Honey, I lost the kids

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lost, child, children, panic
I have discovered from hard, bitter experience just how quickly you panic when you lose your children in public, even if it is only briefly. Pic credit below.

It has finally happened to me hasn’t it? You know, the inevitable yet terrifying moment all parents experience at some point. Yes, you’ve probably guessed it; I briefly lost my children while out shopping the other day.

In many respects I’m quite surprised it’s taken this long. I’ve been doing this parenting thing for seven years now and it was the first time it had happened. I know my mother lost me numerous times by the time I’d reached the age of seven so all things considered, I think I’m doing quite well (aren’t I? Please, someone reassure me).

The circumstances were a little odd, truth be told. I always knew this moment would come but thought it might happen on some busy London street or packed visitor attraction on a Bank Holiday weekend.

Oh no, this happened on a lightening raid to a DIY store where I was buying some paint to finish off a couple of walls in our kitchen. It was one of those big, out of town outlets that’s about the same size as the Roman Empire in its heyday. I forget what you call it, a massive-huge-o-mega-plex outlet or something.

I would normally try to avoid taking the kids to such a place. After all, DIY stores by their very nature are not exactly child friendly, but I was sprinting in to get one thing and I knew exactly where it was on the shelves near the entrance. What could possibly go wrong?

The trip was without incident until I was in the line waiting to pay. My two daughters were with me and right next to me. For some unfathomable reason, Elizabeth, the younger one, suddenly lurched to the right and then sprinted off, up one of the aisles.

This being a massive-huge-o-mega-plex outlet, the aisles were so big you could land a Boeing 747 on one. With much British-awkwardness, I shouted after her. She didn’t come back. She’d been gone now for, ooo, what maybe five seconds?

I then did the worst thing I possibly could have done. I asked Helen, my oldest child, to dash after her.  As she sprinted off I realized how totally moronic this was. I now had two children tearing round a massive-huge-o-mega-plex surround by power tools, heavy objects and bewildered DIY enthusiasts pushing trolleys the size of oil tankers that could easily take out a three-year-old.

You may be judging me here, but please bear in mind I’d never been in this situation before. Sending my sensible, older, daughter after the more unpredictable, younger one seemed to make sense in that brief second.

When they’d both been gone for all of, oh I don’t know, 20 or 30 seconds (although it seemed like much, much longer) I knew I had to go after them. I discarded my trolley down an aisle packed with electric drills and went off on a mission to retrieve my children.

If sending my eldest daughter off after my youngest daughter was the worst thing I could have done, this action was the absolute worst thing I could have done. With the benefit of hindsight, it was utterly stupid.

It didn’t occur to me until I was in a completely different aisle, staring at bathroom lighting or trunking or some such, but I now had two lost children in a massive-huge-o-mega-plex outlet store. At some point they would come looking for me and I wouldn’t be next to the self-service tills where they’d last seen me. This could lead to complications, major complications.

Having sprinted past door handles, doors, paint and laminate flooring with no sign of my kids, I knew the time had come to speak to a staff member and call in reinforcements. I ran up to a guy in uniform and told him what had happened. Just as I’d finished speaking, I noticed Helen at the self-service tills.

Please remember this was a massive-huge-o-mega-plex and so I could see her, but she was about four miles away. I broke off my chat with the staff member and sprinted after Helen shouting her name before she could disappear off looking for me again.

The worrying thing was, I could see Helen, but not her younger sister. As I got to Helen, Elizabeth also turned up, looking completely unbothered, as if nothing had ever happened.

Words were had with Elizabeth. I explained, firmly but fairly, that you do not run off like that, especially in a massive-huge-o-mega-plex. I had been very worried about her and it was very important you stay with a grown up when in a busy shop.

At the end of the day, no damage was done, apart from my general health. I now had experience of lost children and it wasn’t pleasant, especially as my own stupid actions had made it worse.

If my wife and I go somewhere busy with the kids, we always put a Tyvek wristband on the children with our mobile numbers written on them. On one memorable occasion, a visit to the beach one horrendously busy Bank Holiday weekend, we found we didn’t have any wrist bands and so I wrote on their shoulder blades in felt tip (much to the disapproval of a Daily Mail-reading couple sitting nearby. Based on their choice of reading material, I took this to be a ringing endorsement of my actions).

All things considered, this was an educational experience for me. If this ever happened to me again, I wouldn’t send one of the kids after their sibling and I’d call in reinforcements much sooner. I’m a firm believer that very little of this parenting thing is instinct. You live and you learn through experience. I just hope I never experience it again and if you never have done, I hope you never will.

Have you experience of losing a child? What happened? Did you age one year for every minute they were missing? More to the point, how would you handle the situation if it ever happened to you?


Pic credit; Wackystuff, sourced from Flikr and reproduced under Creative Commons agreement

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25 thoughts on “Honey, I lost the kids”

  1. IF I ever have kids… I will need them on a leash! HA HA HA! That being said, if I have a boy… I will know where he is at all times. On the golf course. My fiance wants to make a pro golfer out of him! ha ha ha!

  2. I lost my daughter really briefly in boots and was my fault . She was trudging behind me into the shop and I got excited by a no 7 product, turned around and she was gone! She had gone around the other side of the counter and an assistant brought her round! I panicked though. Scary! I was lost before I was 7 so you have done well. Glad all went ok and the girls were safe and not bothered! It happens eh? Xx #coolmumclub

    1. It does indeed happen. It taught me a lot IE how not to deal with lost kids! Anyway, I know better for next time, though I hope there isn’t one.

  3. This must have been horrendous. I am yet to experience this, but the time is coming where the stroller will be binned and I am not sure how I will keep up with both twins. What if they both run off in different directions – argh! X

    1. Oh you have twins? Yes, almost certainly inevitable I’m afraid. Very best of luck when it does (although I hope it doesn’t).

  4. OMG how terrifying! Bound to happen at some point though, and I guess DIY stores at least tend not to be jam packed with people (in my limited experience) and-though massive-are enclosed. I can still remember the trauma of one or more of my siblings being lost on beaches back in the day. Our poor parents! I’ve not heard of the wristband idea though-that’s a good idea. #coolmumclub

    1. Yeah, wasn’t too packed with people but just so large and full of dangerous items. And yes, prepare yourself, it may happen to you one day!

  5. My heart was in my throat reading this (and a laughed a couple of times too!)! You show me a parent who has complete attention on their kids 24/7 and I’ll show you a liar. I know you will, but you SHOULDN’T beat yourself up about this. It’s so, so easy to happen to anyone. Interestingly, just recently a friend gave me a tip if you lose your kid in a shop: stand by the entrance/exit (tricky if they’re not close or the same door); that way, although they may be running round the shop, you know they can’t LEAVE the shop.

    Great post!

    #coolmumclub (#cooldadclub!)

    1. I don’t go for parenting perfection. We all make mistakes so I’m with you; you can’t watch over them 24/7 especially if you have more than one. Thanks for commenting and the tip.

  6. Nigel higgins

    Brilliant post fantastic read shouldn’t of laughed but it’s the way you wrote it made me chuckle John. it’s happened to me those 10 seconds are like a lifetime I know,awful feeling in the Pitt of your stomach #brilliantblogposts

  7. I kind of lost EJ at Hampton Court’s Magic Garden yesterday – despite the weather it was heaving. It covers quite a big area but it is also kind of gated with staff watching who comes in and out so in theory it seems ok to let them run off and do their own thing. That doesn’t make you feel better when it starts to pour with rain and everyone’s child but yours has reappeared to take cover! He did reappear eventually but reading this reminds me of Tim’s advice about making sure they have your mobile number on them somewhere. I love the way you’ve written this John – thoroughly entertained at your expense 🙂

    1. Oh Sam, the number of people that have contacted me with their own lost child stories. It is simply a rite of passage for parent and child I think.

  8. Eric lost your nephew in the Disney store in NYC at age 2 …..
    The manager brought him back to him.
    He went off to see some toy, he even took the escalator by himself . LOL

    But what I have always done since he its about 3 years old, teached your nephew, if he where to get lost, is knowing my phone number by heart and my full name. ( my name is not just MOM .. :), very important 🙂

    1. Wow, lost in NYC AND he took the elevator. That is pretty hardcore. The eldest has been able to recite her address since a very young age, Got to work on the youngest. Thanks for reminding me.

    1. Oh I was in a major panic. Yes, brain did go into overdrive. I’e learned from it though, I know for next time…..which I hope never comes.

  9. I was right there with you reading this John. Funny, we often take our girls to the huge B&Q near us, they love it, It’s never occurred to me how dangerous the aisles are (we won’t let them within a ten meter radius of the shed or cupboard under the stairs). Not ever lost the girls yet but with dangermouse being a tiny tearaway I’m sure it’ll happen…
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub, hope the kitchen is coming along!

    1. Very best of luck, one day it will be your turn! You should see how many people have commented on my Facebook page with their own tales of lost children.

  10. Interesting Tony, I bet you have dealt with some major scenarios in your line of work….but I totally get your own kids are different. Your colleagues are also trained and know what to do and probably laiden down with high tech comms equipment. Our kids aren’t! In the meantime, I’ll look on Amazon for that back pack.

  11. Goodness me that was scary. I hope you are okay. It sounds terrifying. It happens to all of us. It only takes a second and they have run off.
    Pen x #coolmumclub

  12. Pingback: Making a costume: I got it wrong again - Dad Blog UK

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