Happy About a Lost Kid

Hi Readers! This nice note just in:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I couldn’t be happier! Tonight my 7-year-old daughter got lost in our neighborhood while riding her bike. She had two out-of-town cousins with her, and they wandered about one block further than she recognized (we’re new to the neighborhood). And then she did a very smart thing–she asked for help.

She found a couple sitting on their porch and asked them to help her find her way home. She knew her address and phone number, so they called us to let us know she was on her way back. I had a nice little conversation with the husband, and then his wife walked the three kids back to our place.

The kids were exultant: they’d gotten lost, found their way again, and made new friends! When my daughter got home, I congratulated her on being so smart. To make sure she was clear about boundaries, I asked what she would have done if they’d invited her inside, offered her cookies and lemonade “just inside the house,” and so on. She said that she would’ve said no, she just wanted directions home.

Now I feel even more confident about my daughter’s street savvy and the kindness of adults in my neighborhood. A Free-Range kid is a safe kid–a kid who makes it back home again! Best — Caitlin

20 Responses

  1. Those creeps asked your kid for her PHONE NUMBER? Definitely perverts. You’d better change your number right away, and don’t let your kids answer the phone until it’s changed. In fact, since they know your address you’d better move, just in case. Can’t be too careful with kinkos like that. Oh, and definitely call the cops. Can’t just let weirdos get their jollies by talking to lost kids.

  2. Wonderful story. Thank you. Instantly put me in a good mood to read this.

  3. Way to go, Mom! Simply put, I believe your kids will do just fine.

  4. My sister’s inlaws had something similar happen, except the child did not know the neighborhood at all because he was visiting. He was able to give a couple walking his mom’s phone number. The couple walked the boy back to the house.

  5. This is a great story. I love that the daughter kept her head about her and felt proud of herself, and I love that the mom double checked about going inside etc. Well done on all sides.

  6. “Stranger Danger” is the exact opposite of reality. If a child is lost or in trouble, the BEST thing they can do is ask a stranger for help.

    Safest of all? A group of motorcyclists. Serious. Most of them (I ride, so most of us) are parents, and if a child were to ask for help, he’d have some SERIOUS protection.

    Teach your children to look for groups of MC riders if they are lost or scared. Other than with their parents, it’s the safest place to be.

  7. Way to go. The kids asked for help, and they received help, and the parents were blessed–versus getting a tongue-lashing from people inclined to call social services etc.

    Stuff happens, it’s part of being a kid–the kids, the parents, heck the whole NEIGHBORHOOD benefited from this. Right on.

  8. “A Free-Range kid is a safe kid”
    That should be your next official motto!

  9. Yes! Way to go for both of you. I had the same experience when my then-8 year old and his 10 year old cousin got separated from my mom at San Diego’s Legoland. They had enough presence of mind to find someone who worked at the park, borrowed his (yes, *his* – they trusted a male) cell phone and called me with their whereabouts.

    Three cheers for kids who rise to the occasion when they need to.

  10. But those people COULD have been serial murders!!!!!!!! LOL.

  11. Would it be so wrong if the kids went “just inside” for cookies and lemonade?

    There were three of them and they were talking to a couple. The odds of that ending badly seem negligible.

  12. My daughter (8 yrs old) took our dog for a walk yesterday by herself. She went further than I had anticipated her going on her own, but it’s the route that we normally take so she didn’t think twice about it. She told me that she met a nice lady and talked to her for a little while – I’m positive that she would not have done that if I had been there; she would have hidden behind me. Like the mom in the story, I also asked her what she would have done if the woman had invited her in for lemonade. She knew not to go inside anyone’s home. I’m so proud of her – and have told her so!

  13. There are many wonderful things about this story, but it reinforces your basic premise that statistically the vast majority of people are good and want to help. We live in a culture where the natural instinct of a child to ask an adult and the natural instinct of an adult to help has been perverted by a news media that promulgates fear for profit. There’s the momentary titillation from melodramatic news report when tragedy happens, people think “at least it’s not my kid,” but the greater cost is isolation, lack of trust and a loss of community.
    Educating our children to be smart and aware while they ask for what they need, even from a stranger, is a gift parents give that will pay off in increased confidence. Ironically, what used to be such a natural part of growing up in a neighborhood that it didn’t merit commentary is now a triumph. Well, so be it. The vast majority of things turn out okay in this world, and who knows? The children who are raised to have both independence and awareness are, I fervently believe, better able to encounter the world. Each of these experiences, however incrementally, contributes to that down the road. Thanks for sharing this and for all the other comments!

  14. @ Mike.

    Right there with you on that one. Best friend I ever had as a teen girl was an old biker. My sister and I were the safest girls in the Haight.

    As an old hippy gramma now, motorcyclists and punk kids are some of my favorite people to have or be around to this day. This also assures that my grandson is not fearful of people with tattoos, piercings, unusual hair, spiked or studded jackets… often, really, the ‘scariest looking’ people are the ones who can and will keep a kid safest.

  15. One more similar story: My son was 9 and playing at a friends house about 20 minutes from where we live. They all went out for a bike ride & decided to see which way home was ‘faster’. Since he wasn’t familiar with the area he got lost, saw a house having a kids birthday party and asked them for help. He called me & I (since I didn’t know where he was either) and they picked him up. I was proud of him and he was proud of himself!

  16. This is perfect example of how a close community works. Where the well being of the community is priority. A stronger community means a safer community. Strength in numbers. It also teaches our children the benefits of utilizing the resources available to them, and to not be afraid to use them. Ahh…brings me back to when I was a wee lad. I see a bright for future for children like this.

  17. What a smart kid. It reminds me of a story my mom likes to tell about when I was a kid, and one of my sisters and I got a ride home from school with a person she described as a classic hippie. VW van and all. She couldn’t believe we did that, but we were fine.

  18. Yay, Bikers! Yeah, we are pretty friendly, we bikers, and would readily help a lost kid. In a group or in front of the local coffee shop, asking a biker is generally a safe thing to do.

  19. I remember doing that when I was a kid. I had walked through the wooded area behind my neighborhood to visit a pond some of the kids there played at, and when I walked back out I took a trail that led to a different set of streets than any I usually saw. Being completely lost I simply walked up to a house and asked the adult who answered the door if he could help me find my way back home. He obliged. And when we reached some streets that were familiar to me, I told him so, assured him I could find the rest of the way home myself, and thanked him for his time.

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