...for a different kind of girl

silent surburban girl releasing her voice, not yet knowing what all she wants to say about her life and the things that make it spin. do you have to be 18 to be here? you'll know when i know.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

this is probably why they say 'all's well that ends well'

For 30 terrifying minutes last Friday night, my youngest son was missing. My 8 year old, who less than two weeks earlier had, in his mind, victoriously severed the last flimsy fragment of the chord I felt connected us when he burst away from me and into his first solo run for the corner bus stop - was not within our fold.

Missing.

For 30 minutes.

It's amazing how long 30 minutes can seem.

If you were to visit us on any Friday night, you'd see this one started like every Friday night here. My oldest son spent the quick ride home from school on his cell phone, pecking out plans for the night. After a quick dash home, I chauffeured him to a neighboring suburb, where friends waited to play virtual and real adventure games. Knowing he was safely embedded in another family's home, I rushed back to my own to be there for my youngest son's return from school.

As is his routine, my son hung up his backpack, jumped on my lap for a quick round of hugs, then ran out the door to play with his neighborhood friend who lives just across the street on the block adjacent to ours. Yes, the bus stop was a big step for me. So was letting him cross the street. We're making these strides, but in all honesty, the boy's entire world only stretches as far as that. When he's there, I can peek out the front door and see them playing in the yard. I've visited with and exchanged phone numbers with the friend's mother. Every night, the boys play together. After school. After dinner. After begging for a few more minutes for fun.

With the boys busy, my husband and I embarked on separate tasks. From my vantage point in the front of the house, I had a clear view of my son and his friend racing up our driveway on their scooters around 5:45 p.m., and then inside and up the stairs to my son's room, where I could hear them waging Bakugan battles and singing along to the radio. In addition to his after school routine, my son now has a habit of always turning his radio on when he's in his room, which always makes me smile.

Thirty minutes later, the radio was off and the boys raced down the stairs on their way back outside. "We're going back to Lucas'!" my son cried, and I waved to them while chatting with a friend on the phone. I finished the call several minutes later, then sat down to close my eyes for a few minutes.

Around 7 p.m., I opened my eyes when I heard Lady Gaga's Telephone playing from my son's room, and I smiled again because I know he likes that song. I hadn't heard the front door open while I'd been resting, but thought little of it. Of the two boys, our youngest is the one who always remembers not to slam the door, so I assumed he'd slipped in and went straight to his room when he saw me and thought I was napping. I yelled down the split level to my husband to ask if our son had come home, but again thought little of it when he replied he hadn't seen him. Neither of us thought much of it. I got up to explore the kitchen cupboards for dinner ideas as a new song started on the upstairs radio. My husband joined me to debate dinner, and I yelled upstairs for our son to come down and give his opinion, but he didn't answer. His music's not that loud, I thought, and I yelled his name again, louder. Still nothing, including no worry passing between my husband or I. We figured he was still down at his friend's.

I stayed home while my husband went to retrieve our son. Two minutes later, he returned and said Lucas' mother told him he'd left their house 20 minutes earlier. Honestly, when he said that, I know we were quietly thinking "It's OK," and "I'm sure it's fine," but the tiniest seed in the worst weed and pest-infested garden of doubt had just been planted in our minds. I dashed upstairs, calling our son's name again over the music, while my husband went next door to see if he'd stopped on his way home to play with the neighbor boy. A second later, he met me back in the house to say that the neighbors weren't home, that our son wasn't there.

Those were the first seconds in the 20 minute window my son had created. We still had 30 minutes ahead of us.

Thirty minutes that instantly felt like 30 hours that morphed into 30 days, then fell into 30 weeks, and finally forever. I ran downstairs and back up yelling his name now, wondering - hoping - why, in his entire life, he had chosen this day to hide from us. I imagined him giggling quietly under his bed while I searched the house, preparing to laugh at me when he emerged because I kept throwing closet doors open to look for him. Knowing, though, that he wasn't in the house. Knowing, also, that I needed to stay calm, but not being able to stop the tears I could feel burning my eyes.

I burst out to the driveway and met my husband, and begged him to check with our new neighbors - whose names we we didn't even know for sure until later that evening - to see if he'd gone there. "They have a dog!" I yelled, hoping he'd seen it outside and wandered over to pet it. The dog barks constantly and has been a source of annoyance in our house, but if my son had decided to show it some love, I decided in that moment that I'd never speak ill of the animal again. We both knew it wasn't possible, but my husband went over, knocked on their door, and asked if they'd seen our son, and I began knocking on the doors of our other neighbors to ask the same. None of them had seen him. All of them came outside. One of them knelt down beside me when I went to my knees on the sidewalk and began repeating "Oh, my God," while trying to catch my breath.

Because that's all I could do. Repeat "Oh, my God," and hope that it was enough of a choked prayer that things would be fine. That's what you want to think as you watch your spouse jump in his truck, race down the street, and then hesitate at the stop sign, unsure of which direction to turn because, again, your child's world is so relatively small that you can't imagine where he might be. Repeating "Oh, my God" is what helps push back all the dark thoughts that try to claw their way to the surface while a relative stranger and another woman you wave to as you pass each other on your street each morning kneel down next to you, touch your shoulder, and tell you everything is going to be fine, but ask if you know what your child is wearing.

Sky blue basketball shorts, a white t-shirt with a drawing of Michael Jordan going up for a lay up on the front looking bloody and battered because at lunch, a classmate pushed into him in the dump line and he'd gotten ketchup all over the front, but he thought it looked cool, he said, while smiling a smile that's missing his left top incisor that fell out last week during recess. I knew what he was wearing, and it killed me to think that I might have to call the police and tell them.

I called my husband instead. He'd told me to stay near home in case our son showed up while he was searching for him, and I wanted to hear him tell me he'd found him. Instead, I could hear in his voice his growing concern as he ticked off the different parks and streets he'd driven through. "Oh, my God." It's all I could say. "It's going to be OK," my neighbors repeated.

Fifteen minutes later, after I'd tore through my house a third time and circled the yard, and pushed back more dark thoughts, my cell phone rang. "I found him," my husband said. "He found him," I told my neighbors. "Oh, my God, he found him." And I cried a few minutes more as the stress of the half hour forced its way out of my system. It was purely by chance that my husband caught a glimpse out of the corner of his eye of a small group of boys running through the backyards of several houses four blocks from our home and saw the sky blue hue of our son's shorts bringing up the end of the pack. He mapped out the location, found the house, and then found our son playing baseball with a group of boys we didn't know.

When we got him home, we sat our son down and talked to him about what had happened and how scared his wandering away had made us. He was very stoic and quiet, but the look on his face made it clear to us he understood why we reacted the way we did, and while he wasn't happy about it, he said he understood why he'd be playing in our yard only for the next several days. Then I made him hug me at least 20 times, endure even more kisses, and then complete an elaborate pinkie swear routine wherein we promised nothing like this would ever happen again. Because there's no way I could do that again. Ever.

I don't have an ending to this story other than the happy one we were given. I know these kinds of tales sometimes don't get that benefit. But oh, my God, I'm just glad ours did.

40 Comments:

Blogger Pgoodness said...

Your tweet the other night scared me, but reading the details had my heart in my throat. I'm SO glad he was found and that he understands how serious it is. I'll be sitting my boys down immediately to remind them how important it is to stay close or tell someone where they are going.

Sunday, May 02, 2010 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger Backpacking Dad said...

Erin was missing at Happy Hollow on her birthday for about a million years.

It was probably 7 minutes.

We were packing up our picnic lunch and I was carrying all the garbage and I suggested that Erin go to the restroom with grandma. Erin said "Okay!" and went running toward Grandma a few feet away; grandma starting making 'getting up' movements. After saying that I didn't think any more of it, assuming everyone had heard my "hand off", and I walked away to put the trash in the can. I dropped things along the way and bent to pick them up, further taking my eyes off everyone. When I looked up I asked "Where's Erin?" and neither Emily nor Grandma knew.

We had some very different reactions.

Emily didn't know what to do, began walking around barely looking at things and thinking all the dark thoughts. She eventually went to the front gate and told them there was a missing child, spurring all the employees into action and sending out an APB.

Grandma went wandering to a part of the park we hadn't been to, thinking Erin went exploring.

I threw out the trash.

Then I went wandering in a small circle around the area we were having lunch in, and looked for groups of kids. I found Erin trailing after four little girls in the Crooked House about 50 feet from our picnic spot.

My brain told my whole body to forget about emotions. It focused, intensely, on figuring out where Erin...not was POSSIBLY wandering, but where she was LIKELY wandering.

After I found her I told her that we were looking for her and that she had been lost (we've talked before about not wandering away because she might get lost). Now, a week later, when she tells me stories at bedtime they are all "Once upon a time there was a little girl named Erin and she went to Happy Hollow and she got lost..."

Kids are weird.

Monday, May 03, 2010 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Woman said...

Oh my God, even though I knew there was a happy ending to that story, my heart was pounding & I had a lump in my throat the whole way through....even had tears in my eyes.

I'm sooooo glad you found him and I hope you never have to go through that again.

My almost 8 year old daughter did a vanishing act at Christmas time and I just about ripped her head off when I found her...but then all I could do was cry. I get it.

Monday, May 03, 2010 2:19:00 AM  
Blogger The Savage said...

Hugs. You had me worried there. Seriously. I feel like a distant but really cool uncle who's watching the nephews grow up at a distance.
I pulled the vanishing act when I was 5 and got a swat on the rump or several.
I am so glad he understands is that what he did is wrong.

Monday, May 03, 2010 6:08:00 AM  
OpenID moredayslikethisplease said...

That is the most terrifying thing for a parent! My middle two have both done similar things, only when they were much younger. My youngest ds got out the back door when he was a day away from 3 years old and "went" to the park 8 blocks away! I had to call the police that time but thankfully he was found safe and sound! It was the longest 30 minutes of my life!!!

Monday, May 03, 2010 6:32:00 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Even knowing this would turn out okay, I couldn't breathe while I read it. I feel hungover from your ordeal and the memories that came rushing back of the day my younger brother got lost for over half a day.

The world was different way back then. He and the next youngest brother had gotten into a box of chocolates. They were supposed to be waiting in their room to be punished. When my mother went to check on them, her 5-yo son was missing. We searched the house, the yard, under the porch, in the bushes, everwhere that was ours. The police station was across the street; my grandparents lived aross the river. Everyone in the town center got involved in the hunt. As it was getting dark, he appeared. He'd slipped behind a bureau in the hall and fallen asleep. From my 6-yo perspective, this was one of the most frightening times of my life. I can't imagine what it was like for my parents.

I'm feeling awkward about sending this to you right now, but also wondering if now is exactly the right time. Come by my place when you have time. Just a little something-something there for you if you want it. There was a little girl who had a little curl...

Also wondering if you got the link to the picture I posted on flickr for you last week.

Monday, May 03, 2010 7:01:00 AM  
Blogger Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Oh this made me cry, you wrote it so beautifully! Such palpable fear.
I love how people come together and show their best sides when stuff like this happens. Once we had a tornado rush up our block in NJ, a real freak event. Afterwards the word came around that someone's 11 year old daughter was missing. It turned out she was trapped at the Swim club with a bunch of people and safe and sound, but the whole neighborhood activated to find her in that small space of time.

Monday, May 03, 2010 8:05:00 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Thank God, thank God, thank God.

Monday, May 03, 2010 9:01:00 AM  
Blogger just making my way said...

Oh, honey. It's such a different world then we grew up in, isn't it? Pixie was hiding in her room recently and we couldn't find her. In my head I was mostly rational - she had been here just a minute ago, my husband and I were both home, we hadn't heard any doors open. But there were still a few moments when I could not contain those dark thoughts.

Clearly relieved that your story ended the way it did. xoxo

Monday, May 03, 2010 9:03:00 AM  
Blogger Craig said...

{{{hugs}}}

I am so sorry for your freaky Friday evening. Those are utterly terrifying, I know. . .

Shortly after we moved into our present house, ten years ago, 7M, who was about two years old at the time, decided to take a walk around the block one afternoon, which sent us into a panic. He being our seventh, we were pretty accustomed to the missing-kid drill - calmly try to think of every place you can think where he might be, which friends he's been playing with recently, etc. And 99% of the time, that suffices to reunite us with the wayward one. But we were in a new house and didn't yet know most of our neighbors, and he hadn't established a regular 'rotation' of little buddies, so we had nothing to go on. I don't remember how long he was gone - probably a half-hour is about right - but he was two, for cryin' out loud, and he didn't even know his own address or phone number yet. I don't recall whether or not the police ended up being involved in his safe return, or not (I'm sure that Jen would remember very clearly). . .

Our kids tend to run to the 'independent' end of the spectrum, and the notion of 'Mom and Dad ALWAYS need to know where you're at' isn't always in the forefront of their brains (especially if they have some doubts as to whether our permission would be forthcoming).

Glad you had a happy ending. Nice to know that it's just a case of his Universe being a little bit bigger than you thought. . .

I'd tell you not to freak out the next time it happens, that the horror stories on TV are just so rare in real-life as to not be worth worrying about, but I don't want to seem to take lightly your mother's heart. Give your boy some hugs, and take the neccesary measures, and he'll be OK. . .

Monday, May 03, 2010 9:03:00 AM  
Anonymous TwoBusy said...

My heart is POUNDING in vicarious terror.

Everyone else has already said what's going through my head in much more thoughtful and eloquent style than I'm capable of typing right now, so I'll just join Melissa in saying, Thank God, thank God, thank God.

Monday, May 03, 2010 9:38:00 AM  
Anonymous karen said...

My 3.5 yo did this to me last week. We only looked for about 5 minutes before we found her down by the river with our neighbours. But OH MY GOD was I a complete wreck.

She's 3.5
We live on the shore of a river
She's never taken off out of my sight
We live on a secondary highway
She was NOT IN THE HOUSE
She was NOWHERE IN SIGHT
She didn't ANSWER ANY FRANTIC CALLS OF HER NAME

Relief does not beging to describe what I felt when I saw her.

And I will now be extra vigilant. Because she comes from a long line of wanderers and early adventurers.

Glad your sweet boy is ok.

xo

Monday, May 03, 2010 9:53:00 AM  
Blogger WILLIAM said...

I swear...a little boys job is take life away from his mother.

Great telling of a moving story.

Monday, May 03, 2010 9:56:00 AM  
Blogger Anna See said...

Wow.

Thank God.

Monday, May 03, 2010 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Bekah said...

ugh, how very very scary. I once got so angry at my mom for 'flipping out' when I was an hour late walking home from school in jr. high. now that i am a mom I cannot believe I caused her so much worry without even thinking twice about it.
Im so so so thankful your son is okay. hallelujah!

Monday, May 03, 2010 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Brian o vretanos said...

I remember doing something similar when I was about that age, and finding it hard to understand why they were worried. After all, I knew I was okay the whole time ;-)

Monday, May 03, 2010 1:39:00 PM  
Blogger Cocotte said...

O.M.G.......that is the worst fear of every parent and, reading from the comments, has happened to a few of us.......glad to hear the happy ending, but nothing like adding a few gray hairs, huh?

Monday, May 03, 2010 5:56:00 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

I am so glad this has a happy ending. There is NOTHING like that instant getting-hit-in-the-stomach-want-to-empty-your-bowels feeling when you realize your kid is missing.

My daughter was three when she decided to hide behind some boxes in the garage. First I hugged her - then I wanted to kill her! This was after I was hysterical and got my neighbor involved in helping me look for my daughter!

Monday, May 03, 2010 8:08:00 PM  
Blogger Whitemist said...

I was 2 and a half when I did that to my parents, except i was going on an adventure, taking my tricycle half a mile down the road to a busy highway and started heading West!
I only know that they were worried beyond belief until they found me and remember very little after, except i never did take of again.

Monday, May 03, 2010 9:00:00 PM  
Blogger The Empress said...

I've had this happen to me with each of our children, and it is the sickest feeling in the world.

I hate it.

So happy things have a happy ending.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010 12:51:00 AM  
Blogger Christina Lee said...

I got the chills..............so glad it ended okay. *HUGS*

Tuesday, May 04, 2010 7:17:00 AM  
Blogger lime said...

they just have a hard time grasping that when we give birth it means our hearts are walking around outside our bodies from then on.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010 8:47:00 AM  
Blogger the weirdgirl said...

I'm so glad everything was OK! This is my nightmare. My son will wander off if I don't keep an eye on him and he has no sense of danger. Yeah, he's five but even the other 5-year-olds have some sense of self-preservation. And the older they get the more they think they're "big kids", right?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010 4:52:00 PM  
Blogger Bee said...

Dear God!! Your talented writing had me kneeling next to you! I'm so happy there was a happy ending.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger Zip n Tizzy said...

They know where they are so they assume you do too. It's an indescribable feeling.
I'm glad he understood how concerned you were.

Hugs to you and your boys.

Thursday, May 06, 2010 2:20:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt Becky said...

Mine did the same thing on Friday. I nearly killed him. My heart is still in my throat.

Thursday, May 06, 2010 3:17:00 PM  
Blogger Kate Coveny Hood said...

I've experienced those first 30 seconds of "what if" and then found the child in question just around the corner. I can't imagine 30 minutes. But yes - you are so lucky that it was only 30 minutes (and a good lesson for him as well I might add - though at your expense). Thank god you found him. I live in fear of the alternative.

Thursday, May 06, 2010 3:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

my heart in my throat the whole time even though I knew it was a happy ending.

Damn kids will kill us!

Thursday, May 06, 2010 10:46:00 PM  
Anonymous dissertation said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Friday, May 07, 2010 5:09:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt Juicebox said...

Oh you poor thing! There's nothing worse than that moment of sudden fear that something has possibly happened to your child. The closest I've ever come to truly thinking my daughter was missing was in 7th grade and she was riding a new bus route and got off at the wrong stop.

However, once at Disneyworld, we were sitting on some benches by the Dumbo ride, where my daughter, her friend and my two nieces were waiting in line, about halfway through. We actually saw the moment a mom and dad discovered their 4 yr old boy was missing. We helped them look around the area, calling the kids name even, but couldn't go far and leave our own kids. Turns out, he was in line for Dumbo, in front of our kids. My daughter realized it was him, when the people in front of her asked if the little boy was with them, and she thought he was with that family. But those parents were hysterical. It was very scary.

Friday, May 07, 2010 4:32:00 PM  
Blogger CT Mom said...

Wow. So scary. My heart was pounding and I teared up reading this, even though everything ended fine. I can't imagine and I can imagine.

Just wow. {{{hugs}}}

Saturday, May 08, 2010 8:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Bejewell said...

Just like Backpacking Dad, my little Bean went missing on his birthday, but it was only for a minute or two. His party was at a local kids' amusement park and he'd been sent to ride the ferris wheel with some older kids by my mom, who'd taken charge of him while I managed party details like cupcakes and goodie bags. Even though I knew my mom was in charge, I looked around the picnic table and realized that me, my husband, and my mom were all there, but the Bean was not. Panic immediately set in and I Freaked. The fuck. OUT.

It only took a minute or two for my mom to realize that I was running all over the park, screaming for him and generally having a nervous breakdown. The images that ran through my mind during that time were some of the scariest I've ever had.

I can't even IMAGINE the kind of reaction I'd have had if he'd been gone for THIRTY MINUTES.

Feeling your pain right now, SO MUCH. And I'm SO glad this story had a happy ending!

Saturday, May 08, 2010 8:59:00 PM  
Blogger The Stiletto Mom said...

There is nothing scarier. We've managed to lose both our kids in the mall, but only for about 10 minutes. If I had to worry for 30? I'm not sure I would have survived! Poor thing...at least he knows now.

Happy Mothers Day FADKOG! Hope those boys and tool man spoil you rotten!

Sunday, May 09, 2010 9:47:00 AM  
Blogger Madame Queen said...

I can remember losing my son at Wal-Mart once. It was less than five minutes but I can remember oh so clearly thinking "This is how it happens. Someone has walked off with him and I'll never see him again."

I wouldn't wish that feeling on my worst enemy and I'm sorry you had to endure that!

Monday, May 10, 2010 8:31:00 PM  
Blogger San Diego Momma said...

I have a pit in my stomach. Not knowing where your kid is? The WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD.

My six-year-old disappeared for 30 minutes too a few weeks ago...and I eventually found her IN THE NEIGHBOR'S HOUSE across the street.

The searching was interminable and heartbreaking.

So glad all is well with your ending.

Monday, May 10, 2010 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger msprimadonna67 said...

Unspeakably frightening. This happened with my son when he was three and a half. The longest increment of time in my life. Reading your story brought me right back to the immediacy of that day. So glad he was safe!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 2:31:00 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

THIRTY MINUTES? I think I would be completely nuts. My son wandered off at the zoo a couple of years ago and I couldn't find him for FIVE minutes and nearly lost my mind.

Glad he is safe. So sorry you had to endure that. Big HUGS to you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger Legallyblondemel said...

Thank God indeed. That happy ending is definitely enough. I can't imagine.

Friday, May 14, 2010 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger anymommy said...

I'm crying and I know he's safely at home and this was days ago. I'm so, so, very glad.

Saturday, May 15, 2010 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger for a different kind of girl said...

My apologies for not getting back to all of you personally. Life, you know? Please know that I appreciate greatly you took the time to read and comment here on this post. Clearly, many of us have stories like this, and I've read a few more in the days since this happened at my house. I wish we didn't have them, but perhaps this is one of those chapters in parenthood that is sometimes inevitable. The most wonderful part is that we all have happy endings to our stories.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 9:47:00 AM  

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