The day the baby walked away

It took less than a minute.

Trite. Cliche. True.

The kids and I were at their school and had finished delivering t-shirts to classrooms, getting ready to head home. JP wandered outside and I had my back to the baby for 15-seconds, tops. In that blink of an eye my two-year old went from being 10 feet behind me to gone.

I checked his favorite places to play (a ramp, the stage). I told my friends to keep their eyes open as I did a quick sweep of the cafeteria. I sent SG and her friend down the second grade hall and ordered JP down the third grade hall. I checked the office. The copy room. The teachers’ lounge. No XC. I came flying out of the office and ran into SG’s teacher. “SG says you lost XC,” she laughed. She didn’t realize that we’d really lost him. That what SG had told her wasn’t hyperbole. “I can’t find him. I CAN’T FIND MY BABY.” The words came out shrill and breathless. I was losing it. I never lose it.

Our school was hosting a math competition and was full of people- children and adults- that I didn’t know. My worst fear was that someone took him. Or that he’d wandered outside in the cold rain and busy parking lot. Rationally, I knew that wasn’t a possibility- he would’ve had to walk in front of me to do that- but where the hell was my baby?

SG’s teacher and a couple other staff members immediately began looking once they realized what was going on. They even paged him on the intercom. I sent JP downstairs to look and followed a minute later. When I turned to go down the hall I saw him standing, still as a statue, and then he took off running. “What are you doing? Why are you running?” I asked. “I heard him, mom! Listen!” As JP sprinted away I stood there listening and heard a tiny, muffled voice say, “Mama! Help!” My baby. “XC” I yelled, “XC where are you?” “Mama! Help!”

And there he was, behind closed elevator doors. He looked so tiny, pressed into the corner, hands folded in front of him. “Mama, help,” he said, raising his arms to be picked up. He had, apparently, taken the elevator down to the first floor and stayed put…because the only button he could reach was the “1”. I picked him up and started to cry. Never, not in my entire life, have I experienced such exquisite relief. The whole thing lasted less than five minutes but I felt like my world was crashing around me.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t survive an experience like that again (my heart would give out for sure) so, if next time you see me all three are tethered by leashes, you know why.

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2 thoughts on “The day the baby walked away

  1. OMG. I can totally relate to this ( although you wrote it much more elegantly that I ever would). My eldest (!!!) pulled a disappearing act on Halloween. She was of course dressed in costume with a butterfly painted on her face, and she normally walks herself to and from school ( we live a most four blocks for the school). The school had a parade for the children, with a party afterwards, so we went up there like good parents to stand in the cold and try to take a moving picture of our fifth grader. Afterwards we followed en mass to the gym where the party was. Not wanting to ‘cramp’ her style, we pulled her aside and told her to not walk home, that we would be back in an half and hour to pick her up. So we went came back, we watched all her friends walk out of the school, but no A. After all the kids went their ways, my hubs went into the school while I drove the walk-home route. Still no kid. By now the teachers are involved, paging her calling her friends at home.. still nothing. SO I have the husband switch with me, and I stay at the school while he walks the walk home. Then I got a phone call from the husband’s phone.. and its A. She had forgot our conversation and decided to walk home alone! So now, she has to walk with friends to school or home.. either that or have her mother walk her ( I guess thats a terrible idea for a 5th grader!)
    So my point for commenting was, I totally understand how you felt for that 5 mins ( mine was like a half an hour) and thankfully you found him. And walmart has a really cute leash that looks like a puppy or monkey for like 10 bucks that I use without guilt on my 3 year old.
    Cheers.

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