Folks — A find about a find, sent to us by Kim H:
A couple went bike riding and lost a cell phone. It was found by some kids. They posted an instagram video telling the owner that they had found the phone and to call it. When he did they told him where they were – and the adults went over and picked up the phone. Here’s the story.
Hi Readers — Here’s a note from Education.com’s marketing director, Kat Eden, regarding the “Reasons to Say No to Sleepovers” post we have been writing about the last two days (that is now gone from the site). – L
Dear Free-Range Kids: Thanks so much to you and to your community for sharing your thoughts about this article.
We post hundreds of pieces of content each month with the goal of giving parents the information they need to make the best decisions for their families and the ideas and inspiration they want to make learning with their kids more fun. While we work hard to make sure every bit of that content is helpful for parents, sometimes, like everyone, we just don’t get it right.
We know that sleepovers are a controversial subject these days and many parents have strong feelings about whether they’re a good thing for kids or not. While hundreds of parents “Liked” this particular article on Facebook, we also heard from parents like you who felt the article missed the mark. We reviewed the article yesterday and have decided to remove it from our site.
When we publish articles on controversial topics, we try to avoid telling parents what they should or should not do and instead we try to give them expert or evidence based information on both sides of the issue so they can make the best decision for their children and families. This article clearly crossed that line a bit by encouraging parents not to allow their kids to go on sleepovers. This article is a better example of how we typically present information on a topic like this: First Sleepover Preparation.
So, as I said, we’ve removed the article. Please let me know if you have any further questions, ideas or input.
Thanks again for sharing your point of view.
To which I responded:
Dear Kat: I DO like the tone and suggestions of the alternative link you just sent, and I appreciate your — I’m not even sure of the word. Your willingness to give a rational re-look at a post you published. That’s exactly what i’m writing a story on for another publication — the power of apology. That takes guts and usually isn’t easy.
I am grateful and impressed. – Lenore
Folks — This story comes to us a mom named Erica who lives in a converted warehouse in Oakland, CA, with her husband, two daughters, and her now-retired father. The event happened about eight years ago, when her younger daughter was six. Here’s a crime map of her nabe, and a crime comparison chart. Her note came as a response to my call for “Nothing bad happened when my kid…” stories. (But sort of goes beyond them!) L
Dear Free-Range Kids: Call this, “My kid discovered absolutely terrifying levels of freedom that no sane parent would consciously allow… and still, nothing bad happened.”
NOTHING BAD HAPPENED when my 6-year-old went walkabout in the middle of the night, in an inner-city crime-infested neighborhood next to a railroad and a freeway.
We woke up at seven one morning to a parent’s nightmare: the door slightly open and our younger daughter nowhere to be found. We scoured the neighborhood, yelling her name and getting the neighbors (strangers, all of them) to help look for her. After a few minutes of frantically checking nearby blocks and realizing she wasn’t in earshot, we called the police.
When I described her outfit — tie-dye t-shirt and yellow sweats — they said, “We picked her up a few hours ago. Since she didn’t know her address or phone number and nobody called in right away, we sent her to social services.” She’d been found almost 6 blocks away, near the shopping center (near two sets of train tracks, near a freeway entrance and a bridge).
We called social services; it took us a while to get anyone (Saturday morning on a holiday weekend) but we eventually got through. The weekend on-call worker came to our house, questioned us about what had happened (our little girl had figured out how to operate locks that we’d thought were out of her reach), confirmed that we hadn’t abandoned her and changed our minds, had us fill out some forms and go through some incredibly invasive questions, and… she was back.
NOTHING BAD HAPPENED. She thought she was “exploring, like Dora.” She wandered around at 3 in the morning in a neighborhood known for mugging and riots and car wrecks, and nobody could be bothered to attack a little girl walking around on her own. As soon as she was spotted, someone called the people we pay to protect our streets, and they turned her over to the people we pay to watch out for children in our community, and very soon, she was back with her family. No harm done except several hours of parental panic. (She thought she had an “adventure.”)
Even in very “bad” neighborhoods, people watch out for little kids.
I do know how much worse it could’ve been. [Lenore here: So do I! This is not introducing, "Send Your Kids Out at 3 a.m. Day."] But I remind myself… she knew to walk on the sidewalk because we’d gone out together. She knew where the shopping center was, and went there instead of the unfamiliar freeway. And she knew not to hide from or fight strangers who approached her to help. Amen. – An Oakland Mom
Lenore here. I’m relieved by the happy endings all around: The girl didn’t go on highway, strangers responded with concern, and the authorities determined that the parents weren’t criminals — they just didn’t know, till that night, that their child could open the door. Like most of us, they had a family moment when things did not go as planned. And, like most of those moments, things turned out okay in the end. I present this story as a counterbalance to all the stories we hear in the media that are the other extreme: Terrible things happening all the time, in the blink of an eye, everywhere. – L.
Oakland by Night
Readers — This story speaks for itself (as does the son!). It comes to us from Aimee Turner, who says she and her husband are “happy to know we aren’t alone in the fight against BWCS: Bubble-Wrapped Child Syndrome.” She blogs at The Maine Page Turner . - L.
Dear Free-Range Kids:This summer, instead of going to municipal rec camp (daily, highly supervised….. and so “safe” that it’s kind of boring), we talked with our spunky and independent 12-yr-old son about what he might enjoy better. So this summer he is taking daily group tennis lessons as well as twice-weekly group golf lessons.
His father and I both work, so in order for him to do these lessons, he has to get himself to and fro. On the days he has both tennis AND golf, he has one hour to get across town (on his bike, about five miles). He has to be sure he has everything he needs for both sports (he is able to store his golf clubs at the course – that would be difficult on a bike!), a lunch he has packed for himself, and appropriate clothes (he needs to wear a shirt with a collar at golf) etc. My husband (his dad) did a practice run with him on a Saturday before the sports sessions started, taught him how to change the bike tube, and they packed a repair kit, in case he gets a flat!
Yesterday I realized how easy it is for “mom guilt” to overtake Free-Range-ness. DS and I were hanging out, and I almost said, “You know, I’m sorry you have to get yourself to all your stuff and that neither Dad nor I can drive you.” And then I CAUGHT myself. Yes, I thought it for a brief moment, but I didn’t say that, because I realized how ludicrous that line of thinking is! What on earth would I be apologizing for? That I’m not his chauffeur service??? For goodness sake, he’s 12, and he’s perfectly capable of taking a 20-min bike ride on a dedicated bike path in a bike-friendly town. I said what I really believe: “You know, I’m very impressed by how responsible you are with making sure you have your things, and that you are riding your bike safely the way on the route Dad showed you, and how you are getting everywhere right on time!”
Instead of infantilizing him, I empowered him. And his summer days are a lot more interesting than they would have been at rec camp. (Other side benefits: these activities are 1/3 of the price of rec camp, he’s getting a LOT of exercise, and we’re not increasing our family carbon footprint with lots of unnecessary car-based kid schlepping.)
This morning – no lie – he said to me, out of the blue, “Mom, thank you for not being a smother-y, helicopter-y mom who wouldn’t let me do golf lessons just because of the bike ride there. I love riding my bike there! And my coach thinks it’s awesome!” (He really used the words “smother-y” and “helicopter-y”.) Not many kids actually thank their parents for driving them around…. But mine thanked me for NOT driving him around. Imagine that! - Aimee Turner
An old equation. Kids + bikes = joy. (Even in the parents.)
Hi Readers! Remember the horrifying 2011 case of a mom convicted of vehicular homicide after her son ran into the street and was hit by a drunk driver? (Who was NOT charged with homicide?) She was facing a possible three years’ jail time. As I wrote at the time:
In brief: An Atlanta mom and her three kids got off a bus stop that is across a busy highway from her home. She COULD have dragged everyone to the next light, three tenths of a mile up the road, but it seemed to make sense to try to cross. Not only was her apartment in sight across the way, but the other passengers who disembarked were crossing the highway right there, too. So she and her kids made it to the median, but then the 4-year-old squirmed away and got killed by a drunk driver. The driver was convicted of a hit and run. The mom was convicted of vehicular manslaughter. Yep. But as [Transportation for America's David] Goldberg says:
What about the highway designers, traffic engineers, transit planners and land use regulators who allowed a bus stop to be placed so far from a signal and made no other provision for a safe crossing; who allowed – even encouraged, with wide, straight lanes – prevailing speeds of 50-plus on a road flanked by houses and apartments; who carved a fifth lane out of a wider median that could have provided more of a safe refuge for pedestrians; who designed the entire landscape to be hostile to people trying to get to work and groceries despite having no access to a car? They are as innocent as the day is long, according to the solicitor general’s office.
Now the story has a new ending. The judge offered the mom a second trial (not sure how that works) and this time, she was allowed to plead guilty only to jaywalking, with a $200 fine. And there is even some hope that this heart wrenching example is leading Georgia to take note of the need for safe road-crossings at bus stops.
Let’s hope it also leads folks to stop automatically blaming parents when a child tragedy occurs. Said in 2011 and I’ll say it again:
When we prosecute parents who are trying their hardest, who make mistakes, or who misjudge a situation, we are prosecuting them for being what parents have always been: human. Not superheroes with super strength, judgment, fortitude and foresight.
A human parent is what I am and what we all are. Let’s not make that a crime. — Lenore