UPDATE! The Guardian reports that:
A grammar school boy missing for two months after telling his parents he was bored with his life has been found safe and well.
Arthur Heeler-Frood, 15, who sparked a nationwide hunt, was apparently making his way home when he was recognised on a train and intercepted by the police….
Speaking to the Guardian on Tuesday night, Caroline Heeler-Frood confirmed he was back at home in rural Devon. She said he had not been abroad but said she wanted to have a proper talk to him before she revealed more.
OUR EARLIER POST:
A 15-Year-Old Runs Away — and Maybe That’s Good
In England, a 15-year-old has run away and this thoughtful columnist, Libby Purves, ponders whether or not that might not be a normal reaction to stiflingly safe times. In “Give Teenagers a Good Dose of Vitamin R(isk),” she writes:
When a boy runs away because he is bored, it’s right to ask whether Britain’s culture is stifling our adventurous young.The first few pages of Ken Clarke’s autobiography mention in passing that his Suffolk grandfather ran away to sea at 14 because he couldn’t bear “topping turnips in the rain”. A generation later, Clarke’s father also ran away, at 15…. Benjamin Franklin decamped at 17, Harry Houdini left at 12, James Cook skipped from a job in a grocery and took ship at Whitby. Nearer our time, Steve McQueen escaped a turbulent childhood to join a circus, as did John le Carré..
Down the centuries teenagers have run away, not necessarily from unhappiness but often from homes that cherished them…. Just as girls fled arranged marriages, boys abandoned the family farm, school life or apprenticeship for other ideas or vocations.
As it turns out, the particular teen runaway who has gripped Britain is an extremely well-organized fellow:
He wrote a letter saying: “I have run away because I am bored of my life. Please do not try to find me or make me come home. I don’t know how long I will be away for but it won’t be longer than a year.” He told his parents where to find his neatly bagged school uniform and bike-chain key, and apologised to the restaurant where he worked part-time (impossible not to love the lad). He acknowledged that he was upsetting his parents, but “I have to do this”.
Canny enough to go off-radar, he left his passport, electronics and bank cards and took only cash savings…He saw his siblings’ gap-year adventures, and had been reading George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. It seems not unlikely that he plans to get casual low-grade jobs and given the scale of our grey economy in an age of migrants he probably will. His mother says: “I think he felt he wanted his own adventure . . . to test himself, prove his abilities.”
Not that I’d be thrilled to have a son run away. But it sounds like the mom, however frantic, also understands that basic human drive “to test, to prove” and that this drive is often squelched by a society determined to help, to shield. You can read more about her son, Arthur Heeler-Frood, here. He has been gone for two months. And here’s what Libby says:
Christmas is coming, and anyone can share the shiver of anxiety: the parents have travelled the length of the country, checking hospitals and homeless shelters. Come home, Arthur. But it is worth reflecting on our culture’s compulsory retardation of adulthood. A century ago such a boy was considered a young man fit to earn a living, or fight and die.
And today? Here’s a letter I received from an American the same age as Arthur, just as I was writing my book:
Dear Free-Range Kids: I’m 15 right now and get pretty much no freedom. I’m limited to what’s inside the house and the backyard. I can’t even go as far as the sidewalk — I might be ‘abducted or killed.’ I used to walk to a bus stop, but my dad said it was too dangerous, so he started driving me there (it’s a 5 minute walk!), and eventually he just started driving me to school. Today, after playing video games for two hours or so, I went downstairs and realized that the only things I could do there were eat and watch TV. Watching TV, playing video games, and eating junk food are fun and all, but after even just a few days, it gets old. (I’ve been on winter break for half a week now.) I don’t want my kids (if I ever even have kids) to live like me at all.
Me neither. Here’s to giving our young people the freedom to feel whole, alive, trusting and trusted. – L.