When My Son Was Missing

I looked at the clock in the car. It had only be 12 minutes. Twelve minutes is nothing in our normal lives. But this was not a normal day. This was the day that R1 went missing. I tend to roll my eyes when people act dramatic like this but there isn't any other way to put it.

R1 was supposed to walk from the corner of the school across the street to his daycare. His 6 year old little mind decided he'd rather go home instead.

Here's the part that kills me. The part that makes me feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest every day since. I failed in telling the babysitter that R1 was going to be at her house that day. Usually, he's only there Thursdays and Fridays but that Wednesday, he was supposed to go to daycare. Our schedule is crazy, always changing, always shifting. She didn't know he was coming and so she didn't notice he was gone.

R1 was missing for 2 hours. He sat ALONE on the back porch of his babysitter's before deciding "heck, I know how to walk home." So he walked his 6 year old butt the half a mile home and then stay there ALONE for another hour and a half before anyone knew he was missing.

Just typing that makes me sick to my stomach.

The guilt that settles on my chest is immeasurable. I was driving on the highway when I got the call that he wasn't at daycare and was in full panic mode, crying out in my car when I reached town. You know that sound you make when you get the wind knocked out of you? Yeah. That.

I drove around the blocks surrounding the school and the babysitter's, I flew over to his grandparent's house even though I knew they weren't home. Once I still hadn't found him, I called 911. A voice inside me just kept saying "No one knows where he is" and I didn't hesitate calling.

There is NOTHING that can describe what it is like telling a 911 dispatcher what your son is wearing and the color of his hair.

Somewhere in the panic I finally had the thought to go check home. Why didn't I think of that first? Because it was such a long way for a little boy to walk. Across the main street, across the bridge. I just didn't think.

As I hurdled home, I just kept praying and saying "please let me find him."

And sure enough, there he was, watching cartoons and eating Cheetos in our living room.

I just started yelling into the phone (that poor dispatcher) ""He's home, he walked all the way home. He's here!"

The look on my face must have spoken a thousand words because R1 just starred at me and then followed me back out the door. The babysitter had followed me to help find him so I had to go outside and tell her he was home. She was relieved. I was relieved. The 911 dispatcher was relieved (probably because I stopped scream-sobbing in her ear). His dad was relieved. Everyone was.

So what do you do when you are so happy that your son is home that you are teetering between BEATING HIS BEHIND and scooping him up into your arms and never letting go?

You just give him the death glare. And then hug him. Hard.

A couple hours later, the sheriff of the local police called to make sure R1 was okay and asked if I would like him to come to talk to R1 about the dangers of walking alone and being home alone. ( I have since started calling R1 Kevin McAllister). R1's dad and I thought this was a great idea so that night, the sheriff  came over to talk to him. He also gave me a kit for taking my kids' fingerprints and physical descriptions to send back for their files just in case they were to ever go missing, which is a scary but smart idea, do the same for your kids!

He sat R1 down and explained that even though he was smart enough to walk home, that didn't mean we could trust people we didn't know. He explained the scariness of kidnappers, the dangers of drivers not paying attention and the hazards of being home alone.

R1 starred and nodded. He was clearly intimidated and rightfully so. That talk, combined with me telling him how worried his dad and I were, on top of losing all electronic game privileges for a week, have seemed to teach R1 a lesson. We all had very long talks about everything and I feel good about it.

That night after he had fallen asleep, my heart was still rattling around in my chest, unsettled.

It's just another lesson, another fight to be better, to pay more attention, to slow down. It's no one's fault that R1 wasn't accounted for. It's a combination of many factors but the most important thing that he was just fine and that we've all learned a huge lesson. Yes, our schedule is crazy but that's no excuse. But it's also hard as a mother not to be too hard on yourself. Motherhood is the most important job I have.

So to any other moms out there who have ever "screwed up" just take a deep breath and give yourself a mental hug. Or call your mom, sister or best friend for one. We are fine. We are human. Our kids love us and always will. Being a mom comes with an unconditional element that means it's okay. 

Today is a new mom day.

(To download a Child Safe Kit for your family, click here)