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All posts in 2009

Watch out, kids! Drug dealers are coming to your schoolyard to hook you on Strawberry crystal meth Pop Rocks! That’s the rumor going around Texas that has the PTA there so alarmed that it is warning parents to instruct their kids  not to eat, well, strawberry-flavored meth. Or grape meth. Or peanut butter meth. (Think of the allergies!) If I were the Texas PTA, I’d trademark the phrase “Meth-busters,” just to try to sound a tiny bit cool.

But, of course, I’m not them. I’m someone who read this delightful little piece on Reason.com and realizes what an urban meth, er, myth this whole thing is. Nobody’s peddling strawberry-flavored meth, in part at least because you don’t EAT meth. You snort or smoke it. Moreover, if there had really been a rash of kids all rushed to the hospital in “dire” condition from candy-flavored illegal drugs, don’t you think this would be a bigger story?

What it really shows is that my premise, floated here in October, is true: Halloween has become the template for all parenting. The crazy fears we haul out on that holiday (that our neighbors are actually psychopaths who want to poison children on Halloween) have infiltrated the rest of the year (that our neighbors actually psychopaths who want to poison children on a daily basis).

Be not alarmed, my fellow citizens: There is still a big difference between Strawberry Quik and crystal meth. Although, I guess you could say they’re both pretty addicting.  – Lenore

Hi Readers! We’ve come a long way since the days when you could buy your kid a chemistry set with radioactive ores. Maybe too long.  When science is no more exciting that watching oil and vinegar separate, we end up with bored kids. That means a few years later we end up with an ignorant population, easily conned. We need EXCITING, slightly dangerous science, argues Theodore Gray, author of Theo Gray’s Mad Science — Experiments You Can Do at Home But Probably Shouldn’t. (A title he says is totally accurate.) Here’s his nice essay about how we overemphasize the dangers of science compared to, say, the dangers of most school athletics. He also points out, somewhat bitterly, that The Dangerous Book for Boys is completely devoid of danger. Anyway, at the bottom of his essay is a link to his book.

And while on the topic of books, I do feel holiday-compelled (tick tick tick) to remind you that Free-Range Kids is available for your gift-giving pleasure, too, in hardcover, audio download and Kindle format.

Happy reading! And exploding! — Lenore

Hi Readers — Got a notice from our school last week: No more recess when it’s freezing outside — 32 degrees Fahrenheit — or when the wind chill takes an above-freezing day and makes it FEEL freezing.

Now, as a kid growing up in Chicago, this was my dream policy. (Yes, even as a kid I dreamed of improving public  policy. Didn’t you?) How many days were we outside when it was 15 degrees with those famous Windy City winds whipping us around? That’s before kids were fat! We were like coffee stirrers skittering across the blacktop!

On the other hand, now that I’ve got two middle-school sons, I want them to run around during recess. They want to run around, too. The good news at our school is that they ARE allowed to leave the premises for lunch. (I know — how very New York.) It’s just that if they stay and eat in the cafeteria, they can no longer go out to the playground.

What harm would it do them to play outside in the cold? Aren’t Finnish kids #1 in the world in everything, and aren’t they freezing from Day One? Since when did winter become too much to bear? — Lenore

Hey up there! What are you trying to do to us Americans? Spread mayhem and terror with Kinder Surprise candy? Sure looks that way to us. For years you’ve been blithely manufacturing chocolate eggs filled with toys as if you’ve never even HEARD the word, “Litigation.”

Fortunately, according to this news report, this year United States border patrols are keeping a keen eye out for handheld nuclear devices…oh wait. No. For Kinder Surprise Eggs, which underground cells of aunts, uncles and family friends seem determined to smuggle into our country.

Not so fast, Canada! Do we send our toxic pop culture into YOUR country? Don’t answer that. Just tell us: Why are you doing this to US?

Remember, we’re onto you. If so much as one Kinder Surprise Egg shows up under some kid’s tree, the chocolate is on your hands. — Lenore

Hi Readers! Here’s a little note from a mom of three named Nina:

Dear Free-Range Kids: First of all, thank you.  I have been increasingly Free Range over the past 4-5 years but I didn’t have a name for it until I found this website.  I am glad to know that  I am not the only mother left on the planet with common sense.

So, to my story.  We moved into a new house about six months ago.  I was explaining to my new neighbor one summer night, while the kids were playing together at the park, all about the idea of raising children Free Range.  I told her a movement had begun.  She listened but didn’t have much to say about it.  Months passed.

Then, one night, my son did not come home at the prescribed time (when the street lights come on).  I waited…and waited…then I went to his friends’ house where he was supposed to be. His friend said he had already left quite  a while ago.  I figured he’d gone to a park, so I started making the rounds.  My other two children were with the aforementioned neighbor.  I started to get somewhat nervous since my son was now about two hours late and not in  any of his usual places.  I figured his stomach would have told him it was dinner time by now, lol.   It was at this point that my neighbor commented, “So I guess this is Free Range, huh.”

Right about then I see my boy coming down the dark street on his bike, deer-in-the headlight eyes, because he knew he was late and he was terrified.  He was not lost, kidnapped, locked up by a sick lunatic, or lying injured on the road. He’d just lost track of time at a the home of a friend that he hadn’t let  me know he was playing with.  He was grounded for not telling me where he was going and not coming home when the street lights came on.

I did the same thing as him when I was a kid, but I only did it once.  I lost my freedom for a while and then I learned to follow the rules or lose the freedom.  He, apparently, has learned the same lesson because he has been showing up promptly when the street lights come on, without fail, ever since the grounding was lifted.  My neighbor, on the other hand, now feels justified in keeping her kids locked up where she can see them at all times.

Sometimes I feel that the whole world has gone mad. Then I see an update here and realize that just most of the world has gone mad.

I”m hanging on to my sanity by giving my children the freedom to explore. Thank you,

Nina

Hi Readers – As of yesterday, 50 million sets of blinds and shades are being recalled — “virtually every Roman blind and roller shade on the market,” according to this report on Good Morning America, following the deaths of five children.

I cannot imagine how sad the parents of those five children must be. It’s horrible. But to frantically recall 50 million blinds — one of the largest recalls in history — strikes me as overkill. The advice given on the Good Morning America  site seems to be all the information parents really need:

Do not place cribs, beds and furniture close to the windows. Do not give children a chance to climb on them and gain access to the cords.

Make loose cords inaccessible to children.

If the window shade has looped bead chains or nylon cords, you can install tension devices to keep the cord taut.

Five deaths are tragic. But it is impossible to create a world in which even the most remote risk has been eliminated, and it’s not even a good idea to try. When we do, we foster the idea that absolute safety is an achievable goal,  which inevitably means blaming someone anytime anyone ever  gets hurt. This not only leads to crazy lawsuits, it leads to incredible guilt on the part of parents whose kids do hurt themselves, as kids have throughout history, despite the efforts of loving, caring  parents.

Besides, to make sure no one ever died at home again, we’d have to outlaw stairs, chairs, bathtubs, showers, doors, pets, and whatever it is that is making my refrigerator smell like  toxic stuffed cabbage. (Could it be that yummy stuffed cabbage from just six weeks ago? Hmm.) We’d have to outlaw humans, too. Because once  once you throw them into the mix, nothing is safe.   — Lenore

Hi Readers — If any of you are Free-Ranging in southwest Oklahoma (and I know you’re out there!) please drop an email to reporter Billie Hill — bhill@lawton-constitution.com . She’s looking for your stories to write about the Free-Range idea, locally. Thanks! — L