I must say that I enjoyed doing Glendene’s blogtalk show this evening. She is a wonderful woman, and put into words so much of what I have felt. Her own daughter, Jessie Foster, has been missing for seven years, and she said, “The only bad thing that has happened to us is Jessie being missing.” All the rest, she said, that has come afterwards, has been filled with good things. If you don’t have a missing child, that may be hard to understand, but I understand it perfectly. It is the people who fill up your life, the tremendous amount of love and the depth of understanding and experience. That you yourself are able to somehow reach out and touch others through your own grief, and sometimes even help them or add something to their lives, is a wonderful thing. It is the light of our children who are lost still shining out into the world. “The person who took Jessie was not able to take our family down,” she said. And yes, I understand so perfectly, and it is so wonderful to hear this from another parent of a missing child.
During the show I spoke on the phone to a woman named Stephanie who said she has a 14-year old son. I made a note during intermission because I wanted to mention something to her, but it’s amazing how you can spend an hour talking and never get to everything you meant to say! As much as we may try to protect our children, there comes a time when they are going to go out into the world, and that happens during the teenage years. So they may weigh 100-150 pounds, and they may be 5 to 6 feet tall — that doesn’t mean they can’t be victims, and it doesn’t mean we moms worry any less about them. In fact, if anything we are probably going to worry more.
I’ve always said that I think that cell phones are the greatest child safety devices ever invented. My oldest son had become a teenager before cell phones, and … well, we won’t even talk about that. But they were just starting to become widely available as his younger siblings reached their teenage years, and each of the kids in turn got one. Now I will admit that I used to think that the purpose of a cell phone was for me to be able to call them every 15 minutes and ask if they were okay, where they were, what they were doing, and with whom. I will admit, I annoyed even myself. And eventually I figured out that my frequent calls didn’t actually do anything to keep them safe. In fact, if anything it endangered them, if I happened to call while they were driving.
The came smart phones. I am partial to the iPhone myself for a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones is the Find My Friends app. My older daughter actually told me about this. She thought it was pretty cool and she actually signed up for it and encouraged me to. Then I told the rest of the kids, and for the most part they thought it was okay and signed up for it. You can’t add someone on this app without their permission. My younger son seemed to be opposed to it on some principle I couldn’t figure out. He was over 21, and didn’t have to ask my permission to go anywhere, and it’s not like he has ever been a bad boy. Finally he agreed to do it, and I think he has been happy with the results. Now if he tells me he is going to San Francisco, I don’t call him a half an hour later to see if he got there safely. I just check my app and see that he did, and then I am fine. All the kinds are really happy that I call and check up on them less often, and since nobody has to sneak around nobody cares that I know where they are. (The youngest is 19 now, but that last sentence is a whole topic of conversation in itself that I won’t even begin to engage in here.)
Anyway, I promised a scary story, so here it is. Last week, my 19-year old daughter and her boyfriend had been in rehearsal until late, and had stopped on their way home to get some take-out Chinese food. This was about 9:45 at night. I was actually on the phone with my daughter at the time, talking about her college history class, when all of a sudden her voice drops to a whisper and she says, “Mom, call 911.” “WHAT?” I ask, and she whispers again, “Call 911,” and hangs up.
First let me assure you that my first reaction to this is disbelief. In fact, when I was talking today to Glendene about when I first heard that Michaela had been kidnapped, it was a similar reaction. “No, this can’t be real.” But I tried to call her and she didn’t answer, so I started running around in a panic, waking everybody in the house yelling. I just didn’t know what to do first. The thing is, I not only didn’t know what was going on, or why she had told me to call 911, I didn’t know where she was or what she was doing, because we hadn’t discussed it! So before calling 911 I called up my Find Your Friends app and located her, so I could not tell them what was happening, but I could tell them that she was at the corner of Lake Chabot Road and Castro Valley Boulevard.
Not that they seemed to be swiftly dispatching anybody to that location. They just wanted to ask questions, to know just how I knew that’s where she was. And meanwhile, as you can imagine, I have visions of … well, you know what I have visions of. My son, who is 24 and 6’4″, was putting on his shoes and getting ready to go himself. Before he could leave, though, my daughter called me herself. It turns out that somebody had robbed the restaurant, as well as the three customers who had been there at the time, including my daughter and her boyfriend. They were shaken up, and they’d lost a few dollars, but they were okay. Thank God!
I was also really, really thankful for this app, because without it what could I have done? Nothing. It would have been pretty useless to call 911 and tell them my daughter told me to call, but I don’t know why, and I don’t know where she is. It would have left me powerlessly pacing circles in my living room. But with the Find Your Friends App I had useful information to pass along to 911, and I had a place to go when my daughter needed help.
I have since discovered other parents who use the Find Your Phone app. If your child’s phone is on your account, you can set this up without them even knowing. You just need an e-mail address and the iTunes password for whatever account it is under, which may be yours if your kids don’t have their own bank accounts to use for iTunes purchases. In the event you are trying to get hold of your child and they have forgotten to turn the ringer on their phone back on after school, you can also use the Find Your Phone app to make their phone start making noise so they will pick it up and see your hundred text messages.
Anyway, those are my child safety tips for the day. Stay safe everybody.