The safety of our children is always of utmost importance. As parents, we breathe a collective sigh of relief when our children learn their address, phone number, and what it means to be “lost”. It is this concept of lost specifically that is most critical. If you do not know you are lost, you will not know how to be found.
We have had brushes with the terror that sweeps over you the minute you realize you do not know where your child is, and worse…they do not know how to get back to you. Sometimes though, you aren’t even aware that a situation is occurring. That happened to us the first time when Kimberly was about two and a half years old. It was not unusual for our front door to be open on a pretty day to let the breeze in. I didn’t know it, but Kimberly had wandered out the door, through the yard and a thin strip of woods. She was found by a neighbor who was driving home. He saw her standing in the middle of the road. He asked her questions to no avail, as she was not verbal at the time. As he walked her up to the house and I saw them coming down the drive through the window I was confused, and then in shock, and then mortified, and finally horrified at the thought of what could have happened.
On other occasions she has wandered off when we have been outside, and calling her name is useless. No response is ever given. You have to physically find her. Luckily, it has not been often, but I can say that is due to an ever vigilant eye. There is no rest, no relax…eyes must be on that child.
This past fall I took the girls to a children’s museum in Raleigh. We played, took a break to eat the lunch we brought, and as I glanced over emails and Facebook on my phone, Kimberly took the opportunity to slip away. I started looking casually, as parents do, until I realized she was not in our immediate vicinity. I extended my search and had Virginia covering other areas. What kept racing through my head was that even if another well-meaning adult tried to help her find me, the likelihood that she would provide them useful information was basically non-existent. I had to find her myself. Eyes on the child, I thought…eyes on the child. We looked and looked. I crossed over into a panic. Just as I was about to insist on a lock-down of the building we saw her playing in a crowded toddler area. I said every prayer and cuss word I know at the same time in my head. As we drove home I thought to myself, I can’t let her be this vulnerable.
About a month later I ordered a ROAD ID that she can wear on her shoe laces. It was the only place I could think to place something that another adult might see and that she would (hopefully) not remove. I haven’t used it yet, but I know I will. It is a small, yet meaningful way I can try to provide both of us (Kimberly and me) with a tiny bit of reassurance that if lost, she can, in fact, be found.
A lovely family friend sent me this information today on a very cool APP that an autism dad has invented. Hopefully others can benefit from his creativity and ingenuity. Because in reality we simply just can’t always have our loving eyes on that child.