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March 23, 2007

Every parents worst fear


UPDATE:  Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments (public and private).  You're awesome!

Thanks also for all the links to websites that sell ID bracelets and/or number beads.  it looks like I'll be making a couple of bracelets soon!

A few people asked if I really wrote on Gwen's forehead.   Nope.  I added the text to a photo I already had.  :)

Gwen and Maddy seem to be connected by an invisible tether as neither child is usually more than just a few feet from the other.  Even when their close proximity is annoying the heck out of both of them. 

So, when I noticed that Maddy ran out of the toddler play ground at the mall today, I panicked because I KNEW that must mean that Gwen was also out -- and I couldn't see her anywhere!

Let me back up a little bit.  We did our usual thing - like we do every weekday:  The kids happily played on the red and blue car and slid down the baby slide on their tummy and fought over who got to sit on the turtle's head.  They climbed over and through the log and, in the middle of it all, we shared a banana (but not this way).  It was what we always do.  It was our safe, fun, familiar routine. 

When it came time to leave, I walked to the middle of the playground then towards the entrance where our stroller was and asked who wanted to get in first.  Gwen volunteered Maddy and Maddy turned back and took off running with Gwen and Mommy in hot pursuit.  Then the girls split up and went in opposite directions (but still within the playground, I thought). 

Rather than chase them and drag them out, I turned around and headed back to the stroller and that's when I saw that Maddy was in front of me and actually LEFT the playground (a huge taboo and something they get in big trouble for and don't EVER do!).   I could tell from her confident gait that Gwen must also have left so I asked Maddy where Gwen was and she looked around then gave me the universal gee-I-dont-know-Mom shrug.  And that's when I felt my face go numb. 

I looked left and right and every quadrant between! 

I screamed Gwen's name and pleaded with her to call back to me. 

I scooped up Maddy and didn't even have time to put her in the stroller so I ditched it and carried her like a quarterback carries the football as I sprinted to places I can't even remember now while frantically calling out to Gwen. 

The other parents (who are usually total snobs) leaped to their feet, grabbed their kids, and joined the search and I felt immense gratitude that I wasn't the only person searching for this precious little person (who probably didn't even know she was lost yet).   For split seconds, I was forced to imagine that I'd never see her again and it just killed me -- It's almost too painful to even write about now!

I ran to the bathroom and looked under the counter since Gwen was known to jump the gun and run there the instant Maddy said she needed to go potty.  Under the counter was a favorite "hiding" spot.  But she wasn't there. 

We ran around the entire perimeter of green seats at the play ground, and then inside -- just to make sure she hadn't turned back.  I stopped for a millisecond to try to absorb all of the possibilities and plot our next direction to run:

  • An exit to the parking lot/street. 
  • An escalator to the 2nd floor. 
  • A corridor that lead to Sears. 
  • Another corridor that leads to the food court. 
  • A juice bar where we buy our bananas every day. 
  • A kiddy makeover/glamor store.
  • A satellite post office. 
  • An overpriced kid's clothing store. 

All of this was within 20 feet of the playground -- She could be ANYWHERE!

Finally, I heard one of the other parents call out "She's here!" and I raced towards the sound of her voice and saw her walking towards me holding Gwen's hand.  Gwen was smiling as if she'd just played the coolest game of hide-n-seek ever!

For several months now, I've been looking for beads with numbers on them so I can make a bracelet with our cell phone number.  I can't find any!  I even bought some ShrinkyDinks so I could make something (but it's too brittle and doesn't work as a long term solution).  My biggest fear is that one of the kids will run off and nobody will be able to contact me to tell me when they find them.

I swear, I'm going to just get a black permanent marker and write my cell phone number on their forehead!!

Mall_playland_smThis is the toddler play ground at our local mall.  The top photo is from September of last year when we just returned from China with Maddy.  Maddy is on the slide and Gwen is on the steps.

The bottom photo is from a year earlier -- when Gwen was just 15 months old. 

Both girls LOVE this playground and we come here almost every day. 

If you look in the back, you'll see that there are green bench seats that encompass the perimeter of the play area.  This gives the parents a place to sit and observe while discouraging the tots from escaping.  There is a 8 foot 'gap' in the front of the area for parents and kids to enter.  For nearly a year, I'd sit there and make sure Gwen didn't escape.  When Maddy came along, Gwen quickly informed her of the number one rule which says that nobody leaves the playground without their Mommy!


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