I have never been more terrified in my life than I was for a few brief minutes today. The four of us went to Lowe's to check on a new drillbit. Ava kept wandering away from us, but Andy and I always had an eye on her and corralled her back. Except once. I'm not sure what happened. She was just 10 feet away from us looking at cordless drills, then all of a sudden, she was gone. My heart stopped... then it did the opposite, beat with such intense speed that I was sure it would pop out of my chest. Andy and I both raced to the end of the aisle, expecting to see her just on the other side. She was nowhere. I had Jax on my hip and began racing up and down aisles calling her name. Andy went the other way. I covered enough stories as a reporter to know that kids can disappear in an instant. I, of course, was thinking the worst. I immediately found a Lowe's employee and notified him that we had lost Ava (if that doesn't make you feel like a terrible parent, I don't know what does). Tears in my eyes, I began explaining what she looks like, what she's wearing, even that she has some little purple marker dots on her cheeks which she put there earlier in the day. What happened next really impressed me. Lowe's went into CODE SARA. They immediately locked all the doors in the store and announced to employees over the loud speaker that a little girl with a red jacket was missing. I waited impatiently. Then, after a few minutes (although it seemed terribly longer) I heard Ava crying and Andy came around the corner with her in his arms. She had wandered quite far in the store. When Andy found her, she was just looking around, not for us, just scoping out the goods. She only began crying when Andy explained to her how frightened we were and that she cannot walk away from us.
Of course, as soon as I saw her, I began crying. I felt so silly, but I was so relieved. Ava was so concerned about me, she told me, "Mommy, I'll stay by you so you don't cry." Sweet girl!
So, to say the least, our new rule is "hold a hand or hold a cart." That way, she's always attached to us somehow. I would never put a leash on my children, but after tonight, I can understand why some parents do.
I'm just thankful everything's okay. And tonight, when I check on the kids before I go to bed, I'll probably linger just a little longer and say a little prayer of thanks for my blessings!