When a Toddler Is Suddenly Missing

05/14/2015 10:21 am ET | Updated May 14, 2016

The fragility of life is well, terrifying sometimes. On Saturday morning, all the kids (plus a neighbor) were playing inside -- a chaotic, spirited medley of flying balls, running children and loud renditions of "Let It Go." At one point, while my husband Rick and I were trying to pack up stuff for an outing to a wing fest because what's better than spicy wings and loud music on a 87 degree day, our 11-year-old neighbor said...

"Why is the front door open?"



Agonizing moments followed as we realized that our nearly 2-year-old son had opened the front door and just walked out.

My son Cash was born with the same passion as the early settlers who pushed forth into the western frontier. He knows no fear. He doesn't look back. If he could speak full sentences, he would say, "Thanks for raising me. You guys have been great. I'm heading off on my own now."

Rick and I ran outside, desperately searching in every direction.

"I see him!" Rick shouted as he sprinted down the street, his phone clattering to the ground. A treasured iPhone 6 that had suddenly become completely trivial.

Cash had crossed the street and wandered about five houses down. He was just standing there in someone's driveway. Rick picked him up and I burst into tears.

And that's when a car came speeding around the corner and since I was already standing in the street, I didn't move. The car slowly came to a halt in front of me.

I went over to the driver side window and saw two teenage boys. Boys who wanted to floor the engine, listen to their music and probably not talk to me.

I still remember what it was like to be them. A teenager with nowhere to really be but a determination to get there as quickly as possible.

"Guys, you gotta slow down. There are a lot of kids in this neighborhood."

"We weren't speeding!" they insisted.

I didn't get into an argument. "Just keep a lookout. Children run into the road all the time. And thank you for not running me over."

They pulled away and I only imagine they said to each other, "That hot mom is so right. We need to slow down."

Just thinking about my nearly 2-year-old son crossing that street just minutes before those boys careened around the corner, makes me nauseous. Just thinking that almost every house in our Florida neighborhood has a pool in the backyard makes my breath practically stop.

The sliding doors of fate.

It once again reminded me that parenthood has absolutely no balance. You either are trying to hold on tightly or trying to desperately let go. Trying to keep the door locked and your kid from getting out or open up it up and let him or her free.

It's amazing to me that in eight years, my oldest daughter will walk out that door. I'll have to let her go into this beautiful, broken world. And of course she will come back for many visits but I won't every night be able to check on five children, watch five chests breathe in and out and kiss five soft cheeks.

Now that we know Cash can open the front door, we have a new rule. It must always be locked. And the alarm is now set to chime each time a door is opened. We must hold on tightly to keep him safe.

And yes, one by one my children will grow up and I will have to let each of them go. But not today. Not tonight. Tonight I will check on five children and I will kiss five soft cheeks.