by Jodi Meltzer
Sometimes I hear stories and break out in a cold sweat simply because I am a mom; the mere thought of being in the same situation makes me panic. Chris Villavicencio, a mildly autistic 9-year-old boy went missing in New York City on Saturday for two agonizingly long hours.
Two hours on the streets of The Big Apple with crazy cab drivers whizzing by on every corner. Alone. Defenseless. Crying. Suffering. Wondering if he would ever find his way home. That poor little boy! And his parents … I can’t even imagine their horror. Turns out I only got half of this story right in my mind.
Chris' parents, Peruvian natives who do not speak English, did indeed freak out when their son got separated from them at the Central Park Zoo. They reported Chris missing within the hour and set law enforcement in action. Chris? Not so much. He told the Daily News he was “having the time of his life.”
Such a typical kid response!
How many times have we watched our kids fall and they only burst out into tears when they see our terrified faces? We torment ourselves about all their firsts ... getting on the school bus, leaving them at a karate class, dropping them off at a friend's house ... don't we? And most of the time our kids show us there's no reason to fret. Their smiling faces, thrilled by an intoxicating flirtation with independence, quell the nervous butterflies wreaking havoc on our insides.
What if we didn't live in that What if? mindset? I will fess up: I spend a great deal of time anticipating what could happen instead of trusting that things will be okay. My mind never shuts up. I am always worrying, always wondering. Does that make me a good mom to my son? I thought so ... until a little boy who went missing in New York City challenged my take on motherhood.
He made me remember how remarkable and resilient kids are; Chris didn’t go to the darkest place in his mind, he lived in the light. I know I would have reacted like Chris’ parents (actually, I would have been much worse) … but he really made me think. Changing perspective even slightly, to think about the possibility of a happy ending over being overwhelmed by terror, would have made those two hours go by much faster.
Do you think there’s a lesson to be learned about how Chris handled his time as a missing child in New York City?