I lost P today.
It was only for a few minutes, but I swear time stops when you panic like that.
The morning started off really well. S is finally feeling better and went back to school for the first time in a week. I actually had both S & H home yesterday as he has been complaining of stomach pain. This is another post all in itself, but I wanted to get him checked out as I’m trying to sort out what is physical and what anxiety.
He seemed fine this morning and the weather was sunny and mild, so we decided to walk. Today is my day home with P, so the three of us set out to enjoy the sunshine and snowbanks on our way to school. All was well until we got closer to the school. Suddenly H started complaining that his stomach hurt again. He was grabbing at his tummy and making noises like he was hurting, and said that he needed to use the bathroom. It was still 5 minutes before the bell was supposed to ring, so S, H & I rushed to the gate of the kindergarten pen with P trailing behind us. I called out to him to hurry, and saw him walk towards us.
The teacher there told us to check his classroom and see if his teacher was there. If so, we could use the bathroom in the class. Luckily she was there (and is wonderful!) and helped us inside. H was on the verge of tears as I helped him out of his snowsuit so that he could run to the bathroom. I had been in the room for 2 – 3 minutes before I looked up and saw S behind me, but not P.
I gasped and immediately wanted to throw up. I panicked and realized that he was not there. He didn’t come into the room with us. I told S to run out into the yard to look for him while I gave H one last quick hug and had to leave him half undressed and upset on the bench.
I ran outside and couldn’t see P or S. The bell rang right that moment and there were kids EVERYWHERE. I normally dress P in a bright yellow Minion hat for this very reason– he tends to wander away to do what he wants, but he has always stayed relatively closeby. The yellow hat makes him easy to spot in a crowd. The past few days he has wanted to wear a reversible snowman / penguin hat that he loves… and of course that’s what he was wearing this morning. Black hat and black coat. As I frantically scanned the sea of children, all I could see were black hats and black coats.
I could feel the panic rising in my throat as the seconds ticked by and kids streamed all around me. I started walking toward the nearby park, hoping he had gone there, when I spotted S’s bright pink coat walking towards me.
And a small black hat was walking next to her, holding her hand. He was crying his eyes out and started running as soon as he saw me. S gave me a quick hug and kiss before she darted into the school, and I stood in the yard and held P while he cried and said,
“I was all alone, Mommy. I don’t like when you hide.”
Between that and knowing that I had had to leave H upset and on his own in the cubby to rush out to find P left me feeling like the worst mother in the world. I know these things happen and in total, this all happened in the span of about 4 minutes, but… there is nothing quite like the panic that comes with realizing that you don’t know where your child is.
My heart is heavy today. P is fine and we’ve had hot chocolate and lots of snuggles since coming home, but it’s hard. When something like this happens it’s so hard not to berate yourself and see all the ways this is completely your fault. How did I not check that he wasn’t with me when I went inside? I always check. There are 34328840239 ways this could have gone so wrong…
…and I’m just so grateful that none of them happened.
I promised P that I will never hide like that again, and while I know H is in the care of two amazing teachers who are looking after him… I can’t wait until school is over so that I can give him a hug, apologize for leaving him like that and explain what happened.
It’s been a day. I’m ready for tomorrow.
There are a million reasons that make you a good mother, lady. As a Mom of three kids a bare two years apart I lost my kids or maybe they lost me a few times in their younger years. Once my son locked my car doors when it was running and I sat on the kitchen floor and wept. Truth be told I had needed to go to our playgroup more than my kids. Over 35 years ago and I still feel the anguish, self-doubt and horror of these moments. But one thing: a good mother cares for her children no matter what. And that describes you to a T, Heidi!