Today you went missing for a while. We were at the field by the park. I was taking too much on as usual, serving teas and coffees whilst also looking after your little sisters.
You were being so sweet. You helped me set up the table and wash the mugs. You lay out the blankets and helped make the sun tent. You really wanted to go on to the park, but I could not take you. You sat and waited so patiently.
Then one of your pre-school friends turned up with his mum. You were so excited. He wanted to go to the park and his mum said "I'll take her for you, no worries. She can come with me." I felt so relieved. You were getting to go and have fun and I only had the other two to keep an eye on.
A short time later another friend turned up, her daughter keen to see you too. "She is in the park" I said, watching her walk past the tennis courts towards what I thought was you in the park on the swing.
Turns out that was another little girl in the park, not you.
At first I could not believe it. I ran to the park to check myself. You were not there.
The mum and friend who had taken you to the park were not there either. The rational part of me knew you were with them, but where?
You were not in the loos or the car park. You were not by the horses. You were not up the lane. You were not anywhere.
The whole atmosphere in the park became uneasy. Your sisters started to cry.
Your friends leapt on scooters to hunt for you. Their mums stood, hand-to-mouth, and looked aghast. Horrified and yet relieved it was not their baby missing.
I started to panic. The park swam round me as I tried to be rational and calm.
I did not have the mum's number. No one seemed to have her number.
I phoned your daddy and told him I could not find you.... Your daddy sounded like he was being sawn in half.
Just then, people started shouting and pointing.
You had been in the little wood at the back of the field with your friend and his mum. Your pink vest sparkled in the sun and you were skipping.
Me, your sisters, and all your friends ran towards you.
You looked so surprised at your welcome party. So happy. So innocent.
I held you to me so hard you squeaked. (Did I ever tell you I love your squeak?)
Around me, the park came back into focus. Swings started swinging, birds started twittering. Balls started bouncing. Life moved on...
You are asleep now, worn out from your exciting day. But I can't switch off. The memory of what the world feels like without you is still too real in my mind.
I keep going in your room to look at you. I've kissed your knees and the space between your fingers.
I've whispered sorry into the folds of your nightie. I've thanked all the stars in the sky.
I've made your favourite drink in your favourite sippy cup. I've laid out your favourite dress to wear tomorrow.
I still don't feel I've done enough.
Seeing your pink vest appear out the trees today was almost as beautiful as the first time I saw you in my arms.
Next time you want to go to the park, we'll go hand in hand.
I promise I won't let go.