Every mother’s worst nightmare…your child is lost.
Oh, the stories I’ve heard.
When mothers tell their “lost” stories, it’s like going to a horror movie—you’re listening avidly (you might as well be eating popcorn), and you can handle the terror factor because you know the child was eventually found.
But of course, there are times when the child isn’t found safe—such as in the Etan Patz case that’s been in the news lately.
I’ve had one “lost” situation where I came damned close to thinking that we weren’t going to have a happy ending—but we did.
I always remember it every Memorial Day weekend because that’s when it happened. And as in all “lost” stories, it all started innocently enough. My husband and I took our kids to the beach—it was opening weekend, and the beach was jammed with people. We took a walk, as we always do. Two of our kids went with us (the other stayed behind to boogie board with friends). I remember our youngest, Nighthawk, age 7 at the time, hopping like a bunny behind us, his older sister Indie Girl, age 11, at his side. We walked for fifteen minutes, and then we turned around to head back to our spot on the beach. But as we approached and I turned to say something to Nighthawk and Indie Girl, Nighthawk was gone. Indie Girl hadn’t noticed where he went. She’d been kicking at the surf.
I stayed calm at first, but then there comes that moment when you flip into full-fledged panic mode. Nighthawk was missing a total of forty minutes, the worse forty minutes of my life. We didn’t know if he had drowned or if he’d been kidnapped. It was so bad that we had half the beach looking—and a small crowd literally sipping beer and staring at the crying mother as if I were a freak show. The police were there. The atmosphere was somber.
I remember holding onto Indie Girl. I remember looking at the sky where it met the sea and begging God to hold Nighthawk in the palm of His hand. And by the way, that was literally the day that I found out I really, truly believed in God. Because even when we weren’t sure what had happened to Nighthawk, even though I felt lost and terrified myself on that vast expanse of sand and sea and in those throngs of people, I felt the strong, sure power of God’s presence. I can’t explain it. It was a gift, I suppose, for my wanting to believe. When I finally needed God, He came through.
To make a harrowing story short, Nighthawk was found ten blocks away down the beach. He’d run past us to get to our towels and beach chairs and been lost in the crowd. He kept walking and walking, looking for our “spot.” He was found by a policeman on a bicycle who’d been alerted to look for a boy matching his description.
I still don’t like thinking about that day, about the “what if’s.” I try to focus on the happy ending. We got our beloved Nighthawk back. How I cried when I saw his sandy, semi-sunburnt self walking toward me.
What I learned that day is that no matter how hard you try to control life—especially around kids—things happen anyway. Sometimes bad things. But sometimes good things happen, too, and more often than not.
And I’m reminded of the time I was lost once, as a kid. I was tired of shopping, so I went outside and sat in the car. I must have been about five. I didn’t feel lost at all. But everyone acted like I was when they found me. The whole experience sort of baffled me, but I’ve learned something from that, too.
You’re only lost if you believe you are. Sometimes we find ourselves in the wilderness as moms, but you know what? Decide that where you are as a parent is where you want to be and where you need to be. Don’t let anyone else decide for you. Don’t let anyone else tell you you’re “lost.”
Put a giant red arrow on your place in the parenting spectrum and in all caps say, “I AM HERE.”
Do you have any “lost” stories? I’d love to hear them. And I hope they all had happy endings. I hope that you’ll always have happy endings. XOXO