Lost child in a crowd: "Where is he?!?"
Over the holiday break, a couple of the urbanMamas families were able to get together and had an outing at an amusement park.
We had four parents and six kids, ranging in age from 4 to 13. At the ticket booth, there was lots of discussion amongst the kids: who would ride with whom on what ride, which ride they would do first, which rides they did NOT want to do, and how many rides they could accomplish before closing time. Amongst the mamas, there was discussion too: how many tickets to get for the 4-year olds, how many rides were open (on a limited operation day), how many rides they would fit in before closing. Add to this, the haunted house stationed directly behind us at the ticket booth (scaring the two 4-year old boys with ghoulish noises and blasts of smoke), and the obnoxiously loud free fall ride, complete with screaming patrons, immediately adjacent to the ticket booth.
Upon purchasing tickets, we distributed them to the older kids and they rushed off. With them gone, we could focus on the littles and the kiddie rides. I turned to my 4-yr old and said, "ready to go on the car ride?" I looked for his other 4-yr old buddy and - realizing he wasn't there - asked my mama friend: "Where is he?" She said: "WHAT? Oh my god!" We split and started running in opposite directions, my 4-yr old's little hand firmly in mine.
I dialed my husband, who was with the other dad locking up stuff in cars, and asked: "He wouldn't happen to be with you, would he?" Response: "What? No! Why?"
We started walking and canvassing. This boy couldn't have gone far. He was *just* right there. Just right *here*. His mama went to the security office and filed a report. I took my 4-yr old and said, "Show me where your friend would go. Would he go in here?" We went into the gift shop and shouted his name. "Would he go in here?" We went into the arcade and shouted his name into that dark cave of blinking lights and beeps and honks. We keep walking and calling his name. We saw the batch of big kids queue up for the bumper cars, big smiles on their faces, unaware of the circumstances of their little brother.
My husband walked up stairs to the "people mover" ride, for a bird's eye view. I continued to walk the main floor. He couldn't have gone far; he couldn't have gone far. His mama feared the worst, the absolute unthinkable. Four parents were scouring the place, calling his name, keeping eyes ever alert for the little guy in grey sweatshirt and light blue jeans. We were all levitating in a place of panic.
I bumped into my husband who was describing the boy to a security guard. He said, "He's wearing light jeans and a grey sweatshirt..." and I added, "A grey sweatshirt just like THIS!" Just then, out of the crowd, our lost boy appeared so I could show the security guard exactly what sweatshirt he was wearing.
A sigh of relief, complete and utter relief, about 15 minutes felt like an eternity. We held on tight until we were all again reunited, our two families for a grand total of ten bodies. It turns out our little buddy was so bothered by the loud screams and noises of the ride, he just scootched over a bit to get away from the noise. When he turned around again, he didn't see us, so he walked and walked to try to find us. Once he reached the end, he turned back and walked toward the entrance. He heard us calling for him, so he kept walked toward where he heard our voices.
After this whole experience, we all realized we didn't have a plan with our kids on what to do when lost. What do you advise? Have you lost your little? How did you reunite?