Our family recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Sarasota, Florida with my mom and her husband, Bill. We had so much fun. We swam, went on long walks, ate delicious food, fed flamingos…
…and went to Disney World. We were up bright and early and the boys were eager to get to Magic Kingdom. We awoke to gray skies and a cool drizzle of rain. But, we put on our sweatshirts and braved the elements like good Yankees do (sorry, Mom). We arrived at the park just in time to see the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show, and Mom and I both were weepy at the end. There is something about those Disney songs that just gets to us. Everyone is just.so.happy. And my boys were happy, too.
Magic Kingdom was everything we hoped for. We rode the rides, drove “racecars” and shot at the evil emperor, Zurg, along with Buzz Lightyear. The boys loved it. It was stressful, however, keeping everyone together. We had three adults and three little boys, but it was still difficult to keep the kids from running off every time they saw something shiny…which was often.
We finally made it to lunch time. My mom and I got lunch for everyone and we ate outside one of the restaurants on a lovely concrete bench. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the hundreds of people that walked by constantly. There were so many excited kids and stressed out parents and it made for great entertainment. As we were finishing our lunch, Greyson announced that he needed to go potty. Jon volunteered to take him so the rest of us could finish eating.
Rylan bounced over to me and announced that he was done eating. I thanked him for finishing his food and went back to people watching. Approximately thirty seconds later, my mom looked at me and asked, “Where’s Rylan?” I snapped my head to the left and to the right only to discover that Rylan, our Silent Ninja, was no where to be found. It was as if he had vanished. I made a conscious effort not to panic while my mom jumped into action mode. She found a Disney staff member (not too difficult, considering they stand approximately 14 feet away from each other. They’re everywhere), and informed her that we were missing our little boy.
Meanwhile, I called Jon with the hope that Rylan had followed him to the restroom. Our conversation went like this:
Me: “Hey – is Rylan with you?”
Jon: “Well, no Rylan isn’t with me. Why would he be?”
Me: “Jon, we can’t find him. Anywhere.”
Jon: “I’m on my way.”
So, I prayed. And breathed deeply. And then I sat down next to Conner and hugged him close because I needed to. Some staff members approached me and asked for a picture of Rylan so they knew who they were looking for — great idea, except I didn’t have any forward facing pictures of him in that day’s clothes. So frustrating! I did the best I could to describe his alligator shirt and then I was told to stay put in case he returned. So, I paced. And I prayed. If you know Rylan well, you know that he would follow a squirrel all the way to California before even noticing he is alone. He’s in his own world a lot of the time. It’s something I absolutely love about him most of the time. Unless I’m at Disney World.
Jon handed Greyson to me and then he left to join my mom and the staff members in their search for our boy. 15 minutes in, I started to cry. I kept picturing worst case scenarios – it was so hard to stay calm. Greyson kept looking up at me and saying, “Mommy, I can’t find Rylan. I can’t find him!” It’s rough when even the 2 year old notices the fear. I needed someone else to share in the panic, so I sent Vicki a text. She called me and we prayed together. And I told myself to hold it together.
Clearly it’s a long story. Finally, about 30 minutes later, a staff member approached me and said, “Ma’m, there’s a security guard walking this way with a boy matching your son’s description. Is that him?”
Me: “Where?! I can’t see him!”
And then, there he was. My sweet, Silent Ninja, holding hands with a kind security guard. He was calm, but his eyes were extra round – he knew something wasn’t right. Rylan ran to me and I wept as if I hadn’t seen him in 3 years, not just 30 minutes. As I hugged him, the security guard spoke into his lapel radio, “Family reunited.” More beautiful words had never been spoken.
I asked Rylan where he had gone. He replied, “I was trying to find Greyson. But, Mommy, I couldn’t find you.” Be still my heart.
Five things that I want to make clear to all of you who may be considering a trip to Disney World with your small children.
1. Take a cattle prod…or a leash for each child. Whichever makes you more comfortable.
2. Take individual pictures of each child right before you enter the park so you have a detailed view of what they’re wearing and how adorable they are.
3. Talk to your kids about what they need to do should you find yourselves separated. Rylan is only 4, but I should have told him to look for an adult wearing one of the park’s nametags so he would know they were safe to approach.
4. Be like my Mom and immediately get help. It’s a waste of time to look on your own. There are simply too many people.
5. If you must find out how awful it is to lose your child, do so at Disney World. We got free ice cream and fastpasses as a result of our nightmare. They’re just so nice there. At one point, I stopped a kind gentleman who was helping in our search and I tearfully asked, “How often do you all have to search for missing children?” He answered calmly, without hesitation, “Approximately 10,000 times every day.” Every team member at Disney has been trained to look for kids like Rylan – even the people serving food. They have the search thing down to a science.
The fastpasses and the fun times we had later in the afternoon almost made up for the trauma of the early afternoon. Well, not really, but we did end up having fun for the rest of the day. I hugged my kids closer and I definitely didn’t feel as irritated with them. It’s amazing the perspective one has on life following an event like that. We were (and continue to be) so very thankful the little guy was back by our sides.
At the end of the day, while we ate our ice cream, I said, “Boy, Rylan…thanks for the free ice cream.”
He gave me a sweet smile, shrugged nonchalantly and replied, “You’re welcome.” God bless him. If he only knew how much that ice cream really cost. We all laughed and then licked our fingers. It was really good ice cream. Thanks, Disney World. For everything.