It was September 19th in Carver, Massachusetts. The air had that cool damp feeling and the smell of autumn was strong as the colored leaves blew at our feet. My oldest son was dressed in his ninja costume and I was dressed in my Scottish warrior getup – kilt included, both in the spirit of the renaissance festival we were going to at King Richard’s Faire. My youngest son chose not to dress up as he though it drew attention to him. Little did he know that not dressing up drew more attention than dressing up. However, my sweet boy had been through enough over the last year with my divorce and the stresses of my moving out, so I wasn’t about to press him to ‘get into the spirit’. I just wanted us to have a good time.
We spent a few hours going from vendor to vendor and watching the amazing acts of the magician, the tiger trainers and the jousting all the while munching kettle corn and cotton candy as we walked. At one point we stopped so that my boys could get onto a swing ride operated by a couple medieval carnies hand cranking the contraption that accommodated about fifteen children. I took photos as the boys swung around in circles rotating in their chairs. Then they got off and stepped around the side of the fence to me. My oldest saw a cross bow game next to the swing that he wanted to show me and possibly play. So we walked over toward it. Out of the corner of my eye I was certain that my youngest was following. My oldest showed me how the pseudo arrows went into the chamber and at that point I glanced behind me to see what my youngest thought of it. The eight year old was no where in sight and I was instantly jolted to high alert. “Where’s your brother?” I asked. He looked around and shrugged.
“I thought he was right here.” he replied.
I looked at the swing ride which was less than fifteen feet from me and couldn’t see him anywhere. I then yelled for him. No answer. I had lost my son. My heart was racing as I told my oldest to stand by the crossbow stand and not move at all. I then began a spiral style sweep of the area widening as I went through the tree covered clearing. I couldn’t see him anywhere and I was fighting the desire to panic. I began yelling as loud as I could for him and fellow parents looked at me with concerned expressions, knowing the pain I was going through. Two other faire goers joined me in the search and I began to look at the perimeters.
I stopped a faire worker and notified them and just as they were radioing to the have the gates closed so no one could leave or come in my mobile phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number but picked up to hear my son crying in the phone. “Daddy? Where are you? I can’t find you.”
He had followed someone wearing a similar shirt to mine near the swing ride and hadn’t looked carefully to make sure it was actually me, until it was too late. Fortunately he had only gone as far as the archery game which was about two hundred feet away, but it was far enough that he couldn’t see me anywhere. If I had not been so careful to ensure that my children always knew my mobile phone number, the situation could have been a lot worse than it turned out.
Tips to Prevent Losing Your Child
- Put one of your business cards in their pocket, preferably with a mobile phone number on it.
- Force your children to memorize your mobile phone number.
- If you are in a public setting (such as a fair, store or movie theater) contact a management member immediately, most locations have protocols in place to close the entrances so that no one can escape with a child and scenarios setup to help parents find their child.
- When you know you will be in a crowded place, have your children wear bright colors so you can quickly identify them from a distance.
- If your children are very young, take a small length of rope and have them always hold onto the rope.