Last week, as my kids played outside after school, a little girl 3 hours from our home was snatched by a man in a truck as she walked down the street. Neighbors tried to stop her from getting in the truck, and they chased the abductor to be able to give the police a good description of who he was. (I seriously cannot imagine their heartbreak, knowing they were so close to saving her.) 3 hours later, when police found the man, the little girl was already dead, and her murderer had cleaned up the scene.
Of course, we didn’t know that last part at 6:45 that night, when the first Amber Alert came over our phones.
The sound is startling, and for good reason…it’s supposed to get your attention. I don’t mind it getting my attention. I do, however, mind it getting my kids’ attention.
Because that’s what happened that night. Luke and Bennett were sitting at the table eating dessert (Jack Henry had thankfully already gone upstairs), and asked what the noise was. I told them what it was, but immediately tried to assure them that this is very rare, and that a stranger kidnapping almost NEVER happens.
I went on to describe how many times, if there is a kidnapping, it’s a non-custodial parent or mentally ill or on-drugs friend/family member who has taken the children. Of course, this lead to a long discussion of how a parent can “kidnap” their own child, and explanations of what kinds of things make a parent unfit to care for their children, etc. We’ve talked about these things many times in regards to foster care and adoption, but not in the light of kidnapping.
In the morning, when I woke up, I realized that one of my kids had gotten up in the night and turned on the hallway light without coming in to wake me up. Only one kid does this in our family: Bennett. I asked him if he’d had a bad dream, and he said yes, but clarified that more than that, he just woke up a few times and couldn’t easily fall back asleep, thinking about being kidnapped.
Totally natural reaction to our conversation the night before (and thankfully, he’s slept fine since then).
That evening, as the 2 older boys and I drove home from JH’s baseball practice where we’d dropped him off with Matt, they had more questions about kidnappings and drug use and custody. Lots of comments from me about how an adult should never need to ask a kid for help with something (directions, finding a lost dog, etc), and that it’s not disrespectful to just scream/run away/into the house if that ever happened at our house or a friend’s.
All conversations that were informative and beneficial to them, I think. All meant to put their minds at ease, too, about the frequency with which stranger abduction occur.
However, I don’t need that phone Amber Alert freaking them out with regularity. Because the truth is, since last spring, I think I’ve gotten 4 Amber Alerts on my phone. And I’m telling them that it doesn’t happen frequently, but I’m thinking that in a kid’s head, that number might not seem infrequent.
I turned off the Amber Alert notification on my phone. I’m thankful to a lady I know from church who told me this was an option. I’m on my phone/Facebook/news sites frequently enough to see the news if something happens locally that I need to concerned about.
Some will call this being overprotective, and that’s fine. I don’t think it is; there’s plenty of bad in the world that kids are exposed to now and even more as they get older and can handle the information better. They’ve been exposed to plenty of tragedy for kids of their age. Just 2 years ago, they had to process the deaths of 2 schoolmates.
For more information on ways to talk to your kids about strangers, this post is good…not perfect, but lots of great concepts to try to teach your kids.
EDITED TO ADD: Please don’t read this as me not caring about someone else’s child who has gone missing. Like I said above, I’m plenty “plugged in” to get the alerts myself frequently without my boys having to worry about it.
If you’re interested, and have an iPhone, here are the instructions: settings>notification center>government alerts (all the way at the bottom of the page)>amber alerts. If you have an Android device, google the name of your phone and “turn off amber alerts.”