Updated: Nov 8, 2019
She was gone.. I looked away for a second as I popped on my other wee ones shoes and she had been bustled out the door by a group of chatting mums who, a bit like the Home Alone pivotal scene, had counted her in their gaggle and not really paid attention. It was Music classes Halloween Party , all the kids were dressed the same, black outfits , etc. They are all around the same age ... so easily done. I found her outside in the hall wandering around looking as happy as anything 10 secs later. My Mummy Spidey sense had kicked in and I had done a quick look around the hall, ascertained she wasn't there and shoved my way out the exit door. Luckily she had turned left , moving more inside the building than right that lead to the carpark. And there was a caretaker manning the door for this exact reason. It was a push button exit , that is hard to do as an adult and we usually all curse it. NOT ANYMORE. I will never fuss at having to hit button push door and man handle kids out it. I have never been so thankful for it.
My heart was racing, feeling like it was missing beats , panic in my voice, adrenaline rushing through my body and it had no more than a few secs separation. But this frantic feeling was the first time, I lost her. As a nanny , I know this happens and often! They are just around that corner or just out of sight for a split sec. This was the first time but it won't be the last. A Playground, Supermarket, Coffee Group. You name it, they wander off and we have to be so vigilant all the time and mistakes can be made. But I would not wish a lost child on anyone. It is a parents worst nightmare and we have a lot. It does make for funny stories after they have been found and hugged so that they cant breathe and if old enough told off but really we are just so happy to have them back. Best example in my life is , my sister, she wandered off in an airport book shop , an airport book shop of all places! Got herself handed in to lost and found as my parents and I frantically teared around the place looking for her. She was in there for a while as she in all her wisdom decide to change her name and when asked , denied who she was. We nearly missed the plane. We laugh now but I think they wanted to kill her as much as kiss her in equal measures. Years later she lost her son in the Vatican City as he ran off in a crowd. So no matter , history , parenting skills, experience, your kid will get lost at some point.
But this does lead me to highlight a steep learning curve and a duality of parenting. On the one hand we need to watch them and watch them and watch them . They are fast and curious and don't know the ways and dangers of the world . But on the other hand , the world needs to be explored and they need to be independent of us. It is hard I guess, they need to know they are safe at a certain distance but should not stray too far. I would not wish it on my worst enemy but a dose of panic is good for all of us otherwise we can get too complacent and that is when the worst can happen.
So when we do lose them and it will happen , in varying degrees over the years, and we get them back ( eventually). We will feel like we have failed. But we need to understand this happens to EVERYONE ! No matter what or where or how. If / when we lose them, we need to help each other. If your kid is lost even for a sec , yell out , ask for help, get everyone involved. It helps to find them quicker ! Remind us all to be better with our own ! Gives everyone a sense of relief when they are found and tighten up security in our minds of our kids! We need to remember as parents to take care and responsibility for others. Look down , we spend our life looking down with wee ones, so make the most of it. See if that kid is yours, not yours. Hear that a wee one is calling and help in the search. The amount of times I have reunited wee ones that look scared and lost with a distressed and panic stricken parent (trying not to show it) over the years is countless. But that's the point we are all in this together.
I hope you never know that feeling of fear if you cant find them , but there are ways of minimising it.
Communication , with your partner when you're together, - have you got him/her ?
Make eye contact, make sure they know they are in charge now. I have seen a Mum say that to Dad who was distracted and wee one just wandered off in to busy food hall , with each parent thinking the other one had said wee one. I scooped her up and returned her to embarrassed Dad that was being yelled at by distraught Mum as both scanned the area. Obviously communication with child is key too. Don't wander off, hold my hand, etc
Don't Panic - as above they stayed put and scanned area rather than running around. Right thing to do as you can slowly ( force yourself ) take in details of area and look for child.
Call out - Sometimes they are just behind something and reappear at your voice. Also others Mums will pick up on it and look for child too . You cant help it when you're a Parent .
Get organised - when they are wee, strap them in first to something, be it shopping trolley, pushchair etc. Then get and do what ever from car etc. Get them to sit next to you or sit down. If they move, the movement will alert your eye and brain and you can grab them. Ive found they seem to be able to slip away like a ninja if they're standing by you. slippery lil suckers!
Hold on - to a pice of clothing etc , my wee one is at that age where she walking and standing upright but won't hold a hand for long , so I find just keeping a hand on a sleeve or hood reassures me she's there while I cant give her full attention.
Rein them in, if they have a tendency of run off in the opposite direction there is no harm to keeping them with you and hands free. Click here on link to see options My wee one is just shy of understanding and obeying instructions sometimes. I don't have the strength to hold her in my arms as she wriggles or her hand as she's trying to get away. So she gets a back pack with a harness inside to keep her with me but independent.
I also have started even now, instructing in aspects of my safety rules for her to help her navigating the world with me.
My big ones are ( when she is old enough to understand),
Hand on car- when we are getting in and out , she has to put hand on the car until I lift her in or she can get in, or we. I’ve sway from the car together. Is very handy when you have multiple kids or different ages. She is getting the hang of it even now at her tender age.
Hand on pushchair- when she wants to walk independently , she has to stay with in a safe distance of the pushchair, we have strap that she can hold. This is in crowded places.
To the corner only - When she starts to ride a balance bike or scooter- I have a rule of only to the end of the block and stop. Never crossing without an adult.
Where I can see you - I will be telling her to stay where I can see her and she can see me and getting her to check that. When we start frequenting play grounds and larger spaces.
I know that with my time looking after many kids in the past that this is bound to and only a matter of time till, I misplaced her for another sec. The feeling is the same no matter whose child it is I have to say. A lost wee one is the worst feeling in the world at that time! And stays with you for days, the shudder. It was my fault I was not keeping her close and I assumed the door was shut, my mistake ! It has reminded me to be watchful and careful and open to situations. We are all in this together, the village I wrote about. So make sure you try to know where your wee is and keep a close eye on everyone else too. Lesson relearned x