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Wednesday, August 28, 2013


The fine blogger from the “Aloha State,” Mark Kaufman, recently blogged about losing a toddler  It reminded me of when I lost my own three year old, Spencer, without ever leaving my house.

Many of us have experienced the sudden terror of a missing child.  Turn your head for a minute on the playground or on the beach and bang…missing child.  Part of your brain knows the toddler will turn up playing somewhere quite innocently, another part imagines all kinds of horrible scenarios.   Mark refers to it as DEFCON-3 panic.

But how do you lose a child inside your home?  How can a toddler simply disappear inside the house?  Spencer managed to do just that when he was only three. 

He was in our dining room while his mom and I were preparing to walk into town to do some shopping.  I went upstairs to get some money, his mom grabbed his stroller from the mud room, and he was gone.

Our house had a front door and a back door.  Both were still locked.  Spencer had to be inside.  I called…no answer.  His mom called…no answer.  I yelled…no answer.  His mom yelled…no answer.  WTH!

I ran upstairs and checked every room and every closet.  I checked under every bed, all the while calling his name.  His mom checked the basement and every room downstairs, all the while calling his name.

He was nowhere to be found.  Spencer had to be in the house, but he was nowhere.  He did not answer any of our calls.  What the hell do you do?  Call the police?  His mom decided to panic. I was contemplating the same.  How do you lose a three year old within your house all in less than sixty seconds? 

As I started to join Spencer’s mother in panic, I noticed the door from the dining room to our foyer was not completely open against the foyer wall as it usually was.  It was stopped from its usual position by a pair of tiny shoes.  I quick pulled back the door and behind it, attached to the tiny pair of shoes was our three year old, Spencer.

“What were you doing behind there?  Didn’t you hear us calling?”

“When you go uptairs I behind the door.  When you yell I tot it funny.  When you yell real loud, I scared.  Afraid you mad me.”

Perhaps there was too much yelling in that house, so much that it scared a little boy.  The yelling scared him so much because he associated it with anger, not fear.  Our yelling in panic made him continue to hide.

I know how he felt.  There was a lot of yelling in that house.  It was usually out of anger.  It was usually over something as silly as forgetting something or not putting a dish away.  It was an unrealistic, unpredictable, out-of-control, over-the-top anger that came from a disease which his mother inherited from her mother.  It was anger that no three year old could understand. 

Spencer knew that when that anger was around, it was better to stay hidden.

We laughed when we found Spencer.  We laughed from the silliness of the situation, we laughed out of relief, but the condition which caused him to fear our panic because he interpreted the yelling as irrational anger was not a laughing matter.

Spencer is a teenager now, living with his mother four hours away.  I am sure the instances of irrational anger have not abated.  Hopefully he now understands it is from a sickness that is not his fault and he need not fear it. 

He probably still does his best to avoid it, even when it happens behind closed doors.


  1. How very true - yelling usually means anger and children do not understand the panic that can make a parent yell.

  2. How sad that an innocent little child had to experience that. I hope he doesn't take that with him to his adulthood. He needs to be around you more.


  3. When I was little my mother would get so angry she's literally foam at the mouth. I was terrified of her and there were times I thought she'd kill me. In her defense, I did suffer from an over-active imagination but there was lots of yelling and screaming in my house growing up.

  4. I would have been scared s**tless!!

  5. I'm going to guess you're referencing bi-polar disorder, which is too common in my family. I do not like what its manifestation does to the children, and I hate even more wondering who of the next generation will be display the illness.

  6. The panic that you go through is horrible...I have lost my child in the house too and I totally lost my shit...go figure

  7. I lost my oldest when he was 3. Inside the house. We live in the woods. Our doors were not locked, and he was fearless. He used to take a flashlight at night and head through the trees to find his dad at the barn.

    After ten minutes and no son, I was ready to call the county sheriff and launch a search party. Then my husband found him under our bed, with shoes and boxes piled up to block our view. He was playing hide and seek, he said.

  8. That's enough to make any heart skip a beat. Or plenty

  9. terrible feeling... when my son was about 3 or 4 months old, I placed in the middle of our king size bed. I went to answer the phone.

    anyone remember cords on phones? it was on the kitchen counter. I was gone maybe .... a minute. came back. no baby boy on the bed.

    After running and screaming all around the bed and having several coronaries ... I thought to look under the bed ... the bedskirt.

    jumping jeez... it's a wonder any of us have any hair left

  10. I left out that he had just learned to turn over! but scooting? he was too little! ha?

  11. I remember all too well the day I lost my son! And, he DID get outside. Scary!

  12. I think we've all done the "missing child" full-blown panic dance a time or two. Why is it that kids find it so funny to play "hide" at times like that? The underlying story of this post isn't funny at all though, it's tragic, and I am glad that you decided you didn't want to spend the rest of your life living in that environment. Been there, done that. My heart goes out to your son, and to all kids who live with the madness, hopefully he will choose to make his own home a place of peace, with a partner that supports that someday!

  13. This post evokes a range of emotions: fear, happiness, humor, and sadness. It seems that most of us can relate to some part of it.

  14. It sure is hard work being a parent and I don't think we can hide ALL our emotions from our kids, I do try and hold back my FURY -but it's not always possible!