Oh Internets, help me problem solve.
My kiddos (6 and just-turned-8) were invited out to a friend’s house yesterday. Said friend lives in the country, on the beach, about a 30-minute bus ride from here. It was suggested that we put the kids on the bus at this end, and the friends would collect them at that end. Return trip would be the same (except, you know, opposite).
So we packed them a backpack. Gave them their bus fare cards. Told them to bite anyone who tries to fuck with them and off they went. Without incident. When I got the call that they were back on the bus, at 6:45 at night, I brought a book and went to sit at the bus terminus to wait for them. They should’ve been off the bus somewhere around 7:15-ish. From 6:50 onwards, I was actively looking for them. Getting up and wandering around to make sure they weren’t somewhere I didn’t expect, etc. At 7:23, I heard my son’s tearful voice saying, “Can I please use your phone to call my mom?”
Apparently, because it was the last bus of the day, the bus didn’t pull into the line from which it departs. It pulled a few lines over, next to the curb. (We’re talking a difference here of maybe 20 feet?) They got off and when they didn’t immediately see me waving at them, because I was waiting 20 feet away and couldn’t see them, they kind of froze up. According to them, they waited patiently for a few minutes and then the girl child started crying and the boy child went to find a phone.
Yes, they were upset when I found them. The girl was way more upset than I’d have thought. It broke my heart. But I wiped them off, praised them for their bravery and their problem-solving abilities, and we walked home. As we walked, we discussed other options for getting out of aforementioned pickle. My son said that he felt pretty in control about everything and then said, “Well, I guess this is what big brothers are for.”
Why was he so calm? Not because he’s 18 months older than she is. Because he’s been in that situation before. He once rode the public bus home from another friend’s house and got off at the wrong stop. When his little feet hit the ground, he realized it, freaked out and walked home. The minute after he found me, he felt like a freaking super hero for surviving the arduous three-minute walk across the street.
My kids were never in danger. I was standing, literally, 20 feet away from them the whole time. We just didn’t see each other. Worst case scenario: they could’ve walked home by themselves and waited for us there. They could’ve called the police. They could’ve called me from a borrowed cell phone, as they were starting to do. Hong Kong is ridiculously safe. Violent crime is almost nonexistent. This is not Compton. This is a sleepy fishing village in one of the safest countries in the world. They were fine, or else I wouldn’t have sent them in the first place.
Hubs was a little stressed out about the whole thing. He said they should have a basic cell phone for the next time they venture out without us. I kinda agreed without thinking and we haven’t talked about it since, but I woke up strongly disagreeing.
I didn’t have a cell phone when I rode my bike all over hell and creation as a kid. You know how I got myself out of a jam? I figured it out. You know how I felt when I did? Like a freaking rock star. Did I cry sometimes? Almost definitely. Was I scarred? Ask my therapists. Just kidding.
One of the most defining moments of my adult life was when I got lost in Sicily. Nobody speaks English in Sicily. I swear to god, nobody. I, like my dear son, got off the bus at the wrong stop. Shit happens. I had no idea where I was, where to go, how to get there, or what to do. Foreign country, yo. Day 1. By myself. I was 21.
I stumbled around for a few minutes, looking lost, feeling tired. Then I went over to a good-looking Italian male around my age, busted out my guide book and pointed to the phrases I wanted him to hear. We pointed at sentences back and forth for a few minutes and then he brought me over to his car. I kinda just had to trust him on this one, so I got in. He drove me to the driveway of where I needed to be. The next day he came by again to check on me.
Potentially dangerous? Yes. Obvi. But also the first moment I felt invincible. I’d done it! I mean, he’d done it. But really, I’d gotten myself out of a problem situation, and I grew exponentially from it. I later got a tattoo to commemorate the experience. (I stopped this practice. Thankfully.)
I don’t want my kids to have a cell phone. I want them to problem solve. I want to put them into situations that are just one tiny step out of their reach, and I want them to grow and get that tattoo-inspiring feeling that comes with said growth.
What do you think, Internets?