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What's Your Secret Code?

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This mom says every family needs one.

Teen in public phone

Christina Montoya Fiedler: When I was in grade school, my mom made up a secret code word that only my brother and I knew. If we called and we were in trouble, if someone else other than her had to pick us up from school, if anything seemed out of the ordinary, we would invoke those magic words. The code word was "Gary Gnu," our favorite character from the popular '80s kids show, "The Great Space Coaster."

We thought it was just silly until one day, our mom actually enforced it. My brother and I went to a local Catholic elementary school, where all the moms were prompt in picking their children up after the last bell rang. So, as time passed, and we were the only ones sitting on the school steps for what seemed like hours, a car pulled up. It was our mom's PTA friend, who we did not know very well. She said she was there to pick us up because my mom had an emergency to take care of. My brother and I were hesitant, as we knew we weren't supposed to get into a car with anyone unless our mom said it was OK. My brother and I profusely refused the ride, until she uttered the words, "Gary Gnu," and with that, we hopped in.

A secret code word can save your child's life in dangerous situations. Luckily, ours was not life-threatening, but it could have been if the person coming to "pick" us up was actually a deranged child 'napper.

In the case of an abducted teen that was murdered in downtown Los Angeles this week, she had called her parents twice and was never heard from again. Her parents did not pick up on any anxiety or fear in her voice, but why would they? Her questions were not out of the ordinary. She was asking how to withdraw money from a credit card at an ATM. Police later learned that the murder was the result of a robbery gone wrong. If she'd had a secret code that she could have used while on the phone with her parents, it might have saved her life.

I fully intend to develop a secret code with my son, and to practice it, in case (heaven forbid) he ever has to use it. Believe me, I'm already thinking of a good one right now.

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
littlepeapie July 29, 2009, 9:15 PM

There was some child predator special that was on HBO years ago when my brother and I were little…after we saw that, we invoked the secret code word…and even though I am 30 today, mom and I were talking about it other day and were reminding one another that we’d still use that code word…..we also mention “Diet Dr Pepper” to one another when we are on the phone and there are other ears in the room and we can’t talk freely!

RachelAZ July 30, 2009, 2:02 AM

Good reminder! I had one with my mom too and fully intend to have one with my kids!

Uly July 31, 2009, 3:37 PM

“A secret code word can save your child’s life in dangerous situations. Luckily, ours was not life-threatening, but it could have been if the person coming to “pick” us up was actually a deranged child ‘napper.”

And how often does that happen, exactly?

Anonymous August 1, 2009, 2:28 AM

better safe than sorry, uly

Alletis August 30, 2009, 1:47 AM

It only takes once!

Fruitfulvine2 October 30, 2009, 3:35 AM

This was an eye opener for me. I need to discuss this with my husband and do one.

Tofu November 11, 2009, 12:39 PM

When I was growing up our secret code word was “rainbow” We never had to use it though.

I had forgotten all about that, thank you for reminding me. When my son is a little older we will create one.

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