29 May 2014

Lost at the Park

A few weeks ago on April 26th, I had the most harrowing experience.

I lost Reia.

What she was wearing on that day
One Saturday, I took the girls to a Hula event at a park about 45 minutes away from our house. Jun stayed at home. The hula event was fun and we ate yummy Hawaiian food and enjoyed the hula performances. Reia was fed up with following me around everywhere and wanted to do her own thing. So while we were supposed to be having lunch, she decided that she was going to play on the playground by herself. She started walking away and I followed her to keep an eye on her. She played on the playground and I watched from a distance and finished off my Smile Kebab. Aila was getting fussy and needed feeding so when a bench opened up, I took the opportunity, sat down and fed her for 5 minutes. The bench was to the side of the playground and during those 5 minutes, I lost visual of Reia.

In my gut I knew I needed to find where she was but didn't act and waited until Aila was done. I got up, anxious to find her and spent a few minutes scouring the playground. She wasn't there. I kept my cool and didn't start shouting out her name because to me that would mean that this was serious and she was really gone. I stayed optimistic and looked in other places in the park. It wasn't a big park, but was big enough and filled with enough people for a small person to get lost. I asked a friend who was there if he had seen her. He hadn't but said he would ask his wife, who was one of the coordinators, if she or anyone else had. I frantically circled around the park twice pushing Aila in the pram as I went. After 30 minutes of her being missing, fear started to sink in. My mind started racing. What if she had been taken? Japan is generally a safe area, but it only takes one person to do something stupid. What if that person had seen Reia was alone and targeted her? What if Reia wandered out of the park and crossed the street? I would never find her! Where is she?! Is she safe?! Please Heavenly Father, keep her safe!! Please!!! I had kept my cool for long enough and decided to call Jun.
"... I lost Reia"
As those words tumbled out of my mouth, I felt the hopelessness and fear engulf me. I broke down. Through sobs and gasps I listened as Jun told me that he was on his way and to ask for help. He said he would call the same friend to help me too. After we hung up, I had a sink or swim moment. What do I do now? Stay here and cry? No. Breaking down and giving up wasn't an option. If I give up, Reia could be gone forever. I couldn't bare the thought of that. My baby taken away from me. Not being able to see her grow up. Feeling sorry for all the times I reprimanded her. Desperately wanting to hold her again. I couldn't give up but had looked everywhere. What else could I do? All I knew was that I wasn't leaving that park without her.

I decided to go back to the playground one more time. This time I shouted her name out loud even though I knew she wasn't there. It felt hopeless. The park was full of noise. Kids screaming, people laughing, Hawaiian music playing, hula dancers chanting, food vendors shouting out menu items. What if she was there and just couldn't hear me? I blocked out all the noise and strained my ears for the sound of Reia's voice... but there was nothing.

Next I decided to check with my friend's wife if she or anyone had seen her. I had taken photos of her about 30 minutes before she went missing and was armed with them, ready to show them to anyone and everyone if necessary. I was almost to the booth, when I happened to look to my left under some trees. There in the shade on a ramp behind a boy, I saw a quarter of a forehead and I knew. It was her!! I didn't need to see anything else. I knew from her pigtail, hair and skin that that was my girl! My heart started beating again and I raced over and called her name in both relief and anger. She heard me but couldn't see me and started to cry. I could tell she had been looking for me. As I got closer, she saw me and ran to me. We both hugged and cried. She told me that her knee hurt and wanted a plaster. She must've fallen over somewhere. I asked her where she went and apparently, she saw the dolphin bouncy castle in the distance and walked off in that direction. Some time after that she made her way to the other side of the park in the opposite direction and played on the ramp. I taught her right there on the spot not to ever run away from me again and that if she ever does get lost, to call out "Mummy, where are you?" in a loud voice. I wasn't sure if she understood what I was saying to her, but the next day when we were grocery shopping, she lost sight of me. I could see her but she couldn't see me. She shouted out "Mummy! Where are you!?" A sense of relief washed over me. She understood! At least this way, she will be more confident in how to act during times like these.

I learnt a valuable lesson that day. Never ever ever take your kids for granted. One day they're there, and the next they could be gone. Never assume that your child won't run off or won't get lost. Teach them early what to do if they get in situations like that. Teach them how to seek help. Teach them how to say their name, your name, a phone number, anything to help reunite them with their families. I also learnt not to be afraid to look like that crazy lady screaming her head off for her lost children. It could be a matter of life and death, you never know!

The next time I go to a big event with lots of people, I will give her a tag or badge to wear with mine and Jun's information on it. Another idea is a temporary tattoo. I was so so so happy to take her home with me instead of going to the police station to report a missing child.

I hope I don't have to experience that ever again.

3 comments:

  1. I cried reading this! Poor Reia! It's such a scary thought!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanx La! Yesss! I just didn't know what to do! And I was by myself that day. Veryyyy scary. Maybe the leash Pup suggested wasn't such a bad idea ha ha ha

      Delete
  2. What a harrowing story. I could literally experience the stress that you felt as I read this. We have had the same experience when our children were small and I'm a stickler for keeping tabs on our children in public places. One second they're right next to you and a moment later they're gone! It doesn't take long to start feeling that you're on the very edge of complete panic. You did well and kept your head and I know that wasn't easy.

    ReplyDelete