Most people who’ve spent time as the Responsible-Adult-in-Charge-of Keeping-Beloved-Child-Alive-and-Accounted-For will eventually feel this feeling, even if only for a few seconds. Of all the ups and downs of childcare, this is the worst.
Worse than answering the same question, breaking up the same fight or issuing the same clear direction for the 9,837th time. That day.
Worse than labour and delivery.
Worse than endless government paperwork.
Worse even than cleaning up after a violent stomach flu, one that explodes on both ends.
It is that moment of sheer, undiluted panic, when you turn around and your child is Gone. Out of sight. Missing.
Your entire body is on high alert. Stomach in your throat. Heart pounding. Adrenaline pumping. Your brain instantly replays every single missing child crime show you’ve ever watched. For a moment you look around and call their name and try to stay calm. Then any sense of dignity or propriety is discarded as you frantically search and come up empty. Your entire being narrows to this single task… Find. My Baby. Now.
Usually, this dissipates quickly. You turn around and there they are… right behind you. Around the corner. Under the bench. Playing with a friend. You heave a sigh of relief, chuckle at your overreaction and carry on.
But we all know, not every story has a happy ending. So the panic is genuine. Every time.
Today at soccer camp my son’s coach turned around to help the other kids. Just 30 seconds to untangle the parachute. And when she glanced up, he was gone.
One of my favourite things about our church’s soccer camp is the huge number of dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers who run it. Practically everyone between the ages of 11 and 85 pitches in, in some way or another. There are hundreds of kids at camp, but there are hundreds of leaders too. It’s well-organized and safety conscious.
Everyone in the area dropped what they were doing when S went missing. Instant search party, right in the middle of camp. With so many adults all around, it seemed amazing that anyone could slip through. How did such a little guy get past everyone unnoticed?
Just last week I met with our social worker and filled out a Needs Assessment for our boy. We put an extremely high mark for “Safety Concerns.” He is fast, agile, impulsive and has absolutely no sense of danger.
The week before that, I met with his new preschool teachers to discuss his needs for the fall. He is bright and engaging and loves a group setting, but he needs CONSTANT supervision. I must have said it a dozen times, “You can’t take your eyes off him, not even for 30 seconds.”
This is our biggest worry: That our rough and tumble explorer will come to harm. Child-proofing can only do so much. He has super-human determination and a flair for creative problem-solving.
We have child locks on the doors. A fenced and double latched yard. A puppy “backpack” that is actually a leash. A one-on-one helper for Sunday School. “Watch the boy” is on the task list for any family outing.
“CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” is our motto.
Today… I was his coach at soccer camp.
So here’s me, still a little shaken after a heart stopping 10 minutes of drama. He had ducked down in the ditch right beside us to play in the rocks. He was close by and safe all along. But it’s a 10 minutes I’ll never forget.