If You Have Ever Lost Your Child For Even a Minute You Will Know This Feeling of Utter Panic
I lost my son in Target when he was three years old. That’s him, at that age, in the photo.
My husband, myself, my daughter and my sweet baby boy were all doing a bit of shopping on a Friday night and we were in the clothes section looking at God knows what.
Lana and James were playing hide ‘n seek in the racks and giggling and laughing right beside us. Then suddenly I noticed it was just Lana standing there. Where the hell was James?
I figured he was still playing but I called his name. Nothing. Then I looked through the clothes. Nothing. Started searching nearby aisles. Nothing.
I felt sick.
In a blind daze, heart racing I started widening my search – eyes going everywhere at once, tears close.
Then I ran to the customer service desk to report him missing so they could make an announcement over the PA system and I was in such a state I could hardly speak. The woman behind the desk asked me what he looked like and I said “he’s only 3 years old, and he has red hair.” She said what’s he wearing? I said, “jeans, runners” and for the life of me I could not think of the word for the colour maroon for the top he was wearing but I think I blurted it out eventually. Then I just stumbled away feeling the sickest, and most panicked feeling in my life.
I had tears streaming down my face and shoppers were looking at me with a mixture of amusement, pity and bad, bad parent expressions (or maybe that was just my imagination).
Thankfully just moments later I spotted him holding hands with a security guard. He was red-faced and bawling his eyes out. I ran over to him, thanking God and the universe that he was OK and then I scooped him into my arms and hugged him so tight I probably squeezed the air out of his lungs. To this day I have no idea how much time had lapsed, it felt like hours but was probably only 10 minutes or so.
All I wanted to do was go home but I refused to let go of him to even put him in his car seat. My husband literally had to claw my fingers off him and tell me I was being ridiculous so I sat in the back seat with him and held his hand instead.
That was 22 years ago and it STILL makes me sick to think about it. And it STILL brings tears to my eyes.
Losing your child is the worst.
Talking to them about what to do if they ever got lost was something that never occurred to me before it happened. And it could have been so much worse if it had have happened at a crowded beach, festival or amusement park where no one would have heard a public announcement.
I hope it never happens to anyone else BUT here’s a few great tips for parents on being proactive “just-in-case” before you head out:
1. Make sure you have an up to date photo of your kids on your phone
This way you can show authorities or anyone helping to search exactly what they look like. Even better if you take a photo of the kids in their outfits as you leave the house.
2. Talk to Your Kids About What To Do if They Get Separated From You
For older kids, designate a safe meeting spot that’s easy to find and tell them to go there, and wait for you. If they are little, tell them to stay where they are. If they can’t find the meeting spot then ask them to look for a “safe” person like a lifeguard, police officer or a mother with children of her own.
3. Have Your Kids Carry Identification
You might want to think about having your name and phone number written on a sticker clearly visible on their top, or even write it on their arm. If they are especially young or frightened they may not remember what to do, who to ask or even be brave enough to tell a stranger their name.
4. Dress Your Kids in Bright Colours
The brighter they are, the easier they’ll be able to spot in a crowd, especially a colourful hat or cap.
5. Consider a Tracking Device
There are absolutely loads available, some starting at just $25 – check out some at Safewise here.
6. Assign One Adult to Watch the Kids in a Group
Lastly, it’s so easy to take your eyes off the kids when you’re distracted by what’s going on around you so if you’re travelling with other parents take it in turns to be in charge of doing nothing else but watching over them.
Have you ever lost your child? Share your story and tips!