Losing Your Kid At A Theme Park

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.

Add a couple of hundred more people to this pic {source}

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

26 thoughts on “Losing Your Kid At A Theme Park

  1. Oh A – I can imagine how you felt about losing Nick. I think that the steps you have taken with him and the discussions you have had are great but they will need to be re-enforced each time you go out. I know that children get so caught up in the amazement of the situation / fun / attraction that everything you spoke about just goes out the window.
    I’m so glad that it all worked out in the end – have a great weekend !

    • Yes we will absolutely be having this conversation a LOT from now on! I don’t think you can tell them enough, but I also thinking telling them doesn’t always work. You just have to hope that if you find yourself in the situation something you said resonates with them. I feel sick still just thinking about it.

  2. Oh I have been there too and can very clearly remember the panic and the sicky feeling it is just horrendous I really feel for you.
    Really good tips though, after my incident I got a contact armband for my little guy for when we were going to crowded places and use it a lot when we are travelling for the airport.
    Hope you’ve recovered. X

    • A contact arm band is a really great idea. I think I’ll be investing in one of them. Although, it wouldn’t have helped in our situation because he just went back and sat at the table. I’m going to keep talking to him about the lifeguards!

  3. FREAKY STUFF hunny 😦 15 minutes is an eternity!!! I thought I had ‘lost’ Moo the other day but she was in a slide q and so I gave her a big talking to. It’s hard when it’s so busy and us locals usually only go with it’s not so busy. SO glad he was safe and a smart thing to do, head back to the table. I will be defo using permanent pen to write number of kid’s arms next time AND picking a ‘lost spot’ xxxx

    • I’ve wondered about the permanent pen – how long does that take to come off? I’m going to keep drilling “go to the lifeguards” in Nick’s head but might also get an arm band for him.

  4. Oh my goodness that must have been so scary! I’m so glad he was ok! I worry about losing someone every time I take my class on an excursion… I constantly count heads and we use the buddy system! That must have been so frightening for you! xxx

  5. Thankfully (I don’t know how with my escape artist #1), I have never lost a child outside for more than a short time. I have however, lost him at age 4 after a bolt off in a shopping centre. I also had to ask staff for assistance, but we found him, tapping happily away on a keyboard in a computer store.

  6. I’m glad it was a happy outcome. I can imagine how terrified you must have been feeling. We were at Whitewater World last week with my little one (2) and when he moved out of my sight for just a few seconds I could feel the anxiety bubbling. Thank you for the safety reminder x

  7. I lost my son at an indoor playground. The thoughts that ran through my mind were scary. He’d wandered into one of the toilets (he was 3 and not toilet trained yet) and couldn’t open the door by himself. He was beside himself by the time my friend managed to find him.
    I’m glad that your story had a happy ending, kids really are a worry sometimes!

    • They sure are! Poor kid must have been terrified too. I always think “Well at least they can’t get out” at play centers, but then you see parents let kids out who aren’t there’s and it makes you wonder!!

  8. Wet N Wild is such a busy park too – I imagine it would be so confusing for a child. So glad he was found fast and safe! (And Calypso Beach is my fave part of the park!)

  9. My heart was racing a little for you, as I read that! Of course a mother’s mind always races to the worst case scenario too. You must’ve been exhausted by the time you got home! Someone once suggested I use a non-toxic marker to write my name and mobile number on my daughter (just had the one, 4yrs old at the time) when we went to a water park. So I did. And of course it came off when she went in the water (duh…).

    • Yeah that’s the problem – you have to use permanent marker, and then you have to wonder how long they’d be walking around with a phone number on their arm! I think you can buy wrist bands for that purpose.

  10. Oh god you poor thing!! I once lost Master J in a shopping mall when he was about 5 and I think I lost 5 years of my life in that small amount of time!! It gives me a knot in my stomach just thinking about it! Great tips though xxx

  11. Oh Aroha this is absolutely petrifying!! A few summers ago, when PJ was still little we lost AJ at Wet N Wild – he went with hubby to go on one of the rides and I sat near the wave pool with PJ, moments later I see AJ walking back to me – no hubby! It was half an hour later that hubby emerged, he had searched the park hi and low freaking out that he had lost AJ and freaking out how he was going to tell me. Those theme parks scare me, so glad Nick was found safe and sound x

  12. I am so much more relaxed now that my youngest is a bit older….I have lost counts of the times we have lost him when out n about cause he runs off so fast!
    Great tips 🙂

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