There was a primal roar heard throughout the state of Illinois yesterday. So loud and full of anguish and fear that cars crashed and buildings crumbled and glasses shattered in everyone’s hands. Only no one heard it because nothing came out.Like those nightmares I’ve had my entire life where I’m screaming and no one hears me.
I couldn’t find my son.*
The whole thing was only about 5 minutes long but seemed an eternity. I couldn’t find my son.
At the zoo today, in the family play zoo to be precise, I turned my head for two seconds to look at his twin sister and looked back and he was gone. This happens with my two-year-old twins BECAUSE THEY ARE TWO and it’s par for the course as they run in two directions sometimes, but usually I can keep my eye on both simultaneously. Able to split in two (I say two a lot) to gather the slower moving one up before bolting after the more stealth-like escapee.
Today was a first for me. On my own as we often are with no real problems, I guess I should consider myself lucky it hasn’t happened before now.
They’re 28 months. Just two-and-a-half years on the planet and not once have they terrified me as they did today. The worst part was grasping my girl by the waist and hearing her cry GAH WHERE GAH WHERE ARE YOU? as we raced around the building. The crazy thing is I also realized today that if one of them panics like they don’t know where the other is, I know it’s serious. They have that twin thing going on where they instinctively know where the other is at all times. So when they panic, I panic.
Yes we were in a building but the doors were open and there were a thousand kids and places to hide and I felt as though we were running in slow motion until I finally saw an employee and yelled I CAN’T FIND MY SON. Hearing the words pummel from my mouth made me launch into a panic attack but for girl I tried to stay calm.
I said HE IS WEARING A GREEN AND WHITE STRIPED SHIRT AND HE IS SO LITTLE AND SCARED and she smiled immediately and said WE HAVE HIM.
The five minute stretch that actually was more like 45 seconds of running to the back of the building to see him round the corner holding hands with a male employee were murderous torture. The employee asked me if his name was something similar to his real name as my boy still doesn’t say his name so clearly that strangers could understand it but I just said yes YES and scooped him up along with his sister and hugged. Saying once again you have to stay by mommy. You got lost and that’s scary. You have to stay by mommy but I’m glad you found an adult and told him your name while you looked for me.
I couldn’t form the words to thank these employees, about four now standing with us. I just kept saying thank you so much. I was stunned. Truly stunned.
Thank goodness we’ve been practicing saying their names. Thank goodness so many kind employees were there to help. Thank goodness we were in a relatively safe space and not on the street somewhere.
They’ve gotten so much better about staying with us, about listening, about reason and logic and rational thought, about holding hands lately that I sometimes forget they are just 28 months old. They are so little. Terrible things could happen. Terrible things can always happen. But most of the time, 98% of the time they don’t. It’s just that fear, man.
We went on to have a lovely day at the zoo and I didn’t stress the point other than one more serious talk about always staying by mommy no matter what or you or your sister could get lost. We have to be careful. because I don’t want to freak them out, I didn’t keep talking about it. We just had fun.
But I did sit on a bench after they were secured in the stroller and cried for a minute behind them where they couldn’t see. I called my husband and told him I ALMOST LOST OUR BOY TODAY. He talked me down and we watched a gaggle of goslings wander past with their parents. My boy watched them pass by their feet and looked at me. “Dey stay by mama. No get lost. No get scared.”
“That’s exactly right, buddy. That’s exactly right.”
Thanks to the Brookfield Zoo and Hamill Family Play Zoo employees for saving our lives. I’ve breastfed my babies in your nursery you provide, done crafts and explored so much. I’ve changed numerous diapers and enjoyed many a day with my babies in your presence and we’ve met so many animals we love to come visit frequently. To say I’m grateful for you is an understatement.
*Look. I have perspective in that this was not that big of a deal and that much worse things happen everyday. Hell they’re happening right now. But I guess when I yelled I CAN’T FIND MY SON, I really and truly felt for the very first time like a mama bear. How fitting that it should be at the zoo. If you feel any kind of judgment or want to come at me about how I handled this situation, just check yourself. We are all doing the best we can and this could happen to anybody. Walk a mile, people.