Today, for a brief moment, I experienced fear like nothing I’ve felt before. And that’s saying a lot considering my little men’s life threatening food allergies. But today I experienced the fear of every mom when it appeared that my youngest had been abducted while we were shopping.
We were at Costco and had just returned from taking my little men to the restroom when I noticed that our cart had gone missing. Like a momma duck being followed by her ducklings, we headed back to the main entrance to retrieve another one. As a mom frequently on the go with two littles in tote, we always start out holding hands and quickly merge into a single-filed line as my little men begin to drag their feet, moving like molasses. I’ve mastered this sort of travel, or so I thought, always looking behind me every 20 seconds to make sure my little ducklings were still following and until today they were always there. But not today. Not this time. This time, my youngest was GONE!
At first I tried to tell myself that he had just run to an aisle or perhaps he was still looking for our lost cart. But as I began to search and SCREAM his name, the panic set in. The reality hit me that someone grabbed him, because he isn’t one to leave my side let alone not respond when I would call his name. I was up near the front of the store, in between the registers and the first aisle of food. I remember turning to my oldest, asking him if he knew where his brother was. I remember the faces of every person in the checkout lines that I made eye contact with as I frantically called out the name of my son.
Trying to decide what to do after yelling out my little man’s name 3 or 4 times to no avail, I turned on my heels and headed for the entrance to tell the staff to close the doors until I could find whoever took my son. But just as I turned around, I saw my DAD holding him! There he was safe and in the arms of his grandpa. My dad, the fun-loving, likes to keep you in your toes guy thought he could grab my little man since he was in the back of the line and run down the aisle to surprise me. What he didn’t account for was that since I was a master line following shopper that I would turn to check on my ducklings every 20 seconds. What would have been funny had it played out the way that he expected quickly turned into a situation that I may require hours of therapy and lots of wine to erase from my memory (thanks a lot, Dad)! Those short 30 seconds felt like a long 30 hours as I feared the worst.
Of course my dad, realizing how panicked I was, apologized over and over again. He even called me later in the day to apologize again. What a guy! And although it was a wet-your-pants, frightening experience I’m actually really glad it happened. It taught me 3 things:
- We shouldn’t travel in a single-file line. It may work for ducks but they’re a triple threat (they can walk, swim and fly) which makes getting out of a situation a bit easier. Since I can’t fly, I should leave the line traveling to my web-footed friends. From now on we’ll be traveling by clump! Look out world and tiny aisles, clump party of 3 coming through.
- I need to talk to my little men now about what to do if they were to ever get grabbed by a stranger. We often talk about strangers. What a stranger is and whether or not we should talk to them, etc. and I know that at some point I’ve talked to them about screaming should they ever get lost or grabbed by someone that they don’t know. But today’s experience made me realize, by my youngest’s lack of kicking and screaming following his abduction by my dad that we need to talk about this topic more in depth and NOW! So the entire car ride home and even our lunchtime conversation was all about strangers and how most strangers and nice but not all of them and what my little men should do if they were to get grabbed by someone they don’t know. Let’s just say it involves lots of kicking and screaming, “danger stranger!” I even gave them permission to bite. You should have seen their eyes when I told them to bite the stranger. Ha! So Dad, you may want to think twice before grabbing one of your grandsons from behind…you may be shocked by their response next time.
- The most shocking take-away from today was the lack of help from everyone around me as I was panicking. Like I mentioned above, I was standing by all of the checkout lines (5 of which were open and had a 1-2 cart line) when the chaos began. As I was screaming out my son’s name, not one person came over to me. Not one person that I made eye contact with asked if they could help. I know that one if not more probably saw my dad grab my youngest, yet no one said a thing. Not even a point in the direction that my dad ran off in. Why? I sure hope that if I ever see anything that looks suspicious or if I see a mom or dad frantically calling out the name of a lost child that I would stop and help. That I would drop everything and run to their side. That’s what Jesus would do – and that’s what I needed today during those very-long 30-seconds.
Have you had an (almost) Amber Alert of your own? If not, please, please, please talk to your kids today about strangers and what to do in this type of situation. What have you taught your kids to do if they’ve been grabbed by a stranger? As a food allergy mom, it’s easy for me to forget about the “normal” mom things that I need to warn my little men about because I’m too wrapped up in warning them about “unsafe” food. Today was a good reminder of all of the other dangers that could harm my little men.