Here’s a story most of us can relate to, from mom of two Kelli Oliver George, whose funny, addictive blog is Rancid Raves.
I LOST MY SON AT THE FAIR, BUT I FOUND HIM — SUPRISINGLY! NOT
by Kelli Oliver George
I thought about Free-Range Kids long and hard last night when I lost my 3.5-year-old at a huge, dusty county fair with thousands of folks milling around.
My baby! Lost! The entire time I hunted for him, I kept repeating to myself what this site has been preaching: the statistics are actually LOW and realistically, he was going to be fine, just fine. Here’s what happened:
I went to the Leavenworth County Fair in Tonganoxie, Kansas with my sister and her kids. It was the typical fair scene — flashing lights worthy of a seizure, cheap stuffed animals hanging by their necks, chaotic bells, buzzers and carnival music blaring, the smell of grease lingering with the heavy scent of livestock. The fair.
It is a fair that was the highlight of my summers for the seven years I lived in Tonganoxie because everyone was there — even that cute boy you spied from a neighboring town at that track meet last spring. You begged your mom to make sure that your new school clothes were bought before the fair. THE FAIR. Ah, yes! This was a place I knew and loved!
And none of that mattered one damned bit when Arun went missing. He was with my sister and headed towards me, but at some point disappeared. He was gone, it was dark, and the population of folks seemed to be multiplying before my very eyes.
I leapt into action. Handing Anjali over to my sister, I told her to stay put. Then, methodically, I marched back and forth looking for my boy.
The entire time, I was fighting back the rising panic: After all, who has posted endlessly about “letting our children go”? Who has been shamelessly taunting child predators everywhere? Was this the universe’s lame attempt at bitch-slapping me?
I saw some police officers and told them the situation. Meanwhile,I kept reminding myself of all of the sensible statistics that I have been reading on this site and in Lenore’s book for the past year. I grasped those facts and figures tightly as my talisman while I searched.
And then, after the longest 10 (15?) minutes of my life: there he was. As my sister had stood in place, she told everyone she encountered about Arun being lost. Someone brought him back to us.
Arun was not really aware that he was lost — in his mind, he was just hanging out by the super slide. What’s the problem, yo? I explained to him what happened and told him to thank the police officers for helping. We also had a very long talk about it on the way home.
What would I do differently? Last night, I had dressed Arun in a dark green shirt. I will definitely do brighter colors next time. And I will snap a picture of each kid on my cell phone at the beginning of events like this. And maybe I’ll use a good, old-fashioned Sharpie to write our phone number on their forearms. But that is it.
Afterward, my sister told me she was shocked at how calm I was during and after the whole thing.
I wasn’t calm. But I’ll go to the fair with my kids again. I want my children to grow up with SPIRIT and a love for discovering. I know that means that sometime, I may have to deal with another situation like this. But I refuse to be afraid. I refuse.