Picture the scene. It’s Easter Sunday and I was preparing a lovely roast dinner lunch for my family. My husband, who is currently training for a 100k Trailwalker challenge for Oxfam, which he will complete in July 2016, went out for a four-hour training walk. Yes, you heard that right - four hours. So, he had set off with his backpack, coffee and pork pies whilst I was tending to our little darlings. The children were, as usual, full of beans and seriously running circles around me.
All morning, they had been inside and outside as they continued to change their minds on what they wanted to do. My daughter then promptly said “Mum, can you get my coat. I want to go outside again”. “Sure darling”, I replied and I unhooked her duffle coat from the coat rack. The back door was unlocked and the front door was slightly open to let the air through the house. I had watched the two of them skip out the front door and they normally go round the back to the play area. The last thing I heard was laughter.
I continued to prepare the lunch and a few minutes later, looked out the windows to see where the children were playing. They were out of view. That’s odd; I thought to myself. I went out the back and shouted their names loudly. They always came. But no answer. I went out the front and shouted again. No answer. I panicked. Bewilderment and a tightness in my throat came over me. I suddenly felt very alone and worried.
Where are they? Have they been snatched? Have they wandered off? I would never forgive myself. It is every parent's nightmare. But until it happens to you, you can have no concept of how it feels. It might have only been five or ten minutes, but it felt like a lifetime.
I came into the house and desperately shouted their names. No answer again. All the downstairs rooms where empty. Their coats were no-where to be seen. I couldn’t believe it. The first thing that popped into my mind, as silly as it sounds, was that my husband had gone for a walk, and I had managed to lose to the children. I felt sick.
After shouting their names for minutes which felt like hours, I ran upstairs to check the rest of the house. There were not in their bedrooms. I panicked again. I then went into the spare room. The door was closed. I swung open the door. And...there they were. Sitting playing quietly playing secret mums and dads. I asked them why the didn’t answer me when I was shouting for them. They said in a soft tone “we didn’t hear you mummy. We were playing secret mums and dads, so we have to be really quiet.”
I took a moment and sat on the spare bed in silence. I took a few deep breaths to compose myself. Thank goodness they were safe but really, could they not hear me, or just choosing not to hear me? I couldn’t decide if I was relieved or angry.
Perhaps there is a reason why this story hits me so hard. When I was about six (my daughters age), my mother had said she was popping upstairs to dry her hair. She was upstairs only two or three minutes but when she came back down, my younger brother and I had disappeared. Can you imagine how that must have felt? A six-year-old and four-year-old were gone. My mother had searched the house, spoken to the neighbours and after some time without success, had telephoned the police. We were missing for hours and my mother was distraught.
I had taken it upon myself to take my brother for a walk. There was a gate at the bottom of the garden and we had wandered into the woods. We had gone to pick bluebells for our mum. I thought it would be a lovely idea and make her happy. But I had lost my sense of direction and we were lost in the woods. I had taken my brothers hand tightly and told him everything would be ok but he was crying. I was lost. Fortunately, we had eventually found our way to a small house in the woods. I knocked on the door. It was owned by an old lady called Peggy. She welcomed us in and walked us safety home. As we came back to our home, my mother, my neighbours and the police were at the house. I had no idea what the fuss was about. My mother was crying. I held out my hand and gave her the bunch of bluebells we had picked for her. She cried again. I told her we wouldn’t go in the woods anymore alone.
My mother also reminded me you are not permitted to pick bluebells and I’ve never picked another one since.