a walk in the woods

One thing more important than a mentor

Time stands still when you lose your child in a large, crowded place. In June, I lost my son in DisneyLand, the epitome of large, crowded places.

We had just ordered lunch and I led the way to a table. My thirsty son started to put his straw in his juicebox. His task became so challenging for his little five-year-old hands that he had to stop to concentrate.

When he looked up he was alone…

At first, when I turned around and noticed he wasn’t behind me, I wasn’t terribly worried. We were right next to the Star Wars Jedi show and I assumed he had just stepped aside to watch the light saber fight.

But every minute I walked around and called his name, every time that he didn’t answer back, every second I didn’t see him, my heart raced faster and faster and my mind begged me to start the process of completely freaking out.

I searched all around the food court, calling his name, looking for his blue and grey striped shirt, his sandy brown hair and his melt-my-heart ocean colored eyes.


He’s not at the Jedi show.


He’s not at the food court.


He’s not within the sound of my voice.


Where could he have gone? Is he scared? God, please don’t let him be scared. Fill him with your wisdom and peace.

Finally, I ran up to a Disney employee and said, “I can’t find my son. What can we do?”

Now, maybe there is a standard “lost child protocol.” Maybe a certain amount of time is supposed to pass before actually declaring a child “lost”.

Maybe I should have waited.

Maybe… I really didn’t care.

I was perfectly willing to be an overreacting mom who ends up shutting down Disneyland if it meant finding my boy.

If needed, I would scream my head off, have everyone stare at my wild eyed woman self if it meant finding my boy.

And if I found my son was in danger, I wouldn’t have had the slightest hesitation about hand-to-hand combat with a seven-foot, 300 pound linebacker-kung-fu-ninja.

He would have been at my complete and utter mama-bear mercy.

I had only one concern, one goal, one determination; to find my boy.

I was willing to take on absolutely anything that might stand between us.

I had no fear, felt no weakness. Nothing could get in my way.

I didn’t care what anyone thought, said or did.

Every fiber of my being was focused on one goal: To find my son.

I was motivated.

What Is Our Motivation?

As mothers, we are passionate about our children. We would do anything to protect and defend them.

But with 18 years to get our job done, we rarely feel that sense of urgency that gives us the focus, fearlessness and determination to do the impossible.

After all, it’s hard to feel motivated when you’re up half the night, the kids are crying all morning, you have no idea what to make for dinner, and your husband just called to say he’ll be an hour late.

It’s understandable that we want, hope for, dream of a mentor to come rescue us from our own weariness and overwhelm.

It makes sense and it’s good to want a mentor.

But friends, we can’t simply wait for one to pull us out.

We must to find our own inner motivation to climb.

We have to harness that mama-bear ferocity that rises up in us when our children are in need. That inner strength that pulverizes excuses and fear.

Because fighting for our kids means we need to battle our own baggage first.

At this point, you might be tracking with me or you might be thinking something along the lines of:

“Thanks, Kat, for that really vague advice…. How exactly does one ‘harness the mama-bear ferocity?'”

I’ve got you covered. Here are a few action steps and a little bonus motivation.

Action Steps

1. Name your goals.

If you haven’t already written down your goals, take time to do that now. Be specific. Be realistic.

2. For each goal, write down a list of things that motivate you.

Write down everything that comes to mind. There are days when “I want to be fit so I have the energy to run races with my children” motivates you, and there are days when the only thing between you and that second scoop of ice cream is “I want to be fit so I’ll look awesome at my reunion next month.” Think about what motivates you, pray about it. Make this list as long as possible.

3. Post your motivations everywhere.

Your bathroom mirror. Inside your refrigerator. On your alarm clock. Remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing so that you’ll keep doing it.

Bonus Motivation: You Are Already A Mentor

A few years ago, my daughter was drawing on her hand before school. I don’t know why she wrote what she wrote, or if it even made sense to her, but it has inspired and challenged me ever since.

In case you can’t read it, it says, “I will become…”

We are our children’s first mentors. They learn and grow as they watch us.

Start Now…

We can’t stop our children from growing up while we wait for a mentor. So, take time today to “harness your inner mama bear” and write down the motivations that will keep you moving.

What is one thing that motivates you toward your goals?

p.s. I found my son. An angel of a woman found him and called the phone number I’d placed in his pocket that morning. Joy is a lost child found.

Kat Lee

Kat Lee is a writer, speaker, and the reigning CandyLand champion in her home. She blogs at Inspired to Action, where she helps overwhelmed moms become focused and purposeful. Kat and her husband live in Texas with their three children.

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  1. Holy cow… just reading that gave me flashbacks to when my toddler escaped from the packed play area of a busy mall. Worst feeling every.
    Thanks for the wisdom and advice to be intentional about our parenting goals.

  2. I lost my two daughters in a clothing shop this morning. It wasn’t Disneyland. Not even close. In fact, the shop was empty. I did one quick lap calling names then yelled “where are my children!” Yeah. I may have panicked. Just a little. They were playing with the curtains in the changeroom. But my goodness, those moments when I couldn’t find them… I don’t think I’ve properly started breathing again since.

    This was a very powerful post. I’ll pin it so I can find it again later. Thank you!

    • The Accidental Housewife,
      You’re welcome!

      I don’t think it’s possible to panic when you can’t find your kids. Rules go out the door. All’s fair till their in your arms. 🙂

  3. oh, i’ve been there, we’ve all been there and i helped a mom at d-land at christmas who lost hers. that sinking heart feeling; you captured it completely. proof that putting your phone number on your kids at d-land is worth it!! thanks for the post; i am digging for my inner mama bear to empower myself!!!

    • Chrissy,
      Bless you for helping that mom! Speaking from experience, you were an angel for her.

      Glad you like the post. Roar. 🙂

  4. I had the same experience at Disneyland a few years ago — terrifying! What a great reminder of what we as parents have been entrusted with for such a short time…

    • Laura,
      Sounds like DisneyLand is “lose your kid land” – seems like nearly everyone I’ve talked to who has been there has lost their child there. I’m glad Disney employees are so well trained for it.

      Glad the post inspired you!

  5. Um… you wrote this for me, didn’t you, Mentor? 😉

    Thanks for your words, Kat. Great, great post. I needed it.

    • Tsh,
      Well, our last chat did get me thinking about motivation. I’ve had a few goals on my list for far too long and I needed to figure out why I don’t get them done.

      Glad you liked the post!

  6. My daughter hasn’t wandered away from me yet, but your recount gave me chills. Thanks for the reminder that we (ferocious mama bears) have the ability to move mountains when we need to.

  7. So I am not the only one who has printed note cards to place in pockets before we go to large places as a family! Now I am going to have to show my kids that other mom’s do it and that it does work!

  8. Great, great advice. “We must find our inner voice to climb.” Yes, yes, yes! So often I’m waiting on others to give me motivation and inspire me. Thank you for this reminder. Going to put it into action!

  9. Susi from Germany says:

    At our zoo (a BIG one), kids can get a sticker with a little Meerkat on it saying “Hi, I’m (name). I have lost my family, would you mind calling this number?” and space right beneath it for the number of you mobile. Great for little ones to be put on their shirt. They will NOT remember, that the “number of redemption” is in the left pocket of their jeans. 🙂

    • Susi – We were recently in Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen with our young children. They gave each child a wristband to wear that we filled out with their name, our name, and our phone number. I thought this was a great idea! I had never seen this idea used in the US.

  10. I have 3 children and my husband works for an airline. We home educate these children. We take field trips that require passports. So, when these children were 7&8 years old, we took them to Turkiye. We entered the country in the capitol. I wasn’t even worried about loosing them; we took the train to the 3rd largest city – no prob. But, before entering Istanbul, I wrapped each kid with the sticky bracelet labeled with incountry contacts’ phone numbers b/c it’s a world mega city. So, we leave the airport headed to a main city center and then transfer to the tram. On the tram entryway, we stop and then look around. My daughter is not with us. Her bag is here. But not her. It is a bridge and I go back down the stairs while my husband continues onto the tram platform. I can still see her brothers standing near the bags, but not my daughter. Moments later, my husband appears again with the boys at the top of the bridge waving his arms. I return to the bridge to meet him. He found her. My daughter had continued down onto the platform to board the tram, but realized she was alone and froze, not boarding the tram. That’s where he found her. Lesson: never move without your bag b/c the trouble in going on w/ your bag means you keep looking for the others struggling with their bags. AND never let go of their hands while in a mega city even while walking with our bags on the path. Longest 5 minutes of my life.

  11. Michelle D says:

    Uh, did I read over this too quickly or was a left hanging? I’m sure you did but how long did it take to find him? Where was he? I need closure!

  12. Alessandra says:

    I just started reading this blog a few days ago and simply love it and articles like this are the reason for me coming back daily. What great advice and motivation to all of us moms out there needing a gentle nudge to get going instead of putting things off 😉 The coincidence in all of this is that just this morning I downloaded your ebook from Inspired to Action to take on the Hello Morning Challenge, not knowing that you are the same person! I think God was doing some ‘nudging’ today too!

  13. Perfect post for this morning…dropped the girls off for their first day of school then came home and watched some show called “Help! I’m Turning Into a Giant!” Really? This is how I’m going to start the school year?!? 🙂 Time to get productive! Reading this blog was a great re-start for the day!
    “…with 18 years to get our job done…”
    (In my defense, I was feeding my son while watching that show and it was quite fascinating!)

  14. Wow! That was written just for me. I read this as I lay on the couch, tired, with laundry piled high on my other couch waiting to be folded, the kitchen still a mess from breakfast, and pretty much my whole house is disarray. Feeling tired and a little sorry for myself while my kids played (although I am blessed with 3 beautiful kids who play so well together the majority of the time.) but what kind of an example am I setting. This was just what I needed to retread, it gave me that push I needed just to get something done and to make time to hang out with my kids in a more present so of way. Thanks Kat, as always a great post!!

  15. We lost our 3 year old at Disney World last fall. He was lost for about 40 minutes – worst 40 minutes of our lives! Anyway, great post!

  16. Yes! Love this. I think this is so important too for the younger generation who may feel a little entitled…. Don’t wait for someone to hand something to you. Work at it and show your kids some backbone. I love learning new things and hope that my kids appreciate this skill as they grow up.

  17. When we took seven children under five to Disneyland, we wrote our cell phone numbers on their arms. All throughout the day, other parents noticed and said, “Hey, great idea!” Great post.

  18. Tara Bush says:

    A Big Thank you. I am taking my five children to Dland next year and although the older two will be 16 and 11 the younger ones will be 7,6 and 5. Im not sure i would have thought about the phone number in the pocket but I will now. So again thank you, I was already worrying about keeping them together in the crowds.

  19. This is the second article I have read today about losing a child in a busy place (which I did just last Saturday with my three year old son at the aquarium). It was the longest ten minutes of my life and my mind won and kicked me into crazy mom overdrive after about thirty seconds. Thankfully he was found by another mama bear who had lost her son the weekend before. That mama bear instinct is still so fresh in my mind that I will now harness that into my personal goals: namely patience with both my children. You never know when they will be gone.

  20. I think my main motivation is the satisfaction of doing a job well – parenting, whatever, I like the feeling that comes from putting in full effort. That said, I’m not great at remembering that motivation. I am so easily distracted! I love this post – and I love following directions, so I’ll do it. I’ll write my goals and motivations down and tape them up everywhere. This is good stuff!
    Also, so glad you found your boy. I lost mine at an amusement park a few years ago and will never forget that horrible fear, but also neither that awesome joy at getting him back. We ran to each other in slow motion with gut-wrenching theme music playing, I’m sure.

  21. It’s funny how you never really know how much of an impact you leave on people. Something so simple can change a persons life and you may never really know how big it was to them. This is my first time reading your blog. Thank you so so much I really need that.

  22. Thanks for the inspiration! Sometimes it’s tough to focus on where I’m going/where I want to go when the “right now” takes so much energy. Pausing and looking to the future always seems to make trivial daily stuff…well, trivial.

  23. We had just ordered lunch and I led the way to a table. My thirsty son started to put his straw in his juicebox. His task became so challenging for his little five-year-old hands that he had to stop to concentrate.

  24. I can’t even breathe right now. Thank God for Angels here on earth.

  25. I’ve never been moved to tears so quickly by a blog before. I’ve never actually lost any of my children (except for a mere few seconds, which even seems long) but the thought is terrifying. What made me sob was reading how you described your son, the beauty of it was intense. And I thought of my little boy. The same little boy that I yelled at yesterday because he was disobeying, again. Because I’m stressed, and tired, and failing to parent them when they need it most. And I thought of his eyes. His beautiful deep blue eyes. So innocent. How could I lose my temper with such innocence.
    I’ve been praying for a mentor. I had one who has become unavailable and I’ve wondered “Why now??”. Good friendships are slipping away, friends that I look up to in the raising of their kids, and I wonder “Why now??”. And I read your post and I cry harder. I’m reminded that it’s happening now, in the middle of the mess and the struggle and the pain, because it’s time for me to Rise Up! I struggle to “be motivated” and this blog has pushed me over the edge. I don’t need an outside voice (well, yours is an outside voice I suppose) to dig me out of this mess. It’s time for me to do it!
    Your motto reminds me of one I read on another blog and it has stuck with me ever since. Strong Enough To Be…
    I hope it’s ok to share that post here.
    Thank you Kat for a beautiful, yet heart wrenching reminder that my kids can’t wait until my mentor returns or I find a new one. It’s time to become….

    • Jeana,
      I’m so glad it inspired you! I’m praying right now that not only would you be filled with inner motivation but that you would also be surrounded by strong and supportive relationships – mentors and friends.

      Thanks for sharing that post…

  26. Oh, thank God you found your son!! That could have ended so bad and it happens so fast! I was kidnapped when I was 13 years old in Nevada and was missing for 3 weeks. It was a horrible experience that I would never want another child to experience. My kidnapper went to prison after he was caught and had kidnapped hundreds of kids. I should post a story about my experience on http://chaosismylife.com – that is our family blog that I recently started. Thank God for angels.

  27. My kids have to wear dog tags with their name/number. And they have been used (with other adults calling us with our lost kid). The best usage was when the person called me to tell me they had my lost son & I didn’t even know he was lost! He was with my sister & his 2 cousins at a separate section in the amusement park while I had my 2 younger ones at the kiddie section. And my sister didn’t answer her cell phone – so I had to hustle from our section to the area the person said my older son was.

  28. So funny that you would post this. My kids have been calling me Mama Lion since their dad passed away. I won’t go into detail about the fights, but I defended them against their friends, my ‘friends’, their ex step dad, my ex in-laws, attorneys, a judge, teachers and pretty much the rest of the world until they could defend themselves. Now they’re 21, 18 and 15 and every time the words ‘mama lion’ come out of their mouths I’m reminded of what I was put here to do.

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