June 13, 2014

I Lost My Daughter

it was probably for only 5 minutes but let me tell you it felt a lot longer, at least 15 minutes. But in those 5 minutes I learned 2 huge lessons. I will share them with you but first let me tell you how I did not win the mom of the year award. Drew's birthday is coming up next week and instead of doing birthday party's for the kids we have a family day doing something special. This year we decided to take the 3 older kids to a water park near us. The girls went three years ago and every summer since have been asking to go back. Two summers ago I was pregnant with 4 so there were no water park adventures and then last summer we were just plain busy with 4 one year olds. Paul and I knew the big kids would be ecstatic when they found out where we were going. Paul didn't realize I was planning on surprising them but instead used it to bribe them into taking a nap a couple days beforehand!

 We ended up meeting up with a friend of ours and his two kids. After a couple kid friendly rides the dads wanted to hit up a couple more exciting rides. I had no problem taking the 5 kids who range in age from 4-8 years. We first went and enjoyed the lazy river and it was great having 4 water safe kids who I know can swim well. Drew kept his puddle jumpers on the entire time we were at the water park which allowed me to relax since he would still drown if he fell in. After a spin around the river the kids decided they wanted to check out the 'baby' slides as they called them. In the 'baby' area there are a bunch of different slides which never have lines and even I have fun in this area. The slides are short but fast. I had told the kids they could play but they were NOT allowed to leave the kid area. Drew is still at an age where he wants me to be right with him so he and I stuck together while the 4 older kids hit slide after slide. As we were walking up the steps to one of the higher kid slides I could see Natalie and Aubrey down below me. They were looking from left to right and I could tell they were looking for me. Both Drew and I were yelling down for them but because of the rush of water around us they could not hear us. I saw Aubrey start climbing the steps for the slide Drew and I were on and I saw Natalie head over to the other kid area. I told Drew that as soon as we came down we had to grab Natalie. But once we were down I could not see Natalie in either of the kid areas. I quickly gathered up the other 4 kids and told them we needed to find Natalie. We walked to the other side of the kid zone thinking maybe she went over to the slides we started at first. Again no Natalie. The table with our stuff was on the other end of the kid area so we walked back to where we just were but the only thing at our table were our bags. At this point I was still calm but starting to get more nervous.

I never did get into a panicked state because I knew Natalie was water safe so I was not concerned that she had gone down a slide and was under water. I also knew that Natalie would never leave the park with anyone. We have gone over and over with our 3 older kids what to do if anyone ever tries to take you; kick as hard as you can and scream so everyone looks at you. I knew Natalie was looking for me just as I was looking for her. I knew she was scared and this is what bothered me the most. After checking all the steps up to the slides and the pools at the bottom of them I told the kids, who were following me around like little puppies not saying a word because they knew Natalie was missing, we needed to go to the lost kid area. I had no idea how else to find her. I was also frustrated because as I was looking for Natalie I was also searching desperately for Paul because I needed him but could not find him. Just as we were going over a bridge I see Natalie walking across it with another mom and a security guard. Her tear streaked face crumbled as she saw me. She ran into my arms and all she could get out was "hold me." There was no yelling because I was not mad at her, there was only relief because she was back with me. The mom told me she got worried when she saw her crying. I thanked her and from one mom to another she understood the gratitude I had for her being concerned when she saw my daughter's frightened face. Once Natalie had calmed down she explained to me that she had gone down a slide with Aubrey and when she got off of it they were looking for me. When she turned around Aubrey was gone and she got confused as to where she was suppose to go. At that point she started looking for me. After a little while she got scared and began crying. A mom came up to her and asked if she was lost and she said yes. I have never been so thankful that my daughter can be brought to tears easily. The mom brought her to a security guard who was bringing her back to where she knew we had been playing.

My toothless first born. Her sister helped with the knocking pulling of her two very loose teeth when they were playing kitty. What that entails I have no idea!
The hardest part of those 5 minutes was knowing my little girl was probably so scared. I can not imagine being six years old and having no clue how to find your mom. I was never worried that someone took her. Was I naive? I don't believe so. I truly knew we were both just trying to find each other. I held myself together until I crawled into bed that night. That is when the emotions and the look on Natalie's face when she saw me again kept playing over and over.

Now back to the two lessons I learned from losing my daughter at the water park:

1. Always have a meet up area in case someone gets lost.
We never had runners or kids that wonder off so I had never really had to think about this before. Drew literally panics if his hand is not either in mine or Paul's or on the stroller if we have the babies with us. A meet up area never even crossed my mind when we entered the park that morning. We did tell the kids they could not leave our side because there would be lots of people there. Once we found Natalie we all went back to our table and told the kids that if anyone got separated from us again to meet us at the table. We also had a meet up area at the wave pool in case someone got separated from us while in it. We would all meet at the life jacket stand if someone got loss in the waves. Having a place we would gather if we got separated gave me a little more comfort for the rest of the day. The fact that Natalie had no idea where to even go when she couldn't find me still bothers me even though this happened days ago.

2. Kids need to know who they should go to if they get lost.
Our kids are very friendly with anyone but at the same time we have talked to them about not speaking to strangers. I am sure Natalie had no idea who to even go to when she couldn't fine me. After finding Natalie we told all the kids if they got hurt or lost they could go to any of the lifeguards at the park and they would help them. As adults we know how to find help but I am sure to a child being in a sea of adults and not knowing a single one of them would be so very scary.

It makes me sad to say that I lost my daughter at the water park. Although it was brief, I hope it never happens again. Does it make me a bad mom? I don't believe so but I do know it gave me yet another lesson in motherhood. I remember when my dad lost my sister when she was young. My dad had my brother, sister and I at our store we owned in the mall. My mom had gone tanning for an upcoming vacation and my dad had to call her to tell her he could not find my sister. After security had been called my sister was found at the little carousel at the other end of the mall. She just wanted to ride the horse. It didn't damage my sister. I am pretty sure she has no recollection of the event but I am sure my mom and dad have never forgotten how they felt when they couldn't find their baby girl. Next time you go to a place with lots of people please have a meet up area for everyone in your family and also let your children know who can help them if they can not find you. It literally takes a turn of your head to lose sight of your child.

The bond these two have is one only a twin (or a quadruplet) can experience.

2 comments:

  1. I'm glad little Natalie was found safe- at this house we taught our kids the Gavin De Becker idea of finding a mum to help- statistically proven subset of the community that would go out of their way for a lost child- as you have found out for yourself. Then we talked about the ways to recognise a mum- other kids, pram etc. Hopefully you won't ever have to feel that sinking panic again.

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  2. I agree with "Anonymous," my kids know to look for another mom who has children with her if they're ever lost.

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