Its important to me to allow the boy space to explore and go to his friend’s houses. Most of the time my allowing him a long leash works out pretty well for both of us. Unfortunately, there’s the occasional snaffu. Earlier this week, someone stole the boy’s scooter and tonight he was out well past dark and I started to worry.

Now, I wasn’t really worried someone would take him. Reading the Free-Range Kids Blog has taught me that such fear is rather irrational. But as the time ticked by and there was no sign of the boy, the irrational panic started to creep up on me anyway.

Shit, I thought, I only have two phone numbers and he at least four friends around the way. I was kind of uncomfortable about knocking on doors because, well, what if the other parents judged me for letting my kid roam around the neighborhood? Bed time was approaching at an alarming rate (probably because the boy was out WAY past dark) and I was starting to freak out. I called one friend, the one who was probably the least free-range, and of course, the boy wasn’t there because they didn’t allow visitors after 5 PM during the week. I had to try though.

As I started walking around the neighborhood, I realized that there were only two houses I knew for sure he might be. So I knocked on the other. There were two kids there who didn’t belong, neither of which was my boy. I went back home. There was no way I was just going to knock on random doors. To me, that meant panic and I was not going to panic.

I decided to walk around a little bit more trying to recognize some of the houses the boy had shown me. It was dark and I just couldn’t remember. I headed back to the house where his friends were (probably also well past curfew) to ask if they knew where the boy might be and just before I walked up to the door, I saw a little dark figure in an orange shirt across the street. So I called out.

“Um…” I said as he turned toward me. “Do you know how long it’s been dark?”

I walked up and introduced myself to the adult (and parent of the friend) standing outside with him.

“I asked him what his curfew was and he told me 9:00,” said the friend’s dad. “It sounded a little late to me, but we were about to have him call you and give him a ride home.”

I made sure to get the parent’s number and assured him that the boy was supposed to go home when it was dark. 8:30 was far too late, especially since it had been dark for more than an hour.

As the boy and I walked home, I chastised him about being out so late.

“But I was watching a movie,” he said.

“I don’t care. When are you supposed to come home?”

“When it’s dark.”

“It’s not that big a deal if you want to watch a movie and eat pizza,” I said. “But at the very least, you have to call me and let me know where you are.”

He took a bite of his pizza and acted like it wasn’t a big deal.

I stopped and made him look at me.

I explained that having the freedom to run around unsupervised was a big responsibility; one he shouldn’t take advantage of if he wanted to keep it. If he couldn’t be trusted to come home when he was supposed to come home, he’d be on lockdown indefinitely.

He raised an eyebrow at the idea of being “on lockdown.”

“That’s right,” I said. “If I can’t trust you, you can’t go anywhere.”

He hung his head and sighed. Then he looked up at me and said, “Ok, mommy. I’m sorry. I’ll be more responsible next time.”

We hugged it out and I made him go to bed early.