One of the biggest challenges that every parent faces, is knowing how much free rein to give one’s children. How much independence is prudent at each age and stage of development? As conventional wisdom knows, every child is different. It seems as though, there are certain children who never let their parents out of their sight and no matter how much “Cling Free” you spray on yourself, these offspring stay overly-attached. But, inevitably, there is always one child in every family, that seems to seize any opportunity to shrug off the shackles and strike out on their own prematurely. In our family, that child is Mollie…
When Mollie was 3, she made the first of several attempts to shake us at a local Chuck E Cheese. We took our eyes off of her for one second and she was gone in a flash. After we conducted a preliminary search, we asked the manager to put the place on “lock down”. (That’s the Chuck E Cheese version of an Amber Alert; no one can enter or exit the establishment, until the missing child is located.) By this point, we were frantic, as we had really scoured the place. While employees, managers and other parents were searching for the 2nd and 3rd time, in all the areas we had previously looked, my husband decided to expand the dragnet to include the private birthday party rooms. He carefully scanned the faces of all the happy little Party-goers sitting at the long rows of tables, enjoying their pizza and birthday cake, until he found Mollie’s face. There she was, sitting next to the birthday girl, wearing a cone-shaped party hat, tooting on her little party favor, joyfully celebrating the birthday of a TOTAL STRANGER. We didn’t know whether to hug or strangle the party child’s mother, who, handed Mollie a goodie bag and assured us that they had “enjoyed having her!”
Parenting tip: If a random toddler shows up uninvited to your child’s party, someone, somewhere is probably searching for her!
When Mollie was 9 years old, a friend and I took our kids on a “Mother-Kids Road Trip/Adventure.” We thought it would be educational for the children if we took a detour over to see the Hoover Dam. We had heard how extremely dangerous the Dam area was and had agreed to be hyper-vigilant with the kids, due to the unprotected, steep drop-offs. While I took the two older kids to gaze out over the miles of breath-taking, treacherous beauty, holding tightly to the hoods of their jackets, my friend took her daughter and Mollie to the Port-a-Potties set up nearby. After everyone had “done their thing,” we drove at a snail’s pace in heavy traffic down the winding mountain road. About 15 minutes passed by, when my oldest child announced that her sister was missing.
Parenting tip: Always take a “Head-Count”or employ the fail-proof “Buddy System” if you:
A. Have more than one child
B. Are a parent with more than one thing on your mind
C. Have noticed your child is pre-disposed to WANDERLUST)
It took us an unbearable amount of time to snake our way back up the mountain in heavy tourist traffic. We found Mollie, shivering, crying and mildly traumatized, sitting in front of the Dam(n) Port-a-Potties. I thought I might never recover from that incident and have, perhaps, overcompensated ever since in my parenting style, as I vowed that I would never lose Mollie again!!
Which lays the groundwork for why last Friday night was so exceptionally traumatic for me…
My husband and I were sound-asleep when my cell phone rang at 1:30 am. As every parent of teens and young adults knows, a phone call in the wee hours of the night is rarely good tidings. The caller was Mollie’s boyfriend, who, “didn’t want to alarm me” (TOO LATE – I am alarmed). He explained that somehow Mollie had gotten separated from their friend-group around midnight and he hadn’t seen her since. The “Buddy System” had failed us. I was immediately beside myself to think my little girl was wandering the streets of New York City, all alone and not answering her cell phone. (My husband and I were understandably never in favor of Mollie going off to law school in Manhatten. But, because, at age 23, she is by legal definition, an adult, we found that we couldn’t forbid it.) A few minutes of sleuthing confirmed that Mollie’s cell phone was left at her apartment, which explained why she wasn’t answering. I couldn’t decide if that made me feel better or worse. I immediately called the police. Perhaps I’ve watched too much “Law and Order SVU,” but I launched my own concurrent investigation “Law and Order SCU” (Stupid Children’s Unit).
In a moment of inspired maternal brilliance, I logged onto our bank’s website to see if it could help me track Mollie’s whereabouts…
Parenting tip: No matter what age your children are, ALWAYS keep their debit cards linked to your bank account. You’ll be surprised at how easily you can track their every move, through timed and dated debit card transactions!!
I was instantly relieved to see that she had purchased a subway ticket shortly after she went missing, and then, because she got lost in the city’s complicated subway system, a subsequent transaction showed a payment to a taxi cab company for a ride home. She was found within the hour!!
Parenting tip: “It’s so damn easy, when your feelings are such, to overprotect her, to love her too much – hold on loosely, but don’t let go, if you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control…” Sound parenting advice from 38 Special in 1981, that is still applicable today!
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