Given recent events, like alligators in the happiest place on earth or mass shootings pretty much all over the place, parents (and babysitters, and aunts and uncles and cousins or any caregiver who takes little people out into the world) should be wondering how to protect kids in a crowd. During the summer, it's an even bigger question because we're taking kids to community pools, amusement parks, or even just the movie theater on a rainy day, and it's scary to think about what could go wrong. It's super scary.
Thankfully, the Clovis Police Department in California posted a special "Tip of the Day" to their Facebook page this week about how to keep track of your kids in a crowded place — seemingly dangerous or not — just in case the worst case scenario happens.
The Department's official recommendations are smart, if not a little bit chilling. They suggest making sure you take a picture of your children before going in — which, luckily, most parents are all doing anyway because we all live on social media or at least store good snaps in our phones. Facebook-ing your Fourth of July fireworks should be fun and you should keep it that way. But take a picture, the police say.
They also suggest writing your phone number or contact information on a liquid bandaid, which is actually a pretty cool way to let your kids get back to you if they're lost in the crowd and too young to remember seven digits in a row. Tell them it's a tattoo, just like mommy's.
It all seems pretty ominous to be taking a fun family selfie in the name of using it as a "missing kid" picture on the evening news or labeling your 7-year old with your home phone number wrapped around their wrist before a county fair, but it's also realistic. And they aren't bad ideas.
But there are also more simple ways to bring a tot into a crowd and make sure they know how to find you. My mother was an anxious mother and sure, being raised thinking that you will be abducted is not a great way to live, but I've used some of her old tactics at many a concert and big crowds even as as adult.
And you know what? There's a thin line between being over-protective and just freaking smart. That's why that silly sounding Band-Aid option seems harmless, when mixed with some old school methods that would have worked better for me and my brother, always on the run, with a liquid Band-Aid or a cheap burner phone on vacation.
Here's what I mean:
The Old 'Stranger Danger' Safety Techniques Are BS
Police officers can be hard to spot in a crowd if you're tiny. My brother and I, in the above picture, were little AF the same day we "disappeared." While we were always told police were the best option, my mom had also always suggested finding a "stand" or any official looking place on the Ocean City, New Jersey boardwalk. My brother and I lost track of our parents, extended family, and each other at an arcade for three hours on Memorial Day weekend and separate police golf carts found us eating taffy at a lifeguard stand and talking shop at a mini golf place, respectively. That picture above is us after the find, almost none the wiser.
My mother has never recovered from the three hour incident.
My brother and I are now very good at shooting the shit with random people.
Strangers, no. But people manning desks and registers or boardwalk games have an obligation, we should all freaking hope. If it had been 2016, we would have had a cell phone number to call or a liquid Band-Aid, instead we chilled while the adults (or teens stuck with a lost 8-year old) did the paging.
"Picking A Spot" Doesn't Always Work
This is the classic and sure, little people might not be able to find one by themselves. Eight-year-old me once circled Six Flags in New Jersey three times looking for the "ice cream place" we started the day at. I was obviously a runner. In modern stadiums and crowds, this can be really confusing if you're 3 feet tall an every other level has an "ice cream place." But it can work. If I had a picture of our parking lot space to show the security guards who finally noticed me, I would have been from the future. And I would have been found an hour earlier.
Because Why Not Tag Them?
I'm not even being crazy here, but if police are asking parents to write kids' contact info on invisible Band-Aids, why not. I was that asshole kid who would have wandered into the crowd and into the gorilla exhibit, and I swear — it wasn't on purpose. And the kid regrets it immediately. It doesn't have to be scary or weird, but, like, put a ring on it.
You could also go kind of Etsy and just stamp a cool chain (doesn't have to be a dog tag) with your tot's contact info on the back. I wear a little heart with my initials on it and as a thirty-something woman walking around New York City late at night, I would seriously consider stamping an emergency contact on the back.
To repeat: I am being completely freaking serious. Or maybe I grew up with an anxious mom watching crime procedurals. Then again, why the hell not?