Our Constant Worry for Our Kids Outside is NEW

Hi Readers — I’m sharing this reader’s story because I like to remind us, from time to time, that the intense fear of our kids being beyond our sight, doing ANYTHING on their own, is not just “normal parental concern” kicking in. It is NEW. It is born of this era. (I explain how it came about in my book). And, just like the fear of neighbors-as-witches in Salem, some day it will seem weird and inexplicable. I’m just hoping to hasten that day. And here’s a note from a reader in Florida that may help! — L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: I had written to you a little while back about my neighborhood, my kids, our friends, etc.  I have 3 daughters: ages 9, 7 and 5.  We live in a closed-off (not gated, but it could be) community in South Florida.  It is a very family-friendly community.  I’ve been very influenced by the Free-Range movement, and I would like my kids to do more Free-Range things, but none of their friends are permitted to join them.  In fact, I had no idea how neurotic my friends and neighbors were with their kids until I started to “push the envelope” about Free-Range.  Believe me, I’m not suggesting anything crazy.  But, can my 9 year old daughter go with a friend to a movie by themselves?  Hell, I went to the movies with my friends when I was that age (circa 1976).  Why should I have to endure movies like “Gnomeo and Juliet” when my daughter can perfectly well see it herself, and feel really great and grown up doing so?  I recently gave her a key to the house.  She feels so proud.
This past Rosh Hashanah [the Jewish New Year], while my 9 year old was getting tired of services (who can blame her), I told her to go to the synagogue playground.  The playground was full of little ones and their parents/nannies.  She invited a friend to join her, to make it more fun.  Her friend’s mother declined the invitation.  You see, her 9 year old daughter is not allowed on the playground without specific adult supervision.  This, at a synagogue playground, full of kids and their parents, most of whom we know, in the middle of the Rosh Hashanah morning services!!!  And HER DAUGHTER IS 9!!
Anyway, I got to thinking about your post about the “Your 6 Year Old” book — about how a child that age at the time that book was published (1980?) was supposed to be able to walk to a corner store and buy a little something.  That was something a child that age should be achieving, just like a 3 year old should be toilet trained.
It reminded me of an old family story we used to tell to illustrate how people are just “wired” to be the way they are, but there is an unintended “Free-Range” message too.  My family is from Poland.  They escaped to Russia just before the war, but returned after it. In or around 1946, my father began 1st Grade.  He was expected to walk to and from school by himself.
As you can probably imagine, Poland in 1946 was undergoing massive reconstruction.  My father, even at that tender age, was enthralled with building construction.  On his way home from school, I guess more than once, he would pass by a construction site and be hours late coming home because he spent so much time watching the buildings go up.  My grandmother, of course, was sick with worry.  Her Jewish son was wandering around Lodz — who knew what happened?  She would spank him and admonish him never to do that again.   The story was told to show us kids how Dad was destined to be a builder himself.
But, you know, nowhere in the story was there any suggestion that my grandmother should go get my father from school herself.  To say that was considered and dismissed would be to give the idea too much credit.  It just wasn’t on the radar.  No, a 6 year old boy was supposed to be able to get back and forth from school, from local stores, from friends, etc.  If he was late and worried his parents needlessly, he would be spanked and punished.
Clearly, my grandmother was aware of dangers.  What Jewish mother in Poland in 1946 wasn’t aware of danger?  Still, letting that stop you from allowing your son do normal things like walking to school — well, that was like letting fear stop you from doing your laundry!  You have to be able to do normal things.
If you post this comment on your web site, I’d really be curious to hear people’s (and your) thoughts. – A Reader from Florida
My thought is this: You are right. We have completely lost perspective about danger and now believe that almost anything involving our kids out of our sight is “too risky” to try. Stories like yours — and even more prosaic stories from our own childhoods — serve to remind us that GOOD and CARING and CAREFUL parents always let their kids do things on their own, until very recently. It is time for our generation to get a grip. – L


98 Responses to Our Constant Worry for Our Kids Outside is NEW

  1. gwallan December 30, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    On the evening of the 13th of February, 1966, my dad gave me a ten shilling note to purchase a packet of smokes, a box of matches and a packet of Savoury Shape biscuits from the local milk bar. He also gave me instructions to have a good look at the ten bob note on the way because I was unlikely to see one again. On the following day Australia officially adopted decimal currency.

    I was barely seven and was already an old hand at the solo trip to the shops – in fact any one of four in the area. Nowadays seventeen year olds are escorted to school.

  2. SKL December 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    This reminds me of a Christmas Day incident. We had guests for the holiday and we all went to a restaurant for lunch. It was my kid’s favorite restaurant, which we patronize at least monthly. When the kids get antsy waiting for grown-ups to be tired of the buffet, I let them go outside rather than irritate the adults. The restaurant is part of a strip mall with a wide sidewalk in front and down one side of the building. My kids love to run up and down the sidewalk and climb on railings at one end.

    Well, my friends were pretty horrified that I let my kids go out the door without me. One of them followed the kids outside and did not come back in until he corralled them. I asked him what he thought he was saving them from. “They were going down the sidewalk!” “So?” “Then the turned and ran along the side of the building [on a sidewalk].” “And?” “Out of sight! Out of sight! You never know [you know what comes next, right?]!” “Come on, who’s gonna try to snatch two bratty looking five-year-olds off the sidewalk in broad daylight?” “Oh, it happens all the time, you must not be paying attention.” “You’ve been watching too much TV.”

    If I had all day to argue, I could have pointed out that it’s highly unlikely that one of the few people who have a “thing” for 5yo girls would (a) happen to be in the vicinity alone at that minute on Christmas day, (b) have the guts to snatch a child from a public place in broad daylight, and (c) have even more guts to do this to two 5yo kids at the same time. I mean, you think they’re just going to quietly follow some stranger even giving mom a heads-up?

    Ugh. I’m pretty sure they also thought me awful for sending my kids to the restroom alone. Their kid (same age as mine, almost 5) actually called me on that. Apparently in her world, that simply does not happen.

  3. Christina December 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    I particularly enjoy(?) the idea that the mother was NOT going to alter her schedule to go pick up her son at school, but that it was the son’s responsibility to get himself home in a timely fashion and not unduly worry his mother by being excessively late.

  4. Stephanie December 30, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    My 9 year old has the same problem with friends who can’t go and do things on their own. Makes it harder to give her more independence – that and the nearest store is over a mile away, same for the playground in the opposite direction, and very busy streets.

    I have friends who can’t believe I let my two oldest kids (9 and 6 years) go to different aisles of stores we’re in or that I’ll leave my oldest home alone to pick up my 6 year old from school (pick up by an adult required for his age) when she’s sick. I told her she could walk home from school alone on drama club days, about a quarter mile, and on the first day of it, the mom of one of her friends insisted on walking her home for me. Encouraging independence is really hard these days.

  5. S December 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    Your parents moved to the wrong place then. Here all the kids (some as young as 3) go out to the playground when they get bored with the services, the older ones (9 counts as older) look after the younger. I allow my 6 year old to walk to synagogue by himself, although admittedly I wouldn’t allow him to go that far any other day of the week as the roads are too busy and he’s not great at crossing safely. These thing are pretty standard in our neighbourhood and no one bats an eye. I just hope that we can keep it that way.

  6. hineata December 30, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    The Second World War is replete with stories of young children, particularly Jewish children, having to survive alone, sometimes for years. There is a wonderful story, too, of an Australian boy, (An Ordinary Life) who went on to become, among other things, a union leader, who at the age of 8, after being abandoned by his mother at around age six, was left in charge of a cattle station (read thousands of acres of land) for six months or so while the station owner went off droving. He had some Aboriginal stockmen to help him, but he was the boss man. My own grandfather, like most of ours probably, was apprenticed at 13. I could go on and on, of course.

    And meanwhile my very capable 15 year old son has only just been able to get his first official paying (part-time) job. Before this, he was considered too young. Ridiculous! Never mind these kids who aren’t even allowed to go to school alone…..

    Does anyone maybe think that we are all toooo educated these days? If we couldn’t read and didn’t have access to a tv, maybe we would cease to worry about extraneous nonsense and engage in commonsense interactions with the real world a little more….My mum-in-law spent her preschool years hiding in the jungle from the Japanese, who took a rather murderous dislike to the Chinese. She can’t read much or write, but she doesn’t let a lot bother her, either.

  7. Jessica December 30, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    My father grew up in the german country-side during the final years of WW2. The allied troops were literally marching through their backyard. All men were away at the front to women ruled the fort. At age five my father was sent out with his siblings to collect food. Whatever is edible basically. When the war ended they returned to a totally bombed out Nürnberg (Nuremberg). It was disastrous in every sense of the word. And there, too, began the long road to re-build what once was. How did you get by? Whatever way you could. Having to walk 4 miles to school as a 7 year old? Out you go. This while they were still clearing mines from the rubble. My grandmother worried. Of course she worried but you had to be pragmatic. And that sense of pragmatism, it went away from somewhere in the early 80s until now.

    Now, I live in Sweden. There’s very little gun-violence generally few murders. Safe overall when compared to some other places. Unfortunately there was a murder not that many months ago. A child was found to have killed another child. After the declaration of re-solvement, a debate ensued on whether you actually you could let your children out. A news paper poll showed that a majority of parents would not let their children out. I’m afraid that common mis-conceptions of crime is trickling down to the general conscioussness.

    As a 6 year old I was sent for milk at the store. I got it wrong a few times but my mother never seemed to worry. The grocery store was 5 minutes away.

    I remember reading the book (free-range kids) and feeling so ill at heart when reading about a child who walked 2 blocks to a grocery store for cake ingrediends. She was terrified all the way. A sure victory to do it but damn. What will that child do as a teenager and further on into adult-hood? And if you can’t be allowed out during a church service, then what are you thinking or not thinking about the world.

  8. Jessica December 30, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    And oh, I came to write that free-ranging parents have been given a name here. They were called curling parents (solving every issue for the child rather than let the child make mistakes), I guess you can call them helicoptering parents as well. Now there’s a word for free-ranging; pinball parents.

  9. Pamela December 30, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    Than you for sharing your story my kids are basically free range kids and I alow them to make choises that other parents probably would not. My boys play hockey and oldest will have a licence in two more weeks and his car is in the driveway waiting for him. I can not tell you how many moms and dads can not belive we are going to let him drive so young they say just wait till he can get it at 18, he is 17 are you kidding I had mine @16 and drove to Boston that same day. My youngest walks to school and is responsible for getting to school on time and ready for his day. This is my middle sons first year @ public school and he to must get his own butt to school and let me know of any poor grades if any so he can go for extra help. I do not tear through the oldests kids back pack like some of my friends serching for contraband and poor grades, but freedom comes at a price mess up this litttle trust thing we have going and freedom as they know it will be gone.

  10. Kenny Felder December 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    The question that constantly plagues me is, are we living in the middle of a *fad* or are we living at the beginning of a *trend*? If the former, then you’re right that future generations will scratch their heads about this one the same way we scratch our heads about Victorians covering up the legs of pianos because they were considered sexually provocative. If the latter, then we will look back on 2011 as the good old days before the 18-year-old curfew was imposed. When you’re in the middle of it, you just can’t tell.

  11. Stacie December 30, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    Sigh…my stepdaughter, age 9, attends a summer day camp that is four blocks from here. She needs to cross one side street and no busy streets.

    And yet, they will not let her arrive or leave by herself. The camp is technically a “child care facility” (they offer year-round infant and child day care, along with care for frail elderly and disabled adults), and therefore a parent has to swipe a card to clock their children in and out. We asked them to make an exception, we offered to sign a waiver of liability, but they wouldn’t budge.

    My husband and I had one car this summer, an infant attending a different child care facility, and a short window after work to pick up both kids. The “rushing around” thing would have been almost 100% avoided if my stepdaughter could have walked home, like she does every day from school. But no…

  12. CWH December 30, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    My 12yo son had a youth group meeting at our church a few weeks ago. Church is about a 15-minute drive from our house and the meeting was only an hour long, so I didn’t feel like driving back and forth twice. I told him I’d hang out at the library and pick him up after the meeting. Well, he asked if he could instead walk to the library afterwards to meet me. It’s only about 4 blocks, so I made sure he knew the way and said it was fine.

    Unfortunately it wasn’t fine with the youth group leaders, who gave him a spiel about “having responsibility” for him. So they drove him to the library. *sigh*

    Next month I will be sure to drop a note to the leaders ahead of time to let them know he has my permission. I wonder if they’ll accept that.

  13. Michelle Potter December 30, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    It is getting very difficult to let our own kids have freedom. Last week i had a friend over with his two kids, and we were all walking down the street to the park. Now, this park is right in my neighborhood, and I often take the youngest two (3 & 5) down there, giving the older five (6, 8, 9, 12, & 13) the choice on whether they want to come along. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

    Anyway, my 9yo was having a bad day, and not really enjoying the outing, so I told him to go home. That’s when my friend jumped in and told my son NOT to go home, that “your mother is RESPONSIBLE for you, so you need to stay close to her!” Wow.

    Later he also freaked out when my 3yo jumped off the bench of a picnic table. It was barely a foot off the ground!

  14. pentamom December 30, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    “If the former, then you’re right that future generations will scratch their heads about this one the same way we scratch our heads about Victorians covering up the legs of pianos because they were considered sexually provocative.”

    Except that this one’s real and the Victorian one was just a myth. :-)

  15. gap.runner December 30, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    A tale of two cultures in the same city…

    The military base where I work follows US guidelines for pickups at its School Age Center (for grades kindergarten to 5th). The kids who attend the School Age Center are allowed to go there by themselves. Most of them come directly from the on-base school, which is across the street from the center, or from the on-base housing area, which is about 100 meters away. But all of the kids, even the older ones, must be picked up by a parent or designated guardian. My son loved riding his bike to base to the center when he was in 4th and 5th grade. But sometimes it was inconvenient to pick him up because of my work schedule. Anyway, he was used to riding his bike to school and everywhere else in town, so I had no problem with him leaving on his own and riding his bike home. I asked if I could sign a waiver allowing my son to ride his bike home without someone coming to fetch him, but was turned down. My son also complained that he couldn’t go outside by himself when he was at the center; an adult always had to be present. There were times when he didn’t want to do the designated indoor activity and wanted to go outside to kick a soccer ball. But he wasn’t allowed to because “he could get hurt.” Ironically, the one time he “got hurt” (stepped on a bee and got stung) at the center, there were several adults present.

    Contrast this to German rules. My son was in the local ski club for 3 years. The first year he was 9. Kids under 10 had to be picked up by someone at the end of the training session. My husband and I told his trainers that we live about 400 meters (1/4 mile) from the ski lift and asked if they could let him walk home by himself. We explained that he had been carrying his skis and poles to the ski area and back home again since he was 6, so that wasn’t an issue. Both of his trainers had no problem with releasing him to walk home by himself because he had parental permission to do so. Neither my husband nor I had to sign any waivers; it was all arranged orally with the trainers. During my son’s walks home nobody ever stopped him and asked where his parents were. I never had the police or the German equivalent of CPS come to my door and ask why my child was out walking by himself carrying a set of skis and poles. My son obviously made it home safely from his training sessions because he’s still here.

    In my son’s ski club the older kids (age 9 and up) didn’t meet their trainers at the gondola station at the bottom of the hill before each session like the younger kids did. The only time the older kids went up as a group was the first day of the season, when they met their new trainers and the other kids. After that they were expected to take the gondola to the ski area by themselves, go up a certain chair lift, then wait for their trainers and other group members by the top of the lift. If their trainers or other group members weren’t there yet, the kids would often take a run or two until they found the trainer or other kids in the group. Kids going on the gondola and chair lift alone, then skiing by themselves, is a fairly normal thing in Germany.

  16. sexhysteria December 30, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    The hysteria over “stranger danger” is no random misunderstanding of the statistics on child safety. There are special interests that profit from the hysteria, and they must be exposed before the hysteria will end. http://sexhysteria.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/premature-sexualization/

  17. Tamaya December 30, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    We have the ” child must be released to an adult” at the end of school rule as well. I think it ends for grade 4’s so I am hoping my son will be allowed to walk home by himself next year. The only things I am worried about is the fact he has to cross a very busy street. There is one older lady in particular who does not obay the police or crossing guard and drives right through. She has nearly hit someone multiple times. It has gotten to the point I have been teaching my son to cross on the other side of the street without the crossing guard because it is safer. The 2nd is bullies. There are a couple kids who worry me and they walk home the same way.

  18. Jennifer December 30, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    I’ve been thinking lately about whether my daughter is ready to go the movies by herself (with someone dropping her off and picking her up). She’s almost 9, which was the age I was when I started seeing movies without an adult in the theater. But finding a friend for her to go with will be difficult. Some of her friends still don’t like to play at anyone’s house other than their own. I assume time will take care of this, but it’s frustrating.

  19. ThatDeborahGirl December 31, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    @Stacie – I guess my question is – why, at 9 years old, is your daughter going to a place that is designed for infant and toddler care?And why are you subsequently surprised that they treat her like an infant or toddler?

    Maybe you need to consider getting a teenage sitter or even *gasp* letting her stay home by herself for part of the day.You’ve convinced yourself that she’s going to a summer day camp when what she’s really attending is daycare. Kids her age should be going away to camp, not sitting in a playpen.

    And not just to single out Stacie – why do so many comments here start off with “is my kid ready for this” and then go on to say “by the way I used to do the same thing at her age.” If you could, then more than likely your kid could.

    I think maybe one of us should come up with a new set of those – “Your kid should be able to do such and so by this age books.” Or maybe they just need to re-release those old books exactly the way they were with NO CHANGES. Then parents would see what is really reasonable for their child to be able to accomplish.

  20. socalledauthor December 31, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    I can certainly see the potential problem with finding like-minded parents’ children to make friends with. I’ve gotten some flack from certain family members on the age guidelines of the toys I get (or suggest for Christmas gifts, when asked) being “too advanced” for my 18 month old son. And this is from my own family, who one might think have by now gotten used to my relaxed parenting– after all, I dared let my son learn to feed himself things that were not cut into teeny-tiny pieces (Baby-Led Weaning)– and my 18 month old son handles a fork as well as his cousin who’s twice is age! Perhaps because I was never afraid to let him have and play with the fork.

    Gone are the days when children as young as 5 were considered old enough to work in the coal mines. Now, I don’t think we should send our children into dangerous jobs like coal mining, but in stark contrast, I don’t know a single 5 year old today that is even considered capable of the level of work and autonomy that a coal mining child would exhibit– today’s five year old (generally) don’t dress themselves or do chores or even obey their parents any thing like their coal working counter part would have done. I’m fine with giving our children more ‘childhood’ enjoyment, but not at the cost of responsibility and capability.

  21. Lollipoplover December 31, 2011 at 3:18 am #

    I walked my dogs today (the weather is beautiful) and saw many young kids forming games like football (and there’s the baseball game in my yard now) and meeting up to get some fresh air. My neighborhood is not the fanciest, but when kids can get together freely without paranoid parents interfering, it feels like it’s made of gold!

  22. Havva December 31, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    I’m hoping it will help to start laying the foundation with other parents early. When I talk to the other moms in my neighborhood we often marvel at the fact that 4 of us had babies on the same block of our street this year. I usually throw in how I am looking forward to our kids walking to elementary school together. I reply to the worried looks with “it is so much safer than walking alone.”

    I’m sort of tempted to start a “Pre-Range” blog or maybe “Living Dangerously with Children” for sharing ideas on how to know when your kid is ready for things, how to be relatively safe while doing (or allowing your kid to do) “dangerous” things. Sort of a way to re-locate and consolidate all that great common sense our parents knew, which gets drown out by ‘experts’ shouting “never, ever, allow xyz.” This vacuum of basic advice makes it hard to know how and when to take all those baby steps toward our kids becoming adults. It is like zero-tolerance, baby edition.

    A mom in my BF group once spent a night flipping her baby onto his back after he repeatedly rolled over. She didn’t want to, but all the sleep advice she had gotten said.. “never, ever, let your child sleep on his stomach” and “back to sleep, stomach to play.” Thankfully, the nurse who led the group told her straight away to let it be, her baby was now strong enough to sleep in whatever position he put himself (but no swaddling). Mom was tremendously relived. This same nurse also loaned me the book “Baby Led Weaning.” It was amazing to see my infant make all the errors parents are constantly nagging toddlers about, and then correct them on her own. She didn’t learn to take lady like bites from being told. Would she even understand “lady like bites?” She learned because she crammed an entire meatball in her mouth, and could hardly close her jaw to chew. Next day, with left over meatballs, she took lady like bites.

  23. Roxanne December 31, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    I’m not that old. I’m 23 and this still seems crazy. My mom was never out to “free range parent”, she has probably never heard the term. She just had shit to do that didn’t involve tailing me 24/7. When I was seven I would walk the railroad tracks for miles. She assumed I had enough sense to get off when I heard a train coming and turn around when I got tired/hungry. My job as a young child (4 and 5) was to run all over the grocery store solo to get the things pictured on coupons my mom would hand me. In middle school, I rode my bike 3 miles to the batting cages in our town to practice for softball. Hell, she sent me to the store in her car without a license several times when I was fourteen because I had two infant sisters and it just wasn’t worth the trouble packing them up to go get milk. I always played outside at restaurants for the same reason as the above comment. She even *gasp* left me in the car sometimes if she had to run in for something quick . Get this, sometimes the car was running (don’t wanna get heat stroke). I knew I was not allowed to touch the brake, steering wheel, or shift. And you know what? I have never been hit by a train, abducted at a store or restaurant, molested on a playground, suffocated in a car, or rolled said car through a parking lot. I didn’t realize people had gotten so paranoid in such a short amount of time. I hope all of this gets turned around before I have gets or people are going to think I’m insane.

  24. Havva December 31, 2011 at 5:27 am #

    Roxanne, If it doesn’t get turned around, and people do think you are insane. Come back here. At least some like minded folks can help you remember that you are sane.

    And for your own protection steer clear of the pregnancy books, and parenting magazines. Talk to grandparents when you have questions.

  25. Coccinelle December 31, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    I really enjoyed that story even though the dad becoming a builder was a little previsible. But I think you don’t have to go back that far to find examples like that. You are talking about your dad (I think) but what about you? When you were 6 years old, what were you allowed to do? I know that when I was 6 years old in 1988, I walk to school by myself. It was surely less risky than in post-war Poland but it’s still only 23 years ago.

    I don’t understand how could a child that must endure this kind of constant monitoring could pass through adolescence without rebelling. It’s completely counter-productive to me. One time the child will have enough and will simply stop listening to his parents. If he heard them say countless times that it’s dangerous to go on the playground “alone” at 9 when it’s full of children and parents, why would he believe them when they tell him that drugs are dangerous???

  26. Gina December 31, 2011 at 5:55 am #

    @CWH–I’d be pretty damn angry if an adult took the liberty to take my child in a car after I’d told the child to walk to meet me. That is just not right. I hope you tell them that they do NOT have permission to drive your child anywhere.

  27. Coccinelle December 31, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    @ Havva

    “And for your own protection steer clear of the pregnancy books, and parenting magazines. Talk to grandparents when you have questions”

    I don’t agree with you. I think it strongly depends of the grand-parents you have… and the kind of books you read. I’ve heard things far less “free-range” from grand-parents than from books. I also think that some grand-parents are starting to pick up the helicopter thingy really quick. I can’t really blame them because I’m always more on the edge when I’m responsible for others children than my own but in short, I think the important is to not follow any advice blindly.

  28. Donna December 31, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    My daughter and I are a week into our 2-year adventure in American Samoa so we will see how a small, 3rd world island compares to the US. My observations so far:

    I have allowed my child to play alone on playgrounds (such as they are) at a shopping center (such as they have) while I shopped and outside my office while I worked. So far, nobody has given me so much as a strange look about letting her do this. And there is a legitimate concern about letting small children out by themselves – the island is full of stray dogs.

    I had to have a physical for the job. Children under 14 were not allowed in the building. Several young children were sitting outside just hanging out by themselves waiting for their parents to get done with their physicals. No adult in sight.

    We have not yet started school, but we had Christmas dinner with my daughter’s future kindergarten and 1st grade teacher (yes, both classes are combined into one). This is a small private school so no buses and walking would only be possible for kids in the same village so most kids are driven to school. The teacher mentioned that she often hears from a parent “I’m picking up Susie for swimming class too” and Susie goes with that person. No notes from Susie’s parents. No problems. In the US school, my child’s teacher needed to know exactly how my child was getting home every morning and no alterations to this could be made during the day and she could only be released to people I have previously cleared. Here I can be running late and ask another parent to pick up my kid without informing the school. Very cool.

  29. olympia December 31, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    In my 70s and 80s childhood (I just turned 39), I free ranged on a regular basis. This seems a little strange to me now, given that I know how bad my mother’s anxiety disorder was then, but, well- it’s just the way things were. I think it did a lot of good for my parents to be able to, when I was getting on their nerves, just kick me outside. Now, I should add that I grew up in a back to the land environment, way off the beaten path, and there were virtually no cars to deal with. In contrast to this, my sister raises her kids in a small, pretty dense town with lots of traffic, and I see how the cars do a number on the freedoms she gives her kids. She’s still a pretty relaxed mother (with five kids, I think that comes pretty easy now), but cars bother her, and frankly, when I watch her kids, cars are what bother me too. Can anyone offer any advice on how to free range kids in a pedestrian unfriendly culture?

  30. Lollipoplover December 31, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    At a holiday party, my son (he’s 10) wanted to video his cousin (he’s 1) who was doing an adorable crawling- hybrid very quickly across the floor. My son had just gotten a flip camera for Christmas and was eager to try it out. He made a comment that this was so funny and cute, he could win on “America’s Funniest Videos”. He was stopped from doing this by the 1 year-old’s Mom. She said her son is so cute, if someone saw the video, they might try to steal him.
    My son asked me later, “What’s wrong with her?” about the mom who stopped him. It’s very hard to explain other parent’s paranoia to your own children when they’ve been used to having freedom and fun.

  31. Havva December 31, 2011 at 7:14 am #

    @ Coccinelle

    I agree with you that “the important [thing] is to not follow any advice blindly.”

    I don’t think *grandparent* advice needs to come from *your child’s* grandparents. In fact a little emotional distance is good here. I just say “grandparents” because if you talk to enough of them you will find someone who has been there, done that, and seen the long term results. They have also lived long enough to see the advice change, change again, and in some cases change back.

    Personally my favorite grandparents to talk to are some of my co-workers. Most of them men. One gave swimming lessons to all his kids when they were under a year old. The reactions he got were a lot like what free range parents get now. I’m not taking his advice on teaching the baby to swim now. Unlike him we don’t have a pool. But it is nice to hear this and know that there are safe ways to put a baby in more than the safety advised one inch of water.

  32. Beth December 31, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    @Donna, sounds like quite an adventure already! Please keep us updated.

  33. KMary December 31, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    I’m thrilled to say that I think my constant reciting of data to back up my free range philosophy is actually starting to change my mother-in-law’s views on things. Today my almost 4 year old son desperately wanted to play out in the snow, but since my younger son is sick (and free range or not, 21 month olds can NOT be trusted alone…haha) I was unable to take the boys outside. I decided to let my older son play in the snow in our backyard alone for the first time. He followed the rules, I checked on him often and he had a blast! When he told his grandmother about it, I anticipated hearing a gasp and sharp criticism for letting him out alone, as she has often done in the past over a range of outrageous things I let my kids do like climb UP a slide. But all she said was, “What a great idea! I bet he loved it!”

    Hopefully, I can keep spreading this idea, so that he’s not the only kid on the block out there without parental supervision.

  34. Cheryl W December 31, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    ThatDeborahGirl, sometimes the child care facilities are actually the best places in town, especially now that things like Parks and Rec are facing so many cuts. I worked at one while in college, the kids (school age) got to go on a 3 day (overnight) camping trip and took swimming lessons and went swimming each day. Not the same program that Parks and Rec had at that time at all.

    As far as the baby advice goes, I found it best to stay away from any book or magazine that said you needed to have an enormous amount of money to have a baby. With my first I think spent about $200 all told on maternity wear and baby items. The majority of that cost was an infant seat for the car, and two nice outfits to wear to work to formal meetings. Other than that I did yard sales, got hand me downs and used flat cloth diapers (not those fitted expensive things.) The books/mags that didn’t focus on high cost brand new stuff for baby tended to have advice that made sense. The others were all scare tactics and I only read them to laugh at them. But they certainly led new moms to think in helicopter types of ways.

  35. Donna December 31, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    My daughter confirmed that the other 6 year olds that she has run into at the playgrounds in America Samoa have also been unattended.

    In addition, I left my daughter in the car today while I ran an errand (something very common here). The Samoan people are extremely friendly and while I was gone a teenager waiting in the next car struck up a conversation with my daughter and gave her 3 cookies. Americans would never (a) offer cookies to strange children lest the child have allergies, (b) allow their children to eat cookies given to them by a stranger in the next car. No such worries here. Maya and I split the cookies. They were good.

  36. Boco December 31, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    I have been compiling a family tree for my children. I noticed that many of my grandmothers along the line were married and bearing children in their teens–sometimes early teens. My grandfathers were generally several years older. Not that I’m advocating marrying off our middle schoolers, but it is another example of just how much things have changed. My dear sweet grandpa that I remember as a little girl would today be considered a child molester. He was 19 and my grandmother was 15 when they got married, and had their first of nine children within a year. Again, I’m not saying I think we should go back to those days, I’m just saying they were competent and capable enough to trive under those circumstances.

    Looking at all the hardships our previous generations, and sometimes even we ourselves have endured, it is such a disservice to the next generation to leave them so woefully unprepared for life. When confronted with a situation with another mom, I typically say, “I know I am responsible for raising my children, but that means raising them to be responsible ADULTS.” I appreciate this site for championing the cause!

  37. Barbara December 31, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    You don’t have to go back in history to find more freedom for kids. Just go to a different country. This spring we spent 5 months in (my native) Germany. Yes, also in Germany kids are more worried than they used to be. But by far not to the same degree as here. My 6 year old daughter could walk to the bakery by herself and that was considered normal. She was so proud of herself! Here she probably wouldn’t even be served. The school recommended that kids practice their walk to school before starting school, so that they could walk alone, because that would boost their confidence and independence! Our daughter often walked home alone even though that was a rather lenghthy walk of half and hour. Sometimes it would take her up to an hour, because she picked flowers, tried a new way or walked home via her friends house. She came home confident and proud. I could also leave her home alone for 45 minutes while I picked up little sister from preschool. One day she had a playdate with a friend on a non-school day while the mother was at work and just older siblings present. The German playgrounds are also much more interesting than Americans and still challenging for grade schoolers, not boring for everybody above 4 like here. Why? Because they have a different liability system and cities don’t have to fear costly lawsuits. And grade school kids would play there without parental supervision. It wss really difficuot for my daughter to get accustomed to the restrictive live here in the US again. We also have the problem, that the after school care, that is three blocks from us, doesn’t let her walk home by herself, although she could walk home from school. At least we just sent her by herself there on vacation days. What are they going to do? Send her back home? I asked later if that was ok and they said, that some kids are more independent than others! Go figure!

  38. sherri December 31, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    I guess I’m a pretty mean mom, because I would never let my kids go to the playground because they are bored by church. They have to sit through the service first, then they can go play.

  39. pentamom December 31, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    “I guess I’m a pretty mean mom, because I would never let my kids go to the playground because they are bored by church. They have to sit through the service first, then they can go play.”

    Well, neither would I, but that’s not really the point of the article. Change it to a PTA meeting or something, where the child doesn’t need to sit through the meeting, and there’s a safe place to go with other kids on the same property.

    Donna, did you lose a day today? I heard something on the radio about one of the Pacific islands and the International Dateline. It cracked me up that the reporters kept saying, “[The island] is moving across the dateline.” I yelled at the radio, “No, dummies, they moved the dateline! Islands don’t move!” LOL

  40. Jennifer J December 31, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    My 5’2′ tall, 96#, 16yo daughter went to the pharmacy yesterday to pick up her meds. Important extra info: her chest measurement is about twice her waist measurement, so it is obvious that she is not a little girl. First they pretended that she must be there with someone, and when she made it clear she was there alone, they wanted to know how old she was and who the medication was for. Since it was for her, that was ok. So what if I wanted her to pick up meds for the three of us, like her 20yo sister does? Would they refuse to sell her any that weren’t for her? I’ve been raising (six) children for over 30 years now, and clerks have always treated them like they are invisible.

  41. Ann December 31, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    I agree completely. Recently, I was watching an episode of the Brady Bunch with my kids. It was probably the first season of the show, so I think Cindy was only about 6. Mike took her to the department store to see Santa. He realized he had something he needed to get on another floor, and Cindy said something like, “It’s OK, Daddy. I can stay here in line.” Mike hopped on the elevator and told her he would be back. She was perfectly fine standing there in line to see Santa with other parents and kids around. I don’t think you would see that in a current TV show though. That just isn’t how people think or operate.

  42. Jenn December 31, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I took my five year old grocery shopping a couple of days ago and when we got into the store, I realized I left my wallet in the car. Since it was raining, I figured I’d be quicker if I ran out myself. She stood by the entrance and could see me the whole time while I was out (I couldn’t see her since my back was to her as I darted to the car). She patiently waited and when I turned around, I noticed that a couple was talking to her. She was all smiles so I knew she wasn’t scared or worried (despite my best efforts my kids hear about `stranger danger’ from other people). When I arrived, the couple said they were so relieved because anything could happen to her. Anything? I was not even two minutes, and she was standing next to a busy entrance. My parents often left us in the car (horror!) while she did her entire shopping trip! During our trip, I gave my daughter `her list’ and would let her go find what she needed in each section we were in. I can’t tell you how many people `returned’ my daughter to me, despite me being able to see her as she fetched items.

    My seven year old son decided to start his own business of snow shovelling this winter. He did a lemonade stand in the summer and had a taste for earning his own money. He asked my husband and I for help making a flyer for him to deliver to neighbours (we said that we get free snow shovelling in return) and set off to find customers. One elderly widow was extremely pleased to have him knock on her door. She said that she’s lived here for ten years and not once has anyone asked to shovel her drive. Kids just aren’t allowed to anymore. Unfortunately she already shovelled her drive this time, but she has promised to give him a call next time. He did get a couple of clients today and worked (on his own without supervision) for a couple of hours. He was so proud of himself. That is what free range parenting is about.

  43. gap.runner December 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    @ Barbara, I understand the culture shock of going from Germany to the States. My son, who’s in 7th grade, rides his bike to school in 3 out of 4 seasons with his friends. He and his friends make their own arrangements for when and where they will meet to ride to school together. My husband and I do drive him when it’s snowy/icy or rainy. We live about 2.5 km (about 1.5 miles) from his school. My husband has a cousin who lives in San Diego. Her children’s elementary and middle schools, which are practically next door to each other, are about 400 meters (about 1/4 mile) from her house. She either drives her kids to school and back or walks with them. When I told her that my son goes to school on his own or with his friends, her reply was, “It’s so much different where you live. It’s not as dangerous.” This particular cousin lives in a very nice, upper middle class neighborhood that could in no way be mistaken for downtown Kabul or Baghdad. “Dangerous” would be the last word that comes to mind when describing her neighborhood. On our last trip to California, my son commented that he’d rather live in Germany because he didn’t have to go everywhere in a car. He likes being able to walk, ride his bike, or take the train or a bus to go places.

    On that note, I recently saw part of a story on a German program called “Galileo” about the most unique ways that kids around the world go to school. I only caught the last three. In one African (Kenyan? I forget) village, the kids walk 30 minutes to the local river, which happens to be crocodile-infested. Then they take a boat on this river for a while. They have to sit quietly in the boat so that they don’t disturb the crocodiles. After their boat ride, they have to walk for a period of time to get to their school. The only adult who accompanies them is the boat driver. There’s a Chinese village where the kids walk 3 hours each way to get to school over a mountain pass where the trail can get very narrow. The Galileo camera crew showed 3 boys who looked to be about 6 or 7 years old (they still had their baby teeth or were just starting to lose teeth) walking on this trail without any adults present. They carried good-sized backpacks that were filled with books and food. When they got hungry during their walk, they’d take some food out of their packs and continue walking. The last segment showed a village in Siberia where the kids walk 30 minutes to school, even when it’s -50 C (-58 F) or below. On the particular day the segment was filmed, it was around -50 C. The camera crew showed a fairly large group of kids (about 10-12) accompanied by one adult, who was (gasp! horror of horrors!) a man. If I recall correctly, the man who walked with the kids was one of the teachers. When I saw that story, I thought about the schools in the States that don’t let kids outside if the temperature is below 10 C or 50 F. That’s a summer heat wave in Siberia!

  44. Cathy December 31, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    With the way things are now it makes me wonder what things will be like when my kids are old enough to start having more independence. (currently almost 2yrs, 8 months, and 5 wks pregnant with number 3) …I worry parents, companies, schools, etc are just going to keep getting worse and more insane. It is a scary world, but it’s not the dangers that scare me but everything done in the name of “safety”

  45. Sean December 31, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

    I grew up in a tiny 200 or so person town in rural Pennsylvania. I remember riding my bike to a friends house about a mile away when I was 7 years old. It started as he and I riding together but our parents realized we could do it ourselves. It sounds bizarre, but it was just what was done. We also roamed creek bottoms like Tom Sawyer, disappearing for nearly an entire day. Of course, at around that age, most of us could drive a tractor and do all kinds of stuff that would be deemed too ‘dangerous’ for ‘kids’.

  46. LRH December 31, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    The recent story of the 2 year-old in Australia who was playing outside in her home’s yard & was attacked by a python, but rescued by the mother, produced the usual comments of “what was she doing outside?” One person wrote something along the lines of “such used to be considered normal & appropriate until we started bubble-wrapping all of our kids” or something like that.

    I figured someone from here left that post, ha ha. Way to go!

    My reply: I have a 2½ and a 4½ year-old, and they play outdoors here, in a fenced-in area (about 70 feet in diameter I’d say) at home ALONE with me inside, ALL the time, typically for about 60-90 minutes per day. Heck I was doing that earlier this year when they were merely 2 & 4 (without the half). They do just fine with it, and in fact enjoy it immensely.

    I’m blessed to live in the boonies where I’m free to do this, and I’m glad for the posters & Lenore Skenazy herself here having the sense to know better than to be brainwashed by all the media hoopla. Other people may be losing their minds, it doesn’t mean I need to be.


  47. s December 31, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    Your a bunch of idiots!!! I pity your children, having you as a parent. Are you too damn lazy and selfish to look after your own children and protective them from the evil that exists in this world. Do you really believe that your child can not be harmed? murdered or molested? are you really willing to take that chance with your child’s life? your a fool if you think otherwise. This site and these comments are completely pathetic.

  48. sylvia_rachel December 31, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    @ThatDeborahGirl — could it be that parents send our kids to day camps (some of which are run by in-school before/after programs that otherwise could not afford to operate year-round without charging ENORMOUS sums of money to working parents) because the cost of doing so is much, much lower than the cost of sending those kids to sleep-away camp? Many of us have jobs that require working most of the summer while our kids are out of school, and as much as I espouse the FRK philosophy, hanging out alone for up to 8 weeks while everyone else is at camp or day camp is not actually that terrific a way for a 9-year-old to spend the summer. My 9-year-old really wants to go to sleep-away camp this summer, and I think we can just about afford to send her for a week to the local YMCA camp, which is pretty much the cheapest reasonable option available at about 2x the price of a week at any of the local day camps she usually attends, but the whole summer? That’s not happening. So she’ll be going to day camps. And day camps can in fact offer opportunities for kids to do things independently — most are not run by programs governed by the Day Nurseries Act (as it’s called where I live) or equivalent, and my DD attended two last summer that allowed her to drop herself off in the morning, one of which also allowed her to take herself home in the afternoon provided one of her parents signed a half-page form. Not going away to camp =/= zero independence.

    @Sherri — how long is the service at your church? Because a synagogue service on Rosh Hashanah will often start at like nine in the morning and go on until one or one-thirty in the afternoon. That’s a long time even for adults to stay in there and pay attention, in my experience 😉

  49. s January 1, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    Google Leiby Kletzky and see what happens when a little boy walks home from school alone without an adult to protect him. He was only 8-years old.

  50. Gina January 1, 2012 at 12:36 am #

    @s–what about the MILLIONS of children who walk home from school EVERY day and get there safely?
    What we have, that you don’t, is perspective.

  51. Sassystep January 1, 2012 at 12:57 am #

    @s. I want you to google helicopter parents and read the horror stories from university profs and employers who are dealing with 18+ year olds who have no sense of independence and responsibility. I want you to read a forum for divorced people as over 50% will claim that overmeddling parents or a lazy attitude (caused by overbearing parents) was a contributing factor in their divorce. We should be raising our kids to grow up into adults and our generation is failing miserably. I started reading this site when I met my stepkids. Their mom is the epitome of helicopter. She feeds, dresses and coddled the almost 6 year old – in fact, she still drinks from a bottle at mummy’s. Ss9 is being bathed, not allowed to play outside and still has “play dates”. Well guess what? This year it caught up up him. His grades started to fall and the teacher blames his lack of independence and responsibility. May cost him his year….

  52. Havva January 1, 2012 at 1:05 am #

    @ Jennifer J
    Your story with your daughter at the pharmacy made me feel sick. It sounded almost exactly like how a friend of mine was treated in the UAE. She hadn’t exactly expected to end up in that country, but when hazard pay started being given, she thought it best to get off her ship ASAP. The ticketing agents at the airport would not talk to her, and kept looking for a man to speak for her. A husband, brother, anyone. But she wasn’t with family. Finally a fellow civilian American sailor was able to negotiate a ticket home for her.

  53. Lollipoplover January 1, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    You can pity our kids, having rational parents to give them earned freedom to be normal kids, but I pity the kids raised by people like you more.
    Google Dylan Moyer, age 7, for me if you will. He was a school mate of my children. He was bludgeoned to death (along with his mother) in a murder suicide. If you look at the news, parents killing their OWN kids is far more common than killing and abducting a child like Leiby Klezky. Who protected him?

  54. Gina January 1, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    @s–I live in the Phoenix area and I read almost EVERY day about children beaten and murdered….by their mothers’ boyfriends who were babysitting. They’d have been better off walking to school alone…doing ANYTHING alone. Where do you live that children are taken off the street, molested and murdered at such an alarming rate?

  55. Cheryl W January 1, 2012 at 1:24 am #

    @s. Yes, anything CAN happen, but that doesn’t mean it WILL happen. I love my kids. But someday, I will not be around. I need for them to be able to take care of themselves. Me doing everything for them now, will not help them in doing that.

    My daughter is going through a stage that whenever she hears about some disease or such on the radio, she is sure she is going to get it, despite the fact that it is in another country or such. Like you, she has no perspective on what is likely and what is unlikely.

    A friend of hers, 12, has developed bone cancer on her leg. We had to have a big talk about how UNLIKELY this is. I NEVER knew a kid when I was growing up who had any form of cancer. Likewise, I NEVER personally knew a kid who was abducted or killed. When I was in high school, I did meet a kid who had been molested by her step father. (More likely than by a stranger anyhow.) According to crime statistics, I would have been more likely as a kid to know a kid who was abducted or murdered as the crime statistics were higher then than now.

  56. Jenny Islander January 1, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    @s: I could be hit by a meteor tomorrow. It has happened. The prospect of being struck down from the clear blue sky is terrifying. I would rather spend my energy protecting myself against frostbite, which is much more likely today.

    Have you read the statistics on the real dangers to children? Someone help me out here–the top five are drowning, car crashes, being harmed by someone they already know, and what are the other two–?

  57. Sassystep January 1, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    @s. Based on stranger abductions bs. Car crash statistics alone your kids are safer walking to school alone than being driven there.

  58. LRH January 1, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    I don’t know who @s is, but I know the type.

    Let me describe the @s‘s of the world to any of you reading this site.

    They are like the woman who saw me with my week-old daughter outside in a stroller, wondering why I didn’t have mosquito netting around every inch of her. I GENUINELY appreciated her concern & told her so, and expressed irritation that the hospital hadn’t told me about the need for it. Her reply: “well, that’s just common sense!” My reply: “well it’s also common courtesy to MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!”

    I didn’t mind her trying to help, but once she crossed the line & was being harshly judgmental, that was it.

    These are the type of people whom @s reminds me of. I’ve seen the type, I know the type–and you know what? I despise every single last one of them, because they DO NOT mean well. They don’t do what they do out of interest for the children’s well-being, so much as they live to judge. Either you parent like they do, the way they do, how they do, and why they do, and you eat-drink-live your kids 24/7, never any sleep, no naps, no teaching your kids how to handle what they can for their own age–either you do all of that as they do, or you’re scum of the earth not fit to reproduce.

    This is reply to the @s‘s of the world.

    My advice to you: shut up.

    While you’re at it, learn some humility. You may think you’re God and the gold standard of all that is holy & perfect about how to be a parent, but no doubt you made and/or are making mistakes in your parenting, you’re no better than anyone else. If anything, you’re worse, because you don’t respect that how other people live their lives is of no concern to you, and that this holds even though there are “innocent children” involved. Unless there are things going on like molestation, beatings with wood planks, drugs, or starvation etc–the private lives of we adults AND our children are NONE OF YOUR STINKING BUSINESS.

    Now excuse me while I boot my 2½ and 4½ year-olds to the gated outdoors where they can wallow in mud and play with toy shovels in the ground while I’m indoors letting them go at it–all without me asking the likes of &s what they think of it, because the truth we told–I don’t give a rip, nor SHOULD I give a rip, nor do I ever intend to.


  59. Uly January 1, 2012 at 4:06 am #

    There’s nothing I like more than having my intelligence impugned by somebody who cannot spell and is apparently unwilling to remedy that problem.

  60. sherri January 1, 2012 at 5:18 am #

    I don’t think I could make it through a five or six hour service either. We only have to get through two hours. I was just thinking that might have been the other mothers objection to her children leaving the service to play. If I had such a long sevice I might be tempted to use my kids as an excuse to leave for the playground myself!

  61. Jen January 1, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    I think there needs to be an appropriate balance between freedom and protection. I grew up in a safe suburban area. As a child, I wandered around the town and my quiet neighborhood with my friends. I also wandered around alone, which I liked and was allowed to do but which also made me vulnerable. I was followed home from the local playground twice by two different men when I was 12, catcalled by others, and propositioned in broad daylight. I ditched one man by running through the backyards of several neighbors. Those experiences made me feel unsafe and ashamed for many years. I’m all for letting kids do stuff on their own but I will require my kids to stay with friends and/or siblings when out and about. I will not let them wander off alone.

  62. RobynHeud January 1, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    To bounce off Sassystep’s comment, as far as I understand, the majority of kid’s getting hit by cars around schools are being hit by people dropping off kids.

  63. katie January 1, 2012 at 5:37 am #

    I’m forever apalled at the way my inlaws infantalize our 10yo nephew. I think my 5yo dd has more responsibilities than he does!

  64. KD January 1, 2012 at 5:38 am #

    Tommorrow the kids are off to the movies by themselves! Well, my husband and I want to see one movie, my 3 girls another, and my 16 year old son a different one, so off we go. Several years ago my now 16 year old son wanted to see a movie with a friend (I think he was 11) and he wanted my brother to take him. I called the mom to make arrangements and was told very bluntly that her son would never be allowed to go to the movies with a 20-something year old man because most likely he would be molested! I offered for her to meet my brother, to drop her son off etc etc and then I gave up. I would haave loved to hear her reaction to the next weekend when I dropped my son off by himself to go enjoy a film. Unfortunately, my best friend’s son is too little (14 months) to be friends with my children, but she is as free-range as I am. She has watched how many children are capable of independence and she loves it.

  65. hineata January 1, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    @Pentamom – I think you’ll find it’s only Western Samoa that is changing – at least that’s the way it’s being reported down here. Simply so they can trade more easily with Oz and NZ, who are their main trading partners. American Samoa, while right next door, is another country I think…..

    @s – really! To use the very sad example of the wee Jewish boy was rather silly, as he wasn’t abducted and killed by a stranger, but by a member of his own community, who according to the reports I got to read anyway was known slightly to the boy. Doesn’t change the fact that it was a tragedy of course, but I think it is rather telling that these things (child abductions and murders) are so rare that they are reported in completely separate countries in whole different hemispheres.

  66. Gina January 1, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    @ULY..I was thinking the same thing myself. On every board, the people who think they know it all are usually the ones who can’t spell or form a proper English sentence. (No offense intended to those who post here and are not native English speakers).

  67. pentamom January 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    hineata — that’s what I wasn’t sure about. I thought I heard something about “Samoa” but I also didn’t think they were all the same country. Thanks for clearing it up.

  68. Donna January 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    Pentamom – We did not lose a day. There are two Samoas – American and Western. The two are VERY closely connected – same island chain, culture, people, etc – and only 30 minutes by small plane apart – but the chain was split by colonial powers many years ago. Western Samoa has since become an independent nation while American Samoa remains part of the US. A reference to Samoa alone always means Western Samoa. American Samoa stayed put in it’s time zone and Western Samoa moved. It is causing all sorts of problems here since Western Samoa is our gateway to anywhere other than Hawaii so booking flights is now very confusing. But with this move, I am officially in “the last place on earth.”

  69. Donna January 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Sadly, American Samoa is not as free range as I would like it to be. Yesterday afternoon, my daughter came up to the office – after about an hour on the playground – and told me that a cop told her that she can’t be on the playground without an adult. I fully intend to continue sending her down to the playground alone.

  70. Uly January 1, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    You know, though, Gina? Most non-native speakers make an effort to do things right, and apologize if there’s the slightest chance they messed up. So do most dyslexics and folks with broken keyboards.

    People who post without caring about the impression they’re making are just being rude, or are so ignorant that I feel I can safely disregard what they’re saying. There may be a good point in there, but why bother trying to decipher it?

    But that’s my little off-topic tangent.

  71. Decemberbaby January 2, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    “I guess I’m a pretty mean mom, because I would never let my kids go to the playground because they are bored by church. They have to sit through the service first, then they can go play.”

    @Sherri – synagogue services can be four or five hours long on the High Holidays, and three or four hours on a regular Saturday. That’s a bit much for kids.

  72. Gina January 2, 2012 at 1:27 am #

    @ULY…I agree. I was actually going to add that…but my post started to feel long-winded! LOL

  73. gap.runner January 2, 2012 at 1:50 am #

    @Uly and Gina, I’ve found that posts from non-native English speakers are often more grammatically correct than those from natives. Judging from my son’s experience taking English in German school, he is learning a lot more grammar than kids in US schools do. His English teachers are real sticklers for spelling and grammar.

    My big grammatical pet peeve is apostrophe misuse. I’ve noticed that native English speakers misuse apostrophes more than those who have learned English as a foreign language.

  74. Gina January 2, 2012 at 4:43 am #

    I particularly love the run-on sentences coupled with the lack of punctuation.
    Then, of course,we have the “their, there, they’re” and the “than/then” issues.
    And s starts his/her post saying “YOUR a bunch of idiots.”
    Now, back to the topic at hand! :)

  75. Cheryl W January 2, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    Are these people typing on phones? I don’t do any of that, but I know there are issues with word prediction on some of them, which would account for a fair number of errors and homophones.

    Or, they are like me, and can’t see when they have made a spelling error. Which is why I love spell check.

  76. Cheryl W January 2, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    ..and errors with homophones.

  77. Puzzled January 2, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    Regarding Klotzy – what a perfect example of what can go wrong if you don’t free range parent! In the closed community he was from, children fail to learn to make reasonable distinctions and choices. A free-range child knows how to exercise judgment, whereas Klotzy was willing to get in a car with anyone wearing a black hat. He was taught only that black hat=good and all else is evil. Evil learned to wear a black hat.

    More generally – the horrific consequences of fearful parenting are not that childhood is prolonged. Rather, adulthood has simply vanished! Most older people alive in a few years will not be adults. They will not have learned to handle the world on their own. This is fine, of course, for the totalitarians among us, who love having citizens who get outraged if the wrong choices are made on American Idol but are rather disinterested in indefinite detention. After all, my daddy would never made a law that’s dangerous, and I’m too stupid to think these things through on my own.

  78. Stacie January 2, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    @ThatDeborahGirl, you make a good point, but the program this facility has for school-age children is excellent. They swim, go on field trips, hikes, they write and perform plays and make pottery, all that. It’s not a playpen. She loves going. She wants to volunteer there when she’s too old to be a camper. It’s actually an intergenerational care facility, so a couple of times a week everyone (babies to elderly) gets together for activities. Most of the time, though, she’s with close-in-age friends doing age-appropriate things. But because they’re licensed as a day care, they’ve ended up treating all kids as infants.

    I believe the state does the same thing with after-school care–if kids are dismissed from the classroom, they can walk home, but those same kids have to be signed out by an adult if they attend after care.

    My husband and I (and her mom) all work, so she does need somewhere to be while we’re away. She’s not ready to be by herself all day, every day, and a quality “teenage sitter” would cost a whole lot more than the day camp. She does stay home alone on occasion, but not all day.

  79. Maria Eriksson January 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    I´m reading this and it makes me sad. I´m not living in the US but in Sweden and I must say that it´s nothing like it here. It makes me sad that so many of you seem to take away so much from all the children, everything that makes them grow up and be responsible adults. Everything that makes them think that they can accomplish something on their own.

    My 2,5 year old plays by herself in our garden (that doesn´t have a fence!!), my 4,5 year old can walk the 300 yards to kindergarten by himself or to his cousins that live in the same neighbourhood. Not the mention that they have to pick up in their own rooms.

    I trust my children and that they are capable human beings. My children eat by themselves with a knife and a fork. Can use sharp knifes in the kitchen, jump in the sofas and take a bath witout me in the same room. They are taught to look after each other and help each other.
    For gods sake, our kindergarten lives on the local beach in the summer and walks the entire way down there.

    Let them be children, let them bruise their knees – then you can kiss the pain away.

  80. pentamom January 3, 2012 at 12:36 am #

    Jennifer J — your post amuses me (not that the situation is exactly funny) in light of the fact that when I was a kid, I was *delivering* prescriptions to people by the time I was 10 or maybe a bit younger, in the 70’s. My Dad had a pharmacy, and if the customer lived within a couple of blocks of our house, instead of running it there myself (or having my mom, who helped out a couple hours a day in the store do it) he’d just bring it home when he came home for dinner and send me over. Nobody thought anything of it. It wasn’t even a big deal, or a big privilege — it was something I sometimes grumbled about having to do.

  81. Lihtox January 3, 2012 at 1:24 am #

    @ThatDeborahGirl is right; I would love to have a free-range guide to what things kids can do at any given age. It couldn’t be definitive, of course, since every child and neighborhood is different. But maybe a wiki would work: we would have a number of pages describing common free-range activities like “walk to school”, “go to the store”, etc, and then parents could weigh in with comments about how old their kids were when they started doing those things. We get some of this on this website but not in organized fashion.

    While I remember doing a lot of free-range things as a kid— roaming the neighborhood on my bike, no phone to call home, etc— I don’t really remember how old I was in those memories. And I especially don’t remember being 4 like my daughter is now.

  82. Library Diva January 3, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    No matter how many times I see it, the phrase “your a bunch of morons,” with ‘your’ spelled that way, always makes me laugh.

    @Pentamom, if you are ever looking for a good read, may I suggest “Too Close to the Falls” by Catherine Gildiner? She used to deliver pharmacy meds for her father as a child, too, although she’s older than you are. Actually, I’d suggest it to anyone on here. It’s funny in many parts, it has some seriousness and sadness mixed in, and it does depict quite the free-range childhood.

  83. Cheryl W January 3, 2012 at 3:03 am #

    Lihtox, that sounds like a great place! The fact that it is inter-generational is even better than all the crafts and swimming. There are so many things that our elder members should be conveying to our youth, but they are shut out of schools and such where kids are generally.

  84. Jynet January 3, 2012 at 4:03 am #

    I left my 17 year old daughter alone for 2 weeks while I took the train all over the West Coast for a holiday in October.

    I didn’t leave her with specific instructions, and actively told my mother to leave her alone. She was fine. The only “adult” she told she was alone (my parents both knew) was her Socials teacher at school.

    His response was that it wasn’t ok for her to be alone. She said “I’m six months from being 18 years old. At my age my mother had a job and an apartment and had been living alone for 6 months while paying all her own bills. If I can’t do it for 2 weeks she has done something wrong in raising me!”

    He didn’t report us, so I assume she convinced him :)

  85. Nicole K January 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    I remember in the 90s there were all these anti-Islamic books and articles coming out about how people locked their daughters inside and painted the windows black so no-one could see them, or books like “Princess” where they talk about the strict way Wahabists treated their daughters, and at the time we were so shocked, but now it seems we are headed more and more in that direction. The ultra-Islamists take these extreme measures to protect their kids. It’s good to protect your kids, but issues of protection can get heavily wrapped up in issues of control.

    Sometimes shit happens, and it is tragic, and it’s nice to think it was because the parents were not controlling enough or the kid was wearing the wrong outfit, but shit happens, you can’t keep people down and prevent them from living a full life.

  86. Nicole K January 3, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Lihtox, here’s mine:

    When I was 4, I played in the garden with other kids, with no adult in the garden. I also walked across the (non-busy) street I lived on and 2 houses down to my best friend’s house. I also took my first flight across the Atlantic as an unaccompanied minor, supervised by the flight attendants.

    When I was 5 I changed my brother’s diaper, supervised. I walked to school with other kids, about 1/4 mile. We would ride our bikes in the street.

    When I was 6, I went to the town center by myself to get a gallon of ice cream for the family from Brigham’s. It was about 1/4 mile, and involved crossing a busy street with a crosswalk and lights.

    When I was 7 I was left alone to watch my brother while my parents drove someone to the airport, about an hour or 2.

    When I was 9 I was allowed to go swimming in the lake behind my house unsupervised.

    When I was 10 I started babysitting non-family kids for money. I would also take the train from my grandparent’s in Geneva to my cousins in Neuchatel, about an hour.

    When I was 11 I’d take the T (Boston’s subway) to summer camp or other events.

    When I was 13 I would regularly take the T to various parts of Boston and Cambridge from the suburb I lived in, at night.

    When I was 14 I flew across the Atlantic, not as an official “unaccompanied minor” in the care of attendants, but as a regular passenger, and had care of my brother. We switched planes in Zurich.

    When I was 16 I learned to drive.

    Did I ever get into trouble? Sure did! Yet somehow I survived.

  87. Katie Ronure January 3, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    My kids have roamed the neighborhood for the past 3 yrs and I recently found out that we have two sex offenders in the neighborhood. I found out from a neighbor 4 houses down because she saw my free range kids wondering the neighborhood UNSUPERVISED and she thought I should know. My children told me that one of the offenders has played toss the ball with them. I try not to worry much but, I know that they sexually assaulted children that are my kids age. I’m sure if he ever hurt one of my children they will let me know.

  88. Nicole K January 3, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    I assume you told your kids about the danger.

  89. Trish January 4, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    All and all I will agree with the fact that parents are over protective these day, but not without reason. I was a child of the 80’s and I remember not coming home right after school and it wasn’t a huge deal, or my brothers myself and neighborhood kids would play hide n seek well bast the street lights coming on, we did alot of things you wouldnt see children doing nowadays. I believe my parents allowed this because there wasn’t 13,14,15yr old girls walking around pregnant or 10,11,12yr old boys smoking or experimenting with drugs (and not just the typical marijuana it’s much harder drugs they do these days) as well you didnt hear about so much pedophiles and abductions and just creeps preying on children….all of this is because we are the age of technology….it’s rare to see ppl young and old without some handheld device which makes children more exposed through the Internet. I think that’s where this “new” fear the parents have for their children and their safety….however I also believe u have to adapt to change so it is important to teach your children how to be safe and smart and street sense, in order to survive the new technology age.

  90. jorja January 4, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    I completely agree that we some times go over board in terms of protecting our kids however most of our fears are justified. In the small town we live in, just last year a 9 year old girl walking home from school by herself was approached by a young woman with a puppy and eventually lured to her awaiting boyfriend in his car. This was all caught on the schools surveillance. The girl was later found dead. When traumatic events like this occur in my own town its hard to not feel uneasy when your kids see alone walking home from school. How can we allow our children the space and independence they need to thrive but ensure their safety and our sanity?

  91. Buffy January 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    @jorja, can you post a link to that story? I just did a google search with several relevant terms from your post and didn’t find anything. I’m not dis-believing you, I would just like to read more about it.

  92. Havva January 4, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    “How can we allow our children the space and independence they need to thrive but ensure their safety and our sanity?”

    Safety rules are key. Before I was given free-range, I had to prove that I could remember a certain set of safety rules over a long period of time. The relevant ones for the story you mentioned, were: “Don’t approach adults in vehicles.” and “Don’t get into a vehicle without mom or dad’s permission.”
    The longer explanation and more refined detail on this was that, a trustworthy adult isn’t going to go asking a little kid for directions or any other type of help.
    When I was actually old enough to be asked for directions, the rule was refined to say that I should stay out of lunging range when talking to people in vehicles. That way if the person’s motives aren’t directions, the person can’t grab me. Also, don’t get in vehicles with people who shouldn’t be transporting you. Make sure someone (not in the vehicle) knows where you are going, who you are with, and when you are expected at your destination/to return.

    A good rule, one you can convince a child to follow long term, is one that will protect an adult as well. That last one ensured several of my college class mates noticed when six of us who had gone out to do some shopping got in a minor car accident. We said we would be back for dinner. When none of us showed, our class mates sprung into action looking for us.

  93. Sharon January 5, 2012 at 5:06 am #

    I let my 10 year old attend a movie alone with a 9 year old. They couldn’t walk home over 2 miles and busy streets but one parent drove them to the movies and the other picked up. The girls told me no one asked them (it was the Muppets Movie) where there parents were. That is usually what my daughter worries about because she is 10 but can pass for 7.

    My daughter got to see the Chipmunks Movie (only her third movie theatre movie this year) with her day care and wondered why the staff had to see it. I told her to watch the K-2nd graders but to be respectful and get on the right bus back to day care.

  94. Lisa January 5, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    I was born in ’82 and lived 35 minutes from where Johnny Gosch was abducted. My brother was 4, I was 5, my other brother was 6, and my sister was 7 when we moved.

    How I remember my life at this age (and younger): In the warm-ish months (which could be anywhere from March-November, thanks to crazy Iowa weather), I remember waking up, running out the door to join our friends, and running around exploring all day long until it got dark. If we got thirsty, we drank from a hose or from the water fountain at the nearby school. If we got hungry, we would stop by my house and eat apples from our tree, then we were off again. If we got chilly, we would come home, and if we got hot, we would play in the sprinklers or just use the hose. We knew to come home when it started getting dark. In the meantime, we explored creeks, stables with horses (we fed them pilfered sugar cubes and apples from our tree), played at a nearby park, and even got to watch firemen put out a house that was on fire a several blocks away (we followed the smoke). All of this was unsupervised, without cellphones, and even without a watch to know what time to come home.

    At the oldest, I was 5 years old when these memories were made.

    And even after we moved to a suburb of Kansas City, and then a suburb of Chicago, we enjoyed the same freedom to explore with our friends, all day long, until the sun set. We rode our bikes to convenience stores and bought candy by ourselves, explored constructions sites after the workers had gone for the day, and even got dropped off at the community pool to swim all day.

    I can’t think of any time when I felt (or was instructed by my parents to be) fearful in any of these scenarios. And I think the most life-threatening injuries any of us sustained was either scraped knees or splinters.

    And I bet I had one hell of a tan.

  95. Damon January 6, 2012 at 1:25 am #

    My parents started letting me ride my bike to my friends house (about 2-3 miles away) when I was in the second grade. The rule was I could go anytime and I called when I got there. My confidence in myself soared!

  96. Metanoia January 6, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    My boyfriend (almost husband as we’re getting married in 2 months) asked me a question a few days ago.
    Should a 12 year old be allowed to ride a bike by themselves on the road?
    He emphasised “on the road” as we were driving on a reasonably busy road and we’d just passed a younger looking cyclist. I quickly said “yes, I think they’d be fine”.
    “Really?” He asked. “A 12 year old?”
    I said “Well… your sister is 12 and I think she’d be more than capable of riding a bike safely herself.”

    I think only the fact I could use the reference of his sister swayed him that yes it would be ok.

  97. vzwriter1 January 11, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    Yes, our constant worry for our kids outside is new.
    So is the “much safer world” our kids live in, thanks to such things as parental supervision and protection of physically small children in public places, car seats and safety recalls.


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