Thursday 21 November 2019

Terror of missing child unforgettable

Anne Marie Scanlon

LONG before I thought of getting pregnant, I figured that I would be a classic "helicopter parent" -- constantly hovering, worrying and fussing. Amazingly, this did not happen, which is just as well, as I gave birth to a particularly fearless little boy. While the young master is physically daring, he is also pretty sensible and usually understands when I explain certain rules and restrictions.

So last week, when we had a disagreement about the route home from the park, I stood my ground and watched him stomp off in a huff. Usually, he will turn around and come back, but this time he didn't. When my little boy turned a corner out of my sight, I stomped off after him in a huff of my own, annoyed at being delayed.

He should have been standing outside the public toilets, but he wasn't. The park is bordered by a river and a road, so the hideous possibilities of where he had gone or, God forbid, been taken were endless. It's amazing how my brain was able to think several horrendous thoughts simultaneously yet clearly.

After checking the toilets, the playground, all the while shouting his name loudly and asking people if they'd seen him, I called the police. As I dialled 999, I kept thinking: "This really is not happening." And, indeed, the sunshine and the familiar surroundings all took on a horrible nightmarish quality. Every colour was too bright, every noise too loud.

I kept moving as I gave the police a description of my son, helplessly scanning the increasingly malevolent-looking park. A kind lady found him, standing with another kind lady (quite a way away). I will never forget those 15 minutes. I wouldn't wish that sickening terror on anyone. Ever.

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