Sometimes it can seem almost impossible for a single mom to keep up with all the latest in her child’s lives. The have so many things they want to tell us about homework, teachers they love/hate, friends, enemies, and many, many other things. I found out the hard way last night that one of the most important areas of your child’s life to pay attention to is their friends.
My 7 and 9 year went to play at a friend’s house about three blocks away; I’ve taken them to this particular friend and they have played there quite often so I was comfortable with letting them walk there alone. I told them they had to be home by 7:00; when they didn’t arrive home on time I sent my 13 year old to go get them. He came back and I could hear children playing outside a few minutes later. I called them all into the house to start their evening routines and went about doing what I needed to get done. After about 15 minutes I noticed that something was definitely wrong; my 7 year old son was not in the house! I asked the eldest child to go outside and get him; he went outside and said he wasn’t there. I asked my daughter where he was; she said he’s still over at my friend’s house. So I told her to go get him; she came back and told me he wasn’t there. This is the point where panic set in; loosing a child is a very scary thing and when you’re a single mom with a limited support network it can be downright terrifying when you don’t know who to turn to for help. We all got into the Jeep and went to her friend’s house but he was not there; the neighbor child came outside and told us that he saw my son heading “that way” as he pointed up the street. We circled about 4-5 blocks for another 10 minutes and even went past my daughter’s friend’s house who was now not home.
I decided to head up the street once more before turning home to call the police; my son had now been “missing” for about a half hour. As we reached the end of the street my daughter started yelling at some children she saw in the church parking lot in front of us. I asked her if any of her yelling was going to help us find her brother (yes I was beyond aggravated). She told me that the girls were in her brother’s class and that he talked about them all time. Really? When did I miss those conversations?
She got out of the Jeep and ran over to them and they informed her that he was at their house; we followed them and discovered that their house was over 10 blocks away from home! I was too overjoyed at finding him to really yell and after hearing what he had to say I was really glad that I didn’t. I simply told him that he was grounded to the house for a week. He said, “okay, mommy I had fun; when I’m ungrounded can I go back to visit them again? He obviously had no sense of the seriousness of his behavior or how it had affected his family. His only though was about how much fun he had while playing with his friends.
We stopped by my daughterss friends house to let her know that we found her brother and as we pulled up by their driveway her dad came up the street in the car. He too had been out looking for my son. I’d never really spent much time talking or building a relationship with him to consider him part of my support network but he was there when we needed him.
I’m very aware that for single moms it can be quite difficult with keeping on top of all your child’s activities but I learned three very important lessons from last night’s “lost child” episode:
1. Take time to listen to your child “Im sure you’ll be amazed at what they have to say and sometimes you just might learn a little piece of information that will save you a lot of frustration later.
2. Instill in them your boundaries “I know that I had never made it clear to him that when he decided to change his plans that he needed to check in with me first. If I had made this clear to him in the first place we may have been able to avoid this incident.
3. Make friends with the parents of your children’s friends “if your children are over there visiting their children they can offer you their knowledge of your children and become an extra pair of eyes and ears for you. It is important to have a support network that will be there to count on when you need it.