Last year, Tyra stayed after school three days a week to get help with reading (they call it double dose). At first it was alright because one of the girls I babysat also stayed late for the double dose tutoring, and so they walked home together. However, as soon as the other little girl advanced enough in her reading that they felt she was ok without it, she stopped going, which meant that she walked home with Ethan and her older sister, leaving Tyra walking home alone. On her own Tyra started taking other routes home. She tried to convince us that they were shortcuts. I tried pointing out that there isn’t a shorter route home than the most direct route. There were even some times when she came home super late, or just didn’t come home. On these occasions I would send Kyle a message letting him know that she hadn’t come home, then I would post something on our neighborhood facebook wall. Once when she didn’t come home and I posted on the wall, one of our neighbors said that she was playing at her house, and asked if I wanted her home. Another time posting didn’t yield any results and I had to load all of my other kiddos up in the van to go drive around and find her. I found her playing with some girls on the next street over. Their family had just moved into the neighborhood and apparently her parents weren’t on the neighborhood wall, or just weren’t on facebook and they had no idea that I was looking for her. Tyra had told them that it was alright for her to be there.
This year she is in double dosing again. I had told her teacher when we first started it for this year that I was concerned about Tyra walking home on her own because her brothers would get out on time, and she would be all by herself when she gets out. And I told her teacher about how Tyra wouldn’t come straight home last year when she was supposed to walk all by herself. Her teacher tried to reassure me, and I gave in and said we would give it a try. So today when she didn’t come home I went through my standard procedure. I waited, checking down the street frequently for nearly an hour after school got out. I sent Kyle a message telling him that she hadn’t come home, but this time I couldn’t rely on him to come home and help find her, considering he was in Springfield Oregon! Then I loaded all the kids up in the van to go look for her.
I started my search at the school. That was that last place that she was supposed to be, and there was one time in the past that she didn’t come home and I found her out on the playground with some friends. She ran when she saw me coming that time. This time, she wasn’t there.
I got back in the car and decided to go check Walden Park. She has gone on walking field trips with her class to this park in the past, and there had been times when I heard her talking to the boys about having gone there after school. Today, she wasn’t there either.
I then decided to drive by Pioneer park. It is just down our street, and we occasionally take the kids there. After driving by three sides of Pioneer park, it was obvious that she wasn’t there either.
Next I thought that I should check the little HOA park on the next street over. We found her there once with a couple of kids that used to live a few houses down. She wasn’t there either.
I decided to stop by the house to briefly check to see if maybe she was home now sitting on the porch, and when she wasn’t I went inside to see if anyone had responded to my post on our neighborhood wall, but nobody had commented with knowledge of her whereabouts.
Next I decided to start checking friends houses. I went to her friend Carley’s house and asked if she came over to play. But she hadn’t and Carley’s mom was just shocked that she hadn’t come home yet. Then I went to her friend Eve’s house. Eve had been over about 3:30ish to ask if Tyra could come over to play. I told her that Tyra wasn’t home yet and that she was supposed to be home very soon. I thought maybe when Eve was walking back home, maybe Tyra was on our way to our house and they might have met on the sidewalk and Eve might have asked her to come over from there. Unfortunately when I spoke to Eve’s mom, Tyra wasn’t there either.
By this time I was beginning to be frantic. After checking each place I had sent Kyle a message letting him know where I was checking and that she wasn’t there. And now I was out of ideas. Kyle probably felt useless being so far away and unable to just hop in his car and head home to help. He looked up the phone number for the sheriff’s office and gave them a call.
I got a phone call from one of the deputies and he asked me her name, and her age and what she looks like and when she was supposed to have gotten out of school and he asked what she was wearing. A light pink t-shirt with brown print from girl scout day camp, jeans, pink and black tennis shoes, light pink zippered hoodie, and she had a pink back pack with an argyle print and hearts on it. He said that he was going to go over and check at the school, he gave me his phone number and said to call him if she got home and if she wasn’t home by the time he finished checking at the school then he would come over.
I proceeded to throw something together for dinner for my other kiddos. It was already past dinner time (I usually serve dinner at 5) and Lydia especially was starting to be cranky because she was hungry. I got some hot dogs out of the freezer and started a pot of macaroni and cheese.
Deputy Rog (I could totally be misspelling his name) came over and told me that she doesn’t appear to be at the school “It’s locked up tight”. Again he asked me what she was wearing and and he asked what we had done to find her. I told him of my posting on the neighborhood facebook wall and of my search of the school and every park in the neighborhood and of my going to her friend’s houses. Then he said that he was going to call another officer over to our house, and that they would search the house. Then, if they didn’t find her here, they would call the Sargent and plan our next move. All of this was so terrifying to me. I knew that she wasn’t in the house, but really when a child goes missing where else do you start the search? So he called the other officer and asked him to come assist him. Eve’s mom came over to ask if we had found her yet, and when I said that we hadn’t she asked if I needed her to watch my other kiddos. I explained the deputy’s plan and I said that when we knew what the next step was I would let her know if I needed her to watch them for me. I sat the other kids down and fed them, while the officers searched the house. When it came time for them to check the basement I unlocked the door and let them down. They had just finished their search and were beginning to tell me what happens next when one of our neighbors called into the house from the porch. I ran to the front door and she had Tyra with her. She had seen my post on the neighborhood wall hours ago and thought that we probably found her, but then she saw Tyra walking down the street by her house and she put Tyra in her car and brought her home. I was nearly in tears, and I asked Tyra where she was. She said that she was at her friend Aleecia’s house. I have no idea who Aleecia is, and they don’t live in our ward so I don’t know where she lives either, and that would explain why they didn’t see my post on facebook asking if anyone had seen her.
The officers were both glad that we had a happy ending. They asked me a few more questions so they could make out their reports to account for their time, and then they left. I immediately posted on facebook that she had been found so my neighbors would all know that everything was alright now, and I called Kyle to tell him. Then I fed Tyra her dinner and got the kids to bed.
Tyra has no idea how serious what she has done is. She was shocked to find the police here and even more shocked to find out they were in our house because we were looking for HER. She knew where she was and she thinks that makes everything ok. As I mentioned before, this isn’t the first time that she hasn’t come home after school. So she has had the lecture on why it’s not safe and why she must come straight home. It doesn’t seem to be sinking in. At this point, I am deciding to pull her out of double dosing. I understand she needs the help with her reading, but her safety is far more important to me. I am also going to need to have a meeting with her teacher to explain that Tyra is not allowed to just walk home on her own, but that her brothers must come get her so they can all walk home together. I just don’t know how to get her to understand that I only want her safety. For the time being, I’m just glad she is home and Kyle comes home tomorrow.