We went to our first ever community Christmas Carols this week. In spite of the fact that my hair was set on fire by Santas beard when I was about five, I have great memories of Carols by Candlelight, so I was keen to subject Birdy to bad singing and local primary school concert bands (Ouch – painful!).

Sadly it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  The concert bands were as bad as I expected, but there were no candles (maybe because they’re a fire hazard), nobody joined in the singing, the fireworks didn’t go off (because it was too windy), and worst of all, kids kept getting lost all night.

If you can picture this you’ll understand why:  There were a couple of thousand people packed onto a big oval, with no thoroughfares.  Trying to get through the crowd was like trying to part the Red Sea.  Then suddenly, it got dark and parents couldn’t see their kids any more.  (I have my suspicions that some of the parents may have sipped just one too many glasses of champagne with their gourmet picnics.)  I saw one little toddler running around crying for her mummy.  I ended up following her around for about five minutes until she found her mum.  I met another mother whose daughter was missing for 40 minutes, and there was also an hysterical little girl on stage who couldn’t find her parents.  Not the most relaxing way to spend an evening.

Fortunately, I didn’t lose my child, (her not being a crowd-lover has its benefits), but Birdy was quite upset by seeing so many kids who had lost their Mums.  It had obviously never occurred to her before that she could lose her Mum, and when we got home she kept asking me “Why did the little kids lose their Mummy’s?”  So I explained that they had been playing and then it had suddenly got dark.  “Yes but why didn’t they stay with their Mummy’s?” she wanted to know.  “I stayed with my Mummy.”

Anyway, it’s come in quite handy when we’ve gone Christmas shopping this week.  All I have to do is say, “Stay close to Mummy so you don’t get lost,” and now she actually knows what I’m talking about.

I’m pretty sure that all the lost kids got found again by the end of the night, but if you’re going to carols in the next few weeks and you want to save yourself some stress, I’ve got a few tips for you.  1) Choose a spot to sit in that’s easily recognisable for your kids (Like outside the ice-cream van) and stay there  2) Arrange an alternative meeting spot in case they get lost!  And 3) Make sure you regroup before it gets dark!

Have you ever lost one of your children?  Or do you remember being lost as a child?  What happened?  What strategies do you have for keeping your kids close in a crowd? Have you had any disasters at Carols by Candlelight? (Other than disastrous singing.)

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