Yesterday the skies were blue and there was a definite promise of spring in the air. As the start of half term, Seb’s birthday on the way and the unavoidable knowledge that it was valentines day, we decided to spend the day in our beautiful city.
We started off catching the train into the centre. We are lucky that we have a local train that stops just a 5 minute walk from where we live. It’s a bit ridiculous as we could walk into town in that time in takes for us to catch it but the kids love going on it and it’s all good experience. It’s over in a couple of minutes too so we are all kept on our toes and it’s very manageable. It drops us right at the bottom in the bustling new southgate area and the city is our oyster.
We took an open top tour bus around the city. The kids really enjoyed it and Dominic sat and listened to the commentary. “Are they talking about a long, long time ago?” he asked.
The tour was a success, apart from the moaning that we didn’t get off at the park (if you know Bath, Victoria park is the park of all parks), and we were conveniently dropped metres walk from one of our favourite family run pizza restaurants.
Always hugely busy and friendly, we saw about the 5th family we knew from school in there. The kids were good, the food was really good. We left smiling and full, with just enough time to go to a couple of shops before the next train home.
We popped into M&S to get some new bodysuits for Polly. Our M&S is huge. A rabbit warren of aisles, especially in the children / baby department. All taller than an average 6 year old. It was honestly within a split second, I asked simon a question and that was it, Seb had gone.
The usual panic rose inside but we tried to stay calm knowing he couldn’t have gone far. But which way to turn in all this routes? Me pushing a buggy around, trying to manoeuvre ramps and people, holding onto Dominic, I wasn’t fast enough, but I had to have faith with simon sprinting round the shop. I knew we would find him, he couldn’t have gone far.
But we didn’t. And by now I was really starting to panic.
We saw another family from school “look! There’s seb’s mum!” the little girl excitedly said, and so I explained that we couldnt find him and they kindly offered to help. They stood with my other two on the middle floor whilst simon took the escalator up and I took it down.
10 minutes now he had been missing.
If it was Dominic I wouldn’t feel the same sense of panic. He would be panicking himself, it would be obvious to anyone that he was lost, he wouldn’t stray far and I know he wouldn’t get on the escalators or in the lift. But with Seb it’s “different”. Trying not to let my mind run wild, it was impossible not to think that he might have even left the shop. He lives in the here and now, this would be an adventure to him and who knows, he might even have it in his mind to walk to the train station.
I stepped off the escalator with tears starting to roll down my face. “Excuse me” I almost yelled at an assistant who was busily walking past “I’ve lost my son!” I added in desperation. “Oh!” she said, obviously not knowing the added twist of his learning difficulty, and kindly pointed me towards someone who could help. As I walked towards her barely able to breathe, I could see she was about to make a tannoy announcement, she smiled a really kind smile and then I saw him, a few steps behind with another assistant.
He had caught the escalator down and wandered into the Food Hall.
I burst into tears as I squeezed him so tight. He had tears in his eyes too.
Obviously I wish with all my might that this had not happened. It is the most sickeningly scary feeling. For any child, but with an added fear factor when your child has a learning disability, has limited speech and very little sense of danger. For anyone reading this who hasn’t experienced this or is thinking how could they lose him again? I promise you, it is a split second. And if it was his brother we would react calmly and rationally, knowing he wasn’t far, but Seb can disappear in a flash. So how on earth can there be a silver lining?
The lady said that Seb had told someone he was lost. He had also told the lady that his name was Seb and be couldn’t find Mummy, Daddy, Polly and Dom. This is an ENORMOUS step forward and although upset, I felt proud. He is starting to get more awareness and feelings of fear. He can articulate himself better too. It is small compensation for the terrifying 10 minutes we endured but it was definitely good to hear it.
When I found him the lady was about to make an announcement for “Mrs Seb to come to the food hall” as a code for missing child. She could see how shaken I was and offered us all complimentary drinks in the restaurant (we didn’t take up the offer as we just wanted to go!) and I was desperate to call Simon to say we had found him.
And as I hugged Seb with all my being he looked at me, still with tears in his eyes, and said:
“I’m sorry Mummy. I missed you”