Sixteen Minutes of Pure Panic….

If you've followed me on Facebook or Instagram, you know lately life with my girls is more than a little trying.  I have a very smart, 5-year old who tests the limits and a 2-year old who is following suit.  Some days a very VERY hard for me.  Maybe I need to read a different book on parenting to cope, but I have days where I am fed up. I question my success, my decision to become a mom, daydream about running away to somewhere warm and not looking back….  You know, the normal meltdown kind of stuff.

Before I tell you this story, know ahead of time that it has a happy ending.  It's long, but important…..

Friday morning, I experienced the longest, most terrifying 16 minutes of my life.  Without exaggeration, I've never been more panicked, scared, upset, worried… an array of emotions, none of them happy and good.

Olivia's bus picks her up down the street from our house and around the corner.  Friday morning, she wanted to walk to the bus stop, rather than have me drop her at school.  The subzero temperatures had warmed to a balmy 25, so I said sure.  She's walked before.  I watch her turn the corner and all is well.  This morning, however, I was getting Avery ready to go run errands so Olivia walked out the door and I reminded her to stay to the side of the street, watch for cars, all the safety things you tell a kid.  I didn't do my normal mom-watch.  It was fine.

A few minutes later, Avery and I loaded into the car and off we went.  I stop at the corner and looked right to the bus stop to see a bunch of kids, but none of them were mine.  She wears a BRIGHT pink jacket, so she's easy to spot.  Thinking maybe she was standing in the garage with the girls who lives at the house where the bus stops, I drive down there and ask the boys there "Is Olivia here?"

"No, she went that way," pointing the other direction away from the bus stop.

Not panicking yet, I figured maybe she went to the next stop where her friend Sophia's stop.  She talks a lot about her little bus buddy.  Searching the next block for that bright pink jacket, I drive the next stop and ask the kids standing there, "Is Olivia here?"  Blank stares.  "Little girl with a pink jacket?"

"Have you seen her??  Did she walk by??"  Starting to worry….

Oh my God.  Where is my child??

We live less than half a mile from school, so maybe - just maybe, she decided to just keep walking.  Driving the streets, I figure I'll see that jacket at any moment.  She left only a minute or two before we did, right?  She couldn't have made all the way to school yet, right??

Look down the street.  No jacket.

I turn around, and drive back through the neighborhood thinking maybe she came back home?  Maybe she went to another bus stop?  Would she have walked with some other neighbors to school??
Where is my daughter?!!?  Maybe she's somewhere other than where I feared she was.  She wouldn't get in a strangers car, right?

Now I'm crying.  A lot.  It's the kind of emotional outburst that I can't control.

I pass the bus in the neighborhood, slam on the breaks and chase after it.  I tearfully ask the bus driver, shaking "Is Olivia on the bus?"  He calls her name.  No answer.  "Olivia Brown, your mom is looking for you, are you on the bus?"  No answer.  He starts asking the kids if they saw her - again, the boys from the bus stop say she went the other way.  Bus Driver radios to base, asking if anyone's called anything in.  Nothing.

I ask "What do I do?"  Is it time to call the police?  Get ahead of this before more time passes?  He makes the suggestion to go check at school.  It isn't far, she could have made it on her own.

I get back into the car, and speed through our neighborhood and head towards school.  Tears still flowing, Avery notices my panic and asks "Where is Vivia?"

I don't know, baby.  I don't know.

I screech into the parking lot, park as close to the door as I can, in a place that I'm sure is not a parking spot, but I don't care and I race into the school.  I'm trying so hard not to cry.  There are kids everywhere, parents, teachers - I make it to the office and as the words bubble out of my mouth "My daughter wasn't on the bus.  I don't know where she is," the tears quickly return.  Ignoring the proper check-in protocol by scanning my ID (which I left in the car anyway) she nods and says "Go to her classroom…."  There may have been more words, but already I'm running through the halls.

I turn into her classroom, looking for that pink jacket…

There it is, being hung into her cubby.
She's there.  Pink cheeks, hair standing on end from the static in her hat.

I rush over, stepping around other kids, crying, asking "How did you get here?"
"I walked!" She answers proudly.  She's not scared or worried at all.  She didn't know she was lost.  She knew where she was the whole time.
Through my tears, I say how scared I was, how she can't walk without telling me, that I'm not mad, and I'm so, so, so happy to see her.

I turn to see her teacher there, tears in her eyes.  A mom herself, I have no doubt my display was only a reminder of how quickly things can change.  She says she's going to hug me, and I laugh and say, "I'm going to have a shot."  I leave, go to the car, and now tears come again.  A relief washes over me I have a good cry.

My kids are tough.  Maybe not compared to some, but some days, man.  Then I have a moment like this, where all of those bad things are meaningless, and what really matters was brought into the light.  I really do have some pretty great kids.  They aren't great all the time, but when push comes to shove, like it did for me that Friday morning, I wouldn't change any of it.

That's not to say that two days later, I was back crying over the tantrums and feeling that familiar Mommy-doubt.  It doesn't make me a bad mom, it makes me normal.


Fletcher @ High Cotton Style said...

How scary! I'm SO glad she's ok.

Ashley said...

Just reading that freaked me out! I would have been crying too. I probably would have started flipping out on my kid when I saw her. Oh what a relief you must have felt.

Cortney Niznick said...

This made me tear up and I am not a crier. I could only imagine your panic. How did Olivia get to school today?

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