UPDATE! When Her 6-y.o. Didn’t Show Up at the Planned Spot

Here’s kyihtazfrr
a nice little story to remember: Our kids have brains. Even at a young age they think and try to figure things out. This is something we’ve been encouraged to forget, and act as if they can do absolutely nothing on their own. – L. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’ve read so many articles and posts here about how resourceful kids can be if left to their own devices and just had to share what happened with my 6 year old son after school last week.

For the first time, I was to pick him up at the side crossing, instead of meeting him at his classroom. He suggested it, and since I’d been trying to encourage it for over six months, I was in complete favour of the plan.

I arrived at school just before the bell and waited 10 minutes. He didn’t come to the crossing. I drove around to the main gate just in case he’d gone there instead. Not there either. The mother of a classmate stood by the car and watched my 6 month old twins, while I went looking. Turns out that in the short walk between where I’d parked and  gone to the school office and then back to the car, he’d arrived at the main gate.

He’d decided to play on the playground for a while before coming to the crossing. By the time he got there, I’d gone. So he asked everyone if they’d seen my car, complete with description. Nobody had, so he wondered if I had meant the main gate and walked around the outside of the school to the other crossing. When he got there, he asked the crossing lady and some other adults he knew if they’d seen me. They said they hadn’t, so he stood and chatted happily until I found him.

When we were talking about it later, he told me that he’d walked around the outside of the school so that I could see him if I drove past, and that he’d waited at the crossing for the same reason.

We hadn’t had any discussion about what to do if I wasn’t there to met him (it hadn’t occurred to me that anything would go wrong!) and when I caught up with him again, he was cheerful and relaxed, treating the whole thing as a total non-event. Which, by the way, it was!

Did we learn anything from this? My son learnt that his mother will not wait around for him all afternoon so he can play and I learnt that I was right and don’t need to worry about him as much everyone thinks I should.  There may be a solo trip to a nearby playground in his future. – Proud Mama of a Regular Little Boy

Lenore here: Let me know how the solo trip goes. Could be inspiring! 


 AND LOOK AT THIS! Speaking of kids being safer and smarter than we expect, here’s a lovely tale, that comes to us from the commenter Papilio in The Netherlands:

Roughly translated from an article in my newspaper today:

Missing boy (9) helps elderly woman

Voorburg – A nine-year-old boy from Voorburg that was missing for several hours last Tuesday, turns out to have been doing a good deed. He was helping a confused elderly lady find her house. The police reported this yesterday. After a long walk the boy even bought the woman a cup of coffee. He did this at a place he knew: McDonald’s. The mother of the boy raised the alarm when her son hadn’t come home for dinner. One of his friends saw him still walking outside around half past six. The police hereafter started a search immediately and found the boy and the 81-year-old woman already after half an hour. The woman turned out to be confused and living in the municipality of Waddinxveen. The police then brought her home.

A boy, a mom -- and he's off!

A boy, a mom — and he’s off! Thus it has always been.


37 Responses to UPDATE! When Her 6-y.o. Didn’t Show Up at the Planned Spot

  1. Paul Fullbright April 25, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Hopefully she also learned the benefit of back-up plans. I know that will be any part of my daughter’s education. I won’t *expect* anything to go wrong, but having a back-up plan gives you that extra confidence.

  2. Warren April 25, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Really Paul? Wow, so many people just ready to pick things apart. And just to point out, that they really didn’t need a back up plan, as everything worked out just fine. Wow, people are just so damn judgemental.

  3. Alex April 25, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    Warren- Seems that you are the only one being judgemental here.
    Certainly a back up plan does not hurt, in this, or any other situation.

  4. mystic_eye_cda April 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Granted it’s annoying when two people keep missing each other trying to guess where the other one is, but it’s not a big deal. You don’t need a back up for every single thing in life.

    The time I really bother with a backup plan is on the subway/train, I make sure the kids know if we get separated they should get off and wait on the platform and the adults will do the looking and finding (two people searching among an bunch of moving trains is no good). At extremely large crowded events we have a meetup spot and I make sure to point out the staff uniforms.

    But at a school? If mom’s not there then there’s a bazillion other parents, dozen or so teachers, and the whole office staff. I’m sure someone can manage to think on the fly… just like if the person left in charge of the 6 month old twins had suddenly had to rush off I’m sure someone would have managed something sane.

  5. vjhreeves April 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    AMEN, Mystic Eye!!

  6. pdxmom April 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    I think we have all gone completely crazy because of cell phones. we feel as if we should be able to get in touch with anyone at any time. we don’t seem to know how to make plans anymore to meet people – it’s always, “I’ll call you when I get there.”
    BUT with kids – at least for me, most of them don’t have a phone. I mean, really, years ago people would go to disney and if the kids were old enough, they would let them go and say: meet me here at this time. Now it’s – oh, make sure they have a cell phone.
    We seem to expect that everything will always go as planned…but we need to have kids *not* have a backup plan sometimes! this kid did basically what he should have done, and everything was fine. he used his own common sense, he figured things out, he didn’t get lost.
    years ago, I was about 7 or 8 and my dad was with me at the pool. at some point, I was supposed to find him, and well, I didn’t. I didn’t know what to do, but I did know how to get home, so I walked home (1-2 miles maybe? not around the corner for sure). As I was getting home, my dad was calling my mom to tell her he couldn’t find me. I was way too young to be off and about by myself (maybe I was younger than 7?). But I didn’t know what to do!
    My parents had not inundated me with horrific stories about how every adult is out there to take me away from them (as some of my friends do). So I did the only thing that came to mind. And I was fine.
    Kids need to be in situations that go wrong, too, so they can use their own brains to figure things out.

  7. Heather Hbert April 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    “Kids need to be in situations that go wrong, too, so they can use their own brains to figure things out.”

    I totally agree with PDX mom! Not every single situation needs a back up plan. How are kids expected to learn to think for themselves? I am raising four (free-range)daughters and am often impressed by their problem solving skills and their sheer pluck. They would not be this way without opportunities to sometimes figure things out on their own!

  8. JJ April 25, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    Warren “Wow, so many people just ready to pick things apart” and “Wow, people are just so damn judgemental”.

    Warren, you’re funny.

  9. Danielle G April 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    Great story, and it came on the right day for me. I was at the school bus stop with my 6 y o and two neighbors (6 and 8). Another mom walked by, on her way back from the school….we asked “what are you doing”. Her response: oh, I just walked my girls to school. Now, her girls are triplets, age 11 and in the 5th grade. And the school is 7/10ths of a mile away from our neighborhood, a straight shot down the road (where there are sidewalks the entire way) and only two road crossings, one of which is manned by a guard. I was dumbfounded. Three girls, 11 years old, and she won’t let them walk to school by themselves.

    Now, she lets them ride their bikes to school alone, but, in her words “I just worry more when they are walking, it would just be so much easier for someone to stop and grab them without the bikes and everything”….

    So, kudos to Proud Mama. Well done, and thanks for sharing.

  10. katrin April 25, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    Like Lenore’s son, I took the subway home by myself when I was 9 or 10. But, it wasn’t part of the plan. My mother and I got separated at Filene’s basement in Boston. I asked a saleslady to page my mother for me and I was told in a condescending tone: “We only do that for little kids.”! I wandered around for a bit before deciding to take the T home. This included remembering to get a transfer so I could get a bus out to the suburbs. My mother was at the stove making dinner when I came in. Good thing I knew enough to find my way home all by myself.

  11. Jen April 25, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    “Kids need to be in situations that go wrong, too, so they can use their own brains to figure things out.”

    This is so true–it’s good practice for them and it also empowers them.

    This story reminds me of a time when we lost my then 4yo in Hilton Head. To make a long story short, my husband thought she was with me, and I thought she was with him, and it was probably 30-40 minutes before we met up again and realized she was missing. In the meantime, a woman had discovered her and taken her to a lifeguard. My daughter showed the lifeguard exactly where our stuff was on the crowded beach and sat nearby chatting up the lifeguard until we found her. When I asked her if she’d been scared, she replied, “Not really. I knew you would find me.” I realize she didn’t have to do much, but she was only 4, and I was proud of her for showing the lifeguard where our things were and for not panicking. That experience has stuck with her too. We really don’t give kids enough credit.

  12. Warren April 25, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    You want judgemental, then fine, you are a moron. You missed the point of what Paul did. This mother was proud of her son, and learned that some situations just are not worthy of hysteria. Paul on the other hand took a shot at her, for not having a back up plan.
    So if coming to her defense makes me judgemental, then so be it moron.
    See above, two morons one response.

  13. Samantha April 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    So right PDXmama.

  14. Papilio April 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    Roughly translated from an article in my newspaper today:

    Missing boy (9) helps elderly woman
    Voorburg – A nine-year-old boy from Voorburg that was missing for several hours last Tuesday, turns out to have been doing a good deed. He was helping a confused elderly lady find her house. The police reported this yesterday. After a long walk the boy even bought the woman a cup of coffee. He did this at a place he knew: McDonald’s. De mother of the boy raised the alarm when her son hadn’t come home for dinner. One of his friends saw him still walking outside around half past six. The police hereafter started a search immediately and found the boy and the 81-year-old woman already after half an hour. De woman turned out to be confused and living in the municipality of Waddinxveen. The police then brought her home.

  15. SageKat April 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    Actually, I think having a back-up can teach a child to trouble-shoot and come up with their own plan when something falls apart. And I don’t think it’s in the realm of helicopter parenting at all. Leading by example is an important part of being a parent. Let them be part of the discussion for coming up with a back-up plan. Then when the back-up plan fails and they need to come up with a back-up-back-up plan they know how to not only logically think it through but anticipate what you may expect of them. There is a reason we raise our young versus just laying eggs on the beach and walking off.

    For example, I was raised in the countryside where if I got separated from the adults it was more likely to be a “lost in the wilderness” scenario. So I learned “if you get separated, stop moving”. Don’t try find your way home, searchers start where you were last seen. That’s what I very naturally expect of my kids, which is I’m sure totally different than those of who were raised in the inner city with mass transit options like the subway. It’s not being overprotective to TEACH your children.

  16. lihtox April 25, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Last weekend I took my 5-1/2 year old daughter and 1-1/2 year old son to the planetarium; I had hoped (rather foolishly) that the toddler would be interested; instead he started squirming and protesting loudly when I wouldn’t let him down and visit all the interesting people sitting there. 🙂 I picked him up and walked over to the wall, not wanting to be any more of a distraction, and eventually a planetarium worker was kind enough to sneak me out the back door.
    In all the fuss I never had the chance to warn my daughter that we were leaving, and I spent the whole time outside fretting: was she in there worried, looking for me? At last the show was over, and I rushed inside only to find my daughter calmly making her exit, carrying my hat and my son’s coat which we had left inside. She’d had a good time and hadn’t even noticed that we were gone for a little while.

    Before I had kids, I used to think of kindergarteners as being overgrown toddlers. But there’s a lot less difference between 5-year-olds and 10-year-olds than I had thought: less experience, less skill, and less height and strength, but the same basic capacity to think for themselves.

  17. Brenna April 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    @lihtox – I had to smile at your daughter’s reaction. Several times I’ve had situations where I think my daughter must be frantic, but generally she’s been calm, and looked at me with a “why are you so worked up” kind of expression. You’re absolutely right – kindergarteners and first graders have a lot more ability to think for themselves than we give them credit for!

  18. Practical Suburban Mom April 25, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    It’s kinda funny that this is “news” because 40 years ago people would have been like, what’s the big deal? 🙂 I’m glad the boy was ok.

  19. Donald April 25, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    This is a great story. Kids are people. They have brains. However, we have been encouraged to ignore this fact.

  20. Proud Mama April 25, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    @Paul Sure, back up plans in some situations are necessary, this situation, definitely not. Why would I destroy my sons confidence by effectively telling him “Even though we’re really proud of what you did, next time do this this and this?”

    Had there been a back up plan in place, then it would’ve been exactly what he did of his own accord. So in that case, it’s not really worth mentioning. A back up plan for meeting a kid after school! How ridiculous.

    @katrin Wow! Being told that paging only gets done for little kids says so much about how attitudes have changed over the years!

  21. Yan Seiner April 25, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    I was listening to NPR today. They were contrasting Oliver Twist, Annie, and Matilda.

    Oliver Twist, set in an age when kids were expected and forced to work, spends the book looking for a responsible adult to take care of him and not have to work.

    Annie, set in depression era New York, spends her time looking for parent figures.

    Matilda, set in the age of overachieving helicopter parents, spends her time getting away from stupid adults.

    I know that’s a gross synopsis, and maybe some literature major can chime in, but I thought it was a telling progression.

    As for the kid in the story, more power to him! 🙂 Kids can make good decisions, if we let them.

  22. Stephanie April 25, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    While there’s a value to backup plans, kids are pretty good at coming up with their own if they need one. I learned that when we gave my kids some time to roam Disneyland with just a planned meeting time and place, but forgot to tell them what to do if they were stuck in line. They had my cell phone, so they called my husband’s cell phone, let him know they were in line, and it was all good. Exactly what we would have said to do if we had remembered to tell them that part.

    In this case, the kid did well. He checked logical places and it sounds like he wasn’t terribly worried. All in all, I’d call it good.

  23. Let_Her_Eat_Dirt April 25, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    These kinds of stories reinforce my sense that kids will worry and freak out only to the extent that their parents will. If we show them that we trust them and that we do not think the sky will fall every time they leave our sight, then they will learn to figure things out when things go awry. Good for you, Proud Mama!

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    A dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  24. Jenn April 25, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    I think the point of this story is that you don’t always need a back up plan since our kids are smart enough to figure it out for themselves. Isn’t that what free range is about? That we don’t always have to plan it out (with or without the kids)! And don’t forget, we can’t always foresee that a back up plan will be needed!

  25. Carolyn April 25, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    Earlier this week I was suppose to pick my daughter and her friend up at the library. When I got there they weren’t outside. I let my 5 & 7 year olds go in by themselves to find them. Right after they got inside, a lady who was coming out, looked at me and said, “someone’s excited”. I explained that it was their first time going in the library on their own. She said that the little one had a look like “I’m the greatest”. I thought it was neat that he was so proud that even a stranger would mention it.

  26. SKL April 26, 2013 at 12:18 am #

    The first story is timely. Just today I threatened to stop by the side of the road and drop off my daughter so she could walk home (after she gave me “that look” about spelling drill). LOL. Unfortunately it is 5 miles or I might have done it!

    The second story reminds me of when my kid brother was 7 and he disappeared during fair week. We older siblings searched all around our small town and were debating whether to wake our parents and tell them, when my brother strolled in around 2am. When asked where he’d been, he said he’d been trying to help a guy find an open bar. True story. (We then told him horror stories of kidnaping and dismemeberment,so he wouldn’t be dumb enough to do that again.)

  27. hineata April 26, 2013 at 12:33 am #

    @SKL – what a cool story! There’s a movie in there somewhere, surely. Sadly that could never have happened to my little brother, much as we actually encouraged him to stay out 🙂 , because both town pubs were closed by ten.

    To the OP – good on your boy.

  28. Donna April 26, 2013 at 3:28 am #

    My 1st grader got to spontaneously walk part of the way to school yesterday. No prep. No build up. Just kicked out of the car and sent on her way 4 blocks from school.

    The road on the way to school floods when it rains (life in a 3rd world country). My usual SUV is broken so I am driving a much smaller car that can’t get through the flood when it is high. We were too late to go the long way around so I drove the car as far as I could, let her out and told her to walk the rest of the way (you can walk around the flood so I wasn’t expecting her to wade neck high in water or anything). She made it to school on time. Even grabbed a rock and defended herself when a dog came out barking along the way. I made it to court on time. And now I’m wondering why I didn’t think of this sooner.

  29. Danielle Meitiv April 26, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    We regularly let our kids ages 8.5 and 4.5 go to the playground by themselves. It is two blocks away. I am sure we are going to get a call from the police at some point since we live in Maryland – the only state to criminalize free-range parenting (okay not quite…) – but I feel that this act of civil disobedience is worth it for my kids.

  30. Papilio April 26, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    @Yan Seiner: Matilda’s parents are clearly neglecting her, they don’t pay attention to her AT ALL. So I’d say she too is a child looking for a responsible, caring, loving parent, in this case her teacher.

  31. EricS April 26, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Awesome Proud Mama! Let’s start making this a trend! Who knows, maybe we’ll get back to the sane state society once had. It’s always good to have discussions with your kids, about everything. They are like sponges. From the age of 4-10, it’s the best time to instill in them what you want them to learn. So if you teach them negative things, they will have negative mentality as they get older. You instill positive things, they will a positive outlook as they get older. That is how humans are rigged. We are conditioned to be conditioned. Just a matter of how that is.

    In regards to the Netherland story, it’s hard to comprehend people freaking out about kids being out and about at 6pm. Back in my day, it was completely normal for kids to be playing outside till the lights came on. And sometimes, even later. As long as we were home in time for dinner. And a lot of times, after dinner, we would run back outside to play for a while longer. This was such a common thing back in the 70s and 80s. Even more common than the fearful mentality that parents have today.

  32. Papilio April 26, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    In the Netherlands, around 18.00 IS dinner time.

  33. Amanda Matthews April 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    6pm is dinner time here too (in my house in the US). I think the freak out was not so much a kid being out after 6, but more a kid not coming back/being easily findable at the agreed upon time. I tell my kids to come back at 6 for dinner, and if they aren’t back or at least within yelling range at around that time, I’d be concerned – though they can go back out after dinner (well, at certain times of the year).

  34. Jenna K. April 26, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    We live one mile from our school. I drive my kids (ages 10, 8, and 6) to and from school–only because we are in a carpool with another family (with a 6-year-old) who needs the help because the mother is blind and cannot drive. So the dad drives on his days off (he’s a firefighter) and I drive the other days. It works. Anyway, the kids actually walk to a point about halfway, a church parking lot, where we meet them. Beats dealing with the after-school rush.

    One day, I was at a doctor’s appointment which I thought I would be finished with by pick-up time but wasn’t, I was about fifteen minutes late. What I found was that the kids had started walking towards home instead of playing around in the church parking lot. They had made it nearly halfway home from the church parking lot too. I was pleased that they had figured out on their own that if they just kept walking along the road I drove on, we would intercept eventually or they would make it home if I didn’t show up. I thought it was great that they solved the problem. I told them that from now on, that would be the plan if I was late picking them up. I haven’t been late since, but glad to know they can take care of themselves.

  35. Papilio April 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    @Amanda: Exactly. I think it was pretty much the same for the mother of this boy, because freaking out (if that’s what it was, it sounds at bit too strong to me) over children being outside in the early evening would be very non-Dutch.

    I also think this story only got in my newspaper (in another province) because of what the kid was doing while being missing. Had he been with a friend over at the next playground, he would only have made the local news, in a tiny article somewhere between ‘Man (34) dead in car accident’ and ‘Burglar caught sleeping under bed’ or stuff like that.
    We don’t have this whole media circus over missing children here, no 24h news channels (in Dutch?! Who’s gonna pay for that?), and THE news lasts 20-25 minutes (including the weather forecast) at 20.00, provided by a public broadcasting company, so news is news, not entertainment. Or fearmongering.
    Note that this article contains non of Lenore’s favorite lines about what COULD have happened to this boy, or of what happened to the last kid that did turn up dead.

  36. Tsu Dho Nimh April 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    I got “lost” in San Francisco when I was 6-8ish (don’t remember exactly) because I was following my parents to dinner and saw a sign that said they had a thelonious monk inside.

    I knew what a monk was, being a well-read precocious child, but wondered what kind a “thelonious” might be, so I zigged as they zagged. I spent quite a while before the staff spotted me, just sitting quietly, listening to a man making amazing sounds come out of a piano.

    I had learned from an early age “if you are lost, stay put and adults will come looking for you” so I was happy to sit there, drinking colas and listening to the piano music. My parents did retrace their steps, but made the logical error of checking every bookstore on their route …

    It was amazingly low-key. Finding out I was a tourist’s child, the manager called the police station and said they would keep me in the club in case my parents retraced their steps. My parents called the cops after checking bookstores and were told which of the many seedy jazz dives I was in.

    No heartrending news stories about mom’s trauma, nothing. The club handed me over, parents thanked the staff, I told the piano player I liked his songs … and things were fine.

    And I learned to like jazz.

  37. Paul Fullbright April 30, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    Haha! “Judgemental”, “pick things apart”, “took a shot at her”. You guys are rich.

    A backup plan doesn’t have to be specific. General common sense lessons can be taught, too.