A few minutes after stepping onto the sand, a little boy, who couldn't have been older than 3, came walking by. He stopped at the stairs that headed up to the park, which bordered a fairly busy road. He looked around and turned to take a step up the stairs. I looked around as well. It didn't look right. No parent. No one watching him. I stopped him from going up the stairs and asked him where his Mom or Dad was. In typical toddler fashion, he pointed to the left and then seconds later pointed to the right. My friend started walking in one direction to find his guardian. I walked with the little boy in the other direction towards a family. People watched me, but said nothing. I asked several of them if he belonged to them. They all shook their head 'no'. Eventually, a woman in a pink shirt came walking up the beach towards us. She was clearly coming for the boy. I pointed and told him that his mom was coming. No, he said. As she got closer, I asked if she was his mother. He's my nephew, she said hastily. She grabbed the boy and walked away without another word or a thank you.
For the rest of the afternoon, I couldn't stop thinking about how easily that little boy could have been lost if we hadn't been standing at the stairs. If we hadn't cared enough to notice that he was alone. A few minutes after his aunt came to get him, I looked down the beach and was shocked to see how far he had walked on his own.
I often take the girls to public places on my own. I'm obviously always outnumbered so I need to be extra vigilant, especially with two-year olds who have minds of their own. There have been less than a handful of times when I have (very) temporarily lost sight of them. While it was never for more than one minute, it was always terrifying. I wouldn't have let that little boy out of my sight until we had found his guardian. I can only pray that if Teagan or Quinn ever slipped away from me like that, someone else would feel the same way that I did today.