On Sunday my boys and I went down the street to the neighborhood park. We’ve been many times. I had plans to run while the boys played. However, it was laundry day and my sports bra had just come out of the wash. There is a special kind of torture that involves putting on a cold wet bra. So instead I put on my most supportive regular bra and hoped for the best. It couldn’t be that different could it? I hadn’t even been running thirty seconds when I knew I was totally wrong. It was way different. This was not going to work. I needed a sports bra. So, instead of running I went on the swings, I walked around a bit, I did what I could while wearing a non-active-use bra. Slow things. Mild things. Needless to say my heart rate never got very high.

That came after we went home.

What happened was the rain had begun to drizzle. Nothing crazy but enough that I was ready to call it quits. The boys weren’t though. So we planned to go home, they would get their jackets, and then they would go back to the park on their own. The park is a private neighborhood park two blocks from our house. The boys are 8 and 9 and smart and well behaved. You don’t have to make any turns to get from one to the other. I figured they could handle it. Can you see where this is going yet?

As I walked home with them I hung back with my eldest, Michael, to make sure he knew where he was going. He is the worrier of the two. My youngest, Mason, ran ahead, not concerned at all. As I said, it is a straight shot to our house, no turns, so I wasn’t worried about them getting lost. But my anxious one wanted to be sure. So we walked slowly and he thought long and hard about where he was going while I hung back and reassured him when he needed it. The walk is in one direction but the street kind of curves. So you don’t really have a clear view as you go from one to the other. Mason was out of sight pretty quickly. When Michael and I came to our street we went around back to put the scooter away. We didn’t see Mason, but he is fast and I figured he was already inside.

I bet you can guess what happened next. While Michael and I went around back, Mason grabbed his coat and tore off back to the park, going out the front. We missed each other completely.

Of course I didn’t know that yet. All I knew was when I got in the house there was no Mason. I hollered up the stairs to my partner to see if Mason had already been in and left again (which he had) but my partner hadn’t heard him. When they told me he never made it home the mom-panic began to set in. I went out the front, no Mason. I went through the house, no Mason. I told Michael to stay inside and call me if Mason came home and I started making my way back to the park. I went quickly, as you can imagine.

Of course this is when all those true crime stories came flooding into my mind. “I just looked around for one second” and “he walked that way home from school every day” and “he begged to go by himself and I thought what could it hurt, it’s only right down the street.” All of those poor mother’s and their sorrowful stories that show just how easily and how quickly the most terrible things can happen. I imagined the last view I had of him I had as he raced ahead and around the bend in the street. All I could see in my mind was his bobbing little run as he disappeared from sight, over and over. I knew that wasn’t helpful. I was pretty sure that wasn’t the last time I was going to see him. But on the other hand, as my helpful mom-panic pointed out, I didn’t KNOW that. I thought about what he was wearing in case I needed to describe it to police. I replayed the walk home and tried to recall every car that had passed us, every neighbor I had politely smiled at who might have seen him.

All of this raced through my mind as I ran towards the park.

Within a minute I had rounded the corner and I could see him. I waved. He waved. I called him to come to me. My mom-panic began to dissolve into complete and total relief. My heart rate began to return to a normal speed.

I am sure it happens to all of us parents. The moment of ice-cold terror when your child isn’t where you thought they were. When you look for them at the park and can’t find them right away. When you are at the grocery store and turn around to find an empty aisle behind you. When they find some random corner of the house and stick headphones on so they can’t hear when you call for them and you run around the house shrieking louder and louder because where could they possibly be?! Yeah, those parenting moments that make you hug them (maybe a little too) tight the moment you find them. I had one of those moments on Sunday.

Of course Mason and I had a talk on the way back home, once my breathing was back to normal.

Today the rain is coming down really hard. The boys are back in school so I could head to the gym pool, but the indoor pool is being cleaned so I think I will skip it. I will try and use the treadmill again. I wonder if I will reach peak heart rate for as long as I did last time…


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