Does Free-Range Make Sense After a Shooting?

Readers, as you might recall, I gave a Free-Range talk last week in Alexandria, VA, at St. Stephens & St. Agnes School. It was a (funny) look at how we became so scared for our kids, and how to fight the fear that seeps into almost every aspect of childrearing.

Two days later a man knocked on the door of a local Alexandria pre-k music teacher. She opened the door, he shot her dead. He also injured another woman in the home. The suspect is still at large, and there’s conjecture that he may have been involved in a similar, seemingly random murder last year, and maybe even before that.

And so, understandably, some of the parents who were at my talk have written to ask: What now? Here’s a part of one letter:

Dear Lenore: 

…More than 10 schools in the area (including ours) were put on lock down for several hours that day by the police while they looked for the perpetrator (policy helicopters, dogs, the whole nine yards).  Unfortunately, they did not catch anyone yet, nor is there any theory about whether there was a motive for the killing (or, if so, what it was).  Many of us took classes with our children from Ruthanne over the years. We are all so saddened by this senseless violence—and many of us wish that your talk had been scheduled for this week so you could help us put this in perspective.

While very unsettled by the entire incident and situation (and the fact that the perpetrator remains at large), my husband  and I (and others in the community) are working hard to not let fear get the best of us.  While it was not without some hesitation, I did still let my 12-year-old get dropped off for lunch and window shopping in Del Ray (the local “Main Street”) Saturday afternoon. 

 Still embracing Free-Range principles—and grateful for your voice of sense amidst the many factors that make us all so scared and crazy!

Thank you again for your great work-

To which I replied:

Yes, I heard about that tragedy. It is so bizarre as to be almost unheard of, except I know that there were, over the years, two other incidents it seems to echo. My bet is that they catch the guy, even though they didn’t the other times.

Meantime, I congratulate you on letting your daughter go window shopping. The thing about random violence, especially RARE violence, is that you can’t organize your life around it because IT isn’t organized. It’s like organizing your life around chandeliers falling, or cars careening into storefronts. It just doesn’t happen often or predictably enough for you to plan any way to make you or your loved ones any safer.

The hard thing for any of us to realize is that when we DO say, “Well, that’s it. I’m going to make sure my family is safe! My kids will NEVER walk to school” (for instance), it doesn’t make them safer from kidnapping, because they are already safe from kidnapping just by living in 2014 America, rather than 2014 Sudan, or some place where violence IS rampant. But because a mom who drives her kids to school sees that they ARE safe and she FEELS safe, she can make the false correlation, “I drove them, so they didn’t get kidnapped.”

It’s really hard to prove a negative — as in, “No, that’s not why they’re safe. They’d have been safe if they walked, too!”

So in a way, I’m glad I spoke at your school BEFORE this incident. It’s hard to speak rationally — or be heard — when fear is high. That’s just evolution: self-preservation trumps all other brain work, including calm thought.                                                                                                          

My first wish is for the killer to be caught. My second is for this tragedy not to irrevocably change childhood for the kids in your neighborhood. Please keep me posted. – L.

Police sketch of the Alexandria, VA killer.

Police sketch of the Alexandria, VA killer.

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61 Responses to Does Free-Range Make Sense After a Shooting?

  1. SOA February 11, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    As far as this she did make a mistake. Do not EVER open your door to strangers. Ever. Police have told me this. Either talk to them through the door or through a security door. If you don’t know them, don’t open the door.

  2. miker February 11, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    After tragedies like this, it’s so easy to allow fear to lead us down the security rabbit hole, with each new event causing us to surrender more freedom in the name of incremental safety enhancement. Supporters of extreme precautions and ubiquitous surveillance point to each tragedy as proof they were right all along, and that anyone who resists their oppressive prescriptions is a naive fool. All we can do is continue to point out that when we give up freedom it degrades the life of everyone in our society, while horrific tragedies are exceedingly rare and directly impact a very small percentage of the population.

    Appealing to reason when people are already gripped by fear is close to impossible. I think you’re right that it’s better you talked to these folks before something bad happened. Inoculation in advance is the best chance we have for remaining calm and rational when terror strikes.

  3. K February 11, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    Since the beginning of the year, the following crimes have happened within walking distance of my house.
    1. A woman was forced into an alley at gunpoint and raped at 1230 in the afternoon.
    2. A man went out to his car to retrieve something and someone hit him in the face with a gardening paver, knocking out several teeth, fracturing his skull and putting him in the hospital for weeks.
    3. A 12 year old girl was mugged at gunpoint on her way to school.
    4. A well known bar was robbed by heavily armed men in masks on Super Bowl Sunday and several employees were pistol whipped.
    5. A woman chased a teenage intruder out of her home. Two weeks later, that teen returned with a friend and they stabbed her to death.

    My son is currently out riding his bike by himself. I’m committed to giving him the freedom he needs, but some days, when the violence doesn’t seem rare anymore, it’s quite hard to do.

  4. mystic_eye February 11, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    Yeah and a police officer speaking at a university here in an official capacity said “Don’t dress like that if you don’t want to get raped”, or words to that effect. I’ve also been told by police not to carry ID on me at all, ever, except if you’re operating a motor vehicle (in which case you need your driving license). There are idiots in every group (ie the rape comment) and the police are generally very “worst first”. Luckily not all are and the local community liaison officer for my neighbourhood is very pro-kids at the park alone, at whatever age you, the parent, decide is ok.

    Whenever someone dies because they didn’t get help we decry “Why did no one open their door, why didn’t anyone investigate the noise” then when something like this happens we decry “Why did you open the door, why were you not in your house”.

    Answer your door, help those in need, if you hear someone crying go look. Be part of your community. That’s how to be safe.

    Though feel free to be very rude to anyone that’s selling anything and doesn’t accept a polite “No thanks, goodbye”.

  5. David DeLugas February 11, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    I am reminded of an article I read years ago about how a person living in Israel either can live in fear or can accept that the all too frequent terrorist attacks are still random and unpredictable so life must go on day to day. Similarly, I have thought and read often that what the 9/11 attacks did to the USA was more than increase airport security as a nuisance, but was to steal our sense of peace and security and, though incredibly infrequent, the prospect of terrorist attacks in the USA, as we are reminded by airport security, by security at federal buildings, and more STEALS from us every day. The question you so eloquently raise and Free Range Kids brings to the forefront is whether we, as parents, are going to take from our children their willingness to live life, to experience life, and to handle the adversity and the bumps and bruises to our bodies and to our psyche, when rationally, like airport security, we are not actually more safe by hunkering down and bolting not just the front door, but every aspect of our existence, in response to random acts of violence. Protect my 7 year old? With every fiber of my being. But I will do so in ways that are rationally related to the risk of harm to him that exists or that I reasonably believe exists and not just to every harm that exists in the universe. To do that, he’d have to live in a bubble and, as a consequence, both be afraid of living and be prevented from living. If you are a parent who agrees that you are the one who is to determine the acceptable risks for your child, the medical care of your child, and other such decisions because that is both your responsibility AND your right, please LIKE the Facebook page of the National Association of Parents – the voice for parents in the USA, go to its website and join for only $19 per year, and tell other parents. When the National Association of Parents has a critical mass of parents from the 140 million parents in the USA, then parents will have a powerful collective voice!

  6. SOA February 11, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    Yeah it is NEVER rude to not open your door. If you come to MY door uninvited on MY property, I am under no obligation to open my door to you or even come to the door. No thank you.

    I am very big on kids going and playing outside and whatever, but they are told not to open the door, let us do it and we don’t open the door to strangers. Because A-someone is coming to our door uninvited and unannounced which is rude in the first place and secondly I don’t think it is safe as that is how home invasions happen. It is not worth it to me because I don’t want to answer to uninvited unannounced people in the first place.

    And I have a no solicitor sign so yeah nobody should be knocking on my door to sell anything and that includes religion.

  7. Krystal February 11, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    Great post!

    My family, including children, has been the subject of a targeted killer (long story). I was in 4th grade and was pulled out of school and kept at a friends whom the killer didn’t know. He was found a couple days later, without getting to any more members of my family (he shot my aunt, family friends, and murdered his ex-wife, also a family friend). When everything was over, my parents made a point to say how rare these things are, why this happened, and encouraged us to continue playing outside, not be scared of things that rarely happen. I mean, it’s happened to our family once, probably not again!

    A couple years back, we had a seemingly random shooter on the loose in our city, who I believe killed 5 people total in one afternoon. The first group were targeted, the final victim was random, and the killer took his own life in the streets of my neighborhood. Knowing he was in our neighborhood, I stayed inside during the time, kept an eye out. However, after he was found, I spent the rest of the afternoon outside, as the horrible incident was over, to finish my gardening. My friends thought I was crazy “There was just a killer in your neighborhood!!” I found that a tad silly, there WAS, and the likelihood there is another is quite low, and no more likely than any other day, right? Everyone’s on alert, probably a safer time than any to be out and about!

    Mystic Eye, we have that kind of thinking from our block watch and local precinct. I had to unsubscribe from the emails when they suggested calling the cops anytime something seems weird, or you see someone “suspicious” Also, someone had a person knock on their door and run, and called the cops to an investigation. What a waste of resources!

    I open my door when I want, no need to assume the worst–I guess stranger danger applies to grown-ups too !

  8. Nadine February 11, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    Hi SOA,
    I read your post and it seems to be very ademant and have a lot of emotion behind it. I wonder why that is . Something so natural as opening the door to someone. I never considerd myself rude when calling on a neighbour for a chat or help or a friend while in the neighbourhood. Growing up that was the way i met my friends. Walking over to see if they are home and wanting to play. I still will go and ring a friends doorbell to see if they want to go out or bring food when i know they are sick. And i never felt the need to call them in before. If it doesnt suit, ill go again.
    A while back i stabbed myself in the finger, clear through. with my sowing maching and i was happy to reach my neighbours befor i fainted. That is a relatively minor thing but it really helped me. I wouldnt feel save if i couldnt just ring my neighbours doorbell unanounced.

  9. anonymous this time February 12, 2014 at 1:56 am #

    Oh, I love this, Lenore, the way you say it:

    “The thing about random violence, especially RARE violence, is that you can’t organize your life around it because IT isn’t organized. It’s like organizing your life around chandeliers falling, or cars careening into storefronts. It just doesn’t happen often or predictably enough for you to plan any way to make you or your loved ones any safer.”

    Especially that first sentence. It’s random, so the only way you can attempt to avoid it is… oh… not live, I guess. Yes, take your own life, before someone else takes it. There’s the ultimate act of control. Mothers who have REALLY gone off the deep end have done “mercy killings” on their kids. It’s probably more statistically probable than a stranger harming you… having a mother is dangerous! LOL

    Anyway, hooray for you “prepping” that community and here’s hoping they will find that guy who did that awful thing and everyone can move on. I have to say I’d be wary of opening the door to an unexpected caller if that guy were on the loose in my town, but since he’s not, I’ll keep doing what I usually do… peek out the window and do my best to surmise the situation, ask who it is through the door, and then decide.

  10. E Simms February 12, 2014 at 7:48 am #


    You missed an important part of SOA’s post. She said she doesn’t open the door to *strangers*. Your accounts of visiting friends and neighbors unannounced has nothing to do with that. I usually don’t open the door to people I don’t know either. Not because I think they are home invaders, but because I don’t want to be bothered by someone so rude. If I know you, I’ll open the door. I may not let you in, but I’ll open the door.

    The same goes for phone calls. I am under no obligation to answer my phone.

  11. SOA February 12, 2014 at 8:00 am #

    Notice I said I don’t open the door to strangers. Someone I know, I have no problem opening the door to buy Girl Scout cookies from the cute girl down the street or to see what the neighbor wants. But I don’t have time or interest to deal with religious solicitors or people trying to sell stuff or anyone else. They could be trying to home invade me. They could be just trying to convert me. They could be trying to make me buy something from them. Either way, their intentions are not good and I am not opening my door for them. I don’t have a security type door just the one door so it stays closed and locked unless I know you.

  12. E February 12, 2014 at 8:53 am #

    I have been working from home for the last few years, so I’ve had more experience from random door-bell ringers than at any other time of my life. I used to open the door, but since I’m “on the clock” I realized that I was wasting time listening to the sales pitch and I started “screening” who it was. Just recently, I noticed there was a SUV in the driveway and thought it must be a neighbor and I opened the door. I found a man in his 20s/30s asking me if I’d seen his puppy. Since I was in my home, obviously I hadn’t. He said he lived on a street of our neighborhood, but I had never seen him (ever) or that vehicle at any of the homes on that street. We have a dog that doesn’t like doorbells and strangers and she was barking her head off and after I said I hadn’t seen the dog he left. I watched the vehicle, it never pulled into any other homes on my street. No notice of a lost dog ever hit our neighborhood listserv, I’ve never seen that vehicle or man again (I drive on the short street he claimed to live on every single day).

    I have no idea if he he was telling the truth and he just never leaves his home or if the vehicle was a visiting friend’s. But I was thankful for my barking dog that day and don’t ever open the door to strangers.

    Point is – sometimes things that happen DO influence your future behavior. And sometimes that’s okay. Our neighborhood is a nice safe suburb. Occasionally we get the “things taken from your unlocked car” reports, but ever so seldom, we do hear of people whose homes have been robbed as they sat empty. I got enough of a bad feeling about this visitor that I’ve decided to just let my dog bark her head off and not bother with answering the door to people I don’t know.

  13. EB February 12, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    The damage done by a rare random killer is highly visible; the damage done by keeping children indoors and/or under supervision at all times is invisible, but real. And it affects far more people.

  14. SOA February 12, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    E has a good point. One reason I am adamant about not opening doors to strangers is I had one experience that was very unsettling and I think I would have been home invaded that day should I have opened the door. I really think that was what was happening but because I was smart and left the door closed I was spared.

    It does not take much to overpower me and I have no dogs or anything like that to protect me so I am going to be cautious when a stranger comes to my door especially if when I talk to them through the door their story seems fishy or sets off my radar. If I talk to them and they seem okay I will open the door but I check out their story first.

    I had a man approach my duplex once back before I had kids and we bought a house. The door had no window or peephole so I always just asked through the door who was there since I could not see anything. A man was asking about our neighbors truck and saying he was a bounty hunter. I told him I don’t really know my neighbors as I didn’t since it was rental property and people moved in and out all the time.

    He kept telling me to “Open the door open the door just open the door” like he really was insistent upon me opening that door. It set off my creep radar. So I finally said I am not opening the door and go away. He did leave and never went to any other houses that I saw. It was suspicious. I think he was going to home invade me. I had just came home from the store and I have a feeling he might have followed me home.

    I think my cautiousness might have saved my life that day.

    I am all about letting kids play outside and have independence and not always assuming there is a murderer around every corner. But that does not mean I don’t still take precautions. I do. DH feels the same way. He does not open the door to strangers either and he is a big strong man.

  15. Donna February 12, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    Not opening your door to avoid a home invasion is about as sound reasoning as not allowing your children to leave the yard to avoid kidnapping. Both are exceedingly rare. Stranger-on-stranger violent crime is simply very rare.

    In fact, you are probably slightly more at risk not opening your door, or at least letting it be known that the house is occupied. Most strangers who knock on your door for nefarious purposes (an extremely small number of people in general), particularly those who come around during the day when few are usually home, just want to steal your stuff. Thieves want to rob empty houses and will make up a story and go away when you answer the door, but a burglar surprised by a person in a seemingly unoccupied house may react violently.

  16. Donna February 12, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    I guess I should say ignoring knocks on the door, rather than just not opening the door. Obviously, if you are asking who’s there, the person on the other side knows that the house is occupied and there is no point in opening the door unless you want to talk to Jehovah’s witnesses (who seem to be the only people who knock on my door) or buy what they are selling.

  17. SOA February 12, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    I don’t ignore it if I can get to the door. I go and see who it is and address them, but I don’t open it. If it is someone I want to deal with, I will talk to them through the door. If it is someone I know I will open the door. If it is neither I walk away after addressing them.

    Home invasions/rapes/burglaries are more common than kids getting randomly kidnapped by strangers FYI. So comparing the two is not exactly fair.

  18. Warren February 12, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    They may happen with more frequancy than abductions, but being afraid to open your door is still irrational.

    I love the “can we interest you in the word of the lord” canvassing crowd.

    After you answer the door look back into the house and shout,
    “Honey put your clothes back on, we’ll try the whip and feather tickler later!”. Works everytime.

  19. BL February 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    “there is no point in opening the door unless you want to talk to Jehovah’s witnesses”

    Tell them you can’t be a Jehovah’s Witness because you didn’t see his accident. :-)

  20. Donna February 12, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    Burglaries of unoccupied dwellings are far more common than kidnappings. Home invasions involving a violent crime by strangers are not. I’ve never had a single case in 10 years. I currently do have a violent home invasion but the person knocking on the door was known to the homeowner so not what we are talking about. They happen, but they are extremely rare.

  21. lollipoplover February 12, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    “Answer your door, help those in need, if you hear someone crying go look. Be part of your community. That’s how to be safe.”

    Well said.
    For those of you who won’t open your doors to strangers (Dolly, SOA), what if a natural disaster hit and a *stranger* was sent to knock on doors and you didn’t open yours?
    You’d be a dipshit. Never say never. Use common sense. Always.

    You can have strict rules, like don’t open the door for strangers, and avoid that serial killer but you’re far more likely to get hit by a tornado or freak storm knocking trees and causing gas leaks/explosions that *never* opening the door will kill your entire family. Not all strangers are equal. Most are good!
    I don’t like solicitations at the door (try a sign saying “NO SOLICITATIONS PLEASE”-this property protected by Jehovah Witness Eating Dogs and Acid Spewing Kittens.
    *Girl Scouts exempt. Especially those with Thin Mints.

  22. Papilio February 12, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    @BL: Tell them you won’t talk about Jesus in his absence, because THAT’S GOSSIPING!

  23. Papilio February 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    I’m highly surprised it’s considered “rude” to knock on the door of someone you don’t know (or the person you know in that household isn’t home…).

  24. SOA February 12, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    What natural disaster has anything to do with people knocking on doors? I have been in tornados and other disasters and nobody ever knocked on my door. Sirens went off which can be heard inside the house and info came through tv, internet, phone etc. If there is a natural disaster like a tornado your house is the safest place to be.

    Tell me one real occurrence where you had to open the door to someone to somehow be spared the natural disaster. If there was something they needed to tell me they could tell me through the door.

    And yes basic etiquette is you don’t come to people’s houses without being invited first or at least calling first to make sure it is a good time. I was taught that was a little girl.

  25. SOA February 12, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    ps to your most strangers are good comment- I can say from the numerous people knocking on my door uninvited that most were not “good”. It was people bothering me to sell me something, convert me, try to solicit donations from me or scam me. We actually do have scammers that come around and try to see who is home during the day and see what you got in your house if you let them in, so they can come back later and rob you. These people were actually picked up and convicted and news warned of them.

    I never had a stranger come to my door with something I wanted or helped me except for little Girl Scouts. Not once in 10 years. I guess I am crazy because I never just go knocking on people’s doors. I call first before I come over.

    I am still waiting for someone to give me an actual reason why I would need to open the door to someone ever. So far no one has.

  26. E February 12, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    Yes, quite a leap to go from solicitors and strangers at my door to a natural disaster. Of course, there would be exceptions to me opening a door. An accident in front of my home or a number of weather situations.

    All I can say is that I used to open my door to strangers, never once did that result in meeting a new neighbor or person in need. It was always unwelcome solicitors and then the young man that claimed he was looking for a lost puppy and set off my own BS meter. I don’t bother anymore. If I didn’t have a dog, I’d probably make sure they knew the house wasn’t empty, but since I’ve got a barking dog – they already know that.

    I never used to lock my car in my driveway either, but after someone stole something from it, I now do.

  27. EricS February 12, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    @ K: Not making light of those situations, but rather some perspective. As very unfortunate as they are, those are 5 incidences (6 if you count the teens coming back). In the broader picture, how many people live in your city or town? Even though crime has come down considerably and consistently over the years, crime does still happen. Let’s not kid ourselves, the very nature of our species tells us crimes will continue to happen. But hopefully, it will continue to happen less and less as it has been. And that most crimes aren’t targeting YOU or your family specifically.

    The thing to take away from these tragedies, is not fear and worse case thinking. But rather, how to be more vigilant. What do we teach ourselves and our children to 1. prevent from being a victim. And 2. what to do if you happen to run into certain situations. Hiding, fearing, and being paranoid only makes things worse in the long run. Educating, preparing, and instilling confidence and assertiveness pays off huge in the long run.

    Let’s take your points and how it could have been prevented in the first place. Let’s keep in mind, not everything is preventable. But we would be remise if we didn’t do due diligence.

    1. Always be aware of your surroundings. We you are walking, what is around you, and who is around you. Attackers always hit the ones they feel are easy targets. ie. those who look fearful, not paying attention (nose to mobile), or those who take secluded routes. That rapist wouldn’t have forced that woman at gunpoint in a more public area. And would have had thought twice had he known the woman was alert and vigilant. Not saying it’s her fault. But we wear our seat belts for a reason. We are careful when dealing with very hot liquids or items. We are even careful when walking on icy or slippery pavements. Why not use the same care everyday, every time, in every thing we do?

    2. There seems to be more to this story than a random attack. It sounds to me these men may have had some disagreeable history. And one retaliated. Something which is preventable. Hash things out. Don’t instigate, or perpetuate feuds.

    3. Same as #1.

    4. This one doesn’t surprise me at all. Those robbers were probably planning that heist for a while. Superbowl Sunday. Everyone is caught up in the revelry, including cops. Businesses, especially bars, are booming with business. Prime spots to hit. But it was ONE place, in comparison to dozens that day. But no epidemic here.

    5. This is sad to say the least. I would have been prepared for retaliation. Home invaders tend to hit the same locations twice. Either because they failed the first time, but realized to learn from their mistakes. Or they want to retaliate. Hearing of others victimized, is different from being victimized. It’s always a good idea to prepare for contingencies, especially if the perps have not been caught. Preparedness is different from paranoia.

    There are always preventive measures, without being paranoid. I’m glad to hear, that you haven’t let these incidences affect you too much. That is a positive outlook that you should always have. Teach your children the Do’s and Don’ts, and let them on their merry way. As easily as some may become fearful, educating and implementing preparedness to your children can give them confidence. In turn giving you confidence in them and yourself.

  28. marie February 12, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    Answer your door, help those in need, if you hear someone crying go look. Be part of your community. That’s how to be safe.

    This advice would make our schools (heck–any place) safer than the current trend to door buzzers and video cameras. The more people around, the more people to see something ‘off’. Buzzing people into the school and asking for ID is only a pretense of security. The real security comes from someone SEEING what’s going on around them. So yeah: Go look. Pay attention. Talk to people around you.

    As for answering the door or not, three thoughts. 1) I answer the door for just about anyone. The Jehovah’s Witness are the most pleasant visitors I ever have, though I send them on their way without listening to what they have to say. I also refuse any literature because wasting their money seems rude…and I have no reason to be rude to them. 2) If a free-range parent sends the kids outside to play and then refuses to answer the front door to a stranger, there are some mixed messages there. Strangers at the park are okay but strangers who knock at my door (perhaps walking past my kids playing in the front yard to get there) are not? 3) I miss the days when knocking at someone’s door without calling first was considered friendly and not rude.

  29. lollipoplover February 12, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    I am seriously grateful that I live in my community where doors are answered and residents aren’t squirreled away behind doors fearing every visitor wants to rob them.
    My son knocked on many *strangers* doors during all of the snowstorms we’ve had and was thrilled to make money and save someone’s back. Do children not ring doorbells in your neighborhood to find friends to play with? How sad. Our door rings all the time. I consider myself blessed.

    As for natural disasters, we had an epic ice storm last week here in the Northeast-kids were out of school for 4 1/2 days out of the week and 90% of our county lost power for most of the week. Doors were knocked on to make sure those without heat were OK. Our neighborhood had so many downed trees and power lines that it was cut off to car traffic and dangerous to drive. The busiest highway had no working street lights. We got a knock on our door for a water main break at the street above us by a utility worker mid-week and were grateful to dig a trench so the water didn’t go near the house to flood our basement.

  30. Papilio February 12, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    “I miss the days when knocking at someone’s door without calling first was considered friendly and not rude.”
    Ah – so this has changed over time. Are there differences between rural/suburban areas and people living downtown?

  31. lollipoplover February 12, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    @Papilio- I just had someone knock on my door a few minutes ago without a call first. A mom I spoke to last week had a form I needed but had trouble downloading. She just sent her 7 yo son to drop if off (she made copies for me). I am grateful she did me a favor and no it hasn’t changed over time, we have folks drop by all the time and we visit neighbors too.

  32. SOA February 12, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    No, in our neighborhood kids knocking on doors to play with other kids is rare. Because its the suburbs and most of these kids have tons of sports and activities which mean they are out of the house most of the time. We are only gone on Thursday afternoons for activities but like the next door neighbor and his family are sometimes gone every day when he is doing Little League or for church or this or that.

    So in our neighborhood we mostly do the if you are outside and see other kids outside, then you can go over and play with them but we don’t typically go knocking on doors that much. If they do, we don’t have a problem with that because WE KNOW THEM. There is a difference in someone we know coming by and someone we don’t. I don’t understand why you guys are overlooking the whole strangers doing so versus people you know doing so.

  33. Warren February 12, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

    “And yes basic etiquette is you don’t come to people’s houses without being invited first or at least calling first to make sure it is a good time. I was taught that was a little girl.”

    Wow what a lonely life. We have people stop by all the time, and we stop by at others. Nothing rude or ill mannered about it. It is called being family and friends.

    Hell I have had people call or have called people that haven’t popped in awhile.
    If people dropping by is such a hardship, then maybe you should look at your life.

  34. anonymous this time February 12, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    My poor son was nearly apoplectic when I “encouraged” (read: forced) him to go up and down our block with sticky notes bearing his name and number, telling them he was available for hire to do odd jobs and yard work.

    He was SO embarrassed, SO nervous, SO terrified of bothering people. But the neighbours were very friendly, and they were glad to see a kid out meeting his neighbours and offering his services, however reluctantly.

    He was 12. I wanted him to do it alone, but he couldn’t deal with it. Poor guy, he’s an amazing athlete, but he’s got a loooooong way to go on this interpersonal stuff.

  35. SteveS February 12, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

    I generally don’t answer the door if it is someone I don’t know, but it would depend on the situation. Friends rarely drop by unexpected, but I can see who is knocking and would answer it if it was someone I knew. I would also render some kind of aid if it was someone in distress.

    In the highly unlikely chance it was a home invader or a burglar, I have a pretty sturdy door. By the time they got in, they got through, they would be in for a rude surprise.

  36. SOA February 12, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

    Warren: Since when am I lonely? I have friends and family over all the time. The point is we make plans ahead of time and then they come over when they are expected. I have had up to 2

  37. SOA February 12, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

    Warren: Since when am I lonely? I have friends and family over all the time. The point is we make plans ahead of time and then they come over when they are expected. I have had up to 20 kids at this house playing before.

  38. SOA February 12, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    ps if you drop by unexpectedly at our house you will probably catch my husband and my son in their underwear. My son with autism likes wearing just underwear and a robe around the house and we let him. My husband walks around in boxer briefs because he works at home. So typically we prefer to know when someone is coming over so we can make sure all the men folks are dressed.

    I fail to see how that would be considered a “hardship” that needs to be changed. People should be able to walk around in their underwear in their own home. That is the one place you are supposed to be able to do so. Or maybe we should tell my son to hell with his sensory disorder, you better stay dressed 24/7 even at home in case someone just shows up at the house.

  39. J.T. Wenting February 13, 2014 at 12:16 am #

    So because of a home invasion that ended with a double murder, 10+ schools went on lockdown, preventing parents from being with their children?
    Why not declare martial law while they’re at it? Force everyone to stay indoors permanently, and post armed guards at every door in town?
    Because that’s the only way to delay such events (you’ll never stop them, the killer with enough motivation will always find a way).

  40. J.T. Wenting February 13, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    “People should be able to walk around in their underwear in their own home. That is the one place you are supposed to be able to do so.”

    well said. Or less. Let’s not end up like the British who’re on the verge of banning smoking in your own car and home in case a child breathes in a bit of tobacco smoke…

  41. E Simms February 13, 2014 at 5:44 am #


    Do you really not understand the difference between strangers and family, friends and neighbors? We are talking about not feeling obligated to open the door to people we don’t know. We are not talking about hiding from people we do know.

  42. E Simms February 13, 2014 at 6:04 am #

    …and another thing. What’s with all of this absolutist thinking? Just because I have a general rule that I don’t like unexpected callers doesn’t mean that I can’t adjust to emergency or serendipitous situations.

    Kid with snow shovel after storm..happy to see you. Bloody person after car accident..happy to call 911. Girl scout with cookies..yes, please.

  43. SOA February 13, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Well said E Simms.

    That is part of free range I agree with. Common sense. I evaluate the situation before I open the door. Someone I don’t know that has an odd suspicious story, door is staying closed. Someone I know or a cute little kid or some kind of law enforcement or someone in a uniform like EPB, the door can open.

  44. Donna February 13, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    So now we’ve gone from “As far as this she did make a mistake. Do not EVER open your door to strangers.” to “oh, I sometimes open the door to strangers unless they seem creepy.” Which is it?

    The fact is that you don’t refuse to open the door because you don’t feel obligated to talk to strangers; you don’t open the door because of fear. An irrational fear is an irrational fear. I don’t care if it is an irrational fear of kidnapping or an irrational fear of home invasion. And saying “I once had a creepy guy knock on my door so now I consider all strangers who knock on my door creepy before I even speak to them” is no different than those who wish to run men out of parks because some men molest children.

    I don’t think anyone is obligated to open a door to anyone. I sometimes don’t want to be bothered so I don’t open the door. I just find it interesting that the exact same things that free range fights against are so present in the statements of some here.

  45. Warren February 13, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    Well I consider your stance about people dropping by to be antisocial at the least.

    Sucks to be caught in your skivies, but it takes what 10 seconds tops to throw on a pair of track pants.

    And not opening your door because of fear is irrational.
    Just like the person who has never had a bad time with a dog being afraid of dogs, it is irrational.

  46. Warren February 13, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    On the topic of doors, the only times I can remember locking my doors is when we are going away overnight. Other than that we don’t even bother to lock the doors.

  47. k February 13, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    By EricS Wed Feb 12th 2014 at 3:39 pm
    @ K: Not making light of those situations, but rather some perspective. As very unfortunate as they are, those are 5 incidences (6 if you count the teens coming back). In the broader picture, how many people live in your city or town? Even though crime has come down considerably and consistently over the years, crime does still happen. Let’s not kid ourselves, the very nature of our species tells us crimes will continue to happen. But hopefully, it will continue to happen less and less as it has been. And that most crimes aren’t targeting YOU or your family specifically.

    My answer–all of these incidents happened within several weeks. The stabbing and the rape were three days apart. Violent crime within my specific neighborhood is up 33% while it’s down 30% in the rest of the city. Until now, most murder in my city (300 or so every year) are gang and drug related, but the recent rash of violent crime by TEENS in frightening. The man who was hit with a brick…no retaliation there, they robbed him, stole his car and hit him in the face with a brick, for no reason other than pure evil. A teenager who stabs someone to death FORTY TWO times because all she did was chase them out of her home and call the police? A woman raped in broad daylight, who told the police that she was not on phone or otherwise distracted but that the assailant had a gun? I walk by that alley everyday, it’s near a school, lots of foot traffic. I am vigilant, but unless I use my X-ray vision, how can I tell if the person walking behind me has a gun in his coat?

    Yesterday, my boy, who is 9, went to play basketball by himself. He wears a watch and I trust him to come home at a specified time. Two teenagers from the neighborhood showed up, 13 and 15 years old, and stole his ball. When he insisted they give it back, the older kid pulled out a knife, punctured the ball and then gave it back. Maybe you live in a suburban paradise, but some of us live places that are dangerous, so our version of free range looks very different.

  48. Warren February 13, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    The great thing about your response is that you choose to live in an area where crime is a problem.

    Simple solution…………move.

  49. SOA February 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    Not everyone chooses to live in a bad area. That may be all they can afford. Or hell some cities almost all the areas are bad but if your job is in that city, you do what you gotta do.

  50. Donna February 13, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    “Just like the person who has never had a bad time with a dog being afraid of dogs, it is irrational.”

    Or even a person who has had a bad time with a dog being afraid of all dogs. The fear might be more understandable, but it is still completely irrational.

  51. k February 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    Warren, if only it were that easy. Besides I love my house, which is paid for, and I love most of my neighbors and I love my city. I don’t want to move, I want my city leaders to do something about the crime, to do something about the poverty that leads to the crime. That doesn’t mean I can’t be a free range mom, but it means my version of that is very different from what it looks like to someone who lives in the burbs. And it doesn’t mean that all fear is irrational. It’s just reality. When I was a kid, my brother and I used to walk to the corner store at ten pm to buy candy. Not letting my own kids do that doesn’t mean I’m overprotective, it means I’m realistic. Go to the store during daylight when you won’t get mugged.

  52. SOA February 13, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    It is also a risk versus benefit thing. I get no real benefit from opening the door to strangers. Since it probably is just going to be someone selling me something or preaching at me or the unlikely criminal. Whereas with letting my kids go be independent and play outside, there is a huge huge benefit. So I am not willing to deal with the risk of opening the door to strangers because there is no real benefit to me either.

  53. Warren February 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    Scared is scared no matter how you say it.

    It is that easy. A house is a house is a house. Sell it and move to a community that you feel safe in, because you obviously do not feel safe where you are.

    memories vs future easy choice

  54. k February 13, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    No, warren, it’s not that easy. House that is paid for, in a community we love that is currently going through some tough times, versus moving someplace we can’t afford that could just as easily have crime issues too. Particularly since the housing market here sucks too and wanting to sell your house doesn’t mean it will happen. Friends of ours moved out of state three years ago and still have been unable to sell their house here. Community means a lot. Perhaps you are not attached to yours. And you seem to be totally missing my point. Maybe you don’t lock your doors. Here, that’s an invitation to get robbed. It doesn’t mean we need to move. It’s just a different reality from yours.

  55. SOA February 13, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    Yeah well a man has no business telling me what I should or should not be scared about. You have a fighting chance of fighting off someone who tries to kick the door in on you when you open it. I don’t. I would crumble like a used tissue. Because I am not in good health and I am not a big strapping man. So there is really no comparison.

    Fear is not a bad thing. Fear can be very useful. It is all about how and when you apply it. No one in our family is any worse off because I don’t open the door to strangers. It has never helped or hurt us either way so far. So what does it matter exactly?

    Now if I never let my kids play outside because I was afraid of something, then it would be negatively effecting them. They are not the same things.

  56. Donna February 13, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    Irrational fear is bad no matter what the basis of the fear. The fact is that the chances of you suffering a home invasion are extremely small. There is virtually no risk, but you want to make it into a big risk. And I do believe that people and families are worse off by buying into any irrational fear. The value of door opening or not is completely irrelevant.

  57. Donna February 13, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Further, the brushing of an entire class of people – strangers knocking on doors – as a potential danger when they clearly aren’t is bad for individuals and society. If you are conditioned to view every stranger who knocks on your door as a danger, despite the fact that they rarely are, you dull your ability to actually read your own gut. If every stranger who knocks on your door is creepy, it is difficult to determine who is really creepy and who isn’t.

  58. Warren February 13, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    I am on board with Donna.

    Irrational fears no matter of what are not healthy. For one your kids see how you are and learn that behaviour.

    I have a complete and insane fear of snakes. As far as I am concerned the only good snake is a pair of boots or a belt. I use humour to deal with it, so as to show my kids it is irrational, and that their father is a fool in this matter. Both have gone onto holding and petting the damn things. As far as snakes go I do not see the need to pay a therapist to get over it. I may if I move to an area where snakes are more common.

  59. J- February 14, 2014 at 12:09 am #

    Using the “putting a school was on lockdown” as a barometer of safety is insane. Schools go on lockdown for the dumbest reasons. Late last spring, a school in my area got locked down because of the pop of some guy’s Harley while he was firing it up. From some distance away, somebody said it sounded like gunfire. The school went on lockdown and the police searched the area until they found the perpetrator. A bike with loud pipes. By 2015, I bet you can get a school to go on lockdown with one solid, sauerkraut powered, fart.

  60. Meghan P February 14, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    Why do school shootings and other types of “random” violence occur? Social isolation, mental illness, detachment, are all contributing factors to some extent. I think that in the wake of these tragedies, it is even more important for people to form connections with others. Kids (and adults) playing outside is how neighbours get to know each other. Chatting with new people is how you form community. I believe that “free-ranging” it can lead to much safer neighbourhoods and less incidences of violence over all, not more.