Family Thoughts by Emily

Terrifying Moment For a Mother

I just have to say that if you don’t know how much you love your children, just lose them for a good 5-10 minutes in a public place, and you will know! That is one darn terrifying moment for a mother! Of course I know that I love my children, but sometimes they drive me  crazy! I had a darn good scare today that had me shaking.

I wanted to make a quick trip to the grocery store, before lunch, to pick up some deli sandwiches for a girlfriend and myself. She was bringing her kids over for a lunch playdate, and we were just going to hang out. She has been battling breast cancer, chemo, surgery, and the whole lot. She is still in the thick of it, but we thought a get together where the kids could play and we could relax, would be just what we both needed. Anyway, I wanted to run into Bel Air, order our sandwiches, pick up some bread and milk and be on my way. Because I was in a hurry, I didn’t want to deal with getting a shopping cart. Brielle, my 3 year old, had other ideas. She not only wanted a shopping cart; she wanted one that had a car on the front, so she could drive it. I didn’t want to take the time to deal with it, since company would be showing up at my house soon (my fault – yes). There is often a line at the deli, and I wanted to hurry and get in it, so I told the boys to bring their sister along. We go to Bel Air often enough that they knew right where I’d be. My oldest is 8 and very capable – when he wants to be. By golly, I didn’t think they would all leave her there!

A few moments went by and my three boys came and stood by me at the deli. I asked them where Brielle was, and they shrugged their shoulders. I looked at my oldest and said, “you were supposed to bring her with you!” He ran back over to the front of the store, where he left her with the shopping cart. He came back to me and said, “she’s not there.” He didn’t seem worried about it, but I sure was! I immediately ran over there and sure enough, the car/cart was left right in front of the sliding doors, and she wasn’t there!!!!!!! It sure looked like a crime scene – empty cart and no child. 🙁 I tried not to panic right away, and immediately looked all around and outside the doors. Still no Brielle! The more time that passed, the more panicked I got. I asked the nearest cashier if he had seen her. He told me he knew what she looked like (because I’m a regular), but that he hadn’t seen her come by. I noticed people looking at me as I scurried about the store, but nobody bothered to help me!! I went and checked the women’s restroom and no luck there. Then one of the deli gals, whom I adore, asked me if my little girl was missing. I said yes, and she said she’d check the men’s restroom while I looked outside. As far as I knew, she was the only single person helping me look for my child. I ran outside and ran up and down the sidewalks, screaming Brielle’s name. NOTHING. There was even an elderly man who thought it would be funny to stand in the middle of the sidewalk, with his arms out, and block me as I tried to run by. He had a smile on his face and thought he was pretty funny. I told him my daughter was missing, and he just said to me, “now just calm down. When was the last time you saw her?” I ignored him, because I didn’t think he’d be of any help to me. She was 3, and I had a right to panic.

I swear that about 5-10 minutes passed before anything changed. Miranda (the deli gal) and I were the only ones looking, as far as I could tell. I went back into the store and the cashier paged Brielle, as if the 3 year old is going to hear it and know where the front of the store is. Then I told him to send out a memo for people to keep an eye out for a redheaded little girl. We have a bank inside the front of our store, and many people were in line, just watching me panic. I recognized one lady, from church, who asked me if I had found her. I told her no, and she still just stood there and went about her business. Seriously people – if you see a panicked mother who has lost a child, offer to help!!!!!

After one more time of running out to the car, to see if she went out there, I spotted Miranda. She yelled from the other end of the store that they found Brielle back by the Pharmacy. We NEVER go back to the pharmacy! This was so out of character for Brielle to head to that part of the store. My little wanderer had me scared to death. Of course, when an employee brought her to me, Brielle seemed totally fine. She wasn’t scared one bit. This girl is going to keep me worrying, I’m afraid. I immediately took the kids outside by the plants, threw my purse and phone on the ground and just sobbed! As I ran around screaming my daughter’s name, all of the thoughts of missing children, who had been found dead, abused or found YEARS later, just kept running through my head. That is a mother’s worst nightmare right there.

I decided the Bel Air sandwiches would have to wait for another day. I walked the kids to the car and stood there at the car door, and talked to them about how scary that was, and what could have happened. I continued to cry and a mother (or grandmother) who was putting her child in the car next to mine, said, “are you okay mom?” I said, “No, I’m not”. She came over and gave me a great big hug, teared up and said she understood, and that that is every mother’s worst nightmare. It was so sweet of her to come over. Would have been nice to know that other people were helping look for my baby in the store, but still nice.

I called my friend and asked if McDonald’s drive-thru was okay, because I was not going back into that store. Luckily she was okay with that.

I realize that some of you may have your judgments and think that this is all my fault, and I should be more attentive. This may be true. I can be given the terrible mother award for the day, or week! I will not be counting on my older children to keep an eye on their sister, for quite some time. My little wanderer is going to have to get a leash or something. I have 4 children, and I have taught them to watch out for each other. I think this was a good lesson for us all, to keep better watch on each other, and to protect each other. I swear, 5-10 minutes of having your baby go missing, feels like an eternity! Big reminder to step up and be a better mom. Not lettin’ that baby out of my sight for a while.

While I am going to step up my parenting, I am working to help Raley’s Stores see how important it is to set a store policy for what to do when these situations arise. You can help get the word out, and help make an impact, by tweeting @raleysstores. Here is a sample tweet that you can use, if you’d like. “Scary for a Mother to lose a child in a public place! Stores should have policies 4 said situations @raleysstores”


About the author

Emily Buys


  • Other peoples’ judgements are the *last* thing you should be thinking about. How absolutely terrifying. I’m so sorry that you went through that, I have had a similar experience with my 4 year old daughter and understand the panic. I feel awful that those around you did not get involved, it’s such a disappointing statement of where we humans are heading.

    Thankfully, you found her safe. The goodnight hugs and kisses are going to mean even more tonight. 😀


  • Scary indeed. Glad you found her unscathed! Our last one did this to us quite a bit – in a matter of seconds, if you took your eyes off him, he could disappear. I just got a prayer request that two little girls have been missing since early this afternoon. Please, stop what you might be doing now and pray for these families!

  • NO one should ever make judgments on someones parenting unless its really abusive or something WE all make mistakes as parents sometimes we dont know how to handle a situation sometimes we yell scream kick and cry ourselves hey guess what we are parents , wives , daughter chefs banker and everything else in between sometimes are brains work great and other times we are on empty to the ones making those judgments well they must only do one thing at a time LOL

  • Thank you Kimery! I’m so glad I found her unscathed too! So scary for those families missing their little girls all afternoon. I can only imagine what that must feel like!

  • I had the same thing happen to me and my husband at the zoo when my daughter was about 5 or 6. We let her and my son play on the playground while we sat and watched. We were talking and when we looked for her she was nowhere to be found. We panicked and found someone who worked there. They contacted security and she was found wondering around looking for us. When they brought her to us we cried and cried. It’s a very very scary feeling! Glad things turned out good for you too!

  • I really do think that these things happen to many of us at least once. Hopefully once is all it takes. Glad you found your daughter – the zoo is a big place to get lost!

  • This happened to me the other day not in public but at our house (we live by the road) I was vacuuming glass out of my car and my daughter was in the house watching TV. I stopped to check on her and she wasn’t in the livingroom. So I checked her room and the bathroom and my room and her brother’s room. She wasn’t anywhere to be found. I opened the basement door and was yelling for her and then went outside and started looking I heard the outside basement door shut and she came running around the house. I guess she had went outside and heard me yelling in the basement and tried to go in there and then heard me yelling outside. I was terrified becuase there was once that my 11 year old had taken her out to play and got distracted and she wandered off 1/4 mile up the road! I was fixing dinner and he came in and I asked “Where is Angelica?” He said “I don’t know I thought she was inside” I have never been so scared!

  • I think every mother has that very same panic happen at least once. It certainly does not make you a bad mother. I have felt that same panic several times with my own. It only takes one second to look away while shopping and they can disappear. It gives a very sick feeling in your gut to think that moment could end the time you have together, as so many scary things can happen in those moments you are apart. ha

    So sorry you had to go through this while others looked on! I am so happy you found her safe and hopeful you never have to feel that terrible feeling again!

  • When my son was younger–he is now 28yrs old–a friend took him and 2 other kids to the mall. my son got separated from them. Because I had worked with him, he knew to go to a sales clerk and give his name, the name of the person he was with and where they were going. I have also worked in a daycare and was surprised at the number of kids that not only did not know mom or dad’s names but didn’t know their own last name. We made it a game and the kids in my 2 yr old class learned not only mom and dad’s name, their last name but any siblings names as well. I was a single parent and to help keep track of him I had a “leash” for him. He actually liked using it because it allowed him a small amount of freedom but was still attached to me. I only had 1 case of a couple of elderly women making about it. They made the comment about it looking like I had a “dog on a leash”—my response to their comment was—It may look like I have a dog on a leash but at least I know where he is at and he is not lost!!!!” I never heard another word from them.

  • I also have four, mostly grown up now (14-23). I can’t tell you how many times they went missing (many times in the care of their father, who I love dearly but learned not to leave the kids with–way too easily distracted and forgetful). I think because of that I am extremely sensative when I see someone who is missing a child. A lady at Target was looking paniced and I asked her what was wrong–her 3 year old was missing. I told an employee and the store was on lock down in less than a minute (living in the big city they take lost children very seriously). Child was found and everything was okay. I can’t believe that the employee didn’t get the manager and everyone in that store looking for your daughter. You should contact the manager and ask them to put a lost child policy in place. I am so glad that your little girl was found and is okay. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks (what do you think people think when they hear my husband, the kids father lost them numerous times!!). Just be grateful to God that she is fine and give her a big hug. Parenting is hard enough without beating ourselves up. (Also, just wait till their teens!!)

  • Once my mom and sisters had gone to Walmart near my grandma’s house (3 hrs from home so not a familiar store). My mom loaded groceries and sister got in the car. When mom was done, she got in and started driving through the parking lot and was flagged down by another car. They said there was a little girl running after her car. Sure enough, the older of my 2 little sisters had gotten in the car but hadn’t bothered to help our little sis in. Can you imagine if she didn’t get flagged down? My grandma lives about 30-45 min from town. Who knows where she would have been by the time mom made it back If she got all the way back to my grandma’s!

  • Those that would judge and not understand probably don’t have kids or have their kids in a bubble! I have lost my son in SeaWorld in FL due to the 8 year old brother being distracted for just a second. We bought a leash for him that day, I still have it now and he is 17 now…
    It was the worst moment of my life, I just felt helpless.
    Glad you found her and she just wandered off and no one stole her!
    On the bright side, they grow up and once they grow out of the cute as a button phase, and become teens, there are totally different issues and sometimes you wish they would just leave you alone for 10 min. Hugs to you!

  • I read this with tear filled eyes. I’m so glad she was found safe and oblivious to the panic around her.

  • Almost 2 years ago, on my oldest sons 3rd birthday, we got the joy of sleeping in, which as a parent does not happen very ofter. When I got up I knew both my boys were still in bed because the bedroom door was still closed and there was no sign of child vandalism (haha). So I went on to get my morning coffee and sit down to wait for everyone to get up. About 10 minutes later my grandmother called and told me “your son is on his way home”. “Excuse me? My sons are home and still in bed!!!” While I’m explaining that is was not my son, I ran to their bedroom to make sure that I was the one that one oldest son was missing. I started running around like a crazy chicken, getting my husband up and waiting to the knock at my door. See, he decided to get up, get dressed, and walk to my grandmothers. I live in a small town, but just about 4 years ago there was a kidnapping. I always drive the same path when I go to my grandmother’s, but that also requires driving over railroad tracks and one of the most traveled highways in the US. Thankfully someone had called the cops, and one of the local preachers had asked him if wanted a ride. Well least my son had some sense for what is was doing, he told the preacher he couldn’t get in a car with strangers and that he could just watch him walk to grandma’s. Well, my son made it there in one piece, THANK GOD! And then he got to take a not so thrilling ride home in a cop car. I’m pretty sure my heart had stopped beating from the time I had found what he had done till I saw him standing on the porch with the cop. The cop just told us that he was pretty sure we could take care of it ourselves and went on his way (my husband works as a dispatcher to all his friends are cops (bonus)). All I could do was hold him and kiss him and cry. I don’t know if everyone that had heard about the incident expected us to whoop him or what but I was just so happy that he was safe and that God watched over him to make sure nothing happened to him and that he was home safely. It is the most frightening thing as a parent to not know where your child is or what could have possibly happened to them. Thank goodness nothing happened to your daughter and that she was found safely.

  • I’m surprised the store didn’t lockdown/Code Adam. A friend of mine had an incident similar to Timra’s. Her 5-yr old son left during the middle of the night to play with a friend (they had made secret plans). The father of the playmate woke up & had my friend’s son walk home while he rode slowly behind him in the car. (I asked my friend why the guy wouldn’t just give her son a ride home & she said he was fearful of how it would look if he were found during the middle of the night with this kid that wasn’t even his.) Anyhow, while he was following the 5-yr old, a policeman pulled him over, wanting to know why he was following a little kid during the night. Then they all went to my friend’s house & woke her & her husband (a sheriff’s deputy) up. She was shocked.

  • thank goodness your baby is safe! don’t beat yourself up….any mom that says she’s never made a mistake is a liar. we all fall short sometimes…and hopefully learn from it!
    years ago, when my daniel was a little fella, he got away from me….thankfully, the store had an immediate action policy and the entire store was locked down in seconds….that included an employee in each restroom. EVERY store should have a similar policy in place. i tweeted for you…hopefully they’ll pay attention! God bless….you’re a GREAT mommy!

  • Emily-How SCARY! I can completely relate. I lost Clara (3 at the time) for about 3-4 minutes, but it sure felt like FOREVER and we were at a park that had springs VERY close by. I turned around for a minute and she was GONE – I immediately ran to the springs thinking she was in the water. TERRIFYING. Most terrifying minutes of my life.
    I’m so greatful for the helpful employee and that helpful mom in the parking lot that knew you needed that big hug. But even MORE happy that baby girl Brielle is safe & sound.

  • I totally understand. My middle son who was 4 at the time was lost at Mall of America in MINN. 10 minutes at least I was a mess my BIL was a mess hubby thankfully stayed calm and in one spot. Son came up an tugged on his shirt when ask where he went he said looking for you that was awesome. They have a six acre theme park and my BIL had taken him on a water log ride. I was crying my brother in law was shaking. No cop people just look at you like your nuts. No one to help look. THe show they have on tv about mall of america is a lie I did not see 1 cop or security guard and no lost child thing. All stores are suppose to call a code adam doors are locked and employees are to stop ad lokk immediately. Until that child is found. Don’t beat yourself up they are slippery little buggers and just continue thanking god for keeping her safe and protecting her. And I did have leashes for my kids Bought at TOYS R US harnesses like a dog harness and zips up the back so they cant reach it. Best investment. Glad she is safe. Trust me even though you were upset you will notice that you will give all the kids extra hugs and kisses for the next month and you will drive them crazy checking on them.

  • Yeah – I had those harnesses for my twins. It was a necessity!! I’m thinking about it with this little girl too. I can’t imagine losing a child in such a huge place like Mall of America! Either way though – it feels like there is no hope when they’re gone.

  • I work for JcPenney and if we are told there is a child missing there is someone at every exit, people checking bathrooms, people checking fitting rooms… Nobody is allowed to leave the store until the child is found (and there are people who get VERY angry about that rule). The sad part is we had the exact opposite happen the other day. We found a little girl who didn’t speak English wandering around in the store. Nobody claimed her for 35 minutes!!!! Her dad finally wandered up to the front after we had called the police. It was crazy and heartbreaking.

  • dont worry about peoples judgement i feel like this happens atleast once to every parent most of them just dont have the courageous to admit it happened to them. our two year old is very friendly and a huge people person. and it makes me sad that i have to teach her stranger danger :/

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