, read all the books in the bag.
I removed the bag, print my receipt, book it for the lobby with child and stroller housing infant in hand to get to the restroom. Spoiler: we successfully avoid a horrible accident in the library– mom win! Even more importantly I was super proud of my kiddo for a) telling me she needed to go and b) holding it until we got to the appropriate location to relieve herself.
We do what we’ve gotta do, we wash and dry our hands, and we head for the door.
There isn’t a door, persay, just that walled off opening a lot of public places use for their restrooms– just so you understand why I felt like an idiot when I clipped my stroller into the wall, causing me and the lil’ Bug to be delayed a few seconds behind lil’ Bean.
A few seconds.
I am serious, it only took seconds.
I free the stroller and look up to see an empty lobby.
I call for her. No response.
I look around a corner and call for her again. Still no response.
A gentleman I had not previously seen mentions he saw a little girl run in the opposite direction I was looking so I turn to go back towards the library doors.
I shout for her. Again, no response. I have now attracted the attention of the security guard at the library doors who seems to have not seen my spirited girl in a bright pink skort and Bengals t-shirt (she picked it out and would not hear of changing, I swear to you) running around anywhere.
I begin to feel a sense of desperation. Where do I look?
Did she go outside? Maybe the volunteers for WWF who are stopping people leaving the Library saw her run by and can help me locate her.
Did she run back into the Library? There are so many places in there she could have gone, where do I begin to look?
Did someone snatch her up and take her away???
At this moment is when I begin telling myself she is dead when I find her, but at the same time a thought floats up from the darkest depths of my soul:
IF you find her.
I just can’t. I can’t think about that.
I run into the Library and for the briefest of moments I think to myself, “It’s a library! I can’t shout! Everyone will be looking at me!” And I shove that societally-programmed thought as far as I can and begin to yell for my daughter.
In the background haze of my mission to find the Bean I do notice the heads of everyone turn to look at me– I cannot see their faces and I don’t really care what their looks say, I am focused on finding the little girl so a can kill her.
Then I hear the security guard, who is a few more steps into the Library than I am say, “Is that her?”
I run to where he is at and look around the corner into the breezeway between the checkout and the children’s area: there she stands, gazing at the little doll house in the glass case on display there.
She turns to me, and smiles. “Hi mommy!”
All thought of killing her evaporates and the levy holding back the fear and emotion of the “what ifs” breaks and it floods my body.
She runs to me but I am already determinedly striding to her and when we connect I scoop her up in my arms, squeeze her, and begin to sob.
It is a weird sort of sob. It is one where I am still able to talk coherently but I can feel the frog in my throat, the tightness in my chest, and the tears well up in my eyes.
I realize I don’t want to kill her but the anger was the safer emotion at the time than fear. Anger motivated me to find her. Fear would have paralyzed me.
Through my tears I tell her :
Never do that to me again.
Always stay close to me in public.
The world is mostly filled with nice people but there are also a few bad people out there. People who would want to take you away from me. I don’t want that to happen to you.
She says the same thing she says to me anytime she sees me crying,
“Aw, it’s okay, mommy. You’re okay”
I don’t feel okay but I know that I am not angry anymore. I am overjoyed that my hidden fear was not revealed as truth.
I am sure there is some sage lesson to be learned here and maybe I have already typed it above and didn’t know it. However, I cannot summarize it in a neat little digestible package. I don’t know what I would have done if she had be legitimately lost or taken; I am just glad she wasn’t.
Have you ever lost your child, no matter how long they were missing? What were your feelings? What actions did you take? What would you do differently?
Thanks for joining in my mess with me today.