Lost Boy

We lost the Doodle yesterday.  So.  That was new.

He likes to push things.  His changing station, shopping carts, his stroller-- pretty much anything he sees us pushing.  He loves going to Trader Joe's because he gets to push one of their mini-carts, which is sized perfectly for him.  When we're at other places like Costco, he pushes the cart while I steer and make sure he doesn't rack up a giant bill in shattered LCD screens and personal injury lawsuits.

The Issaquah Salmon Days festival is enormous and packed with awesome, especially for kids.  There's a big area full of free stuff for kids to do-- a train ride, pony rides, dog show, lots of arts and crafts, inflatable slides and bouncy houses, etc-- the best kids' area I've seen at any local event.  We made the cardinal error of going directly to the festival from our morning errands, skipping the Doodle's nap.  That's roughly equivalent to cashing in our savings and betting it all on a hard six.  Bad idea.  It wasn't long before our adorable baby Jekyll turned into toddler Hyde.  Once the Doodle rams into that cranky iceberg, the ship's going down no matter how fast we try to bail water.

As we strolled through the kid's area, he got cranky and wanted to get out of the stroller and push.  Okay, we thought, that's an easy fix.  Out he came, and he was walking right in front of me, "pushing" the stroller while I steered.  At that distance he was out of my direct sight unless I looked down, but he was right in front of me and if he stopped I was moving slowly enough that I wouldn't trample him.  So we walked for a bit, looking at all the craft booths and vendors and attractions.  We got to the end of a row and stopped to decide which way to go.  We decided to go left, and then I looked down and the Doodle was gone.  "Where's the Doodle?" I asked, looking around.  My wife didn't see him either.  He was gone.  He was walking between my legs and the stroller a minute ago, and now he was just... gone.

My wife immediately went into the headspace of "He's been taken."  I'm not sure there was a rational thought process-- adrenaline and hormones and fear kicked in and sent her emotions into overdrive.  She didn't know where her boy was, and that sudden loss pressed in on her from all sides.  In that moment she couldn't even remember what the Doodle was wearing.  Loss.  Fear.  Find my child!

I went somewhere different.  I knew he had just wandered off.  He had been right in front of me a minute before.  Logically he couldn't have gotten very far, and it was just a matter of figuring out what could have drawn him away.  I didn't see him in any of the nearby booths, and if he was in one of them he'd be found quickly enough.  So I looked farther afield.  I didn't see him by the playground in a quick scan, and I didn't think he had enough time to actually get to any of the play structures there.  So not that way, then.  There was a big field back the way we had come, so I turned that way, thinking maybe he went to look at the ponies.  Nope.  Where else?

And that's when I saw him, eagerly running oward the zorbs, chasing after them as they rolled downfield.  I caught up to him as he stood in their path, oblivious to their weight and momentum.  All he saw were giant balls that he wanted to play with.  As I snatched him up into my arms, he wriggled and cried that he wanted to roll the balls.  I couldn't blame him.  Zorbs are cool.

By the time I brought him back to my wife, a sympathetic woman had seen her distress and dragooned the Issaquah football team into searching  for our son.  I didn't have the chance to thank her, or the team, for rallying on our behalf.  Later that night, my wife was still a little shellshocked and haunted by visions of becoming a shell of a woman, never getting over the loss of her child.

I hope never to go through an experience like that again, but given the Doodle's strong-willed and inquisitive nature I rather expect this is just the first scare of many.  But I'd be lying if I didn't admit I was gratified by how I reacted, keeping my cool and attacking the problem swiftly and methodically, while my heart machine-gunned in my chest.  I feel like I've been tested, that life has taken my measure and did not find me wanting.

Level up!  You are now a level 2 dad.  Next time, keep your damn eye on the kid.


Whew. I had a little lump just reading this, so I can't even imagine how scary that might actually be.

Nice work, Dad.

I have leashes for my kids. But it is only because of the sheer number of them. They call them their tails. :)

Good job saving your kid from a crushing!

For your sake (okay really Mom's!) I hope he doesn't learn to think it fun to bring on such reactions :)

Picture Kevin in the middle of the round clothes rack at Nordstroms; or hiding behind a small wall at the little league field; or ... well that is probably enough panic from me.

I will add, however, that he has safely made it to 14 years old, without ever being permanently lost.

Well done. You might want to grab the cheat codes for the last obstacle in Level 2: the middle-of-the-night visit to the emergency room. Enjoy! =)

One tip. I've found the natural instinct is to say, "Stay where I can see you." One day, it dawned on me that this was one level too abstract for my child's budding brain. He thinks I can always see him, because he knows where he is. So I started saying, "Make sure you can always see me." Huge difference.

We lost Daniel in Crossroads. We and our friends went on the hunt. In the end, he was hiding in Joann's being quiet so we couldn't find him.

Then I remembered my mother complaining to me that I used to do the same thing as a child. I would hide in the middle of clothing racks... Haha.

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