Where the Heck Is My Baby?

Where the Heck is My Baby?

My oldest is eleven now, but I remember clearly thinking, “Where’s my baby? Where the heck is my baby? She was just here.” I whirled my head, scanned the storefronts in the mall for my two-year-old, whirled some more, glanced down the aisles of the Hallmark store, glared at the suddenly ominous looking strangers passing by, and looked up the down escalator and down the up one.

“Where the heck is my baby?” I panicked—until I realized I’d been holding her in my arms, her head on my shoulder. I looked down at her perfectly calm face. She smiled up at me and said, “Hi Dad.”

OK. I found her. Take a deep breath. Everything is alright.

I’ve heard that probably happens to everyone. People look for their glasses even though they’re right on top of their heads or they look everywhere for the keys that in their pocket. Me? I lose kids, whole kids, even though I’m holding them. And this didn’t just happen with the first child. It’s happened with every child since. However, my first child had it the worst. But she had it the worst with me in so many ways. Everything was new to me with her.

I remember walking out of our local movie theater with her when she was three. I think we’d just seen the Jimmy Neutron movie. (Who knows why I remember that?) We made it as far as the parking lot when I realized I had no idea where we’d parked. None. Not even a little clue. I glanced around the crowded parking lot, and I wondered out loud, “Where the heck did we park?”

She tugged on my hand and pointed to the van about 150 yards away in Row C Section 3. The people walking out behind us laughed at me. But my oldest little girl didn’t. She didn’t know any better. She didn’t know that dads are supposed to remember where they park. She just figured that dads pay for the movie and three-year-olds must remember where we parked. As far as she’s concerned, it’s always been that way.

Even as a three-year-old, she was my little adult. Happy. Sarcastic. Funny. And so responsible. She makes sure everyone gets their vitamins every day. She came to me recently to strategize how to make one of my kids a better reader. “She likes girlie things, so the books you’re making her read aren’t appealing to her, so next time we go to the library let me pick out a book because she really needs to learn to love to read if she wants to get into a good college.”


It’s exhilarating, strange and a little bit sad to see your children grow up. I bring this up because my oldest had her first sleepover recently. It was a weird feeling that night knowing she wasn’t home. This little girl who I’ve spent just about every moment of the past ten years with was somewhere else. Somewhere not with me. I was uneasy even though I knew the people well and had no reason to believe they were desperate criminals who specialized in forcing children to rob banks during sleepovers, but hey, you never know. I’d imagine that people who would do such things wouldn’t admit to it readily. In one of my more insane moments that night, I announced to the kids that none of them are going away to college—or if they do, I’m coming with them.

“OK,” my nine- and eight-year-olds said pleasantly.

“Oh, and you’ll all obviously have to go to the same college,” I said.

“We were planning on that anyway,” the two girls said.

I sent all the girls to bed at 8 p.m., and my wife and I were alone on the couch. Every night my oldest stays up a little later than the other kids, and we all hang out on the couch together reading, playing video games, talking, or sometimes just sitting in silence. And at that moment I think we both missed her.

In the morning when she was finally dropped off (ten minutes late!), she got out of the car and I watched her through the kitchen window. So tall and beautiful. So grown up. She looked like she’d grown a foot overnight. My little girl all of a sudden looked like a young woman in just one night. I marveled at this young woman walking into my house, and I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where the heck is my baby?”

Where the heck is my baby? She was just here. She was my little baby. I just brought her home from the hospital just … a bit ago … potty training was just a few weeks ago … my goodness I felt like her kindergarten graduation was just yesterday ... she just learned to read … she …

Where the heck is my baby? She was just here.

But when she came in the door, she saw me standing in the kitchen, hugged me for a few moments and looked up at me and said, “Hi Dad.” 

She told me she missed hanging out with Mom and I last night. I told her I hadn’t even noticed she was gone. She smiled. I told her she looked so much bigger than she did yesterday.

“I took a lot of vitamins,” she deadpanned. Then she asked me if I remembered to give everyone their vitamin this morning. I did. She said, “Good job.”

Then she sat down on the couch and told us everything about her sleepover.

OK. I found her. Take a deep breath. Everything is alright.