...for about 30 seconds. The longest, most terrifying 30 seconds of my life. This is the first time I have ever lost a kid in a public place. Although I generally abhor malls, we made our annual trek there with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nieces, to visit Santa. We had just arrived and gotten in line. I took off Bug's coat, and in the moment it took me to stuff it into my bag, I looked up and he had vanished. Completely. I looked around wildly in all directions, and saw no sign of him. I asked Monkeyman if he saw where Bug went, and he said no. I thought of all the different ways he could have gone, all the nooks and crannies he could disappear into, and I was instantly reduced to a blindly panicked mother animal. I ran back and forth across the fence surrounding the train next to Santa, to see if he had gone around either corner... nope, no Bug. After a few more frantic moments a woman asked me, "Who are you looking for?" and I replied, on the verge of tears, "A little boy in a green shirt." She pointed... "Is that him?" And there he was. He had squeezed into a small space between a bench and the fence, to get a better view of the train going around inside. The crowd of people around the bench and the bench itself had blocked him from my view entirely. I know it can't have been more than 30 seconds, possibly it was even less, but it felt like forever. I was so relieved, tears sprang to my eyes as a few kind moms expressed sympathy and said words to me that I barely heard, about having had similar experiences. I had to hold onto the fence to steady myself for a moment. Every day I feel lucky to have these amazing boys, but for the rest of the day today I felt extra grateful to have my Little Bug in my arms - even when he was grouchy and clingy, I truly didn't mind a bit.
I can't even think about the small number of parents who have had this same experience... only to not have been so fortunate to be tucking their kids into bed later that night. I can't even go there.