A Woman Is Raped in Central Park…So No Kids are Ever Safe There?

Hi Folks! Love this essay by Bree Ervin, from her blog Think Banned Thoughts. I think a lot of them, too! – L

WHAT I WANTED TO SAY by Bree Erwin

The world isn’t a safe place, therefore we cannot let our children out of our sight even for a moment or something terrible might happen. This is the echo of the fear-mongering media and the people who buy into it.

It’s true, the world is not a safe place. It never has been, it never will be. We cannot childproof it.

However the world is AT LEAST AS safe as it was when all of today’s parents were growing up – in most cases, it is actually safer. Crime is down. And more specifically -crime against children is down.

You’d never know that based on the screaming headlines of abductions, molestations and other heinous wickedness.

But if all you read is the headlines, you miss the bigger picture.

Out of all of those crimes against children, the vast, vast majority of them were perpetuated not by a stranger in a park, but by someone those children knew and trusted. A coach, a priest, a teacher, a family member.

Play is safe.

My children are statistically safer at the park with strangers than they are at summer camp.
My children are statistically MUCH safer playing at the park than they are in my car, in car seats being properly used.
My children are statistically safer climbing trees at the park than they are taking medicine prescribed to them by their physician.

Yet no one is calling for a ban on summer camp, or demanding that children never be placed in cars, or that they never be given prescription medicine. Because society tells us that in those instances, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Summer camp is enriching. Cars are essential. Prescription medicine saves FAR more lives than it kills.

So what is it about children’s unencumbered, unsupervised play that makes it seem un-enriching, inessential and superfluous? What is it that seems so… wrong and neglectful and dangerous about letting children play unsupervised? After all, we did it.

When Lenore Skenazy went on Good Morning America to talk about her new “I Won’t Supervise Your Kids™” after school program, they opened her segment with a clip from Lord of the Flies.

Is this really the first thing we think of when we think of kids alone, unsupervised?

The following day when she went on Anderson Cooper Live, the show I bowed out of, they paired her with a “law enforcement officer” who was “outraged, just outraged.” After all, didn’t Lenore know that a 73-year-old woman was raped in Central Park at the same time that those 4 kids were there, playing unsupervised? Clearly our children are ALWAYS at risk.

And this is the problem with the conversation as it stands. Lenore and I, and others who understand math, can point out – over and over and over again – that statistically our children are safer at the park than almost anywhere else.

We can point out that play IS in fact essential in the same way that cars are, and enriching in the same way that summer camp is, and an argument could even be made that free play has saved more lives than it has taken – after all a confident, capable child is less likely to be targeted for violence than a frightened, isolated, shy child.

But as soon as we make that argument, some moment of violence inevitably occurs. And it doesn’t even matter if the violence is directed at children. Suddenly the argument has shifted and the fear-mongers hold the upper hand: A 73-year-old woman was raped, by someone she was familiar with, in retaliation for something that happened the week previous, therefore ALL CHILDREN EVERYWHERE are at risk.

I sit here and stutter and try to get out the words to explain how completely ridiculous this line of argument is, words that will somehow put this back into perspective. But how do you argue with someone who believes that because an orange was pulped, all apples are at risk?

Around 65,000 people visit central park on an average day, or 25 million people annually. (Yes, many of those people are repeat visitors, clearly. In fact, some of them live there for all practical intents and purposes.) If this is hot crime spot, where children are ALWAYS in danger and 73-year-old women are getting raped in broad daylight all the time, we would expect that when we looked at the crime stats, that we would see this reflected.

Except we don’t.

This woman suffered from the first reported rape in Central Park in all of 2012. (See link above.)

In 2011, there were exactly 2 reported rapes in Central Park. Not to downplay what happened to these women, or any women (or men) who have experienced rape, but these statistics do not tell me that our children are unsafe. Quite the opposite. These statistics tell me that children have an excellent chance of surviving a trip to the park unscathed. In fact, looking at the stats tells me that you are more likely to win the lotto than to be harmed during a trip to Central Park.

Furthermore, it seems telling that in the Central Park crime stats, there isn’t even a category for crimes against children. There is no abduction category, no child molestation category, no child assault category. There is nothing in the stats that implies that children are being targeted, abused, assaulted, abducted, or harmed in a criminal way. At all.

25 million visitors and not one criminal attack on children.

That’s well below national averages.

Now the naysayers will shout – but that’s because we watch our children now.

But is it? Because while your children may suffer from the luxury of having a parent available 24-7, there are still many, many children who do not. Children of single working mothers, children of dual income families, children of Free-Range parents. And I would be willing to bet that some of these children have played at Central Park and lived to tell about it.

Further – I know, for a fact, that all the helicoptering in the world cannot protect children from all harm.

One of my helicopter friends fell carrying his precious 2-year-old son down the stairs and broke his son’s leg. He was so worried about his toddler navigating the dangerous stairs on his own and yet, what ultimately hurt his child was over-parenting.

Helicoptered children have been harmed at school, at camp, by relatives, in cars, by coaches, by church officials, by doctors, by freak, random chance, by “acts of God”.

The sad truth is – we cannot protect our children 100%. We can’t.

What we can do is PREPARE them, to the best of our abilities. We can arm them with knowledge, with skills, with words and confidence – and then we can let them go, a little bit at a time, letting them lengthen the leash inch by inch until one day they discover that they are ready to be let off.

In a perfect world that moment comes when the parent too is ready to let go, but often kids know first, and as parents we have to test them and challenge them to prove their abilities one more time.

Do they know their phone number, and how to dial it from any phone?
Do they know what to do in an emergency?
Do they know the difference between a real emergency and a small set-back?
Are they able to follow the rules even when they are out of your sight?
Do they talk to you – even about uncomfortable stuff?
Will they tell you if something happens to them?
Have you given them the emotional and psychological power to do what it takes to protect themselves?
And those first few times – do they have a friend, or a group of friends, that they can go with so that they can have each others’ backs?

And then, you let them go – and because you know you prepared them well, you simply hope that lightning doesn’t strike. — Bree

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51 Responses to A Woman Is Raped in Central Park…So No Kids are Ever Safe There?

  1. Stijn Hommes September 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    When I read this I sat screaming at my screen. Of course, what happened to this woman was horrific, but it has no bearing on child safety. People talk about abductors and rapists all the time but know nothing about them.

    If you learn a little about criminology and related fields, you’d discover that most people who commit sexual offenses have strong preferences for a particular type of victim. They are so-called preferential offenders. Even if they’re not, the likelyhood of someone raping a 73-year-old woman also attacking a child is so close to non-existent, it’s not even worth mentioning.

    When I mentioned this in another discussion, someone countered that 47% of rapes happen during daylight. For all I know that might be true, but that’s a crappy use of statistics, because it says nothing about likelyhood or the perceived danger to children.

    So I would like to ask people to educate themselves before sharing their opinion — especially when statistics are involved.

  2. LeighS September 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    The problem with trying to use statistics to overcome irrational, fear-based parenting choices is that those parents are making decisions based on their emotions. Period. Statistics rarely change their minds, because their fears outweigh anything else. Magically, you can find a statistic to “prove” almost anything. What I wish more parents would do is try to not let their fears and feelings control their actions. Do I want to protect my daughter from harm? Of course. Does a little piece of me worry when she walks to the pool by herself, or when she went to overnight camp for the first time? Yes. But I can’t let those fears control my decisions, and therefore, her life.

  3. gap.runner September 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    It’s amazing how people take one tragic event and generalize it to the whole population. This is off the topic of free range parenting, but the same principle of fear over logic applies. In Spring 2011 there was a food poisoning epidemic in northern Germany from vegetables that were contaminated with a deadly strain of E-coli bacteria. A lot of people died and others were hospitalized with serious problems. Some people in neighboring countries, who were tourists who visited northern Germany, were also affected. I live in southeastern Germany and my city was not affected at all by this food poisoning.

    I went out to the California that summer to visit family. One of my husband’s cousins, who’s a nurse, was concerned about us visiting. She was seriously afraid that we would somehow bring this strain of E-coli with us and sicken her family. I explained that people in California would not necessarily be affected by a food poisoning problem in North Carolina. My situation was the equivalent. Even after explaining that the whole family was free of E-coli, she was still afraid to have us visit because the epidemic happened in the same country where we live. In her logic system, you just never know if we could be carriers of a stray bacterium that would sicken her whole family. Talk about worst-first thinking!

  4. shannon September 16, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    i’m the now pregnant product of the ultimate helicopter mom. i have limited social skills and diffuculty making friends. i’ve lived in the same city my entire life, and have only a basic idea of how to get around in it. i’m terrified of the world, i have to remind myself nearly everytime i leave the house alone that chances are i’m NOT going to be raped, shot, stabbed, robbed, or hit by a car today. i have a hard time finding jobs because i’m terrified people will notice my lack of social skills and take advantage, which has happened before. i have a younger 20-something brother who is even more afraid of the world than i am, and as a result has only left his bedroom a few times in the last 10 years, and won’t go outside without me, our older sister, or her teenage son. I plan to be a free range mom and raise my baby the polar opposite of how i was raised. so he or she will have a chance at life free of the fears and worries i got stuck with. my brother and i are at an extreme end of the spectrum, but know that even if your child doesn’t wind up as bad off as us, helicoptering can’t end well.

  5. Lisa September 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    A Woman Is Raped in Central Park…So No Kids are Ever Safe There?
    Yes, and you shouldn’t ever go to the movies. After all some guy shot and killed a bunch of people in a movie theater in Colorado last July. It’s just not worth the risk.

  6. Kate September 16, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    People are carrying their 2 year olds up and down the stairs? My kids have been navigating the stairs by themselves since they were about 8 months old. As soon as they can crawl up themselves I let them and you should see the grins I get when my 10 month old daughter gets to the top :). She’s not quite ready to go down by herself but as soon as she understands about scooting down on her butt that’s what she’ll be doing just like her older brother did.

  7. Gina September 16, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    @Shannon…WOWZA! Good for you…even with all your fears, you are going to allow your children out in the world. Not easy and I applaud you for it.
    For your brother, agoraphobia is not as rare as you may think. There is help and he can get better if he wants to.

    http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

    Good luck!

  8. culdesachero September 16, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    One of my helicopter friends fell carrying his precious 2-year-old son down the stairs and broke his son’s leg. He was so worried about his toddler navigating the dangerous stairs on his own and yet, what ultimately hurt his child was over-parenting.

    Which is exactly why my new invention – the child safety stair navigation harness – will be a huge seller.
    Do you ever carry your child up or down the stairs?
    Have you ever fallen down or tripped on the stairs?
    How can you leave take such a risk as to leave your child’s life in your own hands?
    With my new harness and hoist system, children will be delivered from the bottom floor to the top in the utmost safety without the fear that your clumsy feet will stumble on the top step sending your toddler crashing to the floor.
    I’ll be pushing for mandatory installation in any multi-level house before children under 8 are allowed to enter. Certification stickers must be displayed on front and back doors. Houses without such equipment will be required to display a warning stating that no child can enter lest they try to navigate an unsafe (any) staircase without a hoist system. Children will be so much safer. /sarcasm.

  9. LeanneP September 16, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    It occurs to me that a part of the problem with other people demanding that parents must be present while children play is because there is a very strong sentiment against helping others. In particular, this sentiment is particularly strong around children and babies – how many endless debates are their about children “ruining” cafe, restaurant, airplane, library, etc, experiences for various and sundry adults?.

    For example, the argument that says parents must be at the park supervising play in case a child is injured does not necessarily assume that because a parent is present the child is free from potential arm. Kids still fall off play equipment and out of trees when their parents are standing a few feet away raining down encouragement. No, the real problem is that people don’t want to be bothered by other people’s problems. They don’t want to interrupt their day to call parents when a child is injured at the park. They don’t want to have to answer the door to a child who had and accident on their bike on their street. They don’t want to deal with handing out bandages, walking a limping child home, intervening when an inappropriate adult does something that bothers the kids, etc.

    Those sorts of things happen, whether a parent is there or not. Many people’s reactions, though, is an indignant “I’m not the parent, it’s not my job to do that!”

    I promise all the parents in the world: If your kids need help, I’d be honoured to be there for them in your absence.

  10. Kate September 16, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    I love coming here to find the voice of reason. Thank you. It’s such a great relief to holding my tongue through the parenting I see all around me (I am a Montessori preschool teacher).

  11. Kara September 16, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    Thank you.

  12. mysticeye September 16, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Sheesh I feel down the stairs with my kid, he was umm three I think. He normally goes up and down the stairs on his own, but he’s a kid, sometimes he likes to be picked up. He’s also a quiet kid so sometimes it’s the only way to hear him.

    I had him in my arms, and as I stepped on the second step my ankle ligament gave out and we fell down. I hadn’t had issues with my ankles in years but clearly they’re never going to be 100% after the damage that has been done.

    Picking your child up doesn’t make you a helicopter parent, and falling down the steps with your child doesn’t make you a bad parent. Shit happens. The only damage from the incident was my ankle, which was really unrelated to the fall (It would have been just as damaged if I had been walking on flat ground, stepping off a curb, or whatever. I’ve done the same before on flat, perfectly paved roads and tennis courts.

  13. Warren September 17, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    It is fine for that lady on Anderson Cooper to be outraged, that is her right. I take issue with “I am not going to let my child, or anyone’s child”. Just who in the blue hell does she think she is, “let” my child? I or you do not need this woman’s or anyone else’s permission to do anything with our kids.

    This is one of the big problems, that other parents think that they have the right to dictate to us, how we are to raise our children. Until we stand up, and stand our ground, consistantly, we will always have this problem.

  14. Emily September 17, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    Let me start by saying, I totally agree with this article. Saying that, “Oh, a 73-year-old woman was raped in the park, therefore, it’s not safe to let children play alone there” is a total strawman argument. So, I’m firmly in the free-range camp on that issue, as I am on most things, because I was probably one of the first generation of bubble-wrap kids (child predator hysteria in the 80’s/early 90/s, and my parents read a LOT of newspapers then), but can I just point out one thing? The number of REPORTED rapes and sexual assaults, isn’t anywhere near the actual number. So, just because there were only two reported rapes in Central Park in the course of the year, doesn’t mean that there weren’t actually more than that.

  15. Priscilla September 17, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    Terrific article written here. I sometimes have difficulty explaining to people why I am not afraid to give my kids freedom…I’ll keep this one on hand to have them read.

  16. linvo September 17, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    Yes! to that article and also Yes! to LeanneP. It’s sad isn’t it, that simply being near unsupervised kids makes people exclaim they don’t want to be ‘babysitting someone else’s kids’. I find it extremely sad and I too feel privileged to meet kids out on their own and will help them if they are in trouble, just like I would help an old lady who had a fall in the park or the guy on the mobility scooter who has trouble getting onto the kerb, or the homeless guy who lost his dog.

  17. Hope September 17, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    What bothers me is that most crimes against children are perpetrated by family members or acquaintances. Neither of which are strangers, and either of which would commit the crime in your house if that is where the children are. Outdoors is not any more or less safe than home.

  18. vas September 17, 2012 at 5:02 am #

    > Yet no one is calling for a ban on summer camp,

    Just wait a bit.

  19. Donald September 17, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    I remember a few years back when I lived in the USA, the NEWS would periodically run special reports that would run over 3 or 4 days. These ‘special reports’ were well advertised and would always be scheduled just before the ratings came out. The stories were sex topics such as S&M, child molesting, or incest. The network would show something about sex just before the ratings were out as a bid to ‘bump up their rating’

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re doing the same thing with fear mongering. Lenore, I’m curious. When Good Morning America ambushed you, were the ratings out soon? If we can find a connection between ratings and fear mongering perhaps we should change the title of one of your posts.

    Instead of of titling it, ‘Who Stole America’s Faith in Everything Except Fear’? It should be titled, ‘Who SOLD America’s Faith in Everything Except Fear’

  20. Donna September 17, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    @Donald – Can’t blame ratings sweep for this. That is in November, February and May. The new TV season doesn’t even usually start until the end of September (I have no idea this year since I only get cbs and even then everything is 2 hours early so tv is not something I do much anymore).

  21. Lollipoplover September 17, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Great article.
    What I find most appalling is that adults are attempting to hijack their children’s childhood with their belief that by being present they are making it safer. They are not.

    “I promise all the parents in the world: If your kids need help, I’d be honoured to be there for them in your absence.”
    THANK YOU! I will also do the same and hopefully teach my children to also be good citizens and look out for their fellow human beings. This is one of the cornerstones of a community. When we start teaching our children never to get involved with misguided fears, we teach apathy. And that is truly sad.

  22. Becky September 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    This is in response to the first poster who heard that “47% of rapes happen during daylight”. I don’t comment as to the truth or falsity of that statement, as I don’t know one way or the other. However, I would personally respond, “Oh my God! You mean that nearly 50% of a given act occurs during 50% of the day?! I am shocked – SHOCKED – to find that’s the case!”

  23. Stijn Hommes September 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    Hi Becky. I am actually shocked about that statistic. If it’s true, it means rapists don’t appear to feel the need of the cover of darkness for their crime. I would expect most crimes to happen more often during the time when there is NO daylight as it offers additional cover for the criminal.

  24. Yan Seiner September 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    @Stijn:

    But then again there’s more people out during the day, and most rapes are committed by people who are known to the victim. The number of “stranger rapes” is quite small compared to the number of “date rapes” or at least acquaintance rapes. we just hear about them more.

    This was in fact the case with this particular rape in Central Park; the victim and the perp knew each other.

  25. Caro September 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    Great article and really interesting comments, too!

    @Shannon, I’m so sorry you have so much fear to overcome, but good for you for keeping at it and determining to give your own child a better life.

  26. Donna September 17, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    @Stijn – Most crimes are crimes of opportunity and impulse, not well planned affairs. It is not surprising that a rapist and victim are likely to come into contact at opportune times during daylight 47% of the time considering the amount of daylight that exists in a day and that daylight is when most people are awake, out and about and usually with their guard down. I think the percentage actually seems a little low.

  27. EricS September 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    Great article Bree. More parents need to start understanding this. It is the only real, viable, logical and common sense filled solution. After all, until now, it’s worked just fine for thousands of years. And I guarantee, that times even just 200 years ago, would make what helicopter parents think of today, like their safest moment in life.

    “What we can do is PREPARE them, to the best of our abilities. We can arm them with knowledge, with skills, with words and confidence – and then we can let them go, a little bit at a time, letting them lengthen the leash inch by inch until one day they discover that they are ready to be let off.

    In a perfect world that moment comes when the parent too is ready to let go, but often kids know first, and as parents we have to test them and challenge them to prove their abilities one more time.”

    Truer words. What it all boils down to, is that for these adults and parents, it’s NOT about the children. Or rather it’s much LESS about the children, then it is about the parents themselves. It’s their own selfish needs to make themselves feel better about their actions and decisions. That is very selfish and self centered. They haven’t realized, or refuse to believe, that in coddling their children, they do them far more harm. That’s not what I believe, that IS FACT. It doesn’t take a legit psychologist to know that. That is how, we as human beings, are wired. What we learn as children, is who we end up being as we grow up. Some do end up breaking from what their negative ideas their parents have drilled into them, but not without a lot of time and effort. Many trial and errors. Which would have been easier to hurdle over had they been properly raised to think independently and confidently.

    What parents need to do, is stop hanging on every word the media says, use common sense, and think about how they were raised. Now let your kids experience the same independence you did growing up. Plain and simple. They will survive. The world is unsafe as a whole, it always has been. But we used to challenge that and empower ourselves as children. Now parents teach us to cower away and hide.

  28. Captain America September 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    I’m fascinated by shannon’s comments above. I am 49 and have noticed—really, it is hard not to—the many younger adults who are so limited in their ability to deal across a wide range of people.

    I call a sub-group of overprotected kids, “pasties”—ghostly white and pale from being indoors all the time, usually fat and unfit due to potato chips and couch food, usually unable to fix anything that’s broken or understand how things work: but they ALL want to design computer games! (that’s their strength).

    AT ANY RATE, my big concern is protecting innocence. We have a TV-free house, and it is amazing how, in comparison to our child, much more “experienced” and less innocent other kids are, simply because of expose to crap media.

    I’d like an America with less sex and violence for kids. One that appreciated childhood for the fleeting time that it is.

  29. EricS September 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    @Shannon. Good for you! You’ve taken the first steps to empowering yourself. It’s really all in the person’s mind. And as you were programmed to fear as a child, you can reprogram yourself to over come what you were taught. Yours is the perfect example of what most of us keep saying about helicopter parents. They will do more harm in the long run. Keep it up. Post here for support. Make new friends. After all, true friends will never judge, they can help you get through your fears and insecurities. In turn, you set a great example for your brother. If the domino affect you both experienced as children can lead you to where you are now, it can lead you out as well. 🙂

  30. Yan Seiner September 17, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    @Shannon: If you like animals, please connect with a local therapy dog group. These are handler+dog teams that are trained to reduce stress and help people overcome their fears.

    For those advocating statistics, people are very selective in what they want to hear. “Observer bias” exists even in trained scientists; it’s apparently out of control for some people who see a kidnapper behind every tree.

    Observer bias will lead you to discard information that doesn’t fit your preconceptions, and select only that data that fits your world view, and even bend and adapt data that doesn’t fit to support your view.

    One of the responses to a comment I made in this type of discussion, where I copied US Gov’t crime statistics, was that I was “dangerously misinformed” about the real dangers. That’s observer bias in a nutshell.

  31. BL September 17, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    “> Yet no one is calling for a ban on summer camp,”

    You don’t understand. They’re supervised at camp. It’s perfectly OK for kids to get hurt while supervised.

  32. Ada September 17, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    I don’t have children, but love my friends’ kids. When I remind them that, statistically, I am more likely than any stranger to abduct their kid, it gives them pause. One of my fears in having children is that I gravitate towards helicoptoring and worrying. It’s something I’d need to let go of before I make the decision to have children.

    “Out of all of those crimes against children, the vast, vast majority of them were perpetuated not by a stranger in a park, but by someone those children knew and trusted. A coach, a priest, a teacher, a family member”

  33. Yan Seiner September 17, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    @Ada: I know this is a bit out of the ordinary, but I find a lot of guidance in historical writings. Here’s Miyamoto Musashi, arguably the greatest swordsman and tactician who ever lived, on the topic of being a warrior:

    :It is said the warrior’s is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way. Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.”

    Substitute “parent” for “warrior” and you have the gist of my parenting. Be skilled in both mind and body, and resolutely and without fear accept the reality that we all die. In that you find freedom to really enjoy life, and the life and independence of your children.

  34. hineata September 17, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    @Ada – when you become a parent, worry in various degrees will be with you until you are legally dead! My mother was completely free-range, that being the norm for parenting for the last several thousand years, and she still worries a little about us, even now we’re in our forties and she is seventy-one…..The trick is to bite down on your inner cheeks and to let the kids get stuck into things anyway. That, and not to look when they’re doing something (legal and moral 🙂 ), that scares the crap out of you!

    Don’t worry about worry…..:-).

  35. backroadsem September 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    This was such an excellent post with so many great, great points.

    This past weekend my husband and I went into the middle of nowhere, Idaho (completely out of cell phone range) to vacation with some friends and their 3-year-old daughter. Upon reaching the cabin, we noticed that some animal had been digging away at the rocks supporting a bridge over the creek. There was nothing immediately threatening about this and it was simply noted that equipment and time should be set aside for the bridge at some future point and that perhaps wild dance parties should not be held on the bridge until it was fixed up. We used the bridge the entire weekend. Now, as the bridge was also quite high over the creek, we felt we should caution the 3-year-old to be careful on the bridge and not to play on it (common sense–it’s a bridge with quite the potential fall with water at the bottom, plus those darn loose boulders). Well, before breakfast one morning, this little girl wanted to go wake up her dad. I took her near the cabin and decided to hang back while she pounded and shouted at the door. However, she insisted I walk her over the bridge–which I did.

    But as I did so, I couldn’t help but think–beyond making a little girl feel happy and secure, what was the point? This little girl had been instructed in the dos and do nots of bridge safety, had safely used the bridge all weekend with and without an adult, and just what good would my presence be if the bridge gave way beneath us?

    I of course associated this with the free range philosophy. We adults had reason to believe the bridge would serve just fine, we had instructed this toddler on how to safely use the bridge with supervision. Really, there was no serious pending danger. If anyone, adult or little girl, were to have been killed or injured because of that bridge, it would have been a complete freak accident that I doubt anyone would have forseen.

  36. backroadsem September 17, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    As for carrying the toddler up/down the stairs, I have a memory of a few weeks’ ago that was really quite annoying. We were at church, and my friend’s baby girl had insisted on climbing the stairs. Now, her dress kept getting in the way of her feet, making her process rather slow. A few of us stopped to watch this happy little girl slowly making her way of the stairs, pausing to untangle her feet from her skirt. Another person, however, was not amused and demanded to my friend why she didn’t pick her daughter up. Response: “oh, she’s at that stage. She’ll just cry if I pick her up”. The person then mentioned how bad it would be if this little girl tumbled back down the stairs and gave a glare declaring my friend an unfit parent and the rest of us partners in crime.

  37. Captain America September 17, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    The mention of summer camp danger above makes me want to do a comment:

    I attended summer camp in the 70s, and served a year on camp staff. Returning to summer camp now is kind of like Rip Van Winkle making a reappearance, only. . . you can’t swim in the lake. Kids born in the recent generation are unable to do so due to the Insurance Mafia. The Insurance Mafia rate insurance risks at camp, and most camps run on a pretty thin margin, if any, and so they’ll hurriedly follow whatever bloated fears foisted on them by the Insurance Mafia.

    And of course, it’s in the self-interest of the Insurance Mafia to find new and better risks to “control”. . . thus avoiding litigation risk, and in fact, it’s a good way for an insurance company to make more profit–by over-hyping danger while charging the same fee.

  38. Jackie September 18, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    This is a GREAT post on the Anderson Cooper facebook page in response to the whacko’s advocating for Lenore’s head. Posted by a W. Kiesel.
    To All The Kids Who Survived
    the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s!!

    First, we survived being born to mothers who took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.

    Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

    We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

    As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags.

    Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

    We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

    We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

    We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank Kool-aid made with sugar, but we weren’t overweight because, WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

    We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

    No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

    We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

    We did not have Playstations, Nintendo’s, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD’s, no surround-sound or CD’s, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or chat rooms…….WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

    We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

    We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

    We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

    We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

    Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

    The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

    When we did something we were not supposed to or got into trouble, we got spanked (by a hand, a hairbrush, or a belt) or even worse we got our legs “switched” with a branch from a special bush grown in the backyard and even had to go cut it ourselves before it was used on us. But we never thought of calling the police or Social Services to report our parents for child abuse!

    These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

  39. CrazyCatLady September 18, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    My youngest is MUCH more likely to get hurt while being supervised. When he is supervised, he knows he is being watched, and is much more likely to do dare devil stuff. He has been this way since before he was one, and would climb the 8 foot vertical ladder at the park, then, if some mom was watching him, proceed to let go. He does have amazing balance! No one to watch him, he wouldn’t let go.

    Last week, while I was “supervising” him, he rode his bike to the end of the friend’s driveway, then tried to stop at the last second (because I told him to stop at the end and wait for me.) He wiped out and now has a nasty bruise on his ribs from where the handlebar whipped around and got him. Had I not been watching (or the friend) I am sure he would have gone slower and done a better job!

  40. mollie September 18, 2012 at 5:18 am #

    That’s right: it’s okay for a child to get hurt while supervised, just not on their own.

    Because it really isn’t about children or safety, it’s about adults and comfort. “I just couldn’t live with myself” or “I don’t know what I’d do if anything ever happened to my child.” There is no acceptance, no faith in divine order, no trust in the unexplainable… just a rabid adherence to the strategy of control, supervision, and worry.

    Here’s the truth, parents: whether or not you worry, whether or not you are there, stuff happens. Kids are so much better off developing confidence in themselves, but this is assumed to be too much of a risk these days, so short-term comfort takes the place of true parental responsibility.

    Sigh.

  41. Yan Seiner September 18, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    @Jackie: What baffles me is how that generation has now turned into hovering, controlling, micro-managing parents that live in fear of exactly those activities they enjoyed as kids. What happened?

  42. Sarah September 18, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Yan-

    If you were born in 1970 you would be 42 now- perhaps the parent of a pre-teen, but more likely a young adult. I am guessing that most parent of young kids grew up in the 80/90’s as I did. Think crack epidemic, AIDS and gangster rap. When I talk to coworkers and friends my age, I am guessing only about 50% of them were brought up free range (I am part of the 50% that was). As I now have school age children I am guessing only 5% of their classmates are even close to free range. Escorting a 10 year old boy into a public restroom so that nothing bad happens to him is the new normal, I remember riding my bike to the beach to go bodysurfing by myself or with friends at that age.

    I hope that Lenore can get the find a free range friend thing going soon, it makes me sad thinking about what memo

  43. Donna September 19, 2012 at 12:12 am #

    @ Sarah – That assumption would be waaaaay off. I was born in 1970, am 42 and am the mother of a 6 year old. My daughter’s closest friends are all parented by people born in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. Two have even younger siblings. Having kids in your 30s in not uncommon.

  44. Sarah September 19, 2012 at 1:27 am #

    Sorry Donna,

    The “average” age for a fist time mom in the US is 25.1, that mean “most” moms of young kids grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. Having kids in your 30s is not uncommon (I’ve had one in my 30’s too), I was just talking about majorities.

  45. Donna September 19, 2012 at 2:29 am #

    Umm, not all young children are first borns. But I would agree that the largest single group of moms of young children grew up in the 80s. However that discounts the millions who did not.

    Since helicopter parents are most likely to be college-educated and middle class – a group that waits until older ages to have kids – I think the number of helicopter moms who grew up in the 70s is pretty high. But, even if not the majority of moms of young children, it is still astounding that so many people who grew up in the free range 70s have turned into hovering, micromanaging parents. I know many among my former classmates and the parents of my child’s classmates.

    I think it even more astounding that so many of those who RAISED children in the 70s are hovering and fearful now that they are grandparents. My mother, who sent me out the door with nothing more than a “come home when the street lights come on,” freaks out about my free range tendencies because “the world has changed and it is just too dangerous now.”

  46. Sarah September 19, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    I’ll agree with you about the granparents. My mom has cried several times and even threatened to intervien because my son rides his bike to and from school. She grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and walked to school at 5, and lived in a pretty bad neighborhood. I walked too. She always brings up Jaycee Duggard and how the perv s are using tasers now…… Jaycee Duggard is the same age as me.

  47. Warren September 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Grandparents are a big part of the overprotective problem. I have dealt with them a number of times.
    This is when your convictions are really tested, because not only do they see themselves as grandparents, but as your parents as well. Thus giving them a back of the mind mentality, that you should listen to them.
    There has been a few times that my wife’s parents, have over stepped their limits. They have been dealt with politely and assertively.
    They have also been told to leave, our home. Yes, it made for a strain, for awhile, but my kids come first.
    If they ever threatened to intervene? They would be told to leave, and that they were no longer welcome. End of story.

  48. Rika September 20, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    Grandparents often have way more time to watch TV, especially daytime TV.

  49. Donna September 20, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    My mother doesn’t even watch tv. I don’t know where she gets it.

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