Yesterday while enjoying a playdate with a dear mum-friend of mine, I lost my three-year-old son – for ten minutes. They were the worst ten minutes of my life. Here’s what happened.
Sam, where are you?
It was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining and we were outside enjoying my friend’s garden. With the scent of jasmine and the sound of our little loves’ voices as they frolicked in the yard, we enjoyed a cuppa. It was one of those blissful mum-friend moments.
Until it wasn’t.
In about the time it took us to explode into a belly laugh, we realised something was amiss.
We could see and hear two of our boys playing trucks together in the lower garden, but where was the third? My little Sam?
We looked, and looked
“Samby, Sam, Sam, where are you, love?” I called, casually darting from inside the house to outside in the yard.
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“Sam, Sam, Sam, SAM!” my friend echoed as she also searched.
But there was no reply.
There wasn’t even a hint of a ‘he’s here’ sound, either – no battery-operated car engine whirring from my friend’s son’s bedroom giving me a clue. No running tap in the bathroom, no giggle from a child who doesn’t get the rules of hide and seek. Nothing.
Just dead silence.
Of course, I panicked
As the minutes ticked on, I felt the panic rise inside of me. There was no gradual progression from a state of calm to fear, I just jumped there.
In the moments, I felt myself go crazy. The sweet face of little William Tyrrell dressed in his Spiderman suit flashed through my mind. The unthinkable happened for that poor family, and we still don’t know exactly what that was, while he was playing in his Granny’s garden. Was this now happening to me too? Oh. God. No.
So I ran outside and checked the enclosed garden gates. They were still locked, so I knew he hadn’t wandered off. He wasn’t anywhere to be found though – he must have been taken, I thought, starting to shake.
Because as parents we do that, I think. We jump to the worst case scenario in an instant. Child’s got a rash? Maybe he’s allergic? Quick get allergy testing … that sort of thing.
So where was he?
As I went inside one last time to find my phone and dial 000, I noticed the laundry door was shut. When I went to open it, I felt counter pressure from the other side and my fears all melted away.
“I found him!” I called out to my friend before even pushing the door open.
When I did, my little Sam was standing with his back to me in the corner with the brooms, clutching a punnet of raspberries. He had stolen these from the fridge and knowing it was a naughty thing to do, and that he would get into trouble for not asking, he was hiding in the laundry and eating them in silence.
He had chosen not to reply to our calls because he was afraid of getting caught.
The deepest relief
I was so relieved when I found him that I didn’t even scold him. Instead, I just cuddled him, breathed him in and giggled at the innocence of it all. A stolen punnet of berries had ignited a panic in me that I’ll never forget.
That night I did talk to him about how he can never hide from me. About how he had scared me. That I love him so much but in order to keep him safe, I must always know where he is.
Maybe one day, if he’s ever a dad, he will know how I felt. Because every parent has a story of the time they lost their kiddo – if only for a few minutes while at the enclosed playground, in the next shopping aisle, or in their friend’s backyard.
And every parent knows the blind panic that can arise in you faster than you can holler, “where are you?!!”
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