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Life’s learning lessons: when your child goes (temporarily) missing

14th November 2017
when your child goes missing

Have you ever temporarily lost a child? If so, you’ll know it’s the worst feeling in the world at the time.

There’s a tight knot in your stomach and a feeling of nausea that slowly creeps up. Your mouth goes dry and all sorts of scenarios start flashing before your eyes.

How do I know? Well, about 10 years ago it happened to me.

And even now, when I think back to that time, I vividly remember the feeling of panic and utter desperation; it was awful.

Going shopping

My son was just two-and-a-half-years old. We had headed over to Bluewater shopping centre (in Kent) one early Sunday morning – an outing that VIP and I would do fairly regularly.

It made sense as the kids were awake at silly o’clock in the morning and we used to let our son Luis run off some steam at the shopping mall early in the morning (he was always a very active child, always moving and always wanting to do something, so he needed it!)

As the shops opened at 10am, the place was always deserted at 9am, so we could let little Luis run free and not worry about him bumping into anyone.

He loved it and would squeal as he ran around, up and down the mall, zig-zagging and running around in circles – as kids do, while we would stroll behind him pushing his sister (3 months old) in the pram.

This particular day we’d arrived at the shopping mall and decided to get a couple of takeaway coffees. As it would be tricky to drink a coffee and push a pram, we decided to sit on a bench to finish them while Luis ran around.

We had been laughing away at something baby Nadja was doing in her pram and when we looked up to clock eyes on Luis, he had completely vanished.

At first we weren’t worried; in reality it had probably been around 20 seconds since he was right next to us, so he couldn’t have gone far.  So we started to call him. And when we didn’t hear his response, VIP went in one direction and I went in the other.

However, it soon became apparent that we had walked further than the distance he could have possibly have travelled – and still we couldn’t see him.

It was puzzling – we checked behind pillars and any nearby hiding places, but there was still no sign of little Luis.

The panic sets in

And the more the seconds ticked by, the louder our shouts became and then I started to panic. All sorts of thoughts started whizzing through my head.

What if he had fallen down an escalator and was unconscious? What if he had got stuck somewhere we couldn’t find him? And of course, the worst thought – and the strongest – what if someone had taken him?

Looking back now, we must have looked like a right crazy pair, running up and down the mall screaming his name with not another soul around.

I started to look at the walls to see if there was an alarm I could set off; I thought if I got the security officers’ attention, they could check their CCTV cameras and we would see what happened and where he went.

Every second seemed like a whole minute had passed and I was on the verge of being physically sick. There was just no plausible explanation for his disappearance other than he’d been snatched.

Seconds turned into minutes and we realised he had truly vanished. In my mind, there was no other explanation other than he had been taken. I was in a state of shock.

I really wanted to start running; to carry on searching, but I had to be with the pram and it was frustrating. I felt powerless.

When a child goes missing

Two-year-old Luis

VIP decided to head off to alert security and on his way he spotted a clothes shop had its shutters open by about half a foot from the floor.

Was it just possible that he had crawled under the shutters and gone into the shop? He got down on the floor to look under the shutters and suddenly let out a massive cry that sounded between a muffled ‘He’s here!’ and ‘Oh my god!’

Within seconds the shutters of the shop were being pulled up and there, sat on the stairs which led up to the shop’s upper floor, was our son without a care in the world looking pleased with himself.

I cannot describe the sheer relief that I felt; I started to cry. In the few minutes that he’d been gone, my whole world had been turned upside down and all my emotions came flooding out.

You can imagine that our son’s disappearance was a huge learning lesson for us – and we never let him out of sight again after that. Well, not until he was 12 and started to take himself to school and back!

And now that both our kids are older and wiser, they are fully aware of the dangers of speaking or going with strangers – men, women, even older children.

But there’s always that worry in the back of my mind that something will happen, or that they’ll make one mistake. Although that will disappear with time, I know other worries will take its place.

Protecting our babies

Nowadays, with the kids now 12 and 10, I often come up with hypothetical scenarios of life situations, just to see how they’d react if something out of the ordinary happened to them.

For example, last week Luis was in London on a trip with my husband. They were heading to London Bridge and decided to walk through the bustling Borough Market. As my husband was recounting to me later that evening how busy the market was, I turned to my son and asked him what he’d do if he lost his dad in the market.

Quick as a flash, he replied that he’d simply call him on his mobile. Good point I thought, but what if his mobile was out of battery?

I posed this to him and, used to me questioning how he’d react in different scenarios, he though for a moment before replying: “I’d go up to a stall holder or shop keeper and ask them to call you”.

“Call me?” I replied, a bit puzzled.

“Yes” he said, “Because yours is the only mobile number I can remember” and he promptly recited my mobile number back to me – every single digit correct.

I was a bit taken aback (as well as impressed) that he knew my mobile number off by heart, even though he couldn’t tell you the first two digits of his own number. Mind you, you would hardly be calling yourself if you were lost would you?

Ten years ago when I temporarily lost my son I would have taken every precaution in never letting that happen again. The feeling of being powerless in protecting my son was overwhelming, and it’s an emotion that I never want to feel again.

I know that in the last ten years technology has developed at an alarming rate, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn there is some sort of device with an alarm that is triggered if your child moves a certain distance from you.

If not, I think it’s a great idea for a new start-up; with two young toddlers I’d have definitely bought into the idea for peace of mind.

Has anything ever happened that left you feeling completely helpless?

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29 comments

Lynne 24th November 2017 at 3:56 pm

I remember when my eldest son, he was about 2, went missing in Comets, we were looking at Fridge Freezers and he was opening and shutting all the doors, we were then speaking to the shop assistance. When we turned round he had gone. We thought he might have got into one of the Fridge Freezer and shut the door, after frantically looking in all of them there was no sign of him so we alerted security and I stood by the door of the shop in the hope to see him if he was to leave the shop and my husband went to look for him. My husband finally found him in the technology department looking at the gadgets and seeing how they work. No wonder he is now technical minded.

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LaurettaCWright 24th November 2017 at 7:38 pm

Oh no – that must have been super scary! Sounds like you kept your calm throughout though – we all need a level head when things like this happen!

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Tea bees trips 18th November 2017 at 4:54 pm

Waouh this is so scary. My mother in law she told me that one day she lost her son for a few minute on the beach and she was so affraid.

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LaurettaCWright 18th November 2017 at 5:00 pm

I bet! The beach is bad because you don’t know if they’ve gone in the water!

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Kara 18th November 2017 at 4:49 pm

It is so scary isn’t it! I lost my, then two year old, in Tesco and it terrified me. Of course, he was happily playing with Bob the Builder down the toy aisle, oblivious to my panic

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LaurettaCWright 18th November 2017 at 4:52 pm

I think it has happened to most of us on some level hasn’t it? So scary though when it does.

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amelia avossa 18th November 2017 at 2:30 pm

Same happened to me on holiday! i lost my lil boy for a few minutes! long story! but the panic is the worst ever

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LaurettaCWright 18th November 2017 at 5:01 pm

It is – I think many parents have gone through the ordeal sadly.

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Zena's Suitcase 17th November 2017 at 7:53 pm

It’s just the scariest thing isn’t it. It’s happened to us too and little people seem to be able to cover a lot of ground very quickly. I was literally distraught
Zena’s Suitcase recently posted…How Hiring a Private Villa in Crete Can Revitalise Your RelationshipMy Profile

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LaurettaCWright 17th November 2017 at 8:11 pm

Yes, you’re right – I don’t know how they can get so far in such a short amount of time…crazy!

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Caroline 17th November 2017 at 7:30 pm

It’s so scary, isn’t it! I had the same feeling when Jacob went missing in an outdoor play area. I must have only take my eyes off him for 5 seconds and he was gone. It took about 10 minutes to find him and it felt like several hours.

It would be good to have childrens wristband with your contact details on that also has a tracking device in. X

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LaurettaCWright 17th November 2017 at 8:13 pm

Yes, a wristband device would be a great idea. I’m sure it must be out there somewhere!

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Steph 17th November 2017 at 10:50 am

Such a horrible feeling, with my twins it use to stress me out so much. We went to a big firework display recently and I was being pushed in a wheelchair so I was unable to twist aroud to keep on eye on them. It was a horrible feeling. It made me realise just how much I do keep an eye on them naturally.

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LaurettaCWright 17th November 2017 at 12:20 pm

Maybe they’ll develop micro-chips for kids! That would be good! 🙂

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Chloe Ciliberto 17th November 2017 at 7:13 am

The thought of this makes me feel so sick. Such a terrifying moment. I couldn’t see my daughter once on the beach and it wasn’t even a minute till I found her again, but the pounding in my chest and the terror will never leave me. That’s so good that he’s remembered your mobile number. It’s so easy to worry about them, especially when its time for them to find their independence. I will be terrible when its time for my daughter to walk to school alone etc haha. x

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LaurettaCWright 17th November 2017 at 4:59 pm

Yes, it’s worrying but you do get used to it – and as long as they have friends that they stick with/walk with when starting out, it’s a great confidence booster.

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Newcastle Family Life 16th November 2017 at 8:29 pm

I lost my just turned three year old recently, he dissaperered out the house in his PJ’s whilst I was doing laundry. He was gone for about 15 minutes and it was awful, we were searching the streets and could not find him and so many bad thoughts went through my mind. Luckily a neighbour found him crying in the next street, I lock the front door all the time now x

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LaurettaCWright 17th November 2017 at 8:16 pm

Oh no – sounds awful and you were really lucky, That’s a learning lesson for you – we can’t be too careful can we?!

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Joanna Bayford 15th November 2017 at 11:37 pm

I’ve not had an experiance like this with Blake so far. However I couldn’t spot him when we went to a park once it really does make u feek physically sick with fear. I remember when I was little I walked off in the super market I feel sorry for my mum now I’m a parent.

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LaurettaCWright 16th November 2017 at 8:06 am

I think we all did things like that as a kid, not realising how it affects others – or the dangers we put ourselves in. As parents we need eyes in the back of our head don’t we?

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Helen 15th November 2017 at 10:09 pm

Only a lifelong illness diagnosis that I had no control over. Never this, thank god. It must have been so utterly terrifying. I absolutely would have lost the plot. It’s a great idea to practice with them, and they often surprise with their common sense once they’re a bit older! Yours sound very sensible.

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LaurettaCWright 15th November 2017 at 10:37 pm

Thanks Helen – sorry to hear about your diagnosis. That’s something that you have to deal with every day of course, so not only physically draining, but mentally too I expect. I do try to instil some common sense into the kids – we can never be too safe though can we? You hear about teens getting taken advantage of, let alone younger kids.

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Helen 15th November 2017 at 9:00 pm

Oh it’s so scary – though we’ve not full on lost our daughter she has run off through a busy crowd and I temporarily couldn’t see her. It sent me into panic and isn’t something I wish to repeat again!

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LaurettaCWright 16th November 2017 at 12:37 pm

That’s scary enough Helen…it’s sheer relief when you clock eyes on them though isn’t it?!

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Emma 15th November 2017 at 8:05 pm

Oh my gosh, I cannot even begin to imagine how terrified you must have been. Mine go out of eye sight in soft play and I panic!

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LaurettaCWright 15th November 2017 at 8:29 pm

It was a huge learning lesson that’s for sure!

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kerry 14th November 2017 at 10:11 pm

Oh my goodness yes! I had a similar experience. My eldest, when I was 8 months pregnant with my youngest, crawled up under the shelf in Wilkinsons. He was hiding, having fun (he was only 18 months old) and only gone for about 5 mins, but the fear that coursed through my veins was like no other. I too would have bought into something like you said. Scary stuff

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LaurettaCWright 14th November 2017 at 11:21 pm

That must have been awful for you. It’s strange how memories like that always stay with us….I guess all those string emotions we felt at the time are too hard to forget.

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LaurettaCWright 14th November 2017 at 11:21 pm

That must have been awful for you. It’s strange how memories like that always stay with us….I guess all those strong emotions we felt at the time are too hard to forget.

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