Saturday, 15 August 2015

I thought I'd lost him: every mother's nightmare

I had a horrible shock on Tuesday last week.

I took the two boys to a country park to have a picnic and meet up with our friends.  It was a hot day, and the playground section of the park was absolutely teeming with children, with their parents looking on.  We'd finished our picnic, which hadn't gone very well, as M had been sick afterwards, and headed over to the play area while we waited for our friends to arrive.

F began to look like he needed a nap, so I put him into his pushchair while M stood beside us.  I looked up after fastening the straps, and just like that, M had gone.  No big deal, you can't always immediately spot your child when a playground is so busy. I scanned the section of the playground with the sand and wooden climbing frame. He wasn't there. My gaze moved to the fenced in part of the park with the swings and the roundabout.  He wasn't there.  I looked up at the top of the steps that lead to the slide on top of the hill.  He wasn't there.

Ok, I thought, he's here somewhere. There is a lot of kids. He's just standing behind someone.  I changed position a bit and carried on scanning the throngs of children.  I still couldn't spot him.  I heard my rational side telling myself to keep calm, and that if I keep looking, I'll see him run past in a second.  I made myself wait.  But, my little boy did not appear.

For a moment, I felt lost.  What should I do? Stay here and wait till I could spot him? Move about and check the part of the playground inside the fence?  Call his name?

I picked up F and began to move about, a sick feeling gathering in my stomach, and my heart beginning to thud a bit.  I moved all around the play equipment, scanned the nearby tree line of the forest, and walked down to the mini golf course a couple of hundred metres away. He was nowhere to be seen.  Increasingly frightened, I ran up to the slide at the top of the hill, clutching F in my arms, and checked inside the base of the wooden, carved slide. So many little boys. But none of them was my M.

My mind started to race.  Could he have wandered into the nearby car park or road?  Had he decided to explore the forest and had he got lost in there?  There were lakes amongst the trees. Oh God.  Had someone taken him?

By now, about 15 or 20 minutes had gone by.  Too long.  I started to call his name, and then to bellow it.  There was no response.  He didn't come running.  I got stared at strangely by other parents.  F started to pick up on my fear and began to cry.  I couldn't run like I wanted to while I he was in my arms.  My breathing began to get ragged and the tears started to fall.  Then, a kind woman asked me if she could help, and I was so grateful.  She told me to tell the park office staff, while she carried on looking for M.

The staff in the office were amazing. They sat me down, made me give a description of M, and then radioed all of the other park staff.  They all rushed out with instructions to search different sections of the park, and each with a description of my little boy 'dark blonde hair, aged 4, wearing denim dungarees and a colourful striped top'.  They assured me that they'd find him.  But, as I sat there, all my panicking mind would do was go through all the horrible scenarios of what could be happening to my little son, my baby boy. I was beginning to hyperventilate.

Within a few minutes, to my huge relief, someone shouted that they'd found him. I was in too much of a state to ask where they'd found him (but I think it was the kind woman who offered her help). He was looking bewildered: he didn't know what all the fuss was about.  He was safe.

For the next couple of hours, I felt shaky and scared. My legs wouldn't work properly.  I wanted to get away from the overly busy playground, into a space where I could see him clearly.  I didn't dare to take my eyes off him.

It was such a horrible experience.  I'm sure lots of other parents have gone through this kind of thing, but I don't think anything can prepare you for the horror of being faced with the prospect of your child being in danger.  I hope I never have to go through this again.

Have you ever had a similar scare?

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