We were camping a few weekends ago, and the bean and I were walking back from the beach along the main road that loops around the campsite. I spotted a little girl running toward us, and I remember thinking, “Gee, she’s very small to be on her own at a campsite.” And as she approached, I realized she was crying. So I stopped her and asked what was wrong, and she choked out, “I lost my mommy!”

I went into protective lioness mode. I knelt down next to her and used my towel to wipe her tears. I asked her name and age (she was 6), and how she’d gotten lost. “I went to the bathroom with my cousin and when I came out, she was gone, so I tried to find her and got lost. So I started running.”

We made our way back to my campsite and, while we called the park ranger, we gave the little girl, who was still in hysterics, a juice box. The park ranger arrived and my husband decided to drive around and see if he could find her mom. Within five minutes, my husband returned, tearing down the road with a frantic mother in the passenger side. She jumped out and the two embraced, crying, and tears were in my eyes too.

That little girl was so scared.

And her mother must have been losing her mind.

In the end, the whole experience ended up being a valuable lesson to both the parents (we were camping with another family who has three kids) and the children. The kids had lots of questions about how she got lost, which led to discussions about what they’d do if they got lost.

But it also made me realize that my 4-year-old knows no details when it comes to helping someone locate us should he get lost himself. He hasn’t learned our phone number, doesn’t know his address, and, like this little girl, wouldn’t have known the name or lot number of our campsite.

I also realized that, when we go on a trip or to somewhere that is busy, he should have our phone number on him. And we should communicate before going somewhere about what we would do if we got separated. Maybe we need a meeting place. Maybe he needs to know the name of our hotel, the name of our campsite, etc. when we start an experience together.

Bad things happen for a reason. While I knew in the back of my mind that a controlled family campsite was one of the “safer” places to get lost, it taught us all how we’d deal with something like that in our own families. And luckily mom and daughter were reunited and all turned out well. I’m so sorry that that little girl and her mom had to go through an ordeal like that, but I also thank them, because they helped me learn how to be a little bit better of a mom the next time around.

A full-time work-from-home mom of a toddler, Jennifer Cox (our “Supermom in Training”) loves dabbling in healthy cooking, craft projects, family outings, and more, sharing with readers everything she knows about being an (almost) superhero mommy.

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