I had what I think can only be described as a mild panic attack. Considering how crappy the rest of my week has been, today was going pretty well. I squandered my entire prep talking to a student about Jude the Obscure and then talking to a potential newspaper advertiser who just happened to grow up right around the corner from where I currently live. Although it means I have tons to do tomorrow during my prep, it didn’t really bother me. I left work as soon as I could in order to meet my best friend for coffee-like drinks at our favorite cafe. Everything was going great until I got to my sitter’s house.
All week I’ve been running a bit later than usual. One small hassle after another. Since I had plans, I was early-ish to pick my son up. When I arrived, I saw a familiar van in the driveway. My sitter’s best friend is also a stay at home mom, so every couple of weeks she brings her kids (and their tiny, adorable dog) over to play. It’s great because she has two boys, so my son gets used to playing with lots of kids. He also loves their dog. The day was beautiful and I was not at all surprised to see the front door open. I was, however, very surprised when I walked in and found the house empty.
As the day was so lovely, I strolled around to the back yard expecting to find them playing. Granted, every time I’ve ever come to pick up my son they’ve always been in the house, but he also was far too little to play outside in the fall. Spring days seem to logically suggest romping in the backyard.
I didn’t find them in the yard though. I did find their dog, who promptly barked at me, indicating that I should get the hell out of their yard. I went back inside. Calling out for anyone. I crept up the stairs to see if maybe, just maybe, everyone was napping. I had no idea why they’d be napping with company, but the empty house made no sense to me. No one. I headed downstairs to see if maybe somehow they were in the basement and just didn’t hear me. It’s a tri-level and I was talking quite loudly, and since there were at least six of them I didn’t know how that was possible, but I was perplexed. Once again, no one.
I looked up and down the road. Empty. Five minutes passed. I tried to call her husband at school, but he must have headed for home. I started silently cursing the fact that she has no cell phone. I also started pacing. I went back inside the house. I called out. I’m not really sure why as I knew there was no way anyone was there.
Looking around I noticed my son’s cup partly full of milk sitting on the table. Pizza with tiny teeth marks was also left out. The kitchen sink was dribbling water. A backpack was open on the couch. A DVD player was on and sitting on the couch. It was eerie. As if they’d all just disappeared.
Ten minutes passed and I was starting to freak out. My heart started beating fast. All kinds of horrific thoughts flashed through my head. I was pacing. Ringing my hands. I found tears welling up in my eyes. I kept saying to myself, “Where’s my baby? I want my baby.” It was a terrifying feeling not knowing where he was or if he was ok. Even though I’d only been there for ten minutes, I’d dropped him off almost nine hours ago. Anything could have happened in the interim.
I noticed the stroller wasn’t sitting out in front of the garage the way it had been that morning. Her house is the second on the block. I looked down the street at what appeared to be a dead end, only to see a man on a bike with two small children following him. They came out of nowhere. I started walking.
It turns out what I thought was a tiny circle has a twist just over a small hill and actually opens up into a large neighborhood of homes. I kept walking, hoping that I would find them. It had been fifteen minutes and I was determined to comb every inch of the neighborhood until I found them. In the distance, probably ten houses away, I saw a group of people in a front yard. There seemed to be several small children playing. I picked up my pace. I couldn’t make out anyone specifically. Suddenly, from behind a truck in a driveway, I saw a woman pushing a baby stroller. It was my sitter, and more importantly, my son.
I practically ran to them. I was very calm, but the second she was within reach, I snatched him up and gave him a kiss. She told me how they’d been playing and that he’d had so much fun with the other kids. I just clung tightly to him. They were heading back to the house, but I didn’t even consider putting him back in the stroller. I carried him, all 24.5 pounds, back to my car. I didn’t even notice his weight. Instead I hugged him tight, gave him lots of little kisses and told him how much I loved him.
This may seem like major over-reacting, and in hindsight, I won’t deny that I let my imagination get the best of me, which caused me to panic. The only thing I can say in my defense, is that unless you have a child, especially a pretty darn helpless baby, my reaction seems ludicrous. Heck, two years ago I would have laughed at my behavior. Sitting here now I find the situation a little funny. I know I blew it a bit out of proportion. My sitter adores my son and would never let anything happen to him.
Still, those 15 minutes of not knowing were some of the scariest in recent years. I think I’ve learned not to jump so quickly to conclusions. I think I also have a slight understanding of the agony parents of missing children go through. It’s amazing how someone so tiny has changed me. I can’t guarentee that I’ll never freak out like this again. All I know for sure is I never want that feeling again and I dread the days when he has a car of his own and I’ll spend my evenings wondering where he is and if he’s ok.
Do they microchip babies?