This 4th of July, we decided to go to the beach to watch fireworks. This particular beach has a lot of activity going on every evening and on Independence Day, even more so.
After letting the kids play on the playground for a while, we made our way down to the water. Though the sun was beginning to set, there were tons of people everywhere.
My kids were playing in the water and digging in the sand with my husband while I stood at the waters edge and took photos. It was when I heard a frantic young girl’s voice that I turned my attention behind me.
“Have you seen a little girl in a green bathing suit? We can’t find my sister.”
The girl was speaking to some other people nearby. I walked up and asked her how old her sister was (six), where they last saw her (about 20 yards up from the water) and how long since they’d seen her (15 minutes).
Her mother came up to me and gave me some more details. I promised to keep my eyes open and that’s pretty much all I did. I couldn’t relax and just carry on as if a little girl wasn’t missing. From time to time, I’d find myself walking back over to the mother to see if there was any news.
I couldn’t believe the beach police patrol was just driving down the beach visually scanning the area. I thought they should let everyone know they were looking for a child and use a megaphone or something to get the word out. At another point there were police officers just sort of wandering around on the beach, like stray ants that had lost their way. If it was my kid that was missing, I don’t think I would have been satisfied with such a half-assed attempt to find them. I mean really, it would have been laughable were it not such a dire situation.
Eventually it got dark and we wandered back up to the pier to get ice cream before the fireworks started. The whole time, I continued to look, without even meaning to, for a little Indian girl with a black bob and a green and yellow flowered swimsuit. I felt sick wondering what might have happened to her and my heart ached for her parents. A morbid statistic plagued my thoughts…if a child isn’t found within three hours of having gone missing, they are unlikely to be found alive.
After we finished our ice cream, we let the kids go on the playground; my husband watching over them like a hawk while I fiddled with my camera and changed the lens.
It was at that moment that I looked up and saw it — a green and yellow flowered bathing suit. It was just as I had imagined it, as was the wearer— a little Indian girl with a black bob. And then I saw her mother and her older sister and her father.
Without saying a word to my husband, I sprinted across the playground to catch up with them. I tapped the mother on the shoulder. She whirled around.
“You found her… Oh thank God!”
She recognized me from the beach and greeted me with a smile. She told me her daughter had been found pretty far away on a major beach thoroughfare. After dark. I was so relieved I didn’t think to ask how she got there or if she was alone
I don’t know what I’d do if anything like an abduction ever happened to either of my children. I can’t even bear to think about—but I know this much—any thoughts I might have had on the merits of free-range parenting (the way I grew up) are completely out the window for now.
What are your thoughts on the whole free-range parenting/slow-parenting thing?