Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

Back Up Plan November 10, 2015

*Warning – This is going to be rambly and have lots of run-on sentences*

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When I was 4 years old I attended a pre-school in the countryside of Jamaica.  I got picked up from school every day, except one day that I didn’t.  I took it upon my 4 year old self to walk home alone – along a busy street – instead of just waiting for someone to come get me or instead of asking a trusted adult for assistance.  My Mom and Grandparents were in a panic until I was found.

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Ace and I were driving home when he wound down his window to greet a student from his class.  She was walking down the street with someone we didn’t know.  Someone we would quickly find out that SHE also didn’t know.

The girl, Anna, typically meets up with her teenaged brother and they take the bus home together, except this day, the brother didn’t meet her and she took it upon her 9 year old self to board a NJ Transit bus alone and head home.  But she didn’t make it home because she asked someone on the bus to lend her their phone to call her Dad.  Her Dad – who thankfully answered the call (a lot of people are in the habit of not answering their phone if they don’t recognize the number – NOT A GOOD IDEA if you have kids) – told her to get off the bus immediately and go back to school.  I’m sure he was freaked out in the moment and thought walking the short distance back to school was safer than taking a 20 – 30 minute bus ride on her own.

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The problem was that the bus, while not far from the school at all, had already made a couple of turns and Anna, who was scared and flustered, had lost her bearings and now did not know where her school was.  She asked a stranger for help.  The woman didn’t recognize the name of the school so was instead taking Anna to the major bus/train terminal in our area (an overwhelming and frightening place for a lost 9 year old) with the hope that someone there – maybe a bus driver – would be able to get her back on a bus that would drop her back at her school.  Anna had no more money for additional bus fare.  The school the kids go to is excellent, but we don’t live in the suburbs.  We live in what’s probably considered the inner city.

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Picture this whole thing.

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Thankfully I had left work early that day and thankfully Ace is the friendly kid he is and thankfully Anna knew her Dads phone number and thankfully I was able to get Anna home safely.

But it didn’t have to be that way.

It’s incredibly unnerving.

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As it turned out, the brother made it home safely also and is in a world of trouble with his parents, as he should be.  But I’m glad that he’s at least ok.  I was worried that something had happened to him.  I can’t imagine what his parents were going through in the moments leading up to finding out where he really was.

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Of course, I had a talk with Ace about how important it is to know his parents phone numbers (he does) and his address (he does).  We talked about what the right thing to do is should the expected not happen.  Who he should go to and what’s NOT a good idea (Heading out on your own and asking strangers for help and walking anywhere with them, not knowing where you are going).

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Please talk with your kids, whether they are 4 or 9 or 15, whether they are special needs or not – Make back up plans – You may think they know the right thing to do but they need reminders.  Frequent reminders.  It’s important.  Even the smartest and seemingly most responsible kids (from what I hear Anna’s brother is usually very good and everyone is shocked at this incident) make bad decisions sometimes that can put them or others in harms way.  Even the smartest and most responsible kids (Anna) can get frazzled when the pressure hits.

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2 Responses to “Back Up Plan”

  1. Deb Says:

    Thank you for this reminder. It reminds me of something that happened this summer with my daughter, who was pushing me to be able to walk to her new school this year (she’s 11). We did a “trial run” and what happened? She went a completely wrong way, even though it’s a simple walk, and somehow ended up lost in a different neighborhood before making her way home. I learned she’s not ready…and it reminded me we need to know our kids well and not just go by some predetermined age of when they probably know or should know how to do something.

  2. Michelle Says:

    A good ending to that story thank goodness! Very good advice about the phone numbers. Even for us adults who have everyone’s numbers programmed in our phones and don’t know them off by heart like we used to. Time to teach them to the kids!


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