As you see my blog is displaying a poster about Madeleine McCann, the little girl who was abducted from her holiday apartment in Portugal on the 3rd May, and has still not been found. If you want to know more, or help by displaying a banner on your blog just click on the banner which will take you to the official website.
When your child goes missing it is the worst possible thing in the world that can happen, apart from losing them altogether.
Little Madeleine has been in my thoughts ever since she was abducted and it has brought back memories of the heartstopping times when my own children went missing. The McCann's have been criticised for leaving their children whilst they were eating nearby, but you don't always think ahead and the consequences can be traumatic at best, tragic at worse.
When our eldest son was five we lived in a multi-story block of flats on the 6th floor and, as usual, one morning I got youngest son settled in his pushchair to take the elder to school. We came out the front door and whilst I was locking the door elder son pushed the button for the lift to take us down to the ground floor. Seconds later I heard the telephone ringing in our flat. I told elder son to wait whilst I ran back to answer the phone and unlocked the door and ran in. I was all of 30 seconds but when I came back out younger son was singing in his pushchair and elder son was nowhere in sight!
Can you imagine the panic I felt? He must have got in the lift, what should I do? There were 20 stories to the block, had he gone up or down? Was he riding up and down in the lift unable to reach the buttons, unable to get out? There were two lifts, should I get in one and check every floor, should I pick up baby and run down the stairs to see if the elder had gotten out anywhere, should I call both lifts jam them open then use the stairs to check other floors - I couldn't think! I couldn't think rationally. I'm panicking now just writing about it!
I have no idea what made me choose to do what I did but I called the lift, took baby in the pushchair and pressed the buttons for the five floors below and checked each one as the lift stopped. When I got to the basement, in tears, there he was with a neighbour who had got in the lift the floor below ours and waited with him in the basement knowing sooner or later I would get there. Thankfully the neighbour who found him was the only person in that block of flats who knew us, because every morning she waited with her little boy outside the flats for a lift as I set off to to take mine to school. I believe that I had help that morning in deciding what to do, a little voice in my head told me the best course of action and that's what I did, I'm thankful I listened.
Our youngest son got lost in Blackpool one summer day when we had taken the boys to the seaside for the day. We took them on the pier where there were all sorts of children's rides and a lovely little cafe where we could have a drink. On the way down to the cafe we passed some little bumper cars and of course after a drink the boys decided they wanted to go have a look. We promised them we would do it 'on the way back' but they couldn't wait. It was only about 100 yds away and eldest son at nine years old promised he would hold little one's (who was four) hand tightly and not let go. We relented and told them we would come to collect them in fifteen minutes and not to move from there.
Fifteen minutes later eldest son came sauntering over to the cafe. "Where's D" I wanted to know. He looked at me blankly, "he said he was coming back to you Mum"! The place was full of people, there's no way he would have found us, they don't have any sense of direction at three years old! Once again I was like a headless chicken but once again a little voice in my head reasoned with me.
I dispatched MWM and eldest son down either side of the pier to walk slowly, scanning the crowds to the end of the pier. I stayed put in case little one had passed us and came back looking. I told MWM when he got to the end of the pier to go to the lost children depot and report him missing if they hadn't found him in the meantime, then come back to check he hadn't returned to me.
It took them a heart-stopping half an hour to get to the lost children depot, but guess who was waiting for them when they got there? Yes, youngest son! He hadn't been found, oh no, he'd remembered I'd said to him if he got lost that was where he had to go, not with a stranger, just go there and we would find him. Thank God he'd remembered because I'd forgotten! This seemed to be a pattern for him over the next couple of years because, we would only have to look away for a second and he would wander off. I could virtually guarantee in the supermarket he would manage to lose us, but he would make his way to the customer services desk where the assistant there would announce "D is at customer services, please can you come and collect him?"
Things could have turned out so differently and I thank God every day that no harm came to our boys, we were very lucky and I pray every day that Gerry and Kate McCann's little girl, Madeliene, will be found safe and sound. They will never forgive themselves for leaving their children that night but There But For The Grace Of God Go I and, I suspect, many other parents.