Monday, October 09, 2006

A Parent Nightmare

It happened.

We thought we lost our child.

Worse, for 3 screaming minutes (felt like hours) we thought our kid had been napped. On Saturday we were preparing to go to (yet another) birthday party for Goonie and all her preschool friends at her dance studio. Mamma went outside to clean out the car & get it ready. I, the Evil Papa, was in charge of slipping some shoes onto our wriggly little Klingon baby, Bobo. Goonie said she was going outside to help mamma with the car.

After a few moments I finally trapped Bobo (Klingons are quick!) and was struggling with little monkey toes, Goonie shoved her head in the front door and said, “don’t forget the cake, Daddy!” Then slammed the door and ran back outside.

“No worries, Goon,” I yelled back. For a short eternity I thought those might have been the last words I spoke to my beloved first child.

She was outside helping mamma, I thought. Another few moments went by and I was standing triumphantly over my little frowning Bobo (Klingons don’t little cute pink shoes) when mamma came inside and asked where Goonie was.

“She was outside with you.”
“No, she came inside.”
“Yes, then she went back outside.”
“She’s not outside.”
“She’s not in here.”

Freeze. Stare. Panic. We both had assumed our oldest child was under the supervision of the other parent. In unison we began calling our precious older child, splitting up to search indoors and out. I knew she wasn’t inside, yet I looked under her covers, in our master bathroom tub ‘cause I know she likes to play there rather than her own room. I even looked in the dryer. We swapped. I searched outside. She must have gone in the back yard into her new little playhouse. I heard the escalating panic in my wife’s calls as we continued to get no answer from our child. Nope, not in the backyard nor hiding in the playhouse. Where could she have gone?

It was that moment when I suddenly realized that in the space of 10 seconds an unsuspecting child could be picked up by a passing car and gone before anyone had a clue. But here we were in a beautiful middle class suburb, roses in everyone’s yard, American flags waving proudly on poles from most houses. A perfect neighborhood. That couldn’t happen here! But it does happen all over America. It’s on the news nearly every night.

But yet where was she? I’m not one to panic or get frantic. I’m the calm one. But in that moment I felt the sudden adrenaline of fear I had never felt before. I pulled out the baritone training and began calling my child’s name so that just about anyone within a square mile must have heard. If Goonie walked off she must have heard me.

My wife and I met at the front door. No luck. Wait! Where was Bobo? In our haste to find our oldest child we seemed to have temporarily forgotten our youngest. But a glance into the living room proved she was ok as she was fervently struggling to remove those blasted shoes. Again we swapped. I searched the fridge. The cabinets. The closets. Then…

“She’s in the car!” Our little Goon was so excited to get to the party she had slipped by both of us and strapped herself in her seat. Our Santa Fe was parked across the street and we didn’t even think to look there. Of course she wouldn’t cross the street by herself and get into the car without us, we thought. But she did. She was safe, and ready to party.

Goonie had indeed heard me calling, and when asked why she didn’t respond she said she was afraid to get out ‘cause she thought she was in trouble. We showered her with kisses and assured her she was not, but she needed to respond when we call for her. Especially in a public place with lots of people around.

So we strapped in our little Klingon, who already had one shoe successfully off, and drove halfway to the party place when I remembered…

I forgot the cake.

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