I swear this is the last you’ll hear about Disneyland, but I had to save it for my column. Enjoy the anxiety.

“Is there anything worse, as a mother, than the realization that you did not prepare your child?

Our trip to Southern California a few weeks ago was loaded. I’d say it was fantastic, but I’ve got four children under the age of seven, and frankly, it was seven nap-free days of torture.

By day four we had mostly perfected our security watch. When you’re walking through a crowded amusement park with four small children who like to follow random flashing lights and pigeons, you need seventeen extra eyes to keep everyone under surveillance.

“Okay,” I said to my husband, “I’m going to get a corn dog for the six of us to share. I’ll take Junie and Georgia, and meet you back by the Tiki Room in ten minutes, and we can finish the day up with one more trip on The Jungle Ride.”

The little girls and I wound through the crowd to the much anticipated corn dog stand, loaded up (and bought an extra chocolate chip cookie just to be rebellious), and slowly made our way to the designated meeting place.

As I walked up to my husband ten minutes later, I could see by the look on his face that something was amiss in the Magic Kingdom.

“Honey,” he said, “Is Harrison with you?”

“Of course not,” I replied as my heart started to slam around in my chest.

“I hate to tell you this, and don’t freak out, but I think–”

“We’ve lost him.”

There comes a moment in every mother’s life when she realizes that as tough as this job is, she really wouldn’t sell any of her children to gypsies, given the chance.ย This was one of those moments.

I immediately headed straight to the nearest employee for help. It had been over ten minutes; my husband thought Harrison had followed June and me, and I had left my cell phone in the stroller so he couldn’t call and confirm.

Twelve minutes.

It’s funny, because we’d had a number of serious discussions with our children on this trip about strangers, and staying by Dad and Mom so the bad guys didn’t stuff them in bags and take them away forever. Yes, our children are now terrified of people who carry gunny sacks around.

But as I reported my missing boy–seven-years-old, blond hair, green t-shirt, smart, thoughtful, loves hugs and motorcycles and Shamu and oh my gosh, where is my baby–I realized that we hadn’t talked about what to doย if someone got lost. How could we forget the if? Why did we think that the two of us could possibly keep them all safe?

Fifteen minutes.

I know that children who are lost at Disneyland are always found. I know that the park is full of responsible adults who know just what to do with a little boy who followed the wrong pair of Levi’s. But when the clock hit fifteen minutes, I began to think that maybe, for the first time, the system was going to let some poor mother down. That mother was going to be me.

And then the phone rang.

My strong, smart boy, had made his way to The Jungle Ride, where he thought we were headed. He waited, and as his panic grew, he started to cry. Some other wonderful mother found him and gave him her cell phone.ย That was when he called me.

All those little trips in the car when we sang the phone number song, just in case someone ever needed to call Mom or Dad, finally paid off. We might have forgotten to have the, “Let’s meet at the flagpole,” conversation, but somewhere along the line, I gave him what he needed to find his way back.

We can’t prepare our children for every possible dilemma, and that’s a scary thought. But at the same time, we’ll never know how many catastrophes they’ll avoid, or how many life altering mishaps will never come to pass because, as parents, we took the time to give them our best.

Sometimes that’s all we can do.”


  1. You totally made me cry. I will now practice my cell phone number with our kids and not just our home phone!

  2. Holy cow, LOVE your new header. Adorable.

    How scary. That had to be the longest 15 minutes of your life. Thanks for the reminder to prep the children!!

  3. OH, my. How horribly wonderful. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. How scary. I was terrified of losing any of my kids at Disneyland. I am glad that Disneyland has a high rate of return on lost children. ๐Ÿ˜

    I did lose a toddler at Walmart once. They shut that thing down tighter than Fort Knox. One of the scariest moments of my life.

    Good for you for teaching him his phone number and THANK GOD for a kind mom who saw his need and helped him out!

  5. We lost one of our kids in Kohls once. It was HORRIBLE. She was supposed to be with Grandma, but Grandma was busy looking at shoes. I totally broke down sobbing when we found her, that feeling of not knowing where they are is horrendous. ๐Ÿ™ I’m glad someone helped him and I’m glad he knew the number–phew!

  6. It is so scary to lose a child. You have those minutes ticking down and you have no idea where they are. I’m so glad he knew to call you and that he knew his number ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Last year we lost Clark at Disney World. He was 5. It took at least 20 minutes to find him. We HAD practiced and discussed the what-ifs, but it was still terrifying. I called my parents and told them to PRAY while I stood with my other children and waited. He wandered ALL the way across the park before he found a worker and showed him his bandaid with our phone numbers written on it and they called us. Can’t even explain the relief. I now understand that it’s probably the safest place in the world to lose your child because of the precautions and security they have in place, but still. I totally feel you on this one.

  8. p.s. I JUST got a call back from Natalie’s doctor with test results, and all is well. THANK YOU so much for offering your sweet prayers.

  9. Don’t feel too bad. My parent’s once lost me in Austria and didn’t even realize it until 30 minutes later I found them. Mind you, I knew how to ask where the toilet was in German, but that was about the limit of my conversational skills. I haven’t let them live it down to this day, 15 years later ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. How terrifying! I’m so glad it all turned out so well.

    Have you ever noticed security at Disneyland? Have you seen many of those sweeper guys? Yeah, the sweeper guys are the security. Disney is awesome like that.

  11. Whistler's Momma says:

    Twenty three years ago my little family decided to go to the 4th of July celebration. We walked to the park in Layton, UT. My children were so excited, my husband and I thought we had taught them what to do, if you were to get lost, (Example: look for someone you may recognize) and let them know you have lost your parents! My “boy” was just right there on my right side, then he was GONE! I felt my heart go into my throat and stomach, I looked right and left to no avail, he was no where to be seen! That fast, moms! I ran around looking, shouting his name, nothing, now you talk about panicked, that was me! I turned to my husband, and he suggested that the “boy” got lost and was thinking clearly and walked home. No way, I thought! My last hope settled in, I walked the “DISTANCE” to my home, and there on our front porch was my sweet, smart, and “in trouble” little boy! As a mom, you want to hug them and whip up on them at the same time!!!!

  12. “I know a trick, learned it quick, it’s for my telephone…” is echoing through my head. We listen to the CD, but seriously, is it sticking?! I’d better make sure everyone can sing my cell number to the Safety Kids. Thanks for the reminder.

    Good job Harrison.

  13. disneyland rocks! as a write i am drinking tea out of a “Star Tours” mug i got at EuroDisney in Paris back in 1993!

  14. Annie,
    I love the new blog. And HOORAY for Harrison and you for teaching him the phone number.

  15. LOL! The safety kids must be a Mormon thing somewhat, because my non-Mormon friends never know what I’m talking about. My mom made me listen to Safety Kids non-stop as a kid, and let me tell you: I’m a little traumatized/paranoid. I always thought someone was going to kidnap me , offer me drugs, or touch me in my “private lines.” LOL…

    I’m glad I was aware, but I wish I wouldn’t have had to live in fear my whole childhood!

  16. This was so funny to read….well, since it had a happy ending it was funny to read. Even now that my kids are grown with kids of their own…whenever they go somewhere, I always say “remember stranger danger”.
    I think I need to make for myself a cell phone # song….as I can’t seem to remember our cell phone # for the life of me (we use it sooooo rarely) And I am forever loosing my hubby at Costco. He does tend to wander.
    I can imagin your panic……and I am so glad there are usually MORE nice people out there then the kinds that would throw your kid in a gunny sack and walk away. Gosh Annie, now anytime I see a grown up carrying a gunny sack, I’ll be wanting to check it out.
    AND______you new header is really nice, sooo YOU with the pink heels and all. LOVE IT

  17. Part of my kdg’s homework early this year was to memorize his phone number. Now both my boys know it and I”m so glad. Though they don’t know the area code. I suppose I’ll have to modify the song.

    So glad your boy’s okay. Oh, and I LOVE LOVE the new header!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Last year I lost my son at Disneyland for 45 minutes. On Wednesday I lost each of my 3 kids (not all at the same time, thank goodness!) for about 20. The next day I lost one again.

    I’m beginning to hate Disneyland.

  19. Just reading this made me a little hysterical and panicky! I cannot even imagine…this is why I fully support legislation to fit each child with a GPS locator device.

  20. Holy cow. How scary!!! I’m just so glad it was Harrison and not Junie! Would she know your number? How would they find you?

    My ex-husband was lost at Disneyland for two hours when he was five. How his mother didn’t fling herself in front of the Monorali is beyond me. So glad he had his wits about him enough to remember your number. I always tell my kids to find someone who looks like a grandma and she’ll help them find me!

    I loved meeting that cute Harrison yesterday! And cute Rex, too ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. This is why you are a good mom. You try to find your kids at Disneyland. I was trying to lose mine last week. ๐Ÿ˜‰