My Scary Jolt Back To Reality

Hug Your Kids. And Make Your Beds.

I was in the kitchen making the next day’s lunches, and in the hustle and bustle of my husband heading out the door to take his mom home, and then on to shopping, I figured my three-year-old son had gone upstairs to play before tub time. So I puttered and tidied and then traipsed up to start our bedtime routine, and no Bub. “What do you mean you don’t know where Riley is?!” I exclaimed to my six-year-old daughter when I realized that Bub wasn’t where I was expecting to find him.

And so began a frantic and terrifying scramble of yelling his name, checking under beds and in closets, and trying desperately to piece together the last five minutes or so of a fairly typical weeknight to try to determine what exactly went down. Did he sneak in the car and try to go to his Grandma’s?! Surely my husband would have noticed him and brought him home. And yes of course that’s his cell phone ringing on his desk as I madly tried to call him. Did Bub try to walk to Grandma’s house?! But he wasn’t wearing pants! And his shoes are still here! Why isn’t she answering her damn phone?! And, finally, “Liz! Did Riley go to your house?! I can’t find him!” “What do you mean?! He has to be there somewhere. I’m coming right over.”

And so began another round of frantically yelling, looking, running up and down the street—too afraid to go far in case he found his way home…But home from where?! Oh God. With WHO?

A few neighbors came out, bless them, and I called 911. The operator kept me somewhat lucid as I told him what I knew. He’s only three. He sometimes bolts or runs too far ahead for my liking, but in light of sometimes threatening, “I wunning away!” he never actually has. He’s not wearing pants or shoes but I think he has his woobie with him. It’s fluffy and cream-coloured, with Winnie The Pooh in the corner. Oh God. Oh God. My stomach lurched. I didn’t start to cry, exactly—weird sob-like sounds came out of somewhere inside me that I had no control over. I almost wet my pants.

The 911 operator asked me what time I think Bub went missing. I looked at the clock and was stunned to realize less than fifteen minutes had elapsed from the time my husband left with his mom. It felt like hours.

The 911 operator told me cruisers were on the lookout as we were talking, and a police car pulled up less than three minutes into our call. Sgt. Moyer asked a few questions, and wanted to check inside to have a quick look for himself. First stop was our bedroom, where I’d looked under the bed three times already, and inspected our closet twice. Megan, my glorious 6-year-old (who hadn’t left my side for the duration of the scare and was remarkably and calm and strong for me) had the presence of mind to pat the mound of duvet that was lumped in the middle of our unmade bed. And then she whipped back the cover to reveal a sleeping Bub. Curled up with his woobie.

It was a moment of such sheer relief that I almost wet my pants (again!). I grabbed his foot. It was warm. He was breathing. The panic and fear of the past twenty minutes had left me nauseous. Stunned, I turned to Sgt. Moyer, who offered me a high five.  I could barely talk. Delighted by the happy ending, neighbours hugged me and went home. My mother-in-law, also relieved and delighted, headed for home. I headed up the stairs, picked up my sleeping Bub and gently tucked him into his own bed. As I proceeded with my daughter’s bedtime routine, I thanked her for her help, for finding Bub, and for staying by my side and listening to me when we were both scared and worried about her brother. I explained to her that my biggest fear is for something to happen to her or Riley, and I just had a taste of that fear. And I was so very very grateful that we had a happy ending.

It occurred to me that maybe I should feel stupid. That I overreacted. That I wasted emergency services’ and law enforcement’s time and money, when I should have just made my bed that morning. But I was too relieved to feel anything but thankful. I realized that Sgt. Moyer may also have been in situations with panicking parents where the outcome was tragic, so I suppose he was relieved and thankful too.

The year had started off with my father’s death on New Year’s Day. In addition to our grief, we had also been dealing with financial and employment insecurity, and at one point, the possibility of having to sell our house. I’d always joke that I needed to stop saying things couldn’t get any worse because they always did. It took a taste of what the *real worse* could be to jolt me back to reality, and to cherish the gifts that I have been given. Money’s just money. A house is just a house. What matters is us. Just us.

And what’s funny is I hate getting into an unmade bed, so I usually always make it. With this being the first day of school, I was out the door too fast to do my usual sweep before heading out. Every morning since, though, the bed has been made. You can bounce a quarter off that thing. And my kids are hugged frequently. Hard.

Now go hug yours too. And make your bed.

Corinne McDermott is the mother of two and founder of Have Baby Will Travel, an award-winning website with a mission to inspire, motivate, and help families travel with babies, toddlers, and young children. Stop by for great info and tips on traveling with babies, and then come say hi on Facebook!