When you lose your child in a public place

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It was possibly the worst three of four minutes of my life. We were at a public event with a few thousand other people. One moment my toddler was there, beside us. The next he wasn’t.

We looked in our immediate vicinity, but no sign. We looked again, expecting to see him at any second, but still no sign. Nowhere.

My child was lost.

I felt physically sick. I could feel the tears stinging my eyes. I grabbed my other two kids and went one way, while Cardiff Daddy went the other, all of us shouting his name.

Random people said they would help us look. Someone asked me if I wanted her to look after my other children so I could get about more quickly. I politely declined. I’d already lost one child; I couldn’t abandon the others. I held their little hands as tightly as I could as we walked up and down, calling for him, asking people if they’d seen a little two-year old dressed in blue.

I told an event steward, who radioed to ask her team members to look out for him.

I saw Cardiff Daddy telling another warden. He’s always so calm and chilled but I could see the worry on his face.

I bumped into two friends who sensed what was up by the frantic look in my face. They tried to comfort me and I promptly burst into full-on tears. I was shaking.

And then suddenly there he was. Wandering around with a smile on his face, content in his own little world. Completely oblivious to it all. I picked him up and hugged him as tightly as I could. “You mustn’t wander off,” I told him. “We didn’t know where you were.” The tears – this time out of sheer relief – prevented me from saying much more.

It was only three or four minutes but it was the longest three of four minutes. Every worst case scenario went through my head. If I’m honest, they’re still running through my mind. All those what ifs; knowing how lucky we were that everything was okay.

I’ve been debating with myself whether I should write about this, because I realise I am putting myself up for all manner of criticism of my parenting skills.

But so many other parents told me that day, and since, that they have lost a child in public, and just how easily it can happen. “I’ve no idea how it happened,” seems to be the common refrain.  “One minute he/she was there right under my nose; the next minute they’d gone.”

That’s pretty much what I said too. I don’t know how it happened. But it did happen. And it was absolutely terrifying.

I’m mortified about what happened. I’m angry with myself.

But it doesn’t make me a bad parent. I might not be perfect, but I am definitely not a bad parent.

I am the kind of mum who often finds herself apologising while talking to people, because I am constantly watching my children, rather than looking at the person I am talking to.

I am the kind of mum who wouldn’t dream of leaving her child in a car while she paid for petrol or popped into the shop. I am the mum who, once at a party in a hotel, stayed in the room when her children went to bed, while the other parents left their babies alone in their hotel rooms with baby monitors and laughed at me for being so paranoid. I don’t judge other people for their parenting decisions, but that’s the kind of parent I am.

I didn’t think I would be the mum to lose her child in public. But it turned out, I was.

And it scared the life out of me.

Has this ever happened to you? Do let me know in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or by tweeting me on @cardiffmummy

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4 Comments to When you lose your child in a public place

  1. That must have been so scary! It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I used to hide all the time when I was a kid – especially in supermarkets.

    The worst one though, was when I went to Disneyland Paris with my brother and grandparents when I was 7. I was playing hide and seek with another girl on holiday and was hiding under a table with a table cloth to the floor.

    Nobody could find me.

    10 minutes later I came out because I’d got bored of hiding, to find that a load of people were looking for me thinking I’d been abducted! Haha!

  2. There is no worse feeling even if it is just for a few seconds, that panic and fear is awful. It happens to most people, no matter if they like to admit it or not xx

  3. You’re so brave to post this. This is every mothers worst nightmare, I can’t imagine how I would feel if I lost my daughter, even for a minute but it can happen so easily. So glad you found your little boy and he was perfectly fine.

    • Cardiff Mummy Says

      It was honestly the most worrying few minutes – but the more I spoke about it, the more other people told me it had happened to them too and none of them are bad neglectful parents; it just happens in a split second. It was terrifying but thankfully all was okay.

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