In 1985, I arranged a summer-long trip through Europe with three teenagers—my son and daughter and her friend. I had two key goals for the trip—no wait, three. The first was to spend quality time with my kids before they flew the coop, the second was to introduce them the wonderful world beyond Leesburg, and the third was to teach them responsibility and independence. For the most part, it worked out quite nicely. My son, Ryan & I, paired up, as did the girls, so two could stay with the luggage while the others scouted for hotels, restaurants, or bathrooms. Rarely was anyone alone, but it did happen from time to time—after all they were responsible, independent semi-adults.
Save one occasion in Germany while taking the rail from someplace to someplace else. Oh, I forgot to mention that the girls had elephant-sized suitcases, Ryan had a big backpack, and I had…I can’t remember. All this to say, getting on and off trains was an ordeal involving someone on the train and someone hauling suitcases up the steps, then everyone hopping on before the train pulls out of the station. Whew! Except for this one time when, as we pulled away, I looked out the window to see little Ryan standing there just watching. Gulp. My heart jumped into my throat. What to do? The girls and I, including our luggage, were headed off, leaving behind my little boy (notice he was a responsible, independent semi-adult, and in just a split moment he reverted back to my little boy).
Ryan remembered the rule, and I did too: when separated from the group, go back to the place where you last made eye contact, and I knew exactly where Ryan and I made eye contact—he on the platform and I on the train! So, at the next stop, I gathered up the girls and the luggage, and we got off the train. Leaving them with strict instructions, I boarded the very next train back one stop, collected Ryan and returned to the girls.
Lesson: When separated from the group, go back to the place where you last made eye contact and stay put.