We’re feeling pretty lucky that we had two weekends in a row of visitors from PA. First some good friends that we love and this past weekend, my parents. It is our pleasure to show them this place that we have come to love, Oak Park. We have done the downtown tours, the Frank Lloyd Wright walks, the Oak Park fireworks and parade festivities. We’ve taken everyone to our favorite deep dish pizza place and this Saturday evening, we tried somewhere new-an awesome mexican restaurant about 1.5 miles from our house.
And whether you like it or not- we make you walk. Our kids are starting to resign themselves to the fact that this is their new reality- walking, walking, walking.
It’s so much fun to live in a place where the grocery store, community pool, train stop, library and many other essentials are within a few miles. So we walk.
We had a late reservation to the mexican restaurant Saturday night, so it was dark by the time we arrived. The place was hopping and the atmosphere was so much fun. A good time was had by all. The boys were tired though, Josh especially. He had been up since 4am with my dad. You know, just shooting the breeze during the early hours of the day together. Translation- neither could sleep.
Josh asked to walk home while we finished eating. It was further away from home than we usually walk, but we gave him directions and let him start back. He’s a smart kid, he would be fine. We didn’t want to teach our kids to be afraid, so we thought this would be another good experience for him.
As we left to walk home, Drew took the other two kids on the route he had given Josh and my parents and I went a different way, intending to hit the local ice cream shop. I figured Drew would beat us home by a solid 20 minutes. So we walked and talked, enjoying the beautiful night. We were about half of a mile from home when the texts started coming in.
Mom-Please get home soon.
A bunch of kids were chasing me..
I’m fine. I hid and then crept home.
My adrenaline kicks in and I start running home to him. I call Drew and he had stopped because of a kid bathroom emergency, so Josh was still home alone.
Then, my phone began to ring. Josh was rattled as he talked about the group of high schoolers that followed him the last half mile home, calling him a fag, fat little boy, and other harsh names. Josh stayed quiet and walked fast. He was almost home when he ducked into the high school parking garage and then RAN. He said they were screaming things and laughing at him but stopped following him.
We hugged him and comforted him. We felt horrible.
We asked him for the details and Drew sent off a quick email to our local police officer that he had just met at the Farmer’s Market earlier that day.
Truthfully, it was a lapse in common sense.
We are happy to give our kids freedom. I believe that my job as a mom is to teach my children how to function independently. That’s why we let them fly on their own when they got old enough, let them ride their bikes places, take walks, meet their friends at the pool… Some days it hits me that Abbey is only 5 years from leaving our house, likely for good. Isn’t it what we should be doing- teaching them how to do well without us?
But, doing well means using common sense.
That was my first reaction the one time I was broken into when I lived in Jackson, while I was home. Shouldn’t have left my first floor giant window wide open.
This time it was, shouldn’t let my kid walk home in the dark by himself. SHOULD use the buddy system. Walk with someone.
Also, this provided a good opportunity to talk about what to do in those situations. You know, like- don’t run into a dark and empty parking garage when someone is following you. We brainstormed with the kids ideas on what you should do. Duck into a restaurant or any public place. Walk towards well lit areas. Tell someone you see that you need help.
We also told him what he did well. He didn’t taunt them back and make the situation worse. He moved quickly away from them. He called us the moment he got home. He told us what happened. He saw the situation for what it was- stupid kids having fun at his expense.
We love walking around here and we will continue to do that, but, do it well. A good reminder came to us this weekend after that incident. Remember to use common sense.
This is how we learn.
(And please teach kids not to be so cruel with their words!! We are always working on this with ours.)