If there is one thing I hope to never experience again as a parent, it is to have my child missing. For some time tonight, that is what I went through. Of course there were many times in the past when I couldn’t find either of my kids, but they always were found at some point and it was not long that they were gone. This time, it was different.
Earlier this evening, Jesse asked if he could go play at a friend’s house. This friend lives down the street. I said that he could and he took off on his bike for her house. Then he came back a little bit later saying that nobody was home. Since he had had an unpleasant experience while playing with another neighborhood kid, who was currently playing with our neighbor’s son, I told him he was not allowed to go play with them this time. He had not behaved very well and we were still trying to resolve what had happened. So I told him to just ride his bike outside. I had gone over the rules with him – no bothering the neighbors, no riding his bike on a stranger’s driveway, watch out for cars, stay on the street, STAY WHERE I CAN SEE HIM and no going up to peoples’ houses and knocking on their doors. Once that was clear, I told him he was free to go ride his bike. I kept tabs on him while he was out there and at one point we chatted briefly about school stuff. He was upset about some school news I had just received on my phone and I suggested to him that he think about a solution while he was riding his bike. I watched him ride off then ran into the house to grab the hamper, hoping I could throw in a load of laundry before it got to be too late. My plan was to go into the garage, where the washer and dryer are, and open the garage door to check on Jesse and also to watch him while I was taking care of laundry.
But when I was back in the kitchen with the hamper, I looked out the window and saw two neighborhood kids on my front lawn. They were the kids who had been playing outside at my neighbor’s house.
I went outside to ask them what was up and they asked about Jesse and I explained why he was not able to play with them right now. I also said, “He’s out riding his bike around.” As they trudged off, I looked up to see down the street. I didn’t see Jesse. So I looked the other way. And Jesse wasn’t there, either.
Apparently, he WASN’T “out riding his bike around" in this neighborhood! But just to be sure, I ran to the corner and checked up and down the cross street. No sign of him.
Hm, I didn’t like this.
I ran back to my house and grabbed my phone. I already had my keys in my pocket. I locked my front door on my way out and walked down the street to the little girl’s house, just in case Jesse had gone back there to see if anybody was home, and for me to see if he was there if anybody WAS home, but he wasn’t there. His bike wasn’t there. No one was there. I turned around and walked all the way to the park down the other street, asking the neighborhood boy if he had seen Jesse. He shook his head. When I got to the park, I looked around – for Jesse, for his bike, even his coat. Just, anything of his. Nothing. He wasn’t there, either.
Now I was starting to worry.
I kept looking up and down streets as I walked back home then I went into the house and looked everywhere for Jesse, calling out his name. I know I had left the door locked, but Jen was there and she might’ve let him in. Or, he might’ve already been there before I left and I hadn’t noticed. But he wasn’t in the house! Shit!
Now I was REALLY worried!
I went back outside, grabbing my jacket on the way, and started checking the cross streets. A girl we know was outside spray-painting her Halloween costume and I asked her if she’d seen Jesse. She said she did, down the street the OTHER way. I confirmed with her the direction then thanked her and headed off. But I didn’t find Jesse that way, either.
I did some more looking around before I decided it was time to look for him by car. I went back in the house, telling Jen that Jesse was missing and that we’d have to leave to go looking for him. “Let’s go!” she said. She grabbed her phone and we left. As we were leaving, I saw our neighbors outside, looking around.
We drove around the neighborhood looking for Jesse. We couldn’t find him anywhere. Jen texted her dad and told him what was going on. She also texted her BFF about the situation and they said they were on their way to help.
The more we drove around with no sign of Jesse, the more worried I started to get. I started crying and praying he would be found. I started to mentally apologize to Jesse for every single bad thing that had happened in his life, every rough moment we had been through, all the times I had to tell him bad news and all the times I had punished him for one thing or another. I started feeling guilty for that, too. I started feeling horrible that he might miss the party with his friends tomorrow. That he might not be with us for Thanksgiving dinner. That he might not be able to open the Christmas presents he’d have waiting for him under the Christmas tree in December. It was just making me feel miserable. I was so scared that he might be hurt or afraid or…worse. That he was all alone or that he was terrified of some stranger who had snatched him. I started muttering “I can’t lose him” as I drove and I just hoped to God that he was okay.
We never found him on our drive. When we got back to the house, there were a bunch of people near the driveway. Jennifer stuck out of the window and asked if anyone had seen Jesse and they all said no.
By this time, over an hour had passed since I’d last seen him.
Jennifer looked at me and said we needed to call the police. I told her to go ahead and do that and she was on the phone with the Eugene Police Department as I parked the van. I got out and talked to the newcomers. They were neighbors who had joined the search for Jesse. One person suggested that Jesse might have gone to a nearby bike path where there is a bridge and that is currently under construction so we decided to check there. Some others held back to keep searching other areas. Jen went with me on the way to the bike path, still on the phone with the police. I noticed the father of the little girl living down the street climb out of his car in front of his house and I asked him if he’d seen Jesse. He had not. He also said he’d just got home. I explained that Jesse had been there earlier hoping to play with his daughter and he said nobody had been there. He also said he’d let me know if he saw Jesse. At this point, Jennifer wanted to go back to the house for something and I gave her the keys.
At the bike path, we didn’t find Jesse there either. I talked with the two women who had been there looking for him and went over the details of what Jesse looked like and what he was wearing. I checked down another street on my way back and asked a neighborhood girl if she’d seen him and she said no. She started looking for him, too. When I got out to my street, I looked up to see a police car at my house. It was parked near the corner with headlights on. (My house is on a corner.) I ran up to it thinking I should talk to the police officer but as I got closer, I saw someone sitting on his bike. It was JESSE!! I ran faster and as I got nearer to him, one of the neighbors, who had been there with Jesse, turned to smile at me and say there he is. There’s Jesse. I hugged Jesse, thanking God that I was able to hug my little boy again, and then turned to see the police officer standing there. I talked with him and thanked him for helping us. The situation was explained to him and then he talked to Jesse. This was when Jennifer came back out to us and she was relieved to see Jesse.
The police officer spoke briefly with Jesse. He told Jesse that he should tell his parents or his big sister where he is going before he goes there. Otherwise, people would get scared and start looking for him. (That’s what Jen later told me he said.) Then he said to me that he was glad that Jesse had been found. When I was done talking to him, I turned and all I could do was hug my little boy again. I just hugged him so tight and then I started crying. I don’t know why I cried – HE WAS HOME SAFE! But I couldn’t help it. I guess because I had been so scared or because I was just so thankful he was home.
Then I asked Jesse where he had been. He had been at a neighbor’s house the whole time – INSIDE the house! We didn’t know these people and Jesse does not usually go there. I reminded him he’s not allowed to go into the houses of people we don’t know. I could tell my kids safety rules a million bazillion times and they’d STILL do something that was against the rules! That’s why I usually go over the rules before he takes off on his bike. But I guess he forgot this one.
My daughter’s BFF and her dad arrived and we stood together hugging and talking. (They are like family to us.) The dad talked with Jesse a bit. They were glad that he was safely back home, too.
I am so glad that my son was safe and that he’s back home. I am so very grateful he is back with us and unharmed! I definitely gave him extra hugs tonight and kept telling him that I loved him. I don’t know what I would do if I lost him. I am so glad that we didn’t lose him and that he is okay.
I am also grateful to our friends and neighbors and the Eugene Police Department for their help! A missing child is a very scary experience to go through. I know there are many cases where a child is not found and my heart goes out to the parents who never end up having their child safely at home again. I am glad that this time, mine was back at home where he belonged.