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.
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.
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?