The Tale of the Lost Child: A Modern 21st Century Problem

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Have you seen this child? Hopefully you will not be seeing this picture in the dairy case at Safeway any time soon.

I lost my child somewhere in South Dakota.

OK, I didn’t really LOSE him, but no one in Seattle has heard from him in a week. He last posted to his Facebook page last Sunday at 4:30 am in Montana; my last text conversation with him was last Sunday around 9:00 am. Then silence — no “read receipts” on my text messages, no evidence he has been into his Facebook page.

Now this would normally send a parent to the brink of madness and to the doorway of state patrol to report a missing person faster than you can say “put him on a milk carton.” We’re trying to be cool, and here’s why:

He is spending the week camping with 2,500 of his closest friends on disputed land claimed by the Lakotas in South Dakota. Yes, he quit his job, sold his car, and took a bus to Hill City to attend the Rainbow Gathering. And why shouldn’t he? If you don’t do this at 19 — before you are tied down with bills and other responsibilities — then when will you ever do something like this? After all, even though he is a total dumbass, he also spent much of his childhood traveling through Western Europe with me. He instinctively knows the concept of bus and rail systems, hostels, backpacks, and so on. He said he plans to stay and help clean up the site once the gathering is over, so he should reemerge by the end of this week. He is fine, I’m sure. And yes, I check the South Dakota news sites every night just to make sure nothing bad happened…

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My little man at age 9 during our most adventurous and complicated bus-train-car trek through Normandy. He definitely has the roaming gene. Or maybe it’s a bug?

While I’m not too excited that he quit his job for this, I am proud of him for being brave and adventurous. He will probably learn more during this trip than he did his entire last year of high school.

But what about that freakout-freaky silence? We know exactly why no one has heard from him: his phone battery lasts less than a day. He is out in the woods where there is probably no reception. Even if he were to wander near a cell tower, his phone is most certainly dead.

But let’s be clear: “losing” him is not his problem, it’s ours. He knows exactly where he is and off the grid probably feels like freedom.

It seems one requirement now of modern 21st century parenting is to know exactly where your child is at all times even once they are legal adults. I realize now that this is probably not that healthy. I will admit I was freaking out the first two days that I was not making contact with him. Yes, FREAKING. OUT. Until I remembered that my husband backpacked through Europe when he was 21 and never once called his mother. I was in Europe the summer I was 23 — still a kid even though I was already married — and I only called the husband every few days to check in (and really only because terrorists were bombing the Paris subways when I was there). My parents had no idea where I was or what I was doing between ages 17 and 21. This is because hardly anyone had mobile phones o-CELL-facebookwhen we were young adults (the smallest mobile phones available at the time were the size of large cinder blocks). Now as parents we are connected to our children through multiple channels constantly — phones, texting, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Each one of these channels is an electronic leash that keeps our adult children always at our fingertips, and when those channels go silent fear strikes us to the core.

Is this really a good thing for either party?

In the meantime, here is my favorite news headline from the Rainbow Gathering event: Lakota Warriors Vow to Crush Dirty Rainbow Hippies. (P.S. I didn’t know anything about the political issues with this gathering until after he left… otherwise I would have tried to have a frank discussion with him regarding the history of the land and why the Lakotas are so upset. Unfortunately I was a day or two too late.)

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One thought on “The Tale of the Lost Child: A Modern 21st Century Problem

  1. Pingback: Lost Child Found… guess how this story ends | Jen Drinks Coffee

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