|I hear ya, sister!|
We just got back from taking the kids into Zellers (similar to K-Mart for Canadians), to look at the winter coats. They're 50% off today, and my the coat my husband bought last year has a hole in it...so we thought we'd go in and atleast have a look.
We had all three kids with us, and didn't use a cart...I held the baby and the twins just walked with us. Everything was fine for a few minutes. My husband looked at coats, and the kids and I stood and smelled all the different gel air fresheners. They were very clearly not into shopping...they wanted to look at the toys, but I was afraid to take them all there by myself (just incase one of them took off running).
Both of the twins started testing their limits. Each of them took turns running a little farther away before coming back. I told them we should go and get Daddy and we'd go look at the toys for a bit, but they just weren't having it. My daughter decided to bolt. She headed in one direction as my son went the opposite way.
Now, my son was part way down the main isle when Ooey took off. I had to run, grab his hand, and try to chase after her. By the time I'd grabbed him, she was out of sight. I ran around the section she was in about 10 times, baby in my arms (she's 22 lbs., btw), and my Big Boy running next to me. I was FRANTIC. I've never lost any of them before, and it just figures that it happens to me the first time during the Christmas madness!!!
After going around, and through, the baby area about a million times, I realized I wasn't going to just turn the corner and find her, and my husband was still MIA. So Baby Girl, Big Boy, and myself went tearing up to Customer Service...butting infront of everyone. (I would have DARED those other people to say something at that point!!!) I told them that I lost my daughter, and they called a "Code Yellow"...meaning a child is lost, and all staff were to stop doing what they're doing and look for her. I gave them a description of her clothing, and told them that she has light blue eyes and blonde hair, and then I was off...going back to look for her.
As soon as I turned around, a girl I used to work with in the restaurant there saw me and asked me what was wrong...I told her that Ooey was missing and she asked what she was wearing. Thankfully she knows my children, and was the one to stand at the front doors to make sure no one stole her before she was found. (All other exits are also guarded by staff.)
I knew at that point it was only a matter of finding her. No one would get her out of that store. (Still...I couldn't barely breathe!) I ran back to where I saw her run, and didn't see her running around there, so went back towards the winter coats where I last saw my husband. Finally I saw him and ran straight to him, and told him that Ooey was gone...she ran off...take the other two...wait here, I'll be back!
I went back again to where I'd last seen her run, and there was a woman there carrying a baby in it's carseat. I must have looked as afraid as I felt...she asked me if I was missing a little girl. I said "I am!" She told me that she was hiding inside the $15 clothing rack. I yelled a "thank you!!!!" as I ran to the rack. I saw her little feet sticking out and I ran over and she sat there looking up at me.
"I got lost", she said. 0_0 Uh...yeah. No kidding. I grabbed her hand and helped her get up, and I picked her up and held her so tight. I wanted to yell and cry at the same time. I have NEVER been so afraid in my life...I said "I lost you and I was so afraid!!!" She said "I ran off." I told her that the announcement she just heard was about her...that everyone was looking for her.
As I brought her out of the baby section, I saw two employees walking by and heard one say "do you know if we're looking for a girl or a boy?" The other one said "no, I'm not sure." I said "You're looking for a girl. But I found her!" (These were also two ladies I worked with when I worked there.)
I immediately took her to my husband, so he'd know I'd found her. I told him where she'd been all along, and then took her and Big Boy up to the Customer Service desk so they would know she was found. I stuck both of them inside the cart. At that point I wasn't willing to risk losing one of them again!
As we started to walk away, one of the employees behind the desk said "You can breathe now."
It took me two days to stop feeling like I did when I couldn't find her. Still, just thinking about it makes me weepy. It's my worst fear...losing one of the kids. And it happened...for a few minutes. I hated that. I hated being that mom who had to tell them that my child was lost. I hated being that mom who actually LOST one of her kids. Embarrassing and terrifying all rolled into one.
The reason I'm documenting this on my blog is because it wasn't until I talked about it with family, and on Facebook, that I found out that (eventually) it happens to everyone. I guess the only way to know 100% without a doubt that it's never ever going to happen is to tie our children to us when we go out.
I ended up having to have our first "stranger danger" talk with the kids...something I've managed not to have to tell them yet. But now they know. (Mostly.) And they aren't afraid of people now anymore than they were before, which is good. I don't want them to be afraid...I want them to be AWARE, and not to put themselves in harm's way.
Oh, and one final part to this story...
I remember being about 4 years old and swiping a pint of strawberries off the counter at the grocery store. I hid under a triangle sign and ate them, even when I saw my parents go by. Even when I heard my name on the intercom. And when my mom finally found me, I got spanked. The end of that story sucks, but I've always laughed a little, not realizing the fear I put into her.
I called her that night and apologized for that day. Suddenly that story isn't so funny.