Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Code 11

Graham recently decided he is too big to ride in the grocery cart when we shop together.

And I don't tolerate screeching very well, so last Thursday evening at our massive local Superstore after hearing "I want to walk!" approximately 20 times in 10 minutes I lifted him out, cautioned him to stay by my side and resigned myself to accepting his help pushing the cart.

Despite my constant nagging, he ran ahead and lagged behind and momentarily disappeared from view a few times over the course of our errand, but it wasn't until I was paying for my groceries that I realized he had been out of my sight for more than a few seconds.

I wasn't overly worried to be honest. Doesn't every mother in the world have a story about the time their child wandered off in a public place? You know how it goes: "I freaked out. I got hysterical. When I finally found him I didn't know whether to laugh or cry." Surely Graham was right around the corner.

But he wasn't.

I started to walk up and down the aisles calling for him. Every time I turned a corner I expected to see him: but I didn't. After just a few minutes I started to trot, not walk, and yell, not call, for him.

"GRAHAM! GRAHAM!"

And then I was running and screaming at the top of my lungs and people were staring but I didn't care. Up and down the aisles I raced.

GRAHAM! GRAHAM!

He wasn't there.

A store employee approached me and asked me to describe Graham and his clothing. I did, down to every last detail. I vaguely heard a voice over the intercom, "Calling all staff, Calling all staff!" and noticed more employees fanning out along the aisles.

And all of a sudden, I realized there was no guarantee how this story would end. It hit me that both the happy stories and the heartbreaking ones - the horrible ones illustrated by weeping parents and solemn police officers - all start the same way.

They all start when a child goes missing.

That's when I started to hyperventilate. I tried to keep calling for Graham but I couldn't speak. A sympathetic shopper tried to calm me, but everything seemed blurry and I could feel panic taking hold.

Graham had been missing for almost 15 minutes. My head swam with the realization that this story's ending, my story's ending, could very well be one that made total strangers put down their newspaper, brush away tears and clutch their children closer. I started to sob.

"M'am, he's here! M'am!"

I turned and there he was. Graham was holding the hand of a middle-aged man in a store uniform and looking sheepish.

"He was in the audiovisual department watching a movie."

And I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

So I did both and thanked everyone profusely and scooped him up in my arms and kissed him and chastised him for leaving my side.

And I thanked God for giving me a happy ending and a story that ended like almost everyone else's: a story to be recounted to other knowing mothers with the appropriate mixture of exasperation and humour and gratitude and reverence.

Reverence because the experience, no matter how cliche, taught me a few things.

It taught me that my confident and capable exterior will crumble in an instant if I fear my son is in danger.

It taught me that Graham is not too big to ride in the grocery cart when we shop together.

And it taught me that at our local Superstore, Code 11 indicates a missing child and precipitates a lock down of all exits.

But that knowledge, of course, is something I could have gone to my grave without knowing.

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72 comments:

OHmommy said...

Oh Phew. I am glad he was found. What a worry.

LOL. Again, we posted about similar things like the screeching toddler in shopping carts. Mine too is riding in the cart until 12.

By the way, what are you wearing tomorrow? LOL. ;)

SciFi Dad said...

Holy crap that is my worst nightmare, right there.

I (half) joke with my daughter that if she can't listen, then we'll have to buy her a leash. She hasn't run off (yet -- knock on wood).

Immoral Matriarch said...

Oh my Kelly. My heart was pounding reading that. 15 minutes - you must have been dying. Wow.

Remind me to hug you in Chicago next year for this.

Crystal D said...

Oh my, ugh, my heart is still pounding just from reading this. I. can't. even. imagine.
My 3 year old is going back in the cart. She is a wanderer and I feel like this is all the reality check I need.

Melisa said...

Yikes! Scary! Glad he's okay.

Believe it or not, I think I made my kids stay in the cart until they were about 6. hee hee (Seriously)

Whenever I let them walk, I made them hold onto the cart and, most times, I kept my hand on top of their hand on the cart. Still, it only takes a second. Glad he was just looking for some entertainment! :)

Michelle said...

So glad he's ok. That is awful. I bought Peanut one of those backpacks with a... leash... for that exact reason. I never thought I would.

Mandy said...

I've been there, although not for 15 minutes. And I agree, those are horrible minutes. Our philosophy is to yell at the top of our lungs right away. That was because once, in Shoppers Drug Mart, we had our backs turned for 20 seconds at the till, and he was already out the sliding doors, onto the main street.

I'm so glad everything turned out okay for you and Graham.

common mom said...

Soooo glad you found him and everything worked out! I bet those were the longest 15 minutes of your life . . . so sorry you had to experience those feelings. And I hope you never have to feel them again!

Awesome Mom said...

I am so glad that this story had a happy ending. I keep an extra close eye on Evan who is too big to sit in the cart. He may not wander off but he loves to "help" me get the groceries into the card and dropped a carton of eggs once.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

My heart is absolutely pounding for you. That is my worst nightmare. I'm so glad it is all okay now.

for a different kind of girl said...

I'm SO glad things turned out the way they did. It's truly a terrifying feeling when they slip away from you.

It's disappointing and scary how often I see parents leave their kids in stores, though. I work in he children's department of a bookstore, and pretty much every shift I work, a parent walks back with their kids and asks "Will you be OK here for a little bit?" and then bails to the far off reaches of the store. Most often, the kids aren't older than five. It scares me very much.

Kat said...

I've been in a store twice when it went on lockdown looking for a lost child. So scary. I pretty much freaked out trying to help find the child. I can't even IMAGINE if it was my child being looked for. Just too scary to even imagine.

So GLAD that it all turned out well. SO. GLAD.

the planet of janet said...

whew. i still panic and my "baby" is 14. she disappeared in a kohl's once. i was thisclose to calling the authorities before i found her in the juniors department.

then there was the time her older brother (now 27) hid in the clothing rounder in sears.

arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Holly said...

chilling. VERY glad he was found.

painted maypole said...

i lost MQ at a department store when she what three. it was TERRIFYING. Obviously, she was found. in the toy department. on the other side of the store. CLUELESS that she was missing. and how she found the toys I'll never know, because she had never been in that store before.

Zoeyjane said...

My heart is still pounding. Gah. Loblaws doesn't completely suck - good for them for the coding/lockdown. I'm so happy that this turned out with a happy ending.

x said...

Glad he was found! My son also got lost in a wal-mart as we were x-mas shopping.

The whole thing stressed me out so to cheer me up my son and hubby bought me a gorgeous diamond necklace from www.idonowidont.com which was sweet

Now, when we go to stores my boy stays with me the entire time.

Erin said...

Oh I am so glad that everything turned out alright! Definite heart pounding moments--even reading about it.

Vic said...

My heart was in my mouth reading that.
At least you know the first place to look for him if he ever wanders off again. That is,of course, if he's ever allowed to walk round the store again.

tinsenpup said...

Ugh. Horrifying. I was right there with you for that. Lol - So well written. I can't begin to imagine how awful those 15 minutes were.

sky girl said...

OMG Kelly, thank god everything is okay. I've been haunted by a story much like yours but with a very tragic ending. I can't get away from it. Even though I knew your story would turn out okay, my heart was still in my throat as I read.

daysgoby said...

Oh, Kelly....

*wipes eyes*

You told that very well - I'm so, SO glad he's okay.

As much as I try to convince myself that the odds are terrific that neither of my kids will be abducted or kidnapped or...vanished during their lifetimes, the chance of that? Still very scary.

Omaha Mama said...

This made me cry.

RiverPoet said...

I'm so glad that all turned out well. But I'm so sorry that you had such a harrowing experience. Those are the moments that begin the long march of gray hairs.

Peace - D

Parent Club said...

Everyparent's nightmare!

I'm so sorry you had to go through that.

Karen said...

My heart stopped with yours for a moment. I've been there, and that is One. Scary. Ride.

Mary Lynn said...

Yikes! So glad you found him. I lost sight of my daughter for about a minute at a petting zoo the other day and that was bad enough. Can't imagine how long 15 minutes must've felt!

Secret Agent Mama said...

Oh. My. God. I know this feeling, all too well, and your writing has sent me back into the cold sweat of it all.

I'm so glad he was found, safe and sound.

Kelly O said...

Even knowing how the post was going to end, knowing that you wouldn't write a post about the disappearance of your son without it having a happy ending, I couldn't make it half-way through without sobbing in my cubicle at work.

Having kids has totally ruined my reputation as a hardass. I'm so, so glad he was fine.

Colleen - Mommy Always Wins said...

SO glad you found him safe and sound! I got all teary reading this - many of us know all too well what that panicked feeling is like!

Bryan said...

dang diddly dang! that's scary

InTheFastLane said...

Scary stuff...But, I so love that he was watching a movie. This sounds like something that could very much happen to me.

Catherine said...

Scary. My little one (age 3) rides in the cart. I only let the bigger one out this year (he's 5). I like the carts that have the seats on the front - hard to steer though. Or, I would put the kids in the basket of the cart (on your butt!) and put all the groceries under. I also own a kid leash. Would not venture into large airports without it for this very reason. I don't want the airport to close because my kid ran around security.

Catherine said...

Scary. My little one (age 3) rides in the cart. I only let the bigger one out this year (he's 5). I like the carts that have the seats on the front - hard to steer though. Or, I would put the kids in the basket of the cart (on your butt!) and put all the groceries under. I also own a kid leash. Would not venture into large airports without it for this very reason. I don't want the airport to close because my kid ran around security.

Anonymous said...

That was such a good read, i had to read it twice. I felt that I rushed through it to fast the first time and it deserved the time to experience every word. I knew your son would end up ok, but I was still on the edge of my seat almost in tears.
GOOD ON YA! I am sorry you were so scared.

ewe are here said...

I'm so sorry you had such a scare. But you can't be too careful, and I'm glad the store responded the way it did.

When I was very young, someone actually tried to take my baby sister while she was at the grocery store with my mom. She was sitting in the seat of the shopping cart, a big baby, and my mom was shopping as normal. When she turned around, it was just in time to see a man disappearing around the corner pushing her away... She went after them, then she started screaming when she realized it was deliberate. The man abandoned the cart and my sister, raced through the door, and jumped into a waiting car outside.

You can't be too careful.

Autumn said...

That had me in tears. This parenting stuff is HARD!
I'm glad he's ok.

kittenpie said...

That would be TOTALLY panic-inducing!

But I am actually really happy to hear that in a massive store where families shop a lot, they have a procedure in place for that. Good for them - that's the kind of proactive, organized attention that could just save a story from becoming the bad one.

KD @ A Bit Squirrelly said...

SO glad it ended so well. I wrote a similar post Monday when my daughter's school called me and said she was absent. The problem was I had dropped her off at the front door at 8am. I got the call from the school at 9:20am Luckily she was fine, but it was terrifying!

Tracey said...

Oh honey!! I am crying with you, as I know that fear, and it is paralyzing...

Thank God he likes movies... Thank God...

Oz said...

Oh, Graham just gave me a heart attack. I'm so glad he turned up safe and sound.

Pregnantly Plump said...

That is so scary! I'm so glad you found him.

Ellyn said...

Your story actually made tears come to my eyes. I can't imagine your terror in that moment. Thank goodness he is safe.

Mine are not too big for shopping carts. They won't be for a long time either.

Elaine A. said...

I lost my niece for 10 minutes once in Target when she was 2 and I was only 18. Scariest time of my life. Ben's never been a wanderer, but my younger boy, will not be allowed out of the cart I can tell you that!!

SOOOO glad your story has a happy ending....

Vered - MomGrind said...

"at our local Superstore, Code 11 indicates a missing child and precipitates a lock down of all exits."

They should do this everywhere.

I'm so glad he's OK. There's nothing scarier, is there?

ChristophersHeart said...

Oh my gosh Kelly. I have tears in my eyes as you describe the longest 15 minutes of your life. I am so glad Mr. Graham was found safe and sound.

After reading your scary experience I've decided that Maddy is going to be a cart rider once again.

Wen

Chantal said...

I am in tears with you. Thank God he was okay, PHEW!!!

Eternal Sunshine said...

Oh, how awful for you! I'm so glad that it all turned out ok...

My kids like to walk, too. Once instance of playing 'high speed chase' with a toddler while trying to keep from tipping over the cart with his baby brother in it was enough for me to get over that idea.

Now that they're older, they each have to hold onto the side of the cart. I'm mean, but it makes life easier...

Rachel said...

Kelly, I got tears in my eyes and chill bumps on my arms.

Thank God Graham is okay and thank you for sharing this.

The hugest hug ever is owed to you.

CC said...

It's completely terrifying isn't it! I'm so glad he was found safe and sound.

Lisa said...

how scary! that is a horrifying feeling. I had a friend give me some good advice to go through a drill in Target or the grocery store about what to do if you get separated. Talk about what the employees wear (red shirts with nametags at Target) or tell them to find a Mommy who has a little child with them. We've yet to use the advice, but I think it would help in a scary situation.

So glad your story had a happy ending!

Badness Jones said...

Oh thank god, thank god! 5 seconds feel like an eternity when you can't find them, 15 minutes must have been torture. I'm glad your story had a happy ending. Hugs!

Heather said...

So scary. SO scary! Sorry you had the experience. I suppose we all have it at least once.

Kellan said...

WEll ... I held my breath through this whole post and was nearly brought to tears when you found him - THANK GOD! I had to know that you had found him, but still - I worried, as we all do when we hear or have a lost child. How scary. Take care, Kellan

tommie said...

Not knowing where your child is and that fear that grips your heart is one of my worst fears. I am so glad he was safe and sound.

PS...mine are 4 and 5...the BOTH still ride in the cart. The five year old walks sometimes, but he has to keep his hand on the basket part!

MommyTime said...

I've had that gut-wrenching breath-stopping fear too, but only momentarily. I can't imagine how interminable those 15 minutes must have been. I'm so glad he's fine. Sending all my best wishes.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

A missing child is a painful rite of passage for mothers. I'm sorry you had to go through it and I'm surely grateful it had a happy ending.

Amy said...

I know the feeling. I lost my oldest this summer, at a pond. I was freaked out beyond measure. It opens your eyes to all possible dangers and make you aware of how precious and fragile every moment is.

Corey~living and loving said...

seriously....I did not need that cry I just had reading this. ugh...I still have a sick feeling in my tummy.

glad your story was a good one.

Kimmylyn said...

I am sitting here with HUGE tears in my eyes reading this..I cannot imagine having to go through that..

Hugs to you .. BIG BIG hugs.

Jaina said...

Maybe it's the hormones fluctuating at the moment, but that made me cry. I'm glad you found him, and I have to say I'm impressed with the store's reactions.

Trannyhead said...

Poor Mommy.

I used to run away from my mom in stores ALL THE TIME when I was a kid. Now that I know how awful that would be? Well - I have a new perspective on it.

Also - I used to think those toddler backpack things were a bad idea, too. Then I had a toddler who runs away from me and who never looks back to see if I"m following. *hangs head in shame* I have changed my mind on lots of things as a parent thus far - and I'm only 15 months in to this game!

Stephanie said...

Your story had a happy ending and it still brought tears to my eyes... so glad he's ok.

Stomper Girl said...

We've all lost our child at least once! Scarey but true. So glad you found him safe.

Kami said...

I am in tears...I am so happy he was found safe and sound and so sorry you had to endure that utter terror.

So sorry!

Beck said...

Oh my gosh, this story made me bawl.
I one time LOST my oldest child - who was only two or three - in a crowded Wal-Mart, and I was hysterical almost instantly. Of course, she was barely two aisles away, happily rolling balls around, and I was a WRECK.

Karen MEG said...

OMG, 15 minutes must have seemed like an eternity, you must have been such a wreck Kelly! I could barely handle reading this post!

Thankfully the girlie still enjoys the cart, but she's played hide-and-seek amongst clothes racks at Winners way too many times.

Thank goodness he was watching the video. And that the Superstore has that procedure in place.

Reluctant Housewife said...

God, how scary. 15 minutes is an eternity. (((HUG)))
I'm so glad he was found safe and sound. (Hey! I'm so relieved, I'm rhyming.)

DaniGirl said...

This happened to my husband in Walmart. I still get a flutter of panic when I think about it. Glad it ended well, but holy crap those must've been the longest 15 mins of your life...

b*babbler said...

Wow - crazy scary. Glad it worked out.

Honestly, we have a harness in this house. The one we have can be worn as a full harness, or just a wrist "leash". Peanut is a bit of a wanderer/runner, and it makes all the difference. My standard response when people say its like treating a kid like a dog is to ask if they love their dog more than their kid.

Kat said...

My heart is all a twitter right now. Scary!! I am sooo glad everything is Ok. That had to have been the worst feeling ever.

caramama said...

OMG! I can't even imagine! I'm having shivers from this story! I'm so glad it worked out okay and that you had the good ending.

I was a wandering child who often would wander off on my own and get distracted or do what I wanted when no one would listen. I am so hoping that karma isn't going to pay me back for what I did to my parents!