We lost Daniel for about 5 minutes tonight. Maybe it was less, but it felt like forever. The four of us were coming back from an evening event at the elementary school, and he ran ahead down the hill like he always does. Only this time, when we thought we'd caught up with him and started calling his name, he didn't answer. We called and called and got no response. I didn't know how he could have possibly disappeared in that single minute between when he took off and when we should have caught up with him, so I didn't know whether I should panic or not.
But after a minute or two of calling his name, I did panic. I was shouting, Stuart was calling, Anya was sobbing, the sheriff deputy who lives across the road (thank goodness) from where we were looking came out of his house with his teenage daughters and told them to get flashlights and head for the park. Just as I was describing Daniel (7 years old, short brown hair, blue coat) and answering no he would never cross the street by himself, no he would never go to the park alone, no he would never intentionally hide and try to scare us - there he was. He'd heard us calling but thought we were behind him, so he went back up the hill and met up with another family (we know them) and was leisurely making his way down to us, oblivious to our panic until I saw him and yelled at him out of my fear and panic and we both started to cry.
Now we are fine. He was not in danger after all. We should have thought to look behind us instead of ahead. We should have known he was much more likely to backtrack than to cross the street and head home. I shouldn't have panicked. I shouldn't have gotten hysterical and yelled at him when we did find him. I cooled down and gave him a big hug and we were all okay by the time we got back to our warm, safe house.
Well, we are mostly fine. Anya was whimpering a bit, still, and she will probably end up in my bed with a nightmare a few hours from now. I will probably have trouble sleeping, too (more than usual). And I'm still feeling bad about being so shortsighted and reactionary when Daniel was only doing what felt safe and logical.
It's hard being a parent, knowing just how easy it is to rip your heart in two.