It’s easy to assume you will never make any major mistakes with your children. Easy to assume you would never leave them at a store, at home, or in a hot car. It’s easy to assume that you’ll always be able to see danger before it happens. And just as easily, you’d be wrong. Tragedy is never planned or anticipated. It simply just is. Which is why I am a firm believer in being prepared for absolutely anything and everything, and yet, tragedy still slips through the cracks. I never allow myself to believe I am better than anyone else at their weakest moments. I am just as capable as putting my children in harm’s way while being completely oblivious to the fact that it’s happening. For example, I believe that I am aware enough to never leave a child in a car while I carry out my daily errands. However, I have checks in place just in case. I am so busy throughout the day that I frequently find myself in moments of panic as I try to recall where the children are. And in those moments I am convinced one has been left behind–because a mistake so big can happen so quick. And just like that, in an instant…tragedy occurs
A major duty of mine as a parent is preparing my children for the real world. Rearing and directing them to a place of independence. In order to help someone grow you need to allow them opportunities to try and to fail. While our children are young we implement this strategy with small things like, walking, feeding themselves, and bathing themselves. Slowly we start to introduce bigger and more difficult tasks, with the ultimate goal of having them spread their wings and leave the nest as to conquer their own life and hopefully have littles of their own. I am at the juncture where it’s time to teach my daughter how to independently commute to and from school. It is no longer “my job” to make sure she makes it home from school. She has the bus and her legs to accomplish that. Now while I am voluntarily opting out of this task, it doesn’t come without a heavy heart. I am admittedly anxious from the time I know her school ends til she is expected to be walking through my front door. However, I refuse to let my fears inhibit her growth. Recently, this cocktail of teaching my daughter independence and my inevitable anxiety, made for a very scary afternoon.
It was early release at school and Faith was due home at promptly 2:00pm. I give Faith about a 7 minute window to arrive as I know she is prone to distraction. 2:07pm came and left, as I peered through my window expecting to see her wavy hair bouncing up and down on her bright yellow Pokemon backpack as she drags her feet across the street. But today, no Faith. No other children. Just the empty road and the pounding of my heart as I come to the realization that something is different about today. I call her school to confirm it is indeed early release. They confirm it is, and hear the concern in my voice. I reassure them there is nothing to be alarmed about just yet but that I would keep them informed. As luck would have it, I was down to my last dollars and my gas was on “E”. I didn’t have the luxury of driving around for Faith or I would be left with 2 problems. So I venture out on foot and walk the route she typically takes. I decide its possible she went to a friend’s house to ask for them to come over and perhaps lost track of time. All these
houses are on the route so I figured I would see her there if anywhere. As I walk the route I reach the end with no sign of Faith. I’m becoming increasingly worried. I decide to walk to the house I believe she would most likely visit first. When I arrive, two of her friends are inside and answer the door. I ask if Faith is there and they quickly respond, “No”. But then they say something that makes my heart stop. They tell me that they waited for her bus and for her but that she never got off the bus. They assumed I picked her up. I didn’t even respond to them. I immediately turned around as tears filled my eyes. Something was terribly wrong. I called the school back to confirm she got on the bus. They say she was seen in the line on the way to the bus, but can’t give certainty she got on it. They share there isn’t word of her being on campus, and promise to help me locate her. I decide I need to speak to the bus driver given he was the last to have seen her. I continue on foot to the main bus station where all the busses report after drop offs. When I arrive I have the coordinator paige the driver. No response. He paged him again. Silence. He explains to me that the bus should have already returned to base and that it is out of character for him to not return a paige. “Wonderful”, I say, in utter disbelief. He paiged him 2 more times and receives the same outcome. Nothing. So there I am, in total panic mode. My daughter is missing, she has NEVER been this late, her friends say they didn’t see her, the school can’t confirm she got on or off the bus, the driver is M.I.A, I’m without transportation and feel completely helpless. I leave my number with the coordinator and ask to be called as soon as the driver makes contact. I head back home to see if maybe Faith was there. At this point, I have taken my sandals off and am running barefoot through the streets. I’m fear-stricken and thinking the worst. As I turn up the last road I see a kid running toward me. It’s Faith!
Faith is running toward me yelling my name as she’s crying. I run toward her as I’m yelling, “where were you??!”. Together at last, we’re both crying, upset, and embracing one another. We’re talking at the same time seemingly equally as worried. I ask her where she has been. She tells me that she did get off the bus. She said she saw her other friend she normally doesn’t and took a shortcut home with him. This explains why her friends never saw her. Faith says she then went inside his house to ask his parents if he could come over and play, but his mother was in the shower and took a long time. She explains that she saw me pass by and thought maybe I was looking for her. So after waiting “forever” for his mother to get out of the shower, the mother explains they have plans and will be leaving, so Faith goes home. Once she got home she saw my car there but not me. She looked for my keys and phone, both of which were gone, and she got scared. She thought someone took me or hurt me and ran out of the house so they didn’t get her too. When I spotted her running, she was literally running for her life. It was sad and funny at the same time. The coincidence of it all tickled me. We were both looking for the other at one point thinking the worst, all the while being one step behind the other. I called the school to reassure them all was well. Had Faith speak to her father whom was equally as worried, and then took faith to the park for a little heart to heart and lesson of the day chat.
Luckily, this scenario worked out for the better, but it easily could have gone a different direction. Faith’s decision to go off plan could have led to something more dangerous. And of course, there’s that fear that at any point I’m not with my daughter, the worst could become reality. I used this situation to plan better for the future and to keep this scenario from ever occurring again. Plus, added precautions to avoid other potential dangers.
Have you every experienced any thing like this before with your children? How did you handle it?