A new drill to prepare for the worst
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.
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.