Listen, I am SOOOOO not one to dole out parenting advice because, hello 😎.
When I was a very little girl, I had a lot of anxiety — I was terrified of being left behind and getting lost.
So, when I was 3, my mom taught me how to memorise my phone number.
She even made a little song to go with it — and it was awesome.
I remember it to this day.
30 years later my daughter almost got on the wrong bus at school – she didn’t, but she almost did, and it frightened her.
“Mama what if I get on the wrong bus,” she said. “What if I end up on Kibbutz Hulda? Or Jerusalem? Or Beersheva?”
I could have told her “oh honey, that won’t happen” except that’s bullshit — it COULD happen. It’s unlikely, but it could. And it almost did.
So I said to her instead, “baby, it probably won’t happen, but let’s figure out what tools you need to be ok if it happens.
“I need your phone number,” she said.
I wrote it down.
She traced her fingers over each number. She said each number outloud. I heard her practicing it over and over and over again, until I could say to her “Baby, what’s my number,” and she would say it automatically.
Several weeks later, on a cold morning, I had to leave my kids alone at the bus stop for ten minutes to grab their backpacks on the other side of the kibbutz.
I knew they were safe there — a kibbutz is a small town on steroids, Mayberry, USA, only in Hebrew… but I knew THEY were nervous about being left, about my daughter’s bus coming while my son had to wait alone, and so
I ran. I ran faster than I had in a long time.
When I got back to my kids (panting and out of breath) I saw them sitting by the bus stop huddled together whispering. When I got closer, I could hear my daughter saying my phone number and my son repeating it back.
“Say it,” she said “you have to learn it, just in case you’re ever on your own, or you get on the wrong bus,” she told him.
And he learned it.
So why am I sharing this? Because yesterday due to a comedy of errors and miscommunications, no one picked my son up from judo class.
The instructor had left, and my son was by himself.
But… he went up to one of the mothers and asked that she call me. Because he had my number memorised.
So she called, and we got him picked up — a little late, yes, and while he was unnerved to have been left alone, he was also so proud of himself for using the tools he had to be safe.
So there it is – the only parenting advice I feel qualified to give: Sit with your kids. Teach them your phone number – start early —- and do it often.
Shit happens. Kids get on the wrong bus. Parents are late – or don’t realise that it’s their day for pickup. And if your kid knows how to reach you, it can make a world of difference.