I took Numbers 3 through 7 on a mini vacation last week to the Jersey Shore.
It was mostly awesome.
Except for twenty terrifying minutes.
We stayed in Wildwood Crest, in a super cute hotel.
It was right on the beach.
But right on the beach is still a little bit of a walk to the actual beach because the beach is pretty big.
Here is the view from the pool at our hotel. If you notice how small the people on the beach are, that gives you an idea of how far away the actual sand is.
To get to the beach, you walk down this walkway the kids are on:
You can see the walkway on the left side of this picture:
It took me over two minutes to walk down the walkway.
I know because I recorded the walk the first day we were there.
So every morning we took our chairs and a couple umbrellas and the boogie boards and a few other things to the beach and set up our stuff.
The first day we brought all that stuff up to our room.
The second day I learned my lesson, and we just threw everything in the back of the car rather than lugging it up the stairs.
The third day we were there, we kind of had the drill down.
So I sent all the kids over to the beach, each of them carrying at least one thing, and I told them I’d be right there.
I just had to get the last two chairs out of the back of the car which was just around the corner of the building, and I also wanted to re-park the car because I had done a shitty job of parking it.
But first I really quickly ran inside to ask the front desk a question.
Number 6 and 7 hadn’t gone anywhere because Number 7 was struggling with her beach chair. It was one of those Tommy Bahama folding chairs that has backpack straps on it, so I told her to just leave it, and I’d bring it over. She carried her boogie board and a shovel, and Number 6 had a boogie board and his chair.
I told them to follow Number 3, 4, and 5 who were about 25 yards ahead of them, not to go near the water until I got to the beach, and that I’d be right there.
The happily went on their way, and I went to the car.
I didn’t time myself, but I’d guess it took me about three minutes to adjust the car and get the other chairs out of the back.
I strapped one chair onto my back and took the other chair in one hand, and then I stopped in front of the doors to the hotel to grab the chair that Number 7 couldn’t carry.
And then I headed to the beach with a chair strapped to my back and a chair in each hand.
Five minutes later, I plopped everything down by the rest of our stuff that the kids had put down.
Number 3, 4 and 5 asked if they could go in the water.
“Sure,” I said.
Number 6 and 7 weren’t there. It was super low tide, so I thought maybe they were down closer to the water.
“We thought they were with you,” Number 4 said.
IMMEDIATE PANIC SET IN.
“They followed you!” I said, my voice shaky.
“We have not seen them, Mom,” Number 3 said.
“STAY HERE,” I told them.
I rushed down to the water, but there was no sign of Number 6 and 7.
I ran back up to the chairs.
“Do you see them???” I asked the other kids.
I was FREAKING OUT.
I didn’t think they would have gone to the water. I had told them not to, and they are pretty good about that.
But every nightmarish scenario you could possibly conjure up in your head ran through my brain, from abduction to drowning and everything in between.
I told Number 4 and 5 to stay at the chairs, not to move, and to keep their eyes open.
Number 3 sprinted back to the hotel before I could even say anything.
I followed him, hoping Number 6 and 7 had gone into the lobby and were sitting there, waiting for me to come back around the corner from the car. There was a billiard table in the lobby , so I thought maybe they were playing with that.
I was about a minute behind Number 3.
When I got to the hotel, Number 3 had already gone up to the room, into the lobby and up by the pool.
There were nowhere.
Now I was in tears, and but trying not to completely lose it in front of Number 3.
We ran back to the beach.
It felt like a ten mile jog.
Number 4 and 5 were sitting in the chairs, and there was no Number 6 or 7.
I went to the closest lifeguard chair to the left.
I was that mom. The mom who was losing her shit who couldn’t find her six and eight-year-old.
The lifeguards were awesome. It was clearly not their first time at the rodeo.
But their walkie talkies weren’t working, so they couldn’t radio anyone else.
I went back to the chairs and sent Number 3 and 5 back to the hotel to check again.
Then I went to the closest lifeguard chair to the right and described Number 6 and 7 to them.
I told them I was going to run back to the hotel again.
I was sweating and scared and crying and thinking about having to call my husband who was at home in Connecticut and tell him I had lost two of the kids and I had no idea where they were.
I started jogging back to the hotel, and that’s when I saw the greatest sight I’ve ever seen in my life.
Number 3 and 5 stepping onto the beach with Number 6 and 7 beside them.
Number 4 saw them as I headed from the lifeguard chair toward them, and she burst into tears.
“Mom, I WAS SO SCARED.”
I ran over to Number 3, 5, 6, and 7.
“Where were they?” I asked Number 3.
“In the lobby of the hotel,” he said. “The guy at the front desk was about to call you.”
Number 6 and 7 were red-cheeked and sweaty.
“We were walking to the beach and Number 3 and 4 and 5 were walking too fast and we didn’t see where they went and we couldn’t find anyone and we were just walking around on the beach,” he said grabbing onto me and sobbing.
So they had walked up and down the beach trying to find everyone, dragging their boogie boards and Number 6 also carrying his chair.
And when they got super hot and tired and scared, they just dropped their stuff in the sand, and walked back to the hotel.
We must have just missed each other the two times we ran back and forth to the hotel.
So I apologized to the kids — all of them — the little guys for not just having them wait with me while I went to the car and the older guys for scaring them.
It was one of the worst 30 minutes of my life as a parent.
I’m super proud of my littlest two for sticking together and for knowing what to do when they couldn’t find me.
I definitely learned a pretty big parenting lesson the hard way.
I’ll make plenty more parenting mistakes in the next ten years.
But losing my kids at the beach sure as shit won’t be one of them.