How Do I Keep My Kids Safe From The Unthinkable?

I had the worst two minutes of my life last Saturday.  It was two minutes I know I’ll never forget. It made me think about what I can do to keep my kids safe.

My little six-year-old asked if she could go across the street to play with her friend.  Wanting her out of my hair for an hour I gladly agreed. She rushed out the door and that was that.

About 45 minutes later the little group of girls I thought she’d been playing with came to the door.  I had been reading an article on-line about the horrible, horrible, horrible thing that happened in Colorado.  I got up and let the girls in.

They asked me…”Where’s Alyssa?” I looked at them completely puzzled and I promptly snapped…”She’s with you!”  They went on to tell me that she WAS with them, but she’d gotten up and left a while ago and they were coming to find out why she decided to leave.

I was sitting in my front office reading, so I knew she hadn’t come in my house.  They’d just come out of their house so I knew she wasn’t there.

She’s NOT a wanderer and NOT a loner so I just couldn’t figure where she would be.  I bolted from the house and ran to the backyard yelling her name. No response.

My husband heard the commotion and started yelling for her too.  The little girls she was playing with also started to call her name.

I ran to the end of the street yelling her name to see if she’d walked around the corner.  No response. I ran yelling to the other neighbors house to look in their backyard.  Maybe she was visiting the neighbor’s dog.  Not there. No response.

My guts turned inside out. WHERE IS MY DAUGHTER?!!!

I can’t even speak the things that entered my mind.  I freely admit that I am a conclusion jumper and a horriblizer, but my daughters behavior is VERY predictable and I KNEW this was not something she would do.

As I was screaming I got the attention of her friends parents.  They went in to do another sweep of the house.

My neighbor shortly came out and said he’d found her playing in her friend’s bedroom.

I literally collapsed on the grass in front of my neighbor’s house.  My knees were so weak they just couldn’t hold me up.

I know I was being dramatic, but the emotion was very real.  I started weeping when she walked out of the neighbor’s house perfectly fine.  I’d never experienced such terror followed by ultimate relief.

I took her into my house and just clung to her for 20 minutes.  I assured her she’d done nothing wrong and she wasn’t in trouble, but I just needed to hold her for a while.

She explained that she’d gone to the bathroom and it took a while and when she’d come back her friends were gone.  Not wanting to wander through the neighbors house alone she decided to wait and just played in the bedroom assuming they’d be back.  She didn’t hear me screaming outside.

I was not quite right for the rest of the day.  I just couldn’t shake the felling of terror I’d experienced and my heart ached for another nearby family who recently lost their six-year-old when she was taken from her bed in the middle of the night.  I can only begin to imagine the grief and loss they’ll be forced to endure.  Always wondering what could we have done.

Now that a few days has passed, I am more myself and I’d like to make this a useful experience.  Not one where I just completely overreacted and scared the whole neighborhood.

So here’s the question…What can we do to keep our kids safe?  I’m taking suggestions because I just don’t know.  I’d like to think I keep a more watchful eye than most over my kids, but you can’t shadow them where ever they go.

I thought about getting a GPS fashion bracelet to have her wear so I could always track her down.  I looked on-line and I didn’t really see a product like that.

Is there anything that can be done besides vigilant supervision?

I’m a T-Mobile customer and I recently learned about some features they offer.  It’s called Family Where.  It basically lets you track your family’s phones on an on-line map.  It can even be set up to send alerts when they travel outside your set boundaries.  I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea at the time, but now it sounds great, except my kids are young and don’t have phones.

Should they have phones? When is the right time to give the kids phones?

I used to worry about giving a kid a phone and getting an $800 bill.  I also learned from my friends at T-Mobile that there are all kinds of parental controls that allow you to set the max amount of texts and minutes.  You can set hours that the phone will and won’t work (like after 10 p.m. or during school) You can set numbers that will always be blocked or numbers like mine that will always work.

Knowing all that makes me think a child could reasonably use a phone earlier.

What do you think about child safety?  What can we do besides take a chill pill?  Moms unite! Help me figure this out.

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8 Responses to How Do I Keep My Kids Safe From The Unthinkable?

  1. So glad that your little girl is ok. I would have done the same thing. I am a super vigilant mama bear. My children are young – all under the age of five – so it hasn’t been too hard so far. I know it will be more difficult as they go to school and get older.

    I think teaching them about safety in age appropriate ways is a good idea. Do you remember the Safety Kids? I remember listening to the tapes and having the coloring books. I think I need to get that for my kiddos. It taught about stranger danger, saying no to drugs, knowing your telephone number, etc.

    Thanks for the post! It is definitely good food for thought. I’ll be thinking about the cell phones, too.

  2. Elise says:

    I read a book called Free-Range Kids: How to raise safe, self-reliant kids. I think this helped me a lot. It’s kinda the opposite advice you’re looking for, but it’s definitely worth the read. I don’t agree with 100% of the book, but it has helped me be a little more sane with a baby.

    • Elise- I’m so pleased you wrote this. I had a neighbor a few houses ago (we are movers…) who recommended that book to me and I had forgotten all about it! Now I’m going to read it. Thanks!

  3. Oh man…I wish I had some brilliant input. My oldest is still a baby at 2 years old and I’m an uber paranoid mamma…if you get any good input…I’d LOVE to hear it. That phone thing sounds way cool, but like you said…at what age is it good for your kid to have a cell phone?

  4. Lindsay Young says:

    Lets start a business, you and me… Kind of like on*star… But for kids. A bracelet, a pin, a charm for their backpack… Something that can be tracked. Sounds brilliant if you ask me!

  5. Becky says:

    I am so glad that your daughter is safe. I know this feeling. I have a wanderer. She is only 4 but likes to wander out of our yard and to the neighbors house all the time. Twice I have ran inside to use the potty or grab something and have come out and she has just been gone! I struggle with this all the time.

    All I can think to do is HAMMER into her head what is right and try to help her understand stranger danger. There are a lot of bad things that happen in the world. Unfortunately, we can’t protect them from everything. We just have to do our best, pray, and let God take care of the rest.

    Oh, but if you do the on*star thing for kids…I will be ALL OVER that! :)

  6. Tiffany says:

    Oh I wish that we could protect our kids from everything in the world. I wish that we could make sure that nothing bad ever happened to them. I would love to be able to make sure that my kids were always safe. Unfortunately we can’t. I have to agree with Becky–all you can do is teach, teach, teach, teach, and then give the rest to God. Not what you, or I, wanted to hear I know!

  7. gina says:

    I am happy to hear that I am not the only mother that worries about stuff like this. There have been ‘moments’ where my little boy has been out of my sight, I cannot imagine what 2 minutes felt like. Glad everything was okay.