I am a parent. Since you know that fact then you must know where to find my Achilles Tendon. My soft spot. The very thing that makes me feel the most vulnerable. My children. They are my heart after all.
My children were all safe at home last night. Yet for one family in my town, that was not the case. Their son was missing. A little boy, whom I personally didn’t even know, was missing. And I was absolutely terrified.
We have all seen child abduction stories. The Amber alerts send chills down my spine every time. I can barely go there to imagine what the parents of these children must go through.
But this time it was in MY town. I actually knew people who knew this family. This was way too close to home. Right next to my neighborhood. It seemed so surreal. How could this be? Suddenly I felt like the universe had shifted. Why was this affecting me this way? It seemed so personal.
What I love most about my little town is that there is such a huge sense of community. When people began to hear that there was a child missing, they wanted to do something. They needed to do something. So many people showed up to help that some had to be turned away. Asked to wait at home. Nothing could be accomplished with people tripping over one another.
Many people I knew were there desperate for a way to help. Because they were not going home until the child was found. As the helicopters circled round and round and the detection dogs were sniffing trails, people were gathering. Some to search. Some to pray. Some were there to try to make sense of what was happening. In our town.
It was all over my Facebook feed before it was even on the news. People spreading the word. Trying to do anything they could to reach anyone who might know where he was. I too shared the information, all over my social media. I asked others to share it too. Because it only takes one person who saw something. Or knows something.
But it didn’t stop with our town. Even people who lived nowhere close shared the information. They shared and then they prayed. For the boy. For the family. Many were parents too. A friend summed it up best. She said “If it were me, I would hope that somewhere another mother would be praying for me.” And she was praying.
I can only imagine that I would do anything within my power to get my child home safely. But wait. My children were home. They were sleeping in their beds.
I walked into each room. I studied their little faces one by one as they slept. I memorized every curve and every freckle. I watched their chests rise and fall as they took deep, peaceful breaths.
Life is so fragile. We teach our kids to be safe and smart. Don’t talk to strangers. Scream, yell and kick. Whatever it takes. Never leave my sight in the grocery store. If a stranger tells you to be quiet NEVER be quiet. How many times have you shared the rules with you kid? I do it all the time.
As I stared at my children my heart was breaking for the mother. What must she be feeling? I felt for the father. Men often need to be the protector of the family. He must have been asking himself what went wrong.
I felt for all of the police officials. Their number one priority in life at that moment was finding that child. I felt for all the volunteers. They were all there because they needed to help. If their child was missing they would want the world to stop until he was found too.
I watched news clips and refreshed my social media every minute. Waiting for any news. So many of these case end in tragedy. Could that happen here? Were we really prepared to hear THAT news? Something so terrible that it would leave a hole in our soul? Yet the waiting was horrible too.
Were my children safe living here? What if my child had been where that child was? Did my kids have any idea just how much they all mean to me? All of these thoughts went through my mind.
Then it happened. Many hours later. I saw a post on social media that he had been found. Alive and safe it said. Except it was social media and therefore not always reliable. Then I saw another post and another. Until my entire Facebook feed was full of the joyous news. Then the official word came. The child had been found. There were cheers all over town. The best ending that anyone could ask for, had happened.
Then the whole town took a breath.
No matter how much you try to protect and teach your kids you are never really in control. Child abductions are not just something that happens on tv. It can happen in your town. And if it does it can leave you changed in some ways.
I woke up this morning feeling both relieved and drained. It may not have been my child but I had worried for everyone involved. Now the boy was home with his family. Normal life had resumed.
If you are a parent then I don’t have to tell you to live each day with your children and never take the experience for granted. You know this.
What I can tell you though is that if you have never sat and watched your children sleep, I highly recommend it.
It is an amazing gift.