Wednesday, May 16, 2012


"Do you remember that time when we were at Target?" our younger son asked me this week. We were having a rare lunch out, a break in our day. School phobic and with a sick Dad, he'd been tagging along with me surprisingly well the past couple days, happy to take on the chaos of life over the anxiety of school.

"We are at Target a lot, buddy," I answered. "Which time?"

"The time we were walking down the aisle and you were looking at something and then you said something to me and then I saw something and then you looked at another thing and then I laughed..."

Seriously, I'm not making this up.

"...and then when you finished looking at that thing you looked up and my brother was gone!" He giggled, and I suddenly remembered the time to which he was referring. This wasn't funny.

"You shreiked and asked me where he was but I was looking at the floor and then you started walking really fast all around that section of the store but you didn't see him..."

I really didn't want a play-by-play of this event.

"...but we couldn't see him in that section. And so you talked to a lady that worked there and then you ran to the front of the store and everything stopped!"

My gosh, he was right. Everything did stop. Our older son was gone. Gone. For the first time in his life, he was completely out of my sight in public. Non-verbal and with no danger awareness, he could very well run out the front doors of that store and into a moving car.

He could be killed.

Pretty private about our son's needs at that time in our lives, I wasted no time. I ran to the front of the store and said it. I said it just short of a yell: My son has autism. He is missing, and he can't speak. Please watch these doors. Please don't let him leave. He doesn't understand danger.

Methodically, I began to search the store; however, I'll be honest, I was petrified. My pace was quick, and our poor younger son was forced to dutifully keep up behind me.

In that Target normally buzzing with activity, I could then hear a pin drop. For a brief second, everyone seemed frozen with fear. But, then, slowly, other customers started looking with me. We became an entire store united.

"And then finally another person shopping there said to you, 'Is that your son?' And you looked up on a high shelf AND THERE HE WAS! IN A CRIB!" Little brother was now laughing so hard his drink was in danger of coming out his nose.

Ugh. He was found in a crib. How old was he, eight? And, very truly, he loved cribs. They are warm and close and provide a sensory comfort like little else.

Try visiting a baby supply store with him. It's hand-to-hand combat.

I looked high on that shelf and locked eyes with that boy, and he knew he was in a world of hurt. While he might crave the sensory comfort of a crib, which isn't conventional, and while he might not understand the danger of his bolting, which is one of his needs, that kid sure knew that he was an opportunist. He knew that he slipped away when I wasn't looking, and high in his perch, he had watched the entire store looking for him. He sure didn't bargain for that mess!

So, I authoritatively scolded my grade schooler who was on a shelf above my line of sight to climb out of that crib this instant and GET DOWN FROM THERE! Well, easier said than done, mom. That takes some motor planning. The dismount was rocky, with his clumsy mother attempting to speed it along. We were both just a hot mess that ended up in a big pile on the floor.

The scene in my mind played out so much better than it did in real life.

"Listen young man," I remember saying to him as we gathered ourselves. "NO shelf!"

"No shelf!" he repeated.

Definitely, we both agreed that shelf was a bad idea.

I pressed further. "NO crib!"

"Crib," he said simply.

Yeah, I knew I was pushing my luck on that one. With practically the entire store watching, and a little brother in a fit of laughter nearby, I decided to cut my losses and get the heck out of there, thanking as many people as I could along the way.

In the end, he was safe, and I was pretty sure he wouldn't climb up on any more display shelves. Tackling the crib habit could wait until another day.


  1. Seriously frightening stuff! Losing a child in a store is one thing, losing T in a store is horrifying! I cannot imagine maintaining my cool under these circumstances, but then I am not Amy McMunn Schindler!
    W's sense of humor is a little whack, but I imagine my daughter would have also seen the humor if that was her brother. She's a little whack, also.

    1. You know little brother: the more chaos the better.

  2. omgosh--how scared you must have been--and to think he was watching!

    1. He sees everything. That kid has all the time in the world to plan and watch. It's maddening and also sometimes entertaining.

  3. Yup, can replay that awful fear in my mind. I lost Spencer in Michaels' in Pittsford Plaza. He decided to leave the store to WALK to Barnes and Noble. Sheer panic, and complete chaos as the store looked through their video tapes to see if he'd left the store, this after we'd combed the store repeatedly. Then, in walks Spencer with a Thonas train in his hands.

    After explaining to a bystander the reason why I wasn't hugging my child with glee when he appeared, we traipsed back to Barnes and Noble to let them know he's taken the train and was sorry.

    All of this wil my daughter in tow...

    Was't one of our better days.


    1. Ann, this story gives me chills. To think he LEFT. To think he WALKED ACROSS THAT LOT. It just makes me sick to my stomach. The thought of looking at security tapes...

      And WHAT IF someone had stopped him at Barnes and Noble with that train in his hand...


      Thanks for sharing this story. I think many here will appreciate it.

  4. Every day is certainly an adventure for you and your kids, isn't it - either experiencing one or reliving it.

    So glad it turned out okay.

    1. Every. Single. Day. Yes, it certainly is.

      Our older son relishes in the idea of ditching us. He's tried a few times. He'll fake us out, pretending to go one way and dashing another way to an open elevator. He'll run out the door of a store while we are checking out.

      Perhaps he wants more freedom. I can't say I blame him. But, wow, his method needs work.

  5. Holy crap. Even reliving it has to be a little anxiety-provoking. Thank goodness he saw that crib. Sure beats a busy parking lot.

  6. I totally understand how you feel. My son has escaped a lot of times. It's officially called "elopement", but to me, it's escape. I would be in the back yard, waiting for him to come back from the bathroom, and he would be on his way to the store or the school. I would received calls about where he was. We live on the top of a mountain - there are ravines and cliffs everywhere! Not to mention the normal problems - people, cars, etc. But, he's been in a residential school for the last 5 years, with 24 hours of watch, except when he was asleep, and escaped several times. Now he has constant monitoring. And, I feel a bit justified for having to go to the bathroom at times.