The Time I Lost My Toddler at a Football Game

“Jennifer! I lost Conner!”

“Wait, What?!”

“I lost him! He’s gone!”

“What do you mean you LOST him?!”

“He just took off and ran! I can’t find him! He’s gone!”

My world stopped when I got that phone call. So many thoughts were running through my head; I didn’t even know how to think. I had absolutely NO time to think! My mission was to find my boy.

My second child, my Conner Boo, is our wild child. He has no fear. He is full of adventure, life, and all things physical. It’s because of that very spirited demeanor that we found ourselves in this terrifying fiasco. You see, Conner had been having a little bit of behavioral trouble at daycare. He was {and still is} quite the busy-body. My husband and I decided the two of us maybe haven’t been showing him enough attention at home as he was 1 of 3 at the time – a true middle child. His attention jug wasn’t getting filled enough I guess (but that’s a completely different post for later). Anyway, we decided to bring Conner to the Holy Cross vs Brother Martin football game at Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park, a place he’s been to a number of times as attending Friday night football games were sort of our thing. I was very excited about having just 1 kid with us that night. All of our attention would go to him, not to mention the ease we would have of just needing to tend to 1 kid instead of 3 was a definite perk.

Oh, the irony that unfolded.

It wasn’t until my husband went down to concessions during the 2nd quarter with Conner that the evening went south. I stayed in the stands with friends. When I got that phone call from my husband, I immediately turned to my friend and cried, “Conner’s lost!” and ran as fast as I could down the stadium steps.

Tad Gormley suddenly seemed so unfamiliar and bigger than ever. It’s one giant circular stadium that seats 26,500. Finding a little 3 yr old dressed in blue and gold blending in with half of the stadium was quite the needle in a haystack. But, I took off in one direction while my husband went in the other. I frantically asked every single person, boy, staff worker, student, ANYONE, “Have you seen a little boy with a Holy Cross hat on run this way?!” The tears hadn’t formed yet, because I don’t think my mind processed all of the potential scenarios just yet, but I could feel the panic on my face as I saw each and every person’s reaction when I asked them.

With every shaking head I passed, the thoughts started to flood. What if he ran out of the stadium gates into the pitch-black City Park?! What if he ran into the parking lot and got hit by a car?! What if someone took him?! The fear was palpable. I then started to envision myself in the future without him. I saw myself crying, looking for him, posting flyers, sharing on social media, seeking help from news stations. This cannot be me! How is this me?! How did this happen to me?! I was in shock, but the tears still hadn’t formed yet.

I was still in panic mode, running for my life, for my son’s life. I must’ve circled the entire stadium panting, calling out his name, running up and down every single ramp that led to the stadium seating looking around for my little sports fan in a hat. Time moved so slowly. What felt like 30 minutes might’ve really only been 10. I was on a panicked mission and the fear and sadness consumed me – not all at once, but gradually as each minute passed, as each person I asked said, “No, sorry.” I physically felt sick as reality slowly set in.

I need to stop right here in my story and thank my friend and her daughter who also frantically fled down the stadium steps when I got that phone call and split up searching for me as well because she was the one who called me just as the worry started to take over.

“We found him!”

When I tell you I felt like an entire fleet of army trucks had been lifted off of my chest when I got that second phone call, I’m 100% serious. This is a mother’s worst nightmare– losing a child. The relief and the assurance were overwhelmingly rewarding.

I raced up the ramps and the stairs to find my Conner Boo in the arms of another mother – someone I knew – holding on to him. It wasn’t until this moment when the floodgates opened and the tears just poured out. I grabbed my boy and just hugged him like I never hugged him before – well, like I lost him and he had come back to me. He was so confused. His naïveté was sweet but frustrating. He had no clue the pain, the heartache, the misery, the hassle he had just put so many of us through. But I didn’t care. I was so grateful to have him in my arms again. Of course, I had so many questions for him, “Why did you run away?!” “Where did you go?!” “What were you thinking?!” He couldn’t answer them all, but what I did get out of him was this,

“Mommy, why are you crying? I found another Mommy like you told me to.”

Thank the Lord! I was proud; I was happy; I was comforted in that moment. Though I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, and I would never EVER want to experience this again, I am grateful for the learning experience this has taught all of us. My now 5 yr old has not forgotten that time he saw Mommy cry at Tad Gormley because she was so sad that he was lost; I continue to remind my kids to find a policeman or another mommy if they get lost in a crowded, public area – the emphasis is obviously working; and, from that point on, my husband and I have taken extra precautions, especially with our wild child, when out and about in public – like Tile-ing him in crowded areas. The grand take away: safety skills are key. Always, always reinforce them because it truly can happen anywhere to anyone.

Jennifer Gonzales
Wife to my high school sweetheart, Ross, and mother to 4 children: Trip, Conner, McKenzie, and Piper, I am a born and raised Southern Louisiana Lady. I am a graduate of Mt. Carmel Academy, received my Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in Secondary Ed. from LSU followed by my Master’s of Education from UNO, and for the past 11 years, I have been outwitting high school boys as an English teacher at Holy Cross School. When I’m not grading papers, driving to baseball practices, or making grocery runs, I can be found cheering on my LSU Tigers, cutting up with my girlfriends, and crafting (I love a good project!). I’m all about sippin’ some wine during the sunset while the kiddos play in the yard and the hubby works the grill. I’m living my best mommy life these days and am always happy to share the journey with others!

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for this honest account Jenn. I would’ve felt and responded the exact same way. So happy that Conner boo knew to find a mommy.

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