The overhead train schedule in that French town said the 8:05 was going where I was going.

   I thought.

   But if you’re a college kid backpacking through Europe and you don’t realize Geneva is not spelled “Geneva” in French (it’s Geneve), you just might hop on the 8:05 to “Genoa” and find yourself in Italy, alone, instead of in Switzerland, meeting up with a bunch of friends. And suddenly you have a whole new adventure, and a new set of friends and if you never eat that famous Swiss chocolate, who cares? You’re in Italy !

  Getting lost is not just a privilege, it’s a right – a right that is being eroded by GPS and parents. The GPS devices in cars help us adults get where we’re going and maybe that makes life less aggravating. But now there are devices that make sure kids never veer off on their own, and those makes life less, period. There is less to life if you always end up exactly where you’re supposed to be.

  That’s why it’s too bad some parents are now equipping their children with tracking devices that immediately alert the parents if their kids wander off the prescribed path home. A panicked call from parent to child’s cell phone follows: Do not chase that squirrel to the park!

   Or parents are attaching little alarms on their kids’ clothing, so that if the child wanders more than 15 feet away at, say, the mall, the parental device starts beeping madly.  The parent looks up and snatches her kid back before he goes to, say, the water fountain.

  I know how horrible it is to look up and not see your child. In Midtown Manhattan a year ago, our then-9-year-old disappeared from the street and didn’t come back for 20 minutes. He’d gone into a three-story, subterranean KMart, looking for us in there, even as we were looking for him outside. He checked each floor thoroughly before finding his way back to 34th Street . When he suddenly reappeared after I’d been shouting his name like a madwoman, it was our own miracle on that street.     

  I’d have appreciated a beeping device back then, or a GPS sewn into his shorts — or ESP, for God’s sake — but the upshot was: He had an adventure. Not a great one, but a memorable one. He’d gotten lost, been on his own, and found his way back out. If things had gotten really hairy, he knew to talk to a police officer.

  This was hardly the defining act of his childhood, but it is part of his life’s relief map – a little dip beside the twin shores of parental protection. Without adventures, even some less than pleasant ones, a kid’s life is as flat as a placemat.

  I once was lost but now am found – so goes the song. Let’s let our kids sing it.

  In the meantime, for a book I hope to be writing about Free Range Kids, I would like to hear your stories of getting lost. Scary, thrilling or just plain ridiculous, let’s hear the most memorable thing that happened to you as a child when you got lost.

  Here’s to the winding road.  — Lenore


43 Responses to GET LOST

  1. Bryn July 8, 2008 at 9:56 pm #

    When I was about 5 and my brother was 4, my mom took us to the Houston library downtown. This library has a parking deck underneath it, and you get in to an elevator within the library to go down to the parking deck. My brother ran ahead and went down to the correct floor and waited for us in the parking deck, with cars going fairly near the elevator. I remember my mother absolutely freaking out and not being able to calm down enough even to find the stairs which must have been right there. My brother was fine, although 30 years later we all (even my dad, who wasn’t there) still talk about it.

    He did the same thing in London, in the Underground, when we were 17 and 16 and there with our parents. He got on the train just before it departed, and was waiting at the correct station with us when we finally got there. That time, he definitely did it deliberately, and got a fairly severe scolding which, as far as I could tell, had next to no effect on him at all.

    He wasn’t technically lost – he knew where he was at all times, and also where he was going. But he still freaked out our parents (and me, just by extension).

    My own son has what I call an invisible retractable leash – if he gets too far away from us, he turns around and comes back, even if we are encouraging him to go ahead. He’s nearly 5, and has been like that from the day he could crawl. Although the leash has gotten longer over the years, he still doesn’t like to be too far away or out of sight. We’re trying to encourage him gently that it’s OK to be outside without us, for example, or to go ahead on a well-known bike path that we take all the time.

  2. Andrew D. July 8, 2008 at 11:39 pm #

    My stories are not so much of being lost, but knowing exactly where I was going and how to get back at all times. My parents raised me to be independent, and I was never a great cause of stress and panicked phone calls if I didn’t report home. Rather, when I did return home after not calling for days, I’d get a stern reminder that I should call when I’m going to be out all night… or for a week…

    Once I had my driver’s license, I was gone. I had a flexible job and gas was cheap, so I could not be stopped. I spent nearly every weekend one summer out of my home state of Ohio. I just picked a direction and drove, grabbed a friend to diminish fuel costs, called other friends to secure places to sleep… It was a dream, really.

    I remember calling home to check in, talking to my father and saying,

    A: “I probably won’t be home tonight.”
    F: “That’s okay, where are you staying?”
    A: “Cincinnati, I think. I haven’t decided, yet.”
    F: (off phone) “He said he’s in Cincinnati.” (some off-phone conversation)…
    A: “What? Is Mom upset or something?”
    F: “… No… she says that if you stop in Tennessee, get her something at the Jack Daniels Distillery.”

  3. Annika July 8, 2008 at 11:44 pm #

    Three days before my 15th birthday, I went for a walk with two friends to a mountainside meadow (where the full moon festivals were held every month – Magic Meadow in Woodstock, NY). We wandered into the trees, very close to the meadow, and dusk came very quickly. After about twenty minutes of trying to find our way out we determined that we were just making it worse. My friends wanted to walk downhill, as you’re told to do when lost, but I knew that there was a whole lot of nothing below the meadow and it would be profoundly stupid to go further into the woods, so we hunkered down for the night, sitting in a sort of train formation and switching places regularly to keep warm. As soon as it was light out we found our way out (we were, naturally, about 20 yards from the open field) and walked home. My stepfather had just gone to look for us and my mother was in a state because the idiot police officer who’d come when she called to report us missing had assured her that we’d “sneaked off to go to a party.”

  4. Katie July 9, 2008 at 12:05 am #

    I was four the first time I remember being lost. We were at Disneyland and my mom thought my 9 year old sister was watching me. My sister thought my mom was watching me. We were in the gift shop in one of the hotels or near there when I found myself alone.
    I walked up and down the aisles looking for my family and I couldnt find anyone. I went outside and looked at the two identical hotels. I remembered our room number and that we were on the 11th floor but I couldnt remember which hotel was ours. I went to the right room in the wrong hotel and no one answered the door. I went back to the lobby and told the security guard that I was lost.
    I gave him my name and my parents name and they took me to the security office. I just remember them being really nice and my mom being pretty relieved to see me.
    What an experience!

  5. Maya July 9, 2008 at 12:12 am #

    I’ve only been lost once in my life, though I’ve traveled alone a lot, and had some fabulous adventures. But when I was in about 3rd grade, I had a doctor’s appointment and my mom told me how to take the bus and meet her there. But the bus system was new to our town, and she’d been mislead about where it went – which was no-where near the doctor’s. As the bus got farther and farther from where I was supposed to be, I started to cry. I had no money left and didn’t know what to do. Naturally, a nice lady next to me asked what was wrong, the driver gave me a special transfer that would let me return and showed me a return bus stop, and I headed back. But then, instead of going home, I walked from the terminal about two miles to the doctor’s office – of course, by then my mom wasn’t there waiting for me any more. So I walked several more miles back, and was almost home when my dad came by in the car, looking for me. I remember telling my parents that I KNEW where I was the whole time, it just wasn’t anywhere close to where I was supposed to be!

    The best part about this, looking back at it now, is that my parents didn’t take it as evidence that I shouldn’t ride the bus. Instead, it was a learning experience for all of us. I never went out alone again without extra money in my pocket for a phone call or a bus ride home. I learned that I could have gone into a store and asked to use the phone, and that I should have called home when things went wrong. My mom learned to check the bus schedule more carefully. I got good at the buses after this, and when the brand new BART trains opened, stunned all my peers by being allowed to go across the Bay Area alone to visit a friend.

    And many years later, when my own third-grader had guitar lessons across town and I taught him to get there by bus, I still remembered the lessons from getting lost and taught him what we’d learned that day. Now my #3 child is getting independent, and those same lessons still hold…

  6. Staci July 9, 2008 at 1:01 am #

    My sense of direction is… lets say not great, so I’ve been lost a few times. One of the most memorable was when I was about 14. A few families were camping together on the pacific coast and my friend and I decided to take a walk in the sand dunes. We’d both been there many times before, but usually with other people. That is when we discovered we have something in common – a bad sense of direction. We wandered and wandered and it started to get dark. We weren’t afraid of being lost, but knew we were told to be back by dark and didn’t want to be in trouble.

    After awhile a boy from one of the other families with us came along. This boy had an excellent sense of direction and did a lot of exploring and rode the bus everywhere on his own in our home town. He also is mentally challenged and has great difficulty with speaking, but not understanding others. We told him we didn’t know the way back to camp and asked if he knew how to take us. He took us both by the hand and led us back. My mom was hysterical by the time we got back, but all 3 of us got extra s’mores that night.

    By the way, a couple of years ago that same friend and I were driving back from a trip a few hours from home with our own children and took a wrong exit or something and ended up quite a ways away – ironically toward the beach. We decided it was meant to be and stopped to let the kids play. We called our husbands, who had a very good laugh at our expense, and told us to follow the kids back to the car after playing in the sand.

  7. Candy July 9, 2008 at 1:35 am #

    I don’t really remember “getting lost,” in the sense that most folks view being lost. My mom thought of getting lost as an adventure to discover something new and exciting. We were raised free range, even at the store.. we wandered through town on our own – and many times, after not being at the correct pickup spot at the correct time, my mom thought the best lesson was to have us find our own way home. When I think back, I can remember my mom announcing that she didn’t actually know where we were…. but, that soon enough we’d come to a place she’d be able to recognize. I’ve used that throughout my life as I probably have the worst sense of direction ever. I don’t have the money for a GPS, but, when I get lost – I remember my mom’s method, and realize that it probably won’t be long before I recognize something. But, when in an unfamiliar area – I use the opportunity to discover something new. I wasn’t a kid, but the best time I got lost was about 4 years ago.. my husband and I had gone to the foothills of the Appalachain Mountains in N GA / SC. We found the old campground he loved as a kid had been changed into an RV only site. So, we drove around.. effectively getting lost and found an absolutely gorgeous primitive campground that was free to camp. It’s probably the best reward for getting lost I’ve ever had.. as it is now our favorite vacation getaway!

    As for getting separated in a store.. in total Southern tradition, our “GPS” was yelling MOMMA as loud as we could until she answered back LOL

  8. jkriegel July 9, 2008 at 1:35 am #

    A few years ago, as an adult, I was in Warsaw, Poland for a friend’s wedding. We were partying at a club and I decided I needed to hit the sack. The rest of the group had plenty of energy and decided to stay. My friend, who had been living in Poland, told me to take one of only two brands of taxi’s because there were a lot that were not trustworthy.

    When I got outside, even though there was a long line of cabs, there weren’t any from the right companies. I tried calling back my friend, but he didn’t hear his phone ring. I didn’t speak Polish and didn’t know what to do.

    In the distance, I saw a large building that I knew wasn’t too far from the flat we rented. I decided to walk.

    Well, the building was taller than I thought, much farther from the club than I thought, and farther from our flat than I remembered. It was dawn by the time I returned. My friends had returned hours before, called me, and I told them not to bother coming to get me. I’d finish my walk.

    I had my camera with me and took some beautiful pictures of the old city at sunrise. I was exhausted the next day, but I had a great adventure. My friends whose wedding it was still have one of those photos framed and hanging in their house.

    While this happened as an adult, my parents must have done something right to enable me to do this. Many people I tell this story to are amazed by it and would not have attempted it themselves. I guess my point is that the adventures don’t end when you leave childhood behind.

  9. Laurie Ann July 9, 2008 at 2:38 am #

    When I was very young my family had a summer rental at Beach Haven, NJ. One day when I was about 5 years old, I wandered down the beach collecting shells and wandered farther than I thought. I walked up to the street and to the third house in (which should have been our house) only to find that the rock out front was not painted white like ours. I walked back to the beach and headed down to the next street and so on and so on until I found the house with the white rock and my dad’s car in front.
    My mother had the lifeguards in dune buggies looking for me for hours while I sat inside watching cartoons and sorting my shells.

  10. Si July 9, 2008 at 5:27 am #

    I remember as a fairly young kid running ahead in a shopping centre to be the first in a lift (beat my brother kind of thing) only for the doors to close behind me and finding myself on my own with a older man. Was I scared – hell yeah (I was never brave anyway). Did anything happen? No. As far as I can remember he stayed with me until my mum and dad came up in the lift.

    When I was 16/17 ish and going off to Uni’s for interviews I got tremendously lost after getting the wrong train connection. Unbeknownst to me they’d switched the train platforms just after I’d read the sign so I ended up about 100 miles from home. Because of the time of night and train journeys available I then had to travel 200 miles to get home (50 miles past where I wanted to be and then 50 miles back). All courtesy of British Rail who realised I was just an idiot.

    Lessons learnt: most strangers are there to help. No one minds genuine mistakes.

  11. Ian Bicking July 9, 2008 at 7:47 am #

    I started taking the city bus to school when I was… 9, I think? Probably the third time I took it I got on in the wrong direction, and rode the bus to the end of the line in the wrong direction before I noticed. I figured it out when the bus driver told me it was the end of the line, and just waited for him to go back in the other direction. It probably freaked my parents out a bit when the school called to tell them I was an hour late arriving… but I don’t think they ever really let that on to me. So long as I wasn’t stressed out about such things, far be it from them to try to make me stressed. It’s kind of like how a parent might react to their child getting hurt — if they make a big deal of it, the child makes a big deal of it, but if they take it in stride it’s usually not so bad.

    That said, the complications of meeting at prearranged locations is not something I ever have enjoyed. It can be freeing to have a means of communication, and it’s not just because of overprotective parents. Sometimes it’s simply annoying to lose track of each other.

  12. theironwang July 9, 2008 at 9:00 am #

    on a group trip to japan our itinerary had us scheduled to visit tokyo tower, needless to say we got lost but in return found a park with the greatest stone slide EVER. we spent 5 hours there not only tearing it up on the slide but having fun with the local denizens of the neighborhood. it wasnt a scary or trying experience but ill be damned if it wasnt the funnest

  13. Denise July 9, 2008 at 2:38 pm #

    I don’t recall getting lost as a kid. I’ve always had a keen sense of place–my husband jokes that once I’ve visited a location, I can always find my way back without a map. The few times I have been lost as an adult, I’ve found it to be annoying more than anything (probably because I was running late).

    Last fall, my son and I took a class, “Lost-proofing your child,” offered by a local wilderness school. He loves the outdoors, and I wanted to make sure he had the skills to survive in the forest should he become…well, lost.

    I expected the class to be a crash course in compass-reading, orienteering or something with very clear, practical objectives, but it wasn’t. Instead, the instructors had all of the parent-child teams scatter into the woods to find a quiet spot, where we were to listen, smell, look. We then sketched out very creative maps in the dirt, named objects along the trail and made up stories for those objects as a way to remember our route. Because most of the attendees were boys, the stories were along the lines of: “The gnome went by the witch’s house and poison berry bush, and then saw the three bloody eyeballs.”

    By the lunchtime break, I was pretty skeptical. Sure, we were having fun, but how was this “lost-proofing?”

    One of the instructors explained that the biggest danger when lost was panicking. Panic short-circuits the ability to make good judgments or clearly observe surroundings. It can incapacitate you. The most important skill for kids was the ability to be lost without panicking.

    “Ahhh…” I said, beginning to get it.

    The maps and stories, too, were meant to give kids a sense of place, along with a set of tools they could use whether in the woods or the city. We also did some basic directional stuff–in fact, this program begins each class with a simple exercise: Point to the north. How did you figure it out?

  14. simonlitton July 9, 2008 at 4:43 pm #

    I don’t have a story about getting lost, but a friend of mine once got on a train in Milan hoping to go to Genoa (“Genova” in Italian) and ended up in Geneva instead…

  15. Kerry McMahon July 9, 2008 at 9:41 pm #

    This year I took my first road trip using a GPS. Lenore, you couldn’t be more right! What a mistake. I actually felt more lost than ever, because I was constantly having to listen or look at the darned thing instead of look around, fully aware of my surroundings. I had less time to look out the window and admire the scenery as I was distracted by “Jack’s” constant babbling.

    Needless to say, the GPS no longer has a place stuck to my windshield – and I have regained my sense of adventure.

  16. andrea July 11, 2008 at 3:20 am #

    I grew up in an old-fashioned suburban neighborhood, with square-cut blocks. My sister and I walked to school seven blocks away (alone), we walked two blocks to Bob’s corner grocery to buy candy and we walked several blocks to the big park, where we played on the playground and adventured behind the city irrigation ditch, along the fencelines of neighboring properties.

    One day when I was about 11 or 12, I rode my bike to a different park, one of two small lot-sized green spaces that were situated in the opposite direction of my usual haunts. When I started to head home, I took a wrong turn (I think that I thought I was at one park, but was at the other) and rode into increasingly unfamiliar territory. It started to get dark. It started to pour rain. It started to thunder and lightning. I finally found myself on a busy road near a hospital that was probably about 5 miles from our house (in the dark, in the rain). I got turned around in the right direction (just by knowing to not cross another, busier road), rode for a while longer, stopped at two houses to ask directions (one guy said he wished he had some garbage bags or something that I could wear) and finally made it home.

    My mother was frantic (and mad…until I told her I got lost). I’m sure it was scary and miserable and cold, but although I can picture it vividly, it doesn’t conjure any feelings of fear or misery…it was exciting, I guess, and I think the experience of figuring out where I was and how to get back had to have a positive impact. My mom made me memorize all of the street names after that…and I still have a terrible sense of direction!

  17. Mama Sxia July 11, 2008 at 5:22 am #

    I was the youngest and have always had my head on straight. My parents have left me places numerous times. I knew how to call collect and say, “Mom, Dad and J. forgot me.”
    They left me at Subway’s (sandwiches, not transport). They pulled away without me when I was 3 or 4 and it was the 4th of July. I was standing quietly outside the car until they noticed. When I was 5 and my bro was 12, they went to drop him at camp where he begged my mom to not leave him there. I was making friends by the tetherball.

    But the most memorable one was the one that I didn’t tell my Mom until after I’d survived it. Got off at the wrong train station in Pisa (Pisa Centrale, not Pisa Station.) Missed the overnight train to Spain and took short train to short train, getting stranded overnight in Nice, France where I pracitced my Italian with a man who swore he loved me. Then I hid among the tables of a cafe, watching the fruit vendors set up before catching the next train and finally getting to Barcelona. I met perfect strangers — some angels, some crazy, and I trusted myself.

    (I still say the best way to learn a new place is to get lost there.)

  18. Missy July 11, 2008 at 11:50 pm #

    As a kid, I don’t believe I was ever lost (really lost). My mom intentionally hid from me when I was 4. She was irritated that I wasn’t staying close by. When I started to lag behind, she hid behind a corner. I looked up and “no mom”. I still remember the panic. I started to back track. I’m not sure if I cried. Finally, my mom popped out from behind a corner and yelled at me to stay with her. To this day, I think “What mean, old b*tch”. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, but she’d do stuff like that to keep us kids on our toes.

    If you have a bad sense of direction, you are always getting lost. I’m one of those. I’ve been lost in forests, foreign countries, hospitals (they are the worse)….At my age, you learn to factor in “lost time” whenever you have to go somewhere new. I was on business in So. Cal. I went for a run about 10 PM. It was on a nice jog/bike path. There had been some heavy rains so at one point the path was closed. I didn’t want to turn back so I took this detour. I got sooooo lost. It was midnight. I ended up on the U of Cal, Irvine campus. No cell phone and no money to call for a cab. The police saw me wondering around, took pity, and drove me back to my hotel.

    I’ve lost my kids. I lost the oldest at a busy university in China. I thought my husband was watching her, he thought I was. Well, no one was watching her. I kindly Chinese gentleman was with her when I finally located her. He was probably wondering why this Chinese kid (she’s chinese) couldn’t speak Chinese. I lost my youngest about a month ago at a concert in the park thing. It was near dark. My husband was taking the oldest closer to the stage. The little one was supposed to stay with me. Suddenly, my friend said, “Oh my God, Mallory is running off!. I suffered a double compound fracture in my leg a few months back. I was off crutches, but I still can’t run. My friend’s husband helped me search for her. It took about 30 minutes to find her. My friend’s husband had nightmares about this. I felt sort of bad that I didn’t. I’m sure if we hadn’t found her, I would have had a nightmare.

    I think kids still get lost all the time. People are always telling me stories about losing their kids. A friend lost his daughter in a snow bank. Everyone knows someone who’s lost their kid at Disney World. Most people take their kids with them everywhere these days. I contend that kids are getting lost far more frequently than in our day when parents left us at home.

  19. Snotty McSnotterson July 13, 2008 at 12:53 am #

    I enjoy this blog and support free-roaming (well-informed) kids., as well. I’ve been lost a couple of times, and my son has lost himself once, and it was horrifying/exhilarating. Nothing irks me more than seeing children on those backpack leashes, which is a recent phenomenon in Seattle. To me, that’s one-part lazy, one-part paranoia.

    I’m amazed at how the negative backlash is an entire group of people who roamed free in the world when they were young. That was the best part of growing up: leaving the house at 8AM and then hearing your mom (or having her call around to friends’ houses) around 5PM… roaming free all day long! That was a long time ago, and the town I grew up in was super small, but still–sweet, sweet freedom.

  20. Mammamsterdam July 14, 2008 at 3:26 am #

    I was certainly a free-range kid. We used to leave on a beach village, but my grandma lived on the mountains. We were all afternoons walking on the mountains, on the land or te beach, building huts, climbing trees that stuff.

    Anyway, until I was a teenager and going to school a village further, where all my friends lived, noboy really worried where I was, as long as I was home for dinner. My parents where both working on and off the house, so the big question was: when THEY would be home.

    Later, the major problem to my dad was if I wasn’t smooching some guy somewhere out of control. But except the usual discussions for permission to go to birthday parties, the occasional disco or pizza out with friends asked in a bad moment, I went everywhere, home and abroad, by train, plane or lifts from friends of my parents.

    The period I had a small motorcicle I used to wander whole afternoons through the hills till the next province, just for the fun of it, avoiding towns and keeping on country roads. Needless to say, I was the lonely sort of kid, not the bunch-of-friends type.

    Sometimes I dream of a GPS on my young kid of 4, but he needs to develop danger sensors on is own. Lately he was playing on one of the boats on the canal in front of our Amsterdam home, while i thought he was biking with other kids in the public garden behind our street. He was out only or 10 minutes, while the whole morning he went through and forth from the 2 back gardens without problems.

    We still don’t figure out how he got on the boat in the firts place, and his dad was having troubles himself in getting him out on his own, I had to help him. Time for an intensive swimming course, ’cause I am not locking him home. He wouldn’t let me, either.

  21. Mammamsterdam July 14, 2008 at 3:31 am #

    The end of my story just above is that my old kid of 6 went yesterday to Italy with my mom, in our village, I am following in a week, and still, from the moment I decided we were going to do this I have every night a horror-nightmare of lost, killed, kidnapped kids, me, my husband. Our psyche is really a funny thing.

    Hope to sleep weel tonight, ’cause tomorrow I gotta pack.

  22. MikeT July 15, 2008 at 5:13 am #

    My parents drove separately to my older brother’s baseball game because they each had things to do afterwards. Mom thought Dad had me, and vice versa. I climbed down out of my favorite climbing tree to find absolutely no one I knew left in the park.

    Luckily, the park was on the same street as my house, just 11 blocks away. In retrospect, the only scary part was crossing a 4-lane road at about the halfway mark. I can only imagine what the drivers must have thought to see a five year old kid toddling across the road by himself.

    My mom says that she heard the doorbell ring and opened it to find her tear-streaked five year old son with a load in his pants, and that I acidly said, “You left me!” before bursting into tears. She must have about passed out from the sudden, simultaneous burst of fear and relief.

  23. Alana M July 16, 2008 at 6:45 am #

    Good stories and morals to remember. Getting lost is good sometimes, better as an adult though.

    My parents had always been the plan it to death kind of people. My mom was shocked when I took the DC transit system by myself on a trip when I was 17 and also went on a giant roadtrip of OR, WA, BC, AL, MN, ID, and NV right after college, again by myself. I didn’t have a specific plan. I just got in the car and drove. Lots of good memories.

  24. janet July 17, 2008 at 1:02 am #

    When I was 18, I was at school in England for a year. My best friend was in France, and we were going to meet in Paris. This was in the 1980s, so no cell phones, no credit cards. I booked my train, but when I got to the station, it turned out that I didn’t reserve it correctly (pay phone cut me off before I got the reservation secured). So I took the next train. Didn’t know where my friend was staying, had no way of getting in touch with her, had never been to Paris, didn’t have a map or much money to stay somewhere.

    The train I ended on was the last one that night. After crossing the Channel on the ferry, I ended up sitting next to a very nice woman in her 20s who was going to visit French friends. She insisted I stay with them overnight. Her friends worked at a bar, so we went to the bar and stayed there till closing time (3am), then went for a hair-raising “tour” of Paris in their car, went to their fourth-floor walkup apartment, and got to sleep in the wee hours. The next morning, I was the first one awake, wandered outside and found this amazingly wonderful open-air farmers’ market with enormous slabs of dried fish. It was such a great introduction to Paris.

    I ended up going to the train station because I couldn’t figure out how else to find my friend, and she was there, waiting for me. “I thought you were coming in now!” She wouldn’t have been there if I’d taken the right train, anyway.

  25. owlfarmer July 20, 2008 at 4:04 am #

    I don’t think I ever got lost, but I did get to wander all over a foreign country (Taiwan) as a ten to fifteen year-old. I learned the confidence to do this by reading, and I thought I’d recommend to you and the children of those who read your blog the ultimate stories of being free-range kids and/or getting lost: the adventure stories of the late British writer, Enid Blyton.

    The parents of her protagonists allowed their kids to go off on caravan trips and hikes together (without parental supervision) and they frequently get lost in smugglers’ hideouts and such. These stories are available at and are some of the most memorable summer reads of my childhood (now fifty years gone by).

  26. Lulu July 24, 2008 at 8:52 am #

    I have never been lost, the fact is my parents were just not up to date on my flight plan.

    My father worked as a civilian contracted by the military for over 40 years. He was not prepared for a strong willed, wild, little girl with dirt on her skirt and holes in her tights. It drives him crazy that I don’t have “a plan” when I travel or really when I wake up on a day to day basis. I am now 33 and he has accepted the fact that I will never have a “flight plan” before I leave the house and sometimes decide to start my travels at absurd hours. He will call me when he knows I will be traveling asking what my “flight plan” is. The “flight plan” has now become code for “I care about you and want to know that you are safe.”

    I am now the parent of a Free Range little boy.
    Two years ago, at the age of nine my son went to space camp in Alabama. He flew home to Denver on his own. I met him at the airport and we proceeded to the concourse. He stepped on the full train just as a woman stepped in front of me and the doors closed. In a second he was gone and I was left alone in the middle of the station. My choices were to run back up to the terminal an notify a security guard but risk missing him if got on another train, get on the next train and hope he got off somewhere or panic. I choose to get on the next train. I calmly walked on the next train, 15 minutes after I watched my pumpkin pie slide away from my control. As the train pulled up to the next stop there was my little peanut, he is very small for his age and could pass for 7, standing calmly on the platform. The doors opened I reached out and yanked him onto the train. “What were you thinking, were you scared?” I asked trying not to sound panicked. “No,” he said calmly, “I knew that I should just get off and say in one place so we weren’t both moving around.” He too has never been lost, he just fails to file his flight plan with me.

    July 20th I took him to The Mile High Music Festival in Denver. We both have similar taste in music so I thought it would be fun for him to see the bands live, this would be his first concert. I imagined us watching a local band, The Flobots, from the outskirts of the crowd. My sugar beat had other plans. We agreed that if we were separated we would meet at the Field 18 sign. Then he was gone. He called me right before the band came on to tell me he was front and center against the barricade. I spent the next hour and a half debated on whether to leave him be and trust he would be okay or swoop in telling him it was too dangerous. (This is not a calm sway to and fro band, it is a jumping, slamming, fist pumping band.) In the end I decided that unless a mosh-pit broke out, I would leave him be. There were, after all security guards between the band and the crowd. If things got out of hand surely they would pull him out, right? He is only 4 feet and a whole 53 pounds soaking wet. The band ended and I did manage to find him, smiling in complete heaven at having seen a band he loves close up.
    Incidentally later that night when all 100,000 attendees were smashed together at the main stage for the Dave Matthews Band I was a little less calm when he took off running for the stage after the drummer started throwing out drum sticks to the crowd. Who knew Lamaze would come in hand AFTER childbirth. He did return about 10 minutes later, no drumstick but he did have 5 glow sticks, a pair of broken glasses, 2 camera lens caps, a hotel room key and three pennies.

    No my child has never been lost, he just never files a flight plan.

  27. Kat July 27, 2008 at 6:20 am #

    Wow, there are some great stories in the comments here!
    I wanted to ad – my husband was lost for an hour when he was a kid, with his mom at Sears – he climbed into a display washer or dryer and fell asleep. My 2 year old niece was lost for 20 minutes or so when my sister in law and I were shopping – she crawled into the basket under her stroller and fell asleep – we couldn’t see her! Being that crawling into weird places and falling asleep seems to run in the family, I’m glad that hasn’t happened to me. My 2 year old has only been lost once, for about 5 minutes, but it was the most horrible 5 minutes of my life – something I never hope to re-experience. Having felt that, I can’t say I blame anyone for tracking their kids with electronic devices! Though I certainly would rather be able to raise my kids the way I was raised – I left the house in the morning, and no one even wondered where I was until it was dark. If I showed up after dark, I was in BIG trouble. But that was the extent of the rules. Unfortunately, in 2008, in Los Angeles, it would be really, really, really stupid not to know where your kids are. I can’t wait to move.

  28. Kirsten August 1, 2008 at 12:28 am #

    I was 3 years old and had a day off from pre-school when our babysitter took me and my baby sister to the shops. I was a quiet, timid child, I’d never wandered off before and my parents didn’t expect I ever would. In fact, I didn’t. On our way out of the supermarket I stopped to pet the pet store’s resident dog. Once I’d finished telling him about my day off I realised the babysitter was now where to be seen! I’d never been anywhere without an adult before, I wasn’t even allowed out of our back garden and now I found myself what seemed like miles from home, all alone.
    Though my parents didn’t expect me to ever wander off they still taught me the skills I needed in such a situation. I walked back into the supermarket and told the lady at the till I was lost and the babysitter had gone home without me. I told her my name, address and phone number, but when she tried phoning there was no-one home. She then phoned the police who took me home in a real police car! The babysitter hadn’t even realised I was missing, and I’d had an adventure I still (partly) remember 20 years later.
    I have my own kids now, the eldest is not the type to wander, but I’ll be teaching him what to do if he ever finds himself lost all the same.

  29. Maggie Jacobus aka Jungle Mama August 4, 2008 at 6:32 am #

    When I was 13 my family took a ski trip to Innsbruck, Austria. One day we took a break from downhill skiing and did a cross country trek instead. We got to the trails by taking a tour bus about 45 minutes away from our hotel.

    Being 13, I was waaay too cool to be hanging with my parents. Noticing my hard-to-miss pouting at lunch about the insufferableness of such familial proximity, my mother, in a rare moment of loosening of parental supervision, suggested I start the hour-long ski back to the bus ahead of the family. I was exhilarated at this moment of freedom and bounded out the door.

    Engrossed in the scenery, my freedom, and probably thoughts of some boy back home, I missed my turn. After about an hour and a half of skiing, I realized I was lost. In a country where I did not speak the language, where I had no money and did not even know the name of the hotel at which I was staying.

    My first solution to this predicament was to find a bank. Surely they speak English at a bank, I thought. Alas, in rural Austria in 1980 no one spoke a lick of English.

    I walked out the door, significantly more dejected than I had walked in it.

    The bank was near a road, which looked like the road we had perhaps traveled on from our hotel to the start of the trail. Of course, I hadn’t exactly been planning to have to find my way back on my own, so hadn’t dropped any bread crumbs along the way in the form of paying attention to what the road looked like or making note of any landmarks.

    As I trudged up the hill, skis over my shoulder, it began to occur to me that I may never find my way back to my hotel, may never see my family again. A few tears pricked my eyes.

    I heard horse hoofs behind me and a man driving a milk-cart pulled over to offer me a ride. (I figured this out by his gesturing to me to climb in the back.) I did. As we clomped along, I began to envision my new life: me, Heidi-esque, working for the farmer, milking cows until perhaps some day I’d earn enough money for passage back to the States.

    As I warmed to the idea, I become more and more enthused about my new life. Lost in reverie, I looked up and to my absolute astonishment, pulling out into the road going the opposite way was a large tour bus, with my wide-eyed siblings waving excitedly at me through the window. I somewhat reluctantly said good-bye to my short-lived employer and climbed on the bus with my siblings.

    My parents, in the meantime, were on a frantic search through the Austrian countryside looking for me. My father tells the tale of walking into bar after bar, gesticulating anxiously and muttering something about “mien kinder” and, upon being “understood,” being shown to the men’s room. Exhausted and terrified after a few hours of futile search, they called the hotel and heard the good news that their prodigal daughter had foregone becoming a milk maid and had decided to rejoin the family.

    By the time they got back to the hotel, I was out roaming the quaint, picturesque town with my older sister. They found a note from her that read, “Maggie wanted to get out and explore.”

    I’ve been exploring ever since. The current “expedition” is living in rural Costa Rica with my husband and three young sons.

  30. xKat August 14, 2008 at 10:46 am #

    I am the oldest of 7, so my parents had a tough time keeping their 4 eyes on 7 kids running in opposite directions. I had a sister and a brother who both wandered away (at different times) when we were at the beach. The big concern, since both were about 4 years old, was drowning in the ocean, so the family was frantic looking for them (when we finally realized they were gone, which took some time). Both were eventually found safe and sound and they never realized they were “lost” – they were having an adventure.

    When I was young there was a regular bedtime story, involving me, my sister and next door neighbor, getting on our bikes and going “around the corner and down the street” (often said in a spooky voice) and getting lost. Casper the Friendly Ghost always arrived to take us home and remind us not to do that again. I know the story was based on something that really happened, but I don’t remember it. I need to ask my dad about that sometime….

    Finally, when my daughter was around 11 she wanted to get some sheet music at a local music store. She already walked about 1 mile home from school and I gave her directions how to get there once she got to our house. Somewhere she made a wrong turn and got totally lost. When a priest stopped to ask if she was lost outside of his church (she was wearing her catholic school uniform – for her school in a different town) she said no and continued walking. At the next corner she turned right and walked about 1.5 miles in a giant circle, but finally found the music store. If she had turned left at the church it was just 4 buildings in from the corner. Obviously asking for help (and having the humility to be able to do so) would have saved some shoe leather and time — but she learned to find her way and have faith in herself, which is a pretty good lesson. Now she is 19 and I will offer to help her with driving directions to somewhere new, but I know she now knows how to ask for help AND have faith in herself to find her way.

  31. Joe August 15, 2008 at 9:38 pm #

    My father worked for the airline industry for many years, so my younger sister and I would travel a lot. Of course we had to travel “stand by” which means if there was a free seat on the plane, then you got on. I’ve been flying since I was six months old, so by age 14 I was a seasoned vet. This particular adventure happened at 14 and my sister was about 10. We were traveling by ourselves from Miami to New York. The flight had a layover in DC. However, when we got there we were bumped off the flight since it was overbooked and we were “non-rev” meaning non-revenue passengers. To this day I’m not sure how they bumped off two minors (this was years ago), but there we were in DC with no flight. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself “lost” even though I had never been to DC before. I was more frustrated like an adult in a similar situation. I quickly checked the other departures to see my options and I overheard a group of other passengers who were bumped off as well. There was a flight going to NY from another nearby airport and everyone was going to pool some money for a limo to get there. I lean in to the crowd and announce, “I’m in!”. So we all grab the limo, me with the little sister in tow, and race over to the next airport. We made the flight and got home to see mom in NY!

  32. zimmerhouse August 16, 2008 at 10:44 pm #

    I think I was nine and my sister was 8; we visited friends in upstate New York (we’re from Colorado) and they lived in a forest. Maybe it was a subdivision with a lot of trees but to us it seemed like a forest (we live in the Plains of Colorado — no trees). We took the friend’s dog for a walk in this ‘forest’ and we soon got lost. At first we decided to follow our footprints back (there was snow on the ground) and soon realized that we had been walking in circles. We tried to look for lichen on the trees because we had heard that that meant East or West…then realized we had no idea what lichen was, or if the house was East or West of the forest anyway (hey we were troubleshooting). Finally we decided to let the dog off the leash and follow her home. We burst out of the forest running to my dad and told him of our great adventure.

    Years later, I remember the wink he gave his friend, I think the friend might have started to tell us there was no danger in us getting lost, but I think my dad winked at him to stop him and then he encouraged us in telling our tale.

  33. 150% for August 20, 2008 at 8:55 am #

    Oh, this is good, Lenore. One of my favourite questions to ask is, “Do kids ever get lost these days?”

    I remember getting lost as a young child: in the department store, the grocery store, the neighbourhood. My mother never seemed to be particularly worried about it. It was a trauma for ME, but not for her.

    How things have changed! If a child wanders off in a department store these days, there is often a “lockdown” procedure where all the doors are barricaded until the child turns up. I don’t think this is to prevent the child from exiting the building alone, and entering the dangerous parking lot; I think it is to prevent potential abductors from running off with the tot.

    AS IF!

    Anyway, getting lost in 1973 at the age of 4 or 5 was a minor inconvenience, not a major issue. And yes, finding your way back, or finding an adult who can help you find your way back, is a very important seminal lesson in independence and interdependence.

    So grateful for this community online. Go Lenore!!

  34. Diane de Warren August 26, 2008 at 3:54 am #

    My name is Diane and this is a story about getting lost that happened to me about 30 years ago:

    I was born and raised in France… When I was about 12, my parents sent my 11 years old brother and I to England for a month to live with a family and hopefully learn the language. We were both sent to different families in the same town (I can’t remember the name of it). My brother and I had been signed up at the same place to play tennis every afternoon. Our respective family used to drop us off and pick us up a couple of hours later. That one specific day, after being dropped off, my brother and I learned that we would not be able to play that day. The idea of waiting for 2 hours for our family to come back wasn’t very exiting… So we both decided to walk back home taking different routes. We parted… My brother who lived in a family near-by made it home in no time, and was happy to surprise them. However I had only a vague idea of where I lived, and it was much further… I walked and walked and walked for about 3 hours… Enjoying myself and doing a lot of day-dreaming… All I remember was that I definitely knew I was heading somewhat in the right direction… and “why were those funny British policeman walking all over the town with a big piece of paper in their hand?”. Finally after about 3 hours, I was stopped by a car honking at me. I looked up a bit surprised, and saw my brother with his family… they were all acting a bit hysterical, and asked if “I was alright and what had happened to me?”. I calmly reassured them that I was fine and walking home…. They explained to me that after my brother had gotten home to his family, he had called my family to see If I had gotten home alright. Not seeing me, they drove to the tennis place, but didn’t find me… they drove back home but never found me as I had taken a different route (which I found out later was not the way home). Panicking, they called the French organization and let then know I was missing… The French organization immediately notified the Police who started to look for me all over town, and also proceeded to call my parents back in France. For two long hours, my parents were beyond themselves thinking that their oldest daughter had disappeared in a foreign country where they didn’t even speak the language and lived hours away… Needless to say, all were very upset with me when I tried to explain to them that I was just walking home and nothing was wrong…
    For me, it had been a very enjoyable walk in a beautiful foreign country… for everybody else, it had been the longest 2 hours they ever lived!!!
    I now have a 4 years old son, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happened to him one day–he’s a dreamer too!
    Though things have changed a lot these days, and we think we can control it all… we aren’t GOD.
    And probably, I , like my parents were back then, will become hysterical… but then, find the prodigal son and cover him with hugs and kisses 🙂

  35. NurseGirl August 26, 2008 at 11:35 pm #

    I was a wanderer, so my parents always set up a “let’s meet at this spot if we get separated” anywhere I went. I got lost at West Edmonton Mall when I was 9, and I remember racing back to our meetup point so fast that I had to wait about 20 minutes before their adult pace got them back there. Fortunately, they had chosen a location just outside the water park, so there were many interesting people to watch.

    I know I walked off a whole bunch of other times, but it’s the only one I can remember where I wasn’t in my home town.

  36. R. August 27, 2008 at 1:00 am #

    Like Lenore’s sons, I grew up in NYC. By age 8, I was walking myself and my younger brother to school five blocks away. When I got sent to junior high on the Upper East Side (um, commute from Tribeca to Yorktown? Did someone from another state plan district 2?), I had to take the subway. My parents were born and raised here and never coddled us. I was riding the 6 train every morning and every afternoon starting at age 12. If I went somewhere else after classes, my mother only asked that I keep quarters on me to call her.

    Fast forward to five years ago when I was starting college. I took the train to Boston by myself, went out to the campus, and checked myself into the dorm. Turns out parents had been invited to come for the weekend as well, and pretty much everyone was there with their mom and/or dad. People were shocked that my parents hadn’t accompanied me to “settle in”. Same went for when I was dropped off with all my stuff a few weeks later. My mom and dad unloaded the car, carried my stuff with me upstairs, we got a sandwich and then they left. The majority of parents stayed for THREE DAYS, helping their babies get settled in. And, even more ridiculous, they showed up two weeks later for “parents weekend”!

    The best part was, people thought MY parents were negligent – my floormates were shocked that they weren’t there to drive me to the supermarket, help me do my laundry or take me to dinner. They felt bad for me and couldn’t see that their parents were taking away the freedom college was supposed to bring.

  37. JB August 29, 2008 at 2:23 am #

    I had a dad who was “freerange” in the extreme. so I had lots of crazy adventures as a kid and got lost A LOT. The most memorable was when I was 14 and hiking w/ my dad and brother in Muir Woods. They were walking much faster than me, and would stop for breathers while waiting for me to catch up, then start again. This left no time for me to catch my breath, and so annoyed, I decided to sit down and rest, and let them walk quite a ways ahead, assuming eventually they would stop when they hadn’t seen me for awhile. When I started off again, I somehow ended up on the wrong trail. Now in a normal family, I probably would have realized something was wrong when I hadn’t seen my family for 15 minutes. But I just figured my dad had just kept hiking and expected me o catch up, so I started walking doubly fast.

    I didn’t really know what the destination of our hike was supposed to be, but when I saw a sign saying “Stinsen Beach” and an arrow, I had a memory of my dad saying something about Stinsen Beach earlier in the day and assumed that must be the destination. So, 10 miles and several hours later, having hiked out of the park and through a town, I ended up at the beach. I had been starting to get a little panicky but I was SURE I would find them at the find them at the beach, eating our picnic and ready to rag on me for getting so far behind. I searched the beach to no avail. At this point I was really scared, and starting to cry a little bit. I wanted to call home, thinking that my dad might have called my step-mom, not to tell her he was concerned because his daughter had vanished, but to explain why we might be late for dinner. But my dad had moved the week before, and I didn’t know his new number. My mom was out of town, and I couldn’t think of who to call. I remember sitting by that pay phone, crying, frantically calling every number I knew and no one being home on a Sunday afternoon. Finally, I decided to find a park ranger. I had been hesitant because I didn’t think they would understand how we operated in my family. Like when I told the park ranger I was lost and had been for 4 hours, he said “I am sure your dad had contacted park rangers where ever he is to report you missing.” I remember crying and shaking my head and trying to explain how unlikely it was that my dad who consider this an emergency worth contacting the authorities over. Well, luck was on my side, and my dad had just reported me missing (this was four hours after I had vanished, mind you. They had spent that time first wandering the trails looking for me, then assuming I would head back to the car so heading back there themselves and enjoying themselves eating the picnic we had packed – and not even saving any for me! That part of the story still steams me). I had to wait in the lifeguard tower, listening to the (very cute) lifeguards read each other passages out of an x-rated book before realizing there was a girl sitting in the corner. Finally my dad arrived, and I think I had imagined at this point that there would be a tearful and touching reunion where I would run into his arms and he would tell me how worried he had been. Instead as I ran up to him he said “that was the stupidest thing you have ever done” and then proceeded to laugh his head off, which continued the whole drive home, while I munched on bread crusts and mustard, all that was left of our picnic.

  38. Melissa September 30, 2008 at 5:33 am #

    Okay, so I’m still not sure I’d let my kid take the subway in NY by himself at 9, but I live in the almost-country/suburbs of Chicago. I’ve never been on a subway myself.
    However, I really like your general approach. It’s one I feel I need to take on in order to stay sane. The current child-rearing atmosphere is suffocating me!!! I actually have a friend who wants to move because she found out a neighbor is a registered sex offender. Not that I blame her entirely, but my point is that at least she KNOWS who to avoid. This is helpful information. But what about the ones who aren’t registered? You can’t avoid teaching kids about stranger danger just because you buy a new house.
    Anyhoo, all of that has nothing to do with getting lost. But I remember getting lost in a store once as a first-grader. I was with my babysitter’s family and the older daughter thought it would be funny to run away from me and hide and leave me lost. I was scared and yes I panicked a little. I was too little to see over the racks so that made it hard to know where I was in the store. But eventually I calmed down and realized I could just walk any direction and find my way out of the maze and to the front of the store and ask the people there to page my sitter. Which I did. I have never forgotten that experience. And I was never afraid to get ‘lost’ in a store again (to my mother’s chagrin).
    I find the biggest hurdle to the free-range idea is other parents and their judgements, looks, glares, assumptions, opinions, etc. How do you be a good parent and follow your gut to give your kids some freedome and not lose friends in the process?

  39. Heather October 7, 2008 at 1:35 am #

    This “lost” memory is not about me but about my son. About 6 years ago, we went to the mall to see santa. The first so many kids would recieve real gifts from the jolly fat man himself. Being a resently new single mom of three, I thought what a great event to take my kids to. We made it to the mall early to assure our spot in line. My then 6 yr old looked up at me with panic, “mommy I have to pee” My thought was oh great if we leave our place in line they will never get their presents. The whole point of being there so early! I looked around and I could see the bathrooms from where we were standing. A bit far but nevertheless I could see them. I pointed them out to my son with careful instructions and wathched him walk to the bathrooms. It was getting closer to the arrival of Santa and the place was filling up fast! I no longer to see the bathroom doors and time was ticking, he was taking a long time getting back…too long! I then started to second guess my decision to allow him to go by himself. I then started to panic, grabbed my other 2 kids ages 1 and 2 and headed to the restrooms, hoping to meet him as he came out the door. After a few people went in and came out I really was worried! I asked a man if there was a blonde lil boy in there and gave him a desciption of what he was wearing, and with much grief we wasn’t there. I was choking back tears, and saw the local radio station that was there to broadcasting the event. I explained what was going on and they quickly took action! A lady heard the anouncement and brought my son to the radio anouncer. I was a mess, and my son had been crying and he too was scared! My son looked up at me and said “mom I was so scared you were lost, I came back and you were gone!” I learned that day, I learned that he could indeed find his way through a crowed and to always stay put. We didn’t get presents from Santa that day but the radio station loaded us up on t-shirts bumper stickers and key chains, we still saw santa and had our picture taken with tear stained cheeks and red eyes!

  40. Amy October 15, 2008 at 1:25 am #

    When I was about 6 years old & my brother must have been 10 we lived in San Francisco about a half a block from Golden Gate Park. At the time this was our backyard. We knew every nook & cranny of that park. We were in the park one day and my brother had spotted someone from his school. He told me that he would be right back and ran off through a short cut through some bushes and left me standing on the sidewalk on one of the main thoroughfares in the park just three blocks from our house in broad daylight. After standing there for a few minutes I was approached by two police officers. I explained that my brother was coming right back & my house was only couple blocks away, but they insisted that I was lost and that they would have to return me safely to my home. I remember insisting that I wait for my brother or he’ll be worried. They didn’t allow me to wait and brought me home to my father who thanked them, but told them that he didn’t feel that I was in any danger. Not vary long after I was brought home my brother returned in a panic, pale as a ghost. He couldn’t find me anywhere and thought something had happened to me, just as I had feared. I don’t recall ever seeing him so relieved to see me.

  41. Bob King October 16, 2008 at 10:31 pm #

    When I was in elementary school, my friend Jim and I used to take shovels, jump the ditch to the field behind our house, and dig forts into the ground. Then we’d throw dirt clods at each other until our arms got tired. We did have one rule – no dirt clods with rocks in them. It had to be just dirt. With my cousin, we’d dig also, but instead of forts we made miniature amusement parks with a garden hose in the middle providing water for the waterfall to fill the river. There was a swamp near the house (where the new high school was later built). We liked to catch tadpoles, frogs, and other little beasts, then let them go. Since the road in front of our house wasn’t paved yet, my sister preferred to play at the end of the walkway, making little mudpies. And we survived.
    Toy guns without orange barrels and BB guns were no problem. We played with them in the back yard until we were old enough to handle real guns – about 10 years old. Daddy got himself and me each a longbow so we could also shoot old-style. This was before the more complex modern bows were made with sights so I never got really good at archery. But I’ve longed to get a compound bow with sights.
    When I was in my early teens, my friend Jim and I used to take our .22 caliber rifles to the woods for some recreational shooting. Either my mother or Jim’s mother would drive us to the hardware store to buy a couple of boxes of bullets, then to the countryside to a few acres of woods. One place we liked to go had a dump that had some resident rats that provided target practice for us. So good Saturday afternoons, we enjoyed plinking a few rats in the countryside. Our mothers usually said something motherly like, “Don’t shoot each other!” then they’d leave us for a couple of hours to shoot. The hardware store didn’t have any problem with our buying bullets. Our other favorite place to shoot was on the riverbank. We’d walk along in the shallow water and shoot at any fish we saw. It was the same bank where we’d go flounder-gigging when we wanted flounder. And we survived.
    I had been hunting with my dad since I was about 12, mostly with one of his shotguns. He gave me a 20 gauge shotgun of my own one Christmas. I took it to college with me so I could hunt with some of my fraternity brothers on some land outside Raleigh. I kept the shotgun in my dorm room closet and carried it openly to and from my car without any problems from the university or any of my fellow students. And we all survived.
    When I was in elementary school, I walked the public streets, about 2 miles each way without escort.
    When I was in junior high school, I rode my bicycle to and from home, through the projects, about 7 miles each way without an escort.
    When I was in high school, some of my friends used to play “trade-em” at lunch. I only played it once, so I didn’t write about that one before. I thought it was dumb. Players would take turns hitting each other in the shoulder until one guy couldn’t take it anymore. The trick was to “snig” your opponents shoulder rather than hitting it squarely. You could stand a square hit pretty well, but if you hit just off-center it added a painful pinching effect that shortened the game. The school didn’t care – after all, it was just boys being boys. And we survived. By the way, girls never seemed to play this game.
    One time in algebra class, Grady was, as usual, acting as class clown. Our algebra teacher, who was also the football coach took a very dusty eraser and threw it at Grady’s head. It hit him in the forehead and left a great dusty streak in his hair so he looked like he had a Mohawk haircut. We just thought, “Hey, coach has a great arm!” We all had a great laugh and Grady calmed down. Of course since it was Grady, he wore his chalk dust Mohawk with pride the rest of the day. As far as the school was concerned, the teacher had administered discipline – no problem. And we survived.
    I and every boy I knew had a pocket knife and took it everywhere – school included. But no one ever stabbed anyone else. No one took guns to school, even though there was plenty of access (no “secure storage laws”). We all went to church and had training in good morality from church, home, TV, school, movies, newspapers, and society in general, so knew that shooting other people was wrong. And we survived.

  42. Ali November 28, 2008 at 8:13 am #

    I grew up in a town of 14, 000 people, without any public transportation to the nearby city. So I can’t really say that I ever got lost as a kid. I used to bike everywhere with my friends and I learned that sooner or later a landmark or something will pop up and you won’t get lost anymore.

    When I got my driver’s licesnse I used to drive to the city, down back roads to other small towns and purposely get lost. I know an adult (let’s call her Jan) who won’t leave her small town by herself. She’s too afraid to get lost. I found out that once I found my way from being lost, I didn’t get lost again. I think it’s called learning from experience. I think how awful it must be for Jan to wait around for her husband or a friend to take her to a mall that’s only 10mins away, because she’s too fearful to go on her own. To me that’s no way to live.

    Now as a young adult I’ve started travelling and have been lost many times. And they always make for great stories. In London a few months back, I got “lost” one evening. I started doubting myself and whether I was heading the right way to get to the tube station. At a busstop I asked a local if I was going the right way. Turns out I was. That’s another thing I learned about being lost, trust your gut on how to get back… for me it’s usually right.

  43. tower 200 March 6, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    Am I able to get results right away or will it take some time to show up?