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My youngest child Cameron was born in 2000 and I have lost him five times. I feel like I should say that in front of some sort of support group. “My name is Jann Franklin and I’ve lost my son five times.” I haven’t lost him since he turned five, and I feel I should get some sort of certificate for that. It was definitely a theme during the first four years of his life.

The first time was extremely traumatic, but if I'd known how many times I was going to lose him, I don't think I would have been as upset. The second time I lost him I don’t really remember much about the situation. I think he was lost around four minutes and a store clerk found him in the toy section. Compared to the third time, the second was really a nonstarter.

The third time I lost my son was literally heartbreaking because he was lost for forty-five minutes. I had to call the police and then received a stern lecture from the officer on my poor parenting skills. But let’s start at the beginning.

My oldest was taking gymnastics so Cameron and I had gone to the gym to pick him up. As we walked into the lobby I had a son on either side of me when I stopped to talk to a friend. I looked down and I only had one son. I thought to myself that Cameron probably went back in the gym so we turned around and went back into the gym. No Cameron. I went back to the lobby-no Cameron. I went to the front desk and asked the employee to make an announcement on the loudspeaker. But no one showed up with Cameron. I was starting to get really nervous.

The beauty of being a parent is that we all pitch in to help, no matter what our views on potty training or organic food. By now several parents figured out what was going and we all realized it was getting dark. The parents organized themselves into three groups: the first group walked over to the grocery store behind the gym. One person asked the store to initiate a Code Adam while the rest of the group searched the parking lot. The second group walked to the tire store beside the gym. One person asked the store to initiate a Code Adam and the rest searched the parking lot. The third group began searching the parking lot. My friend went to my car and peeked inside but the doors were locked and it was dark.

I was bordering on hysteria and decided we’d better call the police. The police arrived quickly and the officer started questioning me about my husband-where is he, did he pick up my son, could a friend have picked up my son? He zeroed in on my husband because I said he was home sick from work and wasn’t answering the telephone. He kept asking me if we’d had a fight, did he leave town? I kept saying why would he take one child and not the other? He’s not answering the phone because he’s been throwing up all day. The officer seemed pretty convinced my husband had taken our son. He wanted permission to go to our house and if no one answered could he break down the door? I felt so sick to my stomach and I couldn’t breathe. Why are they focusing on my husband when it most likely was a stranger who took my child?

In total I spent forty-five agonizing minutes believing my son had been kidnapped. That’s when a mom-of course! – came up to me holding Cameron’s hand. I began to sob hysterically-cue the first time I lost this kid. She said, “I found him in the parking lot-he said he fell asleep in the car and was coming to find you.” Oh my stars that child!

The officer immediately took Cameron aside and began to question him on Stranger Danger. Now let me pause for a moment here and explain what I taught my kids. The statistics I read said that most children are taken by someone they know, even if only casually. The man who bags your groceries, the neighbor, etc.

I taught my children to never go with anyone, except Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa. Anyone else must use our code word Hedgehog. I taught them that grownups don’t ask kids for help looking for lost puppies and they don’t give candy to kids they don’t know unless they are bad people. So when the officer asked Cameron what he knew about Stranger Danger, Cameron gave him a blank stare.

The officer then explained that you should never go with a stranger as Cameron nodded solemnly, as if this was new information. Then the officer came back to me and gave me a stern lecture that I had failed my child because I didn’t teach him Stranger Danger. You know what Officer? I don’t even care anymore-I just want to take my children home and go to bed.

Once again parents rule and authority figures get all tangled up in protocol and procedure. You may be wondering what happened to Cameron. When I stopped to talk in the lobby, he kept going out the door and to the car. By the time I realized he was missing, that kid was already gone. And of course by the time I had the gym making announcements over the loudspeaker, Cameron had gotten into the car, locked all the doors, laid down on the seat, and fell asleep. I couldn’t remember if I’d locked the car, and since my friend checked the doors and found them locked, we assumed I had. Cameron said he never heard her knocking. Then he woke up, wondered where everyone was, and got out to find us. God is so good!

I try to find a lesson to be learned in all my past deeds. I suppose the lesson I should take from this story is that I should keep better track of my child. It would have saved me a lot of stress.

Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this post. Do share-please don’t let me be the only woman who can’t keep track of her kid. Click the link below for the definition of Stranger Danger.

Stranger Danger