We all lose things, our keys..shoes..bills..important pieces of paper that you put some place but just can't remember where. (once during our sleep deprived era ('98-'05) I swore I lost my car keys-while driving.) These things happen. You find them after a frustrating search (involving much swearing) and then you vow you will never let it happen again. Sigh...but it does. I know this because it happens to me all of the time. Unfortunately, one of those times involved my son. No, I didn't misplace him-I just thought that I knew where he was.
It was almost ten years ago. We were living in a house on the woods with a fenced in yard. Sammy was outside playing with Charlie our dog.. I was standing on the deck holding a fussy baby Oscar..watching. Sam and Charlie ran behind the wood shed and disappeared. Remember-the yard was totally fenced..I had no cause to be alarmed..no reason to think that anything "wrong" was going on. Until I happened to notice that they weren't coming back out..and being the type of parent who gets suspicious when any of my kids are THAT quiet.. I went to investigate...and found to my extreme horror that my son and my dog had dug a hole under the fence(ala "Shawshank Redemption") and decided to go exploring...in the woods...during hunting season. I immediately started calling "Sam..Charlie!!"..and I'm sure you can imagine my frustration when only Charlie came running. Yup-my dog came back...and being that he is a yellow lab and not a collie named Lassie..he was of no help. There were no useful barks to let me know that Timmy/Sammy was stuck in a well, trapped under a log or held captive by rogue hunters. Nope-he just wanted to play and seemed quite pleased with himself that he had come when called.
I was definitely not the poster girl for "Guns and Ammo" magazine as I raced through the woods, holding a screaming baby in one arm, a cell phone to my ear..simultaneously screaming "SAM!!!!!!" and yelling at the 911 dispatcher that my son had disappeared. Although I am sure I got the attention of every hunter as I scared off every woodland creature for miles around.. THANKFULLY- twenty very long
Yes, I am always on guard..hyper aware now. If we are out-I am constantly counting heads-checking to see where they are. Making OCD work for me. Now that Sam is older-I find it very difficult to let him go off on his own when we are out. Oh, I let him..I HAVE to..but that doesn't mean that I don't secretly check up on him when he is off on his own in the book store. I just don't let him know. I have taught them what to do if they get lost-(stand still and yell for me), taught them to use the telephone, told them who to go to if they can't find me. I am trying to teach them to be as self sufficient as possible-because, I can't let my anxiety get in their way. So, I thought I had it under control-covered every angle..until last Friday...
Imagine my dismay as the bus pulled up.and in the thirty seconds it took to stop, open the door....and as the herd tumbles out..all yelling for my attention..it LEAVES....and I quickly notice I only have three children.. I should have four..Where is my fourth??!! " WHERE IS MY ZOE??!!" I shouted as I started to run down the street trying to stop the bus (Ala Sally Field in "Not Without My Daughter" minus the burkha). But it was too fast. I frantically grabbed the phone to call the school....and in the fifteen rings it took for them to answer..I thought.."what if she's lost?..or followed the wrong legs and got off at the wrong stop?..what if she never got on?..what if she is wandering around the school crying for me?.." It also didn't help that her brothers and sister couldn't remember seeing her-and were walking around the house yelling "Zoe where are you?!"...in tears.. So when the school did finally answer..All I could choke out was "Zoe didn't get off the bus!"..Luckily, I am in a very small school-so they knew who I was..and which bus Zoe didn't get off of. They radioed the driver who said.."She's on the bus with me...she couldn't find her hat...I am going to drop her off on my way back down the road.." So I waited outside-FUMING...And as the bus pulled up, and my little girl fell into my arms..I could only just GLARE as the driver said "I was bringing her back!.." As if I shouldn't have been alarmed..as if I was somehow psychic and knew she was safe on the bus...He was very lucky that there were three kids anxiously watching from the door..cheering their sisters return. Lucky that my anxiety had left me speechless. But for the next week-I did not wave hello to him as was my usual routine-Yeah...I told him.
So now we have a new routine in place. They are all to look for each other BEFORE getting off of the bus. If they forget their hat or gloves-they are to leave them. They will be there the next day. If they aren't, they are replaceable. They have enough on their plate as it is-they don't need to be worrying over every little thing. Besides, that's my job. I am very good at it.