Cops Called on Mom Who Let Kids, 8 & 5, Play in Park — BUT! Read On!

Hey Readers — Here’s an 8-minute CBC (Canada’s public radio) interview with a mom who let her boys play in the local park and got the cops called on her. What I absolutely love about her is the fact she sounds like us! She just wants the kids to have some free time to play. Apparently the nervous onlooker called the police after overhearing one of the kids say he was thirsty, and the other one reminded him, “Mom doesn’t want us back for another half hour.” The onlooker smelled ABUSE! But as the mom oh-so-beautifully explained to the radio interviewer:

I think that is what triggered her to make that call. And I kind of get it, but on the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with that… We’re so primed to think that a little bit of physical discomfort is a really bad and scary thing.

Kids don’t have to have their every need (or even their every want) met instantly? Imagine that! And then, when the interviewer asked the mom if she was scared of her kids being abducted, she said…NO! She knows the chance is almost nil and thus the fear is not strangling her. But best of all was the cop’s reaction when he had to approach her: “He was an apology in motion,” recalled the poetic mom. “He’s still 50 feet away saying, ‘No one is in trouble mom! There’s nothing happening here that’s against the law.””

So instead of a confrontation, the two ended up having a chat about the cop’s own kid:  ” He’s 12 and they’re having a little bit of difficulty releasing the apron strings to let him walk a dog. But I could see his frustration,” says park mom.

Sounds like the officer is Free-Range at heart. And the upshot is that now he is going to have this mom’s record on file — in a good way! So if anyone calls to say they’ve seen her kids at the park, unsupervised, he (or the other cop at the station) can respond that the police are aware of those kids, they’ve met the parent, and it’s perfectly fine for the kids to play on their own.

Wish that were on file for all of us as a matter of course. What a difference a Free-Range Cop can make!  – L.

Cop to kids alone in park: Play on!

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29 Responses to Cops Called on Mom Who Let Kids, 8 & 5, Play in Park — BUT! Read On!

  1. Alec @ Child's Play Music April 1, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    Nice to hear a good news story, and it’s good that the policeman had sense.

  2. Marci April 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    In a way all this fear reminds me so much of my field of expertise which is body image. It’s so similar in that, I always caution parents about letting our fat-phobic society turn them into food and weight obsessed people who agonize about every calorie or fat gram their kids consume. In an effort to make their kids “healthy” they will inevitably encourage unhealthy relationships with food which could lead to, dare I say it, obesity! FEAR is the culprit, not food.

    It’s the same thing in situations like this one. In an effort to keep our kids safe, we are actually making them unsafe by not allowing them the chance to develop things like: intuition, self-confidence and independence. We are robbing them of the SKILLS they need to actually be SAFE.

  3. LaShonda Anthony April 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Great response on the part of the officer. I regularly send my 12 and 8 year old outside together to play-although more and more I have to push them out of the house. When we first moved to this area, they were excited to go outside and meet new kids. But as the school year wore on and they were finding it harder and harder to get their friends to come out and play with them, they’ve given up, resigning themselves to staying indoors. Why-because the oldest knows he can catch his friends online via Xbox Live more easily than he can get them to come outside and play. It’s rather sad.

  4. Warren April 1, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    A cop with common sense that responds to a call like this, it is about time.

    His response was great about them playing together, and all the signs that they were happy normal kids, and not neglected.

    But, and this is just the devil’s advocate in me, the idea of a file being created is not something I personally would want. In my line of work, I need security clearance to access certain areas, at airports and military bases. A file on the system, for whatever reason can affect that, even if it is only to the point of getting things clarified.

  5. CrazyCatLady April 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    Nice call on the part of the cop. All playgrounds need to have water fountains, but being north, I understand that it is later in the year when they get turned on.

    I am taking my kids to the park today to enjoy the weather. I will not be checking on them, at 8, 10 and 12, they will do just fine. I am going so that I can sit in the sun and talk to MY friends, the parents of the other kids we will be meeting. If we all lived closer, I would certainly send my kids off to play and drink lemonade in the yard and enjoy the sun. But, alas, we all live in separate corners of town and this is the best we can do.

    Oh, and the older kids are in charge of making sure the younger ones (who all look up to the older kids) all stay safe. 3 of the kids, 6th and 7th graders regularly babysit their siblings so this is not a big issue.

  6. Samantha April 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Wow. What a refreshing reaction by the cop! Very sad that we are all surprised by it though.

  7. Billy Williams April 1, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    This is crap! When I was 4 years old I used to walk over 2km to school, BY MYSELF! This world we live in nowadays makes me sick!!!!!

  8. Ravana April 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    This is so strange to me. I see kids alone at parks, in town, and riding their bikes down the streets all the time by me and nobody blinks an eye. I had to rescue one on a playground. He got hung up upside down on a piece of equipment and called me over to help him. After I stopped laughing I got him unhooked and then told him to either take off his sandals–which is what got snagged–or go home and get a different pair of shoes, he chose to go barefoot (oh the horror! [this is sarcasm]). It never occurred to me to ask him where his grownup was.

  9. Zach April 1, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    It’d be nice to see people have to put a little skin in the game. After the cop responds and finds nothing at fault the caller should have been ticket for wasting police resources.

  10. Marci April 1, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Hi Lenore!
    You actually wouldn’t believe how MUCH fear has to do with food. I just wrote an article for HP about how the weight anxieties of certain parents are actually encouraging eating disorders in their own kids!

    Last year, I wrote an article for the Vaughan citizen titled “Why fear is more fattening than french fries.

    I love your message because I think as parents,before we let our fears dictate how much of life we let or don’t let, our kids experience, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I worried because I’m a parent and parents worry OR am I worried because there is a REAL, LEGITIMATE reason to worry?” and THEN make our decisions.

  11. Emily April 1, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    Marci–Is this your article? I really liked it–it’s very insightful, and true, I think. Where’s the balance between encouraging healthy eating and exercise habits in kids, and setting them up for eating disorders?

    http://www.yorkregion.com/opinion-story/1462625-fear-is-more-fattening-than-french-fries/

  12. Marci April 1, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Here’s the HP article: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/marci-warhaftnadler/body-image-parents-fat-talk-and-calorie-counting-hurts-their-kids_b_2935721.html

    (BTW..I saw some fabulous pictures from the CCFC conference of you with some of my other favorite female warriors (Melissa and Lori) Must have been an awesome experience! :o)

  13. Antsy April 1, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    I do not understand calling the police on people when there is no stealing, breaking and entering, arson, kidnapping, obvious impaired driving, murder, or violence (I mean real violence like an attack or a riot, not a spanking!) involved. I wouldn’t even want to call for police help if there was a lost child wandering about because I would be afraid of getting a parent who doesn’t deserve it in trouble!

    Luckily, the guy in this story was a GOOD cop! To other cops out there, please follow his example and stop expanding the definition of “crime”. I have been a victim of this twice now. Once was when I accidentally dropped off an extra child – a rising second grader – at my high schooler’s soccer conditioning practice for not even thirty minutes. I ended up in court. Several months later I happened to come across an article about that cop winning an award…..he had been nominated because he had the highest number of tickets/arrests that year. No wonder!

  14. Antsy April 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Zach, I like your suggestion!

  15. Jenna K. April 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    I have to say…the whole physical discomfort thing contributes to the fact that so many parents don’t let their kids do anything on their own. Last week, I let my boys (9, 8, and 6) ride their bikes the three blocks to piano lessons. When it was time for them to come home, at 5:30, I had sent my husband to the store to pick up something for our dinner, and he took forever getting home. When he finally did get home, he had all three boys and their bikes in the back of the car. “It was really windy and had started drizzling, so I thought it would be a good idea to pick them up instead of making them ride their bikes,” he said. I was kind of mad…I needed him to be home sooner so I could eat before going to an appointment at 6 pm, and the boys could stand to ride three blocks home in the rain and suffer no damage. But that is how a lot of people think these days. Heaven forbid the poor kids get a little wet, tired, or thirsty (or cold or hot)!

  16. hineata April 1, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    @Antsy – I do feel sorry for you regarding court, as that does sound crazy, but that sounds like a fascinating story..I have left my new baby on the floor in the back of the van kicking away quite happily because I forgot she was there when friends drove up, and I went inside to make them a coffee! How did you accidentally leave a seven-eight year old behind? Did he/she get out with the others to watch the practice?

    A friend of mine managed to leave her seven year old behind at a roadside shop while on holiday, and drove on a hundred km before realising. As a disclaimer she has seven kids, and they were travelling in two cars, but still, it was intensely embarassing at the time. But still not court-worthy….

  17. hineata April 1, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    @Jenna K. – with you on that. How annoying! Anyone would think we were raising kids like the brown-sugar witches in the ‘Wizard of Oz’.

    Only time I have picked the boy up in those conditions was a few years ago when we had a freak storm..Totally bizarre. Sunny weather, but you could see a cloud bank coming, which is par for the course in Wellington. Usually they take a slightly longer build-up than this, though.The boys were at cricket practice just watching it, until they got pelted with big hailstones, LOL! Anyway in the ten minutes it took us to decide to pick them up, the wind was getting weird (from nothing at all to gale-force), rain was sluicing down and trees were falling. Fairly unsafe :-).

    But ordinarily – no, they won’t melt….

  18. mollie April 1, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Yeah, the idea of cops getting called because a kid says he thirsty and claims Mom doesn’t want him to come home for another half an hour just makes me giggle.

    I guess that’s because if I saw a kid in a park that seemed waaaaaay too small to fend for themselves (three? Four? Five?), wasn’t dressed for the weather, had been there more than two or three hours, and was crying at times, well, first I’d ask the kid what was going on, and if they said something like, “I don’t know where my mom is” or “My mom said she would be back soon” or “Mom says I can’t come home until she’s slept off her drunk,” and the kid didn’t know Mom or Dad’s phone number, OK, I might call the cops.

    But kids happily playing, accompanied or unaccompanied? Kids who mention in passing that they’re hungry or thirsty (especially if they’re eyeing up my kids’ snacks, if we happen to be having them)? Kids who, when asked if they’re OK and parents know where they are, say yes? Call the COPS? Seriously??

    This happened in my backyard, practically. Gyro park is a big draw around here, and if your kid can’t go to Gyro park on their own, there’s no place on Earth they can play alone! Sheesh.

    I want a world where there is some distinction between criminal neglect and minor inconveniences.

  19. Puzzled April 1, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Ok, good, but one of the fundamental principles of this country is rule of law, not of men – we shouldn’t have to rely on getting a good cop when no crime is being committed. The good sense of this cop is helpful, but also rare – to many cops, if a complaint is made, then someone must be blamed.

  20. Doug Jones April 1, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    I was a free range child at the age of four. Living on Ft Hancock, New Jersey, I had the benefit of the ultimate gated community (MPs in the guard shack at he only entrance). Heck, my mother even set my up an account at the post exchange and I could get snacks when I wanted them. Bravo for the non-helicopter mom.

    The only helicopters back then were the Hueys that occasionally landed across the street from our house. I knew enough to stay away when the rotors were turning.

  21. katrin April 1, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    Since when do we need to be rehydrated every 20 minutes? My pet peeve is that we have come to believe that we cannot leave the house without a water bottle. I don’t remember anyone suffering from dehydration when we were running around the neighborhood for hours on end. You headed home for lunch and a drink. If you were desperate, you could always drink from some neighbors hose.

  22. Emily April 1, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    @Katrin–Why is other people carrying water bottles, a pet peeve of yours? It’s not like other people’s hydration habits affect you in any negative way. I take a water bottle with me when I leave the house, and I do it so don’t have to buy myself a bottle of water or Diet Coke if I get thirsty.

  23. Chris April 1, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

    Wow. I live in a place that gets to 115 in the summer. I fully expect folks to carry water. I was allowed to run around as a kid, which ended very badly for me. I got in with the wrong crowd which eventually led to smoking methamphetamine out of a lightbulb. I understand fully the freedom and how it made us feel while we were growing up, but I will not just throw caution to the wind where my most prized accomplishments (my kids) are concerned. If you remember, when we were young our fathers had a few before driving us home, we didn’t always wear seatbelts, we sat and inhaled secondhand smoke everywhere we went. I could go on and on. The world is different now, it is better in a lot of very important ways.

  24. Thomas Arbs April 2, 2013 at 4:02 am #

    I had become so frustrated with recent reports I almost dared not click open on this FB link, but this one was refreshing.

    “The weather is fine, go play outside and don’t you come right back” – I have heard that often, should we really not be allowed to say so nowadays? (Though if I was thirsty, I would have come back, and would have been passed a glass of water through the door…)

  25. fiona April 2, 2013 at 5:45 am #

    Er, April Fool’s Day, anyone?

  26. katrin April 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    I live in Maine, so we don’t have very many days of 90 degree weather. I don’t have a problem with you planning ahead and bringing water when you head out for the day. But, as the original poster implied, a kid should be able to be outside for half an hour with out a drink of water.
    When my kids were toddlers, I went to the park to meet some new friends for an hour. They came with coolers packed as though they were going to be on an all day expedition. The kids were being fed constantly and I had to tell my kids that we had already had a snack and we would be heading home for lunch shortly.

  27. EricS April 2, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    That’s a cool story. The only thing I have reservations about is this quote “…and it’s perfectly fine for the kids to play on their own.” Even though this means well, it still sounds like children still need approval and permission from higher authorities to be able to play outside on their own.

    On a side note, I think the police should also keep track of those busy body/nosey/holier than thou callers. There is such a thing as wasting people’s time with frivolous calls about children on their own. After all, cops being called in to investigate nosey neighbor calls, are being pulled from REAL police matters. People still need to be responsible for their actions. And if more used common sense, there would be far less false and unnecessary calls the police would have to respond to.

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