Always Have a Plan
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Always Have a Plan

I’m always amazed at how seldom parents prepare their children for times when they might ‘lose’ each other.

When my boys were little (ages 4–6), we often went to the Coquitlam Mall. Sometimes I went there twice a day and would forget where I parked my car. The mall was big back then and even more expansive now. I learned to park my car in the same area every time. My instructions to my boys were that if we got separated from each other (pre-cell phone era—too young to have a cell phone) they should…

  1. Find a clerk in a store with a name tag on their shirt—someone behind a counter.
  2. Tell them your mom is lost (you are not lost—your mom is lost).
  3. Ask them to call me on their intercom system.

Several weeks later we were at the mall, and suddenly I realized my kids were nowhere to be seen. I was just about to search for them when I heard my name over the intercom “Mrs. Mackay, would you please come to the cigar store on the second level?” I hurried to the store.

There were my boys, with huge grins on their faces. They had obviously decided to ‘get lost’ from me. I ignored the ruse because I thought it was an excellent trial run which they followed to a T, even though it was several weeks since I gave them the plan. In front of my boys, I told the clerk how proud I was of them for handling a difficult situation well. I wanted them to hear me tell another adult about how well they carried out my instructions. After we arrived home, I told their father about it, so HE understood the plan too.

I never called them on their ‘little adventure’ because I didn’t think they needed to know that I knew (LOL). We actually never got separated from each other again at the mall or at any other place. I felt good knowing they knew what to do if it ever happened.

For 6 years, I was a Mountain Host at Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler, B.C. The two mountains together have over 200 runs and 1-mile vertical skiing from top to bottom. This was the pre-cell phone era. Even so, cell phones crash or run out of charge. It is easy to lose each other in such a large ski area.

Occasionally, I was asked to help parents find their children. One day I was asked to help a father search for his 10-year-old daughter. As we were riding up the chairlift (knowing the answer and at the same time programming him for what to do next time), I asked “What were your plans with your daughter if you ever got separated from each other? Where did you plan to meet?”

Worried and somewhat distraught he answered, “We didn’t have any.”

I responded, “That’s too bad cuz it is so easy to lose each other on this big mountain.”

Luckily, it didn’t take very long to find her. She was at the bottom of one of the larger chairlifts with some other kids building a snowman. The relief on his face when he saw her was palpable.

I told his daughter I was impressed with her choice to stay at the bottom of a major lift. I didn’t remind him to have a plan next time. I didn’t think he needed reminding.

It’s important to lay out a simple plan when people, families, and friends are unfamiliar with their surroundings. Even when operating around the home, it is good to have concrete plans.

When I visited Australia last January, my cell phone went dead when I was out and about. Without a map and a cell phone, I had to rely on the goodwill of others. Fortunately, in Australia, there are many, many good-hearted people. I was never ‘lost’ for long. I was apprehensive about how dependent I had become on my phone/internet.

Now, even in my own city/country, I carry a fully-charged battery pack, so I can charge my phone whenever I need. Always be prepared for life’s surprises!

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