UPDATE! ksihanraee
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.

Read the rest here!


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.


Arthur's Adventure.

Arthur Heeler-Frood, who ran away two months ago, had been reading Orwell’s “Down and Out In Paris and London,” and sounds like he wanted to see how he could get by on his own. 

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  1. Workshop November 15, 2016 at 11:44 am #

    The sooner one learns that he’s more capable than others give him credit for, the better.

    I believe that one of the best things you can do is to leave the place you were born, go away from your friends and your family, and start anew. It certainly doesn’t mean you can’t go back home, but it will let you experience all the mundane details of life that you take for granted.

  2. railmeat November 15, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    Great post.

    And I don’t think there is any ‘maybe’ about it. That young man sets a good example for all of us.

  3. hineata November 15, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    @Workshop – I think the same way, and was actually raised that way too, but boy is that a colonial attitude! I was impressed on visiting various places overseas, and also hanging around my Malaysian rellies a little, that the same wouldn’t be said for many cultures. Lots of groups like to keep their families close, and many are tied to the land they grew up around.

    Not that either is necessarily wrong, just different. Maybe it’s in the genes of us former colonials. ..often our ancestors were on the run from something, or just plain disaffected types ☺.

  4. hineata November 15, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    Of course, ‘running’ doesn’t always help. My husband’s grandmother left China in her teens (with her husband, so not alone but still very young ) and got to Singapore in time to spend a few years in relative peace before being caught up in the Japanese invasion. An adventure, I guess, but one she could have done without ☺. Her home region in Southern China was unaffected by the invasion of Manchuria, so she would have been better off there at the time (until Mao, of course, but then you can’t win ’email all!)

  5. Qute November 15, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    The boy who wrote you about broke my heart. At 15 years old and not being permitted to leave the house sounds like something of a nightmare scenario. It does not at all sound as if he’s being cared for but rather that he’s being imprisoned.

  6. Kemara November 15, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    @Workshop – I so agree! I’m 40 years old and was extremely sheltered growing up. I can’t drive due to poor eyesight and since we lived in the American South away from any big cities with public transportation, my parents had to take my anywhere I wanted to go. I moved out at age 25 and got my first apartment (a 20 minute drive from my parents) where I was able to walk to work. My mom still had to take me shopping, though.

    My next job took me back to the town where I went to college – 2 hours from home. My parents didn’t want me to take it, but in my profession, jobs are hard to come by. I was able to walk to both work and the grocery store. So it was a step up in independence.

    Four years ago, after being laid off, I accepted a very good job three states away. My parents were totally against the idea. How would I get to work? To the store? Luckily, this town has a respectable taxi service. Despite that, the entire move was full of screaming, shouting and tears on all sides. I’m not kidding – it was horrible. My parents insisted on choosing “the best and safest” apartment for me – I had no choice. The rent is nearly $1,000 for a one-bedroom. Although I have begged to go somewhere cheaper, my parents said they would rather help me with the rent payments than have me move somewhere not as nice. I really can’t save because all my money goes to rent, bills and cab fare. I’ve pointed out that if the rent is lower, my parents won’t have to “help” and I can save. But they won’t budge, so I’ve given up fighting.

    These days I see my parents about twice a year – but I still call my Mom every day. I love my independence…I shop, go to the movies and out to eat. But it’s hard when I go home for a visit because my parents aren’t used to it – we fight constantly. I wish I could tell overprotective parents that they aren’t doing their children any favors in the long run.

  7. David H November 15, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    Raising a teenager is like holding a fresh watermelon seed between thumb and forefinger. Use too much pressure, and it will shoot halfway across the room, or the country. (Younger readers may have no idea what I’m talking about. You see, watermelons used to have these black things in them that…oh, never mind.)

  8. Suz November 15, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    I hope that is really the case. He might have been suicidal, and was protecting his family. We had this happen in our family. I think teenagers are more in danger of suicide than any stranger or freak accident.

  9. hineata November 15, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

    Actually I feel like running away myself at the moment. ..wonder if I can join this kid?☺. If the mall re-opens, though, that would probably be far enough for me!

  10. Meg November 15, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

    “….and had been reading George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London.”

    Pretty soon these will be banned for giving children subversive ideas.

    As for a 15 yr old not being allowed anywhere…. *sigh* We are not supposed to be raising children, we are supposed to be raising ADULTS.

  11. Workshop November 15, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    I left my home state to move 1200 miles away. I returned to a place nearby (4 hours from where I grew up) after about 9 years.

    I don’t mind if people have a strong connection to their families, but there is something very powerful about knowing you can make it without that support. Similarly, there are a good number of people I’ve known who have joined the military, and come back far more mature than their age might imply. Give a nineteen year old responsibility for other people in his platoon, and the twenty-three year old who goes back to college is probably far beyond his peers when it comes to accepting responsibility. Not all, of course, but as I watch the cry-bullies protesting throughout the country, it’s obvious that as a group, they’ve never had to do their own laundry.

  12. Curious November 15, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

    Women in my family have run away, for generations, when they were young.
    There is an old folk song from the mountains called “The Wagonner’s Lad”. Joan Baez popularized it ages ago. The first verse tells the problem:
    “Hard luck is the fortune of all womankind.
    “She’s always controlled; she’s always confined.
    “Controlled by her parents until she’s a wife.
    “Then slave to her husband the rest of her life.”

    My female ancestors left home as teenagers for work or marriage. With permission, or without. My mother moved half way across the country and became a person who could change jobs and lifestyles with impunity, as needed. Her mother married at sixteen and moved to a Midwestern city: she then lived in cities on all four coasts. My grandfather’s mother homesteaded from the Appalachian Mountains as a teenager with a baby and another on the way to escape her husband and a restrictive life in Virginia for freedom in Missouri.
    Remember, too, we don’t just run away from, we run away to.
    And we run away to find ourselves.
    Can parents love their kids enough to let them go?

  13. Jessica November 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm #

    Your website targets parents, but this post does make me wonder if teenagers are another audience for your message. The 15-year-old whose parents (really it sounds like they may have mental health issues) do not let him out of the house… he could always rebel. Teenagers do. I’m not suggesting he run away. I am suggesting he call a friend and go to McDonald’s or the movies without his parents’ permission. Compared to what many teens do (including my brother, who gave our parents gray hair), that is so so mild. But it might be thrillingly fun for the kids.

  14. lollipoplover November 15, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

    “Raising a teenager is like holding a fresh watermelon seed between thumb and forefinger. Use too much pressure, and it will shoot halfway across the room, or the country.”

    Although I wouldn’t mind if mine moved across the country, as long as it was a cool place to visit.

    I’ve come to think more and more as a mom to teenagers that parenting is more like teaching swim lessons. The child needs a wall to come back to as they get stronger and more confident, usually a few walls actually, but they will use the wall less and less, just to push off of, as they become a strong swimmer. But when they grab for you as teens- try to really push them off in the right direction. Listen to them. You may not like what they say or how they do it, but at least entertain their wishes and dreams.

    Teenagers are smart. And funny. And compulsive and messy and so very different in maturity levels.
    I worry about the mental health over the physical health of many (not all) of our teens today. The local community social media threads have weekly, sometimes daily posts of teens in danger, when they were last seen, etc. They read at first like the missing teen was last seen getting into a make/model car and it was a kidnapping, but don’t include details that the driver was her teen boyfriend, they may have drug problems, and parents are worried sick but teen left…voluntarily.

    So a teen like Arthur who goes away for months but parents don’t freak out is….kind of awesome.He used his own money (double points!) Shows these parents trust the kid and his judgement. Sometimes it helps to see your life from a different perspective to appreciate what you have. Or feel the need to push far, far off that wall and swim in the deep waters to test your strength.

    Good for you, Arthur.
    Keep reading.
    You can go anywhere in a book.

  15. Jess November 15, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

    Looks like they found him.

    I’m all for adventure, and left home at 17 myself, although boot camp was when I realized that I had never been away from home for more than a week and that was a terrifying feeling. I really liked lollipoplover’s pool analogy. My husband and I have always talked about how we need to make sure our kids don’t flounder when they leave home, and it might be time to revisit what we’re teaching them to make sure they’re on track.

  16. Linda November 15, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

    He’s back home today per The Guardian.

  17. Anna November 15, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

    “The rent is nearly $1,000 for a one-bedroom. Although I have begged to go somewhere cheaper, my parents said they would rather help me with the rent payments than have me move somewhere not as nice. I really can’t save because all my money goes to rent, bills and cab fare. I’ve pointed out that if the rent is lower, my parents won’t have to “help” and I can save. But they won’t budge, so I’ve given up fighting.”

    Kemara, according to your comment, you’re over 25. Your parents can’t control your choice of apartment; all they control at this point is their own purse-strings. As you point out, you could go somewhere cheaper and forego their help. So what are you waiting for?

  18. hineata November 15, 2016 at 4:56 pm #

    I now feel a little guilty for ordering my 17 year old to stay with friends Saturday night – the 15 year old will be in another city working for the weekend, and the rest of us will be overseas. But, while legally old enough to be by herself of course, the other night she slept right through the evacuation sirens (think London’s Blitz level of noise) and the 15 year old had to drag her out of the house.

    In a couple of years she will make all those decisions for herself, but this week am glad to still be able to exercise a little control ☺.

  19. Beanie November 15, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

    My parents always encouraged me to leave home after high school. . . I never felt like they were kicking me out, but I knew I was expected to leave. When I was 35, they moved to my town to be close to the grandkids, and it’s great. I constantly tell my kids that they will leave for college in another state, and then, well, if they want to come back to live near me, that’d be great! Otherwise I’ll visit them and I will expect regular phone calls. We talk a lot about expectations for being a grownup–your own job, marrying a good person, being able to support yourself/your family. . . I wonder about the parents whose kids don’t ever leave home. What have they been talking about all these years?

  20. Kenny M Felder November 15, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

    That is the coolest thing I’ve read in a while.

  21. Kirsten November 15, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

    Even when I was a kid in the 1970s there weren’t a lot of commonly accepted ways for young people to break free and test their mettle against the world. I suppose there has always been the military and the Peace Corps was pretty popular back then, but there is a romance to the old stories of boys running away to sea and coming back men.

    In fact, my favorite sort of children’s movie as a child were the ones that showed kids who just went off on their own places (I mean way beyond even what the most permissive parent would allow.) There was one where Jodie Foster was living under a highway in L.A., and of course Pippi Longstocking going off with pirates and the boy in Ride A Wild Pony being able to just ride off for miles into the countryside and build his own campfire. And Huckleberry Finn…

    But of course things have gotten exponentially less free since the 1970s, so I can’t imagine the kind of cabin fever teenagers must develop today. I agree that that boy who wrote to Lenore sounds like he is under house arrest. This is tragic. The mind can wander and dream, but it needs at least some actual experiences of wandering untrammeled and undirected in order to create those inner roads to roam around.

    I think also this lack of escalating levels of freedom as one matures leads to a lack of preparedness when one actually snaps and strikes out on one’s own. That kid from Into The Wild had the right impulse, but he had virtually no wilderness or survival skills and it ended in tragedy.

  22. Anna November 15, 2016 at 7:10 pm #

    “In fact, my favorite sort of children’s movie as a child were the ones that showed kids who just went off on their own places (I mean way beyond even what the most permissive parent would allow.) There was one where Jodie Foster was living under a highway in L.A., and of course Pippi Longstocking going off with pirates and the boy in Ride A Wild Pony being able to just ride off for miles into the countryside and build his own campfire. And Huckleberry Finn…”

    In fact, this is the quintessential plot of almost all classic children’s stories, isn’t it? It’s also why orphans are so common in children’s literature: however much our kids love us, they also chafe at our control, and escaping it is the ultimate childhood fantasy. E.g., “My Side of the Mountain,” “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” “Swallows and Amazons,” and of course, every fairy tale ever.

  23. Ellenette November 15, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

    Stories of young people growing up in such oppressive environments makes me so sad for them. Far too many of these same kids are home schooled, making them mere chattel of obsessive parents. For these poor souls, there’s no relief–no exposure to new experiences, new environments, new people, and certainly not new ideas.

  24. diane November 15, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

    @Ellenette, the homeschoolers I know seem to have more freedom than traditionally schooled kids, particularly the teens. Many have jobs earlier and are more self-reliant and independent than many teens. I don’t know that it’s a product of homeschooling, per se; I’m sure there are lots of factors that go into that lifestyle decision. Some causal, some correlated, and some coincidental.

  25. SanityAnyone? November 15, 2016 at 10:35 pm #

    Just two weeks ago my almost-fourteen year old son begged to plan a trip to Italy with orchestra, a trip to Florida with band, a trip to Peru with grandpa, and a trip to Israel to see a girl. He began investigating each and what would be involved including passports and funds. Then he talked the Spanish teacher into letting him start to learn after school and is even taking on extra homework.

    I don’t know if I can say yes to any of these (maybe one), but his desire is real and urgent! He is trying to become a man and a citizen of the world. I want that for him, too.

    At that age I wanted to ride my bike from Ohio to South Carolina and remember dreaming about the details. I felt invincible.

  26. Scott November 15, 2016 at 11:14 pm #

    I legitimately feel bad his goal of a full year was thwarted by a fascist nanny state and international legions of do-gooders.

  27. sexhysteria November 16, 2016 at 2:13 am #

    Underage couples in Italy still run away to sleep together and thereby force their parents to consent to an early marriage. It’s called the “fuitina” or little escape. It’s not the ideal situation. If parents (and the law) were more tolerant of underage intimacy and provided a comfortable room and contraception, there wouldn’t be any rush for youngsters to make possibly hasty decisions.

  28. railmeat November 16, 2016 at 3:48 pm #

    Right there with you Scott. I read the update, and I felt kinda let down.

    ‘No! Young man, you are NOT ALLOWED an interesting life!’

    Yes – I know it is more complex than that. But not much.

  29. Papilio November 16, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    That second kid has winter break as early as mid-November? Is that normal?

    I hear PT in Britain is very expensive, so I’m also surprised Arthur left his bike(-chain key) behind. What 15-year-old runaway foregoes free transportation?

  30. JP Merzetti November 19, 2016 at 10:18 am #

    aye…..the lad beat me by a year.
    And 49 years later, I can still say without any doubt that it was the singularly best decision of my life.

    What should ring loud and clear in this story is the actual competence exhibited by this boy.
    We shouldn’t be so shocked or amazed by that (though it deserves credit due, true enough.)
    This used to be normal. The standard was clearly set.

    Modernists wish to dispute that, and cling to further-extended infantilism –
    and so on it goes; far too many raise kids these days….
    far too few raise adults.

    Hats off to you, young Arthur.
    May your table ever be round!

  31. Angela November 21, 2016 at 10:35 am #

    I betcha’ something he didn’t expect happened and he suffered some misfortune.
    I also betcha’ he had a blast and learned a lot about himself.

    There are stories upon stories in my family of kids… children… offspring?… leaving home before 18 – I have my own. Sometimes it went great, but most of them involved bumps in the road requiring a return home for another year or two before leaving the nest for good. In every case, the young people grew into strong, independent adults and benefitted greatly from their time on their own – including my own son, as much as I hated the fact he was renting a room 1,200 miles away at the age of 17, working and going to school in another state.

    I knew from my own experience how strong the drive can be, as well as how debilitating it can be being ‘disallowed’ to grow up. I gave advice and guidance, all the while letting him know I had a place for him if it became too much. I think it all turned out rather well.