In every neighborhood there is a child. A child that is shoeless, unsupervised, and dirty. A child that rides around on a bicycle without a helmet, playing russian roulette with traffic, and making people wonder if they should call child protective services.
I am the mother of such a child.
When Ian was two, he became an escape artist, rivaling Houdini. One night, I awoke out of a sound slumber with the dreadful feeling of something being wrong. I immediately checked on my children. Ian was not in his bed. Nor was he in the house. I found him in the backyard, barefoot, ankle deep in snow and perfectly happy. It became necessary to install his doorknob backwards so that I could lock him in his room at night to prevent these occurences. My husband installed latches at the tops of all the doors in an effort to slow down the rate of escape. We did everything we could short of barbed wire and electric fences.
These efforts are no longer effective. Locks can be picked or broken, windows opened, screens shredded, and tired parents manipulated. What Ian wants, Ian gets. And he wants to be free. He hates boundaries, those invisible fences that prevent him from achieving true joy. He also doesn't understand the reasons behind the fences. His brain doesn't function on the same wavelength of other children his age. I can reason with him and have a good heart to heart, where he nods in agreement but never makes eye contact. And three minutes later, my wise words forgotten, I will see him screaming away on his bike, helmetless, down the middle of the road.
Yesterday, after school, Ian wanted to play with Aiden. "I can ride my bike?"
"Honey, you lost your helmet. I can't let you ride your bike. It wouldn't be safe. But how about if I give you a ride?"
"I'll go get my keys. Just hold on a sec."
It took about four seconds to get my keys. I walked back into the garage and... No Ian. I ran out to the driveway in time to see him pedaling for all he was worth down the sidewalk. At least he wasn't in the street. I hollered to him, "You are making a bad choice!" He turned his head, so I knew he heard me, and pedaled faster. I jumped in the car and sped after him. He got to Aiden's, dropped his bike and made a dash into the open garage. I pulled into the driveway just as he was trying to let himself in. He wasn't even taking time to knock. He didn't make it. I might be nearing forty and overweight, but I can move fast if I need to. I carried him to the car telling him, in a calm but assertive tone, that I was so sorry he made this bad choice, because now he wasn't going to play at all. For the next hour his screams were heard across the state and all of Utah knew I was a "poopyhead." It was a long afternoon.
I live in a wonderful neighborhood where Ian is blessed with many guardian angels.
"Polly, I thought you'd want to know that Ian is riding his bike in the middle of Edenbrook and someone almost hit him."
"Polly, Ian is on his way to the high school."
"Polly, I just saw Ian on his bike and he doesn't have any pants on."
Well, it's his wiener.
Last week, during a search and rescue, I found my little boy at Heather Weichers house. Rebeka babysits for Heather frequently, but Ian has never been there. The poor woman came out to the car and said, "Oh, I was wondering who he belonged to. You're his mom."
"He showed up at my door and asked if he could have a snack."
For all you mom's out there, I do not need to explain my embarrassment.
At church last Sunday, Wendy Reeder approached me laughing, "I need to tell you something funny."
"Ian and Brad showed up at my house the other day and Ian said, 'We need to play here. There's construction at my house.'"
Again, embarrassed. I did explain to Wendy what the construction was. It was Ian and his friends, scattering Scott's tools all over the backyard and wrapping the trees, bushes, and playground in yellow twine.
I don't willingly let my child be the neighborhood hobo. So if you see him wandering, cruising without a helmet, or begging food, please know that his mother is not aware but will be along shortly to find him, unless of course I've managed to escape.