A digital camera is a great tool for parents to use when trying to keep children safe. Children change rapidly, especially in the first few years from birth. An up-to-date picture can save a child’s life, especially if a child is missing. .
Digital cameras are small, inexpensive, and easy to use. There small size makes it easy to store them in a purse or pocket. Even the inexpensive models take a decent picture, and are effective at documenting a child’s permanent features, a mole on the chin, a scar from a fall off a slide, or a birthmark.
One on the most important lessons I learned to protect my children on a family outing involves my digital camera. We went to the Magic House in Saint Louis, my son was 4 years old, and my daughter was 8 years old. My parents, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew who were 3 years old accompanied us.
As we entered, the Magic House there was a large floor to ceiling display of colorful candy, which provides a colorful background for pictures. I took pictures of both children here. A short while later this would prove to be a lightbulb idea for future outings.
At the Magic House, there are three floors of tunnels, slides, and rooms full of imaginative and creative fun things to do. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way, some of the tunnels go up one-way and come down another way. We were in a staff supervised area, meaning you come in with a parent and you do not leave the area with out a parent. There are employees at the entrances of the play area to be sure children do not leave with out a grown up.
My daughter and son went up a tunnel and were to come down a slide together, only he went down the red one and she went down the blue one and they came out in different areas. She came back after about 5-10 minutes of looking and waiting for her brother to tell me, he was missing in action. I was not yet growing concerned; as I knew, he could not leave the child area.
I began looking throughout the child area. There was much noise and chaos. I had been looking about 5 minutes when I ran into my father and I said I could not find Evan. He started looking. Then I saw my Mother a few minutes later and she began looking for him as well. Then I made my sister and BIL aware. He stayed with my nephew and my sister started looking as well.
I told her I was going out of the watched area to walk all the way around to the other entrance to see if he was out there playing with the other games. My sister told employees a four-year-old boy was missing. She asked them to watch the exit doors and not to let anyone leave. I began to feel a panic building in my chest and it was becoming difficult to breathe.
I remember that as I walked around the area I began thinking several things. I thought, “Erika if you do not find him when you get all the way around then you is going to call 911 on your cell phone and notify the Kirkwood police your son is missing.” I also began to think about the pictures that I had taken as we walked in just a few hours earlier. I was grateful I had crisp clean and recent up-to-date pictures of my son to show the police and anyone who would be looking for him.
My son is three and a half feet, sandy blonde hair, and blue eye, weighs about 45 pounds, was wearing blue jeans, a green shirt, and sneakers. An oral description like the one above would describe about ˝ of all the boys ages 4 to 6 in the Magic House and slow down the search for my son.
I began to realize that by having a current picture on my camera I could show people EXACTLY what he looked like today and EXACTLY what he had been wearing today. My son has a birthmark on his neck, about the size of a half dollar and it looks like a faint spill of coffee. They call them Café Aula it spots and they usually never go away.
As I rounded, the corner there was my son walking back into the parent area with my mother. He had accidentally followed another family out thinking it was his family and found he was alone. He had stood against the wall across from the play area, unsure where to go or what to do and waited searching for a familiar face.
When I reached him, we both hugged each other and sat on the floor crying with relief. Both of us sensing the fear the other had held at the time. On the way home from our adventure we discussed the digital camera and how it would have come in handy to have a current picture of EXACTLY what someone looks like they are wearing at the time they disappear.
My daughter suggested we take a picture every time we are planning a BIG outing where the chances are greater at separation happening on an outing. Thankfully, we have not needed to use this plan, but I sure have a piece of mind knowing my memory will not fail me if something happens and I have to remember what one of them was wearing. I will simply pull out my camera and show the person helping me that my child looks like, pointing out his or her distinguishing features.