Up until recently, my life has been insanely boring. Nothing ever happens to me that is worth talking about other than how I got cut off by an excited mom at carpool drop off, how someone fell down my stairs again (they are so slick for some reason), or how my dog dug up my garden for the third time this week. See? Boring.
I have always heard the stories about mothers losing their children at the store or their children walked away from their front yard but I have never had to worry about that. My children have always been good about staying in the yard and if they want to run over to a friends house, they always tell me. My daughter also takes our cheap flip phone with her when she goes to play with friends so I never feel like I have to worry.
Our backyard is completely fenced off with latches that are either hard to open or just too high for my five and three year old to reach. I love sending them in the backyard because they cannot get out without help and so I can always trust them to stay in the backyard.
My family’s background
If I am going to talk about how I lost my children, then we actually need to rewind to a few weeks ago when I found out that my father-in-law (who has been married multiple times) had announced to my sister-in-law that he was getting married to this lady from Mexico. This lady was kind and sweet to my sister-in-law but after some research from the stories she had told my sister-in-law, we found out that she has deep ties to a polygamous religion in Mexico that was a break off of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints based out of Utah. This break off religion has had a terrible past including the former leader, this lady’s father, who had been killed by his own brother. Many other people have been linked to this break off religion who have been killed because they got in the way. This family of this lady from Mexico apparently has ties to a drug lord in Mexico. Basically, the family is very unlike my family in almost every way.
Well, a few of my husband’s siblings have been concerned about this soon-to-be member of their family because she had said that she needed help escaping her family but by doing so, it would put our family in danger. However, a lot of the story that we have heard has been so conflicting that we are left not knowing what to think. Is she actually in danger? Does she actually want to escape?
Tuesday evening we found out that my father-in-law was headed to Mexico (and had lied to my husband and said he was going to Texas) and we also found out that my father-in-law has been being stalked by someone. His girlfriend/fiancee had said it was her ex-boyfriend but who knows.
Wednesday morning we became more concerned as we hadn’t heard from my father-in-law and before sending my children off to school, we talked to them about how they should never get into the car with someone they don’t know and should not even walk off with them. We sent my Kindergartener to school with her flip phone because there was just something about the day that we were so uneasy with and this was just safer, just in case.
Friends, friends, and friends
Wednesday afternoon, my daughter had a girlfriend over and we ended up going to the park with some friends. I had a sick feeling in my stomach all afternoon and just felt like we should be home. I was living in fear, for whatever reason, and I wanted to lock them up in the house to keep them safe. We eventually went home with my daughter’s friend and we brought home another boy who is good friends with my daughter and who is my best friend’s son.
My daughter and the boy played inside for a long time and my sister-in-law came over to work on her business. We talked about business but also talked about how she’s taking her children out of public school and keeping them home. There is no security at her children’s schools and she fears that they could go missing at any time. That weighed heavily on my mind as went about work, because despite having all locked doors and fences around my children’s schools and needing to be buzzed in to be let into the front door, my children could still be taken from the school without us knowing.
Eventually the girlfriend left and so it was just the boy and my daughter. They play so well and they are such good kids that I sent them in the backyard to play and left the back door open off of our kitchen so I could hear them playing.
My friend, whose boy I had and who had my son at her house, called to see if it was okay that she take my son with her son to work with her just down the road. She would be there for about an hour and they could just play while she was coaching. I had a very bad feeling about it. My gut was telling me no so I asked her if the boys could just come play at my house. She kept telling me that whatever was fine and I told her that I didn’t mind having them at the house and all four kids could play together but we ended up letting our sons decide what to do. My son and her son decided they wanted to go with her and although my gut instinct was saying that it was a bad idea, they should stay at my house, I let them go.
The two kids played outside for a long time in the backyard. They are climbers so they were trying to climb the fence and multiple times I caught them and told them to stay in the backyard. They decided to put on superhero capes, move this play pirate ship over to the fence that leads to the front, and climb on top of this pirate ship and start pretending they could fly like superheroes. It was cute so I caught a picture of them and then told them that it was dangerous to keep jumping from such a height (maybe four feet high) and to find something else to do.
At this point my sister-in-law was packing up to leave. I had gone to the front of the house while leaving her in the back of the house near the open back door. I was focused on taking photos of some of her products and I realized it had gone quiet in the backyard, although it usually does right before I hear the kids giggling and yelling as they have come up with a new crazy idea to play and do. My sister-in-law came to the front to talk to me and I asked her a couple of times if she had seen the kids in the backyard because it was still quiet. She said she had seen them playing so I let it go. A few minutes later I decided I needed to go find them, they are never this quiet. I searched the entire backyard and could not find them. The gates were closed, the garage was locked, but there was no sign of them.
I started searching the house because I know they like to play hide-and-seek and thought maybe they were hiding from me. After all, I had told them to go find something else to do and hiding from me would definitely be something else to do that would get my attention. I searched all over the house and could not find them.
I went outside to the front yard and started looking for them. As I walked outside with my sister-in-law, I saw my dog who had been in the backyard with the kids, jogging back home down the street. It was at this point that I started panicking. I couldn’t see them and I couldn’t hear them. If they were going to go somewhere, which I couldn’t understand why they would because they are not children who run away, I assumed they would be across the street in our neighbor’s yard who has a play set and trampoline but they weren’t there. I screamed my daughter’s name for about a minute up and down the street and then called my husband as my sister-in-law went driving up the street to where the boy lived.
Panicked I told my husband I had lost the kids and didn’t know if I should call my friend who had just left for work or if I should call 911. He calmly told me to call 911 first and then my friend and told me he was coming home. I walked home and my sister-in-law arrived back from driving around the neighborhood. I had told her where this little boy lives (but possibly told her wrong now that I think of it) but she had not seen them there or anywhere on the streets.
I walked inside my home, screamed a bit more for the kids and told them if they were hiding, it was no longer funny and I was about to call the police. No one responded so I called 911.
What happened after I lost the children
The next 30 minutes were surreal. I talked to 911. They told me to stay home but I wanted to get in my car and find them. I had no idea where to look but I needed to find them.
The worst part of all of this was that it wasn’t just my child. I had lost my best friend’s child as well. She had trusted me with him and I had let him go. Every time I talked about the fact that I lost this boy, I sobbed. When I spoke of my own child, I was calm but could not hold it together when I had to tell anyone that my friend’s child was gone, too.
Just last week, we had received an Amber Alert about two children in our neighborhood who had gone missing. They were about five, my daughter and her friend’s ages, and I had never heard if they were found or not. This, plus my father-in-law’s situation with his stalker, kept running through my head. In my head, my daughter had been taken and was going to be ransomed or was going straight into sex trafficking. Four days prior to all of this, we had also just watched “The Abolitionists” who are fighting sex trafficking around the world. All of these things leading up to this particular day were too much for my mind.
After getting off the phone with 911, a police officer immediately arrived at my front door. I hadn’t seen him approach because I was on the phone with 911 and using my daughter’s flip phone to talk to my friend at the same time. He had me check the house again and my sister-in-law helped. At the same time, another officer arrived. With the adorable photo I had taken only 30 minutes prior to this of the two kids with their superhero capes on hanging out on the pirate ship, they left to look at parks and around the neighborhood.
At the same time, my across-the-street neighbor arrived at my house. I had no idea why she was there but she was an angel to me because when I looked at her, I felt peace. I knew everything would be okay, I just didn’t know what would happen next. She was headed to get into her car but turned around and came back. She asked if we could say a prayer. After her prayer, she left to get into her car.
Before this neighbor had come over, she had knocked on multiple doors so as I stood on my front porch speaking to the 911 dispatch, through my tears I could see the entire neighborhood emerging from their homes, talking, and knocking on more doors. It was a scene I had never seen before and I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
The first person to arrive that I had been waiting for was the boy’s father. I ran to him and all I could do was apologize. He assured me everything would be fine but wanted to see the backyard. He tried to get into the backyard but could not figure out how to get the door open. “See?” I said. “This is why I don’t understand how they got out of the backyard.”
My husband then arrived home. I was feeling more guilty with each passing minute. Cars were lined up along our street with people coming to help and I couldn’t say anything except, “I’m sorry.” And every time I thought about how I had lost someone else’s child, I broke down and sobbed the ugly cry, you know the one, mouth open and face squished. It was ugly.
Lastly my friend arrived at the house. Sobbing, we hugged and then knelt down to pray. My good friend down the street joined us. I just kept sobbing and apologizing but just then, a car came quickly down the street. It was my across-the-street neighbor with two giggling, smiling kids sitting in the front seat.
We ran to them, and got them out of the car. My initial instinct, one that I’m totally embarrassed of, was to yell at my daughter. But after that, I hugged her and she did her whole, “Ugghhh, you’re squeezing me too tight.”
The two lost kids eventually ran off and started playing with the neighbor kids while I was still crying.
What happened and how it happened
Apparently my neighbor had found them in they boy’s front yard. This is another reason I feel guilty. Not only did I never check there, I had told my friend I would tell the kids that my friend and the kids she had were all leaving for work but I never had the chance to tell her son. So they had run off to spy on my friend and the kids at their house. Apparently they spent some time in the backyard which is probably why people had missed seeing them but my neighbor had happened to find them in the front yard.
Turns out, my husband had called my across-the-street’s husband as soon as I had hung up from talking to him which is how she knew to go knock on doors and come over. My husband told me the morning after this ordeal that he had wanted to be the one to get inspiration to find them. He feels as though he is never inspired and just wanted to, for once in his life, be the one who knows what to do. I told him, however, that although he did not find our children, he was inspired to call our neighbor because when I looked at my across-the-street neighbor, I knew I felt peace for those short seconds that I was with her and when she came driving down the road with them in her car, I knew that she had been inspired to go by the home again.
Also turns out that my friend whose son I had also had a bad feeling about the afternoon but we both ignored that feeling and continued on anyway. I just keep thinking that if either of us had listened enough to not take the boys with her to her work, this would have never happened. All the kids being at my house probably would have resulted in them all playing together in the backyard or at least the younger ones screaming at the older ones if they had tried to leave. My son is a good tattle teller and would have told me immediately if they were leaving or even trying to leave.
And so how did they escape? They used four chairs stacked on top of each other to reach the latch on the fence. They opened it, let the dog out, closed the gate, and ran to the boy’s house. It probably took them at least 5 minutes to get there but in that time, I was still in my house believing that they were in the backyard, just being quiet. Once they arrived, they ran to the backyard to try to get in the house, finally deciding to try to get in the house through the, wait for it, chimney!
It has only been a day and I still feel guilty and embarrassed for allowing such a thing to occur and for getting so many people involved in this for the kids only to be at the other house. However, if they all knew where my brain had gone with where I thought the kids were (sex trafficked into Mexico … I know, it’s crazy), they would have understood my panic. Despite the feelings I have, I will never be able to express my full gratitude for how my neighborhood came together. I have never seen such unity in a community before. It is overwhelming how much love we felt.
One last funny story is that the boy’s father, in his rush to get to our house, drove past the park that is near our house and saw a little girl shaped like my daughter with the same curly, crazy hair but she was turned away from the road. The father had driven past her but slammed on his brakes, threw his huge truck into reverse, and quickly backed up to her. Just then, that little girl’s father and brother approached the girl and they all looked confused. He drove away to our house without saying a word to them. Poor family is probably now scared out of their minds but if they only knew this friend of ours, they would know that he was just looking for our children and he is one of the best guys out there.
What do you need to know when you lose your child?
1. Stay where you last saw them because if they ran away, they might come back to that same spot.
2. Enlist neighbors, friends, or whoever you can to go around the neighborhood to look while you’re stuck at home.
3. Do your best to remember what they were wearing. I didn’t realize until later that I had a picture of them in their clothes but while talking to the 911 dispatch, I was able to accurately describe what both children were wearing except the boy’s shirt including shoe color. They had also been wearing capes but I found one of them that was left at home so I knew one of them had to have a cape on.
4. Have a photo ready for the officers and social security number. I never had a chance to get either of those ready but a photo of the children on my phone did perfect. Turns out that my obsessive picture taking actually came in handy!
5. Stay as calm as possible. I had so many questions from so many people and I was so frantic inside that I could not even answer simple questions like my daughter’s birth date.
I understand that not everyone is as lucky as we were to find our children but I am very grateful that they returned home to us and are sending out prayers for all of those children who are still lost.