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Excitement at the Park

The Scene – A suburban park, complete with playgrounds, running trails, creeks, several soccer fields, and a large parking lot.

Activity – The DaddyBear family is enjoying a picnic dinner along with the rest of BooBoo’s pre-school.   The 50 or so kids in the school have taken over the playground, are kicking sand at each other in the volleyball pit, and are enjoying hot dogs grilled up by the school director at the pavilion.  It’s a nice school picnic.

We were sitting on our beach towel, enjoying our dinner.  Boo scarfed down his hot dog and strawberries, then ran off with another young boy to play.  I kept half an eye on him while talking to the other boys grandmother.  After a few minutes of talking, Girlie Bear nudged me.

“Dad, where’s Boo?”

“He’s over in the sand pit with his friend.”

“I can see the other little boy, but I can’t see Boo”

Hmmm, well, might as well check.  I walk over to the sandy area and yep, there’s no Boo.  None of the other children can tell me if he was with them (Hey, they’re four years old, and I’m a big scary Dad).  I send Girlie Bear to circle the pavilion and I circle around the playground.  No luck.  Girlie Bear starts to look worried, and I’m starting to feel that cold feeling in my gut.  I ran into Boo’s teacher.

“You haven’t seen Boo, have you?”

“Not for a while.  Is he gone?”

“We can’t seem to find him.  If you see him, could you let me know?”

“What was he wearing?  I think his mom changed his clothes since school.”

“He’s wearing a bright blue pair of shorts and a blue Spiderman tee-shirt.”

“OK.”

She went one way and I went another.  Unbeknownst to me, she went directly to the school director and secretary, and they all went in opposite directions.

By this time, Irish Woman had noticed that I hadn’t returned with Boo, and she had started searching herself.  When we made eye contact, I guess she could tell I was concerned, because she immediately turned towards the soccer fields and headed out under full steam.  I started quartering the area and having several internal discussions.

BooBoo!

Scan left, scan right, scan up, scan down

Stay calm

Must move faster

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou amongst women…

BooBoo!

You have to stay calm.  If he hears you sound angry or upset, he might not come to you or yell back

Must move faster. Left right left right left right

Scan up, scan down, scan left, scan right

And blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus.

BOOBOO!

Calm down!  You’re going to scare him away!

Faster, faster, left left left left

scan, scan, scan, scan

Holy Mary, mother of God…

BOOBOO ALOUISIUS BEAR!

OK, OK, do you have a picture of him in your phone?  How long has it been since you saw him?  20 minutes?  Almost time to call the police.

Pick it up, faster faster faster

scan scan scan scan scan scan scan scan scan

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen.  Hail Mary, full of grace…..

BOOOOOBOOOOOO!

After rounding the third turn in my quarter and starting my way back to the playground, I ran into a group of dads playing tee ball with their kids.  None of them had seen Boo, but three of them peeled off from their group to help me in my search.  It occurred to me later that I didn’t know any of them, but they left their families to help me.  We saw a police cruiser parked near the soccer fields, so we headed that way.  By now it was going on 30 minutes since I’d last seen Boo, and it was time to call the cavalry.

Just as we came up to the car I heard the school secretary calling my name.

“Mr. Bear!  We found him!”

Oh thank you Lord.

In the time it took for us to notice he was gone, and start quartering out to find him, Boo had gone almost a quarter of a mile.  The school secretary had found him heading west along one of the running trails.  Luckily, he didn’t run from her and came back willingly.  Of course, he was singing KISS songs the entire walk back, which the secretary found funny.  I’ve since been told I need to modify my morning music routine.

After a rather emotional reunion with Dad, he got held onto until Irish Woman got back to the playground. She promptly sat down with him and burst into tears.  For his part, he tried to get away with just a quick hug before attempting to wriggle his way free and head back over to the jungle gym.  Mom would have none of that, and only relinquished him when I said I was taking him to the car.

We said our thanks to everyone as we packed up.  Half of the parents in the group had headed out to beat the bushes for our wayward lad, with the other half watching the kids to make sure we didn’t have multiple disappearances.  The center director and one of the school counselors sat and talked with Irish Woman for a while as Girlie Bear and I got everything, including Boo, into the car.  Irish Woman eventually made her way back to the parking lot.  She looked upset but had stopped crying.

The shakes started for me after I had Boo strapped into his booster seat.  I sat down on the tailgate of the van and waited for them to pass.  I hate that feeling, especially the tiredness I get once they subside.  Once they were gone, I got in the car, found some quiet music on the radio, and headed home.

On the way home, I stopped and picked up some food at one of the local burger joints.  The half a hotdog and some pretzels I’d had before Boo went on his walkabout were completely gone.  A burger and a coke sounded really good.  Boo got my french fries, and Girlie Bear and Irish Woman each got a milkshake.  I drank about 1/3 of my coke on the way home, then topped it off with bourbon.  Yeah, I know, self-medication isn’t a good idea, but it’s helping my hands to stop shaking.

This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to having kids.  I’ve been raising kids in one form or another pretty much non-stop since I was 12 or 13.  I’ve dealt with kids who liked to run off, and I know better than to take my eyes off Boo in a crowd.  He loves to play “chase me”, he’s fast, and he has absolutely no fear.  After we found him, I found that I had exactly zero recent pictures of him in my phone and that I had remembered the color of his shorts (they were black, not blue).  So much for being the experienced, self-reliant parent.  Tomorrow, I start keeping recent pictures of him in every phone in the family.

All’s well that ends well, I guess.  He’s OK, and we’re shaken but OK.  I owe the school secretary a big thank you tomorrow.  I’m going to finish my bourbon and coke and get some sleep.  For some reason, I don’t have much energy left.

17 Comments

  1. Glad to hear he’s okay, and hope you and Irish Woman recover soon.

  2. Thanks Wing. We’ll be OK.

  3. Bryn & Diane, Anglesey, UK

     /  May 8, 2012

    Nightmare.
    Our sympathy to you & empathy with you. Our son is nearly 20 now, but we will never, ever, forget his 10 minutes “missing” in a crowded shopping centre, aged 4.
    Best of luck in finding the right balance in teaching Boo what he did wrong – we will not offer advice there, you’ve more experience than us.

  4. glad all is well

  5. Phew .. glad it turned out so well. It’s awful when they ‘disappear’ know exactly how you feel and yep, reminds me that I need to get some new pics of the girls on my new phone (once I get it working).

  6. Jay

     /  May 9, 2012

    That would have left one sick feeling in the pit of the stomach. So glad that all ended well. Now it’s time to breath again. Best wishes to you and yours.

  7. (Hug), brother. I don’t have kids of my own yet, but I do know the panic – came from being a camp counselor for a summer. Counting became a ritual.

    One word of wisdom, though: after that quick check of perimeter and obvious areas is not too soon to call 911. Officers will descend like you will not believe*, and they NEVER complain about a kid being found by the parents before they arrive. If (God forbid) Boo had been taken/lured off, minutes matter.

    Same thing in a store/public place; many of them participate in “Code Adam” and will essentially lock down the store until the child is found.

    * – I kid you not. Last time I put out a missing 3 year old, the *entire patrol shift* cleared whatever they were doing and went.

  8. Oh my, I am so glad that he is ok. So sorry for that experience. Too scary. Hugs!!!!!

  9. Thanks guys. Yeah, that was a pretty bad feeling in my stomach at the time and for a long time afterward.

    Z – You’re absolutely right. Going over it in my mind, I realized last night that I should have made the call as soon as we couldn’t find him in the immediate area. Hopefully I won’t do this again, but if I do, I won’t hesitate.

  10. Coop

     /  May 9, 2012

    I am so happy to hear that everything worked out… I know the feeling and its not something I want to experience again. Try not to beat yourself up too much about it.

  11. briawyatt

     /  May 9, 2012

    What an ordeal! I’m glad to hear you found him & it all turned out alright.

  12. Wilson

     /  May 9, 2012

    Sounds scary, glad everything turned out alright.

  13. pclemmer

     /  May 9, 2012

    I can empathize. My wife and I have a 6 year old, and once in a while we’ll lose sight of him on the playground. Fortunately, he’s not a running away type of kid, so he’s always just been behind one of the structures, but there have been a few times we weren’t quite sure where he was, and that sinking in your gut never gets easier. Sounds like you’re going to use this as a way to think about what to do different in the future, which is the best possible outcome here. (Not that you did anything wrong, but there’s always something you can do better… And I need to remember to take more frequent pictures of mine when we’re out. Thanks for the reminder.)

  14. Phew… I’ve lost sight of one kid or the other a couple of times, so I know that feeling all too well. Now they’re at the awkward age where they’re too old to stay close to mom & dad but still too young to go it alone.

    Glad everything worked out, DB…

    • Thanks Jay. I look forward to our youngest not taking months off my life as a hobby, probably sometime around his 35th birthday.

  15. auntiejl

     /  May 9, 2012

    Reminds me of the adventurous end to our 4th of July day trip last year. We went to a nearby-ish lake with my parents, and set up in front of us on the beach was another family, mom, dad, three kids. The middle kid, one of two daughters, was obviously not feeling well and spent most of the afternoon on a chaise beach chair while the mom and dad took turns in the water and along the shore with the other two.

    About 5p, there was a very quiet ruckus in front of us, as we realized about the same time as the parents that Usual Suspect #2 was missing. The mom peeled out for the bathrooms, while the dad scouted the beach.

    When the apparently feeling-much-better munchkin was not found in the bathrooms, the beach, or inbetween, the mom started panicking. Hubby and my dad took off, searching the beach, and then the upper park area near the bathrooms. Dad headed off towards the dam that he and Hubby had hiked to earlier in the afternoon. My mom stuck with our kids, and Usual Suspects 1 & 3, making sure no one else took a walkabout. I started walking along the shore, carefully checking the water and hoping I remembered my pediatric CPR if I needed it. (Yeah, I’m morbid that way.)

    Hubby was the one who found the wayward munchkin, who refused to take his hand. She was quite happily chatting with a couple in their 70s, up behind the park building with the locker rooms and snack shack. When Hubby asked if she was lost, she gave him a “you’re kidding” look and imperiously informed him that of COURSE she wasn’t lost. I doubt the little girl would say, in the finest Daniel Boone tradition, that she was even badly bewildered.

    I’ve never seen a woman run so fast as the mom did when she saw Hubby returning with her lost daughter. I heaved a huge sigh of relief and flashed a thumbs-up to Dad, who was hiking back.

    I am SO grateful that my kids have never been the running-off type, although Medium has given me more than a few good scares. (She took off looking for a water fountain once at a local state park, since we had said we could stop at one on our way back to the van.) We’ve had to have some serious discussions about why she should not run off and how badly that scares Mommy and Daddy.

    Innyhoo…glad Boo was corralled successfully and that both you and Irish Woman survived. I imagine it was hard to hold off on a good maiming. Way to go on holding back your fear responses.

    • Thanks. Yeah, my first instinct was to get angry with him, but i figured a hug and a talking to were a better response.

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