I must admit, I felt smug, in nearly three years I was yet to lose my child. Parent win? After all, those little people are fast, you blink and they are gone. However, upon a recent trip to Center Parcs that was about to change.
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Now, as a Center Parcs virgin I was unaware that Monday and Friday are the busiest days as they are the check in/ check out days. You have people who have checked out and making the most of the last day of their holiday, and the people who have just arrived ready and eager to begin their adventures.
We arrived on the Monday all keen and eager and thinking we could make do without one thing.....the pram. We brought the bloody step and toilet seat but we didn’t think we needed the pram. This was our first mistake.
We were waiting in a sports bar/ bowling alley with a soft play and arcade attached. Elijah was dipping in and out of the soft play with Greg or his godfather Adam, with him. We were then having a drink together when Elijah decided he wanted to go to the arcade.
I now remember what happened next as if it was in slow motion.
I watched Elijah get up and watched the back of his head disappear around the corner. Adam quickly followed, in the time it had taken him to get up and follow, Elijah was gone.
At first when Adam returned a few seconds later I thought he was joking that he couldn’t find Elijah. That he had gone and hidden in the soft play, Greg went to go and check. Then Greg returned, panic slowly began to creep in when he couldn’t see him either.
I got up and scanned the soft play, no red Mickey Mouse T shirt. No Elijah.
The arcade was next door, and neither had doors on them, so they were accessible, I looked in there, no Elijah.
About a minute has passed.
I now have a knot in my stomach and am playing every scenario over in my head.
What if we never find him again?
What if someone has taken him?
What if he is hurt?
Crying for me?
I went into overdrive and looked frantically where I can, down the stairs, into the other sports bar we had been earlier that day, the Peppa Pig ride he went on, but nothing. To me, it felt like everyone was looking and judging me as a bad mum. The mum who lost her kid.
Three of us were searching for him, with Amber waiting at the table in case he went back, we were getting more and more concerned, perhaps two or three minutes had passed. Looking in Greg’s terrified face we came to the realisation that we should tell someone. I ran up the stairs and searched the lanes of the bowling alley, and no sign of him. We had to tell someone, the urgency was there now. In the time, it took to go back to the table to see if the others had found him, I could see Adam holding him.
Relief flooded me as I grabbed him and held him as tightly as I could. He had been hiding in the bowling alley looking at the bowling balls, we had all looked in there, so he must have been out of sight.
I don’t think any more than 5 minutes had passed, but this event has made a lasting impression on me. Frankly it scared me to death, the fact we lost him. The guilt hit me, the embarrassment and shame soon followed. Were we bad parents? After all we lost our child! This was not helped by someone who worked in the bowling alley coming over to tell us to watch our child as he was playing with the balls and could get hurt. OH REALLY? DO YOU THINK WE WOULD WILLINGLY LET OUR CHILD WANDER OFF AND PLAY WITH BOWLING BALLS UNSUPERVISED? We were not exactly sitting around having a jolly ol’ time having a mocktail. We were all scouring the building for him. This played on my mind all day, and I struggled to sleep that night reliving it all.
Being 6 months pregnant and hormonal did not help, the thought of it now still brings the knot and panic back. I have always been quite an overprotective mother and I felt I had failed. I am now so over cautious when Elijah is not in his pram or on his bike when we are in public. I have also thought of getting a GPS cat collar for him but that may be too far. We have had reins before, but this was inside, where we were all sitting, watching him. The fear I felt in those 5 minutes is something I never want to feel again. The whole holiday was somewhat tainted after that, when we were all making sure that he wasn’t going to run off. All on edge to avoid it happening again.
We also hired a pram, that was a good move.
Those 5 minutes aged us all by about 20 years, and I am sure I have sprouted 200 grey hairs as well. Being a parent you are responsible for keeping your children safe and out of harm, when you cannot do this the feelings that you failed them overwhelm you.
These things happen, I think we all have a memory from our childhood of being lost but it is something I am most defiantly keen to avoid happening again.
I am now off to Google GPS trackers on Amazon!