Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Lost My Kids in Central Park

The only thing making me feel slightly better about this is a statistic I just read on Lenore Skenazy’s “Free Range Kids” blog. If for some reason you WANTED your kids to be kidnapped or abducted by a stranger, you’d have to leave them outside unsupervised for 750,000 years. On Sunday, I was unaware of that statistic.

Did you know that the same group of roller skaters has been grooving in the park to the disco vibes together since….well, since the days of disco? They were out there in their short shorts grooving away to KC and the Sunshine Band! Who wouldn’t stop to look? Unfortunately, when I looked up, the kids were no longer within eyesight.

Here’s what I knew:
1) Their friend Jeffrey knew of “a tree with lots of branches that you can climb on and see the whole park.”
2) The tree was somewhere near the Sheep Meadow.
3) The kids were seen at the entrance to the Sheep Meadow.

But here’s what I found out:
1) The kids were not in the Sheep Meadow. I found out by circumnavigating the entire area (and it’s a big one! )
2) Nobody had seen them.
3) None of the 16,843 people on the Sheep Meadow knew about this special tree.

They were gone for 30 fairly excruciating minutes. The park rangers in the golf cart that I flagged down assured me that the kids would be returning any second since they’re not allowed to climb trees in Central Park. They said they probably returned to the blanket where we’d had our picnic. Sure enough, that’s where they were found. They had veered down a path behind the meadow, climbed the tree, and returned to the blanket when they realized Jeffrey's mom and I weren't behind them.

As relieved as I was to see them there, I think I knew in my gut that they were pretty safe. It was one of the most crowded days I’d ever seen at the park and Jeffrey knew his way around – better than my kids did, at least. They knew that they were supposed to track back if they couldn’t see me. And maybe, on a gut or subliminal level, I was aware of Lenore’s statistic -- maybe it’s just common sense.

For the rest of the day I was a little cranky: No we cannot get ice cream, No you cannot watch a movie at Jeffrey’s, No, you cannot listen to Z100 radio on the way home, No you cannot leave the front yard ever again. Yes, we will be stopping at the bookstore on the way home so that I can get Lenore’s new book and get a big reality check. Yes, please give Mom the biggest possible hug ASAP.


Lzyjo said...

LOL! Z100!!!! That was my fave when I was about 13!! OMG!....My mom was way to overprotective to let me go anywhere, but I can remember my dad getting SOO PO'd when I would go somewhere while he was fishing....BORING!!

That's really funny about the serious unlikelihood of anything happening. I love common sense!

I hope you still had a great time on your central park picnic, it's nice to eat lunch under the shady old trees.

I am a huge fan of Calvert Vaux, one of the designers, he also designed Olana, a state museum where I volunteered guiding tours.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I *hate* that panicky feeling in the pit of your stomach when your kids disappear. But I would guess the odds of a several kids being abducted, or one taken from the midst of a group is pretty slim too. safety in numbers and all,

tina said...

What fun! Bummer on not getting the icecream though:)

Joanne said...

Oh, you must've been panicked! I know I would've been. I'm glad it all ended well! This one will go down in your history books, one to be repeated (maybe someday over that ice-cream?)

JGH said...

Thanks Liz - must find out more about Calvert Vaux - sounds interesting. I've heard of Olana.

W, if one of the kids was lost by themself, I think I would have been much more panicked - better that they were in a group.

Tina, I agree. I'm a mean mom, aren't I? Kinda regretting that ice cream decision.

Joanne, again with the ice cream?! You guys are giving me guilt today! :-)

June said...

My kiddos are pretty free-ranging, but not in Central Park! Thank goodness they were all together. Don't worry: I wouldn't have been in the mood for ice cream either. I would have been in the mood for lots of hugs.

Anonymous said...

My first venture onto a blog - I'm inspired. So, perhaps we should have bought them the ice cream. Richard Louv should use that reassuring stat in his next book. Really enjoying your beautiful photos. Thanks for identifying those lovely wildflowers alongside the road (even if some are invasives). Think I'll fill up a vase. Great to revisit the visit to Mattherhorn. I'm pitching the doghouse to PIPC for a doggy rest stop at the Hook. Appreciate the book suggestions. Your focus on short and easy made me think of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Siddhartha. I read them way back when and they left quite an impression. Well, I was quite young and...

Bangchik and Kakdah said...

Many has gone through this I guess. The guilt feeling, the ice cream and so on.....
Cheer Up
~ bangchik

tut-tut said...

What's this about not being able to line dry?!!

Hey, my sister once had a hair-raising 15 minutes in a store when she couldn't locate my middle niece, not with calling, looking.

She was in the store window, frozen, "seeing what it is like to be a mannequin."

Wait until they are driving themselves places . . . it only gets more nerve wracking, though L is very good about callling when she arrives and leaves.

JGH said...

June, you're right - Central Park is not the ideal "free range" environment. Maybe if they knew the park better...or if it weren't so huge!

Sonnie - thanks for visiting! I read Siddartha recently and loved it. I remember trying it when I was younger and being totally bored. The author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull has a new book out.

BTW, you have great legs :-)

Bangchik - I remember getting lost at a carnival when I was a kid. Pretty traumatizing for me then, but my kids didn't seem at all worried.

LOL about the manequin, Tut! It must be nerve wracking when they start to drive. Glad L. is being considerate!

Apparently there are some snobby homeowners associations that make you sign an agreement not to line dry.

Anonymous said...

I used to "lose" my kid often after the first time--when a cop bought him a gelato. After that --gelato and getting to walk around with a policeman, he purposely slunk away every chance he could.

JGH said...

Anon, that is hysterical! (hope my kids don't read this)

mayberry said...

My heart stopped just reading this! I never would have been rational enough to think about Skenazy's stat or the fact that three kids in a group is really pretty safe. OY!!! I am glad they're OK!