Parental Adventures: Touch Nose and Other Rules
Any parent, even those of us who have embraced an adventurous life full of new places, people and experiences, has had that “Oh, ****!” moment when you can’t place your eyes on your little (or big) one in a crowded public place. Once they can walk, they can also walk off and suddenly, you’re having that singular moment where the entire universe crunches down to one panicked question – where’s my kid?!?
As you may have guessed based on our traveling lifestyle, we have embraced the idea of new experiences and learning through doing. These days it’s popular to call it Free-Range Parenting, but we just like to take our kids into the world and let them see things through their own eyes; we actually think it’s part of our responsibility to teach them how to deal with life. Now that they’re 13 and 14, we trust them enough to know that they could handle themselves should they get separated from us, even in crowded places. Why? Because we trained them, that’s why.
Although it’s never too young to start teaching your kids to participate in their own safety, obviously you have to use your own judgement as to your kids’ strengths and weaknesses, the present situation, any other potential dangers and so forth. This is not an endorsement of letting your kids run wild, but rather helping your kids be safe and helping you to relax in doing so. As the Boy Scouts say, Be Prepared.
Whenever we are attending an event with large crowds or geography, we have the kids each independently pose for full body photos, front and rear. Make sure that your photos are clear and that you can see details of faces and any identifying marks. If your kid has a change of clothes that markedly changes their appearance, get photos of both looks. Coat on, coat off.
Also, think about this…If they are lost and authorities are looking for them, they’re not likely to find them smiling with a face full of cotton candy, right? They’re likely to be sad or frightened. So, just like at the DMV, we ask them to give us a serious, or even scared or upset expression. If you make this part kind of silly, it can lighten the mood.
Now. Should anyone get separated, you’ve got today photos of them wearing exactly what they most likely will be wearing when they’re located. Also key is that you won’t have to search your mind trying to remember what pants they were wearing in order to give an accurate description to authorities — you’ll have the photos themselves. These can be easily provided to the vendor, local security, the police, and/or the media if necessary. Meanwhile, you can walk around with that photo, text message it to others to share, and also post to social media – particularly if the event you are attending has a Facebook page. Post the photo and ask it to be shared.
If you’ve ever lost a child temporarily, you know how important a recent photo can be. It only takes minutes to do, but can be instrumental in a safe, quick return.
Touch Nose Rules
When the kids were little and typically strapped into some sort of child transportation and delivery device, we didn’t worry too much about them wandering off of their own accord. But by the time they were about 5 and 6, and began to be more interested in independent exploration, we found we needed to institute some system to ensure that we knew where they were at all times. We developed Touch Nose Rules. Typically, we use these rules in any crowded, busy or overly large place, but also in situations where our attention might be diverted by conversation or other distraction, like loud music at a concert or the play of a baseball game.
Rules are as follows (you are the child, and I am the parent):
- You touch the tip of my nose to get my attention. You absolutely must get my undivided attention and hold it while you speak to me. Keep your finger on my nose.
- I will touch your nose in return so that you know I’m listening completely. Say where you want to go, and who is going to be with you (Buddy Rule). We require said Buddy to also come touch noses. It gets to looking a little weird, but we’re ok with that. 😉
- Agree with me on a time and place for reunification. If you’re not there, I will twist your nose when I find you. End of Rules.
This is exactly what it sounds like. We are lucky enough to have two kids who are of similar age and interests who actually like each other, enjoy exploring things together and don’t mind hanging out together. Parenting win! This makes it easy to implement the Buddy Rule.
In case you’re not familiar, the basic rule is this: In a crowded place or geographically diverse area, you stick together (like glue), especially if you’re not with the parental units. The expanded rules (incorporating Mugshots and Touch Nose Rules) allow us to feel comfortable to allow them independent explorations of museums, fairs, festivals and parks which, in turn, fosters confidence and skill in independent thinking, decision-making, cooperation and responsibility, amongst a host of other benefits.
Time and time again, the kids have told us how well they get along together when they’re off on a 45 minute romp through the Renaissance Festival, a half day explore at a state park, or 30 independent minutes at the county fair. These are the experiences that help them develop skills that they will need in the future when they’re truly off on their own, and we’re proud to be able to help them develop them while safely in our care.