“797,500 children (younger than 18) were reported missing in a one-year period of time studied resulting in an average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day.” —From 2002 report by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Eventually, we all reach the age when we’re comfortable confessing our teenage idiocies to our parents.
Actually, the word comfortable might be an overstatement to make us feel more in control of the admission. I mean, even though everyone involved is an adult, parents will always be parents. While they can’t literally punish us for the incredibly dumb things we got away with, they seem to have “a way.”
A way of raising an eyebrow, rolling their eyes, or some other similar method of silently reminding us that while we may be all grown up now, in some dark corner of our psyches, there are still remnants of the “dumb teenagers” (as my dad liked to call “them”) that we once were.
I hope I can perfect that skill when my kids commit, grow out of, and eventually confess their foolish ways to me down the road.
Most of what we did—and what the general teenage population does—is harmless fun to beat boredom or laziness. Unfortunately, some of it is pretty scary and could be far from harmless if things went wrong. And looking back, it’s obvious that somebody’s looking out for us during our less-than-responsible moments.
When I was 16, my car broke down about five miles out of my home town. It was before my curfew, but well past sunset. This happened on a dark highway, in between farm houses, and before cell phones.
I walked a mile or so to the first house I saw. When I got halfway down the long driveway, I heard low growling from all sides. Walking toward the growls and a bunch of buildings with no lights on didn’t seem like the thing to do. So I made my way down the highway again.
That was until a truck driver pulled over, rolled down the window and asked me if I needed a ride. It was dark, the guy was big, I was naive. So, I climbed into the cab. I don’t remember the drive. I don’t remember if we talked beyond me telling him where I lived. But I do remember him pulling into town, weaving his rig through several blocks and dropping me off at my front door.
I’m not sure what the alternative was for the situation I got myself into. Maybe I should have taken my chances with the invisible dogs or walked back roads into town. It all worked out, but the thought of my teenage self climbing into that truck cab makes me shudder.
Personal safety was not a hot topic when I was a teenager. I know bad things were happening to innocent people then too, but the paranoia about it was just not there.
Today, we start teaching it to our toddlers. As far as I’m concerned, as a parent, we have to. The last thing we want our kids to be is naive to danger and the one thing we want our kids to have is common sense. They work together. It’s harder to be naïve if you’re taught common sense.
Go places in pairs, stay in groups, trust your instincts. These are some of the basic tips recommended for tweens and teens by The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. I would add don’t climb into unfamiliar semis.
Other tips for all kids—toddlers to teens—are listed in an article at www.kansascity.com/655/story/557649.html More resources are at www.missingkids.com and www.netsmartz.org.
A good tool for young kids (and their parents) is “The Safe Side,” a safety video from John Walsh (“America’s Most Wanted”) and Baby Einstein creator, Julia Clark (www.thesafeside.com).
To my recollection, I never told my dad about my short ride in that big rig. I have no idea how I explained the abandoned car. And I did beat curfew, meaning I got home before my mom did from her second-shift job. So I’m assuming I never told her either. Until now, that is.
Luckily, my semi-cab confession is the only idiotic thing I did as a teenager. Really…just ask my mom!