Monday, August 11, 2008

Noah's Adventure and (hopefully) More Lessons Learned

I referred briefly in yesterday's post about Noah's first experience with "running away". I don't really know if that was his thought or if it was an imaginary adventure. Noah is a VERY imaginative kid, usually with fact to support his thoughts. Here's what happened and you tell me...

Sunday morning the weather was beautiful and we headed outside to get ready to go to the zoo. While we were outside, Noah wanted to help me pull a few weeds. This turned into pulling weeds along the sidewalk, which led to trimming the entire sidewalk area, which throughout the day, led to trimming the driveway and sidewalk up to our house. It actually ended up being pretty much an all day affair (for Steve, actually)

A few days ago, I rented the movie; "Everybody's Hero" about a boy with a talking baseball that is in search of Babe Ruth's stolen bat. A very cute movie, by the way.

So, mid afternoon while Steve and I were going at the driveway with a vengeance, Noah comes about stating that he is going to Chicago to see if Babe Ruth is real. I told him that Babe Ruth was indeed real a long time ago and not alive anymore.

Noah was determined he needed to go to Chicago. I told him that maybe we would go to Chicago again soon, thinking that he wanted to go see our family that lives south of there.

About fifteen minutes later, Noah came outside with the blue case from his K'Nex, filled to the brim with underwear from his room and a few shirts. He had packed for his trip. I thought it was absolutely adorable that his imagination was so vivid. This kid meant business. He started heading down the sidewalk. Noah is allowed to ride his bike down to the second fire hydrant on our street...about 12 houses or so and has always been very good about that boundary. I have felt it was necessary to start giving him a little room to teach him about me trusting him. So I didn't think much of it. I tool a few pictures because I just thought he was so cute. As he was walking, I DID remind him about the boundary rule several times.

About a minute later, Aaron starts heading down to meet him. Somewhere along the way, Noah starts running back and Aaron is sitting on the sidewalk a little ways down crying. I looked away to see if he would run back, and sure enough he did. Noah stated that Aaron needed "toys" for their trip and headed inside to pack a small backpack for him as well.

At this point, I was so proud of him for including his brother in his "game". I kept asking him why he wanted to go to Chicago, but he insisted that he NEEDED to go. So off they went again.

While I was telling Steve about how adorable I thought the whole scene was, Steve was saying to me, "Are you sure you should be letting them go walking by themselves?" I assured him that Noah knew the rules very well and I trusted him to not violate that trust.

I WAS SO WRONG! A few minutes later, I looked and they were BOTH past the second hydrant and almost to the end of the street.

At this point, I pretty much lost it, yelled at them to come back, brought them inside, put them into the bath and straight to bed.

I was so angry for so many reasons, but I was also hurt that I couldn't trust Noah as I thought I could.

I don't think Noah was trying to "run away" or he probably would have used those words. I don't know if he thought he was going for real, or was testing to see how far he could get before I called him back. He told me several times during the preparations "Mommy, you can come too" so maybe he was just trying to get our attention because we were busy with the yard.

I don't really know...and I'm not sure if he does either.

There were several issues at stake here:

1. First and foremost...did he really want to run away from home or was he actually curious about Babe Ruth. Most kids I wouldn't think much of the biographical question, but this is the kid who of all the books in the library last week, picked out an encyclopedia and reads it every day (at six years old, mind you)
2. He passed the fire hydrant that has ALWAYS been our landmark
3. He led Aaron astray by encouraging him to break the rules too...we have been A LOT of trouble reminding Aaron to stay in our backyard and not run over to the neighbor's house if she is outside
4. He wasn't protective of Aaron when Aaron started going off the sidewalk

For now I have pretty much let the issue go. I went up a few hours later when Noah was still awake in his bed and had a talk with him about being responsible for Aaron when the two of them are away from us. I had to pick which issue to deal with instead of slamming him with everything.

What do you think? Should I have punished more? Less? Any guesses on motivation here? Have your kids had any similar "adventures?"

This may be the most incoherent post I have ever written but so much is circling in my mind about the whole incident.

Thanks for listening.


Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

Huh - that surprises me after he was so good about it on Friday when the girls were running alongside (behind) him on his bike. Then again, I can exactly see how Noah would process this whole thing and how his 'trip' could trump any previously existing rules. Maybe in his mind since he told you that he was going to Chicago and you didn't stop him when he took off - that was an implicit (in his mind) ok to go past the fire hydrant?

I love that picture! :)

LadyBugCrossing said...

You didn't remind him he couldn't go past the hydrant. He told you he was going to Chicago and you didn't tell him he couldn't. That's mixed messages....

Yes, he should know that he can't go past the hydrant, but... He is not old enough to process any such logic - and he is a boy and boys have no logic processor built in.

Don't sweat it and let it go.

In a couple of days, I'd ask him about his trip. Find out what HE was thinking. Ask questions. Don't judge. Answer with "Oh..." and wait for him to tell you more.

And when you find out - I wanna know what he was thinking!! :-)

Courtney said...

I agree with Deb. He told you he was going to Chicago, you didn't stop him so it was okay (in his 6 year old brain.) I don't think he was crying out for attention or trying to actually run away, I think he is genuinely interested in Babe Ruth. Is there any kid books on him you could get for Noah?

Becky said...

I probably would have responded exactly the same way you first, then freak out when I saw he meant business.

This is a biggie. Having a 12 year old who has pulled a similar stunt in his younger years, I'm of the mind that this should be taken very seriously, and that perhaps the Lord allowed this to occur now to make you both aware of this facet of your son's internal make-up and personality now so that you can begin to address these issues as they arise and know how to guide him in the right direction.

This is not a bad trait (to be stifled) in him. In fact, it's probably a big part of how God made him (adventuresome, hands-on learer, etc.) meant for good use on down the just needs to be to be funneled in a positive direction until such a time as he is fully equipped to spread his wings and fly with it.

Knowing that your son is imaginative and adventuresome (and may yet attempt taking off like this again when something else strikes his fancy)...I would probably spend some concerted time in the coming weeks addressing everything that could possibly pertain to this pivotal event in his young life, subtly driving home why it wouldn't have been a good idea (without actually saying it or harping on it...but by showing and teaching him why...beginning with safety issues.

Explain that as his parents, you and your husband have been given the job of keeping him safe until he is older and has learned all that he needs to know to be able to make good choices and do everything right on his own. Stress that this usually doesn't happen until they are about 18 or so (so that he's aware it's off in the future a good ways), and that if he takes off now and you guys don't know where he is, he might not be safe...and might actually be in danger (weather, bad guys, speeding cars, etc.), and that you wouldn't know where he was to be able to find and protect him from dangers. Also let him know that you love him and don't ever want anything bad to happen to him.

It might also be a good idea to go over dangers that he, as a child, isn't even aware of yet and likely hasn't thought through with regard to his little 'quest'. Explain to him how many days it would likely take for him to get to Chicago (walking) from your house, and then ask him probing questions...Had he thought about where he would sleep at night...all by himself? Get him to think about and answer honestly whether or not he'd be scared, sleeping in a strange place all by himself without his parents and brother around? What about when it's really dark out and he hears unfamiliar sounds in the night? How did he plan to cook his food? Did he have money to get into these places he wanted to go? (emphasize that some cost a lot). Did he even know how to build a fire? What of fire safety? What if he got lost? Did he know how to read a map or a compass? Did he have one? What if he got hurt and was bleeding...would he know what to do to stop the flow of blood? What if he encountered a bear in the woods, or some mean dogs on the road? Would he know how to get help? And worst-case-scenario, what if he was too far away to get help (as in faced with death)?

Maybe give him the analogy of driving (or flying a plane), and how you wouldn't just let him drive or fly right now on his own, because for one he's too little to see out the window and still reach the pedals well enough to operate the machine safely, but for another he hasn't been properly 'trained' in such things. Driving and flying may look easy, but it takes a lot of skills that are developed with much practice over a long period of time. Even then, one mistake and crashes can happen (Adventurer Steve Fossett, for example). A person has to learn how first. Learning any new skill takes a lot of specialized training, sometimes years of college to learn how to do it properly. In the same way, he as a kid in your home is 'in training' to be an independant adult one day. It's important to Show him that, while he will one day, he doesn't yet possess all the knowledge and skills he needs to take off on a trip anywhere all by himself.

Maybe have him 'direct' you around an unfamiliar part of town from his seat in the car one day, to show him how hard it is to navigate around town when you don't know the area well or have navigational skills yet). Have him tell you (by the traffic lights or signs) when to stop and go, which direction, etc. He'll SEE how hard it really is.

If it seems that it's also an issue of wanting some 'freedom', you could explain that when he's old enough and mature and responsible enough to have a job and his own car, then maybe you would consider allowing him to go on an 'adventure' (a road trip) on his own...but only if you as his parents feel confident that he's had sufficient training to capably make such a trip on his own...but that usually doesn't happen until you go on a Senior trip or away to college.

(Later, this experience could also be a key componet in teaching him that personal responsibility on his part...being responsible for his younger brother, for himself and his own actions...these things all work to build trust and to prove to you as his parents that he is growing up and maturing enough to be trusted with more 'freedoms', and that eventually, one day, you will no longer need to tell him what to do and not to do, because he will be all grown up making right choices on his own.)

I would also touch on how TV and movies often show little kids doing 'grown up' things like this often ending up with happy, neatly tied-up endings, but in real life, things probably wouldn't turn out quite so well. Then, each time you watch a fanciful movie or TV show (that you fear might give him ideas), ask questions that will get him thinking about how the movie is more fiction than fact, and maybe elaborate on what would likely happen in REAL life. During particularly fanciful or fictional scenes, parental comments like, "Oh yeah, riiiight. Like that would happen!" are good for getting the kids to question for themselves why they would or wouldn't work in REAL life (basic cause and effect principles are often ignored in movies). This could be followed up by "What do you boys think would really happen if that boy did ____?" and then proceed to 'pick apart' the movie. My mom used this technique VERY effectively with my siblings and I, and it helped us to learn not to 'believe' everything we saw in movies or read about in fanciful books, and to think things through before we did them. Not that we couldn't still enjoy those books and movies, but it's important to separate fact from fiction...especially with children that are prone to trying things they see on TV or in the movies.

It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to also paint a picture of 'bad guys' that exist out there that might mean him harm or even kidnap him. I know it seems like you're taking away their happy-go-lucky, rosy, child's view of the world, but there does come a time where they need to be aware of dangers to be equipped to face them (if they should ever happen, God forbid). I'm a firm believer in teaching stranger-danger early on in life, and giving tips on how to get away from 'bad guys'. Introducing him little by little to the fact that not everyone out there is a 'good' person... this will help him to be not only wise and discerning about folks motives, but cooperative in learning all he needs to know to handle himself appropriately in any and every situation.

Of course, all of these things would be far too much to incorporate into one conversation with your young son, and some maybe too soon...but they can be drawn on in the near future as you become more aware of tendencies in your son that need to be corrected or funneled in a positive direction...and can be used as wonderful teaching opportunities meant to equip him to be a knowledgable, capable and independant young man. Our job is to get them there step by step.

Lastly, I wanted to comment that raising boys is much different from raising girls. Often, we as concerned moms (for me anyway, having several sisters and only one brother all younger than me) tend to want to over-protect our sons. However, boys have an in-born sense of adventure and thrill-seeking that needs to be quenched somehow or they will seek out ways too do so (ask me how I know this, lol).

It's good to encourage this in him somehow...through sports, hobbies...'daring' things like learning to rock climb, mastering a ropes course or learning other 'challenging' new skills...Karate, Tae Kwon Do...something that will challenge him on several levels and give him a sense of achievement, adventure, and prowess (and get them good and worn out in the process so they don't have the energy to get into 'trouble'). These things all play into their healthy masculine development, and will serve them well in the future.

These are all things that are fresh in my mind, because still today we continue to work with our older son Jericho on many related issues, and character and development training takes time. Equipping him to be both independant and strong in the Lord is a weighty responsibility, but we're determined to give him the best foundation possible to work with, as times certainly don't get any easier.

Finally, the thing that cured our (then 5 year old) son from his 'running away' attempt was that when he packed his backpack up with all his 'stuff' (mostly toys), I took him aside (as my mom did with me when I did this as a kid) and said, "Oh, but you can't take those clothes...we bought those clothes for you to use here. And that backpack...we bought that for you to use here, too. In the end, the only thing we 'allowed' him to take were a couple of toy figurines he'd bought with his own money in a plastic grocery sack we generously offered (lol). When it was whittled down to a couple of paltry toys that would do him little good on his own, it kind of took the wind out of his sails. Even he could see it wouldn't be enough to get by on for any length of time. Then we started asking about what he planned to eat for food (which we wouldn't let him take, either), where he'd sleep at night, and pointed out that he didn't do so well in the dark...and what of wild animals as he got closer to the mountains? Needless to say, when all was said and done, he knew a losing battle when he saw it, and we never had any trouble with those things again.

Sorry this was so long, but I hope something in it helps!

Tammy said...

I think all kids go through the whole "running away" thing. I know I did as a kid, I wanted to go visit a friend and my daughter did it too. She didn't get out the door before I talked her out of it. I think that since you never said he couldn't go to Chicago by himself he didn't think the rules applied. I think bed and the talk was an appropiate punishment, but that's just my opinion.

Shannon @ Gabi's World said...

I think you handled it pretty well, and i have to admit that photo is adorable! I don't think he was trying to run away. I think he was just caught up in the excitement of the movie.

Becky said...

I don't know if this is the right thing or not, but with my six (now seven) year old, the minute he walked outside with his bags packed and started heading down the sidewalk, I would stop what I was doing and go online with him, and look up Babe Ruth on Wikipedia, explain what year he died, tell him he died before Mommy was even born. Then I'd get out a map and show him how far it was from his house to Chicago, how far he would get in one day if he tried to walk there, reference how far it takes to get to someplace he goes all the time and then how much farther Chicago is, etc. I'd end by saying that aside from the distance thing, I would never let him go to Chicago by himself because I would miss him so terribly and not be able to protect him from kidnappers, cars, etc. After all that reasoning and giving the 'why', if he still argued or protested, I will simply say, "No. You can't go to Chicago, because it's not safe, and it's my responsibility to keep you safe, and I *want* to keep you safe."

Becky said...

I was also thinking about the trust factor. I've been encountering this with my seven year old. He doesn't take my word for it anymore. He has to see for himself. I can tell him outright what something is or what something means, or even the correct pronunciation of a word, and his little heart just wants to rebel against it. He'll believe any other reputable source, but for some reason, Mom and Dad don't know anything. It's interesting that when you told Noah Babe Ruth was dead, he didn't believe you. That makes me feel better about James. Must be a phase. Now if only I knew how to get *through* the phase.