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It was a hectic day to begin with. I had to take a flight with my son on the first day of new year. The airport was too crowded with all the vacationers who looked ecstatic about the great start of new year. I have always been very cautious about keeping an eye on my son when we are travelling, be it a shopping mall or a new city.
My son, who is now 5, has changed a lot and overcome his fears of meeting strangers in last few months. He is too quick in leaving our hand and running away to the object of his interest, or saying hello to a total stranger.
So my day started at 4 AM and I was too tired after 5 hours’ drive to the airport. The sight of a long queue at the check-in counter didn’t help me much, and my sons restlessness to run away in a nick of time worsened it all. I found myself looking at all directions all the time to keep myself in the queue and track my son at the same time. After 45 minutes I was successfully able to check-in and pass through the security check. The crowd thinned as I went deeper in the airport’s vast campus.
There was space to breath and couches to relax. My son suddenly saw his favorite chocolate in a duty free shop and dashed for it, me lagging behind. I had no energy left to convince him on not buying the chocolate, so I just paid for it.
To prevent more damage on my wallet, I decided to wait near the boarding gate. I still had 30 minutes before boarding and there were lesser objects of interest for my son near the gate. But I was proved wrong again, he shouted, “mamma look airplane”. He pressed his nose deeper into the glass wall, to get a closer look and I thought, “kids are excited about everything, how does he get so much energy?”. I was too exhausted. I gave him a approving look that he could continue looking at planes. It was easier for me to track him that way. Each gate had its own area and airport ground staff was monitoring all the gates so it was safe enough. And I had chosen the far end of the boarding gate area to sit so that I can have a complete view of the place and keep track of him.
I looked down at my mobile, battery was at 13%, I decided to whatsapp by husband that I will switch off my mobile to save the battery for later. We had to coordinate after landing as he was coming to pick us up. I would have taken 15-20 seconds at max to type the message and hit send button. And I looked up to find my son missing from the glass wall.
He was walking up and down the area so I stood up to get a better view. Still no sign of him. I kept my jacket on the chair and walked around, he might be on the other side of boarding counter I thought in my mind, but I still couldn’t locate him.
At that moment, I felt something was wrong.
The place was not at all crowded and I was still not able see him anywhere. I walked back to my seat, scrutinizing each row. Some people started looking at me with curiosity. I was getting tensed now, another round of my gate area and the next, still no luck.
I ran back, and asked a random lady, I would like to call her the Pink sweater lady, if she had seen a 5 year old kid in gray and maroon sweater walking around. She said, “yes, he just went towards the other gate.” I thanked her hurriedly and paced towards gate 50.
Boarding had started at that gate and I just thought, “what if by mistake he boarded the other plane”, I ran up the security personal near gate 50 and asked the same question as I had to the pink sweater lady. She asked the ground staff if a kid with that description had boarded by mistake, they confirmed negative.
I was in panic now, from the corner of my eye, I could see the pink sweater lady looking at me. I asked a few more passengers and they all said that they had seen the kid, but were not sure where he went. I went back to the security personal and pleaded them to help me, “do something, just ask someone to announce or whatever, I can’t find my son”.
“Don’t worry madam, we will check, he won’t go anywhere”, she assured me. I was almost in tears when I turned back, I couldn’t stop myself from running, that was the most relieving moment of my life.
The pink sweater lady was standing midway gate 49 and 50, tightly holding my son. “Bless her”, I sighed with relief. As I approached them, I saw my puzzled son, being scolded by my savoir, “why did you leave your mamma, why did you run away”. I went down on my knees and hugged him tight. I didn’t want to scold him, I was too terrified. I thanked the pink sweater lady, a million times and she just held my hand as I was almost shivering.
I knew that my son, if got lost, would come to gate 49, he knew I was there, but I was still worried, what if he couldn’t keep his cool and got nervous. What if someone tried to help him but he was too shaken to tell about me, what if he had boarded the wrong plane. I had all sorts of possibilities running in my mind and those were the worst 5 minutes of my life.
I held my son’s hand tightly and made him sit near me, “you are not going anywhere now”. He was upset, and said, “ I was just sleeping on the couch at gate 48, why couldn’t you look there?”. I didn’t want to answer his question. I was still in shock and my heart was beating fast.
Well that was a day which I will never forget. Later, I shared this incident with my husband and some friends and ideas that I got were really good and worth sharing. When stuck in a situation like this, we tend to panic and not act in a composed way. Many a times, our distress and inability to think and act quickly leads to mishaps. Social media is full of such incidents and I can totally understand what a parent and a lost child goes through.
So I decided to list down the suggestions that I got from my friends and my own son about handling such situations:
I am sure, most of us have gone through this fear of losing our child sometime or the other, and we can learn from each other on handling such situations. Any suggestions and experiences are welcome.