Follow the Trail of Broken Corn Chips to Enlightenment and Better Parenting
Earlier this fall, I lost my son. Spoiler alert, I found him and everything is OK.
I used to be the perfect parent. Before I had kids, I knew exactly how to teach values, implement fair and effective discipline and raise miniature people with just the right blend of personality, polite manners and FUN.
Then I actually had kids and it all went to hell.
The poopy diapers and sleepless nights were no big deal. I expected meltdowns, temper tantrums and middle of the night fevers.
But there have been a whole host of other experiences that I didn’t expect and those are the ones that really send me for a loop.
One Saturday last October, I was moving at a frenetic pace trying to catch up on everything I had neglected during the previous workweek and trying to get ahead so that the next workweek would be less crazy.
I was in the middle of laundry, dishes, yardwork, cleaning, winterizing and also parenting. My daughter, 8, was upstairs in her bedroom tucked deep into a graphic novel trying to avoid chores.
My son, cute as anything at 3, was playing with cars and trucks in the basement.
After a few trips inside, outside, upstairs and back downstairs again, I realized that I didn’t hear any car noises from the basement. In fact it was silent.
I called down into the basement and when I didn’t hear a reply, I ran down the stairs two at a time. Empty. Back up the stairs, I checked the kitchen, bathrooms, living room. No luck. Upstairs in each bedroom. No luck.
I ran outside and checked the street, the neighbor’s yard and the back of my Subaru, a common hiding spot. Nothing.
As I called louder and louder, a swell of panic rose in my chest. I ran back into the house ready to call 911.
I was met by my daughter who had cast aside her book to join me in the search. At this point, I was at a CSI: Miami level of panic — sure some stranger had taken him in a sketchy van and was getting further away with every minute that passed. If we didn’t find him within 60 minutes he’d be crossing the border into Mexico.
Fortunately, my daughter brought me back to a Harriet the Spy level of panic. She pointed out a pair of scissors and a strip of yellow plastic on the floor. We looked around and saw a broken corn chip on the floor.
There was another corner of a chip next to the front door.
We followed the corn chip trail out into the yard. Every few feet there was another clue — another yellow triangle pointing us in the direction of my lost child.
The chips led us into the small playhouse in the back yard.
Inside, we could hear a singsongy voice and the crinkling of a plastic bag. We tiptoed closer and heard my son singing:
“I love mommy…I love daddy…I love my sister…I love my dog…I love chips”
A loud CRUNCH followed his singing.
He was sitting cross-legged with a line of trucks in front of him, oblivious to our search and my panic.
I wish I was a better parent. I wish I didn’t lose track of my kids. I wish I didn’t let them almost a whole bag of corn chips in the playhouse right before lunch.
But I have also learned that most of the time everything is OK when you slow down and pause before you freak out.
Let the trail of corn chips show you how.