Mother's Intuition in Action!

pablo-green-scooter Next month, my son Pablo will turn ten. Like many kids with autism, he has occasionally wandered, when something has truly caught his interest. During his early elementary school years, he loved to run along the fence that bordered the school playground. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the playground fence, it was the privacy fence running along the back of the houses near the school – and it went on and on and ON. He would take off and run alongside that fence and completely disappear from sight, in what seemed like the blink of an eye. I can’t tell you how many times I ran after him, while begging other playground moms to keep an eye on the three girls for a moment. Luckily, Pablo’s developed a little more impulse control over the years, and he hasn’t been much of a wanderer lately – or so I thought.

I needed to make a big shopping trip this week. After making my giant list and compiling my fat stack of coupons, I headed out, and left my teenager in charge of the little ones. I took a head count before I left, and didn’t see Pablo. My little girls assured me he was just outside riding his scooter. Not unusual. We live on a cul-de-sac near a small pocket park, and all of the kids regularly ride their scooters and bikes all around, popping in and out of people’s houses, since we have a street full of friends. Off I went.

As I was driving to the store, I was suddenly hit with the worst feeling of dread I’ve ever experienced. I’ve had times where I felt like something wasn’t right, where things were just a little “off” – and this was nothing like that. That feeling you get in your chest and stomach when you get horrible news, when you can’t catch your breath for a moment, when you audibly gasp – that’s the feeling I had. It scared me to death. I pulled over and turned around, and headed straight back home.

“Where is Pablo?” I asked Kayley, who was surprised to see me back already. We glanced around, called for him, poked our heads into all his usual hangout places. Over the next fifteen minutes, I searched. I called every neighbor. I circled the block. No Pablo. I had a houseful of kids, between my three girls and the neighbor kids who were over to play, but no Pablo. The other kids jumped onto their bikes and headed out to track him down. My little heroes.

Moments later, I heard Mallory’s sweet voice yell for me, “I found him!” Holy cats, you guys. The relief that washed over me was overwhelming. Then, they appeared from around the bend – Mallory on her bike and Pablo on his electric scooter. Even from a block away, I could see on his face that he knew he was in trouble! “I’m sorry, Mom!” As they approached me, I burst into tears. Pablo threw his arms around me and started to sob. “I’m so sorry, Mommy!” I told him I was moments away from calling the police. He cried harder. “But I don’t want to go to jail!” Oh, Pablo.

Turns out, Pablo has been spending a lot of time on Google Maps – which isn’t actually unusual for him – and he’s been memorizing all the routes in the neighborhood to get to the places he likes to go. I don’t think he truly INTENDED to hop on the bike path and head all the way down to the BIG park, which is more than half a mile from our house – but he got pretty far away in a hurry on his electric scooter! And practically gave me a heart attack in the process. Naturally, we had another long talk about boundaries and rules, and I’m crossing all my fingers that this doesn’t happen again any time soon. Still, I’m looking into getting some sort of tracking device for Pablo, just in case my intuition doesn’t kick in next time! If you have any tips for me, I’m all ears.

What are your rules for your children, when it comes to playing in the neighborhood? Do you allow your kids to visit nearby parks without you?


  1. Daria says:

    Tough one. I’m struggling with what is good for building independence and where the line is for safety. I”m realizing the Jessica thing has affected me more than I thought. Now every time my kids head out the door I wonder if they are going to be hurt by a stranger. Weird for me and I don’t like it.

    If the siblings are together I feel much more comfortable than solo wanderings. At least I feel someone is there to get help if something goes wrong.

    But, yes, I’ve let the kids go to the park without me for 30min at a time. I give them my phone and make them call when they get there and call when they leave.

    I am SO not a helicopter mom, so this anxiety is really getting to me…

    Good call on turning around mama!!

    1. Laura says:

      That’s exactly it, Daria – I’m sure the danger has always been there lurking, but having a child abducted and murdered practically in your backyard has changed our whole city.

  2. Loretta says:

    Eeks! So glad Pablo was quickly located. I know those few moments of wondering where they’ve gone are painful and feel like little lifetimes whizzing by.

    I always had a hard time deciding how far was close enough that I would let the kids play without one of us and how far was truly absolutely too far. Finding a balance between happy kids and spazzing out mom was always difficult for me (still is difficult for me) Even when we lived in the fenced apartment/townhouse community and the playground was part of the community I had a hard time letting the kids go there on their own, I made them come back home to check in frequently …

    Maybe if the park he wants to visit is super nearby with no main roads to cross to get to it and a sibling goes with it could be something to let them try with a time limitation. I always made the boys take a cell phone with them too (they have their own now, but they didn’t before) it generally made me feel better knowing they had the phone if they needed something and I told them to call me when they walking back.

    1. Laura says:

      And that’s the thing, Retta – it’s not like it SHOULD be unsafe. He’s going to be TEN, for cryin’ out loud. I think I MIGHT be able to allow them to go in a group – maybe. I don’t know. Like Daria said, we were changed by the abduction of Jessica Ridgeway. It’s hard to want to let your kids out of your sight these days.

  3. Amy Lynn says:

    My brother has a tracking device for his kids. It’s a really good one. They tried it out in a football stadium. I’ll get the name and text it to you. Mother’s intuition is some crazy shit! Way to go Mama! You are amazing!

    1. Laura says:

      AWESOME, Amy – please do. We’d be very interested.

  4. Kim in Salt Lake City says:

    Holy cats! How scary! I’m so very glad it all turned out OK!

  5. Karen says:

    Aw man I’m so glad you had that intuition to turn around! How scary. I’m so glad he’s okay.

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