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All posts in 2013

Readers — I was going to go out on a high — the happy post below this one, about kids enjoying a New Year’s party together while their parents did the same at another house — when one of you sent in this:

“Mom Left Young Kids Alone to Go Clubbing: Police”

Young? Her oldest kid was 13 — babysitter age.

WHY IS THIS A CRIME??? If this is all there really is to the story, we are treating the mom like a criminal and the teen like a baby, all because we think no one under 18 is ever safe doing anything without adult supervision.

Now if the headline read: “Mom Left Young Kids Alone to Go Clubbing Police,” well…I could understand the consternation. That’s why we endorse good punctuation here. But not persecuting and prosecuting moms who trust their teens. – L

I guess the 13-year-old boy did not look like these kids.

I guess the 13-year-old boy did not look like these kids.

Readers — This may sound insane to some, but to me it sounds beyond fun. Happy New Year! – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: In honor of the upcoming holiday, I wanted to share with you my memory of my favorite New Year’s eve growing up.  This was in the late 70′s, growing up in a typical suburban neighborhood.  All the parents on our street gathered for a New Year’s eve party at one of the family’s homes, and instead of hiring babysitters, they decided to let all of us kids have our own party.

About 20 kids, ages 7 to mid teens, gathered in the basement rec room of a neighbor’s home, had some snacks and soda, got out a ton of toys, put the top 40 countdown on the radio and proceeded to have a great time totally unsupervised by any adults, while all of our parents were having their own party several houses down.  No one got injured, killed, kidnapped, drunk, arrested, or kidnapped by aliens.  We all got to stay up til midnight, we had a blast and we felt grown up.  Our parents had fun at their party, they knew where their kids were, and no one had to pay for a babysitter.  Win-win! – Beth

 

Woo-hoo! Here's to a Free-Range 2014!

Woo-hoo! Here’s to a Free-Range 2014!

 

************UPDATE: Readers, one of you has just written to say that after leaving her two kids in the car for a short time, she was cited by the cops and now must appear in court on Jan. 15 (despite a visit by CPS that found nothing amiss at home). She would love to talk to someone who has been through this: a lawyer or a parent. Please write here or, if you prefer, email me at heylenore3@gmail.com with a way for her to reach you. Thank you! – L. *******************

Readers — The other day I ran a post about a mom who left her toddler in the car for a minute (and visible to her), but was nonetheless excoriated by a “Good Samaritan,” with a hyper-inflated sense of the child’s “endangerment” and her own heroism — which took the lovely form of screaming. Free-Range Kids stands by the belief that our children are NOT in constant danger, and this idea that “Anything could happen!” even in normal, everyday circumstances is a cancer on our society. It robs parents of the ability to make decent, caring judgments based on reality, not hysteria. We must keep fighting for this idea, spreading the Freee-Range message until notes like THIS are the anomaly, not us:

Dear Free-Rande Kids: Sorry, this was needlessly dangerous and something she should not have done.  The other [yelling] woman was fully in her right.  Why?

1) Car could have been stolen.  Look it up.  Guy runs inside to get ice at a convenience store, car stolen.  A mom in my area left sick baby in car when she ran in to get medicine, was out within 5 minutes, car was stolen.  Don’t be an idiot.  You wouldn’t leave a million in an unattended car.

2) Child could not release car seat and escape car on their own if something went wrong.  Therefore child was too young to be left in car alone.  I’m not silly, to me it’s alright for my 6 year old to be in a car alone now and the main reason is because she knows to not get in the driver’s seat and she can get out of a car seat on her own and leave the car if something goes wrong.  A 2 year old can’t.

3) Sure she was still in ‘line of sight’ but if something had happened inside the building no one would have been aware of the baby in the car.  And the baby would have been unable to escape the car on his own, and no one would have been able to get him out without breaking windows.

Infants and toddlers die from parents running in a store quickly to get just one or two items and becoming delayed.  That woman getting upset had no idea how long the child had been left.  Where I live you can be charged if you step further than 20 feet away from your car with your toddlers/infants inside, and the reason is because if someone comes up to a car and finds a baby strapped inside then no one knows how long they’ve been there, you can’t tell from looking at them if they’re suffering from heat or cold exposure, and you need to act quickly to get them out so the law needs to support these rescue efforts.

Then I received this note from Kate, a Montessori teacher in Chicago, bringing us back to the real world, thusly:

I can’t tell you how many times I left my children in the car. Because I lived and died by an old adage “Never wake a sleeping baby” – well, I never did. Because they fell asleep in the car so regularly, I could often be found running into stores (with the car always in sight) with sleeping babies in the car. I usually just left the car on and locked as I had two keys. I had a similar experience of someone finding me in the store and threatening to call the police and another time a parking lot security guard threatening to call the police. Interestingly, both of these incidents were in the suburbs, not in the city where I live. At these times, I always remembered how often my four brothers and I were left in the car. We had entire games to be played in the car. One was “dentist” where you dropped the seat back and the person in back of you worked on your teeth. These are the things that taught me patience, ingenuity, tolerance, cooperation…. Such a crazy, crazy world.

I agree: It is a “crazy, crazy” world, in LOVE with the idea of death always lurking nearby, ready to teach non-helicopter parents a lesson. I guess it makes life more exciting. But I can’t say the same for childhood. – L

P.S. I am trying to think up a clever way to bring this issue to greater attention and create some resistance to the idea our kids can’t wait in the car even for a short, safe while. Ideas welcome. 

children car use

When our freedom to raise our kids SANELY is threatened by crazy social norms and laws we MUST fight back.

Readers — Here’s a story from the Star Tribune to warm you heart! Free-Range-wise, one of the things we like to remind folks is that THIS generation of kids is not suddenly the most delicate in history! They come fully equipped to handle the same challenges kids did for generations. (Though personally I am a fan of central heating.) – L

North Shore teen more than halfway to sleeping outside for a whole year

  • by: SAM COOK , Associated Press

HERMANTOWN, Minn. — It was bedtime for Rudy Hummel. He pulled on three pairs of pants and four shirts. He slipped into a pair of boots. He walked out into the starry December night and headed for his snow house.

The temperature was 8 degrees.

For Hummel, 17, this would be his 193rd night in a row sleeping outdoors. He started June 7, sleeping on an elevated platform in a copse of balsam fir in his backyard.

“Originally, it was just going to be for the summer,” he said. “I thought it would be cool to spend the whole summer sleeping outside.”

An outdoorsy kid in an outdoorsy family, he enjoyed dropping off to sleep listening to the owls. He liked waking up to the sound of birdsong and to shafts of sunlight slanting through the balsam boughs. September came, and he wasn’t ready to come inside.

“I thought, ‘I need something more fun,’ ” he told the Duluth News Tribune (http://bit.ly/JorTNC).

So, he decided to shoot for a full year of sleeping outdoors. When winter came on, he built the snow house. He piled up a mountain of snow, let it set up and then hollowed it out. He finished building his snow house on Dec. 10 and has been sleeping there every night since.

Read more here!

It's 8 degrees and Rudy Hummel is snuggling into bed...outside.

It’s 8 degrees F. and Rudy Hummel is snuggling into bed…outside.

Readers — A bunch of you sent this in to me, including my own son, Morry, who said, “Hey Mom, have you seen this?” We are fans of Wired magazine here. Kudos to Clive Thompson, author of the new book Smarter Than You Think, for this piece: 

Don’t Blame Social Media if Your Teen Is Unsocial. It’s Your Fault

by Clive Thompson

Are teenagers losing their social skills? Parents and pundits seem to think so. Teens spend so much time online, we’re told, that they’re no longer able to handle the messy, intimate task of hanging out face-to-face. “After school, my son is on Facebook with his friends. If it isn’t online, it isn’t real to him,” one mother recently told me in a panic. “Everything is virtual!”

Now, I’m not convinced this trend is real. I’ve read the evidence about the “narcissism epidemic” and the apparent decline in empathy in young people, and while it’s intriguing, it’s provisional. Lots of work offers the opposite conclusion, such as Pew surveys finding that kids who text the most also socialize the most in person. But for the sake of argument, let’s agree that we have a crisis., Let’s agree that kids aren’t spending enough time together mastering social skills. Who’s responsible? Has crafty Facebook, with its casino-like structure of algorithmic nudging, hypnotized our youth?

If kids can’t socialize, who should parents blame? Simple: They should blame themselves. This is the argument advanced in It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, by Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd. Boyd—full disclosure, a friend of mine—has spent a decade interviewing hundreds of teens about their online lives.

What she has found, over and over, is that teenagers would love to socialize face-to-face with their friends. But adult society won’t let them. “Teens aren’t addicted to social media. They’re addicted to each other,” Boyd says. “They’re not allowed to hang out the way you and I did, so they’ve moved it online.”

Read more here…

Let us connect. Only connect.

Meet u @ the park? Ha ha.   : ( 

 

http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/12/ap_thompson-2/

Readers — A study discussed in yesterday’s SFGate (the San Francisco Chronicle’s website) suggests that kids growing up with dogs may be a little more protected against allergies and  asthma, thanks to early exposure to the bacteria the dogs bring in. The bacteria seem to sort of “immunize” the kids. What’s Free-Range about that?

Dirt.

And imperfection. And an old-fashioned childhood. Since time began, kids and dirt have gone together like mud and pie. They tracked dirt in. They tracked it out. It is only our modern day, Purell-soaked society that is keeping kids cleaner than clean — perhaps cleaner than makes sense.

To me, the fetch-home message, then, is not only don’t worry about having a dog or dogs in the home. It’s to embrace the interaction of our children with animals, with the world, with germs, the outdoors, and with strangers of both the bacterial and human kind. They will be the stronger for it. – L.

This is good for all concerned.

This is good for all concerned.

Dear Readers — A very merry to you and yours, and hopes that someday soon a story like the one below will just seem NORMAL again. – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: My sister from New York just sent me some photos of us growing up in the South Bronx in the late ’40s and early ’50s. One is of my sister Helen, me and Santa Claus. The story behind that photo describes perfectly the differences between child rearing 60 years ago and the present bubble wrap age.
 
Helen and I lived in a tenement building on 141st St. in the Bronx. As a kindness to her kid brother (me!), my then 9-year-old sister took me by the hand and walked me up to 149th St and 3rd Ave, a business hub in the Bronx. We went to Hearn’s Dept. Store to see Santa. She negotiated the purchase of the photo, put us in line, and this lovely 1949/1950 photo emerged, a photo that we both cherish.

We had to cross many busy streets, ride the escalator (! – always an adventure) and wade through Christmas crowds. No one thought it at all odd that a 9-year-old girl could do that safely or competently. You can see in the picture an injury to my face that occurred when I did some stupid unsafe kid thing…that’s why the eight kids in my family always had scars. It was thought to be an integral part of growing up. How times have changed! I live in Australia now and called Helen – she’s 72 and I’m 68 – this morning and thanked her again for her venturesome kindness.

Yours, John McCormick

Scone, NSW, Australia

P.S.  By the way, the Santa in the photo is THE REAL SANTA. All the others are frauds.

A 9-year-old took her kid brother to see Santa. Normal responsibility.

Santa did not report this family to CPS.