Tough love parenting and a bad scare

I promise I will update about Anna’s endocrinologist appointment soon but this post is all about Dominic.

Dominic was missing for an hour this afternoon. An hour. Imagine not knowing where your child is for an hour. I know a few of you have been through this. We couldn’t find Anna for 15 minutes 2 years ago and it was awful; what a horrible feeling.

He went over to a neighbor’s house this afternoon to ask a friend to play, then was supposed to come home and let us know where he was going to be. He does this frequently… we have 3 or 4 houses on our street where the kids play during the summer and we all know each other very well. Anna and I headed down the street to check the mail and we were going to ask him to join us for a trip to the rec center if no one was around. I suspected that he was at the corner house at the end of our block and hadn’t run home to ask permission to play since he’d been gone about 15 minutes or so at this point. But that house didn’t have anyone home (at least there were no cars in the driveway), so Anna and I checked the mail, then asked the closer neighbor if Dominic was there. Nope. So we trekked back up the street and started knocking on doors. No one was home. No one. There was a new family that just moved in who has a little girl who was in Dominic’s class last year… maybe he went there? No answer there either. A small flutterly feeling passed through me. I checked back with the closer neighbor and found out that he had been there about 20 minutes earlier but didn’t stay. So where was he?

I went all over the neighborhood… knocked on every door, checked neighbors’ back yards, even called neighbors’ cell phones who weren’t home, stopped every person on the street to show his photo, checked the park and the pool that were about 1/2 mile away. Neighbor families helped by looking and calling for him too. Curtis went behind our house on foot to check the creek area and drainage ditches. I drove around with my windows down calling and calling. We checked near the school and the corner Speedy Stop. No one had seen him. I began to feel frantic and decided it was time to call the police. I was one house away from calling the sheriff but decided to try one more time at the new neighbor’s house that I’d already knocked at earlier. I really don’t know why I stopped there again. They didn’t answer the first time but they did the second time… and the mom took one look at me and said, “You didn’t know he was here, did you?” with horror and sympathy in her voice and I fell to the ground… just like in a movie. My knees crumpled under me and I sobbed, literally sobbed, as I sagged in the doorway. The mom said that he told her I knew he was there and Dominic apologized about 4000 times. They were out in the back yard the first time I’d come by and didn’t hear me knocking, then were back inside when we were out calling for him. She was so upset and immediately gave me her phone number. I held him, drove him home, then held him more.

Thank God. Thank God. I’m so grateful to have found him. I was sick to my stomach.

You see last night, we had a big argument. He wouldn’t try baked beans with dinner. So silly, right? Well we didn’t give him dessert and he was being quite grumpy after dinner. He yelled at me that he “had the worst life in the world” and hated his life. At the time, it stopped me in my tracks. Putting down the dish towel, I bent down and looked him in the eye, asking him if he really felt that way to which he replied, “Yes, I hate my life… I have the worst life EVER!” I talked with Curtis about it and he was just as disturbed as I was. Curtis had him sit out front for 20 minutes (it was near 100-degrees, even at 7:30 p.m.) while we talked. When he came back in all sweaty, hot, and even more grumpy, Curtis asked him how he felt. We pointed out that he had a very nice life and that he was very lucky… that Daddy worked very hard to provide a home (and an air-conditioned one at that), food, clothes, and all the extras that make his life fun. Daddy told him that there were kids in our very city who had no A/C or toys or even enough food to eat. So to garner some perspective, his DS, TV, computer, and Mommy’s iPhone (all the screens) were going to be taken away until Friday, which will be his birthday.

Of course, one thought I had (among the many very dark and scary places it visited this afternoon) was that he’d run away. He is terribly smart and though I have three children, none of them have ever attempted, or even threatened, to run away… but if one would, it would be Dominic. After I found him, I just hugged him and cried and he kept apologizing. I admitted to him that I was scared he had run away and he was shocked.

“Mommy, why would I ever run away?” with genuine affect in his voice.

“Because we took screens away and you were upset with us,” I replied.

“Mommy, I don’t need screens to survive. I need YOU.”

<insert hysterical sobbing mommy here>

I don’t know what the lesson here is yet, I’m still shaken up. But I tend to process events like this by writing and sharing. He is still grounded from screens. And I owe all of my neighbors some homemade brownies. And the new neighbor mom and I have exchanged numbers. And I am totally sleeping with Dominic tonight. I love him so much, I don’t know what I’d do… it must be an extra-special hell when you have a missing child. My heart goes out to all those families who don’t know where their child is. Ugh.

If you have a tough-love-parenting story or a missing-child-with-happy-ending story, I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to share your story with me in the comments. And thanks for letting me shake this off. <3

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