This is the story of how my 7-year-old son went missing after school.
Ayub takes the school bus to and from school everyday. Usually he’s home in the afternoons by 1.20pm. Since the hubby is still on paternity leave, he decided to bring the boys out for lunch and a movie. At 1.30pm there was still no sign of Ayub’s school bus. The hubby was starting to get concerned.
Then he received a phone call that would make his heart drop.
It was the school bus driver. Ayub was missing. He had been searching the school for the past half hour and couldn’t find Ayub. The hubby went into panic mode, jumped into the car, and drove straight to school. I was upstairs with Aisha. There was this gut-wrenching pain within me. My heart felt numb. It’s really inexplicable.
Trying to think rationally, trying to think what Ayub would do. What would Ayub do? Where would he go? Why would he go missing?
But I’m thinking about all the terrible things that could have happened. That could be happening. Did someone walk into the school and take him? He’s such a trusting kid. He doesn’t understand that there are bad people in the world. He doesn’t know how to lie. He’s the most honest person I know. Just so pure and trusting of everyone.
Could it be my ex? Could he have taken Ayub? But why? He has little to no interest in the children. And he knows he only needs to call me if he wants to see them. I would never stop him. He knows that. It couldn’t be that. But I hoped it was that and not the idea of a stranger taking Ayub.
Don’t think bad thoughts don’t think bad thoughts
Ayub is a special needs child. He struggles with so much. He sees the world differently. He doesn’t know my phone number. He doesn’t even remember my real name. He only knows me as Mama. He can’t speak well. He can’t explain himself. He doesn’t know how to ask for help.
I’m praying and praying. I think, Ayub has a tag on his schoolbag. A tag with his full name and house address and my phone number. MY PHONE NUMBER. Please Ayub, show it to someone… I get my phone and see two missed calls from a number I don’t know. And suddenly I know, this is Ayub.
I called the number back and a lady answers, “Is this Ayub’s mother?”
YES! Are you with my son?
“I am! I found him walking by himself at the main road…”
I’m trembling and overjoyed and anxious and my heart is suddenly alive again. Ayub is safe. He’s with this lady, in her office, and he’s safe. I talk to him over the phone.
AYUB ARE YOU OKAAAY?!
“Yeah. Hi Mama.”
I call the hubby who’s searching the school grounds with other teachers and the bus driver. I can hear the relief in his voice as he calls out to other people that Ayub’s been found. I forward the lady’s number to him and he goes to pick up the kid.
He thought the bus left without him
Once he’s found I tell my parents what happened. They’ve been staying over to help out since the baby was born. My dad is in a panic. Even though Ayub’s already been found. We wait for the hubby to get home. Ayub walks through the door and we all cuddle him. Big big hugs. He’s all hot and sweaty from being outside. He seems perfectly undisturbed by the whole incident.
What happened Ayub? Where did you do?
“I was buying ice cream.” The ice cream man sells ice cream just outside the main gate of the school.
“Then I saw my bus driving like whooooosh so fast.”
That wasn’t your bus baby, it was another school bus.
“No. No it was Ayub bus. The yellow one.”
You thought the bus left without you?
My little 7-year-old autistic son thought the school bus left without him and decided to walk home. I can picture him walking. Pulling his schoolbag behind him. He tells me how he saw monkeys on the road, at the garbage can. I imagine him stopping and watching and talking to himself.
He walked really far. But got stuck at the main road. The wonderful lady that found him had asked him where he was going. I am so grateful, kind stranger, for noticing something was wrong. And for doing all you could to correct it. Her office was across the road from where Ayub was. She brought him there.
See? Such a trusting little boy. It could have been anyone. Anyone could have stopped him. And he would have followed. Alhamdullilah is was a good person.
It was a whole hour since he was released from school until the hubby picked him up at the stranger’s office.
And Ayub, honestly, didn’t see what the big deal was. He did walk in the right direction. He was on the way home. I believe he would have made the wrong turn because there are a lot of streets to pass before reaching ours. Oh, my Ayub.
Stay safe my Ayub.
We’re getting him a GPS tracker watch that can connect to our phones so that we know where he is if, God forbid, anything like this happens again. I am sure that Sulaiman would have gone back to class and told his teacher that the bus driver forgot him. But not Ayub. My special Ayub.
After the hubby calmed down, he kept to his promise and brought the boys out for lunch and a movie.
And that is the story of how my 7-year-old went missing for an hour after school.
Important reminders to all parents
1.Always put a tag on your child’s bag, wallet, or somewhere on their person
The tag I put on Ayub’s bag had his name, our house address, and my phone number.
2. Make sure your child knows what to do if the transport he/she usually takes does not arrive as usual
We made it very very very clear to Ayub after this incident to NEVER try and walk home alone. To stay at the designated spot (the school guard house) and wait. We promised him that if he bus driver doesn’t show up, we will ALWAYS come and get him. And to NEVER go home with someone he doesn’t know.
3. Consider getting a GPS tracker watch
We thought about getting Ayub a phone. A simple cellphone that can only make and receive phone calls. He wouldn’t be able to text as he can’t spell yet. But so that he can call us if anything happens.
Ultimately we went with the GPS tracker watch. Always around his wrist. We can track him with our phones. It comes with an SOS button in case there’s an emergency.