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wundayatta's avatar

Did your child get lost?

Asked by wundayatta (58367 points ) August 22nd, 2011

What happened and how did your thoughts and feelings go during the process?

We were at a fair on campus. My ten-year-old daughter wasn’t so interested in going where we were going so she asked if she could walk around the block and meet us on the other side of the event. It was only around the block in the middle of a beautiful day. What could go wrong?

Then she didn’t show up. We waited a bit more to see if she was just slow. Then we started going to the fair organizers to ask them to make an announcement about her. Nothing. We were looking around, taking turns guarding our other child.

Finally, about half an hour into this (or maybe less and it only seemed that long), my wife went to see if we could retrace her steps, and there she was, coming back the way she had gone, crying and crying and being led by a stranger. Apparently, that had been a difficult decision for her to make. Stranger danger vs really needing help. Good thing most people are good.

It seems she had made a wrong turn—a turn too soon, and had been unable to find us.

Of course, we were worried as heck, imagining kidnapping and whatnot, and telling ourselves that most likely it will turn out ok. Something innocuous had happened and she was never in any danger. But still, the mind races and it’s hard to keep yourself from thinking if something happens to her, we’ll never forgive ourselves.

She got scared to death since then, and is not anxious to go off on her own when we are together. On the other hand, she is perfectly find going off on her own to go downtown to hang out with her friends and go window shopping or take the subway to school or whatever.

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9 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t have children, but once when I was very young, elementary age, I was afraid to walk home because their was a serial rapist in the papers and I had missed my bus. Two men playing tennis saw me crying as I was walking home, and they gave me a ride to my apartment building. I was so scared to make a decision, because I knew both choices were wrong, walking alone and going in the car with the men. Your story about your child being afraid to trust anyone reminded me of it.

I once thought something might have happened to my sister who I was supposed to be watching. I could notfind her, I had an incredible anxiety wash over me, I can only imagine for parents.

MissAusten's avatar

I’ve lost a kid here and there over the years. It’s the most awful feeling, even if it only lasts a few minutes.

Once, we were at a local agricultural fair and I lost my son. He had just turned five, and was standing right next to me when I stopped to talk to a friend and her daughter, who’d been in my son’s preschool class. My son kind of hid behind me when he saw this little girl because she was always trying to hug and kiss him. We chatted for 30 seconds, said goodbye, I turned around, and…no little boy hiding behind me. We were in the middle of the area with all of the rides, and it was very crowded. My daughter and I looked all around frantically and started asking people if they’d seen him. It was probably only a few minutes of not being able to find him, but it felt like forever. Finally I spotted him on the edge of the area where we’d been standing. There was a man standing a few feet away talking to my son, and I heard him saying, “Do you remember what your mom was wearing? What does she look like?” You could tell the guy wanted to help but also didn’t want to freak my son out. When my son saw me running up to him, the look of relief on his face was incredible. He started crying, and when I asked him why he walked away he said, “I had to hide from Lexi because she wants to marry me!”

Another time, we were at our local farmer’s market, which is not a big affair. Just booths arranged in a big square around the town green. I asked my daughter to go get some eggs while we stood in another line. The guy we bought eggs from was only a couple of booths away, but we made it to the front of the line and finished before my daughter got back. I didn’t see her anywhere, and the egg dude said he hadn’t seen her. She was 9 or 10 and knew perfectly well not to leave with someone. Logically, I knew she couldn’t be snatched without dozens of witnesses and a big fuss being made. Still, I had my phone out as I quickly walked across the green looking for her. Then I saw her, casually walking toward me with an egg carton in her hand. She’d gone to a different booth on the other side of the market where she’d seen eggs for sale on our way in. I learned that day to be more specific when sending her off to do something!

Most recently, my 12 year old went for a bike ride to a nearby park and decided to go for a walk in the woods. She’d never gone hiking on her own and didn’t realize how easy it is to get turned around when you’re on unmarked trails. She was lost for a while and very scared and upset. Finally she came out of the woods and recognized where she was and could find her way home from there. Meanwhile, I was at the park looking for her and imagining all kinds of horrible things.

Each time I “lost” a kid, I always tried to remind myself that things would be fine. We all think from watching TV that strangers are the biggest threat to our children. They aren’t, and while it’s important to teach kids how to manage if they are lost, as parents I think we also have to let our kids have a bit more freedom than most people give them today. Easier said than done. Also, I avoid telling my kids, “Don’t talk to strangers!” and instead say, “Don’t go off with strangers!” If they are lost, I tell them to ask for help but don’t leave with anyone. Stay right there and let someone offer you a cell phone or call the police. When we go on day trips to crowded places, I now give each of the kids one of my husband’s business cards with both our cell numbers on the back. I also tell them that if someone tries to force them to go with them, to fight like hell. Scream, kick, scratch, bite, anything to attract attention and get away.

Wow, I just wrote a book. I hope I’m not the only person to lose their kid three times. I found them again, and that’s what matters. Right?! :P

_zen_'s avatar

Nope, thankfully. I couldn’t imagine the horror.

Coloma's avatar

Yes. Once when my daughter was two I was shopping for carpet in a dept. store and she just disappeared. She had been right next to me and then poof gone!
The whole floor was looking for her and I was stunned, in total denial that something unsavory had occurred even though my insides were in a total panic.
Awful feeling!

10 minutes or so go by and then, a clerk ‘found’ her, hiding under a rack of hanging carpet samples. lol

Scary. :-/

Hibernate's avatar

Nah but I got lost as a kid. My parents told me I did not panic and I just wandered around. I was really agile as a kid , always running around but whenever I saw pigeons I toked a sit and watched them for hours not moving a bit. My family told me I was getting up at like 4–5 am and if the sun wasn’t up ready I was going near the window and waited for the pigeons to start flying and coming to get some food [we used to give them food so they were always around our windows]. They said I could stay in the same spot for hours looking at them. .. Naturally when I got lost I say them pretty birds so I couldn’t resist, and when those took of I did not know what to do so i started wandering around looking at people. They never told me where I got lost or if this happened more than once.

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve lost track of one or the other for a short time, but not lost-lost.

When they were little, I drilled this into them: “You don’t leave without me, and I won’t leave without you.” I said it over and over whenever we went to a store or anyplace else that had boundaries. I reminded them that I had to know they were still inside as long as I was still inside and that they would not step out of the doors or gates without me. That way I was sure to find them even if we got separated.

(I also told them a thousand times: “If you ever get lost from us, we will never, ever stop looking for you. And if anyone tells you different, he’s a bad guy and liar.”)

This actually worked. And I needed it because I had one who always ran ahead and another who always lagged behind (they still do, 20+ years later!), and it was impossible to hang onto both of them and still have a free hand.

I also dressed the speed demon in neon colors so I could spot him ahead of me in a crowd—and the lagger in distinctive outfits in case I had to describe him over the loudspeaker.

I did lose the little one once, but I didn’t know it until a neighbor came to the door with my 2-year-old in tow: “Is this your toddler? I found him running around in the parking lot over there across the street.” That’s how we found out he could not only let himself out but also climb the fence that completely surrounded our house, including across the driveway. We gave up on the driveway gate then (it kept him in for all of six weeks before he figured out how to scale it) and instead installed latches at the top of all the doors.

MissAusten's avatar

@Jeruba My middle child was an escape artist too. The first time he unlocked the deadbolt on the front door to let himself outside, he was 17 months old. Luckily I caught him before he made it off the front step. Baby gates were a joke to him. He’d figure out how to open them or climb them in a matter of days. We talked about renting him out to childproofing companies to test their products! Anyway, whenever I read a story in the news about a little kid ending up in the street or wandering around, I always think about my son and how close he came to being one of those stories in spite of our best efforts.

YARNLADY's avatar

It’s really scary. I haven’t had any lost more than a few minutes, and I just about panic. I think I would be a basket case if it lasted more than 10 minutes.

Jeruba's avatar

@MissAusten, that same child went head first out of the playpen when he was 9 months old by piling all his stuffed animals in one corner and climbing on top of them. I was on the phone in the next room and had a clear line of sight to him but couldn’t move fast enough when he dived. I thought he’d killed himself.

Gee, maybe that’s why…

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