real life

I lost my son for three hours

Happier times with the kids before I lost my son ...

Family holidays are fun, aren’t they!? That’s only five per cent sarcastic by the way – I do genuinely think they’re great. Just recently I had a wonderful time with my family on a trip we took to Singapore. I really enjoyed myself – took in the sights, ate some delicious Singapore crab, lost one of the children for hours on a train. Oh yes, that was definitely a highlight; the memories made while trying to track down my 10-year-old in a foreign land will last a lifetime.

Before you call child protective services on me, let me explain what happened. (If you want to, you can call the authorities on my wife, as it was basically her fault we lost my son*).

Off we trotted to the train station, my wife Helen and our three kids all excited to experience something new (I was going to order Singapore noodles instead of crab that day). Everything was going well until Helen panicked when she realised we were on the wrong train. Instead of calmly explaining our predicament and letting everyone know we should all quickly, but in no way hysterically, depart this train in order to get on another one, she sprang out of the carriage as quickly as Usain Bolt jumps out of the starters block at the beginning of the 100 metres. The woman was bloody fast! I instinctively followed Helen, and our eldest two followed me, but poor old Dom, our youngest, oblivious to his family’s quest to alight this steel compartment of emotion as quickly as possible, was left on the train. Which is good, because out of all your kids you want to lose the youngest don’t you?

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I suppose in some way it was Singapore’s public transport system that really let us down and induced the sort of terror you feel when you realise you’ve left your wallet at the pub - times about 10 obviously. The trains are just so efficient in Singapore! There’s no mucking around like there is here where the trains stop for a cup of tea and a biscuit at each station. Before we knew it, Dom was speeding away from us.

Feeling anxious but realising the potential I had here to save the day, I figured out where the train was going and jumped in a cab that took me to the next station - the place I thought Dom was going to end up. Through the acute panic and the flash-forwards to the worst possible scenarios, a part of me was thinking, "How much of a hero dad I am going to be! The little guy’s going to be so concerned and there I’ll be at the platform waiting to great him!"

But no, that wasn’t the case because the little idiot (yes, he’s the idiot, not me for losing him in the first place) did not get off at the next station.

And here I’ll interrupt my cautionary tale to highlight the importance of having a contingency plan when out in public with your kids. Whether you’re at the supermarket or the Easter show or the footy, it’s a good idea (that I admittedly rarely implement) to decide on a meeting point should you all get separated.  And if you get separated on public transport, the rule is get off at the next stop and wait for everyone else to catch up with you. My kids will remember this the next time I let them off the leashes I’ve bought them.

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Anyway, three hours passed. Things were getting a bit tense, and by a bit tense I mean terrifying. The station manager cames over to us and, as the world stopped spinning for a moment, he said: “Your son is not on our trains, we cannot find him.”

I thought – he’s gotten off with someone. He’s going to be sold into slavery, or worse, I'm going to come back in a few years and discover him running a multinational corporation and he’ll refuse to see me and let me share his millions, the father who abandoned him in a strange land.

Thankfully, 60 seconds later, the station manager returned with the news they’d found him at a station miles away from our original starting point. The relief was palpable, and when we were finally reunited I just hugged him tight and stared into his adorable face.

It wasn't his fault the trains run on time in Singapore. Besides being a little shaken, Dom was in surprisingly good spirits. He got off the train at a station called Labrador Park because obviously Labrador Park is full of dogs ready and willing to entertain a lost child. “Puppies, Dad. I like puppies.”

*Love you, Helen!

Brendan ‘Jonesy’ Jones is breakfast co-host with Amanda Keller on WSFM101.7 (a gig they’ve had together for eight years!) and together nationally via Jonesy & Amanda’s show ‘My Generation’, you can also catch his mug on the TV, with regular spots on ‘Mornings’ on Channel Nine. He's married with three children and lives with his wife in Sydney’s South. He loves tinkering away in his shed on his motorbikes but tells his wife they belong to “friends”.

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