My Worst Day of Parenting (so far)

Over the weekend we were shopping at our local Wal-Mart. We were perusing the garden section when we realized it had been a while since our toddler used the bathroom, so my husband asked him if he wanted to go potty. He said he didn’t have to go, so we said “I think you better try and go just in case.” To which he again said no, then took off running away down the aisle.

My husband went after him (I had the baby in the car seat). I continued browsing, assuming he’d catch up to him and bring him back to where we were. A couple minutes later I get a call on my cell phone and it’s my husband saying he can’t find him. Now the panic sets in.

I immediately think he probably went to the toy section so I head in that direction, looking down every aisle on my way there. No sign of him. I get all the way down to the other end of the store, and he’s still nowhere to be found.

At this point my arms are on fire from carrying a 20 lb baby in a car seat, so I head to the cart corral and get another call from my husband. He says he still can’t find him, so we decide to tell the managers. I put the car seat in a cart, and at this point I am in a full sweat, but mostly from panic not exertion.

I walk the length of the store again, yelling my son’s name. Still nothing. By now I’ve gone through all scenarios: he’s hiding in a corner with wet pants, kicking a ball around the store, or someone’s taken him. My mind dwelling on the last one.

Finally, I see my husband again and he says they found him. A wave of relief comes over me and I follow him to where they have our son. We come upon him surrounded by 5 or 6 managers, holding one of their hands. I am so happy to see him! He looks a little scared, but otherwise ok.

Apparently a woman in the store saw him wandering around and brought him to the service area. He told her he was lost and she asked him his name. One of the managers told me all of this, and she also said she asked him his parents’ names and his last name, and then I realized we don’t ever really say those things to him. We’ve told him his last name a few times, but never told him our own names. He’s only ever heard other people call us those names, but to him we are mommy and daddy.

It seems silly, but now I realize how important it is for him to know this. Once we are in the car, and after letting him know how scared he made us and what a bad idea it was to run away, I tell him “I am your mommy, but my name is Brooke. If someone asks you what your mommy’s name is, you say Brooke,” and he repeats my name. I do the same with daddy.

It’s a small thing really, but one I hadn’t given much thought to until I was put in this situation. Of course, now I realize how important a thing it is, and I encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already!

For those who might be thinking “Wow, lady, keep an eye on your kids!” I want to tell you that it took all of 30 seconds for him to disappear into that store. He was right there with us, and then he was gone. It could happen to anyone, and unfortunately this time it happened to us.

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Run fast, little one, but always stay close.

I am writing now two days after it happened, and I am still shaken up, but so very thankful we found him safe and sound. Things could have gone very differently, and that outcome is not lost on me. I am reminded how precious and loved that little boy is, and so grateful for that lady and the mangers at Wal-Mart for immediately springing into action. They had all hands on deck for us. It was a day I will never forget.

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