A Girl and Her Lemonade Stand (And the Cops)

Readers — The idea that our kids are only safe if they are under literally constant supervision is one that subtly but surely keeps changing childhood. Watch it at work in suburban Seattle:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Hello! I want to share, but I really feel the need to stay anonymous, because clearly Free-Range children are not the norm, even if they should be.

This Tuesday my 6  (nearly 7) year old daughter held a lemonade stand. She planned it very carefully, making mock-up signs until her spelling was perfect, making a list of supplies and arranging to purchase, borrow, or rent them. She contracted with a friend who runs a non-profit to rent a big drink dispenser for 5% of the proceeds.

She also asked the retired couple (fire fighter and school bus driver, who spend their summer days reading on their front porch) if she could set up on their corner two doors down from us. This was our suggestion because we knew that the neighbors would be around and watch out after the proceedings as well as enjoy the happy noise the kids make. She helped me make lemonade from scratch, bake cookies, and make sun tea too.  We were super proud of her really taking responsibility for thinking this out.

So, on the day of ,we (we also have 4yo and 2yo daughter) took several trips to and fro in our wagon, hauling things out to the corner, the bigger girls running ahead of me. After I got everybody settled, we realized we had failed to grab the sunblock, water, and the littlest needed a diaper change. So myself and the smaller two headed up the hill (two doors down). While I changed the diaper in my trunk, I could still see my entrepreneur. I sent the 4yo into the house grab water. I told her it was okay to walk thru the neighbors’ yard and deliver the water as I was loading the toddler back onto the wagon with the sunblock.

I followed her directly. Somewhere in that time, K sold a couple of lemonades. At this point I couldn’t be prouder of how responsible my girls were all being.

Half an hour later the police rolled up.

Two armed police officers got out and questioned me about the children being alone on the corner. There had been a call from someone who was concerned for their safety because they were all alone. They wanted to know how many times I had left the girls, and how long.

I smiled big and explained calmly that we lived two doors down and I could see the goings on the whole time. I guess I’m lucky a friend was visiting us when they came, because as they left they reminded me to make sure I left an adult in charge if I walked back to the house again, still only two doors down. The fact that my friend was standing there really seemed to make them feel like I could comply.

Honestly, if I had been alone with the children I do not know if that would have turned out so well. They then backed away and addressed the girls about the hot day, and if they were having fun, then offered them stickers. The girls offered them lemonade, but they declined, and left.

I spent the rest of the hot day on the corner as I had promised my daughter could stay open till 5PM. The baby never got another diaper change and she missed her nap, but I did send the 4yo back for more water while I stood over-obviously in the intersection making sure everyone knew I knew where they all were.

I’m completely sickened and shocked. Totally afraid to even let the girls pick raspberries on our own yard unless I’m standing over them now. Not because of what might happen, but because of what someone else will think MIGHT happen.

I hate the nearly constant insinuations that I should have a full-time nanny now that I have three kids (even tho I’m a work from home mom), so that all of my children have constant supervision because of all of the things that MIGHT happen. It seriously happens all the time. Why is our world so full of hateful thoughts about each other? Please keep doing what you are doing, because it makes me feel sane in the face of insanity. — The Lemonade Mom

Lenore again: I’m letting  Ben Miller from Common Good weigh in. His organization  fights the kinds of rules that stifle the human spirit:

“Judging by the restrictions and regulations against them, you’d think lemonade stands were one the top threats facing America. Every summer we hear about children fined or banned for operating lemonade stands that fail to comply with bureaucratic requirements. Heaven forbid our children should have the freedom to be entrepreneurs—apparently that’s just not safe.”

Go inside, little girl, where you’re supposed to spend summer! – L

What’s wrong with this picture? NOTHING! Remember that, America!!

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51 Responses to A Girl and Her Lemonade Stand (And the Cops)

  1. Will July 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    I think my response to the cops would be, “Yeah, I’ve heard that before. It’s just the pedophile down the street paying far too much attention to things that really shouldn’t concern a normal person. You might want to investigate, because I think I saw a bunch of hydroponic growing equipment being delivered to that house a while back. All those drugs are really making that person paranoid. Sorry to waste your time, here, officer.”

  2. Joanne July 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    How sad. When I lived on First Hill in Seattle I walked to and from work every day. More than once I walked past an apartment building that had a couple littleish girls outside selling juice. I always bought some from them but it never dawned on me that they should be “SUPERVISED AT ALL TIMES.” I figured someone knew what they were doing and it was the middle of the day so what really could happen to them?

  3. Natalie July 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    @will-
    Awesome.

  4. ank July 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    @Will – your response is awesome!! I would love to hear how a cop responds to THAT. Being a free-range parent takes real guts and courage nowadays, but I’m doing what’s best for my kids. My five year old takes herself to the bathroom, does her business and comes back (all in one piece). In fact she very specifically tells me that “I’m going take myself to the bathroom and mommy you stay right here” because SHE KNOWS that going to the bathroom by yourself means YOU’RE NOT A BABY. The world wants us to infantilize our kids. The family we were having dinner with (kids are 8 and 11) were super impressed. We just acted like “yeah, she’s very capable”

  5. Warren July 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Actually in this case it would have been better safe then sorry, and not spoke with the police. Could have very well said something to inciminate heself.

  6. Stephanie July 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    As a fellow work at home mom of three, I can’t imagine feeling that my kids need adult attention all day. That’s just too much. Kids need to play, I need to work, and sometimes the older ones really want that time roaming out front. I am so glad we’ve never had that kind of problem, although we did have a neighbor knock on our door when he saw my 8 year old go running down the block. He was just making sure we knew, and was impressed when we explained that my son is trying to run 50 miles this summer. No call to the police, just a quick conversation with us, as neighbors should do.

  7. Michelle July 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    This blows my mind:

    “I hate the nearly constant insinuations that I should have a full-time nanny now that I have three kids (even tho I’m a work from home mom), so that all of my children have constant supervision because of all of the things that MIGHT happen.”

    Seriously? Three whole children is too much for you to safely watch all by yourself? I understand you’re working, too, but you’re RIGHT THERE! If you feel like you can get both things done, I can’t understand the implication that your kids are not “safe enough” being watched by their own mother!

    I wonder what those people would think of me watching my SEVEN (soon to be eight!) kids all by myself — even while reading a book, or playing a game, or walking and chewing gum all at once!

  8. lollipoplover July 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    The fact that these cops declined to buy lemondade from these girls speaks volumes. You ALWAYS buy lemonade from kids in your neighborhood. Even if you have to spit it out later.

    Eager kids wanting to earn their own money by actually working for it is a GOOD thing in most of this country. It’s what makes for good communities.

  9. Helynna Brooke July 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    I subscribe to a newsletter called Hightower Lowdown, and there was an interesting article about “America’s true history is not about “Great Men”, but about grassroots rebels and movements.” In the article he mentions Sybil Ludington, the 16 year old daughter of a militia commander in Patterson NY thought the British would be there soon after burning down Danbury, Connecticut, who in April 1877, saddled a horse in the middle of the night, in a rainstorm, on unmarked, muddy roads, pounding on doors and calling out the area’s militia to assemble at Patterson. Her ride was successful and the farmers forced the Redcoats to retreat. 16 year olds can be pretty amazing if we give them the opportunity.

  10. Natalie July 26, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    @lollipoplover

    So true!

  11. Natalie July 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    @michelle-
    Soon to be eight?
    God bless you, woman!

  12. Jana July 26, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    I work at a daycare and the kids are SO capable. You should the way their faces light up when I let them do things by themselves, say walk to the bathroom from outside or trust them to walk down the sidewalk without holding the dumb chain that makes my hands sore– I even let them RUN. The kids know that if they cross the street without my go-ahead that they will lose the privilege to walk unhindered but nobody has ever tried. Even my dog knows to stop at the curb. It’s beautiful. I’m a teenager myself and people tell me I could never understand the dangers, blah blah blah but here’s the thing– I still feel great when my parents trust me to do things, say let my boyfriend drive me to the movies and take me home and not freak out when we get lost and come home an hour late– slightly after midnight. I am banned from going out on week nights now but only because they have to go to work in the morning. Feelings competent is wonderful and it is cruel to steal it from anyone.

  13. nancey July 26, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    Lollipoplover, my kids are teens now, our rule to to always stop for lemonade stands. Some are run by kids themselves, the four year olds usually have a parent nearby, but not hovering.
    My kids and their friends would have lemonade stands multiple times each summer and they would make good money. They especially loved when the teenagers would stop by. Once, a woman stopped in her car and suggested that they make their sign more visible to passing cars and even gave them a marker to make it brighter.

  14. Katie July 26, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    The US government doesn’t want to create a generation of entrepreneurs. They want to create a generation of corporate shrills. They want to keep the money in the hands of the super rich who run the corrupt political system. Of course they also want you to get a nanny. Keep em broke and in debt and working like slaves…that’s where they want you.

  15. lollipoplover July 26, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    @natalie and nancey-
    Supporting little kids who run stands should be a golden rule!
    My oldest (now 12) has been doing a stand since he was 5. He’s been running it with a buddy for the past few years and they sell drinks, snacks, and used golf balls mostly to the golfers. He is very proud of his “regulars” one of which is our mailman, Dennis. My son says he always buys a drink and a snack and several golf balls (he’s done this for years). Dennis doesn’t golf. He’s just a good guy- says he doesn’t see kids doing stands like this anymore and supports the ones he sees. I feel the same way.

  16. pentamom July 26, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    “Seriously? Three whole children is too much for you to safely watch all by yourself? I understand you’re working, too, but you’re RIGHT THERE! If you feel like you can get both things done, I can’t understand the implication that your kids are not “safe enough” being watched by their own mother!”

    What do they think SAHM non-work-from-home mothers DO all day? Sit there and just STARE at their kids?

    Actually, some people do seem to have this mentality that you have to watch and/or entertain your kids every minute, to the exclusion of any other productivity, entertainment, or relaxation, or you’re not doing it “right.” Which explains why people think that four, or even three, kids is “a lot to handle.” How on EARTH they think our great-grandmothers managed, I can’t imagine.

  17. Betsy July 26, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    Seriously, if this had happened to me in my neighborhood (I don’t know where this occurred) I’d be doing research, then scraping the money together to see an attorney (and/or my state representative, etc.) to make sure it didn’t happen again. I think maybe your civil rights are being violated – we need to start standing up against this kind of infringement and mindset. I’m thinking Lenore needs to sell some FreeRangeKids.com bumper stickers. I’d wear a shirt. I am getting really tired of this kind of story.

  18. Betsy July 26, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    Sorry – I now see it’s Seattle (I sometimes joke that I’m donating my brains to my children – they’re doing just brilliantly!). Maybe I’d better forward this warning to my SIL there.

  19. bmommyx2 July 27, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    what I find upsetting is that someone called it in & the police treated it so seriously

  20. Sha July 27, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    The hydroponics/drugs thing might work in other states, but this was in Washington. But yeah, Seattle area cops don’t have enough to do.

  21. J.T. Wenting July 27, 2013 at 7:06 am #

    there’s something very wrong with that picture, the lighting is just horrendous :)

  22. Katie July 27, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    That “someone” is what gets my goat the most. If “someone” is so concerned, s/he should be confronting the parents DIRECTLY!

  23. Nicolas July 27, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    That’s not the half of it. The kids probably broke at least three other laws relating to business licensing, vending, and health department permitting. American freedom is a mirage.

  24. Heath July 27, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    @Katie, that’s what bothers me the most, too! It seems like it would be much easier to just walk down to the corner and say, “Hey kid. Are you doing this all by yourself?” Then the kid will probably say, “My mom/dad/somebody is right over there.” End of concern. And even if the kid says, “Yeah, I am,” it’s not really anybody’s business but the parent’s. It’s not like some 6 year old made all of those treats and signs, carried them to the corner, and set it all up, without some adult’s help. Some people either just don’t think things through, or they just want to be @-hole busybodies.

  25. Lauren July 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Ugh! I thought Seattle was safe from this nonsense. What suburb are you in? (I’m in Sammamish)

  26. Jenna K. July 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    This kind of stuff drives me absolutely mad. I’d like to know who all these people are that always call in these things. Unless a kid looks lost or out-of-place somewhere, I don’t even consider calling the police when I see a kid out alone. I saw one riding a scooter today who looked to be about ten, no adults around. I saw two boys riding bikes along the main highway here who looked to be about twelve. I guess, according to that logic, I should have called the police on both of them. When I saw them, all I thought was that those boys were enjoying their summer.

  27. Natalie July 27, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    Just curious, what’s the going rate now for a cup of lemonade?

  28. Warren July 27, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    Natalie,
    Depends if it is hard lemonade or not. LOL.

    Katie,
    They have a lemonade stand. There should be no concern whatsoever from anyone. If someone is concern that my kids are holding a lemonade stand, they have only one course of action………..mind their own business, and shut up.

  29. Donna July 27, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

    I agree that some people just don’t think things through.

    A couple weeks ago, I needed to mail a letter (how 20th century of me). After I picked my daughter up from camp, we stopped by the post office in the downtown business district. She wanted to go in and mail it by herself so I agreed and waited outside, leaning up against the outside of my car right in front of the post office. Some guy who was leaving opened the door for her and then hovered outside. When she came out, she ran to me and I asked how it went. The guy who was hovering then butted in and said snidely “I was wondering what she was doing here by herself” and finally walked off.

    My thoughts were – really, you thought a 7 year old took it upon herself to travel to the business district to mail a letter? That makes any sense to you? Clearly an adult was involved in this process as a 7 year old in 2013 is far more likely to know how to send an email than mail a letter. I guess I should just be happy that he didn’t call the cops.

  30. Papilio July 28, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    “What do they think SAHM non-work-from-home mothers DO all day? Sit there and just STARE at their kids?”

    So, is there a cartoonist in the house?
    I wish I could draw better than a 5yo, because this just ASKS to be turned into a cartoon…!

  31. Arianne July 28, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Off topic, but I wanted to share this little article:
    http://www.9news.com/news/article/347347/339/10-year-old-takes-control-of-speeding-car
    :-)

  32. Arianne July 28, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    The kid in the story I shared above (who, you know, saved at least 3 lives) isn’t that much older than the kiddo in this post who can’t be trusted to sit on a corner and sell lemonade. :-/

  33. Amanda Matthews July 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    @Michelle

    I have 4 and no, I can not watch them all at once by myself – because they all have their own lives, their own friends etc. and they’re all off doing their own thing. Meals and sit-down school time are the only time they are all within one person’s field of vision at the same time.

  34. Amanda Matthews July 28, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Part of the problem is that you pretty much said to the police that yes, leaving your kids “alone” is wrong, and you were going to take steps to avoid it. Unless there is actually some law against it in your area, do not give in to that bs!

  35. K July 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    I think what pisses me off the most is that the concerned citizen called the police instead of bothering to stop at the stand, buy some fucking lemonade and casually ask something like, “is your mom helping you with change?” Not that a child this age can’t do money math, but it’s a little more discreet than “where is your mother?” If people bothered t get to know their neighbors, they would know that a child that ca make arrangements to rent a drink dispenser can sell lemonade without her mother hovering.

  36. Helen July 28, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    You hear about people abusing the 911 system all the time – and getting in trouble for it. Surely “there’s a child running a lemonade stand on my street” is an abuse of the 911 system? After all, the safety of said child was only at risk in the overactive imagination of the caller.

  37. Warren July 28, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    911 isn’t just for emergencies, anymore. It is for anything you don’t like. People using emergency services to enforce their own beliefs.

    Watched a video of police addressing someone for carrying a rifle. In the state they were in open carry is legal. So the man was within his rights, to carry the rifle. The cops spoke to him on his porch and told him that yes open carry was legal. But if one more neighbor called about him with his rifle, they would arrest him for creating a disturbance.

    God bless America no longer the land of the free.

  38. Francis July 28, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    Oh noes, someone thinks you shouldn’t leave your kids on the side of the street unsupervised. Monsters! someone should arrest them!

  39. Lark July 29, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    911 isn’t just for emergencies, anymore. It is for anything you don’t like.

    Parenthetically, I think this is partly because a lot of police stations (at least around here) don’t have an “ask a cop”/main line anymore. There was a situation where I wanted to ask about something that did not rise to a 911 call recently – and I couldn’t find a number where I could call something in! There’s an awful lot of non-emergency situations that ought to be resolvable by asking about the law or asking for a best practice, or by asking that the next cop on patrol just drive on by to show the flag – and there’s no way to do that. (I didn’t call anything in, I just decided to put up with the situation, since I figured that there was no point in escalating a minor annoyance.)

  40. Emily July 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    @Warren–That’s just messed up. Let’s take the word “rifle” or “gun” out of the equation, and pretend for a moment that the neighbours called about someone, say, barbecuing on a summer Saturday, and the smell bothered them, or listening to music, playing a musical instrument, mowing the lawn, or allowing kids to jump on a backyard trampoline (with noise from the squeaking of springs, and the kids’ laughter) within the “acceptable noise” hours as defined by the city, and the sound bothered them. Just suppose it was any one of a myriad of normal life activities that can’t be done without affecting other people’s sensibilities somehow. Are we all supposed to just live our lives in cloistered silence, for fear of offending anyone, at all, ever? Because, if people can call 911 to snitch on a neighbour doing something that’s perfectly legal, but annoys them in some way, the whole world is going to be stuck walking on eggshells, unless and until someone speaks up about it.

  41. Donna July 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Emily – Sorry, but a gun is jot a backyard BBQ or trampoline. A gun is a deadly weapon that can be dangerous to neighbors in the wrong hands. I live where just about every other house has a hunting rifle or 2 … or 20 and know many gun owners. I have no problem with guns. A few years ago, I actually kept meaning to get our investigator, who was a former police officer, to take me to the range and teach me how to shoot but never had time.

    I have never known a responsible gun owner to randomly walk around his neighborhood toting a rifle. Carrying a concealed handgun? Absolutely. Parade around with a rifle? No. Now if this guy was just transporting his rifle somewhere or sitting on his front porch cleaning it or just had it about while he was doing things and people were calling 911, that is ridiculous. If he is parading around the neighborhood with his gun like he is some militiaman or is sitting on his porch looking ready to shoot someone, something is off about the situation and I have no problem with cops checking to make sure things are cool. I’ve had a few schizophrenic clients go off their meds and do things like that (guns, axes, swords) and it is a highly dangerous situation that can go really bad in seconds.

    Warren didn’t give nearly enough facts to decide whether the 911 calls were ridiculous or not. I assume all was cool since they did nothing but he could have been doing something with the gun that made people reacted to his behavior and not just the presence of the gun.

  42. Molly July 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    I’d send a letter to all my neighbors thanking them for looking after my children and reminding them that they don’t need to call the cops on a 7-y-o with a lemonade stand. (Clearly you were within eye and earshot and know some of your neighbors enough to know that they would be keeping an eye out anyway.) I’d ask them to identify themselves to you personally. It would help make the rest of the neighbors aware of your parenting ethos, too.

  43. Sarah July 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    Can anyone offer any local media contacts? It would be hilarious to see one of those news teasers “parents harassed by police for allowing children to sell lemonade, tonight at 10.” Maybe they could do one of those polls were people text in if they (1) like children to run lemonade stands or (2) think that allowing children to run their own lemonade stand should be a criminal offense. It seams just as news worthy as say, a surfing dog of how cell phones have germs.

  44. Sarah July 29, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    Ooow, and they can interview the mom and little girl but blur their faces out. I am sure when they contact the local PD about the specific rules for supervising lemonade stands they will receive “no comment.”

  45. oncefallendotcom July 29, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    There is something wrong with the picture. There aren’t any customers!

  46. Warren July 29, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Donna,
    According to the cops, and the man, he had the rifle slung on his back, muzzle down.

    According to the cops in the video, the people who called him in admitted that is all he did.

    The police admit he has the legal right to open carry. They also told him, if they received one more call, they would arrest him for creating a disturbance.

    All that is, is the police too lazy to put up with the calls. Too lazy to explain to the callers the man is not breaking any laws. Even though it is legal, they would rather arrest him, than explain the law to callers.

    I don’t care about the guns, or gun control. But I do care about the abuse of power.

  47. Donna July 30, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    @Warren –

    That still doesn’t explain where he was and what he was doing. If some neighbor is walking around my neighborhood with a gun slung on his back for no apparent reason (ie doesn’t appear to be on his way too or fro hunting or some other gun-related activity), I may call the cops too. Not because I have a problem with guns but because that is bizarre behavior and bizarre behavior is often a sign that something else is going on. It doesn’t mean that I want him arrested; just means that I want the police to check it out (I’m not personally approaching a man with a gun acting in a bizarre fashion).

    However, apparently you don’t actually understand the charge of disturbing the peace. The act that forms the disturbance need not be illegal. In fact, ALL acts that form disturbing the peace are perfectly legal when done in a fashion that doesn’t bother everyone around you. If they weren’t, disturbing the peace would not exist. You would simply just charge the person with the underlying illegal act and be done with it. Whether THIS act is disturbing the peace depends on the local laws, but it very well could be, and thus no abuse of power exists.

  48. Puzzled July 30, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    It sounds to me like the charge of disturbing the peace, then, is the sort of undefined charge that ought not exist in a free society.

  49. Emily July 30, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    Warren and Puzzled hit the nail squarely on the head. I’m all for gun control, but if it’s legal to carry a gun in Warren’s city, and people call the police because someone is carrying a gun and it bothers them, then the police really need to have the backbone to be able to say, “Actually, sir/ma’am, it’s perfectly legal to carry a gun here.” If they instead arrest the gun-carrying person for “disturbing the peace,” then they’re making it so that their laws can change on a dime, according to their whims–which is what it really is, because, as Warren said, they don’t want to deal with complaints. At that point, the laws really don’t mean anything, because they’re effective only until someone else decides that they don’t like it.

  50. DH July 31, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    The past two weeks we were on vacation, and my kid turned 7.

    The day he turned 7 and we were a in restaurant, he announced he needed to go to the restroom. And informed us that because he was now 7, he was going to the restroom himself, and never, ever, ever going in the woman’s room with me again.

    He has since stuck with the never, ever, ever going in the woman’s room declaration.

  51. Nanci August 1, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    My kids had a lemonade stand a few years ago. They were 8 & 6 at the time. They set up on a busy corner near a park. My mom and I were nearby playing on the tennis courts. We were about 250 foot from where they were selling and no one would have any idea we were together, from the looks of it the kids were alone selling and we were just two people out playing on the tennis courts. The kids business was booming, cars were stopping right and left. Then a cop car pulled up, I kept playing, but watched to see what would happen. I was worried, but after a minute or so the cop drove away. My daughter came running over so excited that he had given her a 5.00 bill for his lemonade! Throughout the day a few more cops came by, each buying some lemonade. We live in the midwest, not sure how much that has to do with it, but there are kids all over the place selling lemonade throughout the summer and I’ve never seen a parent with them :)