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One dad's radical plan to save his daughter from abduction

I don’t like admitting this, but, if I’m being honest, I really want to put a microchip in my six-year-old daughter.

I want to take my daughter to the equivalent of a veterinarian and say, “Hey, you know those identification microchips that people insert under the skin of their border collies? I want you to do that to my daughter right now.” And I will look at my daughter and shrug and say, “It’ll be OK. I’ll buy you ice cream afterwards.”

And, once the procedure is done, I want to have COMPLETELY unrealistic expectations about what that microchip can do. I want that microchip to be GPS-enabled, so I’ll know where my daughter is at all times. I want that microchip to give me a constant feed of biometric readings, providing me with real-time alerts if she’s ever injured or in distress. And I want that microchip to connect directly to my cell phone the SECOND my daughter finds herself in a situation where she honestly, legitimately needs my help.

Now, before you start in on me, dear readers, I know this is a bad thing to WANT.

I know that’s not how those microchips work, and I know that this entire scenario is completely unrealistic and more than a little morally repellent.

But, as a parent, as I sit at home and watch the news stories unfold about a man in Cleveland imprisoning three girls in his house for TEN YEARS, subjecting them to untold horrors and violations, the irrationality centers in my brain begin firing like spark plugs and I find myself lying awake at night, creating crazy and elaborate scenarios for how I could make sure that something like that could never, ever happen to MY daughter.

My 3am mind pitches concepts like:

  • I could give my daughter a cell phone at age seven, a GPS smart-phone that could never be turned off or run out of battery or never, ever leave her side.
  • I could quit my job and become a professional “companion” parent, dropping her off and picking her up from school every day and never letting her leave my sight in the meantime.
  • I could develop my brain’s inherent psychic abilities, so that, if my daughter was ever abducted and held captive only a few miles from home, I could IMMEDIATELY sense wherever she was because I’m her father – DAMMIT – and that’s what fathers do.

Again, all of those scenarios are INSANE. They are. But there are enough nuggets of paranoid truths in each one that I find myself returning to them again and again whenever I catch a glimpse of something horrible on CNN and I mentally turn the corner into the back alleys of my darkest places.

I have moments where I honestly think that a cell phone might be the easiest (and most socially acceptable) way to equip my daughter with a GPS tracker. I obsess about whether I’m spending enough time with my daughter and whether, if I worked less, I could somehow be able to keep her appreciably safer. And I really, really want to believe that, if a man kidnapped my daughter and imprisoned her in a nearby location, that I would just KNOW – I would KNOW in my GUT – exactly how to find and save her.

And, in my most troubled daydreams, I keep coming back to that mythical microchip, that subcutaneous security blanket that could constantly assure me that my daughter is fine and resting comfortably EXACTLY where I want her to be.

Don’t get me wrong – I am well aware that these fantasies are flawed at best, psychotic at worst. As seductive as the idea of the microchip is, if it actually did exist, I don’t know if I could pull the trigger and get it implanted into my child. When I’m not imagining worst-case scenarios involving my daughter, I’m normally a big believer in civil liberties and privacy rights. And I know in my soul, if such a microchip existed, eventually, it would be used to violate my daughter’s personal freedoms – either by the government or her school district or the nefarious “terms and services” agreements put forth by almost every social-networking platform in existence.

Anything that tries to sell me the lie of parental omniscience, is just as insidious and destructive as any imagined horror that could possibly be lurking around the corner of my suburban neighborhood.

The microchip would be used, in some way, to CONTROL her, and most of these paranoid fantasies are arising specifically because I do not want ANYONE to control my daughter.

Except me.

And I HATE that impulse. I hate that I want to control her. But, as a parent, I have to acknowledge that that impulse is THERE – it exists inside me – and I have to fight every day to figure out how to be a “good parent” when I have impulses like that screaming in the back of my mind.

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I would NEVER actually have my daughter “chipped,” but the cell phone idea might happen at some point, and I’m going to have to hope that I’m a strong enough person to not use that phone and its capabilities to violate my daughter’s trust. I am always working to spend as much time as possible with my daughter, but I know, as she gets older, I’m going to have to accept that there will be long stretches in the day when I’m just not going to be sure where she is.

And, if my daughter is ever abducted – and this is a rough one – I would need to accept the fact that, in that situation, I would most likely be powerless. I wouldn’t have an inherent “dad-sense” that would lead me right to her. I wouldn’t be able to sniff her out like a bloodhound. I could walk past the location of her imprisonment every day and maybe never know she was inside. I would be EXACTLY like the families of the victims of the Cleveland kidnapper. They did everything they could for their children and more, but, sometimes, the world is a cruel place and you’re powerless to do anything about it.

I still have a very, very hard time accepting that I can’t will a happy ending into existence for my kid by the force of my parental love alone. I don’t want anyone controlling my daughter, but learning to live with such a fundamental lack of control – having such a limited ability to affect how my daughter interacts with the world around her – is one of the hardest things I’ve had to come to terms with as a parent.

I’ve had to accept that this is just how my life is now. This is what being a parent is to me. I sit and I hear about the horrors of the world, from Cleveland to North Korea, and my mind tries to convince me that I have the power to make things different for my daughter. And, while my mind constantly tries to sell me on various paths of actions – Self-Defense classes! Private schools! Outlet covers! Guns! – it’s up to a deeper part of me, either my conscience or my soul, to tell me whether or not those paths make sense or whether they’re just coming out of a place of pure paranoid fantasy.

I’m never going to be rid of the impulses. I will always have some part of me that will want to keep my daughter on a physical or metaphorical tether. I just need to accept that part of my job as a dad is to deal with those voices in my head in the most constructive way possible. Granted, that description almost makes me sound like Dexter, Showtime’s benign serial killer, but, if I need to co-parent with my “dark passenger” to give my daughter the best life possible, so be it. That’s what I’ll do.

So I’ll sit here and imagine the capabilities of that magical kid-tracking microchip – Could it prevent objectionable images from reaching her brain? Could it teach her Chinese? – and pray that it never actually comes on the market.

Because, sometimes, I’m weak. Because, sometimes, I’m afraid I might buy it. Because, sometimes, in my darkest dad moments, in those late-night moments steeped in fear and loss, I’m still not positive that my brain can tell the difference between real control and the illusion of control. And anything that blurs that distinction, anything that tries to sell me the lie of parental omniscience, is just as insidious and destructive as any imagined horror that could possibly be lurking around the corner of my suburban neighborhood.

Yes, some part of me wants to put a tracking microchip in my daughter, but an even bigger part of me wants to live in a world where I won’t ever have to make that choice.

This article originally appeared at The Good Men Project. Other great reads on the site include

—photo by fdecomite/Flickr

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