When I was nine years old, I was lost at the State Fair for hours … and hours and hours. We were leaving and walking through a large crowd. My older sister, who was 13 at the time, didn’t want to hold my hand like my parents told her to, so she dropped it. People crowded around us. I got confused. I ended up being pushed through the crowd and when I finally came out of it, I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I didn’t panic for some strange reason. I looked around for them and when I didn’t find them in a few minutes, I walked to the car. They weren’t there, so I walked back into the Fair. Kids got in for free on that day so nobody ever stopped me at the gate.
I would end up walking through that gate probably another dozen times as the afternoon turned into evening and the evening turned to night. I had no idea how upset and panicked my parents were. I had no idea that they had called the rest of my family and there were making the two hour drive in record time thanks to the squad car of my Highway Patrolman uncle. I had no idea that my siblings were camped out in a security room eating donuts and drinking Sprite while my parents and security personnel walked miles and miles around the State Fair Park looking for me.
I did know where the car was. So that’s what I went to … again and again and again.
My daddy found me. He had been walking back and forth to the car too. He had even unlocked it so I could get in, but I never thought to check the doors. I will always remember him hugging me (my dad was NOT a hugger) and saying “There you are kid” and the big smile on his face. This was the days before cell phones so he held my hand really tight as we walked back to the Fair to tell the others that he found me.
Did me being lost make my parents “bad parents”? Of course not. It was an accident. Nobody meant for it to happen. Luckily Daddy found me and nothing tragic happened to me, but even if it had that wouldn’t have been my parents fault either. Parenting is hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve made mistakes. All parents make mistakes. Some of them turn out okay. Some of them don’t. But I take comfort in knowing that I’m doing the best I can and my parents did the best they could. Beating a parent up for a slip in time doesn’t solve anything. Learn from it as a collective and move on. We’re all just doing the best we can.