My kid is missing! Four dreaded words. Hearts pound, knees go weak, suddenly breathing is something we must remind ourselves to do. Even the most composed adult will crumble when those four words are uttered. My kid is missing.
I remember a time when my sister and I had taken her two children, ages three and five, to the department store. My sister took my niece to the toddler’s section, and my nephew and I went to scout out the boy’s section. He needed pants and T-shirts; because of his height and weight, his jean size was difficult to find. So I began to diligently search through the crowded racks, being careful to keep a watchful eye on my nephew’s every move. “Stay close to Auntie” was spoken every 30 seconds.
Finally! Two pairs of difficult to find jeans. Now, on to the t-shirts. I turned to say, “Let’s go, buddy”, but he was nowhere in sight. I circled the rack; maybe he was on the other side. Not there. I circled the rack again; maybe he had circled when I circled and we were just missing each other. Still nowhere in sight. Not wanting to overreact and give into sheer panic, I broadened my search. First one row and then another. No luck.
My heart began to pound so fast and hard it felt like it had moved into my throat. I began to call his name; semi-composed at first so as not to draw attention to myself. Then after a few seconds I started calling with an “I don’t care who hears me” abandon. “Josh!” No answer. I started looking at all the shoppers in the area; does anyone look suspicious? Is anyone heading quickly to the door? Oh, Lord, what will I say to my sister? Do I ask the clerk to lock down the store? I can’t breathe!
I continued to call out. I’m now racing wildly through the maze of racks and shelves, “Oh, God, where is my kid? Help me, please.” Out of sheer desperation I circled back to the starting point. In tears, panic apparent in my voice, I called out again, “Joshua!” Then, as my nephew’s life and my life (because I will kill myself if something has happened to that child) flashes before my eyes, I hear it – a giggle. I shout his name again, “Joshua!” Another giggle. It’s him! “Joshua, where are you?”
The next giggle leads me to push the clothes on the circular rack aside. Underneath, in the middle, a grinning little boy, extremely pleased with his trick on Auntie. I grabbed him, pulled him through the clothes and hangers – maybe bumping his head on the round metal rail, I can’t remember – then I hugged him and cried.
My racing heart began to slow down and the knot in my stomach suddenly turned to queasiness. As my trembling arms held him tight, my quivering voice said, “Josh, Auntie loves you.” Short pause to absorb the moment, then – “But if you ever do that again, I will beat the living daylights out of you!” Poor little guy – one minute having fun, and the next hearing the threat of great bodily harm.
Amazing the lengths we will go to to find our kids. For some, their kid went missing years ago. Sadly there was no panic, no search, not even the slightest realization that the kid had disappeared.
Which kid was it? It was the kid who showed us the wonder of life, the one who gave us our dreams – it was the kid within.
It was interesting the two thoughts that crossed my mind when my nephew was “missing”. First, I thought, “he’s lost”. Then I thought, “He’s been kidnapped”. Either scenario would be devastating. Your kid is gone. But when you think in terms of “lost”, there is hope for “found”. When you think in terms of “kidnapped”, the possibilities become much more troubling. Someone has snatched your kid. Against their will the child’s fate is in the hands of another; someone who does not understand the value of that kid in your life; someone who does not recognize or respond to the child’s pleas and cries to be returned.
If you’ve determined your inner-kid is missing, you must next determine where he/she went. Are they simply lost; somewhere along the way they’ve taken a wrong turn, walked down the wrong aisle. They’re circling the clothes rack, your adult-self circling close behind, just missing each other. Just missing each other, but still within reach.
If your inner-kid is “lost”, challenge yourself to “seek and find”. Call out to your kid; call him/her by name. Don’t rest until you hear that playful giggle. Strive to rediscover the joy that once defined a youthful heart that was filled with wonder and excitement and promise.
If you’ve determined your inner-kid was “kidnapped”, the recovery process may be more complex. Someone or something has taken the kid that once defined your heart. An event, a word, or a situation stole the kid – changing life forever. Imagination and dreams slowly lost their enthusiasm. Joy finally died, leaving the kid to disappear into a dark and lonely seclusion.
If your inner-kid is “kidnapped”, challenge yourself to embark on a “rescue mission”. Write down a description of the kid you remember. Identify the threats that changed what should have been. Realize that the adult you have become is the only one who can overcome unfortunate events and locate the kid you once were. Then, invest whatever’s necessary – sensitivity, understanding, patience, forgiveness – to perform the rescue and bring your kid into the light.
The two of you are meant to walk life together. So, where is your kid?