I Lost My Child in a Crowded Water Park

I came across a friend’s Facebook post about how she was able to reunite a lost child with her family. She spoke about how the father reacted by screaming at the 3 year old for getting lost. Under her post someone commented, ‘Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have children.’ Had she never experienced, the “I lost my child moment? 

Upon reading that comment, I was so disappointed in this woman who I assume is a mom. Has she never had a #momfail moment? Has this woman never experienced the terror of not being able to find her child? Throughout my seven years of parenting, I know I’ve had plenty of times when I was not quite the perfect mom. Some situations are hard to predict. While we as parents do our due diligence to keep our kids safe, oftentimes it doesn’t pan out that way.  

This summer, during our family vacation, I lost track of my 3 year old son. I lost my child. We were celebrating my nephew’s 1 year anniversary of being cancer free. It started as a joyous occasion. Everyone was excited, especially the kids. We decided to celebrate at a water park because the kids love to play and swim in the water.

The water park was filled with water slides, bridges, poles, pipes. A lot of twist and turns and springs all meant for the kids enjoyment. We had six kids in total, my three sons and my older sister’s three sons. They ranged from 7 years old to 2 years old.

Looking For Isaiah

Isaiah

The kids all wanted to enjoy the water immediately. My kids asked for permission to join their cousins who were already in the water and I gave them the okay. After about 5 to 10 minutes, I realized that I had forgotten to put floaties on the boys. I went to go retrieve the kids to get their floaties on.

There were a lot of kids and a lot of noise and it took me a minute to find our crew. I saw my brother in law and he was followed by my youngest son and his youngest son. I then found the oldest three boys. They were having so much fun and did not even realize that one of them was missing. No one noticed that he was missing. My oldest thought he was with his uncle. His Uncle said that he never saw him. And just like that, I lost my child, my 3 year old son.

Panic set in as I perused the kids area, looking for my little boy in Spiderman swimming trunks. I spotted so many different Spiderman trunks, that were attached to the wrong little boy. We ALL searched for him. Each person looking in a separate location. The kiddie area that had appeared so small when we first arrived, was now so crowded, loud and huge. As a result, with every minute that went by, my fear and worry escalated. Did he get stuck on a slide? Was he hurt? What if…what if….he drowned? He was just no where to be found.

Finding Isaiah

After a while I heard someone saying, ‘Ma’am! Ma’am! Is this your son?’ It was a lifeguard and she had Isaiah. I have no idea where she found him or how she knew he was lost. When she brought him to me he did not appear to be worried or scared. I was relieved, then instantaneously became livid. Thanking the lifeguard, I grabbed my son’s hand and left.  

I can only but imagine what the lifeguard must have thought of my reaction. In today’s society, we are quick to judge people based off our beliefs on how we feel one should react. I’m sure she must’ve expected a great show of gratitude. Maybe a dramatic sigh of relief and me pulling my little boy in my arms for a hug. Perhaps she expected a hug from me. Maybe she didn’t expect any kind of reaction from me. After all, it’s a kid’s water park and I’m sure kids get separated from their parents all day. 

How I Reacted

What I am sure of is that at that moment when she handed me my son, I was filled with a lot of overwhelming emotions. Relief, anger, guilt, love. I couldn’t speak to anyone because I knew that the very moment if I opened my mouth it would trigger the flow of tears. The ugly kind that starts from the bottom of your gut. The kind that have your face all smushed and awkward looking. The kind of ugly cry that you stifle because you don’t want the world to hear the kind of pain that you’re in.

So I kept my mouth shut, I put my sons floatie on his arms, gave him a good tight squeeze, and sent him to his uncle because I needed a moment. In those minutes that I was not able to find my son were excruciating. Although my son was found fairly quickly, I could not stop thinking about all the horrible what ifs. I also had a few moments where I berated myself for losing Isaiah.

So here’s what I do know. I’m clearly not the only parent to experience that moment of horror where they cannot find their kids. That small moment of time should not speak for the thousands of other moments where I have been an awesome parent to all three of my sons. Mistakes happen, kids get lost and parents yell at their kids.

My hope is that people give each other grace. As parents, we try everyday to keep our heads above water. So instead of holding another parent’s head underwater, give them some grace, and lift them up.

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