Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Runaway Bunny

I had the moment yesterday when panick sets in and your mind goes completely blank.

Yesterday, I was at Target (the Greatland Store, the type that is the Super Duper Size) with my 4 yr old son. He decided to run down the aisle, far away from me, but still within eyesight. I called out for him to return, but he didn't. So after a few more times, I went to go find him and bring him back. I kept looking down different aisles and couldn't find him. Now, I am getting worried. Where the heck could he have run off to?

There were a group of store employees standing in the direction where he had run towards and I asked them if they had seen him. "No, is he lost?" I said "yes", and they immediately got on their radios and ordered a code red or yellow or some color, which meant there is a lost child in the store, and to guard all doors. They then asked me what he was wearing, what color hair he has, etc.

Do you know, I couldn't remember anything? I just knew the color of his jacket and I even told them the wrong hair color. I said light blond, but I meant light brown.

Thankfully, they found him, completely on the other side of the store, in the total opposite direction of where he ran off in. He wasn't upset when we caught up with each other, he only said that he was looking for me, and he got a a little scared, but the nice man walked him back to me.

Thank God, the nice man was a store employee who knew I was looking for my son and was escorting him back to the area where I was at. My little one is very friendly and I can just see him, happily going with a stranger to help find a "lost doggie."

This isn't is the first time this has happen with my children. You just turn your eyes away for a second, and boy are they fast. This has happen twice with my daughter, and OMG, although it's only minutes, if not just seconds that they are gone, it's so scary.


Unknown said...

Wow. Scary.

Kiwi the Geek said...

Maybe you should do what I did. I want my Sweetie to be friendly with people, and there are really very few bad apples. But just in case...

I explained that there are a few mean people who might want to steal a little kid. She can talk to anybody, but if they want to give her something or take her somewhere, she has to refuse. If asked where she lives, she shouldn't tell. If they try to drag her away, she should scream and kick and make a fuss. Then, the most important part: we role-played. At a store, I let her wander a little and then pretended to be somebody else.

- Hello there! You're cute!
- Thank you.
- Do you like these pretty dresses?
- Yeah.
- Which one is your favorite?
- The pink one.
- I'd like to buy it for you.
- No, thank you.
- Oh, but I would love to buy something for a cute little girl like you.
- I'm gonna find my stepmom.
- Here, would you like some candy?
- No. <walking away>
- <grabs her arm> Come with me, I'll help you find her.
- No! I want my stepmom! This person is stealing me! She's not my mom! Kiwi!!

Of course, she doesn't yell at full volume when we're practicing. She loves this game so much she wants to play it long after I've gotten my point across, and I feel more confident that if it ever really happens, she won't be too shy to take care of herself.

Unknown said...

That's really smart, Kiwi - but what if she takes the acting too far?! :)

Kiwi the Geek said...

Well, she's not exactly a professional. I'm sure anybody could tell she was acting. If not, she certainly wouldn't be acting when somebody tried to take her away from me! She has a colossal fear of abandonment caused by the custody mess.

A person listening to the whole exchange would also hear me coaching her what to say, and praising her when she starts 'yelling' at the end. It's not a polished performance at all.

If pressed, I could prove that I'm her stepmother. The challenge would be kinda reassuring, that in real life, the 'thief' would be equally challenged. Generally, I think there's more risk of bystanders ignoring cries for help, as has happened in some rape cases.

Unknown said...

That's really smart - thanks!

Stacey said...

OMG, how scary. Thank goodness it turned out well. Something happening to my child is my worst nightmare.

Another meshugannah mommy said...

When he was two, my son ran away from me at Target, ran OUT INTO THE PARKING LOT and up and down the rows between the cars. I ran after him, screaming all the way, but he was so fast I could not catch him. I finally cornered him in one of those cart corrals. Needless to say, he did not go to Target again for several years.

I feel your pain.

cruisin-mom said...

S.T.: when my 19 year old was 4, we lost him at Sea World. Oy...we were in the play area where they could climb and cross this bridge...we were watching and then suddenly...GONE! We called and called...when someone finally said "is that who you're looking for?" We looked up to where this person was pointing...there was my son...on the bridge crying. He had gotten lost when climbing, and just stood there in one spot. The whole thing took about 5 minutes...longest 5 minutes of my life! So I understand...and isn't it strange how you can't remember anything in those moments?

... Is the Window to Our Soul said...

Thanks all.

It's definitely time to have a talk with him about strangers. My daughter likes to be aggressive sometimes, so she loves the idea that she can be as mean as she wants to a bad stranger. I even taught her to yell "fire", since unfortunately, that seems to get more people's attention.

It's nice though, when you do see people really getting involved. I live very close to a city park and sometimes when we leave, my daughter wants to walk home by herself. It's within a residential area, so I will let her, but drive along the side of her. The last time I did this, I had three or more people, in their cars, and on the street, ask me what I was doing and asked my daughter if she was ok and if she knew me. I explained to them what I was doing, and then thanked them for noticing and asking. I am sure all those people have my license plate number.

Anonymous said...

We went with my sister's family to Disneyworld about 5 years ago and used walkie-talkies between our groups to stay connected. Still, at one point one of her kids got lost. We were all on the "It's a small world" ride when we noticed he was not with us. Turns out that Snow White found him and sat with him for about 20 minutes until the reunion was coordinated.

Hey - just another great reason to live in Israel...there's no such thing as a "lost kid" in a mall when everyone is considered family and children are regarded with the highest priority, even by complete strangers.

Pope Lizbet said...

Thank G-d your kid is OK. That is so, so scary. When I was a nanny, the mother in the situation lectured me because I made the three-year-old hold my hand when we went shopping without her (I still contend that she was crazy to get mad about that; I did not want to lose track of a child to whom I had no legal relationship and then try to explain that to the security guards).

My mom has told me that she used to worry about me because, while I knew and could parrot that you never talk to or go anywhere with a stranger, I was also wont to say "But if you never ever talk to strangers, Mommy, how will you ever make new friends?"

I survived to adulthood. I still talk to strangers. I also carry a set of keys on a chain that has, at least once, been delivered to the side of the head of someone who tried to get me into their car. It's all about balance.

Yonah, that sounds great, but I think that even in Israel there are probably a few bad apples whose 'highest priority' with children is not one that ought to be encouraged. I hate it and wish it weren't so, but there it is.

PsychoToddler said...

My mom says I used to hide in the clothing racks.

... Is the Window to Our Soul said...

Parcequilfaut - thanks. Before I had kids and I used to see parents with these "leashes", I thought how bizarre and humilating to the child. But my daughter was forever not listening and running off and shopping was always a challenge with her. So I actually bought one of those harnesses/straps and it really kept my sanity and allowed the independence that she craved. I totally understand you wanting to hold his hand. Nothing wrong with being too protective in a crowded store.

I also agree with your comment to Yonah about Israel. When I lived in Israel (20 yrs ago) I did feel safer there than in the US, but times have changed and irregardless to that, pedophiles are everywhere and you can't ever let your guard down when your children are involved.

PT: Clothing racks are a favorite with kids. A mom just told me a story that she took her daughter and friend shopping with her and the girls decided to hide in the center of the clothing rack and were very quiet. The mom kept calling for them and they would not come out because they thought it was a game. Finally, on the verge of tears, screaming for her daughter, the girls came out of hiding. First came the hugs and then came the spankings.

Ayelet said...

I "misplaced" my oldest son when he was a toddler of two. Granted it was in a judaica store in Boro Park but my chest felt so tight that I could hardly breathe. The whole thing lasted probably one minute (forever!). I found him sitting cross-legged in the children's book section. I started hugging and kissing him and telling him how worried I was. He was totally puzzled as he told me "Mommy, I wasn't lost. I was just reading!"

Another important thing to remember is to teach your precious kids who is safe to go to if they can't find you. Good ideas would be the cashier, a store worker with a name tag, and obviously a police officer. If none of these are in sight find a mommy with children. Teach your kids your name, their address and phone number. I make it into a song and teach it as young as 2-3. Start the song with the words "My phone number is" so they know what to provide when asked for their phone number. See the missing children's website for more info and a kit.

Rebecca said...

I have that kit! it's great! That must have been so scary for you. I can't imagine going through that. Just to add to what Ayelet said...teach them that if someone does grab them (I know it's scary to teach them this but it's even scarier for them not to know it) instead of screaming help (no one will listen) scream"you are not my mommy (or daddy) on the top of their lungs. People will listen. Part of my requirements for my masters was taking an abduction course and that is one of the things taught.

Pope Lizbet said...

That "you're not my MOMMY" thing could have totally gotten me into trouble at one point I can think of (although it didn't, G-d be thanked) because that was one of Ketchup's favorite things to yell during a tantrum. He was right; I'm not his mommy.

Sweettooth: thanks. I don't care HOW safe your corner of the world may be or appear to be; there are still people out there who are Not OK Folks, and it's no excuse to relax your guard.