The one thing that can always be counted on as a parent of multiple children…you will at some point lose one. Actually, you’re an excellent parent if you only lose one…and still a good parent if after losing one…or two…or three…they all still end up with you before bedtime. I am not an excellent parent but will tell you that I never lost them for long. Those darn kids kept finding me not matter how well I hid.
I have multiple stories about losing one or several of the boys. My favorite was at the beach. I’m not a good swimmer so having my kids near the water always seemed particularly stressful for me. One summer day, when the kids were about 1, 3 and 5, I suddenly realized that I could only eye two of the boys…and it was the older two. How does one lose a one-year old at the beach? I spun around, starting to panic. My best friend noticed my increasing anxiety and asked “what happened?”. I frantically called out “I can’t see Matt!”. The look on her face is one I’ve come to see often…it says…oh so clearly…”Dear Lord…you’ve lost it!” She calmly stated….”You’re holding him!” And there he was…gleefully spinning with me and quite amused that he had somehow become invisible to his crazy mother. I just looked at him and asked “how did you get there?” Trips to the beach became a little less frequent until the boys were older and able to fend for themselves.
That story has come to mind every time I think dementia is knocking at my door. It reminds me that I lost it years ago…with so little left, I’m pretty sure dementia will leave me alone.
I remember losing Tommy once at a Wednesday evening church meeting. Actually…I lost him twice…but the first time, he was easily recovered. He was waiting outside for me after finding 13 snails and attaching them to his shirt. I almost wanted him to stay lost that night. The second time was a bit scarier. We looked everywhere – in the bathrooms, in the classrooms, and finally found him…he had climbed into an open Jeep and strapped himself in. The owner had been helping us look. I think he was a bit traumatized that someone would think he was actually trying to kidnap Tommy. I just tried to reassure him…and tell him that he may want to check his vehicle for snails.
Oddly, I can’t remember ever losing Chris. I do remember, however, the time the boys flew to Florida to see their Dad. I flew with them since it was the last flight of the night and kids could not fly unaccompanied. The boys would be flying back on their own. We had a layover in Atlanta. After getting off the plane, we boarded the train to get to the other terminal. Chris seemed very stressed. As we were running to the next terminal, I asked him if he was alright. He said “Mom – I’m never going to be able to get my brothers on the right plane on the way back!” Of course, this was after watching a lifetime of me sometime failing miserably at keeping any of the them on track! I quickly assured him that they would be with an adult the whole time and he would not have the entire responsibility to keeping the three of them together. I beamed with pride, however, at how he felt a responsibility for his brothers at the age of 12.
My most embarrassing moment of losing a child came while teaching children’s church. I was the lead instructor of the two year old class. We had a large room that was separated by a wall of chairs. I had everything under control with four teachers and about 20 kids. One of the coordinators stopped in to see how things were going and asked if I needed any help. “Nope – I’ve got it all under control”, I reported. “No”, she replied….”I think you need some help. The ministers son just showed up in service.” Truly…if you’re going to lose a kid, make it meaningful…lose the ministers son. He’s a Godly man and can’t yell at you afterward.
Parenting is not for the weak of heart…I feel very accomplished that they did all make it to adulthood…although sometimes that had more to do with their own survival skills and less to do with my amazing parenting. We took care of each other…and still continue to do so. I look forward to watching them with their own kids at some point. Life has a funny way of bringing everything back around…or at least I hope so. I think I’ll make sure that we have some snails in the garden just in case!