Have you ever lost your child? I thought I did.

About a week before Christmas my husband decided to take me to the mall with my almost five year old and his sister (who is a teenager.) The entire point of this trip was to surprise me with my Christmas present. I was unsure what the surprise was going to be, and as we turned a corner in the mall and he told me to go inside of a jewelry store. I got butterflies in my stomach. Was he really going to do this? No. Way.

After we got the attention of a sales person there, my husband told his sister and our daughter they could go see Santa, who was right outside the doors and within sight.

A few minutes passed by, and as we were wrapping up what we needed to do, we turned and noticed Santa was on break.

There were no children in line, and our kid was nowhere to be seen. My husband instantly took off–walking with the speed of a madman and looping around the mall. We split up to search for them.

Across the hallway from where I stood was Zoey’s favorite store, The Children’s Place, so I didn’t worry. I thought for sure she would be in there trying to think of a way to convince us to buy her the new cute clothes that were on display. I walked in there thinking I would see her instantly. Nothing. She was nowhere to be found.

Have you ever lost your child?

I got my phone out and decided to call my little sister (in law), but there was no answer. This is when panic started to set in. What teenager doesn’t have their phone glued to their hand at all times? In my mind this was a serious red flag. I didn’t care that she probably couldn’t hear her phone. She was not answering. This scared me.

As soon as I realized calling wouldn’t help, I started racing around the mall looking in stores they could possibly be in.

Nothing.

Just tons of people in every direction, it was the week before Christmas after all.

I ran into my husband, who was accompanied by security guards. He had went to get their help, his eyes were glazed over and he was showing the physical signs of emotion that I was feeling: heart racing extremely fast, sweaty palms, and that feeling of trying to hold back tears. The fear was painted all over both of our faces. He told me his sister had left her cell phone at home. That isn’t what I had wanted to hear. I was still hoping she’d call me back.

After another painful 45 minutes of circling the mall over and over again, my phone rang. It was my husband, who with an incredible amount of relief in his voice said they found them. ‘Where?’ I had asked…and he replied ‘The Children’s Place’. My mind flooded with a million questions, how could I have missed them? I went in there three or four times!

I rushed to meet them, and discovered Zoey had begged to try on clothes. They were there the entire time. I always tell Zoey there’s no need for her to try on clothes. I know her size. She finally convinced somebody to let her and in the process gave us a heart attack.

I had completely forgotten about my Christmas gift, and all excitement I could have had from it was gone. Zoey thought it was hilarious that she scared us, and we had to have the talk again about how much danger she could be in if she were truly lost, or worse–kidnapped. We also lectured my sister in law about the importance of taking her cell phone when she goes anywhere by herself, and especially when she is responsible for her niece.

This was by far one of the scariest moments of my entire life. Every time I passed by a door that said “No Entrance” the worst of the worst thoughts passed through my head. I thought they had been kidnapped. It would not be difficult to swipe a petite teenage girl and a preschooler.

It wasn’t until we got home I was able to sit back and look at my Christmas present, an upgraded wedding ring set, that will forever remind me of the day I thought I lost my daughter, and the heartbreak that I felt when I couldn’t find her for over 45 minutes at the mall.

Not surprisingly, knowing she was safe the entire time doesn’t make me feel much better. I now know why I have always required my kids to stay within arm’s reach of me.

They are more important than anything and I wouldn’t know what to do if I ever lost them.

Now I need to try and get over my fear of letting my kids go with a babysitter complex.

Have you ever lost your child?

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh man, I’m so sorry that happened. I can totally relate to every emotion you felt and then some. We lost our 4 year old daughter last summer for about 15 minutes … at a water park … and she can’t swim. At one point I was convinced she had drowned and would find her at the bottom of the wave pool. I don’t think I took a breath until we finally found her with a life guard, who was walking her OUT of the park into the parking lot. I wanted to strangle the teenager as much as I wanted to hug her for having our daughter by her side safe and sound.

    • says

      Oh Cat, a water park is so much scarier than a mall, especially when they’re so young! The same thing happened to me, though, I kept picturing scenarios in my head that were straight from Criminal Minds and it took everything in me to not lose it right then and there. I feel like such a bad mom for not knowing where she was for so long, but really we had only been away for maybe 15 minutes until we started searching. Extremely terrifying!

  2. says

    What a scary situation! Thankfully, something like this hasn’t happened with my 3 year old — and I am hoping it never does.

    I think I would be more upset with your sister in law than your daughter. It would have taken a moment for the two of them to come back to you and tell you they were going to The Children’s Place. Hopefully they both realize how scary the ordeal was and will be more mindful in the future!

    • says

      I agree! We were so upset, I remember when I was young we weren’t aloud to go anywhere (no matter how close) without letting our parents know first. I never understood why this was a rule as a child, but I sure do now.

  3. says

    How scary for you and your husband! I’ve never lost my child for more than 30 seconds, but I remember what those 30 seconds felt like. I was panicked and terrified. I can’t imagine going through that for nearly and hour. To be honest, we pay an extra $10 a month to have a regular old flip phone to give my nearly 10 yr old son to carry when we go any place where there are crowds or where we could potentially be separated. I’m so happy things turned out okay in the end.

  4. says

    I feel your pain. I can even feel that heat racing, sweaty palms, the worry and the panic!
    I have thought I lost my son on a handful of occasions (he tends to wander). Once at a water park (like Cat said I thought he had drowned). And once at a department store. ( he was playing hide-and-go-seek under the clothes racks.) just thankful he was found safe and sound.
    You read horror stories on the news everyday. Great article.

  5. says

    I have not (yet) but Chris did. He said Charlotte had gotten around a corner ahead of him and when he went there, she was gone. Just poof. Gone. She was probably.. 5? They were in Walmart. Turns out she was gone…she literally walked through some clothign racks and ended up on the other side of the store. He said it was the worst 10 minutes of his life.

  6. says

    SO Scary and I’m soo Happy that you found them both. I’m sure that was the longest 45 min of your life and probably took off a few years too,

    I lost my daughter once in a store in Las Vegas when i was visiting my grandma. It was a Mexican discount store and hardly no one spoke english. I got the guard to lock the front door by telling him I needed a code ADAM. thankfully after I explained what that was he locked the front door called all the employees up to the front of the store showed them a picture of my daughter while then we all looked for her. They had a back door that led into the parking lot that wasn’t guarded. to end the story quickly she was found after about 15 min. Hanging on the inside of one of the clothing racks. She was only 2 1/2 yr old and at the moment I was so grateful to of found her. She just giggled and said, “look mommy I hanging” and laughed again.

  7. says

    Oh wow, that’s so scary! I’m glad you found her safe. I didn’t lose Jake, but a few years ago he left for a bike ride with his friends and didn’t come back when he was supposed to. He was gone for several hours later and wasn’t answering his phone. It turned out they had gotten lost and couldn’t figure out how to get back and his phone had run out of battery. It was scary.

  8. says

    Wow, I was in tears reading your story – i imagine my self hugging, crying and wanting to hit my child all at once for scaring the heck out of me. My worst nightmare is someone taking my children, taking their smiles, breaking their happiness – it would destroy me.