I wondered how long it would take for this day to come. I wondered if my paranoia about it was actually willing it to happen.
Yesterday we went to Wet ‘n Wild with friends of ours. When we got in and found a table near Calypso Bay (the lazy river), I made sure I told my Nick (friend has a Nic too) that if he got lost, he was to go to a life guard in the red and yellow, and tell him he was lost. “Or, you come back here to Calypso bay. Can you say Calypso Bay?” “No,” says Nick. “The lazy river,” I said. He repeated me. The lady at the table next to us said, “I think if you go to guest services you can get a wrist band with yours and or his details on it.” “Nah, he’ll be fine,” says my friend.
Less than an hour later, he was lost.
We had walked over to Buccaneer Bay area which I wasn’t that stressed about because I had a visual on most of the area and I thought where I was standing, he wouldn’t get past me without me seeing him.
But I was wrong. He didn’t see me, I didn’t see him, and all of a sudden he was lost.
My friends three boys who are 6, 8 and 10, were all looking for him in the playground area but no one had seen him. He wasn’t in the other pool area near BB. My mind rushed off to every place imaginable, all the worst of course. I sent Nic, the eldest boy, back to where we’d put our stuff to see if he’d made his way back there, my gut feeling like it was in my throat. Panic was definitely starting to rise. In the meantime I walked up to a lifeguard and asked something along the lines of, “Do you know if any kids have been found?” “Have you lost your child?” he asked. I felt awful. Have I lost my child? Yes. I have. What kind of parent loses her child at a water park? “How old is he?” he asked. “He’s 5, wearing a long sleeve blue and black rashy and wearing blue goggles,” I said.
After a few radio communications, he said no children had presented themselves to a lifeguard as being lost. I wondered if he’d gone to the toilet. My friend asked if he’d go back to the wave pool on his own. “Oh God I hope not!” I thought. He can swim, but it doesn’t take much to get into trouble in the water.
As I stood with the lifeguard, more radio communication was being made. I looked over the kid’s pool area and saw Nic and Ham walking back with my Nick. I could have cried. Relief flooded me and I thanked the lifeguard for his help, but said he’d been found.
He had gone back to “the table”. He hadn’t actually found our table, he was about 5 tables away, but was in the general area. He said he didn’t know where I was so he went back to our seats. I hugged him so tight and we went back to the lazy river where I didn’t let him out of my sight.
On the way home in the car I asked him, “Why didn’t you go and tell a lifeguard you were lost?” He said, “Because mum, lifeguards only save people who are drowning in the ocean.” So we had another chat about that tonight!
I sometimes feel like my anxiety over water parks or the ocean are a bit irrational. I sometimes judge people who let their kids run wherever they want while at water parks. I know there are plenty of lifeguards there, but they are not a babysitting service. And at just 5 years old, he’s not quite old enough (I don’t think) to just run around the park alone.
I think there’s a few things that can help keep kids safe when visiting places like the Gold Coast theme parks, or any other crowded area in which there’s a risk that you could be separated from your child. Some of them seem like no brainers to us as parents, but I know I for one am guilty of not talking about it enough with my son. Here’s 5 simple tips that could really help if you ever find yourself in this situation:
* Have a meeting place that is central, that kids can find easily if they become lost.
* Make sure they know what attraction you have made your base – Calypso Beach at Wet ‘n Wild, for example. If Nick had gone to a lifeguard, he’d have been able to tell them what area we were sitting and the lifeguards could have checked for us there.
* Write your phone number on your child somewhere. Now, today I didn’t have my mobile on me, not yet. If it had dragged out longer I’d have gone to get it, however Nick doesn’t know my phone number so it would probably have been helpless. If your number is on your child, this could be a huge help.
* Make sure you talk with your child about what happens IF they become lost. I had told Nick to go to a lifeguard or go back to our table. Thank God we had that conversation when we got there, or I don’t know how this story would have ended! It certainly would have been longer than a 15 minute nightmare.
* Where possible, try to get them to have a buddy. I had told Nick that he needed to make sure he was always with someone, but that advice clearly didn’t stick in his mind when he saw the playground and went exploring it on his own.
I don’t know when or if my anxiety about his safety will ever subside. I feel as parents we will never stop worrying about our children, the worries will just change over the years. I want him to grow into a confident and independent child/teen/adult, but incidents like this make me want to lock him in our house and never go out!
Have you ever lost your child? What precautions do you take in case something like this happens?
Linking up for FYBF with the lovely Grace