OUTRAGE OF THE WEEK: Cops Threaten Mom for Letting Son Play Outside

Hi Readers! This mom, Kimberlee Morrison of kimleeisawesome, needs a pep talk from all of us — and perhaps some legal advice. You’ll see why. L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’ve been warned. Literally. By the police. My son left the park, went to El Pollo Loco and asked for water. A stranger asked him if he was hungry, the Boy, thinking the guy was being nice, said sure. The guy bought him some food — and called the police.

The police called me and insisted it was not safe for me to let my 8-year-old “wander the streets alone.” They hit me with the normal fear tactics: He could have been hit by a car, he could have been kidnapped. What if he had wandered off somewhere else and the stranger hadn’t been nice enough to involve the authorities?

To which I countered that there is no law against letting my son go to the park, and that the only problem right now is that the supposedly nice person HAD involved the authorities, even though my son was fine. My son was not lost, he wasn’t injured, he wasn’t afraid, he was just thirsty. I was told that since others thought something was wrong, I should too. Now I’m questioning my Free-Range philosophy.

By law, he is old enough to be alone, but the police insisted that the only reason I wasn’t going to jail is because they had decided it wasn’t necessary. They did, however ask to see where we lived, which I agreed to in the spirit of being cooperative.

Now we’re a little shaken up here, mostly by the threat of, “I could take you to jail right now,” and the fear that the Boy might not be allowed to go to the park anymore without me hovering. None of the other kids in our community are allowed outside the gate. So what do I do? Keep him locked inside? Hover? I want to be Free-Range, but not at the risk of my son being thrown into the system because of it.
Oh, yeah, I asked what age would be appropriate for him to go to the park and was told 13 or 14. So he has to be a teenager before he’s allowed to navigate the world without me at his side.
I’m so sad. Kids are supposed to be able to go outside and play. But everyone is so afraid. I don’t know what to do. I could use a pep talk right now, and some guidance. – Kimberlee
Dear Kimberlee: I’m shaken up, too. My blood curdles when the authorities use their own fears and prejudices to decide what is “good parenting,” or even “safe,” rather than consulting the law OR the actual statistics, which show we are living in very safe times. (Crime has been going down for 16 years and is now back at the level of 1974. It was higher in the ’70s and ’80s, when most of today’s parents — and cops — were growing up.)
The idea of curbing your son’s happy, normal childhood and locking him inside for the next five years is tragic. It’s ironic, too, considering that cops are supposed to MAKE the town safe, not tell people, “We can’t! Just stay inside.”
I know, that beyond this site, many folks would say, “The boy CAN go outside! She just has to supervise him.” But since when do adults spend from 3-6 p.m. outside, then come in for dinner, and then head outside again? And spend all day Saturdays outside? And Sundays? A summers? The idea that parents should be in the same place as their 8-year-old children all the time is a new one, born of unreasonable fear.
So what should this mom do?
Well, I’d certainly arm my son with a note from me that says I approve of him being outside, and that he knows how to contact me, and you, concerned stranger, can, too.  Then I’d include my phone number. As in my Free-Range Kids membership card (you can find it in my book), I’d add some statistics about things like the fact he’d be more in danger IN MY CAR than in the park.  And I guess I’d go Xerox any local ordinances that say a child of his age can legally be outside, unsupervised.
Then again, I actually did that when my younger son was 10 and taking a commuter train. I gave him a phone, I printed out the Transit Authority’s home page that said children age 8 and up are allowed to travel unaccompanied, and I still got a call from the police after the conductor felt “nervous” about seeing a boy traveling alone and called the cops. They ended up letting my son go (after asking me the inevitable, “What if some guys had tried to abduct him?”), but the whole thing was unsettling. And who wants the threat of legal action going any further?
After that episode, we continued to allow our son to travel solo, but it became a little nerve-wracking. And Kimberlee had an even closer police encounter regarding an even more everyday activity: playing. I’d like the cops to think about what the parks are for if NOT for kids to play? No wonder so many playgrounds are empty!
So my suggestion, heart-in-mouth, Kim, is to let your son go back outside. If he can find a friend to go with him, so much the better. If you want to give him a phone so he can contact you, I guess that might make some sense (even though, if he’s anything like my own sons, then he’ll spend at least part of his outdoor time fiddling with the phone).
Our Free-Range goal, when you get right down to it, is to change this terrified society. I am pretty terrified of the authorities myself. But I am really terrified of a society that keeps children locked inside — just like the kidnappers it is obsessed by — for no reason other than misplaced fear.
I wish you and your son everything good. And, for what it’s worth, I am in your corner and will support you whatever way I can, if and when you need it. But I sure hope you don’t. — Lenore

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216 Responses to OUTRAGE OF THE WEEK: Cops Threaten Mom for Letting Son Play Outside

  1. Juliet Robertson November 10, 2010 at 5:47 am #

    I’m sorry to read this posting but not really surprised.

    Earlier this week I visited a nursery where the teacher had been told to take down the plastic playhouse by the local policeman.

    The reason he gave was that it might get vandalised.

    It was an old second-hand playhouse that had been donated.

    Yes, it truly is “State of Fear” control in our respective countries.

    But change does, can and will happen through our efforts. Let’s all do what we can in our own ways.

  2. Jennifer Jo November 10, 2010 at 5:48 am #

    You say it well, Lenore.

    And Kimberlee? Hang in there. Go with your gut. Be strong and savvy and wise. Bear hugs to you, m’dear.

  3. Valerie November 10, 2010 at 5:48 am #

    How about making an appointment with the Chief of Police to discuss the situation? He may know the law better and perhaps could talk to his officers about threatening citizens with arrest when they haven’t broken a law.

  4. Rich Wilson November 10, 2010 at 5:52 am #

    “it might get vandalized”?
    well, I guess that cop ensured essentially the same outcome.

    Ugh, I dread the fights I’m going to get into when my son gets older. I seem to be missing the ‘just place nice with dumb authority’ gene.

  5. Manny November 10, 2010 at 5:53 am #

    “… however ask to see where we lived, which I agreed to in the spirit of being cooperative.”

    On a tangential note, not clear to me from this if you let them in your house or just showed them the exterior, but in the future don’t forget you don’t have to let them in if they don’t have a warrant.

  6. Anthony Hernandez November 10, 2010 at 5:53 am #

    Call them on it. If there is no law you are breaking then arrestin you is false arrest and kidnapping, and I’m sure you could use the extra $$ a civil rights lawsuit would bring. Be courteous but firm. They had NO reson to enter your home, etc.

    I am very nice to police because they have a bitch of a job; but that does not mean I don’t exercise my rights.

  7. Beth November 10, 2010 at 5:53 am #

    On a side note, what 13-or-14 year olds would even *want* to go to a playground/park alone, now that they’re old enough?

  8. Susan Theirrien November 10, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    If your son, at eight years old hasn’t been taught NOT to accept food or offers from strangers…than clearly the fact that the man called the police was the luckiest thing that could have happened in that situation….predators try to gain their victims trust with favors/help…..that should be the lesson learned here…

  9. Meagan November 10, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    Hmm… I think I’d suggest filing a complaint with the police department. Don’t be malicious: assuming the officers in question were polite, state that they were polite. Mention that you are aware that they were doing what they thought was best. But in spite of those things, you were harassed for doing something that is not against the law, and attempting an illegal restriction that you feel violates your freedom as a member of the community. After that would be a good point to get briefly into your parenting philosophy including statistics on safety. This expresses that you are not just some neglectful parent (without outright saying “I am not a neglectful parent”). I would avoid putting in writing any specific freedoms you allow your son, beyond the incedent in question.

    It is possible that the response will be “the officer acted correctly, you are irresponsible.” it seems however, that often the higher ups are more reasonable about this kind of thing, and I think it’s just as possible tht you’ll get an apology instead. If that is in writing, you have a tangible tool to use the next time something like this happens.

    That’s slot of “ifs” but it seems worth a try? Do other people here think there is a risk of getting into more trouble doing this? It seems unlikely to me, but I wanted to throw out the possibility in case someone with more legal knowledge thinks that is a concern.

  10. Lafe November 10, 2010 at 5:57 am #

    Maybe I’m too bold, but I’d give him the note Lenore mentions, maybe the phone, but very soon I’d ask him to play in the same area and stop at the same restaurant for a drink on his way home. Give him a few bucks so he can buy a Coke to go or something and be on his way.
    I wonder if they would call the police a second time.
    Those officers need to be politely but firmly told that they work FOR the parent they are trying to intimidate and harass (calling it what it is), and that complaints will be filed if they continue giving people a hard time when they are NOT BREAKING ANY LAW. They are tasked with enforcing existing laws, not making up rules on the spot based on their personal parenting preferences.

  11. Peter November 10, 2010 at 5:58 am #

    I concur that an appointment to see the Chief of Police is definitely in order. One of the items on the agenda is for him/her to show you the crime statistics for that park and that restaurant. Specifically, how many 8-year-olds have been hit by cars and/or kidnapped in that vicinity in the last 20 years? If the number is zero, then the police owe you a big apology for their over-reaction. If the number is large, then the police owe you an apology for not making the neighborhood aware that there is a major crime spree going on in your park and/or El Pollo Loco.

    (I suspect the answer will be zero.)

    Don’t leave the Chief’s office without an apology.

  12. Fiona November 10, 2010 at 6:08 am #

    I have been in a similar situation recently. I live across a quiet road from a nice park with a couple of grassy areas and playgrounds. I allow my daughter to visit the park on her own, since I can see it from my windows if I am looking that way (the main living area windows all face it) and I can’t see any reason why she shouldn’t have fun. A couple of weeks ago, the police brought her back to our house and told me that I shouldn’t let her go alone, and that “it’s not the best area”. My family have lived in the area (in fact, this exact house) for just under 10 years, and there have been no issues with assault or kidnapping, and I’m talking about a fairly large, public park that is fronted by houses on all sides. Despite telling straight out that there was no law my daughter or I had broken, I was told that she’d be brought back to our house any time the police saw her over there unaccompanied.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any helpful advice, since the main results of my recent encounter have been resentment towards misused authority and people who feel it’s their place to interfere with my parental judgement. My daughter was also furious that they wouldn’t let her just play. But I wanted to say that I understand how you feel. It’s hard to feel confident, even when you believe you’re doing the best thing for your kids, when you are afraid of getting arrested or your kids taken away. I hope sanity prevails for you!

  13. Taylor November 10, 2010 at 6:13 am #

    Hey Kimberlee,

    That sounds like a bad day. Who would want the cops over telling them they are endangering their kids? Nobody. Maybe the cops were having a slow day, generally I think they are supposed to enforce the law, not their beliefs.

    @Susan – maybe her kids have moved on to lesson #2: telling the difference between sincere, helpful strangers and “predators”. The former don’t deserve to be treated like the latter.

  14. Stephanie - Home with the Kids November 10, 2010 at 6:25 am #

    I concur that talking to the chief of police is a smart move. Go with your facts prepared, just in case he agrees with his officers. The police cannot be allowed to make up laws.

  15. Susan November 10, 2010 at 6:37 am #

    @ Taylor….thats my point, what eight year old can make a distinction between kind, helpful people, and others with a hidden adgenda be it to call the police, or harm you…..it is a judgement call…and I don’t think at eight most kids have the ability to make that call for themselves…

    To top it off…..”predators” don’t have a sign on them saying I am going to hurt you….they look like normal people too…

  16. se7en November 10, 2010 at 6:45 am #

    This would so freak me out as a mom, I would want to hide away forever so well done to you Kimberlee for standing your ground. And that’s probably why they didn’t lock you up straight away. Nothing like bumping your head against someone who knows their mind. Yet, this story is so back to front… Why isn’t the city safe enough for kids? Because police are being sent on stupid tasks to over protect kids that are perfectly okay, instead of dealing with real crime.

  17. sconzey November 10, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    Well, first: hugs to Kaylee for being an epic mom.

    I don’t know about the US but here in the UK the magic words to use on a cop are: “Are you detaining me, officer?” because, by law, a police officer cannot detain you unless a) he believes you to be a terrorist or involved with terrorism and is stopping-and-searching you under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act or b) he is arresting you and charging you with a crime.

    In the short term: FIND OUT WHAT THE LAW IS! I cannot believe you could have gone to jail for letting your 8-year-old go to the park on his own. Police Officers can and do take advantage of most people’s respect/fear of their position of authority and lack of knowledge and try to bullshit their way. Talk to a lawyer, or the Chief of Police, or research the codes yourself at the Library or in the Internet if your time is less precious to you than your money.

    In the long term: This is the kind of stuff that needs to go on a “FreeRange Wiki” — statutes and case law and “What To Do If”s; along with parenting tips etc. If Lenore wants to make a bit of cash off it (at least enough to cover hosting costs) she could charge a membership fee of a dollar or fifty cents a month. Raise that to a couple of dollars a month and you could start to put together a Legal Defense Fund 😛

  18. Rich Wilson November 10, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    I wonder what the cop would do, if when trying to take the child somewhere, the child said “no think you sir, my mom told me not to go places with strangers” or “I’ll have to call your precinct to make sure you’re not just a predator in a fake uniform”.

    Because people DO impersonate police officers. So part of making your kid ‘street safe’ is teaching them to not just trust someone because of their uniform, or badge, or ID, which all can be easily faked.

  19. KateNonymous November 10, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    @se7en, your comment just gave me an idea for a response to the police, which I’ll try to remember when BabyNonymous is old enough to go out on her own:

    “Oh, Officer, I’m sorry. I know this isn’t why you joined the force. It must be so frustrating for you when someone, no matter how well-meaning, wastes your time with non-issues like this.”

    @Fiona, I think a visit to your police chief is in order, too. I’d tell him or her that you’re not sure why there’s so much police concern about your safe park, but that because you know of no safety issues over the past decade, you’re feeling harassed.

  20. Larry Harrison November 10, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    I am with Lafe and Peter. Find out what the laws are, and challenge them on their response (if it was just based on their prejudices vs what the law actually is), and file a complaint. As the one person said, they are there to enforce the LAW not their BELIEFS.

    Most of all, realize that while you all the time here “pick your battles” and then you hear someone ask, all aghast, “is this the hill you’re going to battle over?” Well, I suggest this is a hill worth going to battle over. Do so. Your child’s quality of life is at stake, and the more such people as you fight, the more the tide will turn.

    We live in the woods, the boonies, where nothing like this sort of thing is apt to happen, as it’s almost impossible for anyone else to even know. I highly recommend such a living situation for free-rangers who aren’t averse to it.


  21. kcs November 10, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    Congrats for keeping your cool in a tough situation.

    I think this just emphasizes that part of raising free range kids is equiping them to respond appropriately to the “concerned adults” they will inevitably encounter.

    Frankly, I can’t completely blame the man for being concerned when a kid alone answered “yes” to the question “Are you hungry?” (Though calling the police was a bit extreme.)

  22. Taylor November 10, 2010 at 7:27 am #

    @Susan – I think plenty of 8-year-olds would in that specific situation – a fast food joint with lots of folks around. I see a gulf of difference between the “hidden agendas” of being excessively, irrationally worried for the kid and wanting to hurt him. This kid seems to have accurately known the difference between someone trying to hurt and someone trying to help (however misguided).

    Frankly, I’m probably more likely to err on the side of teaching my kids to be polite to strangers. If teaching them to suspect even policemen (or folks dressed as policemen) are out to hurt them is what it takes to be “street smart.” I’m not sure I want to be that kind of “street smart” or teach my kids to be.

    In the absence of any grounds for suspicion why default to suspicion? I refuse (for better or for worse) to assume that anyone offering “favors/help” is a “predator” simply because they offered “favors/help.”

  23. Heather November 10, 2010 at 7:30 am #

    My friend let her 3-year old son play outside in the yard, supervised, and (gasp – horror of horrors!) naked, a few years ago. He was playing with the hose while it was 85 degrees out (positively tropical for Alaska,which was where this happened). Her neighbors called the cops on her (instead of just telling her that they might be uncomfortable with a naked 3-year-old) and the cops showed up and threatened to charge her with child neglect and/or call child protective services – because it was apparently horribly inappropriate for a 3-year-old to run around naked. In his yard. Supervised by his mom. -Sigh.

  24. KarenW November 10, 2010 at 7:35 am #

    The part of this that irks me the most (and there is plenty) is the cop saying that a kid can’t go to the park by himself until 13 or 14. Why is that the magical age? All of the “what ifs” the cop gave would still apply. 13 year olds can get hit by cars, they can still get lost, and still be kidnapped. And after a lifetime of being sheltered and kept inside, they would not automatically have any more street sense than an 8 year old!

  25. KarenW November 10, 2010 at 7:43 am #

    Oh, and about the whole “stranger buying the kid food” thing, I have a story. We live across the street from a little league park, so my son spends a lot of time there in the summer. One day, he came home with some candy from the snack bar, saying that some guy gave it to him. My husband had a fit – he pictured some creep walking up to kids and offering them candy. I asked my son for more details, and it turns out that my son was in line to buy the candy, and the man in front of him in line paid for his candy, then went back to watch the ballgame. In other words, it was nothing more than a random act of kindness!

  26. Steve November 10, 2010 at 7:44 am #

    Take the Free Range Kids book everywhere you go.

  27. Sandra from November 10, 2010 at 7:46 am #

    I wonder from a national security point of view what will be the ultimate result of all this fear-parenting. In Afghanistan and many other parts of the world, boys of eight are soldiers, shooting with guns almost as big as themselves.

    While we worry about our kids stubbing their toes at the park, other child soldiers are in life and death fights. (Would not our efforts be better spent helping organisations that rescue and treat these kids than harassing parents who haven’t permanently tied their kids to their apron strings?)

    So are we train our kids to be nervous of the world, incompetent in handling risk, with no life skills and an inflated sense of their own self-esteem.? From this pool of infantile adults we will be drawing the recruits for our armed forces (and our police, firefighters, emergency rescue workers, brain surgeons, judges etc ,think about that!) and as wars will not go away, send them to fight men who have been in death fights since their tenth birthday?

    And then we will wonder why we are sending lour ambs to the slaughter.

  28. Carol the Long winded November 10, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Kid wasn’t at the park – he was at El Pollo Loco, and in fairness perhaps it was a busy street he crossed – we know he was engaging with “strangers” and letting them buy him food. He gave the appearance of being a waif that wasn’t cared for.

    So, solve the problem – kid doesn’t go to El Pollo Loco and have strangers buy him food. He brings a water bottle to the park.

  29. Dragonwolf November 10, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    @Carol the Long winded – What?! How is crossing the street from the park to get water at a fast food joint and accepting an offer for food from someone giving the appearance of “being a waif that wasn’t cared for”?

    Perhaps it’s common practice for him to go over there and get water? Maybe he didn’t initially get food because he wasn’t hungry enough to spend his own money, but wasn’t going to turn down an offer for free food.

    What person college age or under (or even adults, for that matter) doesn’t accept an offer for free food?

    Besides, if the person actually thought he was “a waif that wasn’t cared for,” what about talking to the kid before calling the cops? It’s amazing what happens when people actually talk to each other.

  30. Kelly November 10, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    I’m so sorry. I’ve BTDT. Complicated or augmented by the fact I’m a homeschooler so there’s more time I have my kids “out” and they can be spied for truancy and the paranoid cell phone call to the cops (instead of checking in with parents).

    I commiserate, truly. You did nothing wrong. As far as what to do in your future… I can’t really advise. I still let my kids out. They take care of themselves just fine. It’s very, very sad cops and neighbors are threatening good parents and their kids. “The system” as you call it, is no picnic to consider.

  31. Nicola November 10, 2010 at 9:19 am #

    @Susan Theirrien: I agree with this. At the same time, kids do need to know how to be polite to strangers and protect themselves in the event that this person is not a good person. Sure, all our statistics tell us that it is highly unlikely for anything to happen to a child – we should take comfort in that – but by the same token, even as adults we don’t immediately trust every stranger we meet. If someone asks to buy me a drink, I don’t let them because I don’t know their true intentions.

    For the mom that this happened to, I’d suggest making sure your kid carries his water and snacks with him. “An ounce of prevention” sort of thing. Send him with a friend or a few and let him go back outside to be a kid. With the cops, know your laws, have them on you, show them if they decide to butt in again. They are public servants, not kings or governors.

  32. kateohkatie November 10, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    @Dragonwolf – I agree. And I can see just how it could play out, too – kid goes in the fast food joint, stranger asks him if he’s hungry. Stranger means that in a “are you in need of nutrition and care?” way. Kid (firmly embedded in the concrete stage of development, AND having not yet acquired the skills to pick up on double meanings) interprets in the more simplistic, “want some free food?” way. And there’s the miscommunication. Not the child’s fault, of course – how could he know the implications and repercussions of answering the question? There was a free snack to be had! ;-D

  33. Linda November 10, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    I would suggest to Kimberlee to take some statistics to the Chief of Police and the rest of the police in the department. The statistics of Free Range – how kids have more of a chance of being in a car wreck than being abducted, etc. Lots of people are getting pulled -in, or are already believers in all this fear, cops included! This is a good opportunity to show them the ‘other side!’

  34. Steven November 10, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    One thing is start having your kid carry a bottle water or 2 to the park so he doesn’t have to go the a fast food chain for water.

    First of all, I’d say go with your gut. No one knows better how to raise your kid then you do….Not me, not Lenore (no offense intended to you here Lenore haha), not the police, not the nice guy calling the police. One thing I could suggest is call that local police station and get in touch with the chief of police with the entire city or at least the Commanding Officer (CO) and ask about the statistics of crime and children and explain to him the situation. If the stats show you live in a safer neighborhood and area feel free to do as you please and have the CO talk to the cop who threatened you. If the stats say anything less than a safer area neighborhood, talk with the CO about what can be good to be more free range and still keep your child safe.

  35. Cynthia November 10, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    One of the (many) ironic things about this story is that if a 13-14yo were in the park alone, the policeman would probably have run him off for loitering. For whom exactly is the park?

  36. Kymlee November 10, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    Thank you Lenore, for your awesome response. And thank you Free-Rangers for your support, encouragement and advice. I did have a talk with the boy about accepting food from strangers; he thought the stranger was the parent of a friend. I explained that parent of a friend would have just called me if they were concerned and that next time someone offers him food, to say thanks but no thanks.

    I don’t think I’ll file a complaint, but I definitely won’t be locking the boy in the house. There’s a closer park he can go to. It might be a little while before I let him go to the one further away. Its still less than a mile (I chose this neighborhood for the proximity to parks), but we’ll wait a little while before he goes back there.

    What I will do is equip the Boy with a laminated note to show concerned strangers and I’ll be prepared to file a complaint if we are harassed again.

  37. Bee November 10, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    As an example of overprotectiveness, and trying to keep kids safe in the wrong way, here’s an article from Calgary, AB.


  38. Kymlee November 10, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Oh, I want to add, that yes, the boy has to cross a very busy intersection to get to the park where he was playing. The fast food joint is on the same block as the park and he’s gone in there several times, by himself to purchase food.

  39. Catherine Scott November 10, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    What do they call a regime that randomly locks up citizens? That has abandoned the rule of law in favour of the arbitrary exercise of power?

    Hey, yep that’s right! When other people do it we call it fascist or totalitarian! But you know what? When OUR police and others abuse their power to harass US it’s fascist too.

    Because of the talk we talk the theory we operate under is that it’s only okay to bother some people to protect other people. The whole new set up means that now citizens – law abiding citizens – can be randomly harassed because in some ill defined way someone thinks that they are a threat to their kids.

    Generally I am not given to slippery slope arguments but this is down hill ride if ever I saw one.

    Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.

  40. Kate November 10, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    “It was higher in the ’70s and ’80s, when most of today’s parents — and cops — were growing up.)” This is the answer to why many adults are so freaked out about kids being on their own.

  41. Cathy November 10, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    I agree with sconzey that the CRITICAL element here is to make sure you are well acquainted with the law.
    I would approach it with the police – perhaps make an appt to go and see them, with the request that you would like to discuss what the boundaries of the law are so the situation doesn’t happen again. Get them to do their research before you go. And perhaps suggest that when they get a call from a restaurant staffer about a ‘stray’ kid, that an appropriate response would be to ask the staffer ‘have you called their parents?’ Sheesh!
    Finally, love the idea about setting up fact sheets on ‘what to do if’, complete with legal info. Perhaps in your spare time, Lenore? :)

  42. chavisory November 10, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Call the police department and speak with those officers’ superior about their threatening and irrational behavior. See how he feels about his officers arbitrarily threatening mothers of young children with jail time when no laws have been broken.

    The only creepy person here is the stranger who bought your soon food as a pretense for calling the police.

  43. Jen November 10, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    “To which I countered that there is no law against letting my son go to the park….” Technically, there is, according to an Oregon police man who explained it to me a couple of years ago. (ahem!) Guardians are responsible for the “supervision” of children. So, sure, while we all rode our bikes through the neighborhoods, played in parks and explored the woods as kids, our kids can STILL do that….so long as they don’t get hurt. If they get hurt? THEN we’re liable because we “failed to provide proper supervision.” Essentially, the only way to CYA in the eyes of the law is to hover. sigh…

  44. Tim November 10, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

    DON’T TALK TO COPS! EVER! If you’re really interested in protecting yourself from prosecution, don’t say a word. Don’t show them where you live, don’t let them in your house. You didn’t break a law. The only purpose of the ensuing conversation from the cops perspective, is to find a statement on which he can base an arrest, related to the event or not. The sure sign of cause for arrest is handcuffs on your wrists, threats mean still searching.

  45. Katie November 10, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    I’m a little surprised by all the advice of “give your kid a water bottle so he doesn’t have to go to the fast food restaurant again.” Don’t you think that empowering a kid to do things like safely cross a street or buy a bottle of water at an El Pollo Loco is in line with the free-range philosophy?

  46. lonedattyof3 November 10, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    OMG, I woke up in a sweat before the alarm this morning in the midst of nearly the same scenario in a nightmare, only multiplied by three!

    This, after an actual harsh tongue lashing at the mall last week from a kid half my age (OK, I’m 60) after my two-year old ran off and I had to zig-zag around to recover her (from him–I had to grab her from his side and whisk her away).

    We’ll not be going back to the mall without another adult to assist, which I’m sure you will all agree is a good thing. It does mean that we seriously won’t be going to the mall much, anymore.

  47. helenquine November 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    @ Katie – Yes! Glad someone else thinks so.

    The solution is *not* to make the kid invisible by ensuring he doesn’t come into contact with other people. It’s to make it normal for kids to be out on their own again.

  48. SgtMom November 10, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    The worst, most terrible example you set for your son – and YES, you DID screw up – will be explained fully is you view these videos:

    Don’t Talk to the Police” by Professor James Duane
    James Duane explains why innocent people should never talk to the police.

    “Don’t Talk to the Police” by Officer George Bruch
    George Bruch from the Virginia Beach police department responds to Professor James Duane’s presentation on why innocent people should never talk to the police.

    A MUCH better life saving lesson to teach your child than “never take tacos from strangers” is to NEVER, NEVER NEVER TALK TO COPS WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY PRESENT.

    Did you hear me? N E V E R!

  49. Yosefa November 10, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

    The fact that the cops had nothing better to do than antagonize you seems to speak to the safety of your community. That or the cops are too lazy to do any real work. Or maybe they were pissed at being called out on something of a false alarm and decided to make something of it.

  50. Lola November 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    I’m so, so so sorry for this mum. It’s outrageous that a total stranger thinks an 8 yo is too stupid to know his parents’ names, address and numbers. Why on Earth didn’t that stanger (very kind, no doubt, but a little stupid and nosy too) just ask the kid about his situation????
    It’s rude when other people interfere with one’s parenting, but it’s truly exasperating when it’s someone who has absolutely no child-rearing first-hand experience.
    All I can say is that in these cases, what works best for me is getting my children in the conversation as much as possible. My eldest (7 yo) wouldn’t have kept quiet if someone (policeman or no policeman) insinuated she could get run over by a car. She would have interrupted, outraged, saying she is perfectly capable of navigating the streets on her own! After all, the cops came to her school last year to teach her how to cross the street properly.
    Hey, that’s an idea: get the school Principal arrange with the local cops some pedestrian lessons, with “pedestrian license” at the end, so that they can show off when intercepted by friendly, nosy strangers…

  51. SJB November 10, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    My advice to Kimberlee: move.

    You live in a gated community. These types of fenced off fantasy worlds are breeding grounds for this type of irrational nonsense. I hate to say it, but the reason the police are acting this way is because most of your neighbors want them to. Like you said yourself, most kids aren’t allowed to step outside the gate unattended. Why would you want to live in such a prison?

    As I’ve often commented on this site and to others, what you’re experiencing is not universal across all places. Move to a city, where there are people on the street during the day, where kids walk to and from school and take themselves to the park without people raising an eyebrow.

    Changing the system is all well and good, and I’m all for it, but I’d also suggest letting the xenophobic suburbanites have their “paradise” and moving someplace better.

  52. Melissa November 10, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    The child should not have gone to a fast food joint for water. Stores and restaurants are places of business and not the local oasis. They don’t want unattended children in there. Instead, come up with a plan with your child for 3 safe ways he can get a drink, first aid, or assistance when he’s at the park. (ie, carry water with him; if it’s a rec center, ask the staff; come home; stop at a friend or family members house; use a cell phone he is allowed to carry for emergencies only, etc). Second, he should not have accepted food from a stranger. Point blank. No matter how “nice” he thought the person was being, it is both rude and dangerous to let kids accept things like that from people. He should be taught to politely say no thank you. (Same goes for friends at school who attempt to give him things that are extravagant or inappropriate.) I feel that based on this story, the child is currently not ready to be alone at the park until the parents can trust that he will stay where he said he will and have ensured that he a) knows how to keep himself safe and get help, and b) knows how to interact with members of the community (in this case, not to go into businesses except to patronize that business or get emergency help, not to allow people to buy him things). Let him play in the yard and surrounding neighborhood and earn the right to expand his boundaries. Most importantly, talk to him. Run through situations with him and judge his responses. If they are still fantasy or unrealistic, he’s not ready. It also gives you an opportunity to talk about what is okay in those situations. The idea isn’t to scare him, but to empower him by helping him learn how to make judgment calls.

    The cops are wrong. It’s not illegal, the child was in no danger. They should not be intimidating you and you should not have let them in your house – they were looking for something to get you on to justify a call to CPS. They had nothing to take you to jail on, and had they tried, you could have easily fought it. They were also wrong to say 13 or 14 was an appropriate age to go to the park alone. I agree with the people who said the police act this way because you live in a safe area where there aren’t bigger problems, and that this is what your neighbors want from the police. The only way to let the police know it isn’t what you want is to voice your objections. I would write a letter to the police captain expressing your unhappiness with the intimidating and intrusive way your family was treated. Just don’t overreact. One frustrating encounter with a couple of officers is not indicative of huge societal problems.

    The person who wasn’t wrong was the fast food customer who alerted the police. He saw a child who was thirsty and hungry in a public place who for some reason didn’t want to go home, and it made him concerned. If anything, I’d thank him for being concerned about a child, but let him know that offering to buy food for kids isn’t a good idea – even kids from happy homes with plenty of food are going to be tempted by a Happy Meal, especially if their parents limit how much of that they get. :)

  53. m November 10, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    “If your son, at eight years old hasn’t been taught NOT to accept food or offers from strangers…”

    Your mind must be a very scary and perverted place.

    On the other hand, 8 years old is a bit young for alone roaming. It’s probably best for another kid to come along as a “partner in crime”

    Also, you are under NO obligation to let the police into your home without a warrant. No good can come of it.


  54. Susan November 10, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

    @ Melissa…..well put…my sentiments exactly….

  55. SgtMom November 10, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    I once had a cop tell me it was ” Illegal” for me to have a screen missing from an upstairs bedroom window.

    I think it’s a private joke with some of these guys to see how outrageously they can throw their authority around.

    I lived in Salt Lake City in the early ’80’s, and there would be very, very young children riding bikes or running around on city streets alone after 10:00 at night. I used to wonder where in the world their parents were – that was a little TOO “free Range”.

  56. Christy November 11, 2010 at 12:13 am #

    I think it’s time to come up with a free range bill of rights.

  57. runtobefit November 11, 2010 at 12:18 am #

    Things have changed so much and not necessarily for the better.


  58. Matt November 11, 2010 at 12:22 am #


    You have run up against one of the thorniest aspects of our fear-managed society, which is the policy authority creeping into a judicial one.

    The police have no authority, ZERO, to tell you what you can and can’t do if you’re within the law. I know I’ve railed against the litigious society on these very pages, but you should not have to stand up to threats based on a single officer’s opinion. I suggest filing a complaint at the very least through the appropriate procedures.

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for law enforcement and what they have to do on a daily basis, and it’s likely the officer thought he was doing best. But he was either poorly trained or willfully abusing his authority to start threatening you with arrest, either explicitly or by implication.

    Sadly, I believe there’s a self-interest among those who have been entrusted by the citizens with the exercise of authority over criminal matters to buy in to the fear culture; it makes them more necessary and gives them power. The more people who buy into the cycle of fear, the more we need a massive security apparatus.

    I’m so sorry this has happened to you, but let being right be your strength here. The police work for you, not the other way around. You’re a righteous law-abiding citizen and a good parent, standing up for community values. Remember that the next time you see a peace officer and start to feel nervous.

  59. hunter71 November 11, 2010 at 12:40 am #

    I am 7 years old and I see all my friends who’s parents handle things different. I race dirt bikes but my Mom won’t let me go down the street alone. Other kids can go wherever they want, but their parents would never allow them to race a dirt bike. Rules are Rules and as you grow up you get used to what you are allowed to do or not do. I think it is a parents choice what they are comfortable with and only the buisness of that family. I am allowed to race, and we talk about how to be safe doing that. My friends that walk to the store have talked to thier parents about the safety with that. I am sure this boy that went to the park knows safety or his mom would not trust him to go.

  60. hunter71 November 11, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    Hunter71 http://www.hcrproducts.com

  61. chuck regal November 11, 2010 at 12:47 am #

    kanye west is a spoiled na, he needs a good ole ass kicking!

  62. kcs November 11, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    I think we want to be careful here. In responses to other posts, we’ve lamented the cultural atmosphere that makes adults reluctant to help children who seem to be in trouble because they may be accused of being pedophiles. Do we really want to pile on that and create another reason that adults may be reluctant to help kids–that they will be labeled interfering, nosy, busybody creeps by Free Range Parents?

    I think we all want to live in communities where people look out for each others’ welfare. In spite of the bad experiences reported on this site, I think MOST adults who would become concerned about a child’s safety are reasonable people. I’d even venture to guess the guy in this particular incident was a reasonable person who just didn’t stop to think what other options he might have short of calling the police.

    How about some ideas on what to do if you see a kid who seems to be in an usafe situtation that don’t involve calling the authorities?

  63. germanthemaster November 11, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    ok no, chill there are various explanations for this, you cant just go off like that, you have to think abou this long term, the reason they made the possibilities of your son getting hurt, the problem is teh law, they are trying to protect businesses, if your son got hurt around pollo loco or whatever, youcould have sewed them, it mmight sound crazy but its true, a robber sewed a person and won because while he was trying to break to her house he fell and cut himself with a knife, and it is kindof dangerouse to let your son alone, they tested you son to see if he was smart enough not to talk to strangers and guess what, not only did he talk to them, he accepted food from them, if he went to get water he should of only gotten water, you set yourself up for that, and i highly doubt you put him in any self defense classes, might as well had a stranger ask him to get in a van, not saying that the police where right, their not, but you arent either, its funny to me. Im a 16 year old kid and yeah i can go by myself cuase i know who to talk to and who not to, black belt at taekwon doe, fast runner, i dont go trusting people like that, and i have my metal claws with me,

  64. Evie Garone November 11, 2010 at 1:17 am #

    The world is a crazy place. I understand everybody’d pint in this story, but the police DID NOT have to throw their weight around. I know there are many good police officers, but some do get off on their power. I’m assuming the Fast Food person thought they were doing good by offering food, but your son should have known to say no, but he is only a child. But to call the cops right away without talking to your son without getting the story is kind of jumping the gun, come on, maybe a little bit of a BUTINSKI, huh? You are going to rethink your situation just because of the WORLD and the times…such is life. None of gets to do all we WANT…just fact. Good luck.


  65. ambermartingale November 11, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    So sorry to hear this about the boy. I wish there was something I could say or do to make his mom feel better.

  66. DJG November 11, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    If this sad story did nothing else, it convinced me to talk to my wife about what we plan to do if a police officer ever “asks” to come into our home. We came to the agreement that an armed, uniformed police officer never enters our home unless we have called for help. For me, as a lawyer turned stay at home Dad, and as a cynical bastard, this is pretty easy. For my wife, who generally wants to please people and smooth things over, it might be trickier.

    Thanks to “m” for posting the law professor video above. I really recommend people watch it, especially comfortable educated middle class people like me. We tend to be the most complacent about our right not to talk to police, because we’re the most convinced that we can persuade them.

  67. courtneyryanne November 11, 2010 at 1:47 am #

    My first instinct on seeing the title to this was post was, “WHOA. CRAZY.” And then I read it and… well, it didn’t seem that crazy. Okay, yes, the police threatening to arrest the mother or the son – that’s pretty ridiculous. But the cops actually being called because there was a young kid unsupervised in a fast food restaurant? That, not so much.

    I guess where you let your kids play is kind of dependent on your situation. Growing up, I always played in my yard, but we had a nice sized yard in the suburbs. Occasionally I would walk to the park when I was a little older (probably 11-13), but it was several blocks away: there was no way my parents would have been able to see or hear me if anything crazy HAD happened, so I would not have been allowed to go there alone when I was 8. However, if you’re close enough to a park where you could see and/or hear your child who is playing alone, I see no problem with them going there. A park further away? Send them with friends. And of course, as everyone said, no one can really make these parenting decisions except for you.

    I guess my main issue with this is that no, I don’t think everyone should live in a society of fear. But we should accept that there are really creepy, weird people out there; I’ve worked in a retail store in a busy mall since I was 15 (almost 6 years now) and I have seen -a lot- of creepy people that I wouldn’t want alone with my kid. And the thing about a kid being in a fun place like a park or a fast food place, if an adult starts dragging them out and they start crying that they don’t want to go, staff or bystanders might not always think of that as a scary scenario: most kids would cry if they were being asked to leave a park too soon, especially younger kids. There’s also always the risk that your kid might get hurt (I for one was a huge klutz as a kid and now and hurt myself CONSTANTLY at the park), which I’m sure is another reason why cops and most people push for parental supervision.

    Again, it’s all pretty situational to where you live, who you are, what your kid is like, etc. I don’t think it’s right to raise your kid in a state of fear, but it is important to be realistic. No, not everyone is out to hurt you. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people like that out there, either. My parents raised me that way, and I’m perfectly polite to strangers, even if I might not accept their offer to buy me food. (As a general rule, I don’t really like people buying me things, unless they’re my boyfriend or one of my close friends that I can pay back later. And that’s coming straight from the mouth of a poor college student.)

  68. wittywife November 11, 2010 at 1:52 am #

    “Oh, yeah, I asked what age would be appropriate for him to go to the park and was told 13 or 14.”


    I was babysitting neighbors kids, on my own, at age 12.

    At age 6 or 7, my kid neighbors and I would roam our street for hours together, playing tag, playing fantasy stuff, playing hide and seek, and would head home at the time appointed by our parents.

    It’s been proven over and over again that the US is safer today than it was years ago, yet because we have modern media, things are reported more frequently and stranger danger is overblown.

    With that said, I wouldn’t have my daughter going into local businesses asking for water. Not because it’s scary or whatnot, but because it’s not their obligation to give out free water to unattended kids.

  69. Claudia Conway November 11, 2010 at 1:57 am #

    I think an important thing as a free-range parent is to be visible.

    Write to the local police and media, keep on saying, over and over again if you have to, that there is *not* a ‘law against a child of whatever age’ being unaccompanied so that it might, just maybe, sink in one day. Keep telling people that all children will need, sometimes before not too long, to be independent, and it starts with small steps like going to the park or taking a local journey on public transport. Keep telling them that it *isn’t* the case that ‘it’s more dangerous than when we were kids’

    If, when my daughter is older, any ‘concerned citizen’ were to call the police on me for my parenting decision, I would be calling the police suggesting that both they and the public need some education and discretion about unaccompanied children and asking please could we sort some kind of liaison out so that police aren’t wasting their time checking up on a kid having fun in the park and the public don’t feel anxious and worried when they see a kid without a parent in sight.

    I think, where possible, looking for positive outcomes, such a more informed policing policy about unaccompanied minors, is a good thing to aim for, but I know not everyone will have the energy for that!

  70. Elisabeth November 11, 2010 at 2:10 am #

    Kimberlee, I’m so sorry. I’m so incredibly frustrated by this I am almost on the verge of tears. Everyday when I send my 8-yr old out the door to walk the 4 blocks to the bus stop where he is the ONLY kid taking the bus because everyone else drives their kid the 2 miles to school, a part of me panics a little with two worst-case-scenarios that pop in my head: 1) that, because he’s out there alone every day a predator will take advantage of the situation and — more likely — 2) some busybody who sees him out there everyday will eventually stage a little drama like the “nice” guy at El Pollo Loco and then call the police to prove how endangered my son was. But then I remind myself that if I take my kid off the street, then the streets are even less for kids than they were before. (And 2-3 days a week I go and join him at the bus stop on my way to work just so people know that I’m around…and I’ve told him that if anyone approaches him about being there alone, he’s supposed to say, “my mom will be here in a minute.” We talked about this as a “lie for a good reason.”)

    Hang in there, Kimberlee. You KNOW you’re a good mom and know what’s best for your family.


  71. DirtyHooker November 11, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    This reminds me of my own reaction to an “unaccompanied child” incident. I saw a little girl at the airport, about 3 years old, walking with no one clearly supervising her. I could have called security. Instead, I followed her for a couple of minutes. Turns out her mother was ahead and was so overwhelmed with the amount of baggage she had that he hadn’t noticed the girl had wandered a bit behind.

    In this case, you could argue that the mother should have been paying closer attention, but it was not a criminal issue that law enforcement needed to be involved in. I did exactly as a concerned adult should have: I kept an eye on the kid until I was certain her situation was safe, and then I moved on.

  72. Piper Bayard November 11, 2010 at 2:42 am #

    Seriously? Why didn’t he go home to get a drink? Giving your child freedom and abdicating responsibility for parenting that child are two different things. It’s Kimberlee’s responsibility to know where her son is and what he is doing, as well as to see that he as whatever water or food he needs. It’s not El Pollo Loco’s responsibility or a stranger’s. Give him a water bottle, and send him to the park, but tell him to stay in the park and make do with what he has or come home. That way, he’s free within reasonable boundaries, and he’s learning not to go begging at restaurants.

  73. EricS November 11, 2010 at 2:46 am #

    Well, by law, you didn’t do anything wrong. Just like most others who are fearful, it’s just their opinion. But being in a position of authority, they are using fear tactics to get you to do what they want. Remember, you still have rights. IF they do arrest you for god knows what they trump up, they would need hard proof that you were endangering your child’s life. If they don’t, they are in deep crap themselves. And really, what CAN’T happen to a 13-14 year old that CAN happen to an 8 year old? For that matter, what can’t happen to an adult that can happen to an 8 year old? Nothing. If anyone wanted to do harm to someone else (child or adult) they will find a way to do it. In real world, it all depends on how the person deals with the situation in hand. If your 8 year old child knows how to respond and react to situations around him, I doubt that his age would be a factor. I say keep letting him go out, but as Lenore suggested, and some have done also, give him a phone, and a note. But most of all, make sure he’s well educated in being on his own outside the house. Don’t give in to other people’s fears. There is nothing wrong with your philosophy. And trust me when I say this, just because your a cop, a teacher, a senator, or any other position of authority, your not infallible. If any decision is based on fear, with no logic and common sense, it’s always a bad decision. Kinda scary considering there are cops all over the world who think like this.

  74. hamsterdreams November 11, 2010 at 2:46 am #

    I’m curious as to where you live. I have lived in many low income neighborhoods and the police did not care at all about whether kids were safe or not.

  75. DirtyHooker November 11, 2010 at 2:47 am #

    The fact that he went to El Pollo Loco for a drink may have been an annoyance, but it’s not a crime. And no one forced the stranger to get involved. I dislike living in a society where annoyances are dealt with by calling the police.

  76. smspang November 11, 2010 at 2:48 am #

    I’m not suprised at all anymore. I heard on the news today that the guards at the prison were stealing the imates money. Now what makes them any better then the criminals?? This World is becoming one messed up place.


  77. Soldier's Mail November 11, 2010 at 2:50 am #

    As someone who works in law enforcement, I think a couple of things should be said that readers are overlooking:

    1) Whether there is a specific statute or ordinance prohibiting an 8 year old from playing in a public place unattended by a parent is somewhat besides the point. The real cultural problem here is the “nannified” adult who takes it upon themselves to mind everyone else’s business for them. The adult who had a problem with an unattended 8 year old made it the problem for the police when they called the police.

    The police necessarily operate with a “community caretaker” doctrine, meaning that they are obligated to respond to situations that observant citizens feel require a response. Other similar situations include a small child left unattended in a car temporarily parked curbside while the parent runs a quick errand, or a pet left unattended inside a vehicle on a hot day, even if the windows are opened.

    It is a matter of liability for the officer to fail to respond, fail to identify the child, and fail to ensure the child is reunited with a parent or guardian once it has been made an official problem by someone else. Free-Range parents and kids need to be aware that MANY others in the public don’t share their comfort zone due to paranoia, over-exposure to negative news, and being unable to wipe their own noses.

    2) Based point #1, Free-Range parents need to be VERY educated about statutes surrounding child welfare in their jurisdiction. It may very well be within the law for an 8 year-old to be on their own, however that does NOT mean it is necessarily always advisable or prudent. Also, just because a statute is not specific about what is the “age of independence” (most states will not define this separate from the age of majority) does not mean that a parent might not be regarded as neglectful depending on the overall circumstances.

    I agree that a meeting with the Chief of Police is very important in a situation like this, because the rights of parents and children do need to be clearly defined against the common over-reactions regarding child welfare issues. Consulting an attorney conversant in family law would also be a prudent thing to do. Likewise, if the officer was indeed out of bounds, the Chief should be made aware and have the opportunity to train their personnel accordingly.

    In this situation, the officer might have been trying to over-prescribe some parental common-sense at their own discretion. On the other hand, the parent might well have been considered in violation of a local child welfare provision. I do not know, and neither to the other readers who are quick to criticize the police in this situation.

  78. Ava Aston's Muckery November 11, 2010 at 3:03 am #

    Wow what a story. So what country did that happen in? Oh yah, this country! Hmmmm makes me sad.

    I somethimes think it is just a good thing I only have dogs and no children – one less reason for me to be arrested.

    Thanks for the informative post.



  79. Leo Cotnoir November 11, 2010 at 3:07 am #

    There has been a frightening increase in police arrogance since 9/11 and it is getting worse as brain-damaged veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are joining the country’s police forces. And, of course, this sort of police state action is supported by the very people who prattle endlessly about getting the government out of peoples’ lives.

  80. NancyDL November 11, 2010 at 3:25 am #

    Our family moved to Canada from the USA nearly 40 years ago because of my husband’s job transfer. The America we left was one in which my kids played outside, visited the neighbors, and played on the swings in the park.

    After a recent visit, however, I have to say that I have wouldn’t let my kids (or grandkids) play outside without me – ever. The number of people openly carrying guns, the proliferation of desperate people, the attitudes of the police all tell me that America simply is not safe anymore.

    My grandchildren play outside, walk the block to the park playground, and explore the neighborhood (in which I also live). I don’t fear for them at all.

    I think that Americans need to take a look at the path their country has traveled, and ask themselves if it’s really what they want. It’s not too late to change.

  81. Omit November 11, 2010 at 3:29 am #

    It’s not kind to speak ill of law enforcement. But let me continue anyway.

    The average cop has a power ego to which he/she is simply used to people taking his advice. They get to a point where they think their insight and opinion is actually useful to the rest of humanity who, without their authoritative presence, would simply wilt away into a morass of chaos and anarchy.

    Except it ain’t true.

    The officer who lectured this poor mother apparently thought he had some deep and abiding clue as to how to be a good parent. He likely lectures people to whom he writes speeding tickets (instead of just simply writing a ticket), probably chit chats with other cops about the daily drama of his life, and in general, is a shell of a man.

    First, short of a direct violation of law, he has no business talking to any citizen other than to investigate a crime. In this case, it is limited to, “Is this your son?” and “We responded because some clown inside The Crazy Chicken thought he was abandoned. Have a good day.”. That’s it. Anything else is a waste of taxpayer dollars and is a commission of fraud by this officer. A real cop, that is to say, one who cared about the true safety of its citizens, would leave the non-crime as quickly as possible to go and find some real criminals. But this boyish officer felt more in control berating a woman alone than to face down a dangerous criminal. Shameful. Had I been there I would have told him to get lost.

    I don’t know how these stories make it in the wild without the officer’s full name. Let’s get it on record. If he even is a parent (doubtful), let’s make sure it’s archived in Google forever for any future incident of his own so-called parenting skills.

    I’m waiting with baited breath…

    “Officer’s son vandalizes a dozen cars!”

    Quote from the story: “I just wanted some breathing room,” exclaimed the pensive boy. “My dad has followed me around like a bloodhound since I could crawl. I guess I just didn’t know how to handle my newly found freedom at 14 years old and went a little crazy. I saw the rocks and those shiny windows and couldn’t help myself. It was my first time in the wild. I couldn’t believe Dad had let me just walk up the street by myself… the fresh air, the lack of footsteps behind me, the silence of not having him tell me how to walk or to slow down or speed up. I guess Dad was right – I simply can’t handle the freedom. I’m just going to ask everyone’s forgiveness and go back home and live there until I’m 29 years old. Someplace safe from all this risk and danger in the world. No one really gets hurt playing XBox in my bedroom.”)

    Personally, I would have taken the jail option. Break these crackpot officers and their out-of-control departments. You want to arrest her, officer? Arrest all of us. Seriously. We are the ones who set the laws. Not you.

    All the parents of Kymlee’s town ought to go to that same park next week and send all their 8-year olds over to get water from Pollo Loco at the SAME TIME.

    By the way, did anyone happen to ask the manager of Pollo Loco what he thinks about the police officer’s suggestion that parents should be dumping off 13 and 14-year olds unattended in that restaurant? I’ll bet a #1 combo that management would prefer the 8-year olds any day of the week.

  82. Taz Delaney November 11, 2010 at 3:29 am #

    when i was 8 i was walking and riding my bike all over town. that the cops threatened jail time is insanity and she should sue.

    the cops… don’t get me started… last week, i got a knock on the door and it was the police wanting to ask me about the man and his son who live downstairs from us these past 12 years. he’s 18 and rebelling, smoking pot, etcetera. they are fighting loudly and often. but so does everyone living in these tiny apartments. they asked if i had seen or smelled signs of drug use and whether i thought that phil was a fit father… i told them no to the drugs and yes, that phil is a fit parent.

    here in new york, the police are just a gang and you’d better watch out even talking with them. a couple weeks ago, walking home at night with shopping, a cop damn near ran me down when they blew threw a red light, no sirens, lights or horn. when i shouted at them to watch out for pedeestrians; one of the cops jumped out and shouted at me that ‘hey a-hole, you’re just lucky. and if we weren’t on a call…”

    and last spring, i was walking down my block and saw this pitiful homeless man, obviously out of his mind, laying on a mattress cuddling three stuffed animals. he was toothless and in his 70s. i gave him $5 and headed towards our building. but a cop car arrived, and as another homeless man i knew was beaten half-to-death by cops in a park at night, i went back to observe. a black cop was down shouting at the bewildered man while his white partner laughed as if it was funny! when the white cop saw me he, he put his hand to his pistol and shouted at me , ‘hey, m………r, what are you looking at?” when i told him i was concerned for the man’s well-being, he told me to “get lost if you know what’s good for you!”

    and also just months ago, i called 911 to report that a manager for the landlord of our apartment had been threatening to me physically in our home and then refused to leave until i called for the cops. when the cops arrived, i leaned against their car and was immediately thrown up against the car, searched and threatened with handcuffing! when i told them what happened, i was told i was just wasting their time!

  83. jorghahaq November 11, 2010 at 3:35 am #

    Something I have learned very painfully over the years of having seven children and homeschooling is that “well meaning people” are always the ones that do the most harm thinking they are doing the right thing.

    The fear that a lot of people have been conditioned to live in scares me. It really does. Because of other people’s fears if we are taking the kids out somewhere he tells them to get a shower (even if they have already had one), put on clean and unstained clothing and brush their hair. I could care less if I took the kids into a store or something at the end of the day and they are covered in dirt and grass or paint or whatever. Kids, if they are allowed to be kids, get dirty. It’s a fact of life. It’s not my fault if people have forgotten this. They are the ones with a problem, not me.

    No matter what someone does, someone else somewhere is going to be unhappy with that decision and they are going to act upon it. When that comes to anything dealing with parenting that means the police and/or CPS are going to end up getting involved, and when it comes to CPS if you are neglectful is based on someones judgment of you, their mood that day and if they have decided if they like your attitude that day and not law. That is where the problem comes in and why it’s so easy for the cops to police by scare tactics. Society seems to think that one size fits all parenting should happen and that it should be based on the soccer mom model of parents setting up play dates instead of letting kids find other kids in the neighborhood, having a park day where you spend the day in the park watching your kids, organized sports and activities with kids their own age and almost every day the kid has a different class or event and forth where at the end of the day the parent has spent more time in the car playing chauffeur to their kid(s) than anything else. Those of us who don’t do that are seen as trouble makers and the scourge of the planet and we must have the fear of the worst case possible scenario instilled upon us where we conform.

    I am with everyone else, be armed with the local laws/ordinances where you live and crime statistics. Check your local sex offender registry where you know where those people live. If you can, give your son a phone where he can call you if something happens. Give him a water bottle to take to the park with him where he doesn’t end up being put in the same position again from someone well meaning busybody. Remind him not to accept any offers of anything from anyone he doesn’t know. Unfortunately we have to meet societies mindset half way.

  84. Anthony Hernandez November 11, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    @Nancy, you are a complete and total idiot. Try doing some research before posting garbage like that. I know that engaging Mrs. Brain is not nearly as much fun as engaging Mrs. Mouth (or Mrs. Fingers, in this case) but had you bothered with the slightest maount of due diligence you would have seen that the statistics from the best sources we have (Federal and State governments) contradict you on all points.

    Perhaps the only mouse you should be double-clicking is the one you were born with. A) you would not be nearly so uptight and B) the rest of us would have one less fear-mongering mouth breather to deal with.

  85. saoghal November 11, 2010 at 3:37 am #

    First I want to say that I love this blog, and believe whole heartedly in its message. Raised a free range child, and nanny of several wonderful families I believe I have enough knowledge to speak my mind on this.

    We live in fear based, police state society that only increases in its ‘protectiveness’ daily. And what will it produce. Weak, fear based citizens. Our jobs as parents, nannies, and guardians is to prepare children for the world. Which can be ugly and cruel even in the best of places. People can pretend all they want, and secure themselves in their houses and make their kids paranoid fearful creatures just like themselves. But its not going to fix the world, or protect your child. Actually it is more dangerous for them that way. Danger can come from anywhere and can even come into your well guarded little home.

    The solution? Prepare your children in a way that is appropriate for their age. When a four year old thinks their old enough to ‘run away from home’ then their old enough to know about predators. And what to do in case they are confronted about one. I knew at that age, and it wasn’t too much for me. I also roamed the streets in a not so great neighborhood. But I had been taught well and felt empowered and strong. It’s the best thing you can do for your kids. Prepare them as if you won’t be there to always protect them, because in all reality, who knows if you will?

  86. badco21 November 11, 2010 at 3:37 am #


    The police are allowed to act in the best interests of the child(s) in the event that they –being to police officers specifically- feel that the safety, or well being are being threatened. The fact is yes, it may be legal to allow your eight year old child to go to the park by themselves, but you must ask yourself is it really in the best interests of the child?
    (This is the same as it may be legal in some areas to open carry a firearm –with the proper certification-, but even though it’s legal, it may not be the best decision if you want to avoid the harassing grip of local law enforcement.)
    Even in today’s society, with decreasing crime rates in “first world” countries, there are, and will always be predators snatching up children. I guarantee that eight year old boys and girls are ill equipped to defend themselves against someone in their 20’s or 30’s. I do agree with a few of the people on here suggesting group travel, until the child gets older. I also agree with the concept of cell phones and a letter and contact sheet for other people that may not be as open minded as yourselves –that is pertaining to the people who raise children along the lines of “free range”-.
    I myself am neutral on the subject of “free range” children, more power to the people who can do it.

    -David Leap-

  87. Omit November 11, 2010 at 3:40 am #

    By the way, in regards to Soldier’s Mail comment above, I agree wholeheartedly with his point #1 – nosey citizens who haven’t the ability, time, or decency to take two seconds to figure out a situation before picking up their stupid cell phones and calling 9-1-1. Lame, oh-so-fully lame.

    I don’t know what kind of inept adult can’t talk to an 8-year old enough to figure out if his mommy is nearby, but apparently the dingbat at El Pollo Loco was the spitting definition of one. 9-1-1 calls are public information and it would be awesome to hear those would-be guardian of the republic calling 9-1-1 with his so-called “tip”. Where was he when the cops arrived? Did he stay and protect the forlorn child? Or did he just place a call and ride away with a smug face?

    I think we all understand that when some jackwad calls 9-1-1 for almost anything, that an officer has to respond. That’s why I support fully the idea of an internet site that lists the 9-1-1 calls but sorted by caller so that people can see who is clogging up our systems. It’s gotta be the same 10 people in every town. Let’s go get them.

    I think some officers, however, just love to talk. They get there and apparently can’t discern within 60 seconds that it’s a non-issue. So they chat, and lecture, and sometimes threaten, and sometimes ask dumb questions like “Did you know you could be arrested for ______ ?”. (I really wonder if they ask real criminals that question: “Did you know you could be arrested for armed robbery, sir?”).

    They basically just waste time until the end of their shift. I’m convinced I could respond to twice as many calls per shift as the average office – and probably make twice the arrests. That’s the only way these lazy, uninformed officers are ever going to drift off… when they stop thinking they can keep their $27,500 and do nothing. That’s the real crime.

  88. tanya November 11, 2010 at 3:42 am #

    Keep in mind the police were called when the kid was outside the park and not playing in the park. If there was a suggestion that the police think that playing in the park is a “hanging offense” I didn’t see it.

    I say play it safe and send the kid with snacks and a water bottle in the future.

  89. tanya November 11, 2010 at 3:49 am #

    question for Soldier’s Mail, do you think a parent’s note indicating the child is allowed to be out and about themselves would have helped in this situation?

  90. Nathan Atkinson November 11, 2010 at 4:00 am #

    I think this is grounded in the feeling that humans are inherently evil or bad. I think this is a sad story! These fears are “well-founded” because of what we see on the television, whether it be the news or fictional tv shows. What we don’t hear about are the hundreds of millions of people who AREN’T kidnapped or murdered or raped. We only hear about the handful that are, which creates a fear of society.

  91. Daisy Hat November 11, 2010 at 4:08 am #

    I’m so sick of FEAR TACTICS!!! I feel all these stories of child safety are really about making it seem like the state are the only ones that can be trusted, more so than a child’s actual parents.

  92. Thoughts From a Real Life November 11, 2010 at 4:10 am #

    The world sure has changed since I was a child. When we were allowed to get on our bikes and ride and stay out until dark or later. Come home for supper and then go right back out again. We knew our way home and felt safe going to the park just a few blocks away. I am sad to hear that this is how things are in 2010.

  93. Andreas Moser November 11, 2010 at 4:44 am #

    I don’t think it’s any more dangerous now than it was in the 70s and 80s when I was a kid. And running around all day alone or with friends (and without a cell phone) made me an independent, strong, self-reliant person.

    The only thing that has changed is hysteria.
    And these cops should have been reminded about the rule of law and about civil liberties. Whatever is not illegal does not warrant their intervention. Representatives of the state are no better suited per se to judge what is good for a child than the parents.

  94. dearexgirlfriend November 11, 2010 at 4:49 am #

    i appreciate the cops initial concern…but i cant believe how far it was taken. though, if you let your kids wander they could be pressured into embarrassing moments like me – http://dearexgirlfriend.com/ (admittedly shameless plug).
    congrats on being freshly pressed!

  95. mypurplehoneyjar November 11, 2010 at 4:51 am #

    Teenagers go to parks to smoke. Well, I did and so did my friends.
    Children actually go to play. They are criminalizing youth.

  96. Soldier's Mail November 11, 2010 at 5:20 am #

    Reply to Tanya:

    I DO think both a parental note and a cell phone are sensible things for a child to carry. If an officer is presented a note with the parent’s contact info, it will facilitate the conversation that the officer may still need to have with the parent.

    I agree with other posters that the reality is our kids are just as safe or even safer now than back in the “good old days” when we all played outside without adults until the sun went down. But today, the 24/7 media has made the public hyper-vigilant to bad news about child molesters etc. as if it is commonplace. Statistically, it may not be likely that a free-range kid could or would be victimized, but God help the kid who happens to be the “1 in 1000.”

    The loss of rugged individualism is what this all leads to, which is the predictable result of a generation of social and governmental policies that claim to be looking out for the common good while steadily eroding our liberties.

  97. Anonymous November 11, 2010 at 5:21 am #

    Haha, wow! Aren’t you an awesome parent! I wish my parents would let me walk outside at the park alone without any supervision! My parents are very overprotective.

    Please, let me whine here…

    They don’t let me walk around the neighborhood for some exercise.

    They wont let me play outside unless one of them is watching, and if I do walk outside, it has to be either with a friend or an adult, (with a cell phone and them calling me every 2 seconds)

    I never once walked home from school, always got driven or on the bus.

    I can never hang out with friends outdoors alone, like the mall, park, etc. (once again, without being watched or supervised) Sadly, this makes me a very unsocial kid.

    And… even one time when I thought I was actually alone outside, there my dad was driving in his car along the street stalking me pretending to be a regular old car.

    AND THE WORST OF ALL… I can never spend anytime with my girlfriend without my parents supervising. My girlfriend hates it. She’s probably gonna dump me because of this.

    My parents think my age is STILL too young to be alone outside because of the danger of, “You might get kidnapped or hurt!” It’s kinda sad because I am way older than your son. I have been waiting years for my freedom! Perhaps too long! Gosh, I am such a big “kid” now that next year I am getting my drivers license! For years I have been saying all the time, “When and how old do I have to be to walk outside alone?” They say, “Oh soon. Don’t worry. When you get older.” Perhaps you wouldn’t call me a kid anymore. Haha. I am in between if you know what I mean. Gosh. I can’t wait until I get my car and just drive away and do stuff. There and then, is when I will get my freedom. Don’t call me crazy, it just makes me upset seeing and knowing that the other kids my age are allowed to do anything they want.

    Your probably wondering, haven’t you figured out any ways to get some freedom with your parents? Do you go to therapy in order to fix your parents’ overprotective disorder?

    Yes, you could say I have begged, pleaded, stated reasonable reasons, stated convincing stories, to try to get them to say the precious word “Yes” but it is always NO. I never once snuck out of the house to get freedom because I am afraid I will get caught. Also, because I am a good kid. (I have a heart) Besides there is like no chance anyways because my parents are pretty much watching everything I do. And No, the family and I don’t go to therapy.

    I am not a bad kid. I get excellent grades. Man, now I am thinking I SHOULD sneak out of the house to be free! I should have been doing this for years now! My neighborhood is kinda strange because, it is hard to tell if it is safe or not. It is the neighborhood that is right next to a neighborhood that is VERY VERY dangerous. Drugs, gang violence, strangers, horrible stories that get in the papers. But yet my neighborhood is safe because it is in a suburban area, with TOP of the CLASS schools. There never once has been any case of violence here, the grass is green, and the community is maintained well. There are always some kids walking around. I think everyone here is just afraid all that horrible stuff from the neighborhood next door is going to pass down here.

    On the other hand, your son is a bit too young, but no big deal due to the reasons you stated in your article. It is kinda odd seeing a little kid wander on his own with this “Fearful” society going on, but I do think the police freaked out too much in your case because they remind me of my parents. All I am going to say is to just have him NOT talk to strangers and you should possibly give him a cell phone.

  98. themadjewess November 11, 2010 at 5:23 am #

    Government is the problem.
    -Ronald Reagan

  99. Rich Wilson November 11, 2010 at 5:32 am #

    All I can say is “It gets better”

    At the very least, at 18, the legal landscape changes completely. I know, in teen-years that’s an eternity. Or at least 20% of your life. But do remember there is a light at the end of that tunnel.

  100. ryoko861 November 11, 2010 at 5:43 am #

    So much for “Land of the Free”.

  101. Editor001 November 11, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    What ever happened to protect and serve? Not harass and molest?

    I have a Pavlovian fear of COPs simple because of that inch of authority some of them take to a mile or two.

    I’ve found the fear tactics and news produced by local government and the mass media are what make this such a “climate” of fear. And it’s manufactured.

    She is correct, all the data says our “times’ are the lowest in crime, abductions, rape and murder. (Not counting the casualties caused by the war on drugs)

    You have to look at the big picture. If we allow our children to become strong willed and do things on their own, they’ll never conform to the nanny control systems set in place to manage the sheeple.

    It take great courage to do what you guys do and I applaud it.

    Perhaps those police officers should be asking themselves…”why aren’t the streets safe enough for an EIGHT yr old?”

    “When governments fear the people there is liberty. When the people fear the government there is tyranny.”; – Thomas Jefferson

  102. Claudia Conway November 11, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    @Soldier’s Mail – thanks for the interesting points. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of police responsibility to investigate because people are concerned.

    Though there’s still a point of common sense in using their judgement as to whether the child is a victim of neglect or a child comfortable with being out on their own – whereas they seem to be jumping to the conclusion that an unaccompanied minor must be a victim of neglect, thus looking for signs of ‘distress’ and ‘fear’ (which could easily be found when confronted by police either saying or implying that the child is ‘in danger’ when they thought they were just having fun in the park)

    I’ve mentioned here before that surely a simple test of whether a child is neglected or has caring parents who are happy to allow them out is just to confirm that they know where their parents are? Maybe get the child to take you to them to confirm if you must. But there’s a yawning gulf between the child who says ‘I don’t know where mum and dad are, they went off in the car and left me’ and one who says ‘Mum’s at home, number X, Y Drive, just over there, she said I could go to the park if I wanted to’

  103. Editor001 November 11, 2010 at 6:24 am #

    Haha, See I’d be the smart ass kid and I would tell the cops…” My parents told me not to talk to strangers…and you’re a stranger!”-

  104. EricS November 11, 2010 at 6:33 am #

    @Soldier’s Mail: I completely agree with you on knowing the circumstance before making a judgment on the actions of the police officer. I have nothing against law enforcement as a whole. But having a number of friends on the force, and having dealt with various personalities of cops in 12 years of working in the security industry, as well as some interactions with officers by random spot checks, I can confidently say that not all officers are the same. Hence my comment.

    Just reading what you posted, I’m pretty certain that you probably would have dealt with the mother differently. So as to not make her feel this way (fearful) towards the Police. Her experience based on what she has written, and other similar stories I’ve heard, paints a bad picture on the way the officer dealt with the situation. I’m sure we can agree that the last thing law enforcement wants to do is instill fear of cops in people that look to them for protection and service. This particular cop, obviously has instilled fear in her towards cops. Which I know for a fact that their brother’s in blue look down upon, because it makes them look bad as well. Though they would never show it in public, they will let that individual know in the locker room.

    On that note: to all the veterans; here’s to you and your service. And to all that have lost their lives in protecting our country. Thank you. Remembrance Day.

  105. SAS Fiction Girl November 11, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    I am one of seven children (now grown) and there is no way my mother knew where we each were at every moment. I had a tendency to wander around the neighborhood and beyond, especially when I could grab an available bike. I used to cross the highway and go to the grocery store to by books and card games for myself when I was not much older than Kimberlee’s son. My younger sister and I would cross the highway to buy breakfast at Hardees on Saturday morning as a treat for ourselves. Never once were we treated as though our business wasn’t wanted just because we were kids (see Melissa’s statement just above the video post.)
    Am I glad we didn’t have helicopter parents. As a matter of fact, the worst trouble my siblings and I caused was on our own street. We were much better behaved when allowed to roam and enjoy the journey.

  106. Herb November 11, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    How about thanking the gentleman who called the cop, then thank the cop

  107. devianteyes November 11, 2010 at 6:44 am #

    Um does this woman know what kind of world she lives in now? The boy is 8 he should not be anywhere by himself. It was stupid on her part to even let him do such. Just because he wasn’t kidnapped this time doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been kidnapped.

    What a horrible mother.

  108. thejamminjabber November 11, 2010 at 6:56 am #

    What if that kind stranger had roofied the chicken? What then?

  109. erebbuql November 11, 2010 at 7:05 am #

    Crazy people….i don’t understand why everyone is so scared of this days

  110. slamdunk November 11, 2010 at 7:28 am #

    Good topic. An officer saying that would be in the wrong. There is a fine line in being a protective parent and an overprotective parent.

  111. Syl November 11, 2010 at 7:56 am #

    devianteyes, by your logic, you should never get in a car. After all “just because you weren’t killed by a car crash today, doesn’t mean you won’t be.” It’s called risk-evaluation and it will save your sanity.

    And Herb, were you the gentleman in question? Is that why you deem it important to be thanked for nosy intrusiveness? Sure, maybe the guy was concerned. But 8 year olds are remarkably verbal creatures, generally able to speak clearly enough for the average adult to understand. A short conversation would have cost the guy little to nothing and saved the community some tax dollars and the mother some stress.

  112. Patty November 11, 2010 at 7:59 am #

    I don’t have any children but I was allowed to play outside on my own when I was eight all the time. Actually during the summer I was told to go outside and only come home for meals! Haha
    I wish more parents would raise their kids the way you are, children are dependent on their parents as it is nowadays!

  113. Dawn November 11, 2010 at 8:03 am #

    @devianteyes: I think you are posting on the wrong blog. The blog to complain about those horrible free-range parents is over somewhere by the helicopter moms seating area.

    It’s really sad that this happened. If someone had offered me a gift of food at that age, I would have accepted it too. My sister used to walk up the street to the house at the end of the block, walk into the house, and accept food at any time from them (my mother was mortified; she did it almost every day).

    The cops over-reacted. Period. However, I think Kimberlee should talk to the chief. Perhaps not right away; a cooling off period may be needed! But, she needs to be able to stress her child was safe, is not neglected, and the officer had NO right to speak to her in the manner in which he did.

  114. Rick Hawthorne November 11, 2010 at 8:07 am #

    Great topic. Glad to see someone bringing this up. I have only three things to say.
    First, the police are hired to protect us. That is their job and it is one I wouldn’t want. Riding around all day trying to spot problems and potential problems just so you can intervene is not my idea of a good time. I’m sure that the police were trying to do just that — help out.
    Which brings me to my second point. When the police run across something they don’t entirely understand or something that just looks illegal or unsafe their first instinct is (and should be) to intervene. That is their job. See point one. Unfortunately when police officers use their own judgment they often ere on the side of caution. They may even give unfortunate advice if asked. You know your local laws but that isn’t always enough to protect you from well-meaning police.
    Which brings up point three. Please take this as an opportunity to educate people. Go to a city council meeting and ask the city to educate the police on this policy. This could be a good opportunity for get the police on your side with free-range kids. Let’s face it, we all need help and the police are a great resource.
    Good luck.

  115. Staceyjw November 11, 2010 at 8:15 am #

    There are many places where the COPS are the problem, esp if you aren’t white.Things a white person gets “talked to” over will get a hispanic arrested, or get a black a beating. Its disgusting. I’m white and have seen this rascist attitude so many times. It only takes a few cops to terrorize a whole area.

    This important to know- a white, middle class mom can challenge a cop with little fear of retailiation, but a black mom cannot- she is more likely to get arrested or have CPS called. All white parents better stand up for free range, we are the only ones who can get away with it in many places.

    Never let cops in your home, even when you have nothing to hide. Its not in your best interest to even talk to them. Be polite, and get away as soon as you can.Most are OK, but all it takes is ONE.

    As for El Pollo Loco, so what if the kid asks for water? That is pretty smart of him. If they don’t want to give it to him, they can say NO, and post signs if too many kids ask. I also don’t see the big deal over the guy offering food, and the kid taking it. Its a public place, so what if he gets a free snack as long as he doesn’t leave with whomever bought the food. The guy jumped the gun by calling the cops, but he isn’t evil and shouldn’t be treated as such.

    I would send the kid right back out. No one did anything wrong, changing your behavior is letting the scaremongers win!!!

  116. charlie November 11, 2010 at 8:18 am #

    Are you people serious? Free Range”?
    Descend to reality. What point are you trying to make with your philosophy anyway. Most parents try to make the point to their kids that talking to strangers is dangerous – maybe you should step out of your new age dynamic for a minute or two and look on the internet to see how many dangerous people live in your neighborhood. The stranger, in this case, did you a favor and if you had any sense at all, you would understand that – you gotta be kidding? What really is scarey is that you are not just random – you actually have a group.

  117. Anthony Hernandez November 11, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    @Charlie, you are such a douche. Try backing up your baseless assertions with facts. Not as much fun as being a brainless idiot but there really is no excuse these days what with Google and all. Ignorance is an eminently curable disease.

  118. themadjewess November 11, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    What really is scarey is that you are not just random – you actually have a group.
    says Charlie.
    People like you ARE the problem. Thats all that you left wing hacks do, is defame. You haven’t a clue how to debate, do you defame.
    You are projecting. You are probably the danger in the neighborhood.

  119. themadjewess November 11, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    There are many places where the COPS are the problem, esp if you aren’t white, says Stacey.

    Stacey..you have ZERO clue of the rate of black and illegal crimes against whites, you are projecting some serious racism there dear.

  120. Sister Earth Organics November 11, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    The fact is, that more kids are molested from people they know in their own homes than from strangers, so letting them play outside away from home is probably the safe thing to do.

    @rick Hawthorne: the police are NOT there to protect us (contrary to what it says on the side of their patrol car.)They are only there to pick up after us when we don’t protect ourselves. I like what you say about education– but we live in a CYA society unfortunately……everyone dodging a law suit….

    So sorry this had to happen to you…..hope something good comes out of it for you.

  121. jean-philippe November 11, 2010 at 8:34 am #

    I gave up on having kids in that sick, twisted world.

    Let’s just close all the parks and build junk food joints on them. The cops will have one less thing to worry about.

  122. Anthony Hernandez November 11, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    Achtung mein judenfrau,

    I am as liberal as they come. My son walks or bikes to school, goes to the playground, goes to martial arts, local eateries, etc. every day by himself. He is 8.5 years old.

    As for racism, honey, you take the whole matzoh ball. with bacon.

  123. Kathy Johnson November 11, 2010 at 8:38 am #

    I was surprised when I visited my brother in Japan and his young daughters got on the trains and subways at all hours of day and night and went to concerts, parties, etc. alone. They had a phone and checked in with their parents from time to time. It was wonderful to see how independent they were at a young age and how they were learning to negotiate new situations by themselves.

    I know we overact in the US thinking that every news story is happening in our own neighborhood, but I was very surprised by this story. This societal hysteria can’t be good for our children!

    My children are grown, and in their 20s traveled the world on wonderful adventures. At times I when they were out of communication for days, I was concerned, but thank god I didn’t stop them from having these experiences because “something” could have happened to them.

  124. Mr Hockey beta :D November 11, 2010 at 8:39 am #

    It COULD be worse. I can’t have kids until I’m 30!

  125. Rich Wilson November 11, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    Just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean they are on the other side of the political spectrum. Free range is non-partisan. Liberal and conservative aren’t dirty words.

  126. Larry Harrison November 11, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    Charlie, here’s the thing–the FACTS back up what we believe. What backs up what you believe–media-manufactured hysteria?

    The stranger did the parent about as much of a “favor” as the people who reported on the Jews in 1930s Germany. Well maybe it’s not THAT extreme, but it’s analogous to that, I think.

    “Descend to reality?” The fact is, we are operating within the realm of reality and wish for one thing–busy-bodies to leave us the hell alone so that we can parent our children the way we please without meddling. As much as we may disdain the madness of helicopter parenting, we would NEVER use the system to meddle on behalf of what we believe, and believe me, the over-control which helicopter parenting can do most certainly most certainly can lead to damaged, or at least deprived, children. But despite that, since it doesn’t rise to the level of drug addictions or pornography or molesting, we do the decent thing–we mind our own f’ing business.

    People like you need to do the same.


  127. Clare Franklin November 11, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    I’m 25 years old and very disheartened by all this as I’m just at the age to start having kids. When I was 8 I walked to and from school by myself, everyday. I walked to my friends’ houses, played at the neighborhood park alone or with other kids, heck I even did gymnastics and flips on the lawn without supervision. And I’m fine. When I was 10 I started taking the subway to and from school everyday in Toronto and NEVER had an incident.

    I think everyone needs to give kids a lot more credit. They’re smarter than we think they are…and I really think it’s up to parents to judge that and at what age their kids are able and ready to do what.

  128. Booksphotographsandartwork November 11, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    Police or not they should still be polite and not over react.

  129. Aligaeta November 11, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    Kimberlee Morrison your not alone!

    We all are grateful to the Good Samaritan, BUT then he/she with their over concern or paranoia instead of watching from a distance, as they should if they are so concerned, involve themselves with our children and create situations where there are none. The Good Samaritan who cannot get passed the uncomfortably they are feeling or the need to play the hero to fulfill some sense of self-importance, calls the police and demands a response. As much as we like to think this is the land of the free, it is NOT. Accept it, a child’s mere presence can be construed as a disturbance to some member of society. Our children are not allowed the liberty of being at one with nature in public spaces. Yes, our parks and streets should be safe places; after all, it is our taxes that pay for the police to ensure safety to ALL citizens, including those young and old enjoying the outdoors, the ones who need the most protection. Our children should be outdoors, away from the television, the Internet, and the snacks, getting exercise, fresh air, and sunlight. Just think what spending more time outdoors would do for children health issues, specifically: childhood obesity and depression.

  130. Juliet November 11, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    Please know Kimberlee that you are most definitely NOT alone. As more of us stand up to this ridiculousness, we can make a change. It takes believing in what we know in our hearts & minds to be right, and not being cowed by the fears of others.

    I live in a community where many families of police, fire, and other law enforcement for our neighboring cities live. I am an at-home mom and very active in the community so I know many of the families of law enforcement first hand. Also, I used to work as a lawyer in the criminal court system so I have spent a lot of time talking to cops both in official & unofficial capacity.

    From this I can say there is a mentality many law enforcement folks have of the world being really black & white. You’re either a normal suburban mom or you’re a bad guy/killer. There is no in-between, no shades of grey, no discernment for the nuances of a particular situation. You’re either “going to die!” or “safe in mom’s arms.”

    I say it is AWESOME that your kid is outdoors playing out in the fresh air and that you live in a neighborhood with a park right there. That’s **his** park! He’ll grow up with memories of his zone, playing there, ruling that park, inventing games, running around etc. I hope he has at least a few other kids whose moms let them play too .

    Letting your kids go to the park is contagious, by the way. I let my 4 & 8 year olds go to a park that is part of our development. (8 yr old can go alone; 4 yr old can go without an adult if 8 yr old is with her and they stay together.) People ask me about it all the top, express shock, etc. BUT I have noticed that more kids are out playing. I will be presumptuous and take at least some of the credit:-)

  131. oohyouareawful November 11, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    Hi – love your post albeit makes me sad for all our 8 year olds. Some of us can remember freedom to play as children without fear. Now the parents have fear inflicted upon them by the authorities who’s job it should be to protect our children. Hope you don’t mind I have included a link to your blog on my site as I thought it too important.

  132. Shihabvm November 11, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    nice post…ha ha thanksssss

  133. notesfromrumbleycottage November 11, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    I realize that these cases of child abduction are rare but in Northern Illinois in the early 80s it happened. Brian Dugan did just that to a little girl riding her bike. I remember it nearly 30 years later and it horrifies me.

    Perhaps people my age remember this just as much as they might remember an abusive uncle or cousin. Brian Dugan was a real bogeyman along with Gacy, Dahmer, and others who preyed on others.

    I am not saying Kimberlee was wrong for what she did. It is hard figuring out when do you allow a child more freedom.

    What I am saying is that there is precedence for this over-cautious behavior and to pretend otherwise is just as rude and thoughtless as well-meaning people calling the police or truant officer.

  134. Dragonwolf November 11, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    @Anthony Hernandez — While you are right to disagree, and do have good points, it’s not a good idea to resort to ad hominem attacks. It degrades your point and devolves the conversation. Attack the points, not the person, please.

    @themadjewess — Free-Range, and this board, is non-partisan. There’s no reason to bring politics into it, and the only thing it does is devolve the conversation, because once politics get involved, people start missing the real issues.

    @charlie, NancyDL, and devianteyes — Perhaps it would be a good idea to read Lenore’s book, or at least peruse this site. There is a plethora of links to statistics in the book, articles, and comments that prove you wrong. DoJ reports show that crime rates are decreasing across the board and are at rates comparable to rates during the 60s and 70s. The world appears more dangerous because of the 24/7 news cycle that cares more about ratings than reporting actual news (fear sells, there’s a reason the Saw movie series is on movie 6).

    The idea that a stranger will pick up a kid off the street is known as a “stereotypical kidnapping,” and as of 1999, during a time when crime rates were higher than they are now, the rate of stereotypical kidnappings was 115 per year. To compare, over 1,300 children 14 and under die in car accidents every year, and another 184,000 are injured. Car accidents are so common that they’re almost never on the news unless they’re really catastrophic (consider the number of accidents you’ve seen on your daily commute and errands). So, to use your own logic, just because your child didn’t die or get injured in a car accident when you drove them to and from school today, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

    Also, while an 8 year old may not be capable of fighting off a would-be attacker, neither is a college-aged woman, the demographic most likely to be sexually assaulted.

    Yet women don’t lock themselves in their rooms, and no one sells their car out of fear of what might happen. Instead, we take self-defense classes, buckle our seat belts, and put our kids in car seats.

    Talking to strangers isn’t dangerous (consider this – everyone is a stranger until you talk to them, even your closest friends were strangers to you at one point), going with strangers is what can be dangerous.

    As for an 8 year old not being able to go anywhere or do anything on their own, I grew up in the 90s (toward the height of the crime rate, and not in the greatest of cities) and at 8ish, I stayed home alone while my mom worked. I’d run all over the neighborhood, and even rode my bike the three or so miles to an apple orchard to pick up apple cider. I played outside until dark every day with a bunch of the other neighborhood kids and the worst that happened to us was a twisted ankle on a gopher hole.

  135. bbbbarry November 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    The issue of the cops themselves has been treated many times in this comments section — some say they were just trying to do their job, more have said, and very accurately, that they *weren’t* doing the job cops are hired to do.

    But please hear this: no matter what their motives, no matter what kind of day it was for them, no matter what they were trying to accomplish, the plain and simple fact is this:

    They were abusing their power.

    The writer says, “By law, he is old enough to be alone, but the police insisted that the only reason I wasn’t going to jail is because they had decided it wasn’t necessary.”

    Wrong, wrong, wrong! If she’d done something illegal, she should have been punished, and if she’d done something legal, she shouldn’t have been. Here we have officers of the law sitting around making up law on the spot and deciding whether or not to enforce it. It’s very very obvious here that, whatever their intentions, harassment and abuse of power were most definitely the result.

    They should be held to account for their actions, and be made to see that this should never happen again.

  136. madmonq November 11, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    Go Lenore! We just had twins. I really hope to raise the kids to be as free range and fancy free as possible. Keep up the good work. And thanks

  137. michaeleriksson November 11, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    Generally speaking, I see this as yet another case of the kind of over-protection that on the balance does more harm than good. By analogy, if a boy climbs a tree, there is some small risk that he falls and breaks an arm. If he never is allowed to climb a tree, he will suffer other damages, including not learning a skill, not improving his motor functions, not learning to handle heights, … (Disclaimer: There may be a background story in this particular case that I a not aware of, e.g. a local serial kidnapper.)

    More specifically, I can point to a similar experience in my own past: As a young child, I enjoyed walking in the neighbourhood, including past the pre-school locaated roughly 500 meters from my home along a straight street. When I, age 6, was enrolled in that pre-school, I was forbidden by the staff from walking to and from it on my own—which forced my mother to go out of her way to deliver me in the morning and collect me in the afternoon… This despite my having walked this very route on countless earlier occasions. (The explanation for this absurdity, I suspect, was one of legal responsibility for any hypothetical incidents on the way to and from school, which the school wanted to duck. It could also have been sheer idiocy, however.)

  138. Uly November 11, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    Yes, rumbleycottage, but to still be treating children today as though the serial rapist from 30 years ago is roaming the streets right now is not rational. If you can’t separate your childhood boogyman from the present, maybe you shouldn’t be a cop.

    I mean, 30 years ago a blood transfusion could kill you if it gave you HIV. But to warn children *now* against normal behavior because “after all, if you end up in the hospital and they give you blood, you’ll get AIDS” would be absolutely insane.

  139. katorikurant November 11, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    FINALLY I find this blog!

    I’m 23 but luckily enough was raised pretty free-range compared to a lot of others I know. Pretty much I had 3 rules growing up:

    1) Don’t swim without adults (we had a lake, complete with poisonous snakes)

    2) Don’t bother the old people by barging into their houses.

    3) Never talk to Eric the Pedophile. Period.

    We actually did have one of those nasty pedophiles, only he’s in prison again- he is a child predator. However, my parents still allowed us to wander about the neighborhood, so long as we followed the rules. (Unfortunately, both of my parents are now well enough inundated with the media that they would never allow it to happen again.)

    Could something have happened? Yes? Did it? No. (And Eric the Pedophile was caught in another place, going into a boy’s camp, which was supposedly well supervised.)

    I have noticed that since I wasn’t so scared as a child, now as an adult I have no fear to be alone!

    Case in point: I had a Tokyo class trip, and all the other students were completely lost without our Prof. They honestly had no clue what to do (he ended up being stuck in traffic) and wouldn’t even leave to go eat. Keep in mind we’re all adults, age-wise. Only me and one other person had absolutely no fear to find our own food, our own trains, and our own sleeping arrangements- it was just another adventure.

    So for the Mothers and Fathers out there “free-ranging” their kids, GO FOR IT!

    I plan on “free-ranging” my own kids, after I’m married and having them. I may not be as “free-range” as some people, depending on where I live, but I definitely see the benefits.

  140. Chani November 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    You know, I cannot blame the police on this one. Think about it: day after day they see the absolute worst of society. They aren’t thinking about what a nice, quiet street you live on…they’re thinking of the registered sex offender who lives two blocks over and who’s MO is cute little girls, they’re thinking of the child abuse case they dealt with last week, they’re thinking of the murder that was on the TV a year ago, etc. etc. etc. They don’t see the sweet lady two houses down who knows every kid and knows where they’re at. They don’t see the attentive Mom who feels like the neighborhood is safe.
    That being said, it is a very dangerous world out there, and frankly, if I ever become a mother, I cannot imagine letting my child run around in a town or city. I’m paranoid I know, but so be it. I’d prefer that, and I’d prefer the police bringing my child home and giving me a lecture, instead of something so much worse.

  141. Hemlock November 11, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Wow…that’s crazy. I remember being six or seven and walking, on my own, to the library daily. It was a good 20 minute walk, but I did it without any problems. I knew to scream if I needed to, and not talk to strangers. There were rules, of course. Since this was before cell phones, I always grabbed a dollar in change from a jar by the door, told my grandmother (who raised me) that I was on my way to the library. When I got there, I was required to use the pay phone to call my grandma and let her know I was there. I was also required to call her when I left.

    The librarians also knew of these rules, and made sure to verify I’d called home, and then reminded me to call her on my way out.

    I can’t believe that the cops told her it wouldn’t be appropriate for her child to be on his own at the park until he was a teen.

  142. Uly November 11, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    On a different note, I gotta say that Anonymous’ parents don’t realize what a good kid they have. Most of us, as adults (or even when we were young) realize that after a certain point you simply can’t control your child anymore. Once they get too big to manhandle, it’s all over. (And even before that point, there are plenty of things you can’t force your child to do. You can’t actually force them to use the bathroom, or to eat, or to do their homework, or to sleep. You can punish or reward them, but in the end if they choose not to do it, you’re actually stuck.) Your only hope is to raise them right and rely on trust and respect when they’re older.

    I mean, when I was 15, if I didn’t want to go to school… I didn’t go to school. I was a pretty good kid, but I went through a rough period there, and even if my mother walked me to the door I could just slip out a side door later. Or head to the bathroom and not go to class. If my mother was yelling (at me or at my sister, either way it’s not fun) and I didn’t want to hear it, I could leave, and she actually couldn’t stop me. She could theoretically change the locks, or take away my stuff, or lock up the kitchen and give me cereal for dinner, or keep my allowance from me, but if I wanted to just walk out, I could do that. (And I did once or twice. Went to a movie or bookstore until it all calmed down at home.)

    So here we have an anonymous 15 year old who chafes against the unreasonable expectation of his/her parents – and those are people who have no idea how lucky they are, because this kid is still following their rules! Kid has far more patience than I ever had at that age.

  143. michelle November 11, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    everyone here is very into allowing your kids to roam free…not a bad thing – i’d like to think that i’ll be like that too when i have my own. BUT i do have to point out that, had Kimberlee’s son been kidnapped or assaulted, the police would have been to blame on these forums i’m sure.

    the cops are damned if they do and damned if they don’t – it’s a tough job, but did anyone stop to ask if they were doing this because there may be some child predators in the area? they didn’t know your kid was allowed to roam around free – and at 8 years old, they may know not to take food or candy from strangers (which Kimberlee’s kid did NOT know not to do according to the story) but can they fight off an adult that’s at least twice as big as they are?

    whatever your child rearing philosophy – the cops were doing their jobs (ok maybe not so much with the checking out your home), and it’s a thankless job at that. they’re trying to keep your kids safe, cut them some slack and don’t blame them if something happens to the kid.

  144. richannkur November 11, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    Things are changing very fast and we have to accomapin ourselves with the change. We should make the child more responsible and then let him face the world on his own.

  145. Mark Jordahl November 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    This is a sad commentary on where parenting has ended up in the United States. I live in Uganda now, with my 4 1/2 year old son, and there are kids younger than him carrying their younger siblings along the side of the road with no parents in sight. Somehow, they survive. Parenting in the US is now an act based on fear, and if we don’t move beyond that, all we will teach our kids is that the world is a dangerous place and that they should never trust anybody. Is that the world we want to be a part of?

  146. Rupesh Malik November 11, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    Good post… Congrats for being Freshly Pressed!!

  147. Larry Harrison November 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    Chani Yes day-in/day-out they see the worst in society, but as a parent, what does that have to be with me? Nothing, that’s what. Why should I edit my parenting principles and sell them down the river because some police-person sees the worst of society everyday? I’m sorry that’s the case, but they choose it; and frankly, they’re not the only ones who have a tough job.

    I mean, really–ALL people to some extent have a tough job. The cashier at Burger King listening to you bitch & moan because they forgot pickles on your burger, even if the cashier heard you correctly & punched it in correctly. He has to listen to you gripe about “you people here can’t do a damn thing right, you’re nothing but a bunch of retards” and can’t say anything back, I don’t envy it.

    In fact, I used to work in that very capacity years ago, but it didn’t make it right for me to be so pessimistic about the worldand have a bad attitude.

    And you’re paranoid, that’s obvious–so? Other people here, thankfully, aren’t, and don’t need to listen to you lecture them about how “the world is a very dangerous place” (on what do you base this, in fact?) and how you can’t imagine letting your kids out of your sight for 2 seconds. Parent your children thusly, that’s your right–and it’s our right to NOT parent our children that way.

    And no, we DON’T want to hear a lecture from some donut muncher who thinks his bad day & seeing parenting principles at play he doesn’t agree with–but are legal–give him the right to act like a total jackass and prick to a mother who has the good sense to let your child–egads!–have an actual childhood. She didn’t ask for his (the policeman’s) opinion on how she should parent her children, and unless the child is really in danger (e.g., the mother is going upside his head with a wood plank or there’s molestation etc) the policeman needs to shut his mouth and go back to munching on Boston-Kreme filled jelly pastries and sucking on a cup of fake coffee (or–here’s a thought–catching real criminals) and leave us parents the hell alone.


  148. jorghahaq November 11, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    For those saying Stacyjw is being racist or whatever, I have seen as well what she is talking about. This kind of thing is common in large metro areas. It’s really sad, but the thing is, at least here, if it’s a black cop involved the black family isn’t going to get as much slack as the white family, Asian family or Latino family, if it’s a Latino cop he’s going to look out for his Latino brethren in the same way and so forth. It’s something everyone who lives in my community has adapted to and begrudgingly accepted.

    Case in point, earlier this year there was a car accident outside out house. Our road is a no outlet road for the neighborhood. It’s the only road in and out and people speed down it. Our neighbor (who is white), for her safety drives around the loop and goes up our road into her driveway because it means she’s less likely to get hit pulling into her drive because she’s on the same side of the road. Well, one of the Latino guys who speed down the center of the road hit her while she was pulling into her drive because he was on the wrong side of the road. he hit her hard enough it spun her truck around where she was facing the wrong way on her side of the road. The guy called down to his house to have some of his family members walk up to the accident scene and tell the cop, who turned out to be Latino, that they were in the back of the car, and no she wasn’t on her side of the road. The cop yelled at my neighbors boyfriend (who is also white) to sit down and shut up when he tried to tell the cop that those “passengers” walked up to the accident. He was in the garage working on his motorcycle when it happened and he seen what happened. The cop NEVER took a statement from him or from our next door neighbor who also seen the “passengers” walk up to the scene of the accident. The Latino cop was only interested in what the Latino accident victim had to say and didn’t bother with anyone else. Not sure what came out of all of it in court, I forgot to ask.

    The reality is there are enough cops, especially in large metropolitan area, that look out for their own demographic group to the exclusion of other demographics. I can say the same thing about CPS works as well from first hand experience thanks to well meaning busy body control freaks. What Stacyjw said isn’t prejudice, it’s an observation and an unfortunate fact of life living in some areas. My husband was pulled over on his way to work on the midnight shift because of a tail light that was out that he didn’t know about and because his skin color (which is white) was different than that of the cop (black) he was detained unnecessarily for a half hour (making him late for work) while he was made to take a sobriety test and the car was subjected to a drug search based on “cause” and he was never told what that cause was. After all that the cop let him off with a warning about the tail light and I was told he was visibly irked he didn’t find anything that he could charge my husband with.

  149. Larry Harrison November 11, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    Dang-ed typos.

    Near the beginning: I meant to say “but as a parent, what does that have to do with me?”

    Also, near the end, I meant to say “to a mother who has the good sense to let her child…”

  150. Jill November 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    All those of you who are trashing the police would be talking out of the other side of your mouths if your child were actually lost/endangered and the police were the ones to safely retrieve them. It’s all different when they go missing because mommy wasn’t paying attention, and the first number she calls when she realizes is 911, aka the police. I’d much rather my feelings get hurt than find out my 8 year old got into someone’s car because i let them run the streets. The police get to see the absolute worst humanity has to offer on a daily basis. Give them a break, unless you’d rather stand in front of them when it gets really nasty.

  151. tokyotombola November 11, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    I was very lucky enough to have enjoyed a free-range childhood and I honestly believe that I’m a better person for it. My mum didn’t hover over me incessantly and had the good judgement to allow me to make my own mistakes and to find out what was and wasn’t dangerous for myself.

    I’ve come to the belief that parenting is an individual practice and that the opinions and fears of others shouldn’t dictate how another’s child is raised – I know that I’ll not be letting what others think influence my parenting style when I have kids and I applaud you for having adopted the approach you have. I only hope that you don’t let a hysterical culture of fear and panic override your natural instincts as a parent.

  152. winxrocker November 11, 2010 at 5:26 pm #

    I really don’t like the fear our country is going through right now. It’s like, instead of having nice, trustable people around, we’ve got guys who could do anything just for a bit of money. I’m 19 and planning to go into law enforcement. My mom will only let my little sister go out when I’m with her. She’s 12. Go figure.

  153. disydoit November 11, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    Since when did police have any idea about how to raise children. In Australia we have this increasing nanny state mentality whereby they make laws to prevent people doing things when it should be their own decision.
    Excited to find your blog and will follow you on twitter

  154. Lola November 11, 2010 at 5:59 pm #

    Some people here correctly point out that Kimberley’s son shouldn’t have accepted food from strangers (actually, I don’t think that’s so much a danger, more as unpolite).
    But really, what sane mind sees a lonely child (maybe covered in mud and grass stains, if he was really playing outside) and offers food first thing??? I mean, first you ask if he’s alone, or lost, if he’s in a fix and needs help getting home, or getting in contact with his parents… But honestly, “Are you hungry?”. What a way to break the ice!
    Besides, anyone who’s been 8 yo just KNOWS that at that age you’re ALWAYS hungry.
    Dunno, but that Good Samaritan’s attitude is just incomprehensible for me…

  155. mhbenton November 11, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    Dear Kimberlee,

    Perhaps we need to remember the FDR quote, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” While President Roosevelt was specifically talking about the economy, and today that seems appropriate enough, the axiom applies to most aspects of life. A parent attempting to raise a “free-range” child may only have their immediate situation in mind, but understanding the motivation of officials, and people in general, will better arm us in dealing with the inevitable conflicts that arise.

    First off, we need to remember the gentleman acted out of concern and called the police. Misguided concern to say the least, but his heart was in the right place. Secondly, we want the police to get involved when citizens report events they perceive as dangerous. For them to act otherwise surly will end with unacceptable consequences. Given this, what was really the problem¬ — perceiving a child alone as being in danger by simply being alone.

    Fear has long been a tool to gain an individual’s compliance with the norms of society. The easiest way to stop a behavior is to instill fear of its outcome. Simply look at the political environment today for many examples. Even worse, once indoctrinated by fear, individuals spread that fear-belief without really knowing what they are doing. This is how peer pressure works. It has the ability to make the unreasonable seem legitimate and we apply the same pressure placed on us to others. This is how we have ended up in a place where it is thought “dangerous” to allow a child to play unsupervised.

    Only when we have the temerity to question such pressure do we see there is simply anecdotal proof, or worse, no poof at all, for the basis of such fear. After all, children who refuse to smoke due to peer pressure are not ostracized; they are simply accepted once the group grows weary of trying to convert them.

    Stand your ground! It sounds like you are raising a well-balanced human being. One that has the strength to stand on his one two feet and engage his brain. It is time we end the “herd mentality” society seems to demand of us. That will require conflict with authority from time to time, so be it. You are not being reckless with your child’s safety, you are simply allowing him to grow up being something other than a lemming heading for a cliff.

  156. Jodie Cordell November 11, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    What a sad time we live in. Good luck to you and your cause. <3

  157. CuteWhiteBunny November 11, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    I may only be a teenager, but even I think it’s ridiculous. Children should be allowed to go to the park by themselves. As long as they’ve been taught safety and stuff like that, they should be fine.

    There is nothing to be gained from wrapping children in cotton wool, except for kids who are too scared to do anything because they might get a tiny little scratch. Same with keeping them inside all day every day, because of something that MIGHT happen.

    What is the world coming to?

  158. gardenserf November 11, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    “A stranger asked him if he was hungry, the Boy, thinking the guy was being nice, said sure. The guy bought him some food — and called the police.”

    Granted the police response was heavy-handed, but you should be THANKFUL it was a stranger who called the police and not a predator who took advantage of a child who was obviously untrained by a parent in dealing with strangers.

  159. amaranthinestudent November 11, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    I am all for giving kids more interpretation. I have many wonderful memories of exploring my neighborhood, and green belts/small forests in the area. BUT my mom taught me not to talk to strangers and NEVER accept food/treats from them.

    Perhaps this mom should be actually teaching the kid how to take care of himself before setting him free range? This may be why the person called the police because the kid clearly was not demonstrating even BASIC knowledge of safety?

    I think that letting your kid out without is this kind of knowledge/skills is negligent parenting. Its a shame that this post got freshly pressed because this really is a bad example of good free range parenting…if the goal is to make kids self reliant, this kid clearly is not.

  160. tanya November 11, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    My husband, who definitely does not share the freerange philosophy (though he is not as bad as some overly cautious parents I’ve seen) pointed out that perhaps one reason crime against kids is down is that parents are more cautious.

    Another thing he pointed out is the number of registered sex offenders within a 1-mile radius of our house (a lot). There are maps on the web where you can look this stuff up.

    I have to say, thoughg, that these arguments do not make me particularly more cautious. Our neighborhood is a borderline one, but safe enough IMO. My neighbors who having been in the neighborhood for 30 years have had 1 break-in and the most recent truly scary incident against a child was a kidnapping/murder that happened about 40 years ago. I highly doubt that any of my 3 kids is likely to be the next victim of such a crime.

  161. Dragonwolf November 11, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    @tanya – Your husband’s logic is a strawman. Crime has gone down across the board, so no, it’s not because parents are just more cautious.

    Also, be careful about the conclusions you draw from the registry. First of all, can you easily determine why those people are on the registry (many states don’t make that info easily known)? It’s actually more likely that they’re a danger to you and not your kids. And consider this – you know where these guys live because they are actually behaving themselves and trying not to go back to jail by complying with their sentence.

    @everyone who says we’re hypocrites regarding the cops – You’re right, I would call the cops, or be thankful for their help if something did actually happen to my child. That’s what they are there for. However, doing things like threatening jail time when nothing illegal was actually done is abuse of the position and should be called out. Cops, the military, and government officials serve us (civilians are treated as higher rank in the military, and are respected as such). It’s not just our right, but our duty to be critical of them and make sure they’re not abusing their position.

    @everyone – Think an 8 year old can’t do anything? If you’re in the Great Lakes region, I highly recommend you find your local Amish community and see what the children do a 8. If you’re not fortunate enough to live near an Amish community, I have several trial codes for Netflix, so you can stream this film about the Amish. You want an example of free range? It’s not uncommon for four and five year olds to be driving their own buggies down the road, often with no adult in sight. By 8, boys are typically working the fields with their fathers, and girls cooking meals with their mothers, or collecting things from the store. This isn’t in some far-off country like Uganda or Argentina, this is in the heartland of America.

    Kids are only incompetent about most things because their environment has kept them that way.

  162. Larry Harrison November 11, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    Jill Frankly what you said is one thing I hear all the time that I’m really tired of hearing. Of course if one is in a situation where they actually NEEDED the police they’d be thankful. So what? That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be outraged when they pester & harass you where it’s uncalled for & their presence is unwanted

    In like manner if my car broke down I’d be thankful for the tow-truck man to show up, but I wouldn’t want him coming around lecturing me about how to drive. I’m sure I’ll be thankful for good teachers when my children start school but it won’t stop me from making a fuss if they don’t do their part right (though I plan to support them in general vs interferring with their disciplining of my children).

    I myself can’t stand the noise of emergency ambulance sirens & left the big city to escape that & get some quiet. I’ve even filed complaints when I’ve observed certain ones passing by every day at a certain time blarring their siren–no way they have an emergency at the same time in the same location every day. Yes if I or my kids were to be hurt I’d be gasping to HEAR a siren to know help had arrived. I don’t find that inconsistent.


  163. Larry Harrison November 11, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    PS my apology for the bold I only meant to bold-faced the first word. )(The “tag” failed to turn it off.) Pardon my shouting.

  164. justinwoo November 11, 2010 at 11:01 pm #

    I don’t know about y’all, but cops have been threatening people I know with “I could take you to jail RIGHT NOW.” for years and years. And sometimes they follow through, and the results are exceedingly messy. This is less about how you raise your son, and more about the shitty situation in this society where cops can basically jail, assault, and kill with impunity.

  165. Scope123 November 11, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    to me it depends. How free range? How long are the kids allowed to go out? all day? then its just a cop out to not be a parent and Just asking for trouble! For a bike ride or park…1) depends on where you live? right by a highway….where everyone knows you? where everyone doesnt? where there is a drug problem? do you trust everyone around you? 2)Is your kid out and causing harm…being rude or being a pest to others? how is his maturity level? do you really trust him or is it the “my son wouldn’t do anything” attitude. I can understand the police officers concern…As I got older…my free range was extended…but I wasn’t allowed to go cross town or pass crazy streets alone. Free range should be about safety in ALL areas….not
    just when its convenient for Mom.

    (also, the cop probably knows who lives down the street, just saying)

  166. sue November 11, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    to Jill, so you think the only result would be that your feelings get hurt? i will be willing to bet real money that this poor mom is on some sort of watch list and should the police happen to find said child out alone..proceed to see all h..l break loose because “she’s been warned.” doesn’t matter no law is being broken, if the cops think she’s ignoring them, they will find a way to teach her a lesson that will never be forgotten [or gotten over.] it happens everyday and just gives the police more reason to think they are all powerful. if you think differently,check the blotter….most give what reasons for areest. then go to hearings to listen to both sides of the story. you will be convinced that the 2 parties not only never met but are from different planets.

  167. Stacey November 11, 2010 at 11:46 pm #

    You should question this sense-less philosophy! In this day and age of child predators what’s wrong with being better safe than sorry?? Allowing a child to be independent is TOTALLY different from being a careless parent who lets their child roam the streets. Why is okay for ur son to accept food from a stranger? Had that been a predator, would u believe in this “free-range” parenting? If the park is DIRECTLY across the street from your house, then I see no problem allowing him to go alone. It’s 2010, the idea of “nothing ever happens here” should be dead along with cassette tapes! It is total negligence on the your part as a parent to instruct your child to NOT accept food from strangers. And if you are not concerned about predators in your area, how about child bully’s??? I always am sad to see children walking alone who are underage and defenseless, bc they are prey to whoever is out there. It’s not a paranoia, it’s common sense

  168. aproperfool November 11, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    I am so sorry to hear about this situation!

    I didn’t realize there was a term for this type of parenting, and because my friend’s parents were always SO CRAZY when we did things without adults, I assumed my mom was just not as concerned. But now that I am in my twenties, I can tell you that I appreciate my parents giving me the opportunity to PROVE that I could be mature and let me learn how things work (like where it is and isn’t appropriate to ask to use a restroom…someone’s personal home is a definite “no”).

    I am deeply sorry that you are having to deal with the authorities over your own method of parenting.

    I agree with one of the comments that said you could perhaps let your child keep a friend with him/her? And having a cell phone isn’t a bad idea. For those parents that are certain that something terrible is going to happen, it could show that you DO care, and that they are being paranoid, and shouldn’t project their fears of their lack of parenting onto you and your independent child.

  169. graceandtheserpent November 12, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    Are you people out of your mind?
    Yes, that cop comes across as being a jerk, but he’s simply doing his job, and that man that gave him the food? You’re damn lucky he wasn’t a pedo. I understand wanting to teach your kids self-reliance, but self-reliance won’t save an eight year old child from being raped and killed by one of the many sick bastards that are out there. It’s your boys job to understand when it’s safe to cross the street, but it’s your job to keep him safe from monsters. Obviously your not doing a very good job, because in his innocense, he assumed the man that offered him food was just doing a nice thing, when in reality, you ought to be teaching your child to not accept anything from a total stranger.
    So is your concern over keeping your child “free-range” more a concern over your own personal freedom, so you as a parent can be “free-range”? To be able to send your child off on his own and be able to do as you damn well please?

  170. michaeleriksson November 12, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    A few remarks to other comments:

    o Some seem to imagine a see-saw of events: Either the kid was brought home by the police—or he was kidnapped by a pedophile. This is nonsensical: A little thought shows that he was either brought home—or not.

    o The US sex-offender registry has a bad name even here in Europe. Notably, many of the crimes are hardly worthy to be considered crimes (e.g. the 18 y.o. who has sex with a long-term 17 y.o. partner) or have a low risk of repetition. Add in that rape and other sex related crimes have far more false reports than most other crimes (some investigations point to more than 50 %) and that a sex offender is not automatically interested in children.

    Note also that the pedophile, child-porn, satanism, hysterias that come and go have comparatively little to do with reality, but are overblown by several orders.

    o The side-effects of the police intervention also have a potential psychological effect on the child, who may now come away with the impression that certain things are “verboten” and make the police haul him away, or that his mother has been “bad”, or similar. (All depending on the exact circumstances.)

    o Do not make the mistake to think of police officers as friendly neighbourhood helpers. There are plenty of those—but there are just as many bad apples, who enjoy showing off their power.

  171. graceandtheserpent November 12, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    And on another note, no, there is no law against letting your child play outside WITH PARENTAL SUPERVISION. There are laws against neglagence, however, and should something horrible of happened to your boy, you would be charged accordingly, because it’s your responsibilty to watch him.

  172. Dragonwolf November 12, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    Stacey – This isn’t a “day and age of kidnapping.” Crime in general has been going down since the mid-90s, and is at rates not seen since the 60s and 70s.

    A child is 12 times more likely to die (and over 100 times more likely to be injured) in a car accident than to be kidnapped by a stranger.

  173. graceandtheserpent November 12, 2010 at 12:15 am #

    @Michaeleriksson: Some are overblown, but that doesn’t over shadow those that aren’t. I spent seven years with a man with whom I had two children with, and I come to find out later on down the road that he was arrested a while back AS AN ADULT for the repeated molestation and sodomy of a SIX YEAR OLD member of his family. This was someone I thought I knew and trusted, that I had two little girls with. So tell me, is that overblown? Is that “hysteria”? How I found out was from a police officer who was, brace yourself, doing his job.

  174. michaeleriksson November 12, 2010 at 12:26 am #


    When you extrapolate from one individual case without having backing numbers then, yes, that is overblown. If we were to ask around other commenters, we stand a fair chance of finding people who knew someone hit by lightning, killed in 9/11, or similar. This does not mean that we should worry unduly about being hit by lightning—it merely means that we should avoid standing under a tall tree during a thunder storm. In the mean time, we would do better to worry about heart disease and cancer.

    You may want to have a look at an earlier blog entry by me, for background on the hysteria part: http://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/the-dire-menace-of-child-porn%e2%80%94and-other-sex-related-myths/

  175. notesfromrumbleycottage November 12, 2010 at 12:36 am #

    @ully My point was to show that people – right or wrong – have a reason for their fears. And it is not like this stuff still does not go on in our times. Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapper is on trial for her abduction that was only eight years ago. There were stories in the news THIS YEAR about people trying to abduct kids on their way to school.

    In my own little town of 1300 that resembles a Northern version of Mayberry, we had a person arrested and convicted for child molestation. He lived down the street from me, with his kids who were close in age to mine. Subsequent stories in the newspaper pointed out that my town has a registered sex offender on every block of the villiage. Tell me that doesn’t ratchet up the fear factor in your heart and I will show you a liar.

    I am not saying I think what Kimberlee did with her son was wrong. Plus, I think she got a raw deal from officers who might be on a power trip. I do think kids need to learn to be independant and responsible. They need to learn how to handle themselves in the world.

    Do not judge people for what makes them frightened. I might not like this over cautious and germ-free world some people are trying to create. But nor am I going to doubt that their fears are without reason or call them crazy for having them. Sometimes you have to gently bring people back from the ledge.

  176. Marsha November 12, 2010 at 12:46 am #

    Maybe Kim lives in a “safe” community where there are no pedophiles (sp). However in a large city, no you do not send your eight year old to the park. You take your eight year old to the park. As a parent this is what you do. You spend time with your child; not let them roam free. The little boy was thirsty so he left the park. Please “free-range” is for chickens – not children. Be parents: spend time, talk to, take care of your children.

  177. Dragonwolf November 12, 2010 at 12:57 am #

    @graceandtheserpent – Make note that he knew the kids. Abduction or attack by someone the victim knows is not the “stranger danger” hysteria. Statistically speaking, your children have more to fear from you abducting or abusing them than they are from anyone else doing so.

    @notesfromrumbleycottage – Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her own room, in a locked house, with parents a room or two over. Context is everything.

    As for the child molestor in your town, see my comment to grace.

  178. EricS November 12, 2010 at 1:20 am #

    Marsha, you have a very misguided idea of Free-Range. Free-range ISN’T about letting your child do whatever he/she wants. It’s allowing them to grow up with confidence and know how. You CAN’T do that if you tether yourself to your child and control every aspect of things they do. Doing so, would only teach your child to do what YOU want him/her to do. They never learn on their own. You think sheltering your child is “taking care of them”? Sheltering children is one of the worse things you can do. I spend plenty of time (as well as my friends) with our kids. Talking about what the world is like, how to deal with strangers, what to do when they go to the park (yes…by themselves). Been doing this since they were 6-8 yrs old. And guess what, at 9-10 yrs now, they are still perfectly healthy and safe. We don’t worry about them when they are not in front of us. Why? Because 1. we trust them 2. they’ve proven to be resilient, resourceful, and very intelligent. They know how to deal with what goes on around them. They aren’t naive, at least when it comes to their daily interactions with people and certain key situations. They know EXACTLY what to do. My 4 year old nephew is doing quite well also. Of course we don’t let him go off on his own, but when we are at the park, we let him be a kid and don’t hover over him. It gives us the opportunity to talk to other parents in the park. And it gives him the time to spend with his friends as HE wants to. At 4 yrs old, he already knows to stay within ear shot. He calls out whenever he needs anything or wants to show us something. He already knows how to keep his distance from people he doesn’t know. And even with people he does know, he never walks away them unless he lets us know first. The kids are happy, the parents are stress free. That’s a part of being free-range. “Chickens”. lol No wonder you don’t understand. Your thinking of chickens instead of children.

    Graceandtheserpent: Sounds to me like your reacting out of your own distrust and fear of your past. Life isn’t as you see it. The more you over come your own fears and distrust, the better off you’ll be as an example to your children. Right now, you teach them to fear, and have distrust with men. The woman’s son may have accepted food from a stranger, but how do you know he wasn’t smart enough to weasel free food from someone, at the same time know not to follow him after wards. You have the notion that kids are just dumb and don’t know any better. lol. You couldn’t be more wrong. Kids aren’t stupid, but if you condition them to be, they will be. Sheltering them, is a step in that direction.

  179. BrianJ November 12, 2010 at 1:23 am #

    Marsha – I’m glad that I don’t live in the scary place where you live. I live in Piedmont, across the street from Oakland. My kids walk to the store, in Oakland. They rides their bike through Oakland. The hang out at the AT&T store in Oakland (trying to convince me to buy them iPhones, but that’s a different story).

    Fortunately for me and them, all of these activities are safe for an 8 year old where I live.

  180. Claudia Conway November 12, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    I was at the park with my friend 10 minutes from home without adult supervision when we were 8. Cars and paedophiles existed then, too, funnily enough.

  181. Ellis November 12, 2010 at 1:59 am #

    >All those of you who are trashing the police would be talking out of the other side of your mouths if your child were actually lost/endangered and the police were the ones to safely retrieve them.

    Well, of course. When the police are doing the job they are paid to do, they should be praised. Just like anyone else. That does not give them the right to harass people with threats of jail for things that aren’t even against the law.

  182. Larry Harrison November 12, 2010 at 2:12 am #

    notesfromrumbleycottage People THINK they have a reason for their fears. As for me, I don’t subscribe to the hysteria, so there.

    graceandtheserpent I don’t mean to be offensive, but your solitary bad experience, as unfortunate as it was, doesn’t mean the rest of us need to be scardey-cats. You have the opinion that there are a lot of “sick bastards out there.” Well this mother and her parenting philosophies aren’t accountable to this opinion you hold.

    And this whole “they’re doing their job”–frankly, I don’t give a snot-rag what their job is. If it interferes with one’s life, people everywhere should be calling attention to it and calling it what it amounts to–a bunch of misguided nuts on the loose.

    And “are we out of our mind?” No we’re not, people who run around with this chicken-little “THE SKY IS FALLING, RUN, HIDE!!!” type of modus-de-operandi (spelling?) and telling their kids “don’t run”–in the park!!!–are the ones out of their mind. So be it, they have the right to parent thusly, but we know better, and aren’t participating in the fear.

    Again–the guy is “doing his job?” Excuse me, Lenore, please, forgive me Lenore, I’m about to burst here, so pardon my response, but “he’s simply doing his job”–I don’t give a fuck what his job is. Nor am I supposed to care what the fuck his job is. His job is HIS problem, not ours. If he doesn’t like it, so what? He isn’t the only one with a thankless job of service, big woop-dee-doo. If he hates his line of work, he can do something else. Otherwise, to such I say–do what you are SUPPOSED to do, don’t ask for any sympathy, and leave us parents the hell alone.

    What “his job is” has NOTHING to do with that mother and her concerns with her child. That poor lady was being a parent to her child–let’s remember, that child is her child. That child isn’t the cop’s child to parent. He didn’t endure an epidural or a C-section or carry that precious baby around in his belly for 9 months, nor did his wife (assuming he’s married)–no, this WOMAN did, and her husband (if she has one) made that child with her. That makes all such decisions up to them and them alone. That cop is being a meddling, no-good, son of a prick for sticking his Pinocchio-sized nose into their parenting business.

    You know what his job is? In this case–to leave the two of them the hell alone, THAT is his job. If he sees the mother going upside her child’s head with a wood plank, or sees her leaving it outdoors in 20’F weather with no clothes on & the doors locked, or there are illegal drugs or molestation, THEN and ONLY THEN is it his business to involve himself and the police. Otherwise, it’s none of his business–that’s the law as I understand it, and if the law says otherwise, it is wrong and needs to be thrown the hell out and fixed.

    I don’t parent my children based on “I don’t want the cops coming around”–I parent based on my own knowledge and skills and on WELCOME advice from friends & family etc whom I respect, their advice is ALWAYS welcome even if I don’t agree with it. The police and CPS and the busybodies who use them as tools to meddle in our private parenting business? Fuck them. Frankly, when I read in the paper about someone who was the victim of a disaster (explosions of a main gas-line, tornado etc), I wish the meddling busybodies were the ones meeting that fate instead, frankly I think they DESERVE it.

    Yes I said it and I meant it. These people aren’t just gossiping like a bunch of hens in the chicken pen, or selling filthy rags like the National Enquireer. They’ve gone beyond that, they’re MEDDLING. I think the outrage, even as I’ve expressed it, is totally justified. If they can’t butt out, they deserve whatever happens to them.

    (I’m sorry Lenore if my language and tone are over the top and you feel compelled to contact me to tell me to tone it down, I will most certainly respect your wishes, it is your site & I know we meet here to have tasteful, respectful dialogue. I wish to be an asset, not a liability.)

    Playing nice with these nuts on the loose isn’t working. It’s high-time they were held accountable, and I applaud the original poster to sticking her to guns.

    And yes, parents DO want a certain amount of freedom–so what? Yes our children are our responsibility, but they are NOT our entire life. We have things to do, the existence of children doesn’t change this a bit, it only changes how we HANDLE it, and even then only to a certain extent. That’s why our children sleep in their own rooms, ALWAYS, I don’t care if there are storms. Sure I comfort them, but they are NOT sleeping in OUR room. That room is for me & my wife ONLY. My wife is my first obligation, yes more than the children, we have a marriage to maintain, and we can’t maintain it with children sleeping in the same room with us.

    As a child I was kicked outdoors to play, even if I wanted to be indoors. I remember waiting outdoors in the cold at our private school with other kids, as we waited to be let in for the day. The people etc who did this did so for my own good and yes, for their own sanity as well. So what? If that’s “irresponsible” in your eyes, then feel how you feel–but we disagree, and we don’t need nor seek your approval. Parent your kids your way, leave us alone.

    michaeleriksson How right you are when you say “bad apples who enjoy showing off their power.” Amen.

    Stacey You said the “5 nasty words,” to wit, “in this day & age.” Sorry honey, but streets are no more dangerous to cross now than they were in the mid 70s when I was little. My mother let me ride a Big Wheel (a plastic tricycle, basically) on our road which was NOT a residential road and had a 55mph speed limit on it. I was 8. Cars only came by every 2 minutes or so, but these days I see roads with 20mph speed limits with even less traffic than that, and parents screaming “get out of the street!!” Makes no sense to me. It sure is constant with the hysteria as Lenore & others are always talking about here.

    What you are describing IS paranoia to us, it’s TOTALLY lacking in common sense. I only hope you have enough self-control to mind your own business and not butt in–if not, frankly, you deserve whatever happens to you in response. If you’re just disagreeing philosophically, that’s perfectly fine and I apologize if I’m offensive. My stack is just on the verge of blowing, so please forgive me if I’m going too far.

    Lenore–I’m sorry if I’m getting carried away, but as you said your most recent post, I also am “so fed up” and it’s really upsetting to hear what I’m hearing. I’m glad we have freedom of speech that such can post, but I feel I have to respond to it when I see it. I just hope I haven’t crossed the line in your eyes in doing so. I will respect your wishes if you need me to reign it in a little bit.


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  184. Uly November 12, 2010 at 4:54 am #

    BUT i do have to point out that, had Kimberlee’s son been kidnapped or assaulted, the police would have been to blame on these forums i’m sure.

    1. That’s a VERY low likelihood of happening.
    2. Instead of assuming what we’d all say if that had happened, why not ask? Because when tragic things have happened, our response has largely been to blame the criminals – not the cops.

    The police get to see the absolute worst humanity has to offer on a daily basis.

    Which doesn’t allow them to bully others.

    you should be THANKFUL it was a stranger who called the police and not a predator who took advantage of a child who was obviously untrained by a parent in dealing with strangers.

    That’s kinda like being thankful I crossed my quiet street successfully without being hit by a bus.

    Most people offering things to kids are showing a lack of common sense and a surfeit of generosity, not predatory behavior.

    In this day and age of child predators what’s wrong with being better safe than sorry?

    1. Because there are no more child predators than when I was a child. There is no “day and age” of child predators. That’s hype and it’s lies.

    2. Safety isn’t everything. We want to live, not merely survive.

    It’s 2010, the idea of “nothing ever happens here” should be dead along with cassette tapes!

    And yet, the crime rate has dropped significantly since CDs came into vogue. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!

    I always am sad to see children walking alone who are underage and defenseless, bc they are prey to whoever is out there.

    Who do you think is out there? Are children regularly appearing in your neighborhood beat up and harmed? Or are they make it through their lives, day after day, without anything bad happening?

    Being scared of things that aren’t likely to happen certainly is paranoia.

    I spent seven years with a man with whom I had two children with, and I come to find out later on down the road that he was arrested a while back AS AN ADULT for the repeated molestation and sodomy of a SIX YEAR OLD member of his family.

    Well, you see, Grace, you just proved our point. The vast majority of child molestation cases are not done by strangers, but by family members.

    Would you use this experience as a reason to never date again? Of course not! That would be absurd! So why use it as a reason to never allow your child to go outside?

    And it is not like this stuff still does not go on in our times. Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapper is on trial for her abduction that was only eight years ago.

    Yes – it was eight whole years ago. And it was a strange case even then – abduction by a non-family member from her own bedroom? That doesn’t happen very often.

    Of course it still goes on. However, it goes on very rarely. People get struck by lightening every year, but I don’t stay inside unless it’s actually a thunderstorm. People get struck by buses and cars, but I still cross the street.

    Tell me that doesn’t ratchet up the fear factor in your heart and I will show you a liar.

    It doesn’t ratchet up the fear factor in my heart. What were those guys convicted of? ALL of them are sex offenders because they raped little kids? Or are some of them people who committed statutory rape of their girlfriend (two years younger) or who peed in public when they were drunk?

    And those who actually are a risk to small children – are you sure they all live there? These lists are notorious for not getting updated very quickly when people move *away*, only when they move *in*.

  185. Larry Harrison November 12, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    Uly Right on. Sometimes I think I should just zip my typing fingers and let YOU respond. Your points are so dead-on and so well articulated. Way to go.


  186. spetznaz November 12, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Um wow really? Here johnny boy your only 8 go leave the house to wonder the streets. That’s messed.

  187. Nick November 12, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    The Therapeutic State — to use Thomas Szasz’s term — protects us all. It won’t be long until non-intensive parenting is discovered to be a mental defect, if it hasn’t already happened.

    Government has mandated universal mental health screening for kids. No doubt unapproved parenting methods will be subject to scrutiny. The woman is right to be worried. My wife scares the bejesus out of my daughter by telling her things like, “It’s illegal to leave an eight-year-old home alone. No doubt if we got divorced having left her alone would be proof that I shouldn’t get custody.

  188. Beth November 12, 2010 at 11:18 am #

    @graceandtheserpent – news flash, not every male is a pedophile.

  189. buffy November 12, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    @Marsha…REALLY? You have no call to come here and accuse free-range parents of not spending time with, talking to, and caring for their children.

    Please educate yourself on the concept, either by reading Lenore’s book or the many blog postings, before posting your accusations again.

  190. Bernadette November 12, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    I agree the goal is to change the society not to alter our behavior to appease it. We need a comeback and we need to arm our kids with a comeback too. I was at the park the other day with a few moms and all our kids on bikes. One of the moms was freaking out because she couldn’t see the kids. We assured her our kids (ages 8 to 11) knew better than to just ride off without us or to ride out into the middle of the street. In addition to changing society’s behavior we need to let our kids know we trust them to know right from wrong. What kind of adults will we have if our kids don’t trust themselves and their judgement.

    So, my question is, what kind of snappy comeback can we arm our kids with? What can we say other than to get defensive (which is hard not to do) I don’t want to be the defensive one. Instead I want the fear based society to have to defend their position because I know they don’t have a leg to stand on.

  191. Caro November 13, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    @ SJB– There are hysterical helicopter parents in cities, too. We live in a city where people walk everywhere and kids play outside, but this happened to us at the park just yesterday:

    My husband carries a swiss army knife, which fell out of his pocket while he was romping around with our kid at the playground. He didn’t notice it had fallen out until a dad held it up after having confiscated it from a kid who was “TRYING TO OPEN IT!” When my husband claimed it, the TEM (Terrified of Everything Mother) of the child looked at us as if she recognized us from “To Catch a Predator” and screamed, “But, IT’S A KNIFE! AIEEEEE!!!” Another couple immediately took their kid to another area of the playground to escape our taint. Later, they also raised eyebrows significantly at one another when we were helping our kid (19 months) go up the climbing wall.

    This kind of thing might happen more in the suburbs, but we are definitely not free of it in the city. Oh, how I wish we were. That’s the first time we’ve been shunned for our reasonable, not fear-based parenting philosophy and I know it won’t be the last.

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot to say that the mom who threw the fit didn’t do any follow-up whatsoever with her kid, which I thought was interesting. I would have explained to mine what the knife was and that if he found anything like that in the future, he should take it to an adult. The last thing I would do is turn on another adult and treat him/her like a terrorist. We were at the park for about an hour with this mom and I noticed that she directed/managed every minute of her kids’ experience there. Sounds fun, right?


  192. tina @ saving for college November 13, 2010 at 12:54 am #

    In other countries there are no laws curbing a child’s independence to this ridiculous extent and depriving them from any opportunity to explore the world on their own. I grew up in Russia and I was walking home from my daycare center all by myself when I was 5 (15 minutes walk). I was visiting Russia recently with my 6-year old “American” son who couldn’t get enough of the newly found freedom. Playing outside all day long without being supervised, being able to go to a local store and get a drink – his first independent shopping experience.

  193. Kim November 13, 2010 at 1:55 am #

    This is a very interesting one. I think it proves the point that ideas about what are right and wrong regarding parenting are very different for each person. Sounds like most people don’t have much of a problem with allowing the kid to go to the park. Several people, even on the free range side, see an issue with allowing him to go to the fast food place for a drink. One thing I’m not clear on is, was he expecting a free drink or did he have money to pay (because most places charge even for water). Anyway, I don’t know this kid so I can’t say whether it was appropriate for him. However, even to those parents who think they are able to judge whether or not their kid is “ready” by presenting countless scenarios…what would you do if, etc. You really don’t know what the kid would do until he/she has been in that situation. How may times have you thought “if I were in that situation…” and then when you found yourself in that situation you did something very different? My point is, kids need the EXPERIENCE. Yes, you can try to prepare them but ultimately it is like on-the-job training. You learn a lot better when you are allowed to DO things. We, as a society, need to support this process rather than derail it. The man should have asked the child questions rather than assuming there was something wrong. I have come across unattended children many times, and if I am concerned I just ask them, do your parents know where you are? If I am convinced that they are o.k., I leave them alone. I would NEVER call the police without first trying to establish if there is a problem. And then, I would attempt to find the parent rather than resort to calling the authorities. Drives me nuts that people can’t be civilized to one another anymore.

  194. LisaS November 13, 2010 at 4:09 am #

    Ok, so the boy should have taken a water bottle or walked home to get his drink, and definitely should have turned down the food. I’m sure next time he will do one or all of those. Live and learn. Other than that, the guy shouldn’t have offered him food, and yeah, Kim (immediately above), calling the parent instead of teh parent would have been nice.

    The piece of this story that most disturbs me: ” I was told that since others thought something was wrong, I should too. ” Fear isn’t at the top of my list of values, especially not fear about unlikely events. Telling me to live by someone else’s fear is almost as bad as telling me to live by their religion.

  195. LisaS November 13, 2010 at 4:10 am #

    aigh, misspelling and misstatement. he should have called the parent instead of the police. sorry.

  196. Az. SBSM November 13, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    How many 8 year olds do you know that would say NO thank you to food? People need to learn to mind their own business, I mean really, did the boy look hungry, abandoned, abused, doubt it. The “stranger” should have just minded his/her own business if anyone was wrong it was them.

    I had a similar situation happen with my eldest son about 15 years ago when my youngest niece was born, I was at the hospital with my sister and called to let my son know where I was once he got home from school, he could take the bus over there to the hospital, he was about 12, while waiting at the bus stop to go to the hospital 2 old ladies stopped and called the police, and took him to the police dept. as I wait getting more worried by the minute because he never showed up at the hospital. Once I finaly made it home there was a message telling me where he was so I was able to go get him. All because 2 old ladies could not mind their own business and leave the child to do as he was told and take a bus down the street. I was far from a happy mother at that point.

  197. Anthony Hernandez November 13, 2010 at 10:01 am #


    I agree completely! My son carries a note he can present to busybodies if a simple “I’m OK, thanks” doesn’t work. That note has my # on it if that still isn’t enough for them and my son carries a cell phone.

    If that is still not enough, then UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES is he to go with ANY stranger anywhere. Thus, in the situation you describe, I would hope that my son would stand firm and go on about his business and perhaps even call 9/11 to report harassment. And if any stranger lays a hand on him, he has both the training and my permission to do as much physical damage as necessary to protect himself.

    I’m glad you posted that. I need to talk wih him more about what to do if someone won’t take “Thanks, I’m OK” for an answer.

  198. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson November 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    Yay Lenore!

    You already know I’m a supporter of your philosophies, so congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    As for everyone else: Don’t give up, people. Our kids need to know it is okay to have a little independence and that we trust them!

    Come visit me at “Lessons From Teachers and Twits” at:

  199. Joseph November 14, 2010 at 3:20 am #

    Lenore, you are so right. However, this is the result of the government thinking that they know what’s best for the kids rather than their own parents and so seek to eliminate the right of the parent to raise their own child the way they see fit as long as no crime is committed in favor of having all children become wards of “ze great and glorious State……only ze great and glorious State knows what’s best.” So if you think this is bad, Lenore, take a gander at the UN convention on the rights of the child. That is guaranteed to blow you away. No parental rights whatsoever in that document.

  200. Lihtox November 15, 2010 at 1:27 am #

    I think some of the problem is that police officers get defensive like anyone, and they want to feel like they haven’t wasted their time. If you tell someone “You’re wrong to make a stink about this”, it takes a lot of character for that person to admit it, and most people will try to talk themselves out of it without losing face. And face is particularly important to the police, because without the respect of the community their jobs get a lot harder. (Not saying that this is the right way to earn respect, but it is understandable.)

    I agree with the original poster’s plan to not file a complaint against this particular officer, because it would get their back up, not a good thing. But a talk with the police chief is definitely called for: make the conversation general, don’t badmouth the officer or even mention his name, but find out what their policy is regarding 8-year-olds on their own: and make sure the conversation is about what’s legal, not what’s safe. If you agree with their policy, then you know that the worst thing you have to worry about is a little police harrassment, and hopefully the chief can nip that in the bud. If you DON’T agree with their policy, then it’s important to know that too, and you can go to the local government if the policy needs to be changed. Phrase things in terms of “the government is telling us how to raise OUR kids”.

  201. Lihtox November 15, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    About the event itself: getting water in a restaurant is perfectly acceptable unless the restaurant has a policy against giving out free water or the like. Most restaurants don’t begrudge the minor expense in exchange for customer free will. I’d probably tell my kid to not accept free food from strangers in general, partly for the stranger angle, but also because it’s better etiquette. But as long as the kid knows not to go anywhere with a stranger, then I have a hard time seeing the risk in it: even if the guy is a predator trying to “groom” the child, it doesn’t mean he’s going to be successful.

    And to second sconzey, I think a FreeRangeWiki or other reference would be a great idea. It would be a valuable source of information of what local laws are. But it could also be a valuable source of information of things which really ARE dangerous for children, and how to prepare them for them. For instance, while child predators are an overblown risk, they DO exist, and there are things kids need to know in the unlikely chance they run into one. Having a non-panicky source of this information would be invaluable. (Although since this is a controversial topic, making this a full-blown wiki would open us up to lots of helicopter spam; I’d probably recommend some sort of approval process for people to edit: make people login, maybe moderate their first few edits, and then give them carte blanche.)

  202. messinastudio November 15, 2010 at 2:36 am #

    This is ridiculous. When I was a kid, I was outside roaming all over god knows where in my neighborhood. I used to get as far as 3-4 miles away – farther when I was a bit older and started to skateboard. But I was as young as 7 when I was allowed to go out and roam wherever. It would have been difficult for my mom to keep me inside!

    But what amazes me is how decent parents are constantly being badgered. My mom had a run in with DCYF when I was 2 because I fell over and bonked my forehead – someone reported her for abuse! But yet you are always seeing bad parenting in action – every day – and the cops aren’t at their doors threatening them!

    I have even had my neighbor call the SPCA on me because I used to put my dogs on the porch every so often when I had to clean – or when my bernard would have diareah and I had to keep her somewhere without getting poop all over the house. We had 3 DOGS! So yes, without having a fenced in yard – a huge, safe deck seems like a just fine place to put a few dogs for no more than 20 minutes. They also complained because I have chickens. At least the SPCA officer was nice and said I kept way better care of my animals than most do – but still it was scary to be threatened with the prospect of being ‘checked up on.’

    And imagine this for your kids?! I can’t and honestly I probably would consider legality and harassment because if it isn’t against the law, who is this cop to tell her what to do with her kids and that he would arrest her!? Simple solution for me is going to be moving into the country. /End Rant

  203. Joseph November 15, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    @Lihtox – you’re right….child predators DO exist……there is a program run by the Catholic Church called VIRTUS…..it’s mainly for people who plan to work with many children on a daily basis like people planning for a career in day care for instance….but I imagine it could be useful for parents too….it’s a training program that deals with child sexual abuse

  204. Anthony Hernandez November 15, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    Catholics running a child protection program is a bit like an arsonist in charge of fire prevention.

  205. Uly November 15, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    Seriously, Anthony, do you just refresh and refresh hoping that you’ll find a hook, no matter how small, to hang your anti-Catholic, anti-religious baggage?

    It’s all a little silly, don’t you think? You’re not going to convince the theists with your mean line of trolling, and you just embarrass the non-theists. (At least, you embarrass me. And I don’t even know you!)

  206. enyawface November 15, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    I tend to agree with Anthony, besides, I have a fool proof 10 minute training that makes you fully certified on spotting child predators. Get out your old family photo album, look at all your relatives in there, now take a close look in the mirror, you now are fully certified in being able to spot what a child predator looks like.

  207. daveyboy December 22, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    i think the issue here is that the kid was in a public place, doing the following:

    -asking for a non-public utility, although its common to just get a free water. even though common, the store isnt required to give a water for free. not a big deal

    – the big deal here is that the kid (unknowingly) used a common care-point among adults or parents, which is to assist a kid in what they believe (the adult) to be a suspicious situation. in this case, the adult went out of their way to “help”

    regardless, the kid put himself, not knowingly, in a situation where he used a kind of public trust, a kindness that used for strangers.

    if the parent wanted to know how to avoid this, they should have trained their kid to not accept things from strangers, no matter how yummy. this was in fact a MAJOR failure on the parents part- to not train the kid on what to do and not do.

    even if there were lots of people around to see- it doesnt matter- its commons sense that if you let your kids in public alone, they need skills to deal with offers from strangers. offers big and small alike. this kid, just accepted, and in turn, made people (me) want to scold the mom for letting their kid go around UNTRAINED, seemingly asking for food.

    you can correct poor style with training. thats all.

    nothing more to see here, move along!

  208. ThatDeborahGirl December 23, 2010 at 3:52 am #

    So, solve the problem – kid doesn’t go to El Pollo Loco and have strangers buy him food. He brings a water bottle to the park.

    yeah, because an 8 year old playing in a park wants to be attached to a water bottle and is actually going to keep up with it.

    let kids be kids

  209. the pilatesbiz February 9, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    this is not good.


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