Lessons We Learned After Losing a Child on the Paris Metro

 

Metro Sign

We loved riding the Metro. It was the fastest and easiest way to zip from one side of Paris to the other. There are many online sites that thoroughly describe how to buy a Metro ticket, explain the complex Metro map, how easy it is to transfer between trains, and so on. What I didn’t learn, however, was how to safely ride the train with three kids. And because of this, on our last day in Paris, we lost Ethan on the Metro.

We only lost him for a moment, perhaps two. But let me tell you, those moments lasted a lifetime.  And they taught us a few valuable lessons.

We usually boarded the Metro at the Louvre stop,  a popular route with commuters and tourists. We usually stood near the doors and held onto the support bars. The kids were fine holding on to our legs for support, but as soon as the train stopped and people got off , our kids dashed for their empty seats.  The seats were always near either Aaron or I, so I figured it was fine. But the main problem with three kids and two adults: you’re always outnumbered. And when three kids run in three different directions, you’re screwed.

On the morning we lost Ethan, the train was once again full. And once again, as soon as the doors opened and people left our kids dashed for seats. But this time, Chase and Ada found two seats too far from me; I lost sight of them, so I quickly chased after.  After I sat down I looked up to see Aaron still standing by the doors looking unusually pale.

Aaron: WHERE’S ETHAN?

I looked around the train as people began to board but their bodies blocked my sight. I couldn’t see Ethan.  Worst nightmare: we lost a kid in Paris.

Me: I DON’T KNOW!

We both began to yell his name and didn’t hear a response. Aaron stuck his head out the doors to scan the train platform, thinking that perhaps Ethan got off the train.

Me: DID YOU SEE HIM???

The train doors shut, and the train lurched forward.

Aaron: NO!

I frantically looked between people’s legs, searching for a familiar pair of brown shoes. Other passengers were starting to look at the yelling, panicked Americans.

(one one-thousand, two one-thousand….)

Ada: MOM! Ethan is sitting over there!

Me: WHERE???

Ada: THERE! (Which isn’t a very descriptive word, but the best a six year old could do in the heat of a very frantic moment.) I followed her pointed finger, but I couldn’t see anything in the crowded train. Thankfully, a woman standing in front of me shifted her leg, and I saw Ethan’s blue pant leg and little brown shoe. Aaron saw it at the same time, and immediately went to him.

I felt like I wanted to puke. And that feeling stayed with me for a long time.

Yes, we found Ethan. But what if we hadn’t? What made me feel awful (and stupid) was that we never once considered an emergency plan for losing a kid. Furthermore, our kids didn’t have identification on them. Two huge mistakes!

This is what we learned:

  1. ALWAYS have identification in your child’s pocket or safety pin a note to the inside of their clothes. It should state their name, a cell phone number where you can be reached, and the address of where you’re staying.
  2. Discuss with your kids an emergency plan if they get separated from you on the Metro:  one plan for if they’re left on the train and another for if they get off the train without you.
  3. Don’t let your kids dash for free seats!

The Metro is a blast to ride with kids. But it’s also an easy place to lose one. All you need is a crowded train, perhaps a distracted parent, and tragedy can strike. I felt like we skirted disaster that day in Paris. I hope if a parent is reading this, they’ll learn from our mistakes.