Before it goes crazy, let me clarify this: my daughter is not sick. She didn’t get into an accident as well. This is a story about miscommunication, confusion, worry, panic, fear, and relief rolled into one.

So, here it goes.

I pick up my daughters in specific gates everyday – and that never changes until I tell them that I’ll pick them up in another gate. For some reason, during dismissal time, my youngest daughter went with her best friend, who goes to another gate different from hers.

I was waiting for her to go out but after 15 minutes, I asked the guard if I could go inside the classroom to check if she’s still there. A lot of kids went out and went home, except for her. When I went to her classroom, she wasn’t there. Her things weren’t there as well. Some of her classmates said that she could be in the clinic since she went there earlier. I went there and asked the nurse on-duty but she told me that my daughter went back to her classroom already.

That’s when panic started to kick in.

I called my husband, who thankfully, was waiting for us in the car, and told him that I couldn’t find J. I immediately notified the guard on-duty about what happened. I also talked to the principal’s assistant to confirm with my daughter’s adviser that she was in the classroom before dismissal time. She was there daw.

The search continued.

I went to another gate where I always pick up my eldest daughter. I also asked one of J’s best friend if she went with her but she didn’t see her. My eldest and I were also checking the classrooms and bathrooms in the first floor, thinking she was there. The husband was checking every kid he saw, hoping that one of them was our daughter.

After 30 minutes, we finally found her. The principal’s assistant told us that there was a kid waiting in another gate, so we were really hoping it was her. Thankfully, we found her. She wasn’t sure how to go back to the gate where I pick her up, so she just stayed there and hoped we will find her.

You can just imagine the relief I felt after seeing her. A lot of scenarios, mostly bad ones, were playing on my head the whole time we were looking for her. I’ve also never felt more scared or worried until that day when I thought my daughter was missing. Although we trust the school in ensuring safety and security of the students, I still can’t help but worry and think of different possibilities where I could’ve lost one of my kids.

Then, there are lessons learned.

The scene in the car. I was surprised to see how protective (and worried) Ate was to her younger sister.

We got really mad at J for doing what she did. We want to make sure that she’ll remember what happened so she won’t do it again. We made her feel and understand how worried and scared we were when we couldn’t find her.

Mind you, we lectured and all but there was no spanking or any form of violence involved. The husband and I figured that there’s no need to inflict pain if we want our kids to remember something. The experience alone, which could be traumatic for a kid, is enough for her to make sure she won’t do it again.

We also reminded her to stick to the rules. We “reviewed” the do’s and don’ts to make sure it won’t happen again. There’s a reason why we pick them up in specific places and remind her never go with strangers, especially during dismissal time. Safety and security are among our priorities when it comes to our kids. I swear, I don’t know what I could and will do when something bad happens to my kids.

Also, talk to the right parties. Since this happened in their school, I immediately alerted the guard as well as the corresponding parties in the school to help us find our daughter. Good thing they were cooperative the whole time, so kudos to the school.

Don’t panic immediately. I was doing my best in composing myself the entire time because when I allow panic to kick in, I might not even think clearly. I could do the craziest things, too.

More importantly, I realized how important my kids are. This experience may be mababaw compared to what others experienced or I might sound melodramatic, but if anything happens to them, we are willing to give up anything and everything just to find them.