Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Lost in Vegetation: When Little O Went AWOL

"Where is he?" I asked.

"I don't know," replied S. "I was in the animal barn and he just ran off. By the time I got outside, I couldn't see him."

Little O is 3. Neither the shouty tellings-off nor the calm explanations have gotten the message across yet that he mustn't run off. I've told him that he mustn't do it, that if he wants to go somewhere he must ask Mummy or Daddy first, that if he runs off and we don't know where he is, he'll be lost. I've lied and said we'll have to go home without him. I've told him off severely when he's done it nevertheless. I've tried everything - and will keep trying, until he gets it. 

Today it's a farm, tomorrow it could be a road.



Until now, despite running off, he has remained in sight. He's never been lost lost and we've always been able to catch up to him. This was the first time we haven't known where he is.

I headed round to the sandpit playground, searched between the swings and in the wendy houses. The sand poured into my shoes and stung my soles but I didn't care. 

I checked over by the picnic benches and back in and around the animal barn. My gaze was drawn to each little blond head but none were Little O.

Then I looked over into the distance, towards the woods. He couldn't have, surely? 

I saw S again, coming out of the cafe.

"Seen him?"

"No."

I headed for the meadow, following the grassy path for almost 100m past the circles of tree trunk stepping stones and the concrete caterpillars and dinosaurs, towards the woodland walk.

It's OK, I thought, he can't get through the gate.

I came to the small humpback bridge which punctured the path before it led into the trees. It was book-ended by two gates, usually held closed by chains slung at 'grown-up' height over the wooden corners. A prominent sign written in black permanent marker was nailed to a post directly next to the first gate. It said: 'Please close gates behind you'.

The gates were open.

My heart dropped into my shoes and I allowed a single stray thought to mentally berate the moron who couldn't manage the simple task of closing a bastard gate.

I walked quickly across the bridge and into the woods. Where the path formed a crossroads, I went straight ahead towards the large yellow slide protruding from a giant metal structure shaped as a shoe. 

O had loved this little play area and needed some cajoling to leave. If he had come this way, this is where he would be.

I shouted his name but there was no answer. Everywhere was quiet. 

I retraced my steps to the crossroads and this time turned right past the stream. 

Signs stood out clearly against their luscious green backdrop: DANGER BOG. DANGER DEEP WATER.

I could barely look at them.

I shouted O's name again but this time I could hear the panic in my voice. There was no response except that of the birds in trees, the swirl of the stream and the twigs cracking under my feet as I whirled around and ran back towards the entrance.

I'm not ashamed to say that I don't want to be that mum. The one who ties flowers to lamp posts. The one who blinks into the TV cameras whilst her husband reads a prepared statement. The one who print thousands of leaflets and posts them through doors for miles around. 

Not me. Not mine.

I'm not ashamed to say that I don't want to experience that... feeling. I don't want it. And I'll do everything in my power to prevent it. I'm not ashamed to tell you I want my children to be safe.

My phone rang. It was S. I didn't bother with 'hello'.

"You got him?" I breathed.

"Yes. He was in the soft play."

I breathed a long breath and thanked the gods, the stars and everything in between.

"I'm going to kill him," I said.





4 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness. I would have been besides myself with worry.
    What a little monkey....I hope he learns not to run off soon x

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    1. Thanks Kim, I'm not going to lie, I totally panicked!

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  2. Little bugger. I've taken to tagging my two with Bluetooth Tiles. Not brilliant but better than nothing.

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    1. I think I'm going to have to look into them! Thanks for commenting x

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