I know. Losing your child once at a location can happen to anybody. But losing them a second time takes a special kind of person. Or family in this case.
I would like to point out up front that neither this loss nor the first one were in any way due to neglect. I don’t need anybody reporting us to Family Services. We have an overly energetic, highly intelligent, boy who takes great pleasure in making his parents look like lunatics. Seriously.
On this trip to Disney the boy was about 4 years old. At this point we were just starting to realize that there was something going on besides average 4 year old boy behavior. So we were not aware of his sensory needs and had not put 2 & 2 together on his autistic tendencies. (Our only basis for comparison was his sister and his issues are very different from hers.)
When we visit the Magic Kingdom we plan our day around the parades just like everybody else. However, instead of making sure we have a spot to watch the parade we’re doing our best to stay as far away as possible. The girl is a sensory avoider. In this scenario it means that crowds and loud noises are just going to make her miserable and thereby everyone in her vicinity miserable as well. So we use the parade times to hit up some of the more popular rides. Wait times are usually much shorter.
We decided to hit Haunted Mansion during the 3pm Parade. (Yes, that’s along the parade route but you can get to it without having to cross the streets that are quickly being blocked by cast members.) As we were weaving through the mass of people headed toward the parade we all jogged right to avoid a group. Everyone except the boy, of course.
As soon as he realized that he was more than 3 feet away from us he decided to take advantage of his freedom. He started running in circles like the nut-ball he is and darting back and forth amid the crowd. My husband and the girl continued to head toward the line as I attempted to corral the tiny tornado.
After a couple of moments I was able to get a hand on the boy and usher him over to the line. His father and sister were each waiting with sour expressions on their faces. We gave him a brief and quiet reprimand for wandering off and then relaxed into the wait for one of our favorite rides. Well, that was the plan. The boy had other ideas.
I looked back down just in time to see him slip under the white rope of the cue line and dart off toward the gate of the Haunted Mansion. “It’s ok. I’ll get him.” Ha! That’s a crock. That little joker is fast.
I thought I had an eye on him but after a single couple had passed between us I lost sight of him. Well, he couldn’t get too far. This area is a dead end. (See what I did there. Haunted Mansion. Dead End. Ha! I crack me up.) So I flagged down one of the cast members and explained my situation.
I know this is something the Disney cast members deal with every day. It’s a park that holds thousands of people. Kids get lost. Heck, grown ups get lost. And just like everything else at Disney, there’s a protocol for a lost child, um-person, ok family member.
I described the boy to the young lady; blond hair, blue eyes, about this tall, wearing a red Mickey Mouse Jedi t-shirt. Yes, I just described a third of the children in the park that day. I can’t help that. I did all of this calmly while continuing to scan the area for said child.
As she too began looking for my wayward son, the cast member kept glancing at me. Finally she says “You’re awfully calm about this.” I laughed a little and said “Well, it’s not the first time he’s darted off. And he usually doesn’t go far. I just need a couple of extra eyes helping me look.” “Well, I need to let a supervisor know what’s going on. Stay here and I’ll be right back.”
Supervisors are never far away at Disney. With that many guests you have to have plenty of oversight. So she was gone less than 60 seconds. And as she was walking back toward me the crowd thinned and my boy stepped out of the shadows less than 50 feet away. “See, there he is. Thanks for your help.”
Once again I took hold of my runaway and ushered him back to the rest of the family. They had continued to move forward with the line and were now in a more confined area. The boy found himself sandwiched between his dad and me for the rest of the wait. Soon enough we reached the interactive portion of the line and all thoughts of darting off left his mind.
So here’s the take-away on losing your child at Disney. Don’t panic. Find a cast member. (It’s not hard, you can’t go more than about 15 feet without seeing one.) Make sure you can accurately describe your child. And if you’ve got a known runner, like we do, you might invest in a tracking chip to put in their shoes. Maybe a backup one in their shirt. And one more in the wrist band just for good measure.