Thursday, October 05, 2006

It Can Happen That Fast

Today I had the... opportunity(?) to help avoid a missing child incident. No, not The Lad, someone else's kid.

On Thursdays, TFR doesn't go to work until 3:30, and I have no classes, so we decided to spend the early part of day together OUTSIDE of the house. It's been a glorious day, sunny and warm with only the slightest hint of chill in the breeze. We went first to Lone Pine, a farm stand/petting farm where The Lad got to feed goats, and we had pop and a caramel apple. Then we drove into Eugene and went to Emerald Park, where there is an excellent playground and sandbox. While we were there, we met several other parents with toddlers. One woman was there with a boy of about 4 or 5, and a little girl of 2. At one point a preschool class came marching out of the rec center to play on the playground, and this woman went over to talk to the teacher and ask her if there were any openings, then returned to the sandbox. A few minutes later, she told the boy to get ready to go, then went over to the playground area to get the girl. Within a minute she was back, frantically calling the girl's name and asking if we had seen her. She wasn't anywhere to be seen -- not in the sandbox, the playground, or the parking lot.

As a parent, my heart went out to her, so while TFR stayed with The Lad I went looking too. For some reason, I was drawn to the north end of the park, past the playground, where there was a picnic pavillion, grassy ares and volleyball pits. As I headed that way, a woman coming in the opposite direction asked if I was looking for a little girl. She pointed me in the right direction, and within a minute I had found her. She had seen a squirrel and taken off chasing it. The scary thing was, when I caught up with her, 100 yards north of the sandbox, she was within 20 feet of the edge of the park. I herded her (she was skittish and I didn't think it appropriate to pick her up or try to take her hand) back towards the sandbox, when the woman she had been with came running. She thanked me, expressed surprise that a 2-year-old could move that fast (Oh, yeah, believe it, lady!), then confided in me that the girl wasn't her daughter -- she was watching her for a friend.

That put a chill down my spine. It's bad enough that she was inattentive and let the girl get out of her sight, but to be so cavalier with another parent's child? If someone pulled a stunt like that with The Lad, I promise you, I'd have to display my Pimp Hand. You don't take your eyes off of your kid, let alone a child left in your care. That little girl was within moments of possible disappearing forever. When I found her, she was down in a swale where she couldn't be seen until I was within a few yards of her.

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