Yesterday we went to the zoo. Its my husbands week off work and we got up and decided, what the heck, lets go to the zoo! The kids were ecstatic, they LOVE the zoo.
My daughter is somewhat obsessed with animals and all the way there was playing a game called ‘I know an animal’ In this game she gives us clues as to which animal she’s thinking of, including the first and last letter of its name and every fact she has ever heard about it, she loves to show her knowledge, bless her. She’s a bright little monkey.
My son LOVES them too, mainly tigers, monkeys and penguins, like any toddler he’s fascinated. The baby I’m sure just enjoys a day out in the sling 🙂
So we hoped for a great family day with lots of fun and good memories and we nearly got it.
My daughter is a spirited little monkey and her behaviour is not always desirable in public (although not the her fault) so we’re never really sure of what a day out will bring. But yesterday was good, she was on top form, compliant, polite, calm and really enjoying the experience. That is until lunchtime….
We had pizza for lunch, which although it’s my daughters favourite she was uninterested, think it was a bit too different from home and too many distractions. She had been looking at the map and had decided what she wanted to see next, so started to get up from her seat. I told her to hang on a minute while mummy and daddy got the other two ready. I looked up and all I saw was her reflection in the glass of the restaurant door… She was running!!!
She gone! I said to hubby, Go after her and I’ll get the other two sorted. So I packed up the buggy, picked up the toddler and started to leave the restaurant. Hubby comes round the corner alone.
Did you not find her? I asked ‘Try the other way, she’ll be about’
You may be thinking that I seem a bit calm about all this, the thing is this isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. For one reason or another my daughter has no concept that being away from us is dangerous. In her mind she honestly thinks she can go where ever she likes and we will just appear if she need’s a drink or help with something (like a genie in a lamp) So she has legged it before, we usually find her within a few minutes, looked at something she’d mentioned or wandering about.
This time we didn’t! We couldn’t see her anywhere. In a zoo, a massive zoo, filled with thousands of people in the middle of the school holidays. She was gone!
We were now starting to worry. The path split two ways from the restaurant so hubby grabbed toddler and went one way and me and baby went the other. Any of you who ever been to a big zoo will know there’s not just one path, its like a maze, lots of nooks and crannies to hide in, bridges to cross, paths to take. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Seriously I reckon me and hubby covered miles in no time at all, possibly broke an Olympic record! I was starting to run out of ideas, I found a man! Not just any man, but one with a uniform and a radio and told him what had happened. He called on his radio and the search began. I had to tell them they weren’t looking for a frightened or upset 4 yr old who’s lost her mummy. That’s not my girl, they were looking for an aloof wanderer intently studding the animals.
I carried on looking, so did hubby, so did all the zoo staff. Where was she! Now my mind was starting to panic, starting to worry. But I wasn’t worried about the normal things, she couldn’t get out, its a zoo, it has massive gates. She wouldn’t be taken, if you’ve ever seen my daughter melt down you’ll know that for sure. She rarely goes with us willingly let alone anyone else!
I started to worry about her feelings, what she was thinking, how this would effect her in the days to come. What if something upsets her and I’m not there, or she’s frightened. She doesn’t know how to convey these things to people. She will struggle, she will meltdown, what would people do? If they tried to help she’d most likely be violent. Externally she would look like a badly behaved, violent little girl lashing out, this is not the case. I was worried, I hate the thought of others judging and staring at my little girl. Ridiculing her when she needs understanding.
Still I stayed calm, I had to, we had to find her. I had visions of sitting at the exit once everyone was gone with the zoo staff telling me the police were on their way. Where was she?… what was it she wanted to see next?…. Why wasn’t I listening?……
My phone rang, it was the zoo, we think we’ve found her they say. She’s over by the flamingos! Flamingos! Of course! We talked about them on the way there, it was a link. ‘we need you to come, she’s very reluctant to come with us’ I understood, she’d never go with them, I raced to the area. There she was, wondering about on a bridge as if the two zoo keepers stood with her didn’t even exist. Even as I approached she started to wander off from them. She saw me and walked over.
‘hello sweetheart, where have you been?’
‘I saw the meercats’
‘Lovely, you mustn’t run off, we didn’t know where you were’
The she said it…..
‘I just kept running mummy’ with a smile on her face. She was happy as larry, in her own world, she’d seen the meercats and had decided to just keep running. It was as simple as that. She saw no problem, she saw no danger.
This in itself is a problem, a problem we need to work on. Hubby and I have talked long and hard about how we will deal with days trips from now on. We think a buggy/sling is needed. I don’t care what other people say. I need to keep her safe. I’m her mother.
After that we decided she needed to be held, the baby was asleep in the buggy so daddy popped her in the sling, here’s a pic;
We didn’t want to let her go after this and she was very tired after all her running! We popped by customer services to thank them for finding her and decided to call it a day. We went home, we were shattered! She’s been ok since then, no nightmares, no strange questions, although she has been very much in her own world today so maybe she’s processing what happened? I know we still are!
Have you ever lost your child?
Do you have a prolific runner like us?