Almost six years ago I became a father and it’s been a long six years of worrying! I still check on the boys when they are asleep just to make sure they are ok. I cut grapes and hotdogs into tiny bite size pieces because I’m afraid of them choking, which they did do (and still do), so I panic and lose it after every single bite.
We had a pool installed and now I‘m afraid of them drowning. I had a pool my entire life. Growing up my parents were diligent in ensuring we were safe. We were always supervised and even as a teenager, someone was always around just in case, but still now it’s my kids… so I worry. I worry about them in the tub, and riding their bikes. I worry about them jumping off the couch and not being buckled in their car seats tight and/or loose enough.
All of this leads me to the ten minutes (which felt like ten years) that I almost lost my son.
The place we visited was split into multiple sections, divided and roped off areas and metal fences to separate the older kids area from the younger. A wall to wall adventure course, arcade games, flashing lights and indoor playscape. Trampolines lined the floor and the place was packed with sweaty little children and parents on their cel phones. The kids were having a blast and we were all enjoying watching them smile from ear to ear. It was great to see our friends again.
Jax. The oldest and easily the fastest of the group was darting from area to area. It was an overload of excitement. As soon as he entered the darkness that is the indoor playscape, I knew I’d never see him again. It’s weird, they say parents have a sixth sense. I felt it. It didn’t feel right and about three minutes in with no sight of his return… I didn’t think… I KNEW something wasn’t right.
I hurriedly walked from corner to corner. I began to move children out of my way like I was Ryan Reynolds playing ice hockey in “Just Friends.” Then… as time went on with no sign of him, I began to panic. I tried to think clearly. Where could he be? But I couldn’t. My normally clear thinking in times like this, I had nothing.
It took me a little bit to realize that I was there with other people… Of course Stephanie. And amazing friends that we’ve known forever… they share the same level of anxiety as me when it comes to parenting, so they were amazing in attempting to find Jax.
I was resisting the urge to shut the place down, go over the loud speaker and curse everyone out for not helping me find my son. The tension was palpable… I was losing it… and no one seemed to understand what was going on. Things at this point are at a boiling point, everything is fuzzy, and I’m not running at full speed and not even sure what I’m doing or where I’m going.
I tried to slow down, take a deep breath and clear my head, just as our friend came running towards us with Jackson in tow. I didn’t know how to react. Should I be mad or cry. I thought about situations I’ve seen, movies, TV, the news. I scooped him up and held him so tightly I was sure he’d never escape (to the neon lit ball pit and obstacle course on the complete other side of the building, or anything like it) ever again again.
It could happen to anyone. It was horrific. Losing him and finding him again… this was the lowest of low and the highest of high moments as a parent… and I don’t want to experience either of them ever again.
PS: Not to make light of the situation, but this is an almost realistic depiction of me running through the playscape looking for Jax…