Sunday, August 5, 2012

Where IS She?

Rachel and her best friend enjoy a meal together.

One day last week, I dropped my six-year-old daughter off at school at 7:00 am, and embarked on a particularly busy day.  I asked a friend if she could pick Rachel up from school because I had a meeting scheduled right at the time school was out at 10:00 am. She agreed.
I  was in the middle of the meeting when my cell phone rang.  Looking at the display, I saw my friend’s name.  Glancing at the clock, I saw it was time for school to be out.  Hmmm. A strange feeling came over me in the second or two it took me to answer, but my friend’s words sent my heart plummeting into the pit of my stomach.
“I’m at the school, and Rachel isn’t there!”
Quick on the heels of that sinking feeling came the inevitable rush of adrenaline, and I went into problem-solving mode. 
“Did you check her classroom?”
“What about the canteen? She might be trying to buy a snack.”
“Yes, I checked there.  I also drove by her best friend’s house to see if she had gone home with her.  She wasn’t there.”
“OK. I’ll be right there.”  Needless to say, the meeting was over.  I got on my motor scooter and headed over to the school.  Where WAS she?  I tried not to think about every parent’s worst nightmare.  There were any number of other possiilities.  But the worst-case scenario kept screaming for attention.  “Oh Lord,” I prayed.  “Please let me find her quickly.”
Thankfully, that prayer was answered. Before I even got to the school, my friend met me on her scooter...with a rather pale-faced Rachel sitting on the back.  My friend had already given her a stern lecture.  She had walked home with a new friend from her first grade class who I knew nothing about. Thankfully, that friend’s mother told Rachel that she couldn’t stay to play because she hadn’t asked for permission first, and then sent her back to the school.  I wasn’t thrilled  permission first, and then sent her back to the school.  I wasn'd gone home with a new friend from her first grade cthat my six-year-old had to walk back to school by herself. She did get back, though, and that was most important.
Needless to say, Rachel and I had a heart-to-heart when we got home.  The seriousness of the situation called for a serious consequence.  Rachel had to stay in her room until lunchtime. For her, social butterfly that she is, having to be alone in her room is about the most effective consequence I could impose.
I have taught Rachel a lot about personal safety.  I’ve made sure she knows vital information that could help her make contact if something ever happened to separate us.  She knows, for instance, what to do if she ever gets lost in a crowded mall.  She knows my cell phone number and our address.  More importantly, she needs to know what to do to keep herself safe to begin with.  Things like never going home with a friend without permission.  Things like always walking with a group of friends, and never alone.  There is more I need to teach her.  This episode just highlighted that need for me.
I am so thankful that this scary situation lasted only about fifteen minutes, although it seemed much longer.  I got a tiny taste of how parents of abducted children must feel.  I hope and pray that more parents will be pro-active in giving their little ones the tools and information that they need to be safe in our crazy world.  We cannot protect our kids from every bad thing that might possibly happen.  We can, however, do our best and trust God to watch over our precious little ones when we can’t.

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