Friday, October 17, 2008

Can I Make My Own Amber Alert?

On The Flipside Guest Blogger: Jyl of Mommy Gossip.

Jyl wrote this post on her blog (Mommy Gossip) a few of weeks back and I asked her to repost it here On The Flipside because it is a great topic. Read this post and then offer your opinion/answer in the comments. And ... don't forget to go over and visit Jyl's site - she has a great blog and beautiful family. Thanks so much Jyl!

Can I Make My Own Amber Alert?

I live in the desert. No, people here don't have cacti or rocks in their yards, but we certainly do our fair share of praying for rain and when the stunning Rocky Mountains aren't covered with snow, they turn a lovely shade of brown and beg the heavens to part and pour out blessings upon them in the form of tiny liquid drops. We especially love a good rainstorm, because—in addition to the much needed moisture—it allows us to know what we are talking about when we use the phrase "On God's Green Earth."

Yesterday, the seemingly impossible happened: It rained. It even hailed for a few seconds. We missed the sunshine. We missed going boating on Labor Day. And… we missed something far more important than all of that. We missed our kids. But wait! Weren't they just here at home with us a few seconds ago? Where did they go? Where are they?

10 Minutes Before the Rainstorm

The boys said they were going to ride their bikes down to Tator Tot's house to play. The Potato Head Family are great friends of ours and only live two doors down. Our kids play together often, so when the boys mentioned they were heading out the door, I didn't give it another thought and off they went.

10 Minutes Later


I opened the door to see the sky opening, pouring pearls of moisture on our scorched grass. Drops fell so consistently, I was tempted to reach my hand out and part them like clear, plastic beads in the doorway of a 60s teenager's room. I took in the sound, the smell, the breeze as time stood still under the palm tree patio on my oasis front yard. Deciding whether to run through the streets like I did when I was a girl (only this time with my clothes on), my overflowing emotions screeched to a halt when I suddenly realized Red Rover and Chatter Box are very afraid of the thunder. My plans to sing "Purple Rain"—or better yet, "I Love a Rainy Night," because when has rain ever been purple?"—while reliving my childhood were replaced with an immediate call to the neighbors. Bad news... Mrs. Potato Head said she hadn't seen hide nor hair of the boys all morning.

45 Minutes Later

For 45 minutes, T-Daddy drove through the neighborhood with no sight of the boys or their bikes anywhere. No bikes? That scared us. At home base, I called every person I could think of. I asked myself: "Where on God's Green Earth could these boys be?" (See how this phrase comes in handy?) In an attempt to enlist the semi-professionals, I tried calling the people in the hood who were in charge of the emergency phone tree (apparently, the jungle was on vacation too, because no one answered).

At about 35 minutes, the storm stopped and for 10 minutes I waited with baited breath for T-Daddy's call with the boys squealing with laughter as they rode their bikes on the wet streets. I mean how else is the ditty "rain, rain go away, come again another day," supposed to end other than "so we can go outside and play," right? But, when they didn't surface after the storm, I seriously debated whether or not to call the cops and kicked myself for not participating in the local child identity program, where they take pictures of kids to help in these kinds of circumstances. I heard you can't call the cops until a child has been missing for 24 hours, but I was frantic. Then, I started thinking what can happen in 45 minutes to a child. I started to think about Amber Alerts and Elizabeth Smart. I mean, her family doesn't live THAT far from here. So, maybe that means that abductions are even more common in these parts? (I actually thought that!) As I was trying to figure out how to put into action my own Amber Alert, T-Daddy suggested one last family to call.

Sure enough! My boys arrived at this gal's house right as the storm was hitting. They had such a great time playing that they didn't even hear the thunder. They had parked their bikes in her garage, which were impossible to see from the road once she shut the door to keep the water out. What I didn't want to hear was that she had wanted to call us, but we recently changed our cell phone numbers and she didn't know the new ones—neither did our kids nor any of our other neighbors for that matter. SMART! That meant we had to take some accountability. I hate that!

All's well that ends well, right? Sure! The kids were happy and we were alerted to the fact that we are horribly unprepared parents. Learn from experience, right? Still… I have questions rolling around in my head. When do you call the cops? What if the boys had not been at this neighbor's house? What if the unthinkable had happened? A lot can happen in 45 minutes. It made me think and wonder. How do you get your duckies in a row to prepare for such an atrocity? How do you teach your kids about stranger danger so that it really sticks? And, finally, what is the best way to discipline them when they go missing?

Originally Posted by http://mommygossip.blogspot.com9/1/08at 11:52 PM


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I'd let this one go down as a lesson learned--they didn't know your phone numbers--if they're old enough to go out on their own they should be able to know the phone numbers.

If you hadn't found them at that one last house, that would have been the time to call the police. I have a story about when I DID call the police--I'm going to write it for tomorrow.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Ooh, yikes, that has happened to us too. One Sunday after church our son Linus went missing. We searched and called, to no avail. We called 911 and they searched our house, out on the road (we lived in a rural area), everywhere. Oh he turned up - he was dead asleep, wedged up against the couch with the slipcover covering him up. I felt S-T-U-P-I-D but I was happy it turned out that way.

I'd say your situation was a good lesson learned. Sounds like your boys are smart - they knew to come in out of the rain and to protect their bikes!

dani said...

i say always err on the side of caution. if your kids are missing, call the police as soon as you've exhausted your efforts. if everything turns out well hopefully they will have learned their lesson, and if the unthinkable has happened and they've been abducted, the police can get on locating them asap!!!
but, THE TALK (always let us know where you are going to be and don't talk to strangers, etc...) is a must:)

bermudabluez said...

Yes, DEFINITELY have the talk with them about stranger danger. I am so glad that everything worked out ok for you.

Anonymous said...

I would hug them and cry... which I am sure you did. As far as discipline goes, I think that if the kids understood how upset I was, how concerned I was, that is all the discipline needed right now.
We move every few years and after over a year, I am still quizzing my boys on our phone number and address. The 9yo likes to go off on his own to the creek or the woods --and most recently, on his bike-- and I have had to remind him that he MUST tell me if his plans have changed.
I guess I would err on the side of "too much" stranger danger instruction. I would rather kids have hyper-sensitive feelers for this than to be unaware of the dangers out there...

phd in yogurtry said...

Hi, I'm over from Jenn's. Fortunately I've never been in a predicament where I had ruled out all possibilities. I remember a few where the panic had compelled me to run from front yard to back, inside and out, frantically calling neighbors. But it didn't amount to police call. Thankfully. Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing parents on the news whose child is "officially" missing.

How to prepare? I probably don't do as much as I ought, definately not as much as I could. I remind my kids to keep safe distance from cars that pull over, to run like mad if someone ever got out of their car and headed toward them. Warn them not to walk into anyone's house that we don't know well.

But its a fine line between "preparing" and scaring the heck out of kids. I struggle with it and tend to err on the side of allowing my kids the innocence of playing without fear. I remind myself how low the probability of child abduction is.

As for consequences, I think I might spend extra time reminding them of the fright I had, go over the rules but I don't think I'd consider punishment so much as extra precautions. I used to have my kids call me when they arrive at destination. I might activate that rule again in order to teach my kids the importance of thinking before they act.

common mom said...

How about the school calling you 3 1/2 hours after school started to ask why your son, who you saw get on the bus that morning, wasn't there?! Freak OUT! He was there - they messed up - but 3 1/2 hours to make the call? OMG what could happen in 3 1/2 hours to an 8 year old boy!

Lesson learned for all. So glad the little ones are safe and sound!

First, huge hugs and kisses and OMGs glad you're safe and all right!

Then, "don't ever do that again! You go ONLY where you say you're going and nowhere else. The only other place you go is back here to tell me your new plan."

Finally, get 'em a little ID card for their bikes - I laminated a card and made it look like a cool license plate but put our numbers on the back . . . I put one on my Dude's bike with our phone numbers on it. Sure he knows them as does my daughter, but what if he falls and gets hurt? Someone would read the numbers and give us a call.

Ellyn said...

I love the suggestion of the commenter right before me. What a clever idea to make sure they always have my phone number.

I always go toward the side of caution. I would rather inconvenience the police and have everything be OK than wait and have something be terribly wrong.

Glad everything turned out OK. What a terrible afternoon.

Good N Crazy said...

Yup. the phone numbers are a must (over age 5 that is).

And stranger danger is EVIL! NEVER TEACH your kids that!

From the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I learned.

Teach them who they CAN ask for help. NOT that EVERYONE is a stranger. They are to find a mom with a stroller, knock on a neighbor's home even if they don't know them but someone creepy is following them home from school. They CAN talk to someone who works at Smith's, Fred Myer, or Lagoon when they need help or are lost. STRANGERS are helpers and GOOD, when you are lost, scared, and otherwise.

But first. The phone number is a must.

Another thing I learned. They must be allowed to SAY NO to adults. We always teach them they HAVE to kiss Aunt May, who has stinky breath...when they don't want to. A big no-no. They get to say no to adults, especially when it comes to personal space. So when they are on their own and maybe uncomfortable with someone else they know it's okay to say no.

The under 5 set? KEEP THEM CLOSE! They don't have memory enough for phone numbers...

Brenda said...

I'd be counting new gray hairs. I panic really easy when one of our babies goes missing even for a few minutes. I like Common Mom's idea about the phone numbers but better than on the bikes, let them carry an id card with address and phone numbers in a pocket, and teach them never to leave home without it when they are old enough to be out of your sight. They think that is very grown up and way cool.

Anonymous said...

Well the way I panic, I would have immediately called and subsequently looked like a fool. I'll take looking like a fool any day just to be on the safe side.
This all leads into my wondering again, I've been trying to decide..a cell phone for an eleven yr old? I wouldn't get the iPhone that he wants ( sure kid) but the kind that are programmed, only certain numbers allowed.

Jacey said...

Since I don't have kids, I can't comment from a mothers point of view. But I know that when my sister and I were kids, our parents didn't let us leave the house unless they knew where we were going. Though, plans change, as you discovered! We'd do that from time to time, go where we were supposed to go, and then move on to another friends house. Sometimes even a friend of a friend, who our parents didn't know very well, or didn't have the phone number of.
We also used to disapear into the bush out the back of our house. Our parents could see part of it (but not all) from teh back veranda of our house) and that was an easy way to find us - yell our names loudly enough,and eventually, we'd hear.
I guess they always figured that we were fine, adn we'd turn up eventually.
But then I live in a different country - a safer country, by some peoples standards. And 15 + years ago? It was even safer.

Jaina said...

My mom taught my brothers the important numbers, our house and grandparents houses, and both her and my dad's cell phone numbers. I think my youngest brother knew them when he was about 4. That helps I think.
I'm so glad you found them though. I don't really have advice to give since I don't have any kids yet. But maybe sit down with them and make a list of all the places they might go, and then make sure that those families have your contact information. And if they switch their plans and go somewhere else, they have to call to let you know where they are. Or if they are going to a place not on the list, they also need to call and give you the details.