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A new drill to prepare for the worst

Submitted by on Monday, 30 March 2009 No Comment
big_guy_disappearYes, I know the statistics.

A relative, neighbor, friend or acquaintance is much more likely to kidnap my child than the stereotypical trench coat-wearing stranger. It's much more likely to happen at home or at a park than at a public place.

Not that my children are likely to be kidnapped at all, despite occasional stories about high-profile abductions that are enough to give any parent nightmares. Particularly when you live in the heart of the area where the Steven Stayner story was real, not just a made-for-TV miniseries. And where an 8-year-old has been missing for three days.

When Big Guy "disappeared" for three minutes a few weekends ago -- it seemed like three hours -- I knew we had to develop a system.

He's been told since he was old enough to toddle off to "stay where he can see me." I figured that warning made more sense than "stay where I can see you," since he doesn't know where I can see him.

But inspired by his love for a baseball team mascot, he skittered off last Sunday at a charity fund-raiser to greet the character. He was out of sight before I could scoop up a tantruming Boots.

I quickly scanned the room. Only three ways out, and from where I was standing - which was where Big Guy had left us - I could see all three. He couldn't have reached any of them in the time since he'd left on his mascot hunt, so he still was in the room. I pondered staying put in hopes he would wander back, but as the seconds groaned by I decided to instead head toward the master of ceremonies.

About that time,  Big Guy appeared clutching the hand of a grandmotherly types, tiny tears in the corner of his eyes. "He was a very brave little boy to find help finding you," she said.

We lucked out. But I couldn't leave it to luck the next time, and with Big Guy's enthusiasm, there could well be a next time.

I don't want to replace that enthusiasm with fear, because I believe there's no greater curse in life that to walk through the world scared to live. On the other hand, a dose of common sense would help.

The next day, we game-planned what to do.

Look for someone in a uniform, I told him. He's in love with law enforcement, so that part's easy.

If there's someone with a microphone or making announcements, go ask him or her for help. He understood that, too.

Saturday, the second we got to a baseball game we went through the drill.

"Who are you going to ask for help?" I asked.

He pointed to a baseball player. Wrong uniform. "Maybe we should check with this guy here instead," I said, directing him toward a ticket-taker. He nodded in agreement.

"Where are you going to go if you can't find his uniform" I asked.

He pointed toward the press box. Good choice, I said.

Mission accomplished.

Maybe mindful of the previous weekend's incident, he didn't scamper off that day. And there are more lessons to add, like screaming for help at the top of his lungs - he's good at screaming - if someone grabs him.

For now, though, we've taken an important first step of teaching  him where to go and what to do.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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