A Mom Lets Her 6-Year-Old Walk Part-Way to School and Up Comes a Cop (A Surprising Tale)

I get emails on a weekly basis from moms chided by onlookers for letting their kids do anything by themselves: walk to the corner store, play in the backyard (editing that one now!), climb up the jungle gym without a parent underneath, arms widespread, like a fireman ready to catch a jumper. So this note surprised me:

Dear Free-Range Kids: My almost six-year-old kindergartner and I walk to school (about 2 blocks with a crosswalk and crossing guard across a busy street and one quiet neighborhood street to cross just before it). Since the second week of school, my son has been pushing me farther back every day. As of now, I stop at the “un-guarded” corner and he crosses and walks the rest of the way alone.

This morning, a police officer pulled up next to us as I was hugging him and sending him across.

Ack! I know what’s coming! The CPS visit. The judge declaring that the action constitutes negligence. The parenting classes, the fines, the fuming.

I braced for any comment he might have—but he nodded approvingly and then told me to enjoy it while it lasts because his daughter is starting college today.

It was such a refreshing moment!

20 Responses to A Mom Lets Her 6-Year-Old Walk Part-Way to School and Up Comes a Cop (A Surprising Tale)

  1. BL October 10, 2016 at 10:49 am #

    I don’t suppose many children get to walk to school on a route that contains a time warp.

  2. Beanie October 10, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    This sounds lovely.
    This morning my 11-year-old and I biked to school for the first time. It’s almost two miles, with one busy intersection (made busy by all the people from our neighborhood driving their kids to school–which I am fine with, it is a long way and my kids aren’t always early enough to catch the bus either). I don’t know if eventually he’ll want to ride there on his own. . . the traffic scares me, even though I was riding the same distance and across a busy street at his age with no supervision. But I’m proud that we finally did it, and it certainly was good for me to get out and get some exercise in the morning too.

  3. Shawn D. October 10, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    So glad to hear of positive stories like this — keep passing ’em along to us!

  4. Douglas John Bowen October 10, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    My now 16-year-old son and I were recently discussing how we scaled back “supervised” walking to school, beginning block by block as early as 3rd grade, until by 6th grade he was essentially making the trip solo en route to school, and almost always alone coming home.

    I reminded him that past 5th grade I accompanied him primarily because I myself was on my way to work. I also noted I made it a point to walk with him perhaps four times in 7th grade — and only once when he was in 8th — solely for my own purposes (nostalgia, closure, remembrance) and not for any overwrought concern about safety. He smiled at that.

    So I’m always pleased to read updates such as this one, and again thank Lenore for the guidance (not always needed, but ALWAYS appreciated!) she’s provided me, and so many others, over the years.

  5. HW October 10, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

    This made me smile, thank you!

  6. theresa October 10, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

    A cop with sense! Quick call the press. Maybe he can set a good explam for all the idiots out there

  7. marie October 10, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

    Sweet story!

    Plus: The connection between walking to school unsupervised and gong to college unsupervised is a straight line. My son and I talk often about my decision to give him more and more freedom. He knows what my goal is–to send him into the world prepared to deal with both laundry and random adversity–and he pays attention to the freedom he has, as well as the responsibilities that come with it.

  8. Curious October 10, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

    Does any other town besides mine have an annual “Curb Your Car Week”?
    This past week, sponsored by our town-sponsored environmental club, we encourage kids to walk, or ride bikes or skateboards to school.
    It is so refreshing to see the kids. And fewer SUVs and parents.
    I did not see any law enforcement, by the way.

  9. JulieH October 10, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

    @marie “Plus: The connection between walking to school unsupervised and gong to college unsupervised is a straight line.”

    And given their druthers, kids will walk along that line on their own when they know you have their backs.

    My almost 12yo made my day yesterday. She is a timid one in general, but this past summer she spent considerable time going around our little town on her bike, running to the bank and post office for our small family business.

    Hubby is out of town for a few days for doctor appointments, so I was trying to figure out a plan for getting everyone where they needed to be. I was working on how to get her from cross country practice (at a park in the city where she attends school) to the public library where I would be coming later with the my other daughter.

    My main concern was the heavy backpack and other things she would have to lug almost a mile . She piped up and said she could walk if she needed to – that she had paid attention and knew the route. So what tickled me was that she suggested it rather than me having to say that it was what I needed for her to do.

  10. FreedomForKids October 10, 2016 at 5:23 pm #

    @Douglas John Bowen

    I went to school with a Douglas Bowen in Scarsdale, N.Y. in the sixties. You wouldn’t per chance be that Douglas Bowen, would you? : )

  11. Backroads October 10, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

    I got a few stares yesterday in church when I let my 3-year-old leave the main chapel to get herself a drink of water (totally insight of me as the doors were open). She did so well I even let her wander down the stairs (totally out of sight) to use the potty without me as she was feeling particularly independent that day. Yet, the stares died down when I nodded my approval of her behavior.

  12. Avin October 10, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

    What a nice change of pace! Thank you for sharing the story of this happy encounter!

  13. Dean October 10, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

    Wow! Common sense isn’t dead. Pleased to read asome good news regarding this subject for a change. Lokking back, I don’t recall my mother ever walking us to school, and we lived in a less-than-perfect neighborhood (Remember LA’s Watts Riots? My old ‘hood.) My three younger sisters and I are still around to tell about it.

  14. Abigail October 11, 2016 at 1:44 am #

    My 5 year old gets quite far ahead of me when he bikes and I jog. He has set points he waits at and is, at times, out of my sight for a couple of minutes. When I saw highway patrol stopped chatting with him, I thought I was in for a lecture. The officer gave my son a sticker which is proudly displayed on his helmet now! No drama, no lecture, just a positive experience that has had an incredible lasting effect on our family. When we trust each other, rather than assume the unfounded worst, our neighborhoods become more walkable and more fun!

  15. sexhysteria October 11, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    A good cop!

  16. Anna October 11, 2016 at 11:43 am #

    “I don’t recall my mother ever walking us to school, and we lived in a less-than-perfect neighborhood.”

    Likewise. I still remember, when my sister and I expressed concern about having to pass right by the benches in front of city hall where all the town drunks hung out, my parents reassuring us that drunks on park benches are generally harmless.

    My older sisters walked me to school until they moved on to high school, when I was starting third grade, at which time it certainly never occurred to my mother that she ought to start walking me instead – nor did she even during first and second grade on the days my sisters stayed late for extracurricular activities. I don’t remember anybody’s parents walking them to school in any grade, actually, unless kindergarten perhaps.

  17. Katie October 13, 2016 at 6:37 am #

    I’m glad you are posting positive stories. In the age of the internet it is too easy for people to panic because something bad (ie CPS) happened to someone, somewhere (from many of these stories usually Rhode Island, Texas, or Montgomery County, Maryland). Yet many kids walk to school in many places without incident.

  18. EricS October 13, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    In this world, there are many people who think alike, and don’t think alike. There are good people, and bad people. There are smart people, and ignorant people. Cops, teachers, doctors, parents, etc… all fall in these differing categories.

    I’m glad to hear that the cop she came across was one of the good, and smart ones. We need to instill this mentality and behavior in more people. Go back to the way people thought when we were growing up. Imagine the common sense, logic, and reason of the oldschool way of thinking, coupled with the convenience, and efficiency of today’s technology. The best of both worlds. Would make life much easier for parents.

  19. EricS October 13, 2016 at 11:39 am #

    @Anna: The only time either of my parents walked me to school, was the first and second day of Kindergarten. After the second day, I would walk to school on my own. As an adult (I’ve visited my old elementary school), I walked from where I grew up to the school, and it took me about 10-15 min. But at the time, where there are now condos and town houses, it was a wooded area. All the kids cut through there. Sometimes I would walk with my siblings, or friends, sometimes I would walk alone. But most kids then (70’s-80’s) walked without their parents. Even going to the store or park…no parents. 95% were just kids on their own. Halloween, mostly kids on their own. Older brothers and sisters would be the supervisors. But they wouldn’t be older than 12-13 years.

  20. David johnson October 23, 2016 at 11:05 pm #

    The police officers I know locally are all very much “free range” friendly. When they need to intervene with a kid, they will take the extra time to teach him/her skills and cinfidence that they need to be safely independent.