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Panic or Passive?

February 24, 2009

On Saturday, J. was using our house as a recording studio. This means that it’s VERY loud for a few hours (even louder than normal), that there may be a few members of what our friend referred to as “Richmond’s Rock Royalty” in and out of the house, and the heat is turned off (so the noise it makes when it turns on doesn’t get recorded). So the girls and I needed something to do.

We went to the Bug’s swimming lesson, then to lunch (How bad can a Happy Meal be? It’s apples, milk and chicken nuggets – don’t judge!). Then, in a SuperMom moment, I decided to take them both to the children’s museum. This is a great place, but on a freezing cold Saturday, it’s a crowded place. I knew it would be tough to keep an eye on both girls, knew they’d want to do different things at the same time.

We were doing great. Bug’s favorite thing is the arts and crafts area, and I could watch her do that while the Bean picked apples from the “apple tree.” They could both play in the dress up area. But at one point, while the Bug played in the auto shop area (this makes me proud, of course, because as a kid I would lie under the coffee table pretending I was fixing a car), the Bean decided to make a run for it. I had to run after her, and when I came back to the auto shop, the Bug was gone. I looked around the immediate area, in the grocery store area, the pretend bank, the school room where we had all played earlier. I looked through these areas twice. I looked around the center of the museum. I considered going to the front desk and asking them to lock all the doors because I had lost my child. I wondered, for just a split second, how many people do that here everyday. I had already seen one child running through the building screaming “Daddy! Daddy,” and separately, a father with that unmistakable look of panic on his face. I also saw a kid, at least 4 or 5 years old, on a leash. That’s another issue altogether.

I love the children’s museum, but it was crawling with people. So much going on, so many corners to run around, so many kids that look the same, all running and yelling. I thought how easy it might be to get one of them out of there without anyone noticing, if their parents did the unthinkable and TOOK THEIR EYES OFF THEIR CHILD FOR ONE SECOND.

I decided to look some more. I rounded a corner and saw the Bug playing at the water table. I wasn’t sure what to do-do I drag her out of there, kicking and screaming, because I told her not to leave my sight? Do I ignore the whole thing?  I scolded her but didn’t make her leave.

But it made me think, when do we talk to our kids, seriously, about not talking to strangers, etc.? Is 5 old enough to have a secret “safety” word? Do I tell her not to help people look for their puppies, that noone she doesn’t know would ever come get her if something happened to us? Do I talk to her about not letting people touch her, at the same time? Do I tell her to scream “You’re not my mama/papa!” if someone grabs her? Won’t that scare the hell out of her?

Am I being irrational (I’m told that my worries can be at times)? Do I watch too much Nancy Grace? But am I ignoring my responsibility if I’m too optimistic? This does happen. Children are taken. Gone, in a second. It is not impossible. It may be unlikely, but I don’t think I can ignore it.

*Note: I do not watch that much Nancy Grace. But every time I do it’s about one of two things: a missing white woman, or a missing child. For the past several months it was one child whose body was eventually found. For the past couple of weeks, it’s been another child, who supposedly was taken from her home in the middle of the night.

One Comment leave one →
  1. JEC permalink
    February 24, 2009 4:44 pm

    You’re not irrational. You don’t want your children to be excessively timid, but you do want them to be safe. Telling them to yell “You’re not my mama/papa” is an excellent idea. If you present all this in a calm manner, I don’t think you will scare them too much. But it’s like locking our doors–we don’t go to sleep with the doors open! Maybe a pay-as-you go cell phone for outings isn’t a bad idea–although of course you want them to learn to stay where they are told. A secret word is good–I don’t know if 5 is old enough to understand the idea, but you could give it a try.
    Good post!!!

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