It Happened at Disneyland

It happened at Disneyland.

Code Adam.  Words you never hope to hear.  With my second daughter and middle child, Emmalynn, it has always been the inevitable.

For years, my family and I participated in the taping of Disney’s Christmas Parade at the Magic Kingdom.  Although our one-day park tickets would be free, the cost would be more than we were willing to pay.

Since my husband attended graduate school on Saturdays, my parents joined me and the girls this year.  It had been decades since my parents visited the park and could now relive the magic through their grandchildren’s eyes.  We arrived early and had a wonderful day taking in all the sights of Magic Kingdom.

Several of our friends were there for the taping as well and it felt like one huge family reunion.

As to not make for a long day with young children, my parents and I decided to leave the park around 6:00 p.m.   For cutting our day short, we promised my oldest daughter a toy from the Emporium on Main Street when we left the park.  To avoid any Houdini moments from my clever little two year old escape artist, Emmalynn wore her monkey harness most of the day or sat buckled in her stroller, however, once inside the Emporium, I unbuckled Emmalynn from her stroller so she could choose a toy in the shop.

My mom, Allana, Emmalynn and I made our way to the check-out while my dad stayed with the stroller. I bought Allana’s toys and my mom waited behind me to purchase Emmalynn’s toys. Then, in a blink of an eye, Emmalynn ran off.  My mom tried to chase her, but she was too slow and Emmalynn vanished.

I was finishing my purchase when my mom returned without Emmalynn. With clothing racks positioned throughout the store like walls of a labyrinth and an exit door leading to a mob of people strolling down Main Street, we didn’t even know where to begin looking.

I grabbed a cast member and explained what had happened. I described Emmalynn’s clothes, her features and displayed her image on my digital camera. (This was years before I owned a cell phone with a decent camera.)  My heart sunk. I thought I was going to be sick.

How would I ever find my child in a sea of a million people?  How would I explain this to my husband?

The Disney Security Team reported to the scene. I was advised to stay in one place while the team located Emmalynn. And then, he said the words no parent should ever have to hear, “We have a Code Adam.”

I called my husband, who was waiting for us at the hotel, to explain why we hadn’t arrived yet. I tried to utter the words, but he couldn’t understand me. Other guests saw my uncontrollable sobbing and tried to locate her in the store, but there was still no sign of her.

Forty five minutes later although it felt like a lifetime, two guests found Emmalynn following strangers down Main Street still holding two small stuffed toys.

Years later, she still holds those stuffed Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse toys which prompt her to ask me to retell the tale of the time we lost her at Disney.

“Were you sad, Mommy?”

“I couldn’t stop crying.  Even Allana cried for you,” I reply with a lump in my throat as relive the horror.

Since that first Code Adam moment, we’ve lost her countless times and by the grace of God, she’s always been found within a few minutes.  Rest assured, if you ever hear a Code Adam, it’s because I’ve lost one of my children again.

Yes, I am that mom and my path to neglectful parenting happened at Disneyland.

*This “It happened at Disneyland” post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.*

Mama's Losin' It

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+


  1. kyooty says:

    so very very scary! My parents lost me 30yrs ago. I was watching horses at the Calgary Stampeded. We went “home” this past week for March Break and wouldn’t you know it this is the story my parents tell my two oldest kids?

  2. cooper says:

    there is no worse feeling in the world. Went through it twice, once with each kid. An unprecedented level of panic and fear. Gladly it’s all worked out for the best, but…yikes….

  3. Megan says:

    That is so very, very scary, and one of my worst fears as a mom. I’m sorry you had to go through that. Your post was beautifully written, i’m looking forward to reading more from you. Found your blog through the weekend linkup at Write on Edge. 🙂


  4. ricoleruns says:

    OH MY GOSH HOW TERRIFYING! I still remember times when I lost my Mom at the grocery store and how scared I was that she’d left me. Yet all these times she was never even looking for me! I cannot imagine how scary that would be in a place so huge.

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