Works for Me: Lost Child Plan

We spent the Fourth of July in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle listening to some good local music, then went down the sculpture gardens to watch the Elliot Bay fireworks with some friends. It was the first time we had taken the kids to one of the major fireworks shows, and I knew it was going to be a long day surrounded by hundreds of people.

works for me badge 2Earlier in the week I’d lost Thomas at an open air produce stand. He wandered off while I was paying the cashier, and as I waited for her to return my debit card I casually looked around for him, fully expecting him to be just a few feet off. I couldn’t see him, and started sweeping in wider circles with my eyes, and when I still couldn’t see him I told the cashier I’d lost my son. She paged him and called someone to help me while Ruthie and I trotted around the produce tables, hearing murmurs of a lost boy among the other customers.

Finally the cashier flagged me down and shouted, “He’s down there!” and pointed to the gardening end of the store. I ran down there and found him immediately. He had a shopping basket in the crook of his elbow and was smelling flowers.

I think he may have only been separated from me five minutes – perhaps a little longer – but it was just enough time for me to imagine he was gone forever. When Ruthie run off there is usually somewhere she wants to be, and she goes with gusto. If I can figure out where that is, I can find her. But Thomas? He’s a wanderer. He just wanders. With no direction, purpose, or destination. When he wanders off I have no idea where to look.

So in preparation of spending the entire day surrounded by a mob of people, I laid down the ground rules for my three and five year old. First, stay within site. Second, don’t go anywhere – even to the other parent across the lot – without first asking the parent you’re with.

We then talked about what to do if they did get lost. I gave them each one of my blog cards which has my cell phone number on it, and stuck it in their pockets. I said if they couldn’t find me or Bryan, they should find a police officer or another mommy with kids, give them the card in their pocket, and ask them to call me. We went over it many times. We talked about what a police officer is wearing. We talked about the definition of “mommy with kids,” and why they were safer to approach than a different person.

It’s not a foolproof plan, and it didn’t make me any less alert. But teaching my kids how to protect and take care of themselves? That works for me.

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7 thoughts on “Works for Me: Lost Child Plan”

  1. It’s a really frightening prospect but I suppose something we have to try to plan for. These are great ideas. Another handy one is wearing the same coloured t-shirts when out for a big day, in a crowd you can only be seen from the waist up, so if your separated from your child rather than them wandering off, they’ll be able to spot you before you can see them. I’ve been told this has worked for a few people now but I will definitely be trying to explain the “mom with kids” thing to my daughter.

  2. I tell my kids to find a mom with kids, too, if they don’t see a police officer. I also remind them to never leave – not with someone or to look for me. And, in the case of my little girl, I tell her to scream for me – she’s got a voice like a siren, I could find her anywhere:)
    I love the idea of giving them your card – that’s good thinking.

  3. Ha! Good idea. That would work for my daughter. I could tell Thomas to scream, too, because he also has a voice like a siren. The problem is he doesn’t get lost, he wanders off and doesn’t care if he’s found!

  4. It’s a good idea to teach your children your phone number. my daughter learned my number when she was 3. The trick is to put it to music and add words that rhythm. ie:
    542-8753, God loves you and God loves me
    sing it with them every chance you get, they will remember…

  5. Great idea…I have two preschool boys, ages 5 and 4…so that could definitely come in handy for us. And wearing the same color shirt sounds like a great idea too! Thanks for the insightful post 🙂

  6. The most important things I do when we’re going to take our son out to wild and wooly crowded places are:

    — take two cellphone pictures of him (one a full body to capture the outfit; one a closer photo of his face), to show and to be able to describe clothing in great detail.

    — dress him in bright unusual colors. My son own a LOT of brite orange, apple green and turqoise clothes.

    — make sure he’s got on colored socks and/or unusual shoes [sounds strange, but when he was an infant someone told me how an attempted child-thief had taken a toddler into a bathroom stall at a large retailer and changed the child’s clothing and even trimmed the front of the hair. The plan was only foiled b/c the mom recognized her child’s shoes from a distance as the criminal was getting near the exit.

    — I have a brother p-touch *LAMINATED* labeler I use to print out my cellphone number and attach to my son’s belt loop. Altho I’ve recently taught him my number, if he’s freaked out I don’t think he’d be able to recall it, let alone tell someone.

  7. I also always tell my kids if they get lost to “stay where you are, because I am already looking for you.” I also say, “if you don’t know where I am” instead of “being lost” because once Will was “lost” (only for a couple of minutes) but he didn’t realize he was “lost” because he knew where HE was, he just didn’t know where I was.

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