Real Life

Real life: My 12-year-old son ran away to Bali!

No-one could believe just how far he'd gone.

Emma Broadstock, 40, Dapto, NSW shares her true life story:

My heart thudded with fear as I stared at the empty bank account on my phone.
As a single mum, I worked hard to make sure my three kids were comfortable – even if it meant I often had to go without.
Now it looked like a stranger had got hold of my details and taken all my money.
Hearing my cries, my youngest son, Drew*, 12, walked into the lounge room.
"It was me," he mumbled, looking down at his feet.
I stared at him in confusion.
"I booked a flight to Bali," he explained. "I wanted to go… but you wouldn't let me."
I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.
"I'm calling the police!" I hissed. "You need a serious talking to."
Drew had always been a good boy.
He had a heart of gold and loved his family so much.
But he'd had a tough time ever since I'd split with his dad, Brett.
It was a mutual decision but Drew hated it.
To top it all off, Drew was being bullied at his new school and just wanted to escape.
I tried to get him a counsellor to help talk through his problems, but it wasn't working.
"We go to Bali every year," I fumed. "You can't just go back whenever you want."
The police arrived later and gave Drew a stern lecture about theft while I cancelled the credit card he'd tried to use.
Me with Drew - he was having a tough time.
I didn't want to take any chances, in case he pulled this prank again.
Later that week, I got a call from Drew's school.
He'd run away and even got all the way to Sydney Airport before police caught him.
"His passport has been flagged," a federal police officer told me. "He won't be able to leave the country."
I felt relieved knowing Drew couldn't get far.
But I was still furious that he was misbehaving.
A few days later, he ran away from school again and was caught by police.
I was at my wit's end. I couldn't physically chain Drew to his bed, but he wouldn't listen to me or the police.
Brett picked him up from the police station and took him to his grandparents' place, where he was staying over.
The next day, Brett's mum called me.
"Drew's gone," she choked. "I wouldn't let him go to the skate park so he bolted."
My legs buckled.
With shaky fingers I called the police and reported him missing.
"What if he's in Bali?" I panicked.
I thought about the crazy traffic and sex work that went on behind closed doors over there.
The thought of Drew, lying in some gutter after an accident, or being preyed on by disgusting men, made me ill.
"There is no way he would be allowed out of the country," the police reassured me.
We drove to all the skate parks in our local area, searching frantically.
He'd disappeared without a trace.
Drew getting a henna tattoo on a beach in Bali.
I called his phone a hundred times, but he didn't answer.
I didn't sleep all night.
The next three days were hell as we searched to no avail.
Every police officer we spoke to said there was no chance he'd made it to Bali, but my gut niggled at me to check.
So I called our family friend, Aland, who lived in Bali.
"Yeah, Drew's here," he said, sounding surprised. "He told me you guys were coming over in a few days, too."
I took a deep breath as the words sunk in.
Aland explained that Drew was staying in a hotel and had met up with him.
Part of me was relieved that he hadn't been harmed, but I was also terrified that something might happen before we could get to him.
When I told Brett the news, he broke down. It was the first time I'd seen him cry.
The pieces of the puzzle quickly began to fit together as Brett's mum explained Drew had tricked her into giving him his passport.
My bank explained that although I'd frozen my account it took a few days for that to be confirmed.
In that time Drew had put the money into his own account!
He even researched the airlines and chose to fly with Jetstar as they allow children as young as 12 to travel alone, without a note from parents.
The Federal Police told us they'd go to Bali and bring him back but, shortly after they left, I got a call.
Drew on a bike in Bali - I couldn't believe what he'd done.
"Because he hasn't broken any Indonesian laws we're not allowed to force him back to Australia," an officer said. "You have to come get him."
Brett and I got on the first flight out.
The journey felt like the longest 18 hours of my life.
The police picked us up and drove us to the consulate, where Drew was being held.
Anger boiled inside me as I walked down the corridor and saw my son sitting on a chair.
Timidly, he gazed up at me.
He looked nervous as soon as he saw how mad I was.
Brett gave him a hug, but I was too furious after all the grief he'd caused us.
For three days Drew had made us live a nightmare, not knowing where he was or if he was okay.
"Why did you do this to us?" I screamed.
I stormed out of the room before he could reply.
I tried to breathe deeply and calm myself down but it took a few minutes before I could face him again.
Finally understanding the hell he'd put us through, Drew started to cry.
"I'm sorry," he choked.
My anger softened when I saw him so upset.
He'd acted like a cunning mastermind but really, he was just a kid who hadn't considered the consequences.
I apologised to the consulate and the hotel staff where Drew had stayed, then, the next day, we flew back to Sydney.
Drew opened up about what he'd done on his three-day break.
He'd ridden a motorbike and even bought a beer on the beach.
Worst of all, he'd bought a return plane ticket to Singapore!
"I thought I'd go for a day then come back to Bali," he said with a shrug.
I stared at him, dumbfounded.
How did a 12-year-old think to do that?
He was a kid that hadn't considered the consequences.
Imagine what could have happened to him on that escapade – we could have completely lost him!
"I won't do it again," he promised. "I feel bad about making you all worry."
I can see now that Drew understands the pain and chaos he caused, but I'm still furious that he even managed to get to another country without anyone blinking an eye.
The police and airport officials have apologised to me, and Jetstar have promised to review their policies.
But I'm scared about our security now.
If my son can slip under the radar, anyone can.
After talking about my ordeal on A Current Affair, I faced a lot of negative backlash from ignorant people who think I can't discipline my kid.
But I know I'm not a bad mum.
I did everything I could and Drew has learnt his lesson.
He won't get away ever again.
He can't, I've hidden his passport.

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