Outrage of the Week: Mom Arrested for Letting Kids Go to the Mall

Readers: This article makes me so angry, I’d love us all to start thinking what we can do to change a society where danger-hallucinating authorities persecute and prosecute those of us still sane. Suggestions welcome. This piece originally appeared in Brain, Child.

By Bridget Kevane

On Saturday, June 16, 2007, I was charged with endangering the welfare of my children, a criminal charge that, in the city where I live, Bozeman, Montana, can lead to imprisonment in the county jail. The Montana Code 46-16-130(3) states that a parent can be charged with this offense if she “knowingly endangers the child’s welfare by violating a duty of care, protection, or support.”

Typically, prosecution is pursued when an adult supplies a child younger than eighteen with drugs, prostitutes the child, abandons the child’s home, or engages in sexual conduct with the child. A violation of duty of care is described as cruel treatment, abuse, infliction of unnecessary and cruel punishment, abandonment, neglect, lack of proper medical care, clothing, shelter, and food, and evidence of bodily injury.

I was charged with this crime because I dropped my three children and their two friends off at the Bozeman Gallatin Valley Mall.

Bozeman is a small town known for its quality of life, striking physical beauty, easy access to the outdoors, and great public schools. It is also known as a safe community. The mall is considered a family place where kids trick-or-treat in October to escape the cold, and groups of children meet friends, shop, eat and see movies. It is a popular activity both during the long Montana winters as well as the summer months.

The mall is a safe place. There are no signs posted at the mall saying that children cannot be left unattended. No child has ever been kidnapped or molested at the mall. And yet, I was charged as a criminal for dropping children there without my direct supervision.

My oldest daughter, Natalie, and her friend, were both twelve at the time, going into seventh grade. The girls, who had known each other since they were three years old, had attended a babysitting class sponsored by the local hospital for girls eleven and older. The class teaches CPR, infant care, responsible behavior and more. They both also had enough experience babysitting other people’s children that I trusted having them supervise the other kids at the mall—Ellie, eight, Matthew, seven, and my younger daughter, Olivia, who was three.

An outsider, or someone used to a bigger, more crowded way of living, might be shocked to know that I left children that young in the care of two twelve-year-olds. But these kids were a pack. They grew up together in a neighborhood full of children. They walk to and from their local schools together, play together, and frequently spend time at each other’s homes.

My husband and I are particularly good friends with two families that live near our home. We parents depend on each other for support and mutual child care as much as our children depend on each other for friendship. As our kids have grown older, an implicit agreement has formed among us: Our children will wander to each other’s homes, and it is our job to informally supervise them and keep each other aware of their whereabouts. As we all live within less than half a mile from each other, much time is spent going from one house to the other, to the park, or walking around the nearby university, where I am a professor of Latin American and Latino Studies.

So when the older girls asked if they could go to the mall that Saturday, I said yes, if they took the younger kids with them. On that particular day, I was exhausted. The children wanted an activity, and I wanted a couple of hours of quiet and rest.

Why was I exhausted? I have three kids, a dog, a cat, a hamster, and a fish named Oscar. I have a husband who had started his own company and was working on weekends. I teach classes, write books and articles, and am chair of my department. I love my job, for one reason because it has given me the flexibility to be home for my kids every day after school. I oversee violin, swimming, and art lessons; I drive my kids around; I think about what I can make for dinner, and I wonder how early I can get to bed. In other words, like many mothers, I work two jobs, and sometimes that catches up with me.

I’ve come to look differently on my exhaustion that day, now that all this has taken place. I made a choice, and I believed it was the right choice: I let my daughter take over. I gave her a responsibility so I could have a break. I had no reason to doubt my daughter. I believed then and continue to believe today that the girls were aware and responsible enough to handle their younger siblings.

The plan was for the kids to have lunch and walk around a bit. I told the older girls the rules. They could not leave the younger kids unsupervised. They could not make a ruckus. They had to behave. Olivia, the three-year-old, had to stay in her stroller. When I called my husband and the other mother to let them know the plan, there was no hesitation on their part. My husband was at his office down the street from the mall, less than five minutes away. I would be at home with my cell phone, and my daughter had her cell phone in case they wanted to be picked up early.

I dropped the group off at roughly one forty-five p.m. and said that I would pick them up at four for the barbeque we were going to that night. It was to be an afternoon activity, as simple as that.

About an hour later, my husband, who was home by then, received a call from the police telling me that we had to come down to the mall immediately. My first thought was that the kids had made a scene, that they had knocked something over, that they had run about recklessly. We jumped into the car.

When I walked into the mall, the children were all in an enclosed security office behind a glass wall, smiling, eating candy, and talking to a security guard and some Macy’s employees. I smiled and waved to them, relieved that everything appeared fine.

That feeling was quickly about to change.

As soon as we entered the office, I was confronted by two Bozeman city police officers. One told me that what I had done was completely unacceptable in his opinion and that he was going to arrest me for endangering the welfare of my children. I asked him if there was a mall age limit that I was not aware of. He told me to be quiet. I tried to explain to him that I had faith in my daughter’s skills and in the safety of the mall, and that I was not an endangering parent. As I tried to keep talking, desperate to clear up what was obviously nothing more than a huge misunderstanding, he warned me that if I “went crazy” on him, he would handcuff me right in front of the children and take me away to jail for the night. He said he had called child services already. They would either arrive at the mall shortly or get his report and be visiting my home this week to check in.

My husband tried to reason with the officer, emphasizing that this was a first-time mistake and asking if we could be set free with a warning, some lesser charge. But the officer simply kept repeating that what I had done was a crime.

I was completely stunned, unable to grasp what was unfolding right before my eyes. I sat down, scared, exhausted, and confused, and didn’t utter another word. We were allowed to take the children home, but I was told I had to hire a lawyer and appear in court on June 21.

As we drove home, the younger kids chattered about their adventure, oblivious about what had just transpired. My husband asked some pointed questions, and details began to emerge: Olivia liked the candy the store employees gave her and said the ladies were nice; Matthew said the employees asked strange questions; Ellie wondered why all the kids had been taken away to the Macy’s office.

Natalie and her friend, both visibly shaken, were mostly quiet except to say that they had not been allowed to call us. I sensed that they understood the bigger implications of what had happened and were not only worried about repercussions but also about their first encounter with the police. “Are we in trouble?” Matthew asked. No, we replied. Then he asked, “Are you in trouble, Mommy?” The question lingered in the air without an answer.

Guilt, a nagging feeling that always resided somewhere within me as a working mother, began to surface. Was I a bad mother? Had my judgment been so completely off? The two police officers, so much younger than I, had been so certain that I had committed a crime against my own children. They had not a shred of doubt. Maybe they were right; maybe in my at-times-frantic daily juggling act, I had lost the ability to care for my children. I had been discovered! My children would be taken from me! And how was I going to explain this to my friends, who had entrusted their children to me? Shame, guilt’s partner, took root as well.

When we arrived home I went straight to my room and lay down on the same bed on which, a few hours earlier, I had hoped for a couple of moments of peace.

Details of the incident became clear later. The kids had gone into Macy’s after lunch; it was to be the final stop of the afternoon. Natalie and her friend decided to try on some shirts and left the three younger kids in the purse section by the cosmetics counter—which, it’s true, was against the rules that I had laid out for them.

While the girls were in the dressing room, some Macy’s employees spotted the three younger kids and called mall security. When Natalie and her friend returned less than five minutes later, all the kids were taken away to Macy’s administrative office where they were held until the arrival of the city police. The kids–who were now being treated as victims of abuse–were not allowed to use their cell phones to call me, because I was now considered a negligent mother.

In making their decisions, the mall police and city police relied upon the statements of four Macy’s employees who worked the cosmetic counters, though it became clear later in written statements that some of the workers were not even in the store at the time, and that others had badly misestimated the younger kids’ ages to be two, three, and four (rather than three, seven, and eight). The rest of the employees’ stories vary wildly in time, place, and their perception of what actually happened.

At any point in the course of events, the Macy’s employees, the mall security guards, the police, or the city prosecutor could have chosen to view my decision to drop my children off at the mall as an innocent moment of faulty judgment. They could have slapped me on the wrist, or warned me, “Don’t do that again,” or settled for any number of lesser charges. After all, there is no law in Bozeman against dropping your children off at the mall.

But instead my actions were considered criminal neglect, “violating a duty of care.” Why? As the pretrial procedures dragged on, I began to feel I was caught in a culture war, or perhaps several wars—town vs. gown, native Montanan vs. outsider, and working mother vs. working mother.

The city attorney made no secret of the fact that her own parenting choices informed her decision in backing up the police officer. She told my lawyer in their first meeting that she also had a daughter and would never have left her at the mall. She also said she believed professors are incapable of seeing the real world around them because their “heads are always in a book.” Her first letter to my lawyer ended on a similar theme: “I just think that even individuals with major educations can commit this offense, and they should not be treated differently because they have more money or education.” Despite the fact that Montana professors are among the lowest paid in the nation, and that undoubtedly the prosecutor has a law degree herself, she nevertheless categorized me as someone trying to receive special treatment.

My lawyer and I came to understand that, more than anything, the city attorney wanted me to plead guilty, to admit that I had “violated a duty of care.” She wanted me to carry that crime with me for the rest of my life, a scarlet A that would symbolically humiliate me, teach me a lesson, and remain etched in my being.

I now realize that her pressure—her near obsession with having me plead guilty—had less to do with what I had done and more to do with her perception of me as an outsider who thought she was above the law, who had money to pay her way out of a mistake, who thought she was smarter than the Bozeman attorney because of her “major education.” This perception took hold even though I had never spoken one word to her directly. Nor did I ever speak in court; only my lawyer did. I was visible but silent, and thus unable to shake the image that the prosecutor had created of me: a rich, reckless, highly educated outsider mother who probably left her children all the time in order to read her books.

And that’s how I became defendant Bridget Anne Lieb (my married name), charged with a crime by the State of Montana, Case no. TK-07-03739.

The prosecutor was right in one respect. I am an outsider. My parents—my father born in Iowa from poor Irish immigrants, my mother raised by Russian Jewish parents in a small town in Wisconsin—left the United States in the late Fifties, never to return. I was born in Italy and raised in Puerto Rico, one of eight children.

As kids, we were frequently left to our own devices, with the older children often left in charge of the younger ones. In many ways, I raised my youngest sister, walking her around the neighborhood, taking her to the local neighborhood store, and more. My mother was certainly around quite a bit, but many times she was not able to attend to all eight of us, each about a year apart, each with our own separate needs and demands on her time. She, like many mothers, believed in the power of allowing her children to gain independence by depending on themselves. Although I cannot speak for my siblings, I certainly believe that I derived not only a sense of independence from this practice but a sense of confidence in my ability to manage and make my own decisions.

During the months between my arrest and the deferred prosecution agreement that my lawyer eventually worked out, I began to feel that I was being reprimanded for allowing my daughter to develop that sense of responsibility, and, equally important, to come to the realization that sometimes failure is the best teacher of all. Certainly, she had failed when she made the decision to walk into that dressing room, and had the police not intervened, I would have been angry with her, and she would have known that what she had done was wrong. We both would have gained experience. Instead, we got caught up in the legal system and wound up learning a different, sadder lesson: that self-sufficiency is shrinking in today’s culture.

I saw this illustrated in the parenting class I ended up taking as part of the deferred prosecution agreement. Listening to the questions from the other parents (all of whom were there voluntarily, as far as I could tell) it became clear to me that there’s less room than there used to be to parent by instinct and to trust oneself, as my mother did. Our culture has attempted to find a prescription for parenting, and many people want to believe in the prescription rather than in making their own daily judgments.

At every turn, the parents in the class asked questions that I believe they could have been able to figure out on their own. Should I leave my child in timeout for less time if he yells out “I’m sorry”? Should I not give my child dessert if she doesn’t finish her meal? Should I let him play with his food or take it away when he does that and not give him any more? Should I let my child cry for twenty minutes or thirty? Should I close the door when my child goes to bed or leave it open? Should I tell my child I am angry or give her the silent treatment? Please tell me how to raise my children.

I, on the other hand, had trusted my own instincts and trusted the way I had been brought up when I made my decision on that fateful day: It was fine to drop the kids off at the mall. Did I learn from this? Absolutely. I learned it’s not okay to drop the kids off at the mall, not in Bozeman, Montana, anyway. But I also learned that I am more fiercely attached than I realized to my way of parenting. My temperament, my juggling, my choices: I would not let someone tell me how to raise my children.

Had I been willing to plead guilty, the whole case would have been settled in a month, with a fine of roughly eight hundred dollars and a permanent record. Instead, I chose to plead not guilty, causing the case to go on for more than a year and cost us thousands of dollars. I found support for my decision from my own mother, whose simple statement was the only one that made sense to me during the whole year: If I did not defend myself, she told me, no one would.

My lawyer gave the prosecutor many options to choose from for punishment, ranging from hundreds of hours of community service to taking a parenting class to admission of a mistake. But he could not give her the guilty plea that she so wanted.

I love my children. I would die for them. I have done my best as a working mother, balancing raising them with my job, making sure that I am home when they return from school, being with them on a daily basis. I am by no means a perfect mother. I get angry, I yell, I can be sarcastic, short-tempered, and inaccessible. Yet my children know I love them. They are safe and secure with me—and, I still believe, they are safe and secure in places I allow them to go without me, their friends’ houses, our neighborhood, and, once, the mall.

I got through the year during which the case dragged on quietly, not sharing with anyone what had happened—not only because the judge had placed a gag order on the case, but also because I felt a deep, deep shame. Here I was, someone who had been successful for almost thirteen years raising children and having a job—indeed, someone who was admired by others in this balancing act—and I was being accused of failing.

The exhaustion of being a working mother while trying to raise a wonderful family had caught up with me. At times, I found myself thinking that six months in jail might be just what I needed.

In anticipation of my impending trial, my lawyer set up a mock jury in a conference room at his firm. My daughter and I were called to the witness stand and asked to describe what happened to the best of our knowledge. My lawyer thought the four mock jurors would come quickly to a decision. They ended up discussing and fighting over the case for what felt to me like an eternity.

The jurors were meant to be representative of a broad spectrum of parents in Bozeman, which they were—but they also turned out to illustrate a microcosm of the parenting culture wars. At stake was what constituted good parenting and whether or not I was guilty as charged. We could hear their loud voices from the office’s kitchen where we were waiting.

I finally was called back in with my lawyer. What followed was one surprise after another. First there was the Montana rancher who practically guffawed when he heard the charges against me. At twelve years old, he told us, he was cutting wheat on a tractor and independently working a farm. There was the child therapist who was appalled yet forgiving. There was the father of one who was unforgiving, and there was the older homemaker who was oddly angered by my statement that I considered Bozeman a safe community. “There was a murder here last year,” she exclaimed. In the end, the mock jurors told me that if I wanted to win a real trial, I’d have to cry and show remorse, or at least show some emotion.

Two things happened at that moment: I realized that I was so guarded about the incident that no true emotion was showing, not to strangers or to my friends or even to my husband. And I realized I could never go to trial. My lawyer worked out the deferred prosecution agreement, and I began my service.

At first I felt angry about the show the mock jurors had wanted me to put on, but I now realize that the only way to truly explain my story is through an emotional lens. I do feel guilty about what happened. Not because I committed a crime according to the legal definition, but because no parent has confidence that they have been completely successful, ever.

For all the times that I was not the “good” parent, I am guilty; for all the times that I did not respond perfectly to my children’s needs, I am guilty. For all the times that I’ve not given them enough of me, I am guilty. For feeling constantly torn between so many daily demands, trying to make it all work, but knowing that I sometimes fall short, I am guilty.

But of knowingly putting my children in harm’s way by letting them go to the mall alone? Not guilty.

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328 Responses to Outrage of the Week: Mom Arrested for Letting Kids Go to the Mall

  1. Bonnie July 4, 2009 at 6:16 am #

    So not guilty! This response in Bozeman is not the Montana I grew up in (with the exception of the rancher in the mock jury). What a waste of everyone’s time, money, and emotional energy. Kudos to Ms. Lieb for not caving in and pleading guilty.

  2. Jen July 4, 2009 at 6:37 am #

    ((hugs for Bridget)) What a terrible thing for you and your family to have to go through. Kudos to you for sticking to your guns and not backing down to plead guilty. Where were the parents of the other children during all this? Did they not come forward and defend you and your decision? Surely a united group of parents would have been better than one woman alone in the courtroom.

  3. Jules July 4, 2009 at 6:52 am #


    I swear we have just gone NUTS in this country in our need to protect kids from all real and imagined dangers.
    Good for you for sticking up for yourself and your parenting choices. I’m sorry that they were able to make you feel guilty instead of the righteous anger you should have been feeling.

  4. silvermine July 4, 2009 at 6:57 am #

    When I was 12, I babysat other kids. I’m sure my sister took me to the park when she was 12 and I was 3.


  5. Jeremy July 4, 2009 at 7:05 am #

    I’m practically shaking with rage at the fact that Bridget could either succumb to the wagging finger of shame at her parenting abilities to get off with a lighter fine or dig in and pay thousands of dollars to prove that she’s a good mother.

    Those officers should be so lucky they never have their own parenting abilities put on trial to be dissected by the public.

  6. Leah Weiss Caruso July 4, 2009 at 7:08 am #

    that’s horrific. disgusting. infuriating. UNIMAGINABLE. and yet, it happened. i’m so stunned i don’t even know what to say. God bless that woman for standing up for herself. Good lord.

  7. Marla July 4, 2009 at 7:43 am #

    I just read this in Brain, Child and came here to submit it to this blog as the Outrage of the Week, and it was already posted. “Outrage” is the perfect word for it. Argh!

  8. Nicola July 4, 2009 at 7:47 am #

    I’m just about speechless. Did these cops have nothing better to do than to attack this woman? Better than that, did the Macy’s employees have nothing better to do than to believe that there were abandoned kids in the store??? Did they bother to get on the PA and announce that there were children unattended? My guess would be no.

    Boy… common sense is completely lacking. It seems more and more that parenting is becoming the realm of the zealots and the children they’re bringing up to become paranoid, non-humans with a zest for all things paperwork and red tape.

    What a shame. What is the point in living life if all it is is supervision as a child then work as an adult? Oh, let me not forget that you’re permitted once you’re an adult to go out and drink at the local bar just to let off some steam, and as a kid, you can watch your favorite cartoons as you suck down a carton of french fries.

    Honestly… I think Disney’s movie, Wall-E painted the most accurate picture of where our society is headed: fat to the point of immobility, placated thanks to ever-watching technology, blind enough not to have to think for ourselves – forsaking all that human ingenuity has evolved to be over the course of many thousands of years, and having ignored the cries of the planet so long that we crapped in our own crate and had to leave it behind.

    Perhaps we’ll be so lucky that through some fluke of programming a little robot will save our butts… but the truth is… I sure see it coming – minus the savior robot.

    I’m not certain how people can even believe that kids will be smart and capable of anything when they aren’t given the freedom to explore and learn and create! I highly doubt that if the greatest minds in our past were cloistered inside and forced to watch the idiot box instead of going outside and learning, we’d be anywhere near the advances we have today. Good parenting is guidance and the ability to allow kids to make mistakes – not supervision and bumpers.

    Damned shame and it just makes me sick and sad.

  9. Kacie July 4, 2009 at 7:54 am #

    This is just outrageous. *shocked*

  10. Denise July 4, 2009 at 7:56 am #

    I am just sick.

    I feel overwhelmed at the thought of where we are going as a nation that we could allow something like this to happen.

    There was no crime here. There wasn’t even the semblance of a crime

    We are losing our rights as parents and it just doesn’t feel like anyone cares.

    Just because we live in a nation of people afraid of all the things that could possibly happen to their children, why should we have to subscribe to that fear?

    I REFUSE!!!

    I KNOW that I am teaching my children to be responsible and to face difficult situations with level heads. I KNOW that sometimes in life bad things happens…people get hurt or lives are lost.

    And if one of these things were to happen to my children, I would KNOW that I did all that I could to help them overcome challenge and difficulty.

    A life without challenge, without possibility is not a life worth living.

    We cannot put our children in a bubble and think that we can protect them from everything. If we do that, if we never left them have experiences that will test them and try them, if we never left them fall, they will never learn what it means to rise again and persevere, to have the courage to live rich, fulfilling lives that are the ultimate testament as our ability as parents.

    I am afraid. But not of the things that will happen to my children. But of the people who think that I don’t have the right to let them experience these things.

  11. David P Cohen Jr. July 4, 2009 at 7:57 am #

    I hate to think that you (or anyone else in such a circumstance) will carry around any sense of guilt whatsoever.
    Life is not always safe, but usually, it is. That’s life.
    I was born in 1965, so I grew up in the 60s, 70s and into the 80s in Los Angeles. We would go “out to play” and the only major rule was to be home by dark (and of course, “don’t lie, cheat, or steal”).
    We got dirty, we got into mischief, we scraped our knees, chipped our teeth and we frequently came home, AFTER DARK!!
    Yet through all of that, WE ALL MADE IT. None of us died, or got abducted, or any of the other terrible things the media teaches us to expect around every corner.
    Now I’m about 45, and I don’t have children, though if I did, I wouldn’t let them get away with most of the things we did as kids- NOT because the world is less safe, but because I learned from my mistakes (things like… not lighting a firecracker while I hold it, though I do still have all of my fingers!)
    “Prescription for parenting”- The phrase is really quite comical. People are not robots, or computers. They’re PEOPLE. People are flawed, but having faith in your kids is NOT a flaw. Trusting the security at the local mall is not a shortcoming.
    It’s funny that the same religious people that teach the importance of faith, can so often be governed by fear.
    Keep in mind, in the 1970s most of the news we saw was local. Today we get to hear about every horrible thing that happens in the entire country, sometimes, the world. That doesn’t mean the world is more dangerous, just that media is better at rubbing our noses in the few inevitable bad things that happen in a nation of over 300,000,000 people.

  12. Kenny Felder July 4, 2009 at 7:57 am #

    OK, we’re all outraged together. Lenore’s question was, what can we do?

    One thing we can certainly do is show as much support as possible for Mrs. Lieb. I just left a very long comment at “Brain,Child” that I really hope she will read, just assuring her that she’s not the one who’s crazy. It’s very difficult to maintain that confidence when everyone around you is telling you the opposite. Lenore, if you have contact info for her, please make sure she sees all the comments here that are so strongly in support of her.

    Beyond that, what is needed here is some lawyers, and/or some money, to take this case or another one like it to court in a serious way. It sounds in this case like the opposing lawyer was given free rein to pain a picture of Mrs. Lieb that was never really contradicted by the defense. (That’s just what it sounds like to me, of course I wasn’t there.) Think of this as the struggle to overturn segregated schools, or segregated buses later on; they had to wait for the right case, and then jump on it and make sure it got a whole lot of publicity. That takes money and highly experienced, dedicated lawyers.

    What we have here is a cause. Who will fight for it? Leaving comments on Lenore’s blog, agreeing with each other, is a lot of fun (I really mean that) but it will only get us so far. Does anyone know anyone who knows anyone who knows how to do this?

    Lenore, I’m sure a lot more people read your blog than read these comments. Perhaps some time you could explicitly put a call to action in your blog, looking for people who can try to set up these cases–people who actually know how that system works, which most of us (including me) don’t at all? The fact is, if it were done right, these policemen should be under arrest, and so should the person who kicked Lenore’s son off the subway this past Christmas, and so should every busy-body who *harrasses* parents who are clearly not violating the law.

  13. Andromeda July 4, 2009 at 8:11 am #

    This is the sort of thing that terrifies me.

    Something I would love to see you do, Lenore, is leverage FreeRangeKids into, say, meetup.com, or Facebook, and sponsor gatherings of free range parents — so we can find each other, support each other, not be alone, know that if we make certain choices there’s someone else in the neighborhood who will back us up on them, who won’t call the cops on us. I suppose we could always do this ourselves :), but I wouldn’t want to use the FRK name without your permission, and it’d get a lot more traction if it were promoted on your blog.

  14. Delphine July 4, 2009 at 8:11 am #

    When I was 6, I walked 20 minutes alone to school. When my brother was 3, he walked 2 blocks alone to his preschool. When I was 8, and my brother was 7, him and I would ride our bikes 30 minutes on a busy metropolitan streets to play in a memorial park.

    Amazingly, we’re still alive, and grew up to be responsible adults. Wow. It must’ve been a miracle.

    I’m saddened that she had to get a record for this bs. The police that arrested her is the one that needs to be charged with police abuse. Yes, it’s an outrageous charge, but much less outrageous than what he did to her. She should’ve named him and gave out his badge number for this. The City Attorney’s name should’ve been made public too. If she has a black mark, then they all need one of their own.

  15. Lisa July 4, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    It just takes one person with their nose out of joint to blow something so minimal out of proportion.

    I was raised by a single-father and often babysat my sister at age 8 and 9, getting her dressed for school, making her lunch… we walked two miles from the school to the pool for swimming lessons, sometimes in the snow. Nobody even batted an eye about that, or anything, our entire lives.

    I am sorry that a prosecutor with a chip on her shoulder made a federal case out of something so every-day.

  16. Tana July 4, 2009 at 9:05 am #

    Bozeman, Montana, was also just recently in the news for requesting that anyone applying for a job from the city hand over their private passwords to sites like Myspace and Facebook. You can read about it at http://bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/06/19/news/10socialnetworking.txt. The city has since dropped that part of the application. Instead, according to the article, the interviewer will ask the interviewee to sign into the sites or add the city as a friend, allowing the city official to peruse their information at leisure.

  17. Susan K July 4, 2009 at 9:17 am #

    Some of the local malls here have rules about unattended children, but it is mostly applied to the “packs” of teens that disrupt the mall. Not spending money, but hanging out and harassing paying customers. I understand the reasoning behind that type of rule. What this mom went through was completely inappropriate.

  18. Laura July 4, 2009 at 9:24 am #

    I am appalled and disgusted. Certainly it sounds like the older girls did have a lapse of judgement and perhaps deserve to get scolded for it, but that should’ve been the extent of it. Calling her to come pick up her kids – sure. Watching to be sure they stayed put ’til she showed up – sure. The mall can do that, whether they should or not; it’s their property. But for her to be arrested for endangering them? Outrageous.

    Is it any surprise the mall employees thought the younger kids were, well, younger than they are? Our society as a whole is treating children as if they were smaller and more helpless than they are, and so those are the lessons we learn. It’s probably not helped by the number of people who now get well into adulthood without children and without jobs related to children – and so without any clear, adult idea of what children are like. (Not a bad thing in itself, until those same people start trying to push for children’s needs/rights/safety, with no idea what those in fact require!)

  19. sylvia_rachel July 4, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    “Outrage” is the word for this one, all right. If someone sent me this as one of those e-mail forwards, I don’t think I’d believe it.

    OK, the 12-year-old screwed up. Had the Macy’s manager given her a stern warning of the “You need to keep a closer eye on your little brothers and sister, young lady” variety, or even phoned her mother and relayed the littlies-left-in-purse-aisle incident, she’d have learned a valuable lesson about the link between privilege and responsibility, and it needn’t have gone any further. Instead …

    It’s hard to believe that in a state so enamoured of individual freedoms that it doesn’t even have highway speed limits, parents can’t be trusted to make their own parenting decisions. (Bozeman, incidentally, has a population of 27,500. If there’s ever a place where people know and trust their neighbours, surely this ought to be it.)

    What can we do? I don’t know … but for starters I’m off to be supportive in the comments section at Brain, Child

  20. Thomas July 4, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    I’m of mixed opinion on this one. There’s no possible way this woman could actually be negligent with respect to her children, and the police and community are taking a rather dictatorial stance on the situation. On the other hand, though I can’t speak for any Montana community, in the Northeast most malls are seen as a hang-out for mobs of kids. Most malls in my area are trying to prevent groups of kids from using the mall as a teen center rather than a shopping plaza. For both of these reasons I would never allow my children, at any age, free run of the mall. If my kids could be reasonably expected to be well behaved (and at 4 and -3mo they could not) it would still be inconsiderate to drop them off in a place currently regarded as a teenage babysitting service.

    Free range gives the impression that it is “us vs. them;” the well behaved, well taught free-rangers taking stance against the control-freaks and (actually) negligent parents. Our children still need to interact with these other-type of children (and their parents of different philosophy). We, as adults, must still interact with these children and their parents. The considerate, free-range parent must take this into account, at least to some degree.

  21. Carol July 4, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    A THREE YEAR OLD? C’mon people. A babysitting class is for children watching a child at home. She could have turned on a movie, and let the older children babysit the younger ones while she slept. I wouldn’t want my 12 yr old to have the responsiblity of watching a toddler at a mall.

  22. MaeMae July 4, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. During my 11 years as a parent I have had too many people to count comment on my parenting skills. I won’t bore you with the details here but I was shocked at the fact that so many people thought it was their right to tell me how to raise my children.
    I was a young mother. I had me eldest when I was 19 and yet I never questioned my ability to raise my child. I was 2nd in a family of 7 and maybe that is the difference. I did not think anything of helping with my siblings and I have no problem assigning my 11-year-old to make breakfast for her 9-year-old brother if I want 20 more minutes of sleep before I go to work.
    I agree that something needs to be done. How do we go about getting people to mind their own business?
    I think we need to start grilling politicians at election times, protesting outside courtrooms hearing cases such as the one we just read about and getting some kind of law passed that lets parents rule their own children. Isn’t this the land of the free because it sure doesn’t feel like it anymore. I am so tired of being scared to trust my own judgement concerning my children when I know them and their abilities better than anyone else.

  23. highlyirritable July 4, 2009 at 10:22 am #

    This article frightens and saddens me. There must be many, many children who have parents that wish for them to be “free range” but refrain from allowing it due to fears of community reprisal. Recently I have started discussing the “Free Range” concept with other parents I encounter, and have found the pro/con split 50/50, although within the 50% who say they agree with the premise, approximately one half (25%) admit to not “daring” to allow it.

  24. Lori July 4, 2009 at 10:38 am #

    Having been in this situation myself – though I was accused by a cop who was acting alone and later not supported by the chief of police – I’m in total support of whatever we can do to help others who find themselves in these situations.

    Publicity is the key. I know that one of the first things I did after coming home from my meeting with the police, was to do a google search for Lenore’s story. I remembered just enough to know that it related to my situation. I found great support from Lenore and the discussions on this web site.

    So, build a community of support. but, the word has to get out. I know a lot of people around me are discussing this, because my story was publicized locally and everybody knows about it.

  25. AZGirl July 4, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    I appreciate the information and community setting this website provides. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s with a parent who watched all those missing children shows, so I wasn’t even allowed to go to the mailbox next to our driveway when I was ten. Thankfully, we had an acre lot, so I could be “unsupervised” some of the time. I couldn’t be alone at the store, or even walk more than a mile away as a teenager. I always felt my parents were paranoid and overreacting and was jealous of my friends whose parents were less strict. Having a website like this helps me to find the balance I want with raising my own kids. I still struggle with confidence, being assertive, and making decisions, and I definitely do not want that for my own kids.

  26. b July 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    One thing that stands out is this quote: “On that particular day, I was exhausted. The children wanted an activity, and I wanted a couple of hours of quiet and rest.”

    And later: “The exhaustion of being a working mother while trying to raise a wonderful family had caught up with me. ”

    And the other paragraphs mentioning “exhaustion”.

    The older girls asked if they could go to the mall. This would have presumably been okay. But the mom was exhausted, and if they went to the mall alone then the mom would have to take care of the little ones and wouldn’t be able to take a nap.

    She could have insisted that the girls stay home and watch the little ones, while the mom took a nap. They had the sort of training designed to let twelve year olds babysit kids AT HOME. But then she would perhaps have had two sullen twelve year olds and three noisy little ones, and again, no nap.

    So she said they could go to the mall if they took the three little ones with them.

    She made a decision out of exhaustion and exasperation. She mentions this several times, making it clear that if she hadn’t been so extremely exhausted she wouldn’t have made the decision this way.

    And (is it really a surprise?) the twelve year olds turned out not to have been able to stick to the rules she set for them, and as a result the little ones were left unattended. It wasn’t the twelve year olds fault for forgetting the kids while they went to try on some cute tops.

    Seriously. Two twelve year old girls, shopping in the mall? How can anyone who has ever gone to the mall with two twelve year old girls be surprised that at some point they were focused on something other than the little kids they were supposed to be watching?

    Why is it that so many “free range” stories seem to have more to do with parents being exhausted or inconvenienced, and making decisions on that basis, rather than stories about parents making deliberate and well-considered efforts to expand their kids’ responsibility and freedom? Why, when we get a story about a parent whose judgment turned out to be wrong, and wrong in a way that common sense could have predicted for anyone not on the verge of collapse from exhaustion, is the “lesson” about how other people didn’t just shrug off poor judgment that left a three year old, seven year old and eight year old unattended?

    Why can’t the “free range” message be that you need to make judgments about what your kids are capable of doing, and if your exhaustion level is so extreme it requires three paragraphs to explain then maybe that’s not the time to make a huge leap in the level of responsibility (such as, from babysitting at home to keeping track of three little kids while shopping in a mall). Or in general, a decision to go free rangy, when it’s motivated by the parent’s exhaustion or inconvenience, is not likely to be a good decision.

  27. Coco July 4, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    Oh. Oh my God. We are considering moving to Bozeman in the next several years and this just makes me feel sick, imbalanced, ugly.

    I grew up in suburban Denver, CO. At 13-14 I was taking the bus alone downtown with friends, staying ALL DAY (Like 9AM – 6 PM) and coming home with no cell phone calls, no texts, no nothing. THESE DID NOT EXIST. Oh, my first job? At 14, I NANNYED for two boys UNDER TWO for NINE HOURS A DAY.

    None of us died. And it wasn’t some Jesus Miracle. I was a smart girl, a good girl, and I loved those boys and they loved me. THEY TRUSTED ME WITH THOSE BOYS FOR WEEKENDS. Not hours. WEEKENDS.

    Now? If we as parents go 30 minutes with no contact? We are expected to call in the cavalry.

    The actions you described seem perfectly rational and sane to me, A LAS VEGAS MOM. I am truly sorry the Bozeman police acted in this manner. I am sorry for all of us that the movement toward Big Brother Parenting is incapacitating more and more of us.

    What a shame that tweens kids are no longer entrusted with the slightest responsibility.

  28. b July 4, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    “What a shame that tweens kids are no longer entrusted with the slightest responsibility.”

    Did you miss the fact that in this particular example, they were entrusted with a responsibility that they failed at? And that the mode of failure was just what common sense might tell you two twelve year old girls might do in a mall, namely find some cute tops they wanted to try on? And that the real problem wasn’t the twelve year old girls, who were simply doing what twelve year old girls tend to do when shopping for clothes. The problem was that three kids ages 3, 7 and 8 were left unattended, as a result of bad judgment by the mom.

    Leaving a 3 year old, 7 year old and 8 year old unattended in a mall isn’t comparable to you, at 13-14, taking a bus without a cell phone.

    Yes, the mom was exhausted, as if that’s an excuse. Yes, she hoped the twelve year old girls would behave much more responsibly than they actually did, so the mom could get some nap time. Yes, against all common sense she hoped they’d be able to go shopping for clothes while also keeping track of three little kids. But ultimately, the problem is that three LITTLE kids ended up unattended in a mall. That’s what happened, and it’s the mom’s responsibility and hers alone.

    What’s with free rangers and these non-sequitur “when I was young” stories? I rode my bike to school with friends every day starting in first grade, half a mile or so. I had a paper route starting when I was 11 or 12, and at that age if I was with my friends we could go anywhere we wanted within a range of certain streets, including a bunch of stores and so on. So what?

    My parents didn’t expect me and my little brother to fend for ourselves at the mall when I was 7 and he was 3. Yours didn’t either. That’s what happened in this case.

  29. Alison July 4, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    Andromeda had a great idea: “Something I would love to see you do, Lenore, is leverage FreeRangeKids into, say, meetup.com, or Facebook, and sponsor gatherings of free range parents — so we can find each other, support each other, not be alone, know that if we make certain choices there’s someone else in the neighborhood who will back us up on them, who won’t call the cops on us.”

  30. Jen Connelly July 4, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    Hmmm, I was a 12 year old girl once and I was perfectly capable of watching my younger brother and younger friends.
    At 12 I was riding my bike to the mall 3 miles away by myself or with my younger brother. That’s in Chicago (if anyone knows Ford City Mall…hung out there all the time when I was that age, usually by myself).
    I remember being left in charge of my neighbor’s sons for several hours. I was probably 13 and they were 5 and 9. Earned $10 for keeping them busy for the day. We hung out, played ball and had a picnic at the park and no one batted an eye at a 13yo out for the day with a 5yo and a 9yo and I kept a good eye on them because it was my responsibility.
    I don’t understand how people expect kids to learn responsibility if they are never allowed to have any. I learned to be responsible by having responsibilities like watching my brother. By the time I was a teen I felt it was my duty as the oldest kid outside to watch the younger kids. I always looked out for them.
    Now I, personally, wouldn’t have let my 3yo go with them but would have probably let the other 4 go. My 3yo doesn’t like me very much because I won’t always let her go out with her older siblings (who are 9, 7 and 6) because I feel they should be able to play occasionally without having to keep an eye on her.
    I’m so sad about the state of our country…I’m sad for our children. I would hate to be a kid right now. And sadly most of them don’t even realize how bad things are as long as they have cable TV, their cell phone and access to the internet. I’d give all that up to go back to running free through my south side neighborhood, causing mischief and learning to live.

  31. Cherish July 4, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    This makes no sense to me. When I was 8, I was babysitting my younger sister. (Maybe that was a bit young, but regardless…) My husband grew up on a farm and was driving tractor when he was 10. Granted, I think parents do need to evaluate the maturity level of the kids before leaving them with younger ones, but I think this one got completely out of hand.

  32. lemontree July 4, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

    I’m sorry, but the 8 and 7 year old together are perfectly capable of watching a 3 year old IN A STROLLER for five minutes. They were not wandering the mall. They stayed put and waited for their sister. Granted, the older girls didn’t do exactly as they promised, but the children were still in no danger.

    At twelve, I often walked the neighborhood with my three year old brother. I and my 10 year old sister often took him to the park 1/2 a mile away.

    Also, I trust my 8 year old daughter to watch my 3 year old for small amounts of time. For example, she’s kept an eye on her when I try on clothes. It’s practically impossible to keep a 3 year old in the dressing room. She likes to go under the door. I’m relieved my oldest is finally old enough to help me out with this.

  33. LindaLou July 4, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    The problem wasn’t that you dropped your children at the mall. The problem was that the older two girls did not do their job. They left the younger children alone for what was clearly enough time for someone to notice. Consequently, you were held responsible. Deal. Also, I cannot believe that you thought it was okay for a three year old to remain ina stoller for all those hours! That is, IMO, a form of neglect.

    I was on board with this until I read all the details. My kids are 12, 9, and 4.5 and I’d trust the older two to supervise their little brother in public. In fact, I do so on a regular basis. But my oldest actually does her job. Cleary, your 12 year old was not ready for that responsibility and it was your responsibility to know this.

  34. Casey July 4, 2009 at 2:51 pm #

    I think that part of the problem is that adults in our society just don’t spend enough time with children in general. People can’t possibly understand what kids are capable of if they don’t ever pay any attention to them.

    Then again, adults don’t really spend a lot of time with adults anymore either…maybe we should start spending more time together in general in order to understand that the world’s a lot safer than we treat it to be.

  35. Casey July 4, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    LindaLou…how did you “clearly” know that your oldest children were ready for their responsibility the first time? I don’t mind you disagreeing with what this parent chose, but you certainly didn’t have to take such a harsh tone…sheesh.

    I guess that’s why we don’t spend enough time together anymore…most of us are too set in our ways to discuss ideas in a polite and responsible way. It’s truly unfortunate that we’ve traded debate for hate. Or at least for harsh be-all end-all statements.

  36. Gilraen July 4, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    This is such an example of bureaucracy gone wild and the age of fear.
    Sure things happen, but unless you have been taught to be prepared you will not be able to cope. books will not prepare you for life. Life and experiences will.

    I am so glad that my parents showed me responsibility, let me grow up and be an adult. Sure little by little but always prepared, and always knowing that mum and dad would be there.
    Yes my brother broke two arms in his youth, but one of them was simply tripping over in the street. Should walking thus be forbidden?

  37. Linda Cohen July 4, 2009 at 4:10 pm #

    I would hardly call it a “huge leap in responsibility” to go from babysitting siblings to watching them at the mall, particularly when there were TWO experienced babysitters.
    Even with a parent present I frequently see older siblings responsible for younger ones during a trip to the mall-especially with large families. The fact that the mom was, “on the verge of collapse from exhaustion” should not be a surprise to anyone with kids, and if this is what caused her to make what you call a wrong decision it means parents must be making wrong decisions constantly.
    You’re implying that being exhausted is somehow a moral shortcoming and makes you a bad parent. You imply that having faith in the responsibility your child has shown in the past is somehow not a good thing. Obviously the two 12 yr olds should have paid better attention, but NOTHING HAPPENED, and that’s how you learn anyway, by making mistakes. Isn’t that how YOU became the adult you are today, at least in part, by making mistakes, and learning to make better choices? Not by having the police and the whole world breathing down your neck, telling you the choices you make, the same choices that millions of parents have made, are making, are wrong.

  38. expatsophie July 4, 2009 at 6:19 pm #

    I’ll start by saying I don’t have children, just in the interest of full disclosure. But it is exactly this type of insanity that makes me not want to have them at all. When I was 10 I was babysitting other people’s children for money when their parents went out on Friday or Saturday night. I was allowed to go to the mall with a couple of my friends while our mothers did something else like run errands and come back to get us at a pre-arranged time and place. And this was in the mid-1980’s, before cell phones. I didn’t live in small-town America either. I grew up in Baton Rouge, LA, which has had the distinction of being the murder capitol of the nation several times. It isn’t that I do not like children. To the contrary; I love them. It’s the prospect of being judged by this standard that gives me hives. I’m glad your ordeal is over and I hope your children know how lucky they are.

  39. allison July 4, 2009 at 6:46 pm #

    Lenore asked what can be done to help in cases like this. Two things that occur to me are a legal defense fund and expert testimony. Perhaps someone could compile a list of child development experts who are willing to testify about what is developmentally appropriate, and the benefits of giving youth real responsibility.

  40. tracey July 4, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    Oh This makes me furious!! At What age is it allowed to leave them, then??? What is the magical age of responsibility? Because I know some 14 and 15 year olds who have babies of their own; are they not allowed to go anywhere with them?

    My thought on the whole “age” thing is this: If the government wants to claim neglect to parents that allow their kids freedom, then they need to be SPECIFIC about what is and isn’t ALLOWED. If there is a state code stating that no kids under, say 14, can be left in charge of other minors, well then. Then the mother should have had a slap on the wrist and AT MOST community service or something. (i believe the age for my state of Illinois is 14 to be left in charge of siblings…)

    But the whole rigamarole that they put her through? It was just to prove some point. I’m so sorry she had to go through all of this.

  41. Myriam July 4, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    I remember hearing a woman on the radio talking about her childhood growing up in a close-knit community in Hackney East London in the 1970s and how, at the age of seven, she was in the habit of knocking on neighbours’ doors and asking if she and her friend could “take the baby out” – not a tiny baby she clarified, but a small toddler in a pram. She added that if you were really lucky you got a “baby and dog combo” to take out to the park. I don’t necessarily think that that’s a great idea, but it illustrates that the ideas about the supervision of children that we are living with at the moment are simply the cultural norms of a particular time and place. Yet many people hold them sacrosanct and never question them.

  42. Wendy July 4, 2009 at 8:39 pm #

    Where I live most of the children regularly mind their little brother and sisters. They play out in the street and the older ones push little ones in their buggies.

    Myriam I think asking to take the baby out was a common practise in close knit UK communities.

    We are played in the street in the 1950s and 60s and the older ones minded the younger.

  43. allison July 4, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    Another thing that struck me when reading the article is that everyone involved (department store employees, mall security, police officer, etc.) passed the issue up the chain of command, rather than relying on their own judgment. This is something I’ve heard in other civil liberties cases, too (for instance, in encounters with homeland security), and it makes me think that partnering with other civil liberties organizations to fight cases like this might be fruitful.

  44. Dave July 4, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    This angers me to no end. People need to mind there own business and let parents raise their own children. As a child my baby sitter was the neighbor who was 12. Our culture needs to lighten up.

  45. The Mother July 4, 2009 at 11:04 pm #

    We often used 12 year old babysitters. And from the time I had a responsible older sib in the house, he WAS our babysitter.

    I live in HOUSTON, and I would NEVER hesitate to drop my kids off at the mall for a movie and lunch. And have.

    I so feel for this woman. It could have been any of us. Or all of us.

  46. Sierra July 4, 2009 at 11:26 pm #

    I am touched by Bridget’s openness in this piece, as well as her maturity and grace in recounting the events. It’s a real gift.

    And it is in fact terrifying to know that she experienced this. I often check my own parenting choices not against what I believe is truly safe or best for my kids, but against what I fear some helpful idiot might call the cops over.

    I love connecting with other Free Range parents, and second Andromeda’s suggestion that having local Free Range meet-ups would be a Good Thing.

    At the same time, I wonder if we’re dancing on the other side of the coin of fear with this discussion. Is it any more likely that I’ll be arrested for letting my kids go to the mall than it is that one of them will be stolen from her bedroom while sleeping?

    I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure – judging from the packs of unattended kids who roam the malls around here – that Bridget’s experience was an outlier, the work of a few assholes with badges and axes to grind. It’s terrible that it happened to her, and she deserves all the support, respect and fight we can give her. But it doesn’t (necessarily) mean I should see this threat in the face of every Macy’s employee when I duck into a dressing room without my five year old.

  47. Uly July 4, 2009 at 11:30 pm #

    “Yes, the mom was exhausted, as if that’s an excuse. Yes, she hoped the twelve year old girls would behave much more responsibly than they actually did, so the mom could get some nap time. Yes, against all common sense she hoped they’d be able to go shopping for clothes while also keeping track of three little kids. But ultimately, the problem is that three LITTLE kids ended up unattended in a mall. That’s what happened, and it’s the mom’s responsibility and hers alone.”

    Okay, now, I agree that maybe sending the three year old in that group was too much.

    But an eight and a seven year old kid can not really be described as “LITTLE kids”. Sheesh.

  48. Sammi July 5, 2009 at 12:03 am #

    I created a Facebook group for people to show their support for Ms. Kevane’s choices.


  49. jamessye July 5, 2009 at 12:10 am #

    There has to be something else to this case…? Sounds like a moral issue they are trying to convict you on. It also sounds like you live in Mayberry… Good luck with that.

  50. Jennifer July 5, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    What I’m left wondering is: if this was irresponsible parenting why weren’t the other parents prosecuted as well? If Bridget’s husband and the parents of the other children agreed to the mall plan it was a joint decision and their judgement should also have been in question. Why weren’t they also sent to parenting class if the legal system determined that to be necessary?

    It seems that Bridget was made a scape goat in the cultural struggle we’re still having about working moms and mothering in general. Issues of “difference,” like town/gown divide, were probably at work too.

    I wonder how tweens and early teens are supposed to learn responsibility _before_ they drive and become sexual active (actions with much more serious potential consequences than shopping at the mall) if they aren’t given any.

  51. the queen July 5, 2009 at 12:22 am #

    While it’s true that ultimately it was Bridget’s (if I could call you that) that her daughters did not live up to expectation, still isn’t it a bit harsh to straight away slap this on her? Come on, you guys let people off for MUCH MORE SERIOUS offences than this. Or post bail. Whatever. And all she did was make one sad mistake and she has to go through all that? I know there is no fairness in the world, but in that case, the US of A better start shutting up about their so-called legal system. Don’t praise what doesn’t deserve to be. You let people carry guns for self defense but you can’t be flexible for a mom who’s trying her best to juggle her responsibilities as a mom and as a tax-paying productive citizen (because heck knows if she just stayed at home at some point of time someone is going to say that she’s not being a productive citizen). Billions of other parents have done much worse than this and nobody sticks a foot in their business.

    Oh, I am making sure EVERY single person knows about this. So that nobody is fooled into thinking that there is a lovely legal system in the US. I know it’s not fair to base the entire system on one sad state. But if you want to be praised or be known for something, you have to earn it. You just lost it, especially in the eyes of non-US citizens who have been forced to take US’s shtick about their superior democratic etc. legal system.

    I may be politicizing this, but that’s politics. And I share fully my support for Bridget and I hope that this will be overturned and taken off some day, because you do not deserve to be punished so harshly for an offence that is much lighter than other offences other parents commit, but get away scot-free, nor under this kind of double-standard legal system that is absolute codswallop.

  52. S.D. July 5, 2009 at 12:23 am #

    WOW. When I was growing up, the mall was quite a ways away from my house, but me and my brother and sisters and friends would walk out there, hang out, goof off, just be kids. We were never given a second thought. We behaved cuz we knew if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be allowed back. I’m glad for the opportunity, and my now 14 year old goes out around town with his friends. He knows the rules, he knows his limits, he knows his CONSEQUENCES if he breaks ’em! Through this, he has gained a sense of responsibility and a pretty good head on his shoulders that otherwise he might not have had.

    I feel bad for this woman to go through such a traumatic experience for being a mother who believed in teaching responsibility by experience. We can preach it til the cows come home, but how can they really KNOW if they don’t get the chance to experience it themselves? Granted, her daughter shouldn’t have left the ‘younger kids’ unattended, but again, EXPERIENCE.

    Most likely, Bozeman is a small town, and it is easier t o put the blame and focus on ‘outsiders’, not to mention the police were probably bored stiff and looked for trouble wherever they could find it. Unfortunately, it was this lady’s day. That a city attorney.. most likely jealous that her own daughter couldn’t be deemed mature enough to leave at the mall or responsible enough to really even leave the house, so she took it out on the lady in this article. Either that, or her own mom didn’t allow her to the mall with her friends when she was a kid and is still bitter about it 30 years later! lol

    God bless you, lady. You’re welcome to come leave your kids at our mall any time! *wink*

  53. hermance July 5, 2009 at 12:41 am #

    “Did you miss the fact that in this particular example, they were entrusted with a responsibility that they failed at? And that the mode of failure was just what common sense might tell you two twelve year old girls might do in a mall, namely find some cute tops they wanted to try on? And that the real problem wasn’t the twelve year old girls, who were simply doing what twelve year old girls tend to do when shopping for clothes. The problem was that three kids ages 3, 7 and 8 were left unattended, as a result of bad judgment by the mom.”

    B, I think it depends what you mean by “failed.” They did not follow the rules set out for them. But they were also subsequently denied the opportunity to learn from their mistake. The point is not the girls or the parents; the point is that you implicitly believe that leaving those kids alone for a few minutes at the purse counter constitutes negligent behavior worth arresting someone for. I also have a problem with your notion that this is just “what twelve-your old girls do.” Says who? Not every 12-year old girl would do that. And I—and I think other posters here—believe that by teaching children the importance of responsibility and then holding them accountable is a good way to teach them that actions have consequences. If we constantly underestimate our children and then pass off their breaking the rules as “just what children do,” how will they ever learn that they actually must follow rules? Shouldn’t they have room to make mistakes and then be reprimanded by their parents? Is it really too much to ask of 12 year olds not to leave children alone in a mall? Seriously?

    “But ultimately, the problem is that three LITTLE kids ended up unattended in a mall.”

    The difference that you’re seeing in these comments is that most of us don’t see that as too much of a problem and certainly not a problem worth criminalizing. What do you think was going to happen to those kids at a Macy’s purse counter in Bozeman, Montana? The statistics indicate that kids are much, much, much more likely to be hurt when they are in a car driven by someone talking on a cell phone. Should we start arresting moms for that? I mean, after all, they are too “lazy” and “selfish” to wait to get off of the road to make a phone call. (Isn’t that your problem with this mother? That you perceive her as lazy and selfish and you as a more superior, less exhausted parent?) Perhaps we should start having police officers trail moms in minivans to make sure that they don’t use the phone or speed while their kids are in the car because that is much more likely to cause a terrible outcome than leaving kids at a mall would. Surely, you would get behind criminalizing cell phone talking as negligent, right? What about parental smoking? Perhaps we should arrest moms for that?

  54. hermance July 5, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    I would also love a way to help free range parents locate one another. When I have joined other moms’ groups, I have felt a bit sheepish expressing my feelings about the independence I want my kids to achieve.

    I also wonder if it could be useful to have a national event to help draw attention to such issues. You know, a kind of “Free Range Parenting Day” in which we all agree to engage in the same symbolic act that shows our faith in our children’s sense of responsibility.

  55. Kali July 5, 2009 at 12:57 am #

    I don’t see a problem with this. I’m a middle school student, and my school’s band goes on a field trip twice a year to the mall. If we misbehave we can’t go again. I just wish the school would use some common sense when deciding who behaved badly.

  56. b July 5, 2009 at 1:09 am #

    “I would hardly call it a “huge leap in responsibility” to go from babysitting siblings to watching them at the mall, particularly when there were TWO experienced babysitters.”

    Apparently it was a huge leap for them, because they could handle the simpler case of babysitting at home, and couldn’t handle the responsibility in the mall.

    TWO of them is a plus? My reaction was that the problem was most likely magnified by the fact that there were two of them. One of them might have done a better job of focusing on the kids. Put two twelve year old girls in a mall, shopping together for clothes, chatting and giggling together about school and boys and whatever, and the chances of them being in their own little world (and forgetting the little ones) goes way up. In fact, that’s exactly what happened … they went off together because they found some really cute shirts they simply had to try on.

    And again, because the outraged masses keep missing the point, the problem here wasn’t the twelve year olds. The problem was that the mom let seven, eight and three year olds be left unattended in the mall, because of poor judgment clouded by exhaustion. They were the mom’s responsibility, period.

    Someone else writes: “That a city attorney.. most likely jealous that her own daughter couldn’t be deemed mature enough to leave at the mall …”

    Maybe the city attorney’s twelve year old daughter wouldn’t be mature enough to go to the mall with a twelve year old friend to shop for clothes together while simultaneously trying to keep track of three smaller kids. But guess what? The mom in this story has a twelve year old daughter WHO WASN’T MATURE ENOUGH TO DO THAT EITHER. So you’re projecting this onto the attorney but what you’re assuming in doing so is that the attorney knows her daughter better and wouldn’t make a mistake that would leave a seven, eight and three year old unattended in a store. Yet somehow you make this hypothetical case of better judgment into a bad thing, because the bad judgment was “free ranging”. Huh?

    Are people reading the actual story? The reactions sound like people read a bit of it, assumed the twelve year old girls very maturely kept track of the smaller kids in their charge, resisting the urge to do the things two twelve year old girls would otherwise do together in a mall, such as trying on some really cute tops, hanging out with friends from school, etc. And then some reactionary non-free-rangers meddled in a situation in which the three younger kids were in fact constantly and carefully monitored by two well-trained babysitters.

    The outrage would make sense if that were what happened. But it’s not.

  57. S.D. July 5, 2009 at 1:35 am #

    It would certainly make sense for the Macy’s store to contact mall security if the 3 younger kids were causing a ruckus, or running around disturbing the store, which it doesn’t sound like they were. The girls may have made an error in judgment, but they were probably doing what they’ve probably seen their moms do.. leave the younger ones with the older ones while running in to try something on in the fitting room. Were the younger ones raising a ruckus? Were they doing anything more than just waiting t for the older girls to come on out?

    Regardless of what may have transpired, the fact remains: This was the mom’s first ‘offense’ (I use that term loosely). There was absolutely no need to go beyond maybe a small fine and or a warning. Bozeman went over and beyond in disciplining this woman. There are countless mothers all over this country who do drugs, neglect their children in favor of boyfriends, drink so heavily that their children have to care for them the next morning, so on and so forth. Compared to these issues, leaving one’s children at the mall is so minor it doesn’t even register any ounce of alarm within me. Parenting classes because of ONE TIME? C’mon.

    This country’s justice system, and most of the parents out there, need a good swift kick in the arse to get the common sense horse going.

  58. S.D. July 5, 2009 at 1:43 am #

    One other note I’d like to make… I bet you the two older girls told the younger kids if they so much as moved, they’d tell their moms! That would put the fear of God in any kid to not act out! I know cuz I used to tell my sister that. It works. So I even more doubt that the 7,8, and 3 year old (in a stroller) misbehaved in anyway.

  59. Kit July 5, 2009 at 1:48 am #

    I find it interesting that so many of the comments here are focused on whether or not Ms. Kevane made the “right” decision when she dropped the children off at the mall that day. To me, that entire discussion is beside the point. The point, I think, is that the mother was treated as a criminal for doing so. Not just scolded, or fined, but prosecuted as a negligent mother. Whether or not you feel that two 12 yr old girls are capable of caring for 3 young children for a few hours in public, do you feel that the authorities were reasonable in their response? That’s the real question here. Personally, I think the response was ridiculous, and definitely constitutes an “outrage”.

  60. Sheila July 5, 2009 at 2:24 am #

    This is totally outrageous.

    I side with the mother on this. I have a very responsible 10 year-old daughter. Just yesterday I left my 3 year-old in the care of her & her equally responsible friend who is 11 [who was babysitting her 5 year-old down-syndrome brother at the age of 10] . They pulled him in a wagon on the street, fed him, played with him. I wasn’t home, and completely trusted them as I had before. This was in a nice neighborhood & not a mall, but even at their young ages I would feel comfortable leaving them at the mall with him. It really depends on the kids. I have a 10 year-old niece who has shown me time and time again that I CAN”t trust her, and would never allow her alone to babysit my son, due to her immaturity. Parents know their kids and what they are capable of, and what they can handle. The authorities don’t. Maybe their own kids are immature and irresponsible, but that doesn’t mean all kids are. I am very proud of my free-range kids .

  61. Clare July 5, 2009 at 2:26 am #

    This makes me so very angry. This poor mother, whether she makes the same decisions as I do, or anyone else does, is obviously not a neglectful parent. What a horrible ordeal for this family to have to go through.

  62. LindaLou July 5, 2009 at 2:45 am #

    There was nothing at all *hateful* about my post. What is your problem? I happened to have a different opinion. So what? I am all for free range ~ that’s why I’m here. That being said, nearly every time I sign on, I read something in the comments that makes me cringe. Being free range cannot become an axcuse for negligence. People need to exercise some common sense. In fact, I cannot believe I’m the only person who said outright that I think it terrible that a mom would instruct the older kids to LEAVE THE THREE YEAR OLD CONFINED TO A STROLLER FOR HOURS AND HOURS. Since when is this okay? To me this doesn’t sound like a free range parent to me. There was no benefit to the three year old. What an awful way to spend an afternoon if you are 3! I always thought the point of free range was to empower the children, not so mom would have time to take a nap!

  63. TND July 5, 2009 at 3:14 am #

    Add me to the list of 12 year old babysitters and kids who walked to school at 6. But one thing the woman in Bozeman can do, if she feels that the prosecution was in error, is to file a greivance against the prosectuor with the state’s attorney greivance commission (or other licensing board). A prosecutor’s job is to seek justice, and in this case, it appears she attempted to continue this case for reasons other than justice. It also seems like a massive waste of resources for the community.

    That said, I don’t think I’d let 2 12 year old girls loose in a mall with 3 younger ones. That is my opinion though, not a legal standard in any way.

  64. MaeMae July 5, 2009 at 3:19 am #

    @ b: My goodness! That we could all be as righteous as you. I think the point that you’re refusing to see if that most of us are agreeing that the 12-year-olds were derelict in their duties. When I was younger (yep, gotta add one of “those” stories) I wanted to go the park but I was told I had to bring my little brother. I got to the park, started playing and the little snot went home. My parents weren’t arrested, I was reprimanded. For weeks, when I asked to go to the park the response was “nope because we can’t trust you to watch your brother” Trust me, when I was given the chance again I watched him like a hawk.
    That is what went wrong in this story. The mother was not given a chance to teach and really, isn’t that what a parent is here to do. Besides, how would she know if and when her daughter was ready if she didn’t try it?

  65. MaeMae July 5, 2009 at 3:28 am #

    @ Linda Lou: I don’t think there was anything hateful in your post but as much as I respect your opinion, COME ON! You’ve never gone to a state fair, or Washington, D.C., or Niagara Falls and left your toddler in the stroller because it is so crowded and you know it’s gonna be a long day? Heck, I used to bribe my kids to stay in their strollers because it was easier sometimes than chasing them through a crowd of people. This wasn’t hours and hours. If I recall correctly it was 3 hours. I’m sure the kid didn’t develop any stroller sores on her backside in that amount of time.
    That said, I know there is a wide range of opinions on this stuff. I was the only one I knew who used playpens and pacifiers. The rest of my friends thought it tantamount to abuse and neglect. Sorry, I’m not gonna skip a shower for a week because my daughter will cry in the playpen for 5 minutes. I think that’s the point of this site. Stop judging other people’s parenting skills and focus on what’s right for your family.

  66. LindaLou July 5, 2009 at 3:53 am #

    No, I never forced my preschoolers to stay in their strollers for hours on end with no choice in the matter. Yes, I think it’s a form of neglect. And yes, I will continue to post my opinion. It’s not more or less “judgemental” than yours or anyone else’s just because I happen to agree or disagree at any particular time. If the posts weren’t meant to be commented on, then there wouldn’t be a comment section.

  67. S.D. July 5, 2009 at 3:53 am #

    MaeMae.. I totally agree! I had a playpen for my son and my daughter both. Both my kids learned to entertain themselves while I vacuumed or cleaned the bathtub, or even while I sat and *gasp!* watched a bit ‘o t.v. now and then. I would even take the play pen outside, put them in that, while I sat and enjoyed the sun. We even had a pacifier, which my kids outgrew on their own when they were about a year and a half. And, we didn’t even have crawl-pads, which I recently learned about and was totally appalled to hear. PFT.

    Regarding the stroller issue.. You are SO RIGHT! How many of us DID go to the amusement parks, fairs, conventions, expos, whatever with our kids packed into strollers for hours!

    I quit the stroller when my daughter was 3, and have been teaching her to STAY WITH MOM at all times. Now she is 4, and when we go to the store people are always amazed at how good she is at staying by my side and not running around the store.
    My son is 14 years old, learned to take the bus to visit his father across town, or walks up to town on his own, goes to the movies, goes to the store to get milk for me, etc because I taught him how to do it. Total independence. It’s so great! :-)

    To each their own, but I prefer my kids be independent and self reliant, self confident, then have to rely on me all the time. Kids like that freak me out, quite frankly. Sorry.

    Interesting we talk about INDEPENDENCE on this day. Our country was fought and won by rebels and people who BROKE THE RULES for our freedom. Ironic we are taking those very freedoms away from growing young people. Sad.

  68. S.D. July 5, 2009 at 4:01 am #

    I also personally think one of the reasons why so many children are SO OBESE is because they don’t know how to use their imaginations, don’t know how to be creative. They tend to wait around for mommy to tell them what to do for fun, because so many moms don’t let them be JUST BORED sometimes, their days are always jam-packed with classes or sports. While this is a GREAT thing, too much of anything can be harmful. My kids play outside and invent games, chase each other, are rarely ever ‘bored’ even tho they don’t have ultra-full schedules and I’ve always encouraged them to learn to self entertain. Too many kids don’t know HOW to self entertain. So they play video games, go on the computer, sit in their rooms whining about boredom, bug mommy. Getting fat.

  69. MaeMae July 5, 2009 at 4:04 am #

    Sorry, LindaLou. That comment about judging was not aimed at you or anything you said. I realize this site is for posting our opinions and I love reading what everyone thinks. I guess I was thinking more of when I’m out in public and I have someone approach me in the grocery store telling me that obviously my child is crying because they need a nap and I should just leave my cart in the aisle and rush home and put that baby to sleep. As a single mom I don’t have that luxury, if I left we wouldn’t be back for a week and no one in my house would eat. I did not mean to imply that my comments or anyone else’s on this site are better or more right than yours.

  70. jim rose July 5, 2009 at 4:10 am #

    what are thay doing .bad thing going on and thay are picking on you.I DON’T SEE YOU DID NOTHING WRONG. GOOD LUCK .I will pray for you JIM

  71. S.D. July 5, 2009 at 4:17 am #


    Check out this article, warning against doing too much for your kids. Kids are not learning life skills.

  72. b July 5, 2009 at 4:34 am #

    “The point, I think, is that the mother was treated as a criminal for doing so. Not just scolded, or fined, but prosecuted as a negligent mother. Whether or not you feel that two 12 yr old girls are capable of caring for 3 young children for a few hours in public, do you feel that the authorities were reasonable in their response?”

    The question isn’t whether anyone “feels” that these two 12 yr old girls were capable of caring for 3 younger children — clearly they weren’t. But they were just being 12 year old girls doing exactly what 12 year old girls usually do when you turn them loose in a mall.

    The question is what is the proper response when someone is responsible for 3, 7 and 8 year olds, and by way of bad judgment (for which exhaustion is no excuse) ends up letting those kids be left unattended in a mall. Cut away all of the extraneous detail and that’s what happened.

    Ultimately her goal was to get some time alone. She didn’t plan this out in order to give the girls more responsibility she did it because watching the little kids herself and letting the older girls go shop for clothes by themselves would have been difficult for her in her exhausted state. She needed a nap.

    In her exhausted state, her judgment was flawed, and she didn’t think about what was likely to happen when two twelve year old girls go shopping for clothes together in the mall. But what she HOPED would happen (so that she could have a nap) isn’t relevant, especially not when it defies common sense about what is likely to happen with two twelve year old girls shopping for clothes together.

    It’s not as bad as if she had just dropped off the 8 yr old, 7 yr old and 3 yr old in the department store herself. But ultimately that’s what happened, and she’s responsible for it, and presumably if she weren’t so exhausted she wouldn’t have expected two twelve year old girls to be able to shop for new clothes without getting distracted from watching the three littler kids.

    Is it criminal neglect for an adult who is responsible for an 8 yr old, 7 yr old, and 3 yr old to let them be left unattended in a mall, under circumstances that a reasonable person could have easily foreseen? At best it’s borderline. The fact that the mock jury convinced her she couldn’t win the case goes a long way toward showing just what a close call it was.

  73. ebohlman July 5, 2009 at 6:27 am #

    Jennifer: The moment I read “Latin American and Latino Studies” I knew Bridget was going to get the book thrown at her. She was definitely prosecuted for stepping out of her place.

    the queen (and others): I agree that the issue is not whether what Bridget did was wrong but whether it was criminal. The latter is ridiculous. Those kids were in far, far, far more danger from being driven to the mall than from being alone at the purse section. We’re talking tens of thousands times more risk. The problem is that, thanks to a mental shortcut called the availability heuristic, the average American thinks of malls as extremely dangerous places for kids based on a single incident that happened almost 30 years ago.

    For those outside the US, please note that most criminal law enforcement is conducted by state and local agencies, not by the Federal government that has engaged in preemptive wars, tortured completely innocent people to get them to say things justifying those wars, etc. We have plenty of problems, but tarring us with a broad brush won’t help.

  74. Kit July 5, 2009 at 6:41 am #

    @ b: First, please know that my original post was in no way questioning you in particular. That said, since you quoted me here, I’d like to respond to a couple points. First, to verify: you do feel the authorities reacted appropriately in this case- that someone who “is responsible for 3, 7 and 8 year olds, and by way of bad judgment. . . ends up letting those kids be left unattended in a mall” is indeed guilty of criminal neglect of her children. That, “At best it’s borderline”. If this is indeed your opinion, then I must respectfully disagree.

    For one thing, you state that the mother’s “hope” (I prefer “faith”, but I digress) that the two older girls would be responsible caretakers of the younger children “defies common sense about what is likely to happen with two twelve year old girls shopping for clothes together.” I was, and I have known, many many 12 yr old girls who would be the exception to such “common sense”. You are absolutely correct that in this case, the girls in question failed to live up to what was expected of them. But I do not agree with you that this would be the normal, expected outcome- especially not with girls who are generally responsible and are used to taking care of things themselves sometimes.

    Personally, I think Ms. Kevane’s “goal” when she made this choice is irrelevant to the discussion. Whether it was to get a nap, teach the kids responsibility, let the girls have fun, none of the above or all of it, she made a choice and I agree that she, and she alone, is responsible for the consequences of that choice. The question remains whether that choice resulted in a *criminal* offense.

    Common sense tells me that even with the girls’ lapse of judgment, the children were never in any real danger. Isn’t that part of what we’ve learned when reading about free range parenting? I don’t know the actual statistical possibility that the children could have been harmed, but I’d be willing to bet it is very, very small. So that’s ultimately why I disagree with you: 1) I think a parent should have the right to determine whether their child is mature enough to care for his or her siblings for a few hours, in reasonable circumstances. I think the circumstances here were imminently reasonable. And, 2) I don’t think the children were ever in danger, especially not criminally endangered.

    The sad part is, you’re probably right about common sense in this way: the belief that children can not be expected to behave responsibly on their own is, unfortunately, all too common.

  75. ebaybe1 July 5, 2009 at 7:31 am #

    The children are “never in any real danger”, until something unforeseen, and some time horrible happens. Just like the store employees-every one sees things from a different perspective. Police and social workers get to see the tragic results of some of these errors in judgement on a regular basis. It soulds like she would do it all over again, no error on her part. she has not learned a thing. That is probably why she got dragged through the whole process. I have 12 , 8 and 3 year old neighbors. I would be horrified if they got dumped at the mall!

  76. Alida July 5, 2009 at 7:48 am #

    I wasn’t going to comment, but now I must after reading the comments. I agree that leaving a 3 year old in the care of an 8,9 and two 12 year olds is not wise. However, I don’t agree that it is “criminal.”

    Bad judgement, sure. Just like it was bad judgement on my part to lay my infant boy in a bassinet by an open window, only to find him shivering 20 minutes later when I checked on him. I felt awful, like I had to justify it. I too wanted to take a nap. I too was exhausted. I didn’t realize the window was open!

    Guess what? He is 6 going on 7 and is healthy. He wasn’t hurt or damaged…I guess he could have been, he was just a few days old.

    Guess what else? Her 3 year old wasn’t hurt. The child will survive. I find it criminal that the children were not allowed to contact the parents.

    So bad judgement…sure, it’s so damned subjective anyways. Criminal…please give me a break!

  77. Uly July 5, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    “I always thought the point of free range was to empower the children, not so mom would have time to take a nap!”

    No reason it can’t be both ^.^

    I’ve given this a bit of thought today. It seems there are two and a half issues here:

    1. Was this good judgment, free-range or otherwise?

    2. Was this *criminal* behavior?

    2.5 If it was criminal, how serious was it? Was it like shoplifting, or like armed robbery?

    Now, I have my answers to the three.

    1. I don’t think this is good judgment because of the ages involved. If the girls had just had the three year old with them they probably would have kept a closer eye (and it’s not that reasonable to expect an 8 and a 7 year old to do that job in a presumably busy mall). If the girls had just had the 8 and 7 year old then they could’ve left the younger two to their own devices for a time with no problems. It’s the combination of kids and little kids that caused this situation in the first place. The girls *couldn’t* be trusted to watch the youngest child in that situation, and they should’ve been tested closer to the adults first. That IS common sense.

    And no, I’m not sure that it’s a good thing to require the three year old to ONLY be in the stroller for the whole trip. It doesn’t seem fair to the little one, and it doesn’t seem fair to the older ones who’ll have to deal with whining and requests to get out. If they can’t watch the kid if s/he’s out of the stroller for a short time, they probably shouldn’t have that responsibility yet.

    Nothing is likely to happen at the mall to the kids, but the younger kids could cause a lot of havoc there, which is just unfair to the employees.

    2. I’m not sure, however, that the act was criminal, nor that it should be. Parents make mistakes all the time. It’s the job of a civilized society to weigh the actual and probable and potential consequences to come up with a *fair* system of determining the abusive parents from the rest of them.

    2.5 Even if it is criminal, as it was a first offense and as nothing actually happened, it seems reasonable that it was of the small-scale sort of crime instead of the large-scale. A warning would probably have been a better use of taxpayer’s time and money than dragging it out like this.

    Or even a *small* fine and a *small* amount of community service ($800 and *hundreds* of hours of community service seems like a bit much).

    Now, I want to be clear. I do think this mother made a misjudgment. (I know some people disagree, but that’s fine – “Free Range” doesn’t have to mean we all nod at the same time and agree with each other, it means that we think things through and try to come to a reasonable assessment of situations. My assessment may differ from yours.)

    However, I don’t think her misjudgment required her to be tried (a warning, as I said, would’ve been more useful), I don’t think the police reacted honorably in threatening her *in front of her children* (one of whom was quite young indeed), and I don’t think it was right that her children couldn’t call her when they were in trouble.

  78. Uly July 5, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    S.D, that article is worse than useless. It’s the same old, same old “This generation is growing up worse than we did” that’s been trotted out since the first grandparents held their first grandkids.

    They give a lot of results from a survey in 2002, but where are the comprable results from 1992? How do we KNOW it’s worse than 10 years (now closer to 20) ago if all we’re hearing is people talking about it TODAY?

    (Also, their list of “suggested chores” is, ironically, far to simple. I was doing my own laundry, unassisted, by 8 – why should children wait until 12 to have HELP to do laundry? My nieces, 6 and 3, already help wash the dishes by hand. Why do they need to wait until 10 to load a dishwasher? At 3 (not 6!) the older one made her bed, before she got switched to a hammock. Both girls make their own sandwiches, and the older one flips pancakes. I was making my own simple meals well before “8 and 9” like the list suggests.)

  79. MaeMae July 5, 2009 at 9:31 am #

    Uly-I think the authors of the article had good intentions. However, I too thought the list of chores was weak.
    BTW-I think that was an excellent point re: the combination of kids. It was exactly what was bothering me about this story but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I think if she had thought it through a little more she could have saved herself a lot of trouble.

  80. Uly July 5, 2009 at 10:06 am #

    Yeah, well, good intentions butter no parsnips.

    (Sorry, the “kids these days” argument is SUPER annoying to me, and I do believe I’m PMSing. Don’t mind me too much.)

  81. Spidr July 5, 2009 at 10:48 am #

    Good grief! Has anyone ever read To Kill A Mockingbird? That book is about children growing up and learning first hand how to be grownup. We have come a long way since then… in the wrong direction.

    My biggest question is, why, Why, WHY didn’t the store count the children as missing from caregivers??? My 2 year old son vanished in a Wal-mart once, in a split second he was just gone. My mind went blank with terror. To make a long story short a very nice woman asked him if he was lost and she stood with him and a store employee took him to the office where they called on the loud speaker if anyone had lost a child. I burst into tears and ran to the office area where he was sitting up on a bench with the manager in attendance. The manager made him tell him his Mommies name before he would let him come to me just to be sure.

    Was I neglectful for letting him let go of my hand? For not looking at him every second? For taking him to the store in the first place?

    Many children are being deprived of life skills and THAT is the real crime here. They are growing up and don’t know how to do ANYTHING responsibly. No work ethics or skills, no ability to shop, do laundry, care for small ones, earning money. I’m rambling now. Thank you for this opportunity.

  82. ebohlman July 5, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    ebaybe1: Are you horrified at the thought of the three kids you mentioned getting a ride in their mom’s car?

  83. Melissa July 5, 2009 at 12:06 pm #

    I don’t think that this should be considered criminal but I do think the mother made an error of judgement. And to agree with the previous poster it has to do with the combination of kids.
    I also do not agree with a 3 year old being in a stroller for that long, it’s a long time for anyone to sit still. I couldn’t get my 3 year old into a stroller unless he was sick, and even then it was a struggle.

  84. Saddened July 5, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    Just because nothing criminal has ever happened at this mall in the past does not mean it will never happen. Then again, leaving home in your car in the every morning is no safe bet either. The mall never has been, and never will be a good place for unattended children. I have recently discovered that the things I enjoy doing (including my job) have to be put on the back burner or completely on hold (as in moved into the closet).

    Agreeing to assist in child care for other families leaves you in a position to do nothing else in the mean time. Your parental duty is to oversee the health, welfare, education, and innocence of your child. Abandoning a couple of pre-teens, and three other children all less than 10 years old to walk around the local mall while you get some “quiet time” for yourself does not strike me as the proper decision in this case.

    Perhaps you could have stayed at the mall and found an activity not far from the children, perhaps you could have gone to the local park with a book or creative writing and enjoyed being out of doors. Was this a criminal act, perhaps not. However, I don’t feel that you did any right by the children in this case.

    Learn from the experience that YOUR life will NEVER be as important as your child’s, and be thankful they were not kidnapped, raped, or murdered. Perhaps you did not knowingly put them in harms way, but you trusted in the system of the local law enforcement, and the system of the mall security. It would seem that your trust was well placed. The next time you consider something like this, think about all of the other outcomes you could end up with besides picking up the group of children at the end of the day.

    Sure some children grow up much faster, and have FAR more responsibility be the age of 12, but consider how far you would really trust your 12 year old at the end of the day. If the need arose, would you hand the car keys over to the child and completely trust them in an emergency? Could you hand over a can of pepper spray and know the child could identify the right time to use it, and properly do so when the need arose?

    Certainly there are 12 year olds out there that could easily look after a trio of younger children, there are also a lot of sheltered 12 year old children out there who couldn’t take care of themselves if they had to. How are the police to decide between the two. In light of all the BAD things that could happen, they did what they KNEW 100% POSITIVELY would prevent something unspeakable from happening from your children.

  85. Sarah H. July 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    my problem with this is not that they were dropped off, its WHERE they were dropped off. Had they been dropped off at something aimed towards children, like a park, or a indoor play place or something like that Id say fine no problem. But a MALL is not a place to play. Not even for 12 year olds. I hate it when people let their kids go around unsupervised in malls and at the movies. Its obnoxious. In bad taste no matter how well behaved they are. And how boring for those younger kids. (and yes, I have children)

  86. Uly July 5, 2009 at 12:33 pm #

    Saddened, the truth is that the odds of something bad happening at ANY mall are so slim as to be virtually nonexistent. That’s not a good argument – it’s just an argument from fear, with no facts whatsoever to back it up.

  87. Kate July 5, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    Bridget Kevane – I’m on your side. What happened to you was ridiculous.

  88. Ruth P July 5, 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    You go on about the 12 year olds being responsible enough to care for a 3 year old in a public place (a debatable proposition, in my opinion, but I digress). Surely the fact that these two 12 year olds left the 3 year old, to all intents and purposes, unattended, is proof positive that they AREN’T responsible enough to look after a 3 year old in a public place!

    I can’t believe the level of support you are getting. Consider if something had happened to the 3 year old while these two were trying on clothes. If the little one had wandered off, perhaps outside, and been hit by a car. Are you prepared to place this kind of lifetime guilt on two pre-adolescents?

    Babysitting small children at home is one thing. Taking them to a public place is something totally different.

    I’m a parent. I get exhausted too. When I do, I put my children in front of a DVD or give them some paint to play with. I don’t let them go to the mall unsupervised.

    Shameful. The police were absolutely right to throw the book at you. That is all.

  89. Virginia July 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    I read this article in “Brain, Child” and am still mulling it over. My reactions, more or less in order:

    (1) Expecting two twelve-year-olds to be completely responsible for three younger children–one as young as three–at the mall, for several hours, seems unrealistically optimistic to me. While I realize it’s a judgment call, it’s not one I personally see as wise.

    (2) Nevertheless, it hardly rises to the level of criminal neglect worthy of a yearlong prosecution and the threat of losing one’s children altogether.

    Also, I’m a little shocked by the commenters here who are savaging the mother on the grounds that she made her decision partly because she needed a rest. A major reason for parents to give our kids increasing responsibilities as they get older is to make our own lives easier. This is called sharing responsibility within the family, and it’s part of what makes the work meaningful. Teaching kids how to do stuff like laundry and babysitting isn’t just to prepare them for adult life–it’s also about being part of a functioning family right now. When my kids do something that I used to have to do when they were younger, I appreciate it, and they know it. Who wants to do work that’s doled out purely as some sort of lesson for the future? There is nothing intrinsically wrong with asking your child to take on a responsibility so you can take a nap.

  90. Uly July 5, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    Virginia, I want to say that you just said what I had intended to say, but far more succinctly.

  91. lonedattyof3 July 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm #

    1. I’ll bet those girls are the best babysitters in the world after being given the opportunity to make that mistake. 2. I would not let my three year old go to the mall with a twelve year old ONLY because I know that judgmental, subjective authorities are a very real danger. 3. The responsible adult did not need to be criminalized.

  92. KarenW July 5, 2009 at 11:54 pm #

    Wow, it took me two days to get through all of these comments! Like many people here, I think the question is not whether the mom did the right thing, but whether it was criminal. The fact is that if there was no written rule (such as “no children under the age of 12 without adult supervision” – I’ve seen such rules posted at other places) then “criminal neglect” just becomes a vague matter of opinion. And that to me is scary, because where do you draw the line? I’ve never dropped my kids off at the mall, and I’ve never used a babysitter younger than 16, so this exact situation would not apply to me. But I have gone to the mall with my kids and let them play at the arcade by themselves while I shopped for about 30 minutes. So, could I have been arrested for this? Without any actual guidelines, who knows?

  93. Sharon July 6, 2009 at 1:24 am #

    All those telling stories of stuff they did when they were younger need to look at the world we live in today. Kids are being snatched right out of their front yards. This world is full of wackos who want your children. When my kids were 3, going to the mall was a exhausting. Kids don’t want sit in a stroller, they want to run around, they want you to buy stuff, they want to touch things. I was constantly on guard, not because i’m paranoid, but because bad things happen! 12 yr old kids should not be give this much responsibility. Babysitting at home is fine, the mall no. If something did happen to one of her kids, everyone would be asking where the mother was. If I saw a group of kids that young at the mall, I would be wondering where there parents are too. It would be the one time that someone doesn’t speak up that the unspeakable happens. For all you know, the kids are left at the mall everyday, someone needs to speak up for the kids (not hers, I mean in general)

  94. Uly July 6, 2009 at 1:37 am #

    “All those telling stories of stuff they did when they were younger need to look at the world we live in today.”

    Sharon, we have. The FACTS show that the world we live in today is SAFER than the world we grew up in.

    “Kids are being snatched right out of their front yards.”

    Which kids? Where? By whom? Do you know ANYbody whom this has happened to?

    Last I checked, your child had a less than .01% chance of being abducted AT ALL – and most abductions were perpetrated by parents, not by strangers.

    “This world is full of wackos who want your children.”

    Where do you get your information?

    “I was constantly on guard, not because i’m paranoid, but because bad things happen!”

    And if somebody was truly intent on harming your kids, do you think you could have stopped that? Bit of a moot point, as I guarantee that NOBODY wishes to harm your kids, but seriously, think about it.

    “If something did happen to one of her kids, everyone would be asking where the mother was.”

    Instead of blaming the criminal, of course.

    “It would be the one time that someone doesn’t speak up that the unspeakable happens.”

    Probably not. Remember, 90% of child molestors (that’s what you mean by “the unspeakable”, right?) target children they know – not unattended strangers.

    “For all you know, the kids are left at the mall everyday”

    If that’s the case then it seems to be local consensus that the mall is a safe place to leave children. I’m sure people would stop thinking that if bad things really DID start happening to children at the mall, so it makes sense that the children weren’t really in very much danger.

    (Those of you playing along at home should note that I’m still not sure I agree with this mom’s choice, but I’m sure I agree that Sharon’s facts are wrong!)

  95. Kali July 6, 2009 at 1:45 am #

    Go Uly!

  96. Sharon July 6, 2009 at 1:48 am #

    I also want to say that yes my kids are allowed to go the park, 1 block down the street, if they are together. As they show more responsibility, I widen the area. I worry about them there but I know they need that responsibility to grow. It’s hard deciding what your child can and can’t handle, but if you’ve done everything you can to prepare them, the only way is to give them the chance. Sure you’ll make some mistakes, and so will they…you’ll both grow. But you also need to realize that the United States is not as it used to be. Pull up the sex offender registry and see how many are in your area. Pretty scary. Those are just the ones that were caught and identified or registered as they are supposed to.

  97. Anna B July 6, 2009 at 2:07 am #

    When helping my children work through their fears, I ask, “What is the worst that could happen?” We have seen murder, rape, abduction and getting hit by a car mentioned regarding this situation.

    Let’s assume that the mall is crawling with pervs and child killers. The 12 YOs are in the dressing rooms, some wacko snatches the 3 YO from the stroller and takes off. The younger kids start to scream and call attention to the situation….there is no way the abductor gets the preschooler in this scenario.

    OR The wacko manages to lure the three younger children with promises of puppies, candy and limitless screen time. Really? My 7 YO has been trained how to handle that situation, and I have to assume that the middle kids knew enough about how to handle a stranger that it would not have been an issue. What kind of parent does not teach, “Never ever go with a stranger, no matter what they say.” I assume they would have gone to get the older girls or created a scene. “You aren’t my daddy! Get away! Help!”

    I am taking murder, rape and abduction off the table as possibilities. The middle kids are old enough to get help, if needed, in a public place. They were not in a secluded area where they could not find assistance.

    I am taking murder, rape and abduction off the list of possibilities. And let’s be honest, it was never a probability, regardless of the bad judgment of 12 YOs.

    That leaves the 3 YO running all the way through Macy’s, with the 7 and 8 YO in pursuit, out the door, into the parking lot, past the sidewalk and into the parking lot at the exact same moment that his/her path intersected with a car.

    Once the little one tried to get out of the stroller, my guess is that one of the middles, would get the older girls. I am fairly certain they could catch the little one or enlist the help of someone who could.

    The worst-case scenarios really are not in play here. Your child has a 1 in 1.5 million chance of being taken by a stranger. That number is probably significantly lower if your child is in a group. No perv would have marked these kids as an easy target. Even Nancy Grace would admit that child killers look for the easiest victim.

    While this is not something every parent would choose, it should not be criminal.

    As for her references about being exhausted, I am sure when she was writing it, it was a way to connect with other moms who may not have made the same choice, but who could at least empathize with her. One of the “We all have been THERE” understandings among mothers. Instead it just added one more element for people to judge. I would have left that out of the narrative if I were writing it, along with any presumptions about the prosecutor’s thoughts. The facts stand on their own.

    I think it is sad that we (society as a whole) no longer can assess true risk by instinct. Fortunately, we have data to help us with that.


    Check out the numbers for homicides under the age of 14.

  98. Uly July 6, 2009 at 2:23 am #

    “Pull up the sex offender registry and see how many are in your area. Pretty scary.”

    How many of them harmed strangers rather than family members? How many of those harmed little children, as opposed to teens and pre-teens*? How many of them ACTUALLY harmed teens, as opposed to having sex with their girlfriend before she was at the age of consent? How many of them had sex at all, and weren’t just put there for peeing in public?

    I find the sex offender registries to be so vague as to be bafflingly useless. The few times I can glean what they actually did it turns out to be something that, while bad, isn’t nearly as bad as my unfettered imagination would have come up with.

    *Most of the sex offenders who have ACTUALLY RAPED somebody are listed as having raped pre-teens and teens. This isn’t exactly cheerful information, but your YOUNG kids aren’t at risk from them.

  99. Anna B July 6, 2009 at 2:37 am #

    More stats and an interesting report:


  100. Alison Kerr July 6, 2009 at 2:45 am #

    Where is our sense of community responsibility? Are we to assume that the only responsibility for children being safe belongs with parents, mall security and police?

  101. Kristin July 6, 2009 at 2:55 am #

    damn! they would be arresting a LOT of moms if they arrested every mom who did this!!
    and the unfortunate part here is how the incident has caused this mom to question her parenting choices and make excuses for a behaviour that shouldn’t require excuses or justifications.

  102. Chris July 6, 2009 at 3:25 am #

    I do not think having a 12-year-old responsible for an 8-, 7- and 3-year-old at the mall for over two hours is a good idea at all, nor fair to the 12-year-old , even with a friend to help out. Some kids get distracted, too, and could easily lose track of a toddler. My daughter is registered with the Red Cross, and a 3rd degree black belt in Karate, but I still would not feel comfortable dropping her at the mall with three siblings so young. It’s my job to watch after my kids, not hers. However, the state over-reacted to this and their time could be spent much more wisely. I wish you the best and hope that Montana finds better things to do in the future.

  103. Sharon July 6, 2009 at 3:54 am #

    http://www.prevent-abuse-now.com/stats.htm Here’s some numbers, but I don’t care what their information tells me.

    “Last I checked, your child had a less than .01% chance of being abducted AT ALL – and most abductions were perpetrated by parents, not by strangers.”

    “Probably not. Remember, 90% of child molestors (that’s what you mean by “the unspeakable”, right?) target children they know – not unattended strangers.”

    “The worst-case scenarios really are not in play here. Your child has a 1 in 1.5 million chance of being taken by a stranger. That number is probably significantly lower if your child is in a group. No perv would have marked these kids as an easy target. Even Nancy Grace would admit that child killers look for the easiest victim.”

    Wow, if the stats say my kids are safe, who am I to argue? Tell me, do you think the criminals are paying attention to stats? Do you think the hurt kids are looking at those stats?
    Do these kids care that they were part of 1% chance?





    Stats are numbers….do you want your child to be a number for another parent to feel good about leaving their children unattended because they weren’t in the majority?

  104. jordan July 6, 2009 at 4:28 am #

    Totally on this mom’s side.

  105. Brian Friesen July 6, 2009 at 4:59 am #

    Looks like the facebook group url had a typo. Should be: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=98706109068

  106. Michael Chermside July 6, 2009 at 6:08 am #

    I really have just one question after reading this:

    How can I help? Not how can I help this mother (although she may need it), but how can I help to fix our seriously ill society?

    Seriously… if you know a way, please speak up, because this kind of system is simply unacceptable.

    — Michael Chermside

  107. velofille July 6, 2009 at 7:21 am #

    Letting a 12 year old go to the mall with children aged 3 is not sane parenting sorry.
    Im not saying arresting or that is a fair charge, but to claim that its acceptable to do so, or blame the fact that she’s a working mother (like the other 99% of us) just isn’t a good excuse.
    Just because somebody hasn’t been molested and attacked at a mall yet doesnt mean its not going to happen. Let kids be kids and enjoy life, not babysitting their siblings and leaving mall staff to keep an eye on them!

  108. Uly July 6, 2009 at 8:07 am #

    Velo, you said two things in there that I think should be addressed:

    1. You said “just because somebody hasn’t been molested at a mall yet doesn’t mean it is not going to happen”. By that logic, you might say that just because nobody has been killed by a shark at a particular beach YET doesn’t mean it won’t happen!

    Molestations, attacks – these are RARE events, not common ones. To waste time worrying about them is to waste time worrying about the boogeyman.

    2. You also said – and this is, I feel, quite unrelated – “Let kids be kids and enjoy life, not babysitting their siblings”

    That statement is so absurd that I’m gonna call a spade a spade and say it is S T U P I D.

    Where do people get this idea that children should be happy and carefree and have no responsibilities? Children SHOULD babysit their younger siblings. They SHOULD know there’s more to life than “enjoying” it, and that “being a kid” isn’t a good thing.

    In the past, a child of 12 would be apprenticed out, or working already at a real job. And such is as it should be.

    The point of childhood isn’t to “be a kid”, whatever THAT means, it’s to learn the skills necessary to grow up and be an adult. Which yes, means babysitting your younger siblings from time to time.

  109. bequirox July 6, 2009 at 8:15 am #

    B, I’m curious about your situation. Are you a parent? If so, how many kids do you have? If not, how much time do you spend around kids of different age groups? Are you an only child, or did you help take care of siblings while you were growing up? (These questions are out of genuine curiosity, the rest may come off a little hostile because I AM a little hostile.)

    I’m curious, also, if you have read peoples’ comments. Because you are reacting to their comments the way you claim they are reacting to the article. You said, “The reactions sound like people read a bit of it…” yadda yadda, jump to their own conclusions about what happened. Almost every comment here says, “Yes the girls made a mistake in leaving the kids.” or “Yes, the mom probably shouldn’t have done that.” You know why? Because they READ THE WHOLE THING.

    The mother did not cause the littler kids to be left alone. She wasn’t there. 12 year-old kids are old enough to be held accountable for what they do. And what they did was break the rules their mom gave them. Should we allow 3 year-old boys to hit and bite because, “boys will be boys” and because “They’re just doing what 3 year-olds do”? No. Kids need to make mistakes and receive consequences for those mistakes. Just because it’s expected, that doesn’t make it acceptable. And obviously, this behavior of the girls was NOT expected, or THREE SEPARATE PARENTS would not have agreed to let them babysit.

    I agree with everyone here who is upset the girls didn’t get the opportunity to learn from this experience. What they learned instead is to be scared of mall cops.

    I’m upset the mother didn’t get to learn from the experience that the girls were not ready to babysit in public. Like it has been stated several times before, NOTHING BAD HAPPENED. If your child made a bad choice so their puppy DID get hurt, would you punish them just as severely if they made that choice and NOTHING HAPPENED? No. You would scold them, you would tell them why it was a bad choice, maybe you would ground them for not making a smart choice. You wouldn’t take away their puppy, you would let them learn. Let this mom learn what her kids are capable of!

    You also said, “She made a decision out of exhaustion and exasperation. She mentions this several times, making it clear that if she hadn’t been so extremely exhausted she wouldn’t have made the decision this way.”

    Did you forget that she called other parents to make sure she was making a valid decision? Did you consider the fact that maybe she made that point over and over because she was worried people like you would judge her if she didn’t give a good enough excuse for her “behavior”? I have made choices when I was tired that maybe I wouldn’t make if I was more awake. That doesn’t make me a bad parent. It makes me someone who needs to put their own needs first for a minute, (even if that means my 10 month-old daughter is locked in her room while I take a nap) so I can be a BETTER parent in an hour.

    ***Not aimed at B anymore***

    I don’t know if I agree with this mother’s choice or not. I don’t know the kids, I don’t know the neighborhood. But does my opinion about her choice matter? No. She didn’t do anything “bad” or “stupid” or anything else. She did what seemed right. How can anyone fault her for having judgment different from their own?

    It is absolutely ridiculous that this went as far as it did. I would like to know what the age limit is on babysitters in Bozeman. (I think where I live, it’s 11 to be alone, 12 to be watching other kids.) I’m curious what the rules of the mall are as far as unattended children goes. I wonder if those rules are clearly posted. If anything in this story is illegal based on those rules, then yes, the mother should be punished. But not like this.

    I’m also interested to start Yahoo groups for free range parents. Those seem pretty easy. Who’s with me?!

  110. Sue July 6, 2009 at 8:59 am #

    I grew up inside the beltway near Washington DC. My older sister, at 7, would take me and my youngest sister to the Red Barn on Temple Hills Road to get lunch. In elementary school, we had run of the woods, and the elementary school playground a quarter mile away, and the little convenience store about half a mile away. When one of us was sick, she stayed home with the telephone and a bottle of ginger ale. Mom and dad went to work.

    Whether Bridget should have sent the kids to the mall or not, that’s probably worth arguing about – she concedes that the 12 year olds didn’t follow the rules and left their sibs unsupervised. But I lean towards the free range model.

    More fundamentally, however, in what world does this rise to the level of a crime? Really? That’s the outrage.

  111. velofille July 6, 2009 at 9:03 am #

    A 12yo in my opinion, cant make a judgement call that say a person of 20 can. This is why technically a 12 year old COULD drive a car, but there is a law against it.
    Just because they CAN do it, doesnt mean they SHOULD do it.
    Children should be given responsibility, however not over somebody elses life, perhaps making sure chores are done, and other things.

  112. Uly July 6, 2009 at 9:26 am #

    Velo, your argument would make sense if the woman had passed the keys to her kids and told them to drive to the mall themselves.

    In the real world, though, the kids were in NO DANGER at the mall. There are precious few predators who opportunistically hunt out stranger’s children at the mall – and the odds of any of them being at that particular mall at that particular time and being interested in a YOUNG child instead of a teenager or pre-teen (remember, most stranger abductions occur to OLDER children, not YOUNGER ones – the younger children were less at risk than the older ones were, not that any of them were in any real danger at all) are astronomically slim.

  113. Uly July 6, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    Point being that while the two girls certainly did fail at their responsibility to watch their younger companions, and while I do think that it was an error in judgment in their mother’s part, I wish to make clear that it was, in no world, a case of children being expected to be responsible for others’ LIVES. Let’s not get too carried away here.

  114. coldsteel July 6, 2009 at 10:01 am #

    Since my post was not posted…

    Sharon, on July 6th, 2009 at 3:54 am Said: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Here’s some numbers, but I don’t care what their information tells me.

    “Last I checked, your child had a less than .01% chance of being abducted AT ALL – and most abductions were perpetrated by parents, not by strangers.”

    “Probably not. Remember, 90% of child molestors (that’s what you mean by “the unspeakable”, right?) target children they know – not unattended strangers.”

    “The worst-case scenarios really are not in play here. Your child has a 1 in 1.5 million chance of being taken by a stranger. That number is probably significantly lower if your child is in a group. No perv would have marked these kids as an easy target. Even Nancy Grace would admit that child killers look for the easiest victim.”

    Wow, if the stats say my kids are safe, who am I to argue? Tell me, do you think the criminals are paying attention to stats? Do you think the hurt kids are looking at those stats?
    Do these kids care that they were part of 1% chance?



    Stats are numbers….do you want your child to be a number for another parent to feel good about leaving their children unattended because they weren’t in the majority?

  115. coldsteel July 6, 2009 at 10:13 am #

    Alright, I’m trying this again since it doesn’t like the amount of links I posted.

    Sharon, on July 6th, 2009 at 3:54 am Said: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Here’s some numbers, but I don’t care what their information tells me.

    “Last I checked, your child had a less than .01% chance of being abducted AT ALL – and most abductions were perpetrated by parents, not by strangers.”

    “Probably not. Remember, 90% of child molestors (that’s what you mean by “the unspeakable”, right?) target children they know – not unattended strangers.”

    “The worst-case scenarios really are not in play here. Your child has a 1 in 1.5 million chance of being taken by a stranger. That number is probably significantly lower if your child is in a group. No perv would have marked these kids as an easy target. Even Nancy Grace would admit that child killers look for the easiest victim.”
    Wow, if the stats say my kids are safe, who am I to argue? Tell me, do you think the criminals are paying attention to stats? Do you think the hurt kids are looking at those stats?

    Stats are numbers….do you want your child to be a number for another parent to feel good about leaving their children unattended because they weren’t in the majority?

    BUT I do have to say that this blog has made me consider providing my children more freedom. I believe they can use some more responsibility. Thank you for that. I just worry about the lack of concern about the dangers that are out there. Even Disneyland has had and still may have predators working there.

  116. Uly July 6, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    “Wow, if the stats say my kids are safe, who am I to argue? Tell me, do you think the criminals are paying attention to stats? Do you think the hurt kids are looking at those stats?”

    Do you think this emotional approach is relevant? Do you think that you can make choices based on feelings instead of on facts?

    YES, there are criminals out there! YES, there are hurt kids. YES, tragedies happen!

    But I go swimming in the ocean confident that shark attacks are rare, and I go walking down the block confident that bus crashes are rare, and I go on planes confident that they rarely just drop down into the ocean or are targeted into buildings, and I live my life knowing that while I must die some day, that day is likely not today. When I see a bee I remember that the odds of being stung to death are minimal (and that most bees don’t sting if you don’t threaten the hive), when I ride in a car I remember that… actually, I remember that car accidents are a leading cause of death for Americans (and THE leading cause of death for children under 15, to be killed in a car driven by their parents), but I still ride in cars upon occasion, because I know that MOST of the time when people ride in cars they do NOT die!

    Stats are numbers. Damn straight. They’re FACTS. They’re REAL. You can look at them and measure them and come to a healthy assessment of the risk of various activities instead of letting uninformed fear rule your life.

    “do you want your child to be a number for another parent to feel good about leaving their children unattended because they weren’t in the majority?”

    Of course not. I would be devastated if any of the children close to me were to be harmed, seriously. (I’d be devastated if they died in cars driven by their doting parents who were convinced that this is somehow safer than letting them walk parents, but that’s another issue for another day.)

    But what does that have to do with anything? I’d be equally upset to find out that their childhoods had been stunted because their parents were afraid of imaginary things that simply do not happen – at least, not often enough that we should rule our lives by them! It’s not like constantly shadowing your kids is without its cost.

    But nobody is running statistics on how many kids are obese or lacking in vitamin D because their parents don’t have the energy to take them outside often and they’re terrified to send them out alone. Nobody is running statistics on how many children grow up to become adults who cannot trust their instincts because they never got to learn how to function as children – how many are scared of EVERYthing because they were told the world is an inherently dangerous place, or how many are scared of NOTHING for the same reason, because they realized their parents misstated the matter. Nobody is running statistics on how many children get nightmares every night, and how much damage this does for them psychologically, because of endless lectures on “stranger danger” and “bad men” (when the people most likely to harm them are, as always, their own families).

    Your appeal to emotion, your appeal to fear? Those are illogical arguments. They have no facts behind them, just unreasoning and unreasonable emotions. You can’t live your life like that. The best you can do is survive. Is that what you want for your kids? Mere survival, at any cost?

  117. Uly July 6, 2009 at 11:10 am #

    Let me edit my comment – that should say “walk alone” in the parens above, not “walk parents”. Duh.

    And let me continue my comment as well:

    You seem convinced that we’re blithely unconcerned about the “dangers that are out there”. Of course we’re not.

    But you and I, at least, approach concerns very differently. YOU appear, by your comment, to give in to your fears.

    I try to find out about them. When I was six and afraid of vampires, I looked up some information, found out that vampires don’t exist and that garlic will keep them away if they do, and forgot about it. When I was ten and afraid of dying I looked up some information, found out that I have quite a long average life expectancy if I eat well, always buckle my seatbelt and take public transportation as often as possible, and get some exercise. Then I stopped worrying about it. When I was 11 and scared of thunderstorms I looked up some information, found out that some 700 people are struck by lightning every year in the US and that there are a number of common-sense steps we can do to reduce our risk, and I stopped worrying about it.

    What I did NOT do at that point is refuse to ever leave the house because I might be struck down by a bolt from the blue. Sure, it’s happened, but that way lies madness. (I have actually had bouts of agoraphobia, but they were quite unrelated.)

    Now as an adult, I find people are trying to make me scared of child molestors. So instead of simply being scared and agreeing to do anything and EVERYthing to eliminate any risk ever I sat down and found out the FACTS.

    And the facts said that I probably have nothing to be scared of, and that some reasonable precautions should be taken, but nothing as drastic as some people think.

    So I do that.

    But my nieces still don’t ride in cars very often, and when they do they’re buckled up to the hilt – I found out the facts about THAT too :)

    The thing is, we’re all still concerned about the dangers. But you can deal with this by working to correctly identify the dangers and by working a plan to mitigate them, or you can deal with this by panicking and being scared and making defensive comments whenever anybody dares suggest that it’s just as safe as it ever was (and even safer!) in this world of ours.

    You may think your method makes sense. I *know* my method makes sense.

  118. Katie July 6, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    Ok, I read through all the comments, and I see a whole lot of “she should have/she shouldn’t have”. And it’s completely obvious that SOME parents are ok with their child spending two hours at the mall in the care of a 12yo, and SOME parents think it’s absolutely not ok. Obviously, it depends on the children and the parents.

    I find it frightening and outrageous that the state thinks it has a say in parenting choices at this level. It is invasive and sickening. I’m also really worried for what this kind of thing is going to do to kids as they grow up totally protected from everything and expected to have no responsibility.

  119. Noël H. July 6, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    I support Bridget and commend her for sharing her story despite the inevitable onslaught of public scrutiny. Who am I to judge her choice that day? Every one of us makes choices every single day that would ill bear similar scrutiny in retrospect. I do however find the subsequent handling and prosecution of the incident chilling – a clear malpractice of the law as written and its intent. The children were not in any way endangered or abused. A simple phone call to the mother to come pick up the children would have sufficed.

  120. Alexicographer July 6, 2009 at 11:46 am #

    What Virginia said.

    Plus, while I certainly wouldn’t advocate keeping a 3-year old in a stroller for 3 hours regularly, my 2-year old would be thrilled to be allowed to be at the mall for 3 hours and/or to be in a stroller for 3 hours since each privilege (either being at a mall or being in a stroller) is granted only rarely. Normally the poor dear has to play outside or perhaps in our or his grandma’s or daycare provider’s home, and while we do sometimes carry him we often tell him he has to … walk! So I cannotsingle out a single event of 3-hours in a stroller as negligence; I just don’t have enough information.

  121. coldsteel July 6, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

    “Your appeal to emotion, your appeal to fear? Those are illogical arguments. They have no facts behind them, just unreasoning and unreasonable emotions.”

    I appeal to emotions and fear because of the facts. I’m living proof of your facts and statistics.

    You’re absolutely right though. We can’t let our kids live in fear. I struggle with this daily. My husband and I have our share of fights about the bubble I try to place around the kids.

    My son went to Cub Scout camp for a week and it was hell because of stories I’ve read about sick camp counselors. He had a great time and I survived.

    I really am not against free range kids, I agree on a lot of it and it has made me look at how I raise my kids. Maybe they could use some more freedom and responsibilities. But like you, I am going to teach them how to deal with it.

    “Now as an adult, I find people are trying to make me scared of child molestors. So instead of simply being scared and agreeing to do anything and EVERYthing to eliminate any risk ever I sat down and found out the FACTS.”

    That is all I’m trying to get out to people. People need to be aware instead of avoiding it. So I’m not good at debating…the point is to bring awareness to an item that most would rather not discuss.

  122. Chili July 6, 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    Uly, can I just follow along behind you nodding? So far I agree with everything you’ve said here. How this situation was handled really is fit for the “Outrage of the Week”.

  123. MaeMae July 6, 2009 at 1:18 pm #

    Coldsteel – I don’t believe that being a free-range parent means you refuse to be aware of dangers. I think the goal is to find the middle ground which it sounds like you’re open to doing. Good for you. Please don’t think that we all just send our kids into the world telling them that everyone is to be trusted and life is all roses. We have taught them the dangers, how to deal with them and now trust them to let their instincts guide them. They’re still supervised just not hovered over. Example: I rode the city bus with my children for 3-4 months. They met the drivers, learned the routes and how to read a schedule, we talked about bus safety and I taught them to sit right by the driver as opposed to the back of the bus. Then I let take the bus from my house to the library unspervised. I called ahead and asked the librarian to call when they got there without letting them know. They had a great time and felt so grown-up. Now they take the bus everywhere. They’ve met new people and learned how to manage their time (because they get grounded if they are not home on time!) I believe that is what being free-range is all about.

  124. coldsteel July 6, 2009 at 1:36 pm #

    Well said MaeMae. I believe we all have the same goal in mind~ just either different ways of explaining it and different ways of accomplishing it.

    I do not believe in the state telling me how to raise my kids but I do believe that more people should speak up when they see something that doesn’t look like right. It’s a hard thing to do, parents will hate you, call you busy body and such but I can guarantee that somewhere out there will be at least one child that will feel that someone does care what happens to him or her.

    Yes I think someone should have been notified, maybe a manager or something, for a 3 year old at the mall with only kid supervision. They should have called the mother first. The cops did go a bit far…unless this was habitual for the woman.

  125. ebohlman July 6, 2009 at 2:16 pm #

    Anna B: Actually even that one in 1.5 million figure is too high for most purposes: if your kids aren’t teenage girls, the risk to them is less than half of that (if they are teenage girls, the ones most at risk are those who like to hang around with guys a few years older than them; my hunch is that girls who are raised free-range would be less likely to want to do that than ones who grew up overprotected). If you aren’t rich, famous, and don’t have any other characteristics that would make anybody think they could make money off of holding your kids for ransom, the risk is even less. If you’re white and middle-class, the risk is even less (you wouldn’t know that from news coverage, since if you’re nonwhite or poor and your kid gets abducted, it’ll maybe get one paragraph on page 25 of your local paper).

  126. Uly July 6, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    “That is all I’m trying to get out to people. People need to be aware instead of avoiding it. So I’m not good at debating…the point is to bring awareness to an item that most would rather not discuss.”

    I am sorry I kinda jumped on you there. It’s just… you know, a lot of people pop by saying some of the things you said, and all they want to do is spread fear and uncertainty and doubt. They don’t want to think, and I’m not sure they even want to convince us because they think they’re right or are genuinely concerned about child welfare. I don’t know what their motive is, but I don’t like dealing with them at all. I kinda have an itchy trigger finger for some of this by now.

    “I do believe that more people should speak up when they see something that doesn’t look like right.”

    I agree. Something I find strange in online discussions (and sometimes in real life) is people who don’t want you correcting their kids.

    And I don’t mean “they don’t want you screaming at their kids”, but they don’t want you saying “Honey, are you sure you’re allowed to cross the street alone?” or “Isn’t your school in the OTHER direction?” or – and this one, hilariously, happened to me! – “Excuse me, I think I was here first”. (In that last case I didn’t even think the kid had intentionally cut, and I still don’t. It was a very crowded situation.)

    And it doesn’t make sense to me. One way kids stay safe is by having community there recognizing when they’re about to do something stupid and stopping them. A kid who knows she’s allowed to cross the street will say “Yes” when asked (usually). One who knows she’s not will realize she’s been caught and go back to the sidewalk.

    But it doesn’t have to go overboard. In this situation, an appropriate response by mall management might have been to reprimand the girls for leaving the younger children alone and to warn them that it couldn’t happen again. Another response, equally appropriate, would have been to let the girls call the mom on the cell and to tell her to come pick them up because some or all of the children were not allowed to be in the mall unaccompanied by an adult. (I would have followed this, in their shoes, with a firm “Who is telling them WHY I have to call them, girls – you or me?”, but that’s because I’m mean.)

    Going overboard is… well, exactly as it’s described there. I disagree with this mom’s choice, as I’ve said, but I don’t think it was criminally negligent. Even if it was, given that nobody got hurt I don’t see that it was reasonable to call in the law for a first time offense. And even if that HAD seemed to be required, it would have made more sense to let the girls contact their parents so this could be straightened out sooner, and to let them off (as it was the first time) with a warning.

  127. Nico July 6, 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    I spent the days at the mall with my little sister in tow, when I was 12.

    Mom worked nearby at a restaurant, and I assumed babysitting duty, some days we’d go in with her and go to the park, or see a movie, etc.

    I’m mostly alarmed at the case built against the mother, accusing her of being some lazy ivory tower academic, and the conflicting employee statements.

    It does feel like someone was out to punish her, or prove that mothers should be martyrs and not step out of the accepted line: coddle the kids.

  128. JenC July 6, 2009 at 7:54 pm #

    I’m a staunch supporter of Free Range Kids but I’m sorry, I can’t get behind this. While I don’t agree this mother should be charged with abuse or neglect or endangerment, she did make a bad decision. The mall is not a playground and it’s not a free babysitting service. Unsupervised children might not be a danger to themselves but they could very well pose a safety and security problem. I’ve been in movie theaters, parks and malls where children are running amok – not nice, well behaved, responsible free range kids, but kids who do not know their boundaries. This mother’s exhaustion turned into more work and more responsibility for mall employees and that’s not free range parenting in my opinion, it’s laziness. If her children can be trusted to conduct themselves properly at the mall, that’s great, but if it’s okay for her, then it’s okay for all the parents whose children should not be running around without adult supervision and there are plenty of them.

    There was no reason why the older children could not have watched the younger ones at home while she slept.

  129. Lesley July 6, 2009 at 9:54 pm #

    I am now second-guessing the decisions I have made.
    It’s not enough any more to self question parenting? To field the judgement of other parents and non-parents?
    And in all seriousness no one is harder on us than us.
    We now have to ponder what legal consequence could ensue.

    Letting my eleven year old niece babysit over summer vacation.
    (She even walked the kids to the store for icecream)
    I never even gave it a second thought until a co-worker gasped when I told her and exclaimed she would NEVER let her eleven year old daughter be even alone at home…. EVER!

    Perhaps we as parents should stop being parented ourselves.
    Police Officers. Prosecutors. Mall Security. Store clerks. Judges. Montana Ranchers. Homemakers. Child Therapists. Co-workers.
    WAY too many moms.

  130. jerry July 6, 2009 at 10:34 pm #

    In Society today, we like guilty people, because it makes it easier for us to control them.

  131. N July 6, 2009 at 11:38 pm #

    I don’t think she should have left them in charge of a 3-year-old while shopping because two 12-year-olds aren’t going to pay enough attention to a child that young while at a mall. It would have been fine to babysit a 3-year-old at home, but they’d be too easily distracted at the mall. So I do think there was a lack of judgment. But I don’t think this warranted the police involvement and tax dollars of a trial. Not everything that isn’t a good idea has to be against the law or prosecuted.

  132. SheWhoPicksUpToys July 7, 2009 at 12:01 am #

    I’m with Uly here. I don’t think it was a good decision. This was a situation where a LOT of “what ifs” really could have come true — and not just the statistically small ones of some eight-armed creep grabbing four kids and a stroller or something, but one of the kids getting hurt or sick and the twelve-year-olds (who DIDN’T prove responsible enough) not knowing how to deal with it; one of the older ones turning their backs and the seven year old wandering off after something interesting looking, losing track, and being lost; or a lot of other things like that, maybe none life-threatening or scarring but the sort of thing it’s a parent’s responsibility to prevent if at all possible.

    All that said, though, a scenario like Uly describes seems appropriate — call the mother or have the kids call, inform her that the kids aren’t allowed at the mall unattended until they’re older, etc. In a perfect world, there are twelve year olds who are perfectly capable of doing such a job and causing no troubles, but malls can’t run their policies based on what we know about how too many kids out there act. It’s perfectly reasonable for them to object to pre-teens unattended by adults, if they have a reasonable belief that policing younger kids on their own property creates too many problems for them. (It’s important in situations like this to remember that malls, unlike streets and playgrounds, are private property.) Even if a person disagrees that twelve-year-olds shouldn’t be in charge of several younger kids at the mall, the mall management does have certain rights in the situation to make their own determinations.

    Criminal charges are what is unreasonable. Definitely.

  133. Steve July 7, 2009 at 12:01 am #

    Look, the bottom line is what she did is not a crime. This isn’t about whether we all HAVE to agree on parenting style. Many people would consider it a terrible idea to drop these kids off at the mall, letting a twelve-year-old watch a three-year-old, and so on.

    It might be poor parenting (and, no, I don’t believe that it is), but it sure as heck shouldn’t be a case of abandonment. The kids had cell phones specifically to call home, and instead of the authorities seeing this as proof that they were safe, they took the phones away to cut the parents off from their kids. That is lunacy.

  134. SheWhoPicksUpToys July 7, 2009 at 12:03 am #

    Ugh, I hashed a sentence there. It should be more like:

    but malls can’t run their policies based on ideal twelve year olds, when we we know about how too many kids out there act.

  135. Uly July 7, 2009 at 12:11 am #

    Rather than agree with the people who are agreeing with me, I’m gonna once again go onto a wild tangent. (sorry.)


    Here’s an editorial about the Nestle cookie dough recall.

    Now, the moral of this story could be “make your own cookie dough using local ingredients as much as possible instead of supporting big business” or “companies should be required to share safety data with inspectors and damn the bottom line” or even “our food safety system needs a massive overhaul”.

    Instead – despite mentioning tainted peanuts and tomatoes in the beginning of the editorial! – the message seems to be “never eat raw cookie dough”.

    Not the moral I’d pick up from there. I recalled your entry on cookie dough and thought you might be interested in the link.

  136. hermance July 7, 2009 at 12:18 am #

    For posters who are worried about endangering kids or what “could” happen, why not focus on statistics? Children are much more likely to be hurt–and seriously hurt–by a mother driving while talking on her cell phone. So should we criminalize that? What about speeding?

    In truth, these kids were in much greater danger on their way to the mall than once they got there.

    But since almost everyone in America drives, we’ve deemed this a reasonable and worthwhile risk. And we criminalize leaving kids at the mall because of imagined doomsday scenarios that are statistically highly unlikely to happen.

    Finally, if the kids were acting up, why not just call the parents and give the parents the chance to discipline? All I can see that resulted from this course of action is that the kids learned that adults will always scoop them up, give them candy, and deal with the “real stuff” behind their backs. How does this help exactly?

  137. Lisa July 7, 2009 at 12:19 am #

    It took me a while to read through all of the comments, but when I did the thing that most stood out to me was this:

    “Learn from the experience that YOUR life will NEVER be as important as your child’s”

    I absolutely do not agree with this! What’s more, I don’t want my daughter to ever think this is an acceptable attitude. I have frequently said that there are TWO people in my family, and we are both equally important. My daughter (now 7), has known that for a long time. I also let her know that we are both equally responsible for our home. She does all of the vaccuuming, cleans the bathroom, and picks up her own things.

    Oh, and I do not hesitate to try on some clothes in a department store while she waits outside or looks at other things right there. And she would be *more* than capable of entertaining 3 year old in a stroller for 5 minutes while I did so.

    Hindsight is 20-20… I might not have made the same decision as this mom, but I support each of our own right to make parenting decisions as we see fit. The 12 yr olds did not “endanger” the younger kids… they did break the rules set by their mom, and there should be consequences for that. Consequences that should be set by the mom, not the police or mall security. Now, if the kids had caused any problems – damage, theft, chaos… then the mall should hold the parents responsible. But there is no indication that any of the 5 kids behaved badly… only that the 12 year olds failed to follow mom’s rules.

    What will happen the next time those 12 yr olds are a mall if they DO have a problem and need help? Will they be willing to go to mall security, or store employees, if needed? My 7 yr old saw a cop in uniform last week and said hello… I asked if she knew him (we have a few friends in town who are police or firefighters), and she said “no, but I said hi, because he’s a police, and all police are nice”. THAT is the attitude that will help her if she is in trouble… a strong confidence that the authorities are there to help and protect us. I hate to think that there are kids learning the exact opposite lesson!

  138. updownmostly July 7, 2009 at 12:42 am #

    Yep apparently we have now reached the point where all children should just be raised by the state for “their own welfare”. Let’s just give the state our kids when they are born and move on with our lives. This is incredible and sad on so many levels. It’s not unbelievable because this is the USA. It’s sad because this is the USA. We are a society rife with paranoia and fear. I am sorry you had to go though this mockery of justice and child welfare.

  139. oh please July 7, 2009 at 2:14 am #

    The reason the cops “threw the book” at you is evident in your entire post – you consistently come up with excuse after excuse, justification after justification, for your string of bad decisions and wallow in self-pity when apparently all anyone was trying to get through to you was yes, you committed the crime of child endangerment when you dropped off a toddler and a five year old in the care of twelve-year-olds in a public mall with no available adult supervision. Unless of course you’re counting the mall employees who had to deal with your kids in your absence.

    Your entire story just doesn’t make sense from the outset. If you were so exhausted that you absolutely needed some time to rest, why take the time to drop them off at the mall in the first place? Let them play outside if you’re going to leave the twelve year olds in charge while you take a nap.

    You include a single sentence from the attorney made in response to statements that you conveniently leave out of this massive tome, and claim its some sort of evidence of…something. Honestly given every other excuse you’ve come up for for yourself in this post, I wouldn’t be shocked to discover your original statements that sparked the response included hiding behind your level of education as – guess what – another excuse.

    Possibly, maybe, if you had some sort of legitimate excuse for leaving toddlers in the care of pre-teens at the mall (not that I can think of a legitimate reason offhand), and handled the situation with a little more humility and acknowledgment of how utterly stupid your actions were as a parent, the system might not have decided that the only way you were going to learn that what you did was wrong was by prosecuting you in court. As it stands, from the tone and content of your blog post, you’re still looking to justify your actions to anyone that will listen.

  140. geekgirlsrule July 7, 2009 at 2:43 am #

    I wonder if it would do any good to write to the city of Bozeman and tell them how incredibly ludicrous this case was. And how disgusted everyone is with this massive waste of taxpayer time and money.

  141. Alexicographer July 7, 2009 at 3:41 am #

    @Lisa, thanks for taking offense at “Learn from the experience that YOUR life will NEVER be as important as your child’s.” With you, I was pretty scandalized at this one. Sure, it wouldn’t be if I needed to throw myself in front of a moving car to save his. But to extrapolate from that (as seems to be implied) that our lives need to be organized to satisfy his wants and needs with no attention to any one else’s (except, I suppose, our other children, if any) strikes me as both phenomenally offensive and, frankly, counter-productive (i.e. less likely than my approach to lead to the development … in the person who is now my dependent child … of an independent, responsible, mature adult capable, should he desire, of taking on the responsibilities of parenting children himself someday.

  142. MommyMitzi July 7, 2009 at 4:22 am #

    A few thoughts:

    What if, instead of two 12 yr old girls in the changing room, it had been a mom who had left the 7,8, and 3 yr olds in the purse dept for a few minutes? Would the police be called? I doubt it. She would have gotten a lecture from the mall security most likely and that’s that. However, we apparently believe 11 yr olds are old enough to babysit, since we offer courses for them, so as a society, we’re definitely sending confusing messages to everyone.

    I find it interesting that a couple of people thought it would be entirely appropriate for 12 yr olds to babysit the younger kids at home alone, but not in a mall. My biggest fear in having someone on the young side babysit my children is if that person would have the presence of mind to react appropriately in an emergency. What if the 3 yr old starts choking on an apple and couldn’t breathe? At home, the babysittter needs to deal with it by herself, at least for the first few, critical minutes. In a mall, if that scenario happened, there would (I would hope) lots of adults around who could help immediately.

    A lot of the posters also bring up the “what if” scenario? What if this or that happened? Frankly, that’s not fair. NOTHING did happen. From what I can tell, even tho the 12 yr olds did leave the younger kids for a few minutes, NOTHING BAD happened. To prosecute, perscute and judge someone because of what COULD have happened is ridiculous. ALL of us all the time are in situations where something COULD happen. I’ve come home to find I’ve forgotten to lock the back door. I’ve driven with my kids in their carseats but when I go to unstrap them, find that one of the buckles wasn’t fastened. I’ve inadvertently left a knife on the counter in a house with toddlers, or the toilet seat up! All things that could result in tragedy (albeit a remote chance) but please tell me the person who hasn’t done some of these things!

    So, the girls broke their parents’ rules. That’s it. Maybe the mom showed bad judgement, maybe not. Without knowing the kids involved personally, it’s not our place to judge.

    But it’s definitely our place to be outraged that a parent was criminalized about this.

    City of Bozeman: Next time I drive through your city, I WON’T be stopping. You won’t get a dime of my money.

  143. Hannah July 7, 2009 at 4:27 am #

    Did anyone else else think this story was super long??? All I have to say is a 12yo babysitting a 3yo? Maybe not the best idea, but shit happens.

  144. laughlivemedia July 7, 2009 at 4:36 am #

    I believe you are not guilty….I think we are getting into a generation that fears way to much independence for kids is no good will ruin them for life or the other extreme if a parent disciplines their child in public is all out wrong. I grow up with lots of responsibility when I was young going places and doing things. I never thought my parents were guilty of child abuse. Also I turned out pretty good. Apparently your area of town is so safe the cops look for anything to cuff. For real it was a waste of time money and emotions. You should sue the state for what your family went through during this debacle…

  145. Tam July 7, 2009 at 5:33 am #

    My heart goes out to Bridget. As she so eloquently describes, each parenting decision is frought with self-recrimination (“I should’ve done/said/emphasized..” “I can’t believe I said/yelled/ignored…”). To be charged with a crime for a parenting choice (age-appropriate, kid-appropriate, situation-appropriate or not) and put through additional layers of scrutiny–by the legal system, by friends and family–is horrific. I don’t know whether her decision was a good one or not, but I do know that I’m APPALLED at her treatment and the WASTE of resources in the Bozeman legal system on this case.

    While I agree that folks should look out for their neighbors (kids), I also know that scrutiny can be a detriment. We occasionally have trouble with our daughter, who tends to the dramatic. Although we have success with ignoring her screaming/crying/shouting bouts, we also know that when these happen outside, the neighbors will check on the situation, which gives her the additional attention that she is seeking. We feel we must moderate our parenting choices to mitigate the risk of DSHS being called in, even though our child is simply expressing unhappiness (as only a 6-year-old can) about not getting her way.

    There is no “right” way to treat a 12-year-old, or “right” set of responsibilities and expectations. Each kid is unique, and every kid will screw up. It’s up to the adults to determine acceptable risk for their kids. Occasionally, we adults may also screw up. Together, kids and adults, we make adjustments and move on. We learn, we build trust, we make better judgments.

    To prosecute a mom not for a pattern of criminal behavior but a single judgment, that’s appalling and scary to EVERY parent. Whether you agree with her decision at that moment or not, I think it’s important that we support each other in our parenting roles and our right to make mistakes and move on. I think we need to collectively insist that government stick to helping kids who are NOT getting their basic needs met and/or who are ABUSED by the adults who are supposed to care for them.

  146. oh please July 7, 2009 at 5:49 am #

    People that are making the argument that its safer for her kids in the mall than alone at home are selfish and unrealistic. First of all, if a twelve year old doesn’t know how to dial 911 or perform basic CPR then they shouldn’t be babysitting a toddler, especially if those are their only two ways of addressing an emergency (no neighbors next door?). Expecting that a complete stranger at the mall will jump right in and help isn’t only passing the buck of your own responsibility onto this hypothetical stranger, how do you people possibly think the twelve year olds are going to react to this? Having to flag down a stranger in the mall because there’s a problem with the three year old or the five year old they’re in charge of?

    That undercurrent of completely not caring about anyone else but herself in all of this is what really got me about this blogger’s post to begin with. You dumped the toddlers off with the twelve year olds when they wanted to go to the mall, leaving them with complete responsibility (which they obviously weren’t prepared to handle anyway), you’re at home sleeping, secure in your faith that the mall is “safe enough” without concerning yourself a bit about your imposition on everyone else in that mall with your expectation that someone else will jump in if something happens that the twelve year old can’t handle.

    Think about that for a second. The chain of responsibility for a 3 and 5 year old went: twelve year olds > complete strangers > mall staff. Here’s a clue lady, complete strangers and mall staff don’t want to have to take care of your children. They don’t want to have to be the ones responsible because you’re home taking a nap and a twelve year old is in over their heads. These aren’t the next door neighbors you can check ahead with before you run to the store leaving the kids in a known, safe environment.

    I’m astonished at the excuses everyone is making for this woman, even beyond the excuses she’s making for herself.

  147. SheWhoPicksUpToys July 7, 2009 at 6:23 am #

    Wait — it’s one thing to say that you shouldn’t base all your decisions on “what if” worst case scenarios. I completely agree with that.

    But you can’t go to the other extreme and act as though possible problems never need to be considered in deciding what situations to permit/create with your kids. “It all turned out okay so who cares about the what-ifs” could be applied to letting your ten year old drive a car. And we don’t make ANY decisions without considering what bad consequences could arise from them if we’re not careful. Or at least we shouldn’t.

    I totally agree that what this woman did was not criminal. But I don’t have to agree that it was a good decision. And in saying it was not a good decision, I am not saying she should be burned at the stake or anything. I’ve made bad parenting decisions too, and I’m thankful everything turned out okay, and I’m glad the cops don’t show up every time I make one. I’ve made poor decisions that are even excusable because of the fatigue or stress I was under at the time. But that doesn’t make them not bad decisions. Why do we have to all agree that this was a good idea in order to agree that she shouldn’t be going to jail over it?

  148. MommyMitzi July 7, 2009 at 6:29 am #

    To “oh please”– there is no 5 yr old in the story. There’s a 3 yr old, a 7 yr old, an 8 yr old and the two 12 yr olds. You may want to re-read the initial story and reframe your comments. Also, there is only one 3 yr old, who may or may not be considered a “toddler,” (I personally call any child who can walk to about age 2 a toddler and 3-5 yr olds preschoolers). There are not multiple “toddlers” in the story.

    My point on saying that I was surprised that people seem to think it would be better for the 12 yr old to be watching the kids at home rather than a mall was simply surprise that the home scenario was acceptable and the mall one wasn’t to many who commented. Yes, I’m sure most young babysitters can call 911 or perhaps even do CPR, but sometimes something needs to be done in the time it takes for an ambulance to arrive. Does a 12 yr old have this capability? If you read my comment carefully, you’ll see I’m not advocating either one. However, I know if I were in a public place (like a mall) and saw a child choking or a person fall down clutching their chest or any one of numerous scenarios, I would not hesitate to help to the extent of my capabilities and I would hope most people would react similarly. That was my point.

    Also, you seem to be responding to MY comment and mixing it up with what Bridget wrote. I am not Bridget.

    Also, many of us have made the point that nothing did happen. The 12 yr olds weren’t “in over their heads” as you say, as far as I can see. The left the other 3 alone for a few minutes, in violation of the parents’ rules. But I don’t see that as “in over their heads.” Can you elaborate on what you meant ?

  149. oh please July 7, 2009 at 6:54 am #

    “In over their heads” means any situation where a twelve year old couldn’t handle an emergency as well as an adult and possibly panic or make the wrong decision for the wrong reason – i.e. I’m going to get in trouble with an adult, I’ll look for the missing 5 year old myself instead of asking someone. And frankly when it comes to the care of a 5 and 7 year old, they’re not that far off in terms of supervision.

    Feel free to nitpick that as much as you like as you do with the definition of “toddler”, but there’s no argument that can be made where leaving two twelve year olds in a public mall with no adult supervision besides strangers and employees (who don’t even realize there’s no parent around the corner) is going to be a responsible choice on behalf of an adult that wants some alone time.

    I really don’t think this is an offense deserving of jail, per se, but the blogger’s attitude towards the entire incident – completely self-centered, completely blase about the impact her decision had and could have had on her children, her friend’s children, and the people and staff of that mall, completely unwilling to even acknowledge she’s anything but a victim in this situation – reeks of the kind of mentality that isn’t going to get that she did something wrong and maybe shouldn’t do it again, which is what the criminal justice system is supposed to be based on. If she had this attitude with the cops that contacted her and the district attorney, I’m not astonished in the least they’re pushing for a harsh sentence. She obviously still doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with what she did, and maybe the prospect of jail time will be a deterrent in the future if the rest of her community and her children can’t rely on her common sense.

    Even to look at this in a cold cynical fashion – if something god forbid had happened to one of those kids, a kidnapping, the youngest choking on something they picked up off the floor and ending up in the hospital or worse – is this woman going to waive any lawsuit against the mall owners or the store where it happened? If a friendly stranger does help and doesn’t do enough, maybe accidentally makes the situation worse, will she waive the right to sue them too? Maybe if she was willing to sign a waiver giving up any right to sue for damages if one of the kids she drops off gets hurt the mall and the city would be willing to let her do what they have laws in place to prevent. Until that happens, besides the utter irresponsibility and selfishness of what she did, no one associated with that mall wants the responsibility that she put on them without so much as letting them know.

  150. MaeMae July 7, 2009 at 7:29 am #

    @Tam – I sympathize with you. I have a niece who is very dramatic and you’re right: she gets the attention she wants from strangers. My sister and her husband had to pull their daughter out of school because the school kept falling for her dramatics. My niece got in trouble one day and made up a big story about her parents had been up all night and all morning screaming at each other and she had gotten no sleep and was scared to go home. My sister was called into the school and asked if she and her husband would consider going to counseling. And, oh yeah, we’re gonna pull your daughter out of class for counseling too. My brother-in-law was out of town traveling for work and could prove that he was not even at home and still the school chose to give in to this little girl. It was ridiculous. They chose to not realize that these stories only came out when she was getting in trouble.

  151. Kat July 7, 2009 at 7:34 am #

    The mall isn’t a free babysitting service, color me shocked.

  152. MaeMae July 7, 2009 at 7:48 am #

    @She – I think a lot of posters have stated that they don’t agree this was a good decision.

  153. Belinda July 7, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    Bozeman’s a college town, and trust me, not everyone knows their neighbors. That mall isn’t particuarly upscale, it’s got a couple of bars in it (as do all malls in Montana), and I’d say this is far more about town and gown than about any actual child endangerment.

    But sending the 3 year old was poor judgment, and I don’t particularly want to hear the good prof’s tale of woe of being tired. She screwed up. And I’m willing to bet that she showed attitude to the mall cops and things went downhill from there.

  154. S.D. July 7, 2009 at 8:43 am #

    The general consensus seems to be:

    Tired mom made a bad decision, as many tired moms are prone to do. The bad decision was leaving the 3 year old in a stroller with the older kids.

    City of Bozeman went overboard in ‘disciplining’ this mom’s bad decision as opposed to a simple warning to a FIRST TIMER. Treated her as a criminal.

    Mom and kids now suffering consequences of two bad decision that, really, wasn’t even that big of a deal in the first place.

    One poster said, and I concur, that “I bet that daughter is a VERY GOOD babsyitter now, after learning from that situation”.

    As did the mom, I’m sure. Guess Bozeman does NOT WANT to be known as a SAFE FOR KIDS community.

  155. Bo July 7, 2009 at 8:43 am #

    “Two things that occur to me are a legal defense fund and expert testimony. ”

    A full professor at a state university needs a legal defense fund for a civil case? Why not just have our tax dollars pay for babysitting?

  156. D July 7, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    Are you bleeping kidding? This went to COURT??
    What the bleep is wrong with Bozeman?
    WTB (that’s ‘want to buy’ in online gamer parlance) common sense for Bozeman.

  157. Uly July 7, 2009 at 9:52 am #

    “Feel free to nitpick that as much as you like as you do with the definition of “toddler”, but there’s no argument that can be made where leaving two twelve year olds in a public mall with no adult supervision besides strangers and employees (who don’t even realize there’s no parent around the corner) is going to be a responsible choice on behalf of an adult that wants some alone time. ”

    It almost sounds like now you’re calling the twelve year olds toddlers :)

    Asking you to use correct terminology isn’t nitpicking, it’s just helping us keep our discussion to the facts instead of the hyperbole. When you say that the kids were watching several “toddlers” it creates the impression that they wandered off and left a group of 18 month old children alone – certainly not what happened! I’m not saying the girls were right, nor their mother, but let’s at least discuss the actual events, okay?


    “Why do we have to all agree that this was a good idea in order to agree that she shouldn’t be going to jail over it?”

    Because there’s no such thing as nuance or gray areas in this world, haven’t you noticed? You either agree with somebody utterly, or you disagree with them utterly. NO OTHER OPTIONS EXIST.

  158. Casey July 7, 2009 at 10:09 am #

    To “oh please” – I’m still wondering after reading your posts if you’ve read the article. First you messed up the ages and amount of children. After that you said that there was a prospect of jail time, which if I’m correct in what I understand of the article, there isn’t – she’s gone to a parenting class and it’s done.

    The biggest part of your post that I’d like to address is that yes, she probably would waive her right to sue. The fact is that there are some of us out there in the world who don’t want to be part of this “everybody’s a victim” society we live in and would gladly waive the right to sue over plenty of situations just so we could be free to make the choices we want to make for OUR children.

    The fact is that I want to decide what age my children are able to do things…the government and powers that be don’t know my kids. Even my sister doesn’t know my kids like I do. Until other people go through the pregnancy and labour, then spend countless hours worrying and caring for my children they can respectfully shut up, and allow me to make my own choices. I’m fully ready to sign any waiver to that extent.

  159. Casey July 7, 2009 at 12:33 pm #

    Good point – the pregnancy and labour isn’t the necessary part:-) The countless hours…that’s the part that counts!

  160. Kelly July 7, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    S.D.’s recent summation seems a good one.

    As a parent, my heart sank as I imagined myself in this scene. I am tired of the thought that as a parent you can never make a mis-step, or a bad decision (NOT EVEN that bad of one, in this case, IMO), because even if no one is hurt you may risk judgment, prosecution etc. THAT is the “crime” (term used figuratively) in this case.

    Speaking for myself, and not to Bridget’s situation, I am glad I live in a community that tolerates Free Range Kids a little bit more than the community I first started my family. For the most part, grownups around here don’t mind if your little one runs a few steps in front of you or if you let your six year old walk a few blocks to the neighbors.

    An earlier commenter said:

    “Was I neglectful for letting him let go of my hand? For not looking at him every second? For taking him to the store in the first place?”

    I really feel this. Speaking generally about child / parent paranoia, one would have to have ONE child and keep an eye on this child at all times to meet the criteria that seems to be set by certain societal standards.

    Back to Bridget: my heart goes out to her. I do not consider her having made an error worthy of any kind of prosecution or persecution.

  161. mominmich July 7, 2009 at 7:15 pm #

    Well, sadly there ARE kids in this country who are in danger. Kids who live in dangerous areas (seven kids were just shot on the streets of Detroit last week). Kids who live in homes where they are neglected or abused. CPS workers in most states have caseloads that discourage them from doing an adequate job. Law Enforcement and EMS in many dangerous areas are underfunded and sometimes under trained. Effective drug programs for parents with addiction are not always available when needed. Some kids don’t have adequate healthcare coverage. If we really care about the safety of children, we would support and fund these areas.

    In the big picture, doesn’t spending a bunch of money to prosecute a woman over a baby sitting snafu seem misguided?

    That said, I do not think this kind of thing is common (could be wrong). So it is good to put that in perspective. Perhaps a parent being arrested or prosecuted for child endangerment when no injuries occurred and the actually danger is highly questionable is just as rare as stranger danger.

  162. Dana July 7, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    Ok – you know I started reading the article and the first thing that came to my mind was “whining” – the woman is whining because of the regular stuff that moms have to deal with! Sorry you are tired…. figure it out!

    I used to go to the mall with a friend for a few hours – no problem… but we aren’t living in the same day or age that this was no biggie. Every day more children end up missing from malls and other places. So to put 3 younger children in the care of 2 12 year olds (who apparently are fully capable of being 12 year old and going and trying on shirts without the younger ones) is just plain thoughtless.

    If something terrible had happened to any one of those children then nothing would have been written like that and it would be total outrage at the mother then – none of the sympathy that is showing up now on the comment section there.

    Heck – I have been able to take naps while kids are in the house! Play quietly in the basement for an hour or 2 please……a movie can help with that if needed – sheesh.

  163. Thomas July 7, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

    “Uly, on July 5th, 2009 at 8:51 am”

    I agree. That post sums up this article completely.

  164. Uly July 8, 2009 at 12:07 am #

    “Every day more children end up missing from malls and other places.”

    No, they do NOT. Where, please, WHERE do people GET this nonsense? It’s not true, and the facts and statistics are just the OPPOSITE – every year fewer and FEWER children end up missing or harmed than in the past. (And those children who ARE harmed? Are teens and preteens, not three year olds. If anything, the younger children were keeping predators away from the older ones, not the other way around… not that it’s common either way.)

    “If something terrible had happened to any one of those children then nothing would have been written like that and it would be total outrage at the mother then – none of the sympathy that is showing up now on the comment section there.”

    No. No, I would not. I would be outraged at the criminal – not the mother.

  165. Uly July 8, 2009 at 12:08 am #

    Mominmich, that’s an incredibly well-thought out comment and a good point.

  166. Kit July 8, 2009 at 12:26 am #

    I am sort of torn on this one. I mean obviously the legal battle was completely over the top and a simple phone call would have done the trick. My issue isn’t with if the 12 year old could handle it. Sure, she’s plenty old enough, but I don’t see the point in letting her take the younger kids to the mall. What does a 3 or 4 year old have to do at the mall? Nothing. I mean is there a play ground there? Does this toddler have money burning a hole in their pocket?

    We all look back to our own childhood for advice and experiences and I have to agree with my mom when she didn’t let us go to the mall. Her point of view was that the mall is a place of commerce and since I rarely did my chores like I should have, I had little to no money and hence, no business at the mall. Had the girls been going to the library or the park or someplace kids have any reason to go, sure. 12 year olds at the mall though, I can’t imagine their full attention is on the 3 or 4 year old. They want to do “Mall stuff” like try on clothes. What other reason is there for them to be there? I mean that’s the reason the store is there and there isn’t much point in being in it if you aren’t shopping.

    I don’t mean to be contrary, and I totally agree that the punishment was outrageous because it really was NOT a crime and so no punishment was called for, but I don’t think dropping kids that have no money, off at the mall, is a great idea, but live and learn. God knows I sure don’t have all the answers and make plenty of my own mistakes.

  167. Casey July 8, 2009 at 12:38 am #

    One thing I’d like to point out is that it doesn’t seem like the reasoning behind her letting her kids go to the mall was that she was tired. It most likely was because she gave into the 12 year olds. Because she was tired she though…well why don’t you take your siblings and it works out better for everyone. You still get to go to the mall, and I get a rest. She compromised. She could have forced the 12 year olds to stay home, but she came up with (in my opinion) a reasonable compromise.

    I do however agree with the previous poster that they might not have had business at the mall. But these days there are usually plenty of other things going on at malls…they’re not exactly just for buying things anymore. Also, maybe the 12 year olds had been saving and saving and we finally ready to make some purchases but they had previously arranged to babysit that day…maybe they were the ones trying for a compromise and the mom gave in because it was her right and she weighed the pro’s and con’s herself and made a decision. We obviously don’t know the complete story

    All this “case” does is make parents more scared to be parents because not only are they afraid they’ll make the wrong choice and their kids could be harmed (which is something we are all always worried about). But now parents need to be afraid that they could make an okay choice, nothing would harm the kids, but they could go to jail…or lose their kids.

    I really thought that parents were responsible for children…maybe what really needs to happen is the whole world needs to stop suing when things go wrong so that the government can stop acting responsible for things it’s not responsible for???

  168. Uly July 8, 2009 at 12:50 am #

    Kit, I live in NYC, and I’m SO not used to the mall concept. (Well, I mean, there’s a mall here on Staten Island, but as it’s an hour and a half by bus I’m not likely to head there just for fun, you know?)

    But I talk to other people online and it seems that a lot of malls have children’s play areas set up, or movie theaters, or – my mother swears this one is true! – skating rinks and whatnot.

    All this, of course, is to encourage people to spend more time there and spend more money as well, but it seems that there may have been quite a bit to do at the mall rather than just shop.

    But I don’t know, having never been to that particular mall.

  169. candacelange July 8, 2009 at 1:35 am #

    There is no “safe” little town in this country or in any other for that matter. I grew up in Casper Wyoming and horrible child molesation and murder were just as prevelant (percentige wise) as anyplace else. Lived in Cour d Alene Id and dreadful things happened there as well. Bozeman has Interstate 90 running right by and loads of creepy types roll thru every hour of the day or night. No mall is immune to preditors and Bozeman is no different than any other town in the US. Granted your 12 year old daughter and her friend are no doubt quite responsible, but a moment of inattention can result in a lifetime of horror. An adult could lose track of a child just as easily but most mothers are aware of the consequences that a few minutes of not paying close attention can bring. A 12 year old has not heard a lifetime of ghastly stories about snatched children, so are less likely to be super vigilent. I think the police overdid it in the extreme but perhaps they are a bit tired of searching for lost children.

  170. ebohlman July 8, 2009 at 1:39 am #

    Uly: Part of the reason people get misleading impressions about increasing dangers is a little trick our brains play on us. When we see/hear multiple reports of a single incident, it feels to us like we’re seeing/hearing reports of multiple incidents. Every retelling of the Adam Walsh story feels like another kid getting abducted and murdered, today, in our own community. It actually takes a lot of hard work to counteract this effect. I’ve had to work at not feeling like thousands of gay college students get tied to fences and left to die every year.

    And as I’ve mentioned before, a lot of people have vested interests in believing the world is a horrible place. If a credible report came out that a far lower percentage of Iraq war veterans were sufferering from PTSD than was currently believed, I’d know rationally that it was something I should be happy about. But I’d still feel a little disappointed that I had one less thing to blame the Bush administration for.

  171. Lisa July 8, 2009 at 3:30 am #

    candacelange, you said ” Bozeman is no different than any other town in the US”. That’s just the point: Bozeman is just like most other places – SAFER than the US was 20 years ago!

    A lot of people are veering off the original situation: things like whether the 12 year olds should be at the mall alone, whether the 3 year old should be there at all. I agree that the mall is not a place to just “hang out”, but there is nothing in the original story to indicate that these 12 yr olds weren’t spending money. Or maybe there’s an ice cream place at the mall, or a movie theater, or…. actually, the fact that they were trying on clothes seems to indicate that they may indeed have been there to shop. Also, it said this happened “after lunch”, so it appears that the kids had lunch at the mall. I know at the malls near me there are many options of places to eat – a perfectly valid reason to be there. At 12, I went to the mall to buy makeup, jewlery, clothes, and CD’S. Or to window shop – but that was WITH my mom. Should we not have been there?

    As for it not being a fun place for the 3 yr old – first, we don’t know the kid. Some little kids are fascinated by seeing lots of interesting people and things. My daughter never minded the mall, although we didn’t go often. She also never minded her stroller… and I wouldn’t have likely taken the kid out either (generally, I either used a stroller for an entire outing, or didn’t bring it… I rarely pushed an empty stroller while keeping track of my toddler). Even if she didn’t like it : not everything kids do needs to be fun. On this particular day, she was at a place where her sister wanted to go. You know what? That 12 year old will likely have to sit through a kindergarten graduation, or a t-ball game, or maybe even have to spend some time in the kiddie area of a water park because it’s her little sister’s turn to pick what they do. So? I don’t have a lot of concern about the 3 yr old having to go somewhere because the 12 yr old wanted to… that’s called being a part of a family, where everyone’s needs and wants are equally important.

  172. MrMom July 8, 2009 at 5:35 am #

    When I was … This is nonsense, what you did when you were 6 is not relevant please stop this line of argument.

    I feel for Bridget, this was blown way out of proportion and became a forum for some local politics.

    She should not have entrusted the 3 yo with the two 12 yos in the mall. The mall people found unattended children and should have called the mom and then everyone gets a bit of a talking to and that’s the end of it.

    The real issue is the how the cops and lawyers handled this, sounds like there was a lot of underlying animosity.

    I encourage freedom for my children and I’m constantly questioning what i should or shouldn’t let them do. Parenting is incredibly difficult, we need to support and encourage each other rather than look to blame and punish people.

  173. MrMom July 8, 2009 at 5:40 am #

    Edit… I rescind my comment that Bridget shouldn’t have entrusted the 12 yos with the younger ones at the mall. This is how we learn and teach. We give our children increasing responsibilities and see how they do. The important thing is to keep the risk during these trials to a minimum, and i think that the mall was a safe choice.

  174. Sheena July 8, 2009 at 7:57 am #

    First; I think that the response (criminal charges, trial, etc.) was definitely a bit excessive.

    However, I don’t think that leaving two 12-year-olds in charge of an 8-year-old, a 7-year-old, and a 3-year-old was a responsible decision. I think that the 12-year-olds could have managed to go shopping on their own, but adding the responsibility of watching the younger children is a bit much. Plus, I don’t imagine that the 8 or 7 year old were too interested in the sorts of stores that 12 year old girls tend to prefer. Much less the 3 year old.

    I understand that she’s a working mom. I’m not a mom, but I spent time in the military and nannying prior to starting college. I know that full-time work and full-time childcare are both exhausting, each in their own right. However, there are ways to make sure your children are adequately supervised in public…Maybe “adopting” a local college student (or a few) that have proven to be trustworthy, and trading baby-sitting for things like a homecooked meal or an afternoon with the laundry machine? Bozeman is a college town, and one of the colleges (MSU) has a teacher education program — where you’ll find college kids who actually LIKE kids and want to work with them. I know I’d personally do a LOT of things in exchange for real, actual food and a day to do my laundry without someone else messing with it, and spending a few hours at the mall with three kids (in this case, the 8 and 7 and 3 year olds) so mom can take a nap is one of the better options!

    I wonder if the 12-year-olds had been given a chance to babysit in public places before this, or had watched more than one or two kids at a time.

    Regardless, I don’t think that a 3 year old should be without an older teen or adult in public — not just because someone *might* kidnap the child, or the child *might* wander away, but because a 3 year old is probably not adequately potty trained. An adult can figure out that a three-year-old is cranky because they’re wearing a wet or dirty diaper…Even the most mature 12-year-old might just assume that the toddler is just cranky or bored. And if the child is potty trained, they’ll probably need a potty break if they’ve had anything to eat or drink…would the average 12-year-old think “hm, we’ve been here for an hour, little Bob went potty before we left home, maybe we should have a potty trip”? Probably not.

    I think, had the 3 year old been left at home, nobody would have cared…Better yet, adopt a college student, and ask them to keep the three younger kids in line while the 12-year-olds act like 12-year-olds. (Then feed the college student dinner!)

  175. Kelly July 8, 2009 at 8:25 am #

    Sheena, at the point you admit to not being a parent – and then go on to elaborate on a bunch of better scenarios, or smarter scenarios: “Hey, did you think of this? Get an intern!” etc – you just lose me.

    You likely have no concept of what it’s like to live with the constancy of children to care for and raise.

    We parents have responsibility for our children 24/7. From the minute they are born. Even for the best of parents, the most well-rested, the smartest, those living in relatively stress-free circumstances: sometimes we are plain overwhelmed. Sometimes we make a silly choice. Or in the case of the above case, a choice that is at worst questionable.

    IT appears a few here – parents and childfree – are treating this as Did the mom make the Best Possible Choice? This dismays and scares me a bit. Best Possible Choice Ever? Who knows? Deserving of an arrest? No. A bunch of nitpicking online? Definitely not.

    It is dismaying as a reader (and likely so stressful to the family) that in the case above the mall incident became the basis of a criminal investigation or arrest. It is, in my view, almost equally dismaying to read a series of Monday morning quarterback treatments regarding this scenario. “Couldn’t you have done this? Why didn’t you try that? What if THIS would have happened?”

    For many of us parents – not all, I’m sure – we have these voices in our heads often enough. I look forward to reading here at FRK to get a respite from those critical voices and I am glad to find many people with sensible heads on their shoulders. Although, it appears, not all.

    I also find a miniature lecture on pottytraining – delivered ostensibly to a mother of several children – rather amusing. I’m sure that the sibling 12 year old would likely handle her sister’s potty help better than you or I could, not being in the family. Some people in this comment thread seem unaware that giving older children responsibilities towards younger ones (whether or not I, or you, would send them to the mall) is a GOOD thing for EVERYONE in the family.

    MrMom, I liked your summation:

    ” I rescind my comment that Bridget shouldn’t have entrusted the 12 yos with the younger ones at the mall. This is how we learn and teach. We give our children increasing responsibilities and see how they do. The important thing is to keep the risk during these trials to a minimum, and i think that the mall was a safe choice.”

    As far as “can a 12 year old babysit a 3 year old safely”. I believe that completely, and I mean completely, depends on the circumstances and the 12 year old / 3 year old in question. I have a 7 and a 5 year old and they are different kids, and I know them better – and care more about them – than any stranger reading their mere ages online could.

  176. Kelly July 8, 2009 at 8:30 am #

    I also want to add: I am confused about the comments saying, “Oh the mall probably wasn’t that fun for the three year old, or the eight year old”, etc. I’m a housewife to two children and they come with me on all sorts of errands – dropping the car at the shop, picking up supplies at the hardware store, the fruit and veggie market, helping me do laundry. Not just to the playground or Disneyland or the funnest places.

    The concept that part of the “sins” of this mother include the fact she allowed her kids to go somewhere that – gasp! – might be a bit boring for one or two of them? How is this relevant?

  177. Uly July 8, 2009 at 9:07 am #

    Sheena, what you’re suggesting is that instead of sending her kids out together – a learning experience for ALL FIVE of them as they’d have to learn to compromise (go to this store that the older ones want to without whining and then we can do this fun thing that the middlies want to do without the OLDER kids griping ) – that she should instead pick a veritable stranger to watch her children for her?

    As for potty training, I imagine that any child in a house with a potty-training child aged two or three knows the signs. My niece, at four-and-a-half, was able to tell me when her sister (two – she potty trained fully by three, but she was early) needed to have her diaper changed. The twelve year olds (and the seven and eight year old!) would have to be INCREDIBLY unobservant not to know when the three year old needed to go.

    Besides, most kids that age either tell you when they’ve messed themselves or they tell you when they need to use the toilet. Not hard.

  178. Alexicographer July 8, 2009 at 9:43 am #

    @Kit, I take my toddler (2.5) to the malls in our town to play (not shop), all the time. If it’s annoying that people show up at malls with no intention to spend money then eh, I’m part of the problem. But both of the two malls I take him to need more people in them than actually show up, so I’m not taking space legitimate shoppers need. DS loves to “window shop” and to watch the people and the goings-on in the mall, and both are so empty it is easy to find large spaces where he can run around with no one but me to bother. This is handy in the SE when it’s 98 degrees out.

    My stepdaughter takes my son to the “big” mall (one town over from ours; farther than I’m willing to drive just for the purpose of entertaining a toddler), which does have a playground for children as well as a lot of other spaces (e.g. kid-friendly fountains) to entertain them.

  179. Sheena July 8, 2009 at 11:22 am #

    Kelly, as I said, I’m not a parent. But I was a (full-time, live-in) nanny for nearly six months to a family with (at the time) two year old twins and a one year old. I have also “sort of nannied” for my sister’s kids, who are now eleven, seven, and six. The six-year-old has autism. By “sort of nannied” I mean that I was in charge and responsible 24 hours while I was there, but this was done during occasional weekends and during a spring break. So, no, I don’t know what it’s like to be a mother — but I do know what it’s like to have an upset, scared, or sick child wake up crying, and need to get out of bed to take care of them, or to have to make decisions about whether a nine year old (at the time) could walk up a gravel “driveway” (about a quarter of a mile) alone, or whether I needed to take his two younger siblings down to the end so we could all walk together.

    Regarding the potty training “lecture” — my seven-year-old nephew still has issues with telling people when he needs to use the bathroom. He doesn’t have accidents, but he will “hold it” for hours until he can go to the bathroom without making it public. We have to encourage him to “try” every few hours. So, yeah, I can believe a three-year-old not saying something, and older siblings not necessarily noticing.

    And I’m a student in a teacher education program. I guess I’ve gotten used to looking at a situation and finding a possible solution — ie, ask a babysitter to join the kids at the mall. Adopting a college student, to me, also looked like a good potential solution — someone who’s interested in education or childcare might be willing to babysit on a semi-regular basis.

    I was babysitting at twelve…But I had just started sitting for one family other than my own, and would only do so for about two hours at a time at their home. And I was allowed to go into stores in the mall alone, but my parents were also in the mall, and I had a fixed amount of time before I “checked in”. I didn’t babysit anyone outside of my home or theirs until I was a nanny. And, believe it or not, I spent my middle/high school years in an area where three teenage girls had been abducted (by a stranger)*, so not many parents were sending their pre-teen and younger kids to the mall alone at the time. It’s not a familiar idea for me. That’s why I think having an adult present is better than sending two twelve year olds to the mall in supervision of an eight year old, a seven year old, and a three year old.

    I didn’t mean to sound like I was trying to lecture anyone, and I certainly don’t think I know more than others about most subjects. (Well, except college students…And I’m pretty savvy with Shakespeare.)

    *(This is a story from my local paper referencing the abductions. The Lisk girls were playing, and Sofia was doing her homework — all in their front yards, in the same region. http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2001/052001/05022001/272447)

  180. Kelly July 8, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    “That’s why I think having an adult present is better than sending two twelve year olds to the mall in supervision of an eight year old, a seven year old, and a three year old.”

    Let me take this to a logical extension. Actually, the BEST solution would have been no mall at all – for Mommy not to be tired, and for the entire family to be out in a field with ALL kids together, making daisy chains and studying the mathematical properties of fractals, while listening to Mozart and eating a home-cooked, macrobiotic meal. Or whatever one’s fantasy of “perfect” family experience of a family is.

    My point is: parenting ain’t perfect, and even great parents don’t always find the BEST possible solution. Your statement quoted above is the exact thing I meant when I said “nitpicking” and Monday morning quarterbacking.

    I am not aware Bridget needed assistance finding the best solution to a problem that you imagine exists, or a better solution, or even help with parenting choices. I’ll bet your average parent has more tricks up their sleeve than a sometime nanny. The solution Bridget found at the time was a decent compromise and as many here have said – and I agree with – she is being unfairly vilified, persecuted, and second-guessed.

    What I infer someone in Bridget’s position needs is support from sensible parents and childfree persons who understand all too well there is a cost to paranoia.

    Speaking for myself alone: if you want to help moms and families with children, more support and less judgment is a great way to start!

  181. Uly July 8, 2009 at 2:16 pm #

    Well, Sheena, your nephew is unusual. He’s also probably not in the midst of toilet training anymore. Three year olds aren’t seven year olds – they can’t hold it unreasonably long and if they mess themselves you know because they walk funny (and possibly smell). Nobody is so immature that they can’t pick up on these not-very-subtle clues.

    “I guess I’ve gotten used to looking at a situation and finding a possible solution”

    You do realize that by saying things like this you sound like you’re criticizing everybody else here, saying that none of US ever “looks at a situation and finds a possible solution”, don’t you? You do realize that this is a pretty insulting thing to say, don’t you? You do realize that it is HOW you are saying things that’s setting everybody on edge, right?

    I sure hope you do, because I’d hate you to think that we’re unreasoning when the truth is that you’re simply annoying.

  182. becky July 8, 2009 at 9:02 pm #

    This mom is completely out of her mind.

    First, she’s elitist and playing the ‘I’m being targeted cause I’m an outsider’ card. She comes off like she lives among hicks that aren’t as smart as her. I’m sure her well educated, elitist attitude is not endearing her to her neighbors, either.

    Second, all us moms are tired. All of us do the things she lists as why she’s tired. We all do not, however, dump our kids at the mall with older siblings. She comes off like a crybaby, trying to justify why she left these kids at the mall. Her 12 yr old and the friend showed their immaturity by leaving the younger ones alone to try on clothes. I think it’s very telling when she said that when the police became involved she thought the kids created a ‘ruckus’. Why would she think this- unless there’s been trouble before?

    Third, she is so very fortunate that nothing worse happened to her kids. Anyone remember Adam Walsh? Thank goodness for that store employee.

    Finally, this mom needs to live in the now. This isn’t back in the day, times have changed, and for the worse. She had all these kids, now she needs to unbunch her big girl panties and be a mom to them. Stop behaving like the victim here and do your job as a mother. Next time you need to rest, mom, get dad to take the kids for awhile. Then again, if the mom is this loose with her parenting, I can’t begin to imagine how the dad is.

  183. Jackie July 8, 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    My oldest is 15. She is very responsible, but there’s no way I would send her to a mall with a group of younger children to “babysit” because I was tired. I understand being tired and worn and frazzled. But that’s simply too much responsibility to put on a young girl. And obviously, the daughter wasn’t as responsible as Mom thought, as she left the younger ones to try on clothes.

    MALLS ARE NOT BABYSITTERS!!! And it’s irresponsible to expect them to be! Sure, I’d like to think they are are safe places for kids to hang, but this isn’t the world of Ozzie and Harriet.

    Mom was irresponsible, period. Yes, I think the police over-reacted. But Mom isn’t taking any responsibility for her poor choice. She’s quick to blame everyone else. Maybe she needs to drop one of her classes, and actually spend time with the kids, rather than expecting the 12yo to do it all for her.

  184. Reformed Republican July 8, 2009 at 10:50 pm #

    The kids were at the mall. Absolutely nothing bad happened to them, except when the police got involved. The mom did not make a bad decision in allowing her children to go to the mall. They did not cause trouble. They were not assaulted by strangers.

    They were harassed by cops.

    I think they learned a valuable lesson there.

  185. SheWhoPicksUpToys July 8, 2009 at 11:03 pm #

    “My issue isn’t with if the 12 year old could handle it.”

    Here’s the thing. I’m not saying no twelve year olds can handle the responsibility. I’m sure many can.

    But, they did NOT handle it. They was specifically told NOT to leave the three year old AND THEY DID.

    Was the the end of the world? No. But failing to follow the instructions you’re given in a babysitting situation, barring quick thinking in an emergency, IS a failure of the responsibility. It just seems to me that if we’re assessing whether the twelve year olds were responsible enough, you have to consider the fact that they DIDN’T do what they were told.

    I’m sorry if I’ve come across as joining in on nitpicking. I agree that every decision parents make, even if they’re not the ones we’d make, does not have to be subject to everyone else’s opinion. I was just provoked by the impression I was getting from some folks that because this was obviously not a criminal act (and it wasn’t), it was therefore an absolutely wonderful action at every level.

  186. Cherish July 8, 2009 at 11:15 pm #

    Maybe this is a regional thing, but when I was a teenager, I spent a great deal of time at the mall. In the cold area where I lived, it was a way to get out of the house.

    At the age of 12, I was also babysitting for a mom’s coworker. This involved me taking a 6 and 7 year old to places around town. We generally walked or rode bike, or sometimes the mom would give us a ride. Either way, I was entrusted with caring for these kids in places other than their house…places like the mall or the YMCA or the local pool.

    If the mom had let the kids go to the movies, probably no one would have complained…but if they walk down the mall to a store, suddenly everyone accuses her of making the employees “babysit”?

  187. MaeMae July 8, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    A 12yo is asked to babysit for three hours and suddeny we’re assuming she does everything for a mom who works all the time. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard and makes me glad that I don’t have such judgemental people watching my actions.

  188. Uly July 9, 2009 at 12:04 am #

    ” I think it’s very telling when she said that when the police became involved she thought the kids created a ‘ruckus’. Why would she think this- unless there’s been trouble before?”

    Maybe because the kids causing trouble is a LOT more likely than the kids getting IN trouble?

    “Third, she is so very fortunate that nothing worse happened to her kids. Anyone remember Adam Walsh? Thank goodness for that store employee.”

    No, no I do NOT remember Adam Walsh. You know why? Because Adam Walsh was abducted before I was even BORN. Adam Walsh was nearly THREE DECADES ago! Three! Decades! Thirty years! The big 3-0!

    Since then, times definitely have changed – but not, as you state, “for the worse”. The crime rate has dropped, the VIOLENT crime rate has dropped, the rate of crimes against kids has dropped significantly – every possibly measure and fact and statistic shows us that it is SAFER for kids today than it was when Adam Walsh was alive.

    Kids are at less risk now than they were thirty and forty years ago. That’s what the FACTS prove.

    “Next time you need to rest, mom, get dad to take the kids for awhile. Then again, if the mom is this loose with her parenting, I can’t begin to imagine how the dad is.”

    You have no idea what the dad is like based upon the mom. That’s a stupid-ass comment. I wouldn’t even bring it up, as it’s totally irrelevant besides, except that it’s so inane and asinine that I couldn’t resist.

    Hey, can we get some proper HTML here in the comment form? I’m tired of shouting with ALL CAPS, I want some italics!

  189. Sheena July 9, 2009 at 12:47 am #

    I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone — particularly Kelly or Uly (I only mention names because both replied to me directly).

    I don’t think I’m better or smarter than anyone here. I don’t have a superiority complex, I’m not trying to criticize anyone’s ideas about parenting or childcare, and I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. I only wanted to offer a slightly different perspective.

    FWIW, when/if I have kids, I hope to raise them in the free range/safe but smart idea, rather than either hovering or ignoring. I read this blog so I can see what free range parenting includes.

    Again, I apologize if I’ve offended anyone. It wasn’t my intent.

  190. Kelly July 9, 2009 at 12:53 am #

    Sheena, thanks for the apology. But I wasn’t offended.

    I am guessing we are in more agreement than disagreement, although my spirited objections to the constant criticism of parents (especially moms!) still stand.

    And of course… when/if you have kids, I would love to hear back from you in a few years and hear what you have to say! I mean this in only the most open, friendly way. Having kids has sure changed my life tremendously – especially when it comes to the judgments and “friendly suggestions” to other parents.

    Uly, I truly admire your energy for keeping the argument up… I think becky’s comment is an example of lot of the ignorance and fear-mongering that I for one hope to get a break from when coming to FRK.

  191. Uly July 9, 2009 at 1:55 am #

    Eh, the kidlets are off with their grandparents this week. I’ve got nuthin’ but time on my hands.

  192. Mollie July 9, 2009 at 2:20 am #

    [i]Here’s a clue lady, complete strangers and mall staff don’t want to have to take care of your children. They don’t want to have to be the ones responsible because you’re home taking a nap and a twelve year old is in over their heads. These aren’t the next door neighbors you can check ahead with before you run to the store leaving the kids in a known, safe environment.[/i]

    I just want to say that I welcome any and all opportunities I might have to making life more wonderful for the people around me. This includes occasionally helping out with things, like when someone drops something they are carrying, or looks lost or upset, or if I see a few kids somewhere starting to man-handle the merchandise with no parents in sight. I might say, “Hey guys! I’m concerned about those purses, and the way you’re putting them on as hats.” Or whatever. But I would be GLAD to be there, GLAD that I was able to contribute in some way, GLAD to be part of the collective human experience, GLAD to know that I was in the right place at the right time.

    When did we become so afraid to help each other, to contribute to children especially? When did we become so resentful that we might be given the gift of an opportunity to contribute to someone we don’t know? To a child we don’t know?

    I try to teach my kids that asking for help from strangers is a GOOD thing. I show them that I am doing it all the time, that I make decisions on who and when to ask. I want them to notice that at least 45% of my conversations in any given day are with people I’ve never met… we are not meant to go through our lives in a completely autonomous fashion, are we? I mean, no matter what age.

    I don’t really care about how old these kids were, whether they were in or out of strollers, whether they were unattended. What I care about is the perception that we, as a culture, are far more eager to point out the ways in which another “fails” at their “duties” than we are to help out when we see an opportunity to contribute to the greater good, one person at a time.

    I will continue to hold a loving space for the transformation of this frightened society.

  193. Kelly July 9, 2009 at 2:50 am #

    Mollie – well-said! I feel the same way.

  194. Ali July 9, 2009 at 5:07 am #

    When I hung out at the mall when I was a pre-teen/teenager in San Diego I did it to find out where all the parties were happening, where the next show was going to be (today, I guess it would be a rave) and get the low down on who had access to what drugs or alcohol.

    Going to mall and assuming the ‘bad thing’ that could happen to children is an abduction is clearly just believing media hype. Going to ‘hang’ at the mall is just flat poor judgement on the parent’s behalf since soooo much more goes on there than just shopping and going to the movies.

    Drug dealers make malls their home, cliques of mean girls parole the mall, steroid charged jocks gun for something ‘to do’, mall cops on testosterone highs find ways to be a hero (like write up negligent parents) etc. The mall is a cesspool of teenage angst and should be a babysitter of last resort for any parent.

    I’m free range to the core and am bringing up my kids the same way and the LAST place I will leave my kids unsupervised is at a mall.

    Can I get behind a criminal charge for being a dumb parent? Not necessarily. However this woman sounds defensive and bitter and most likely rather than provoking a sense of “oops I made a mistake” with the mall cops, she agitated them enough to get the book thrown at her. Maybe, rather than whining in a blog she should spend some time taking a good look at her own behaviour and how it contributed to such an over the top situation.

  195. gabster July 9, 2009 at 7:43 am #

    they were fine.

  196. elizabeth July 9, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    While I am genuinely disturbed and angered by the prosecution of this woman I am more outraged by the debate taking place here in the comments.

    Why are we wasting our time debating whether or not this mother made the “right”, “wrong”, “best” etc. decision. And where the hell does anyone get off judging her for the decision she made.

    This is very simple, there is only one primary issue and only one secondary issue.

    The primary issue is simple: was this behavior criminal with an intent to harm? The answer is absolutely not.

    The secondary issue is personal: would I make the same choice that she did? And the only honest answer is “I don’t know.” And ANYONE, parent or not, who is willing to be honest with themselves and anyone else would admit that “I don’t know” is the only answer. I have no idea what it would be like to be that woman, in that place, with that family, on that day. I don’t know what decision I would make in those circumstances. I don’t know what decisions I will make tomorrow about my own kids because they, I, and our circumstances will be different than they are today.

    HOW DARE anyone claim that they would be able to know with perfect clarity what the perfect choice is for themselves let alone someone else.

    This kind of judgment and derision exists only to isolate people and make the insecure have a false sense that they are infallible. Guess what? We’re all fallible, get over it and learn how to take life as it comes. Good days and bad.

  197. S.D. July 9, 2009 at 10:09 am #

    AMEN Elizabeth! Well said.

  198. Kelly July 9, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    Elizabeth: you said it far better than I could. Thanks.

  199. MommyMitzi July 9, 2009 at 12:46 pm #

    Mollie and Elizabeth–

    Thank you both for your comments. Mollie–you sound like an angel and your perspective is refreshing. It made me realize, that while I am happy to help others as needed, I don’t go out of my way to be friendly and talk to strangers. You’ve reminded me of a beautiful way to live one’s life and I’m going to try harder. Thank you.

    Elizabeth–Amen is right! A lot of tangents have happened on this post (which is OK–comment should be allowed to wander a bit, that’s the beauty of blogs!), but I think you’ve captured exactly the essence of why Lenore posted this in the first place. Thank you for summing it all up so succintly and eloquently.

  200. Denise July 10, 2009 at 12:18 am #

    Having read this story and commenting in the beginning and coming back to see the rest of the comments I am really interested in what free range parenting means to some how it means something totally different to others.

    I am truly appalled at all the posters who said that they weer shocked that this woman would leave her kids at the mall “because doesn’t she know what kind of world we live in now?”

    Seriously? The whole point is that we live in SAFER world now that we did back we were all kids.

    The whole point is that we have become a society of fear mongers who don’t let our children play outside “because the could be snatched right out of front yard.”


    If this is how you are going to live your life..because stuff MIGHT happen to you, how on earth do you get out of bed every day? How can you drive a car? Go to work? Let your children go to school?

    Something bad MIGHT happen to them.

    And you know what? Sometimes it does. And you deal with it.

    Otherwise, what is the point?

  201. sylvia_rachel July 10, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    Mollie — attitudes like that are what we need more of. I know there are millions of people like you out there, and I wish so many parents, teachers, ECEs, etc., didn’t assume the worst of everyone.

    Elizabeth — exactly, exactly, exactly! (I don’t mind the wandering off the point — these are blog comments, it comes with the territory — but the self-righteousness is starting to make me feel a little ill.)

  202. Scott July 10, 2009 at 4:05 am #

    Unbelievable. So sorry that you went through this.

  203. Jessica July 10, 2009 at 6:27 am #

    I think that this whole thing was blown way out of proportion. Where i live they wouldn’t have pursued this at all. I know someone that left her 11,9, and 6 year olds home alone for about 4 hours everymorning the 11 yearold was responsable to wake and get the other two ready for school and when the childrens father made a compliant to cys he was told that he was picking and that if he ever made another complaint that the CYS would file a law suit against him. So i guess it all depends on where you are what is considered neglect and what is acceptable but in my opinion 2 12year old should have been old enough to be responsible for the other children. Espesially if the other children were typically well behaved. I know that we often let our 12 and 14 year old daughters baby sit for the other 6 kids ages 1,2,3,5,7,and 8. They often take the kids around town and to the park and i have full confidence that they are able to care for them. People just need to buzz off and let parents raise their kids.

  204. sonya July 10, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    I’m sorry to have to agree with the naysayers, but I think it’s too much responsibility to pin on a 12 year old to watch so many children at the mall. It’s taxing for an adult to watch 5 kids in those places. The mall is not a school or a daycare, and clearly the mall officials did not want to take responsibility for the safety of her children. The police must have been called in to release the mall’s liability.

  205. Eika July 10, 2009 at 2:47 pm #

    Let me put in my two cents here: When I was a kid, my parents would drive 2 hours away to the mall a few times a year. My sister and I would be dragged all over the place, sometimes with one parent, sometimes with another. Christmas time, we’d go with each parent individually so we could buy presents for both, then be left alone at the arcade with $10 each for a few hours.

    I was envious when she was allowed off on her own- entirely on her own- at age 10. I was allowed on my own a year later, at age 9. For two glorious hours after lunch, with a whole twenty bucks in my pocket, I shopped. And I met up with my parents outside the food court 5 minutes early.

    Why is this story significant?

    Because I was 9 years old in 1999. Because those statistics for murder and abductions were taken in 2002, when I was 12 years old myself. Because I, with a friend my age, took over for the adults for a few hours at a mall and watched her brothers (ages 4 and 6) and went around to all the stores with them. So the adults could shop and talk alone.

    As a current college student, I know for a fact it’s gotten safer since then- I didn’t see my first mall-cop at the Mall of New Hampshire until I was 17. I honestly didn’t know they existed anymore, though they’re seen in books and movies often enough.

    Three sets of parents thought the girls would be responsible enough. If it is criminal negligence, why was one set of parents charged?

    She made a mistake. All three sets of parents did. It was not criminal. It was not even dangerous (attacking/luring one kid, fine; two is a stretch if either’s over age four; three or more is an idiotic assumption). It certainly was not criminal.

    At the very least, her children won’t be like my former roommate, or several other classmates: with their mothers calling to see if they’ve done their homework, aren’t skipping classes, are eating well, and are getting enough sleep. The amount of lies I heard was astonishing… and the best any of them got was a C average.

  206. Jennifer July 10, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

    I struggle most with parenting choices when I consider how those choices will be viewed by others. If I were free to make my own decisions, it would be so much easier. But I might end up in jail too.

    I admire you for your courage and honesty.

  207. Scott Baboyian July 10, 2009 at 7:15 pm #

    I’m sorry, but I completely disagree with you. You should realize that in this day and age, sensitivity to child neglect is running high on the part of authorities and the public, even if you are deluded enough to believe that your children are old enough to be on their own in that situation.

    As a manager of a store in a mall, myself, if I found a pack of unattended kids of those ages, I would immediately call mall security. No facility like a mall or a retail store is going to be willing to supervise your children for you.

    I don’t know if you should be prosecuted, or how severely, but perhaps your utter lack of understanding of the seriousness of your offence is a motivating factor to those seeking your sanction?

  208. Gomek July 10, 2009 at 8:48 pm #

    Lots of comments here, and a long article.

    Unfortunately, I stopped reading when I learned that one of the “rules” was that the three-year-old had to stay in her stroller.

    We all judge situations in different ways, I guess. I think that three-year-olds should be walking/running/climbing, not strapped into a stroller.

  209. Uly July 10, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    ” It’s taxing for an adult to watch 5 kids in those places.”

    There were five children, yes. However, TWO of the children were twelve year olds. Between the TWO of them, they only had to watch three other children, one of whom was in a stroller.

    Each pre-teen only had the responsibility, then, for 1.5 kids – not 5. (I can do math!)

  210. Dana Weber July 11, 2009 at 12:02 am #

    The moral of the story is *not* did Bridget make a good or bad decision here but does she have the RIGHT to make the decision?

    More and more we are being told that no, we do not have the RIGHT to decide. Parenting is instructed and dictated to us at best, and legislated at worse. IMHO Bridget ABSOLUTELY had the RIGHT to make a judgment about dropping her children off at the mall.

  211. Uly July 11, 2009 at 12:03 am #


    Well, that’s annoying. Lots of comments and I can’t reply to ANY of them!

  212. de July 11, 2009 at 1:24 am #

    actually, hermance, driving while using a cell phone is illegal for the very reason that it’s proven to be deadly. so, yes, this mother WOULD be arrested (well, probably ticketed) if she were to do that, with or without her children in the car.

    i think this woman had an incredible lack of judgement. we might have played alone and babysat at a young age and turned out all right, but a lot of kids didn’t. these children were abducted, taken advantage of, injured or killed (because of poor decisions they made unsupervised), and their parents have to live with knowing their deaths could have been prevented. how are a 3, 7, and 8-year-old supposed to defend themselves against an adult who wants to hurt them? if malls are known for being kid magnets, then they’re also magnets from creeps who want to hang around and wait to take advantage of them.

    the 12-year-olds didn’t do their job. neither did the mother in this situation. she shouldn’t have been arrested, but it was still wrong and I wouldn’t want my child over there for a playdate.

  213. sylvia_rachel July 11, 2009 at 1:25 am #

    @Scott Baboyian — I don’t know if you should be prosecuted, or how severely, but perhaps your utter lack of understanding of the seriousness of your offence is a motivating factor to those seeking your sanction?

    I think Ms Kevane is not “understanding the seriousness of [her] offence” because it really wasn’t that serious. Nothing bad happened to any of the kids, until the police started threatening to arrest their mother; no one even got lost or hurt, never mind molested or abducted; there was no property damage or disorderly conduct. By the time the “purse aisle” incident occurred — and let’s remember that the older girls left the younger kids for LESS THAN FIVE MINUTES — the kids had already been in the mall for some time, and had shopped in other stores and eaten lunch, without causing any problems to anyone.

    I don’t know where you get the idea that Ms Kevane was expecting mall employees to supervise her children. She clearly wasn’t: she expected the older kids to supervise the younger ones, and, apart from one period of about 5 minutes, they did so.

    In retrospect, it does appear that she should perhaps have made a different decision. But considering the incredibly small odds of anything bad actually happening, as well as the fact that, in the event *nothing did* (which shouldn’t be surprising), I can’t for the life of me understand why the store manager didn’t just tell the 12-year-olds they’d screwed up and make them call home to be picked up. This seems like the *maximum* level of intervention appropriate to the situation.

    More globally, though, whether or not Ms Kevane should have sent her kids to the mall on their own isn’t the question here; the question is whether, when she did so, she was neglecting them, or deliberately putting them at risk. I think it’s very clear that she was not doing either of these things, and that the reaction of the authorities was seriously out of proportion to what was *at worst* an error in judgement.

  214. Ann Lewis July 11, 2009 at 1:33 am #

    I am ultra liberal, hated Palin, but cannot believe the effort by mom to justify bad decisions on the parent of mom. This is not the same as 12 year olds babysitting at home. Its about sending children off to a mall and left alone. Do you think that the prosecutor would have been less enthusiastic if the mom was undereducated and poor?

  215. S.D. July 11, 2009 at 1:44 am #

    Ann Lewis, you make an excellent point. If this mom had been poor and ‘undereducated’ her circumstances could have been ‘allot worst’. I don’t care what everyone says.. this country DOES have a ‘class’ system. If she had been poor, she’d probably had had the kids taken away for an unforeseeable amount of time, probably had jail time, probably more than just ‘parenting classes’ forced upon her.

    Again, the general consensus: It doesn’t matter if she should or should not have done this… what the point is this is not a CRIME in the criminal sense. The lawyer made it a ‘crime against motherhood’, and the whole thing went over and beyond what was necessary to ‘teach her a lesson’. Whether she was rich or poor or whatever her financial status is, this case is an atrocity! period.

  216. Kevin L. July 11, 2009 at 2:22 am #

    Question: Why was Mr.Lieb not prosecuted as well? He assented to the arrangement. The fact that Ms. Kevane-Lieb did the driving should not have made a difference.

    Were the two 12-year-olds prosecuted? They left the younger kids unattended, so violated their duty of care.

    Frankly, I’d love to see a video of the encounter with the police officers. I’m willing to bet the parents’ attitude did not seem as innocent as Ms. Kevane writes – Mr Lieb’s attempt to negotiate a settlement with the officers suggests that their attitude was, “See, we’re upstanding community members – you’re making a mistake.” That is certainly Ms. Kevane’s attitude throughout her article.

    I’d also like to know how many other cases of similar circumstances have been prosecuted in Bozeman and that mall. If it’s a pervasive issue, I don’t think Ms. Kevane can claim selective prosecution, and a poorer family wouldn’t have been able to consider contesting the case, much less hiring a mock jury!

  217. Jen C. July 11, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    My 12 year old is babysitting for an 8 yr old right now, while the girl’s mothers are at work. They go to the park and the library and walk around our neighborhood at will. If this is a crime, then there are thousands of criminal mothers AND fathers at work right now.

  218. Kevin L. July 11, 2009 at 2:41 am #

    p.s. Ms. Kevane brought the children to the mall because it was “a safe place”. When the “safe place” collectively reacted to an unsafe condition – the younger children left unattended – she resents the reaction. The mall and the police responded in the children’s best interests.

  219. babelbabe July 11, 2009 at 6:22 am #

    I LOVED your book, and am working very hard to “free range” my kids. BUT the mall? with a 3yo? I’m 39 and can barely keep track of my 3yo at the mall. sorry, this one, i gotta disagree. The very fact that the 12yos left the little kids is enough for me. a 12yo at home or a park. fine. somewhere where – forget pedophiles – the little kids could be hit by cars, get really lost, get stuck on the escalator, etc. – no. i am going to go back and read all the comments, but this is the only instance where I disagree with ms Skenazy. even in 1982 my mom would not have let me go tot he mall by myself with a friend and my little brother to watch.

  220. Katy July 11, 2009 at 7:50 am #

    Well, how dare they expect smart intelligent, less-selfish parenting from a well-educated woman!

    The news often has stories about small children stolen and kidnapped within a few minutes inattention by a parent while in a mall or a store or a state fair – and its mostly never in urban cities but in “nice” places where the Kevane’s live.

    Ms. Kevane needs to be honest with herself and stop blaming her 12 year old daughter and an ‘overprotective’ society — she wanted a few hours ‘peace and quiet’ for herself which is why she allowed her daughter and friend to go the mall so long as they took younger siblings with them. The 12 year olds were looking for some ‘me’ time too and nobody really wanted to take care of the little ones that afternoon, Ms. Kevane especially.

    I too was a 12 year old babysitter, for my sibblings and also for neighbor’s children – babysitting for the neighbors supported my teen years in fact. But never even in a public setting, never in a mall or a park but always in a controlled environment. Never with others around, no friends or boy friends allowed because anyone with a brain in their head knows that two teen agers together means their interest in each other and not their ‘responsibilities’.

    Quite obviously Ms. Kevane represents that old adage of being well-educated without possessing a lick of common sense. It’s time she stopped blaming others for her very bad decision based on her own personal needs and wants.

  221. Uly July 11, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    “The news often has stories about small children stolen and kidnapped within a few minutes inattention by a parent while in a mall or a store or a state fair – and its mostly never in urban cities but in “nice” places where the Kevane’s live.”

    It does? Really? Because the statistics don’t bear that out. Go look it up, why don’t you.

  222. Hill July 11, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    I think reading the original story in Ms. Kevane’s own words was much more satisfying than Judith Warner’s NY Times blog, from which I was directed to it. While I usually love Warner’s column, her attempts to summarize the situation (and pull Sarah Palin into it) really didn’t do this story justice. I feel glad I got to read the whole Brain, Child article here, so thanks for posting it!!!

  223. Grant July 11, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    Elizabeth. You overlook one basic point. The mother’s intent is not at issue – but your comment suggests that is the issue –

    The primary issue is simple: was this behavior criminal with an intent to harm? The answer is absolutely not.

    No, this is a false reading of the law and the story. The charge of endangerment means that the caretaker’s judgment is deemed to have been dangerous – regardless of intent. The point is child protection, not judging the intentions of parents. I say this without any view about the wisdom of the authorities in pressing the case. The fact that so many people agree with you shows how quickly people want to buttress their beliefs instead of get at the facts. IN FACT we have no testimony from the mall security cops, the Macy’s employees, or the Bozeman justice system (my reading between the lines in the woman’s own self-interested account is that she had an attitude.). We only have the accused’s version – never a good thing to base a judgment on. IN FACT the woman in question acknowledges in the post script to her own article that perhaps what she did was wrong. IN FACT she acknowledges that she presented herself poorly in the mock trial set up by her attorney – she came across as emotionless. And she realized that she could not take her own case to trial. That is hardly the good gal vs bad guys story that many people are making of this. At least let’s hear from the other parties before rushing to judgment.

  224. mammarachel July 11, 2009 at 5:08 pm #

    Even if the statistics say it’s a 0.000001% chance that my children could be abducted by a pedophile I would not take that chance.

    You have to also understand that police officers see the worst situations all the time. Adults are and can be the victims of rape and murder so the danger is even more so for a child.

    I do agree that a serious warning for the mother would have sufficed instead of getting child protective services involved and taking this matter to such and extreme. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s by the Grace of God that our children and family members remain safe day after day. I do believe that leaving a child unattended by an adult in a public place especially at the age of 3 is a dangerous or potentially harmful situation no matter how small the risk maybe it’s still not worth it to risk it.

  225. Chris Haskett July 11, 2009 at 6:25 pm #

    Out here in the entirely uneducated real world, 7yo boys care for 2yos all darn day, up and down the valley, and nobody says boo. It works, even though there have been terrorist attacks, murders, and a war within 100 miles of here. It works because people care about people and watch out for kids, and because people aren’t so incredibly afraid to let their children get a little hungry, or dirty, or face adversity on their own without a supervising counsellor.
    –cpbh, Ladakh, India

  226. Uly July 11, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    “Even if the statistics say it’s a 0.000001% chance that my children could be abducted by a pedophile I would not take that chance. ”

    I can tell you something you do every day that has a MUCH higher death rate.

    Drive your kid to school.

    Or anywhere, really. The leading cause of death for children is car accidents, usually when buckled in and driven by their parents.

  227. Uly July 11, 2009 at 9:35 pm #

    And actually, very few pedophiles go after three year olds.

    Well, first off, very few go after strangers. MOST of them go after kids they know, typically their own family. Sick and sad, there it is.

    But of those that go after strangers at all, the ones most at risk (not like it’s a very high risk, unlike the risk of dying in a car driven by your loving parents) are actually pre-teen girls. Not three year olds, not by a long shot.

  228. Kai July 11, 2009 at 11:14 pm #

    Check out the acid in these comments. It’s amazing to look out at the rest of the world sometimes. One mother who considers this worthy of criminal prosecution – after all, *her* daughter is eighteen, and she’s still not comfortable letting her go to the mall alone…

  229. coolpolitealex July 12, 2009 at 2:39 am #

    good way of getting traffick-is this for real-ha ha’

  230. ( )vertkill July 12, 2009 at 3:49 am #

    Best wishes to you and your family.

    These police officers overreacted in this situation. I have known many and was considering that as a career choice at one point in my life (My best friend was also a supervising officer and a veteran of 10 years). What really stinks here is that the cops have discretionary power as well. If they saw through the thick layer of B.S. they were spreading, and realized that you did not intentionally mean any harm in this, and actually listened to you and got your side of the story (instead of telling you to be quiet), the outcome would have been much different. It could have ended with the older 12 year old’s a talk about responsibility and how important it is to be with the younger children at all times.

    Personally, this story made me feel bad for everyone involved. It is cases and instances like this that younger, inexperienced Police Officers make the public distrust or even hate them. And I agree that this case is a complete waste of time, money, emotional harm, and public resources.

  231. mary July 12, 2009 at 7:25 am #

    12 year old girls are not old enough to watch 3 year old, and 6/7 year olds at a mall. That is clear, since your daughter and her friend behaved like typical 12 year old girls and went to try on clothes, leaving the other children unsupervised. If the 3 year old had pawed through the cosmetics counter where he was left, ruining cosmetics, would the store have to cover the cost? If the 6/7 year olds had spilled food all over the store, or found a game they liked for sale and opened it to play with, would the store again have been responsible for the cost?

    Bozeman may be a very safe town where the risk of being kidnapped from the mall is nil. But there are other, less serious, but still significant things that kids can do when left alone—-things that generally cost the stores money, or require other adults to keep an eye on the kids. So by dropping the kids off with two girls who were not old enough, you basically are saying that your needs are more important than those of the stores or the mall security who have to watch them, etc.

    A 12 year old is old enough to babysit a 3 year old, or 6/7 year olds, in a home. In the daytime. I have three girls, two of whom are past 12. They are responsible kids. It is not until girls are about 14 that they can take kids out in public to a place where they need to be counted on to be responsible.

    You do not sound like a negligent mother—-but you may be a selfish one—putting your needs for rest ahead of the stores’ right to expect their wares to not be destroyed and other adults rights to be at the mall without having to keep an eye on your kids.

    Free Range parenting sounds fine in the abstract, but I suspect that in the specific situations, it may be more likely to be “letting others parent for me.”

  232. K July 12, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    Is this a joke? This woman needs to get over herself and her desire for special treatment. Honey, education doesn’t mean you can neglect your kids. Elitist crap. Hey I have a masters degree, and I should think someone with a degree should also have the good common sense to TAKE CARE OF THEIR OWN CHILDREN. Whining about it is a really tacky look. Nothing but disdain for this entitled, spoiled princess and your support of her. Cry me a river. No one cares.

  233. Pam July 12, 2009 at 9:56 am #

    Judith Warner just picked up this story in her Op-Ed in the Times, and the comments section betray the same level of passion displayed here.

    What I find fascinating is that — while many might agree there was bad judgment here– people cannot find it in themselves to say — “This was bad judgment. Don’t do it again,” rather than criminalize it.

    What parent hasn’t occasionally made a mistake? If we’re lucky, no one notices and we move on with only our own guilt to reckon with. But instead society has decided to hang a crown of shame on people, and we end up with class wars to boot.

    I am not a “good parent.” I am parent doing my best. Occasionally I do bad parenting things too. Is the line to criminal neglect really that thin?

  234. Vicky July 12, 2009 at 10:55 am #

    The two 12 year old girls were not as mature as the mother thought. They DID leave three young children alone. I believe the store employees were totally right to call security. The girls arrived “5 minutes later.” So what if noone had ever been kidnapped from that mall before. Those three could have been first. I don’t believe the mother should go to jail, but she definitely should have shown better judgement. She should have never let the two 12 year olds be in charge of the younger ones in a mall.

  235. S.D. July 12, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    I have noticed a repeated statement “… they might have been the first kidnapped, raped, killed, maimed.. whatever… at that mall”. I find this fascinating BECAUSE:

    two of the kids are 7 and 8, watching a 3 year old. I am FAIRLY CERTAIN if someone did try to make off with one of them, they would raise a HUGE ruckus, scream their sisters’ names, yell about how the person is NOT Mommy and Daddy, LEAVE US ALONE, whatever. I highly doubt the 7 and 8 year olds would stand idly by while someone tried to take one of the three, 2 of the three or all of the three. I highly doubt anybody would have made it out with at least 1 of the kids throwing a giant fit! By age 6 most kids are told what to do if a stranger approaches them. Most SANE and AWARE parents make it a priority, in fact. Even my 4 yo daughter has been taught again and again what to do if anyone she does not know approaches her.

    Another thing. Malls have this really neat thing called video cameras. Video cameras in the department stores, video cameras in the parking lots, video cameras in the mall hallways. I guarantee any one of them would have shown A) the 2 12 year old girls with the younger set, and suddenly
    B) a completely stranger trying to make off with any one of those kids. I bet you, even a town as small as Bozeman, MT has these EYES IN THE SKY in their local mall. I bet you every ‘pedophile’ knows this, and would be more likely than not to AVOID such areas.

    Kids are allot smarter than allot of these naysayers seem to give them credit for. Most kids have seen at least 3 movies involving abductions by the age of 7, and would at least have an idea of how to dissuade an abductor and create a scene.

  236. S.D. July 12, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    Vicky, I agree with you.. I, too am NOT a ‘good parent’. I’m not even TRYING to be lol My kids are polite, thoughtful, helpful, responsible, have as much common sense as they can have at their respective ages and get lots of compliments on their behavior and maturity levels.. and all of that after having been ‘free-range’ kids even before there was a term for it!

    I think the harder we try, the more likely we are to push the kids away as the grow older, just from the sheer pressure of trying to please us. If we relax, go with the flow a bit, decrese the pressure to fit as many classes or sports into the day, and just generally let kids BE kids, we are more likely to be raising a reliable future generation..

    Frankly, the kids I see now… the very ‘mommied’ ones… I feel scared of the future.

  237. Dr Kate July 12, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    My first impression here: montana lets farm families put their kids to work with heavy machinery, despite well established consequences and very high risks to the kids.

    I think it was the prosecutor who was the classist asshat: farm kids are expendible, but children of educated parents need to be protected by the nanny state despite lacking evidence of potential harm.

  238. Dr Kate July 12, 2009 at 12:32 pm #

    K, don’t you think it is “elitist crap” for the State of Montana to decide that farm children can be put to work on heavy machinery even though OSHA has documented the risks, yet prosecute a mother for taking kids to the mall?

    Think about it. Just … think … about … it. Known endangerment is okay … no statistical evidence of harm is criminal. Really.

  239. Kristin July 12, 2009 at 2:19 pm #

    Bridget –
    I specifically remember taking the county bus to the mall when I was no older than 7 with my sister, who was 9 or 10 and her best friend. (This was in the 70s, of course.) We got on the bus going the wrong direction and I was the only one who had the guts to go up to the bus driver and ask. We had to get off, cross the street, and take the bus going the other direction and finally made it to the mall.

    My parents were fully aware of what we were doing and encouraged us to do this – it helped us learn independence. And without cell phones to call home immediately, we had to learn to solve our own problems and make our own mistakes at times. I am grateful to my parents for having given us this sense of independence and responsibility.

    Yet…. these same parents today think it’s not safe for me to let my kids ride their bikes to the park that’s a half-mile away from our home in a nice neighborhood. When did the standards of good parenting change????

  240. Uly July 12, 2009 at 9:11 pm #


    For all those people saying that the only purpose of the mall is to shop (actually, I think it’s only one or two people), here’s an article saying the opposite – that more people are going to malls now to hang out and socialize and do various non-shopping activities, that malls have become more like community centers.

  241. Uly July 12, 2009 at 10:32 pm #

    “two of the kids are 7 and 8, watching a 3 year old. I am FAIRLY CERTAIN if someone did try to make off with one of them, they would raise a HUGE ruckus, scream their sisters’ names, yell about how the person is NOT Mommy and Daddy, LEAVE US ALONE, whatever. I highly doubt the 7 and 8 year olds would stand idly by while someone tried to take one of the three, 2 of the three or all of the three.”

    I find it interesting that everybody assumes it is the younger children who were in more danger.

    Quite aside from the low risk of stranger abductions to begin with, the fact is that the ones most likely to be abducted were the twelve year olds – not their younger charges!

    This makes a certain kind of sense, of course.

  242. S.D. July 12, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    Uly: I completely agree with this assessment. However, so many of the naysayers are commenting on the ages of the younger set, I felt I had to make a point about this. Kids are allot smarter than so many people give them credit for. They know who Mom and Dad are, and they know who most of Mom and Dad’s friends/relatives are. Yes, even, maybe especially, the 3 year old!

  243. Cherish July 13, 2009 at 8:54 am #

    Had this been me, someone would have waited with the younger kids until I got back. Then she would have called my mother in front of me and told my mother I’d been a negligent babysitter. When I got home, I would have gotten chewed out.

    The point is, kids need to learn responsibility. A twelve year old is quite capable of watching younger children. They’ve been doing it for ages with no one freaking out before this day and age. At what point is any child supposed to learn to take care of young children…when she/he has her own has has absolutely no experience with having the responsibility of younger children?!

  244. BurnBrother July 13, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    I was born and raised in Bozeman. Went through the public schools and graduated from MSU, where Ms. Kevane is employed.

    Montanan’s are generally reasonable people. It isn’t the responsibility of the Macys employees or the Bozeman Police to keep track of these children. Ms. Kevane intentionally put these children at risk. It is on her, period. It has nothing to do with education, class or income. It 100% has to do with being a responsible adult, which in this situation she wasn’t.

    I’m actually impressed that the Macy’s employees noticed the three children, all under 8 years old (I believe), hanging around in their store by themselves. The fact that Ms. Kevane actually tries to justify having a 3 year old in the mall under these circumstances is the most unbelievable aspect of this entire melodrama. What if they hadn’t noticed and something had happened to these unsupervised children? I’m pretty certain in that circumstance, Ms. Kevane and / or her people would have had an issue with the mall, Macy’s or both.

    So spare everyone the soap opera. You screwed up. Step up and deal with it. Nothing wrong with making a mistake. Fortunately, no one was hurt. In Montana we respect people that admit their mistakes and move on.

    We’re all about personal responsibility out here. I hope our authorities don’t change their approach on issues like this. If it doesn’t fit with you or your friends personal view of life then maybe someone on the East Coast is looking for a Latin American Studies Prof. Either way, good luck & good health to you and your family.

  245. Crystal Shugars July 14, 2009 at 9:07 am #

    First of all, I would like to start off by saying that what Bridget Kevane did was not a “poor” choice. She did what any “normal” parent would do. She relied on the facts at hand. SHE had KNOWLEDGE of her community and had TRUST in the children responsible for the younger ones, as did the OTHER parents. Whether she was tired or not, doesn’t really matter, and I don’t feel she was “whining” about anything. She was stressing the point of how she felt that day. It happens. She was responsible enough to arrange for a time and place (and set specific rules to follow) to meet back with the children, gave them direct communication in case something happened, and the father was less than five minutes away. I don’t see this as being lazy, or irresponsible. I commend her on her actions. Most parents, in a tired state, would have completely overlooked these precautions. I have read ALL the comments on this blog and I am appalled that some think they have the right to criticize this mom for wanting/needing a nap. I had to take parenting classes at one time myself (even though I had already practiced everything taught) and we were “taught” that we also need to take care of ourselves, as well as our children, or we won’t be able to care “properly” for our children. I don’t really believe that those who criticized actually read the blog in full. I KNOW that some really did not. The youngest was NOT left, OR expected to be left in her stroller for 3 hours. If the one who started that statement had actually read the full blog, they would have known this. Do the math. They were dropped off at 1:45 PM and were to be picked up at 4 PM. The youngest would only have been left in the stroller for, at most, 2 hours and 15 minutes. I certainly don’t consider that 3 hours, because it isn’t. This is not an unreasonable amount of time, and considering the older children had on many occasions babysat prior to this “outing,” they had already proven they could handle watching the three younger children. They also would have certainly known if the youngest needed a potty break. What was done to this mother is a prime example of a “system” gone wrong. She, by no means, “endangered” her children. They were more than likely safer at the mall than they would have been at home. Accidents and disasters occur more in the home than at the mall. The children could have fallen down stairs, burned themselves, ingested something poisonous, the list goes on. These things were not likely to happen at the mall because the older children would have been more diligent about watching the younger and the elevator would have been a preferred method of transportation, if there were multiple stories, due to the stroller. The children had specific things they would be doing while there and had specific instructions as to what they were supposed to do. If they had had to stay home, who knows what kind of trouble they could have gotten into and the mother would have been worse off. Even if they had stayed home, the mother still could have faced “child endangerment” charges, had something happened. The girls made a mistake, yes, but what resulted from that mistake was extremely overboard. The younger three were causing no problems, they stayed put in a “safe” location. They weren’t left alone for an extreme amount of time. Five minutes, that’s all. They were next to a cosmetic counter, for goodness sake, and minding their own business. IF it had gone longer than 5 minutes, maybe it would be a different story. The only mistake that was made that day was that the older girls should have taken turns at trying on the tops, instead of going in at the same time. They may, or may not have, learned a lesson that day from what occurred. They more than likely, have certainly learned not to trust police. This family will now probably have second thoughts about ever stepping foot into that store again, maybe even the mall itself. The mall, probably, just cost itself alot of business, (and I feel have earned a lawsuit). Obviously, the employees of the store couldn’t get their facts straight about what even occurred. Unfortunately, another innocent mother had to experience the horrors of the “DHS system.” This system has gone overboard in their involvement to the point of enlisting the aid of officers in their communities to do their dirty work for them, even to the point of breaking the law themselves. THIS mother was harassed, and unfairly prosecuted for this situation. Her children, when their cell phones were taken away from them, were essentially KIDNAPPED, yes kidnapped. None of the children had broken any law, and were held against their will. I see this happen far too often. Most of the people who have made a negative comment on the situation, have NO idea what it is like to be in this kind of situation. This mother was targeted. I have children of about the same ages. I KNOW all children are different. Everyone is raised differently, some are more capable than others. Just because one has kids the same age, does not mean they KNOW what the other children are going to do. We all have our stories. I do too. I had to take care of myself and my sisters at the age of 8 because of the choices my mother was making. I was a lot more mature than most other 8 year old’s I knew. I KNEW how to keep out of trouble, and I behaved myself to set a proper example for my siblings. I chose to stay away from drugs and alcohol because I saw firsthand what it did to people and I did not want to live that kind of life. I also knew how to do all household chores: cooking, cleaning, etc., and did them very well, along with my schooling and taking care of my mother and her friends. Those who judge, judge unfairly. The mother’s and the children’s rights were violated, simple as that. It is very sad to see that our society has had to come to this point where the “community” is a bad place to be, and that justice really doesn’t exist.

    To Bridget: Kudos to you for standing your ground. You did not make a bad decision. The only mistake that day was on the part of the store and its employees overreacting to what should have only been a minor misjudgment on the part of the 12 year old’s. Hard lesson learned. DON’T second guess yourself on your parenting abilities. You might also look into trying to find a civil liberties/rights lawyer. I think you would have a good case. Good luck. I will pray for you.

  246. BurnBrother July 14, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    Ms. Sugars,
    I actually did read all of the comments and frankly I’m floored at your view of this situation at almost every level. I don’t know the background as to why you “had to” take parenting classes at some time in the past and I really don’t care. I’m assuming it wasn’t by your voluntary choice. In any case this may explain your unique perspective as to the facts. It sounds to me like both you and Ms. Kevane needed the classes. It is your type of “it’s can’t be my fault” view that is driving allot of issues when it comes to child rearing and responsible parenting in our society. I hope you are raising your children in a manner that they too won’t need parenting classes when they have their own kids. Good Luck.

  247. David G July 14, 2009 at 11:39 pm #

    I’m glad they finaly hold parents accountable for their neglectful actions!

  248. Ed July 15, 2009 at 12:47 am #

    It took me less than 5 minutes to find 5 registered sex offenders within 5 miles of that mall.

    But no worries, it is a safe mall.

    And it always will be……….. Until it isn’t.

  249. S.D. July 15, 2009 at 1:02 am #

    Keep in mind, this whole case happened in 2007. What were the stats then, two years ago?

    Also, it is doubtful sex offenders are preying upon young children at the MALL. I’ve said before, the mall has VIDEO CAMERAS with Security keeping an eye on said video cameras.

    Most sex offenders I have heard of, were people their victims knew, were easy to pluck out of family or friends. Rare is it a sex offender will go to a mall, especially if they are already registered.

    Personally, and this is getting personal.. I was not molested by a stranger. Nor was I raped as a teen by a stranger. They were men I knew, men who were in my life in some way or another through family, friends, associates of said family and friends.

    I personally am always more wary at family/ friend gatherings. I make sure the rooms of the doors the kids play in are open, make sure I know where my kids are, inside the house or in the yard. I am way more wary of things happening inside a home than a mall. Why? Cuz there’s were I was harmed, and I know a home is the easiest place to target a victim.

  250. Mark July 15, 2009 at 1:15 am #

    I have to disagree with your assessment. What you did was not responsible. Send the 12 year old to the mall solo. Maybe even with the 7 and 8 year old.

    But why on Earth did you send the 3 year old with them? You are guilty.

  251. Phil July 15, 2009 at 2:03 am #

    As much as I am agree with letting kids have as much freedom as I did as a kid, I think that in this situation the mother was completely in the wrong. A toddler left in the care of what proved to be irresponsible 12 year olds? She was in the wrong both in my eyes and, obviously, the eyes of the law. Being tired is no excuse…

    Two twelve year-olds at the mall?: free-range and I support you!

    Two twelve year-olds watching 3,7 and 8 year-olds around the neighborhood?: free-range and I support you!

    Two twelve year-olds at the mall with a 3-year old and two other young children?: Criminally irresponsible and I support the actions of law enforcement!

  252. Sadhana Ratnavali July 15, 2009 at 2:08 am #

    I guess I’ll be calling the local PD, Sheriff’s department and Human Services before I allow my 13 yr old to walk the neighborhood alone, just to make sure it’s legal and I won’t be arrested. Oh, and she’s legally blind. I suppose I could get prison time for that…

    How scary. And incredibly sad.

  253. Rob July 15, 2009 at 3:30 am #

    I was with you until the mention of a three year old being left in twelve year old — not in a home, where most babysitters operate, but in a mall, where, safe town or not, there’s a greater chance of bad things happening.

    That said, I think you’re guilty of nothing more than poor judgment and believe the police and prosecutors in this case have gone WAY overboard. A simple, “You blew it, lady” from the cop would have been fine.

  254. Lis Garrett July 15, 2009 at 3:52 am #

    I remember my mother letting my friends and me roam the mall together while she shopped. We were 11 or 12, perhaps. We’d also go to theme parks alone and stay by ourselves for hours at a time after school, often riding our bikes all over the neighborhood.

    I have three children, too. The youngest just turned 4, and my oldest will be 10 in two weeks. While I entrust my oldest to ‘watch’ the younger two while I’m in the shower or changing the clothes on the line, I wouldn’t feel confident sending her and a friend off to the mall with younger children in tow.

    Your daughter and her friend sound like mature individuals, but kids of any age can’t always be trusted to follow the rules. I don’t think I’d really question the decision for just the two girls to go alone, but I, personally, wouldn’t feel comfortable sending little ones along, too. I live in a small, relatively safe town, too, but accidents still happen.

  255. coolnanny July 15, 2009 at 5:42 am #

    ok I think the mother made a error in judgment in this case . I also think people are way to judgmental and the fact that it was treated criminally and not with a reprimand or fine of some kind disturbs me. In this country we have children REALLY being abused and neglected and after investigation and parenting classes sent back to abusive parents to be abused again and or killed.

    There has to be some balance some common sense that says a mother made a error in judgment. THAT IS IT! I prob would have done a few Trial Run without the 3 yr old All parents make mistakes . mistakes and neglect are two different things!!!!

  256. coolnanny July 15, 2009 at 5:59 am #

    Also I see children as young as 6 walking to school alone ( I think thats a bit young) with no security cameras no security guards No 12 yr old near by to me that is more dangerous but it happens every day! I see it on the way to my daughters school cops pass by they dont stop and find out why the kid isnt with a parent they figure hey there is a kid skipping to school

  257. ebohlman July 15, 2009 at 6:43 am #

    Ed: How about finding out what those 5 sex offenders were convicted of and telling us? You might be surprised.

  258. ohnoes July 15, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    Under this logic, the prosecutor should also have charged the hospital with conspiracy to commit child endangerment. Why would the hospital possibly think it is okay to teach 12 year old kids to babysit? Don’t they know leaving your children with a 12 year old is child endangerment?

    And to anybody thinking “It’s okay at home, but not the mall….” These kids were just as safe if not safer at the mall than at home, period. Well-lit, public place. Employees and shoppers to notice anything amiss. On-site security. Able to run from danger and call for help on their cell phones more easily than at home.

  259. Fried Spam July 15, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    Ms. Kevane,

    At some level, you endangered these children. In effect, you left a 3 year old in the responsibility of children 7 and 8 years old. The 12 year olds were your surrogates in responsibility, and they did not properly watch the 3 year old. When the 12 year olds were irresponsible, you were irresponsible because they were your surrogates.

    You made an error in judgment. Reading only your side of the story, I strongly suspect that the authorities felt that if they did not come down very hard on you, you would end up doing this same sort of thing again.

    I would suggest that you learn your lesson and move on.

  260. Michael A July 15, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    I must also say I think the big mistake, and if were really honest with yourself you might agree, was leaving the three year old with this group. Letting 12 year olds watch 7 and 8 year olds is fine and at both of those ages they are learning about responsibility. I remember it was at about 7 I let my kids start getting their feet wet with freedom in small controlled situations. But leaving the 3 year old was a bad idea. you say yourself the 3 year old had to “stay in the stroller” for over 3 hours, None of my 3 year olds would have complied with such and idea. A three year old does not understand responsibility and therefore cannot be expected to help out by “being good” in your scenario. I suspect if the three year old had not been there nothing would have happened.

    Even given that though, a zealous prosecution was uncalled for. I think the deal you struck was appropriate. Too bad you do not seem to have learned anything from the experience.

  261. Tim July 15, 2009 at 7:36 pm #

    So what are we going to do about it people?

    The poster did her part and brought this travesty to all of us, and it is happening everywhere in one form or another.

    We need action.

  262. Crystal Shugars July 15, 2009 at 8:18 pm #

    Obviously, no one understands the seriousness of the way the law and Children’s Services act, until they are actually facing it themselves. I do know, I have and still am facing it. These people are out of control. This poor mother had to face the situation of the what they do to people on a daily basis. Again, I am still seeing comments about the youngest being left in a stroller for three hours. She was NOT, and never was expected to be in a stroller for three hours. PAY ATTENTION and don’t draw conclusions until you have read the WHOLE thing. I am appalled that those of you out there who have never had to deal with this kind of situation pass judgment. Ms. Kevane did nothing wrong. The officers extremely OVERSTEPPED their bounds and should be made to pay for it. Taking the cell phones away from the children and not allowing them to contact their parents amounts to KIDNAPPING in every sense of the word. Holding these children against their will, and yes, they did do this as the children had done nothing wrong, is considered kidnapping. It is people like those with the negative comments that make this society dangerous. Unfortunately, this family had to find out the hard way, the law and those who we thought could be trusted, in fact, cannot be. Ms. Kevane DID NOT endanger her children by leaving them at the mall. Read the LEGAL definition people and get a CLUE. Stop the madness of a system out of control. Or else, you may very well be next.

  263. Crystal Shugars July 15, 2009 at 8:30 pm #

    Oh, and by the way, action is being taken. Look for a documentary in the coming months. There is also a bill currently in the United States Congress that needs to be passed, called the Parental Rights Amendment. Look it up. It is VERY important that this gets passed. If it doesn’t, there will be no such thing as Free-Range parenting, or parenting as we currently know it. We also need to fight the ratification of the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child). This “treaty” will ensure that our children will have more rights than we do. It will give the children who have issues with their parents and any discipline to basically tell their parents what to do, instead of the other way around. If a child doesn’t agree with being grounded, or whatever punishment they receive, they can go to the courts and have it “overturned,” which we would then have to obey, IF this treaty gets ratified. Please help fight for parental rights, or this kind of situation will only get worse.

  264. sylvia_rachel July 15, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    @Crystal Shugars — I’m basically in agreement with your arguments, but I don’t understand the hostility to the UNCRC. (For anyone interested in reading what this Convention actually says, you can find the official text here.) Even if its provisions were as you describe, which I don’t think they are, I think you’re seriously overestimating the extent to which they could or would actually be enforced on the ground. Canada ratified in 1992, and the actual effects have been … underwhelming; for instance, child poverty rates haven’t improved, the Criminal Code still allows parents to hit their kids as long as they call it “spanking” and the kids are between 2 and 12 years old, and we still have no national daycare program. So your rhetoric about the CRC seems slightly overblown to me.

  265. BurnBrother July 16, 2009 at 12:07 am #

    Ms. Shugars – I appreciate the enthusiasm with which you are approaching this issue. It seems you have experience in the system and strong opinions. That is your right as a citizen.

    All of this said, from my perspective you could not be further from reality. I’m not going to get into a point by point response to you or other posters including SD, Kelly, Uly, Mollie & Elizabeth since other bloggers have responded to them better than I can.

    Dr. Kate – Of all of the foolishness that has been a part of this blog, you deserve credit for the goofiest, most illogical rant. I don’t know if you are a “Doctor” or not and I guess at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter. In any case, you should be ashamed of yourself. I’m trying to be gracious here and assume you have no clue as to how agricultural families operate. If you did, you would understand that this is the foundation upon which the strength of Montana and the economies of other agricultural states is built. The personal responsibility that taught to these children has consistently resulted in strong families, communities and economies.

    I also want to challenge you in this forum to produce true statistics concerning the ” well established consequences and very high risks to kids” in Montana farm families. Please quote your source(s) for all of the readers.

    I think your “classist asshat” comment pretty much says it all and provided clarity to the readers if in fact you are a real “Doctor”. I don’t know which reality concerns me more. I’d appreciate some facts from you that would lead me to a conclusion that you are something other than an elitist tool and have no clue as to what you are posting about. All of this said, I see your post was on the weekend, so if you were drunk or high and just being stupid a simple apology will suffice.

    Dana Weber – I totally agree that Ms. Kevane had the right to make whatever decision she felt was appropriate as a parent. What you didn’t mention is that along with making decision comes the responsibility of the consequences. I believe we are talking about consequences. As parents, Mr. & Ms. Kevane need to deal with those consequences.

    Great responses from Ali, Katy and particularly Grant. He hit the high points better than I can. No one has visibility as to the interaction between the Kevane’s and the Mall / Police. Obviously the Bozeman authorities can’t disclose the details. I agree with Grant that what hasn’t been said by Ms. Kevane and the context in which she has not said it speaks volumes as to the current status of this situation.

    At the end of the day, “Free Range” isn’t a synonym for “No Responsibility”. If any of you folks believe this fashionable Free Range thing substitutes for good parenting you are confused. Remember, Mr. Kevane was “5 minutes” away from the mall but it wasn’t important enough to require his presence. Seems like more of a married person communication problem than anything else. If the parents thought that it was more important to take a nap or work, respectively, than properly supervise their children then it is on them.

    Sorry for the long post. I’m not looking for a fight, but I don’t think it serves anyone to frame this in any way other than what it is.

    WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR CHILDREN, 24/7/365, PERIOD. Don’t make excuses, take responsibility, be a parent. Nothing wrong with putting your kids at risk as a learning experience, but the parent must control the risk. Allot of the problems we have in our country right now are due to parents not understanding these basic conditions of successful parenthood.

  266. gero July 16, 2009 at 2:06 am #

    i grew up in germany. when i was a kid it was normal to be out with your friends, play in the park, go to school alone (or accompanied by your school buddies). all without parental guidance.

    when i was ten years old, the only rule was: “be back home before 7:00pm” (which was fine for me, as “The Fall Guy” was on TV at that time.) when i was 12, i babysitted my little sisters and be-back-home time was 8pm. i believe i turned out to be a responsible persons. i’m actually almost afraid of how a generation of overprotected children will turn out. kids need to learn to stand on their own feet. and while protective parents are a good thing, overprotection and paranoia are not. i feel sorry for what you are going through. best from germany.

  267. Michael A July 16, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    Crystal Shugars attacked my post because she says I did not read the “WHOLE THING”. Nothing could be less true. In fact I think she did not fully read my post. I sympathized and agreed the prosecutor were over zealous, the police were too. However to say that NOTHING should have been done is wrong too.

    My comments about the three year old having to stay in the stroller are directly from Ms. Skenazy’s account. In her version the older kids did violate her “rules” and I was simply saying I felt her rules were too optimistic in the first place. I am raising two kids of my own so I do understand these issues. My wife and I often discuss “setting our kids up for success”, that means not putting them in tough situations where failure is likely if it can be avoided. I once again simply feel that the inclusion of the three year old in the story changes things dramatically. When store workers find a three year old in the care of a 7 and 8 year old and no other responsible person around they should what, ignore that? I can tell you this, if they had and one of the kids had been hurt or something most of these same posters would be here screaming about why the store employees did not do anything!

    Just as a though experiment go out to a mall and see if you see any unattended small children who seem to have no supervision at all for over 5 min. (this is again the time the older kids admit they left the younger ones alone). And I mean none. Not a parent shopping feet away, nothing. Then you tell me that if you saw that you would not call mall security and/or the Police. So as I said before for me the real problem here is the 3 year old, but that is a problem and it is a mistake that should have a consequence.

  268. Jennifer P July 16, 2009 at 2:42 am #

    NEGLECT! Not to mention HORRIBLE parenting. Yes, at age 12 I was allowed to go to the mall. I was NOT dropped off. I was with older siblings that were of driving age. 12 is NOT old enough to supervise children that young in public, obviously since they were not well watched. And the statement made regarding that children have never been kidnapped from the mall shows how stupid this mother really is. Children can be kidnapped anywhere, even when the adult parent turns their back only for a moment. This is the case of a woman who had “better things to do” and left her children for the public to have to put up with.

  269. Amber B July 16, 2009 at 3:13 am #

    They are 12 she deserved the charges of neglect! You also endangerd your daughters friend! I work in a mall and I see these young kids with no respect to stores walking around looking like hoochies at 12 years old. Just because major crime hasn’t happend at that mall doesn’t mean that it wont! Don’t be blind do you think people choose to be kidnapped and raped? You are so in denial lady!

  270. Amber B July 16, 2009 at 3:25 am #

    [quote ]Why was I exhausted? I have three kids, a dog, a cat, a hamster, and a fish named Oscar. I have a husband who had started his own company and was working on weekends. I teach classes, write books and articles, and am chair of my department. I love my job, for one reason because it has given me the flexibility to be home for my kids every day after school. I oversee violin, swimming, and art lessons; I drive my kids around; I think about what I can make for dinner, and I wonder how early I can get to bed. In other words, like many mothers, I work two jobs, and sometimes that catches up with me.[quote

    That makes us all feel so bad for you..not hire a baby sitter if you need free time.

  271. Cherish July 16, 2009 at 3:26 am #

    I don’t know about you guys, but in my state there are guidelines which state that a child can be responsible for their own well-being at nine and for other children at the age of 12. (This, of course, is subject to the child’s maturity level. More important, it is a GUIDELINE and not a law.) Most states have similar guidelines, although apparently Montana does not. If it is the case that most states say that a twelve year old can be responsible for younger children, how can all you folks run around calling this neglect on the part of the mother?!

  272. sylvia_rachel July 16, 2009 at 3:56 am #

    When store workers find a three year old in the care of a 7 and 8 year old and no other responsible person around they should what, ignore that?

    I don’t think most of us are saying the store employees should have ignored the situation. Rather, we’re saying that reading the older girls the riot act and making them phone home to explain the (embarrassing, their own fault) situation and ask to be picked up from the mall would have been a much more productive course of action for all concerned than calling the police.

    And I stand by that assessment. I strongly suspect that police forces, Children’s Aid Societies, and similar authorities in Bozeman, MT, like their counterparts everywhere else in North America, have significantly more serious problems to deal with than three children who were left unattended for five minutes.

  273. alexandra July 16, 2009 at 3:57 am #

    i don’t understand why there wasn’t just a warning. this is just a conflict between the woman & bozeman. clearly bozeman thinks that children 12 years of age can’t take care of younger children in public settings, but considering the fact that the two older girls had babysitting experience AS WELL AS cpr training, the woman should’ve gotten off with a warning.

    i moved from philadelphia to a small town outside of tampa, fl and i can tell you just how terrible law enforcement is to “outsiders.” seems like the situation to me.

    it’s also terrible that parents are so nervous about their children these days. at the rate things are going now kids aren’t going to leave their parents’ houses until they’re 40.

  274. Pix July 16, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

    The problem with three year olds is that they have a mind of their own and can frustrate even an adult, let alone a 12 year old. Babysitting of a 3 year old in a closed home environment with telephone back up is one thing but doing the same in a public venue with interaction with many other individuals is not really safe in my opinion.

    However, the fact that this made it to the court system is too much. The mother learned her lesson within 5 minutes of being called to the mall. Even the prosecutor could have been easily convinced that this individual made a bad choice and was not a negligent mother after a simple interview and/or home visit.

  275. S.D. July 16, 2009 at 11:52 pm #

    Pix: the 12-year old had a cell phone.

  276. Kathryn July 17, 2009 at 5:24 am #

    Here’s another scenario for you:

    I left my two-year-old at home with my husband while I went to a very important rehearsal one evening, despite the fact that he was ill. He had been running a moderate fever for two or three days, but he had been to work that day, and I judged that he was capable of parenting.

    Well, he was when I left. But four hours later, when I came home — at 10:30 at night — my daughter greeted me at the door, with a steak knife in one hand and a stick of butter in the other hand, which she was eating like a popsicle. She has been watching Heroes, a show I CERTAINLY do not consider appropriate for a two-year-old. My husband was curled up in bed, teeth chattering, semi-delirious with a fever of 104.5. (We found out the next day that he had Influenza B.)

    Did I commit a crime?

    The situations, to me, are remarkably parallel. I had faith that my husband would be up to the challenge — after all, he’s her father, and he’s a perfectly capable parent. I made the judgment call that things would be OK even though he was ill, because it was very important for me to be at this rehearsal.

    I didn’t call to check up on him throughout the evening, assuming that he’d call me if things weren’t OK. (When I asked him why he didn’t call me, he looked at me weakly and said “You weren’t here. There was nothing I could do.” The fever came on so fast he was incapable of realizing he could call me to come home.) By the time I realized my caregiver wasn’t as competent as I’d thought, things had fallen apart, and she was (unlike these kids, I’ll note) in real danger, from the steak knife if nothing else.

    So clearly, I made a mistake. Mea culpa. *But did I commit a crime?*

    I don’t think I did. And I don’t think Ms. Kevane did either.

  277. cagefreekids July 17, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    “Free-Range Kids” Lenore here. I have just removed the comment that was above this one because it was too rude and mean. Let’s try to keep an agree-to-disagree tone and remember we are ALL trying to raise our kids as safely and sanely as possible. We may go about it in different ways, but our goal — safe, happy, confident kids — is the same. Thanks.

  278. BurnBrother July 17, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    I feel that it was presumptuous on the part of the parents to allow these children to visit the mall under these circumstances. In effect they were willing to “roll the dice” with these kids that nothing would go wrong and put them in the hands of third party adults at the mall if there were issues. There obviously were issues.

    I’m not saying they’re bad people, but I am saying that it seems to me to be an unreasonable and unnecessary risk. I also believe that there was a “less than gracious” conversation with the authorities after the parents arrived at the mall. I’m willing to bet that had it been more effective this entire drama could have been avoided. I doubt that the Ms. Kevane or her husband really want to share the details of that discussion with us.

    I personally like the concept of Free Range Parenting, but to me it means parents are EVEN MORE involved in planning “semi-autonomous” events for their children to effectively scope, manage and minimize the risk. I don’t believe the foundation upon Free Range is built includes dropping a bunch of kids like this group off at a mall because the mom is tired. At least I hope you folks are deeper than that.

  279. jmack July 18, 2009 at 9:22 pm #

    BurnBrother’s response reflects my feelings as well, although I don’t really have enough information to interpret how the police interaction went, nor does it really matter.

    I, too, love the concept of free range parenting, and visit this site for that reason. I’m horrified by the way we are now raising children who can’t think or act for themselves out of the fear we have instilled in them. But the cause is not helped by labeling cases like this “outrages.” As is made clear in the discussion, and by the “mock jury” described in the account, this is not an outrage to many people. I cannot possibly conceive of any defensible reason to drop this group of children off at a mall unsupervised, no matter where the mall is, no matter how exhausted the mother is, no matter how responsible the teenagers.

    Also troubling are the comments blasting the mall employees for their actions. Ms. Kevane chose the mall as a caregiver precisely because she believed it to be a safe, sheltered place. By deciding to use the mall as a baby-sitter, she placed the care of her childeren squarely in the hands of the mall’s employees. To blame them for doing the job she entrusted to them is ridiculous.

    I, too, would like to live in a world where all actions not resulting in a physical injury can be settled outside the courts, but as an educator, Ms. Kevane surely knows very well that this also does not always work, and biases (let’s call a spade a spade here: the authorities are saying they can no longer give the educated white suburban mom the benefit of the doubt) can only be combatted through standardization of actions. I am also baffled at the idea that the authorities are supposed let Ms. Kevane off the hook when she clearly and defiantly believes what she did was normal, logical, and completely defensible, and it must be assumed she act in a similar fashion in the future.

  280. Crystal Shugars July 19, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    Most people are assuming the mall was expected to be the caregiver. This was not the case. The two twelve year-old girls were the caregivers. The mall was not expected to LOOK out for these children, the older girls were. It was a babysitting job for them. They would have had to fend for themselves if they had been at home, too. This was not, and should not be considered a crime to leave the children at the mall. They were not in danger, in fact they were probably safer at the mall for TWO hours. They had full access to call the mother (until the mall security took their phone away, which was a theft in itself) and forced the children to stay in a room until the police got there and until the mother could come and get them. (The children had not broken any laws, nor did the mother, and the children were held illegally, KIDNAPPING!!!) The mall’s employees had no business bothering the children when they were minding their own business and were waiting alone for only 5 minutes. Let’s say the mother was there and the children were left the same way they were, so the mom could try something on. I wonder what the reaction would have been then. I know some parents who just let their children run free in a store like that. Their kids get into everything and NOTHING is done to the children or those parents. AGAIN, the fact that none of the STORE employees could get their facts straight worries me. I believe Ms. Kevane about her recount of the officers and her treatment by them. I have experienced it myself. Especially, when the officers are Pro-DHS. As for prior comments about my taking parenting classes. I was forced by DHS to take them, because that is what they do. Whether the parents are innocent (which we were), or guilty, of whatever the accusations are, DHS has too much control. Officers all over the country act under “color of law” to break the law. Color of law is illegal. Look it up on the FBI website. As for Michael A. Here is what you wrote:

    [Crystal Shugars attacked my post because she says I did not read the “WHOLE THING”. Nothing could be less true. In fact I think she did not fully read my post. I sympathized and agreed the prosecutor were over zealous, the police were too. However to say that NOTHING should have been done is wrong too.

    My comments about the three year old having to stay in the stroller are directly from Ms. Skenazy’s account. In her version the older kids did violate her “rules” and I was simply saying I felt her rules were too optimistic in the first place.]

    This statement in itself proves my point about reading the WHOLE story. This story was in regards to Bridget Kevane, not Ms. Skenazy.

    For BurnBrother , Oh Please, and jmack: you have NO clue what this woman went through. I on the other hand do. Let’s say, as a hypothetical, you were accused of doing something you did NOT do that had to do with possibly breaking the law and it involved your children (if you have any) and the possibility of losing them to DHS custody, with the possibility of never getting them back. Let’s also say, that the officers that responded to the situation, violated YOUR civil rights and performed they way they did in front of your children. Your children would probably be traumatized, which these children more than likely were. The officer overstepped his bounds and was COMPLETELY inappropriate in his actions. He OBVIOUSLY was a PRO-DHS officer and needs to be held accountable for what he did. It doesn’t matter that he was an officer, he has to follow the law, too, and I highly doubt that this kind of situation was NORMAL procedure for an officer. The fact that this was taken to court as it was is the outrage. Time and money were wasted because of an overzealous prosecutor. People need to understand that DHS, the courts, and the justice system are out of control. This is supposed to be the land of the free, not the land of the paranoid. What Ms. Kevane did was nothing out of the ordinary for most parents, and those who try to condemn her for her actions are the “paranoid.” If the justice system and the people entrusted to enforce it can start doing their job as they were meant to do it, and not do what they please, then maybe our children would be able to grow up with a better understanding of what they are expected to do and the world would be better off in all aspects. I am sorry if those of you who feel Ms. Kevane was in the wrong don’t agree with me, but the truth of the matter is, I have lived this type of situation and have seen firsthand what the police and the agencies involved have done to people. They ruin the lives of those involved, especially the children. UNTIL you experience the situation for yourselves, don’t judge. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS LIKE. You can only assume, and you know what they say about assuming.

    As for the UNCRC, pay close attention to the Article 9 of this treaty. This will basically ensure that the already out of control DHS will be given full rights to taking our children in the name of “best interests of the children.” DHS does this already and gets away with it because they are not held accountable. And they do it because of the money involved with the removal and eventual adopting out of the children. Thousands of children are hurt or die in DHS custody every year, across the USA. Look for the documentary coming out within the next few months and you will have a better idea about the atrocities being committed by these agencies.

  281. BurnBrother July 19, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    Ms. Shugars,

    You clearly have had bad experiences with DHS in the past and I am sorry if you felt it was unfair. I’m happy to say that I don’t have personal experience with DHS and my children. I don’t consider having personal experience directly with DHS and my kids to be a prerequisite to having credible views on this blog.

    I know that neither the DHS nor the Police wake up in the morning looking for reasons to engage citizens about their children unless there is a reason for it. They all have plenty to do. There is not a conspiracy out there to take people’s children away from them unless they are deemed to be at significant risk. As parents it’s our job to make sure we don’t get in those situations if they can be avoided.

    I’m sure there are some very sad stories about children that die while in the care of the authorities at various times. I am equally certain that a much higher number of children die while under the direct or indirect care of their birth parents due to poor parenting skills and / or weak decision making. I’m am sure that DHS has saved many children from exceptionally bad situations and I’m happy to support this activity through my taxes.

    I think it’s fair to say we agree to disagree. I wish you the best in the future and am hopeful that you and your children move forward successfully with minimal DHS contact in the future. Good Luck!

  282. Crystal Shugars July 20, 2009 at 10:47 am #

    Dear BurnBrother,

    You are certainly one of the fooled that DHS and the police who stand behind them count on to continue their legalized kidnapping. The point that I was trying to make is that they DO NOT wait for valid reasons to remove children. ANYONE can be a potential victim (including YOU), not just those who really need intervention, and I have seen those who DO need intervention left alone. It IS a money game for this agency and I believe the officers are paid off, or otherwise to assist. YES, THERE IS A CONSPIRACY, whether you want to see it or not. I can guarantee that this is happening. My children were taken for supposed neglect and physical abuse. No charges were ever filed, and nothing was ever proven to the accusations, matter of fact far from it. We still have not had our children returned, DESPITE having had two Court of Appeals decisions in our favor. My oldest son, when he was three years old was so SEVERELY beaten in FOSTER CARE, they almost killed him. He was black and blue, front to back, head to toe. He had blunt trauma to the head and signs of asphyxiation. He was admitted to the ER for being non-responsive, and lethargic. He had to stay in the hospital for almost a week to recover. HE WAS THREE. THIS is what your tax payer dollars are paying for.

  283. BurnBrother July 20, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    Ms. Shugars,

    Seems you have issues that are well outside of the scope of this forum. I’m not here to judge you, your family or your parenting, so I’m not going to argue with you about your circumstances.

    I stand by my position as stated and I suggest you get further professional help to cure your situation…either legal or otherwise.

    Good Luck.

  284. JP July 22, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    When I was a little boy, starting at around age 7, I was allowed to run around by myself at the mall when we went as a family. I had a watch and was usually given a few dollars, and told “Meet us at Sears TV section at 8:30.” Nothing ever happened to me.

    I was almost abducted around the corner and less than 50 feet from our house in the middle of our nice neighborhood.

    There is a statistically measurable chance of something bad happening to you EVERYWHERE at ALL TIMES. Whether your supervised or not. You worry that something bad can happen to children. What harm are you causing your children by keeping them so sheltered they can’t grow as self-sufficient, independent beings?

  285. North of 49 July 24, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    This is typical of the “Children Must Be Save From All (perceived) Abuse At All Costs” and “The State as Parent” mentality. We have been turning our children into infants unable to care for themselves and that is ruining them. If the kids don’t learn to take care of themselves while young, they never will. If anything, you should be raising holy heccubus because the kids were not allowed to phone home.
    You Did Nothing Wrong! Dollars to donuts, every single staff member that gave you hell has never had children or taken care of them.
    I hope you win and then sue the mall and more for costs.

  286. Jennifer July 25, 2009 at 1:26 am #

    Here’s what I don’t get–if the decision to leave the kids unsupervised was the “crime,” then why was the mother the only one charged, if the father and the neighbor’s mother also agreed with this decision?

  287. Amy July 28, 2009 at 1:43 am #

    This is absurd. No one was hurt, there was no crime.

    Yesterday I dropped off my daughter and her 2 friends (ages 9,10, & 11) at the local pool and told them to walk home when they were ready. What I did was far more dangerous then leaving your kids at the mall; drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children, and they did have to cross several streets to get back home. I have to say that I did not worry at all. I got my novel and sat in my back yard reading blissfully. They got home 3 hours later, tired and happy.
    Jeez, I ought to to be arrested.

    Don’t let the b@stards win!

  288. KW July 29, 2009 at 12:31 am #

    Maybe the police reacted so sternly was because they may have recently dealt with issues that children not being supervised by an adult that did not end well? Police see the ugly side of humanity that many of us do not.

    Obviously the 12 year olds were not as responsible as believed since they broke the rules and left the children unattended. Trying on clothes usually takes longer than 5 minutes . . .

    I am sorry this happened, but I am guessing her “break” to rest wasn’t worth it in the long run.

  289. John Doe October 18, 2009 at 2:53 am #

    ONE MORE REASON I HATE MONTANA!!! I bet those cops came from West Yellowstone!!

  290. heather November 2, 2009 at 12:20 am #

    The only DELUSIONAL people here are YOU IDIOTS who think this is ok.

    To you assinine mothers “shaking with rage” because someone was arrested for letting a child who is not yet a teenager take care of a 3-year old, who is barely more than a toddler, in a mall, perhaps you are too selfish and irresponsible to be a parent.

    The police see what can happen to your kids EVERYDAY, and the fact that you are in DENIAL is not their problem.

  291. heather November 2, 2009 at 12:30 am #

    God, you are some seriously in-denial parents. I cannot tell you the contempt I feel for your lack of judgement.

    What responsible adult cannot predict that a TWELVE YEAR OLD might do this?

    “Details of the incident became clear later. The kids had gone into Macy’s after lunch; it was to be the final stop of the afternoon. Natalie and her friend decided to try on some shirts and left the three younger kids in the purse section by the cosmetics counter—which, it’s true, was against the rules that I had laid out for them”

    Yes, these wonderfully responsible, pseudo-adult 12 year olds left the baby ALONE. Gee, who would have thunk it?

    Good call on the neglect charges. If any of you out there ever think of doing the same, I hope you are charged.

  292. s.d. November 2, 2009 at 1:03 am #

    WOW the HATRED emanating from some of these posts who disagree with the OP.

    I am very glad I am not you. the amount of hatred you are showing would probably give me a heart attack if it was mine. I would hate to do God’s job and judge every single parent for every single thing they do.

    There are SO MANY worst things many parents out there do to their kids (like, oh, I don’t know, burn their child’s arm with match to teach them why playing with fire is bad, like my mom did) that leaving two ‘tweens who are typically responsible is really a very minimal offense. Those ‘tweens. I guarantee, have learned their lesson and have probably improved their babysitting skills by this incident.

    I think your anger and hatred is misplaced. Lighten up, this mom DID NOT blow up the mall or something. Gee.

  293. shugarsmama November 2, 2009 at 11:38 am #

    @b, Heather…Free-range aside…Heather, I would like to know which DHS/CPS/Child Welfare agency you work for? If you don’t work for them, than I think you should reevaluate your statements. “Neglect is a passive form of abuse in which the perpetrator is responsible to provide care for a victim who is unable to care for oneself, but fails to provide adequate care to meet the victim’s needs, thereby resulting in the victim’s demise.” Demise is one of the key words here. NONE of the children were harmed, they were left unattended for less than 5 minutes. Although, obviously the 8 and 7-year-olds were fairly responsible enough for five minutes to keep an eye on the 3 year-old, seeing as how they stayed put. Again, as for the issue of staying at home and babysitting, the children could have gotten into more trouble and actually gotten hurt if they had remained at home, rather than going to the mall for

  294. shugarsmama November 2, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    @b and Heather…Free-range aside…Heather, I would like to know which DHS/CPS/Child Welfare agency you work for? If you don’t work for them, than I think you should reevaluate your statements. “Neglect is a passive form of abuse in which the perpetrator is responsible to provide care for a victim who is unable to care for oneself, but fails to provide adequate care to meet the victim’s needs, thereby resulting in the victim’s demise.” Demise is one of the key words here. NONE of the children were harmed, they were left unattended for less than 5 minutes, although, obviously the 8 and 7-year-olds were fairly responsible enough for five minutes to keep an eye on the 3 year-old, seeing as how they stayed put, and out of trouble. Again, as for the issue of staying at home and babysitting, the children could have gotten into more trouble and actually gotten hurt if they had remained at home, rather than going to the mall for a whole 2 HOURS and 15 MINUTES. I think that maybe you two have not read the whole story. I know when I go shopping, I am usually at it for more than a couple hours (my husband is also usually with me). If we were to have our children with us, they would have to stay in the shopping cart the whole time as they can not be trusted to be out of it, which usually amounts to about 2 to 3 hours worth. Is that neglectful on our part? Certainly not. The fact that the mother made that a rule shows that she was responsible enough to know the limitations of the children, including those of the 12 year-olds. The children would have been in much more danger if they had stayed at home. That fact actually has statistics to back it up. It is very difficult to locate any statistics on injuries at the Bozeman, MT mall. “Most child abuse occurs in a child’s home, with a smaller amount occurring in the organizations, schools or communities the child interacts with.” Another thing is, even though she was exhausted, she had consensus from her husband and the other mother of the second 12 year-old that the mall would be okay for them to go to. The decision wasn’t just her own, yet she got full blame. Here is an article published:

    Home Injuries Rising, Often Deadly
    Falls, Poisonings Pose Major Threats at Home

    WebMD Health News

    Oct. 2, 2002 — Home may be a place to escape the dangers of the outside world, but a new report shows dangers abound on the home front as well — causing as many as 20,000 deaths, 7 million disabling injuries, and 20 million hospital trips in the U.S. each year.

    Despite those staggering statistics, more than half of American adults surveyed say they can’t think of anything they should or would do in the coming year to make their homes safer or to prevent unintentional injuries.

    “Falls are by far the major problem, followed by poisonings,” says Carol Runyan, PhD, MPH, director of the injury prevention research center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    “We were surprised to find that poisonings occur not just in little children, but also in large numbers of adults — even middle-aged adults — who appear to die from mixtures of prescription drugs and in some cases illicit drugs as well,” says Runyan in a news release.

    After falls and poisonings, the most common causes of death at home were fires, inhalation and suffocation, and drowning.

    Rates of home-related injuries and death also varied widely across the country. Overall, New England was the safest region, and the states with the fewest home-injury deaths per 100,000 residents were Massachusetts, Utah, Maryland, Minnesota, and New York. The most such deaths were in New Mexico, the District of Columbia, Arizona, Mississippi, and Wisconsin.

    New Mexico has a home-injury death rate that was more than five times higher than Massachusetts’ with more than 17 deaths reported per 100,000 people.

    The Home Safety Council commissioned the report, “The State of Home Safety in America.” The authors say it’s the first comprehensive look at the prevalence of unintentional injuries in the home as well as what causes them.

    Researchers say many Americans don’t think about making their home safer because, for the most part, they don’t even know the problem of home hazards exists. Statistics about home injuries are hard to compile and often incomplete.

    The report found common problems in the home that lead to injuries include:

    * Inadequate railings and banisters.
    * Unsafe storage of medications and other poisons.
    * Water heaters set at too high a temperature.
    * Firearms improperly stored or locked up.

    The report found that although reports of children being accidentally shot or killed often make the headlines, only 49% of gun owners with children in or visiting their homes lock up their weapons.

    The good news is that the study found most American homes are now equipped with smoke detectors.

    Researchers say this report may still underestimate the true gravity of the issue because the statistics do not include the 30% of non-transportation injury deaths for which the site of the injury was not recorded. The authors say many of those injuries likely happened in the home.

    Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among people between the ages of one and 44 and the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.

    (end of article)

    Most of the things mentioned in the article are very unlikely to occur in a shopping mall.

    “Child neglect (also called psychological abuse) is a form of child abuse that occurs when someone intentionally does not provide a child with food, water, shelter, clothing, medical care, or other necessities.”

    This certainly did not happen either, except maybe by the mall employees when they denied the 12 year-olds the use of their cell phones to contact their parents. It can also be considered a form of kidnapping.

    “Child endangerment: placing a child in a potentially harmful situation, either through negligence or misconduct.”

    Also did not happen.

    Before any more is said, I think EVERYONE should watch a video available on YouTube, called “Innocence Destroyed”. It is by Bill Bowen and is in three parts. Watch them in order. By allowing these kind of injustices to occur as happened to this mother, you are essentially promoting what happens in the video “Innocence Destroyed”. THIS is the kind of thing that happens when police and local government bodies get involved where they don’t belong, as certainly was the case here. There definitely needs to be some accountability on the part of the government agents, they have been given too much power and are using it for their own gain, not for the health and safety of the citizens. ONLY WE, as United States citizens, have the right to force this to happen. It is time to put a stop to blatant disregard for our Constitutional RIghts to freedom. Go to http://www.parentalrights.org for more information on how to help make this happen.

  295. Amanda November 7, 2009 at 12:14 am #

    If you are too tired to raise your kids, you shouldn’t have any. The twelve-year-old did not choose to have those other children, the parents did. Get over yourselves, people. She was negligent and selfish. I have five children and a college education. We are not rich, but could be if I wanted to farm my kids out to the other parents in our community. I guess Prada shoes are more important to some people that the welfare of their children. Kudos to the police for arresting this negligent ‘parent,’ and shame on her for putting her career in front of the children she claims are “wonderful.”

  296. Rich November 24, 2009 at 2:37 am #

    I think it comes down to —

    Did the 12 year olds leave the younger children in a dangerous situation?


    Inappropriate, yes.

    Were the children truly endangered? Statistically, no. Perceptionally — obviously, yes, hence the problem with the jury of peers and the cops..

    (…trying to be more of a free-range dad. It’s sometimes hard choosing not to live in fear. Although I mostly worry about my kids walking into traffic.)

  297. Shanna January 5, 2010 at 4:32 am #

    There’s nothing wrong with letting a twelve year old wander around the mall for a couple hours with her twelve year old friend but they should not have been left in charge of three younger children. That’s too much for two twelve-year-olds to handle as was seen when they went off carelessly to the dressing room and left the younger kids alone despite their prior record of being responsible they are twelve and that’s what twelve year old KIDS do. This really makes me wonder if the mother would have gotten off without jail time and a permanent record had she worked at Burger King and not as a professor. I doubt she would have gotten off that easy had she not had the funds for the lawyers and “mock trials.” Maybe instead of using money to get herself out of trouble she should hire a babysitter over the age of 12 to watch her children when she needs time off. There are ways to give your children responsibility where you are not having to disregard their safety. Regardless of how much the woman makes or who she is what she did was just plain irresponsible and she should consider herself lucky that she got off with as little as she did.

  298. Marlene January 5, 2010 at 4:50 am #

    I’m all for raising kids with a healthy dose of responsibility but I will not go so far as to adopt this woman’s story as some sort of “outrage” and injustice. I feel that what she did was irresponsible and I do not think that teaching her children responsibility was her motive. Her motive was to get some rest and push her kids off on someone for a few hours and go figure she opts to pawn them off on her oldest child… This happens much too often. Stop using the older child as free babysitting. It isn’t fair and can make them resentful. I doubt that her twelve-year-old jumped for joy at the prospect of having to take her younger siblings to the mall in order to go. No, her daughter was probably pretty annoyed by that and hence she leaves the kids alone as her friend and she try on clothes… I hated being stuck with watching my younger siblings. There are other ways to teach your child responsibility and give them freedom. This woman certainly is no hero of parenting to me.

  299. Another March 14, 2010 at 7:43 am #

    Not only did she rely on the older children to babysit, but also the employees at the mall to babysit all of the children.

    12 year olds may be responsible enough to watch other children in a home, though god knows i wouldnt trust my kids with babysitters that young. Case in point, they are NOT responsible enough to babysit others in public. The mother should have realized this. Kids act differently when parents arent around.

    Im outraged that so many people are outraged by this.

  300. cathy June 6, 2010 at 5:50 am #

    The police response was a complete overreaction. Just a stern (albeit patronizing) lecture and a warning would have done the trick. A visit by a social worker, not so much. A trial and a permanent record? No way.
    However these “responsible” 12 year olds DID leave young children alone in a mall despite being told not to. That’s nothing to ignore. If they were my 12 year olds, there would have been hell to pay. Maybe those preteens were mature compared to other preteens, but it goes to show that for every adolescent the temptation to shrug off rules and focus on themselves is too strong to resist all the time.

  301. StarAnna July 22, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    I can see two sides of this story but no matter how mature my 12 and 10 yr old are ….I have never EVER just dropped them at the mall to fend their 5 and 4 yr old nieces. Thats beyond me because I barely like to let go enough to let them WALK down the hallway of the mall alone without trailing a distance behind. And Im not talking the huge malls but the smaller one. One never knows what can happen.

    Im not perfect by any means but I do think that you were putting too much responsibility on your preteens. My daughter and son would NEVER leave their nieces without their hands attached let alone at a counter by themselves. they would have taken them in the booth with them,…(Ive SEEN them do it!!) and also trust them enough to keep them with them on small road trips/vacations. However Im still RIGHT there a few feet or yards away . I think the cops handled this way too harsh and should have just called and ASKED the kids to be p/u and nothing more. Sometime cops just want to show their authority.

  302. AJ July 27, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    I can’t believe that happened. Are we now supposed to set an example to our kids that we should not trust, not only ourselves but others in general. I don’t get it, I don’t believe there was anything wrong witfh what she did. I didn’t even know there was a law against that. The two oldest children were 12 isn’t that legal stay home by yourself and babysit age?? It’s not like she wasn’t going to come back, she had a time of drop off and pick set, I’m sure there was rules setup for communication as well.
    Good luck to all parents out there, we no longer are allowed to actually parent our children without being judged as being wrong.

  303. Krystal Duggan July 30, 2010 at 1:55 am #

    Although I personally wouldn’t leave my children of the ages 3, 7, and 8 with a 12 yr old at the mall (this stems from losing my sister to murder when I was 11 and she was 16), I don’t think you did anything wrong. You acted upon your own beliefs as a parent that you were doing the right thing. If the situation was like you say it is, you felt that they would be safe. I see no harm in that. What angers me is the fact that parental rights are in danger of being completely taken away. Are we not all entitled to raise our children in the way that we see fit?

  304. leave us alone August 27, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    weirdos who rights this stuff
    I will hint u down kill u eat u then hied your boddy inthe ******* river!!!

  305. car review September 9, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    Did anyone else else think this story was super long??? All I have to say is a 12yo babysitting a 3yo? Maybe not the best idea, but shit happens.

  306. Kamara S. Glenn March 26, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    You left a 8, 7, 3 year old with two twelve year olds? You are crazy and I’m glad you were charged. Its people like you that think the world is all sunshine and rainbows and that they live in a place where nothing bad happens that lose their children in the blink of an eye and then go OMG I can’t beleive that happened! You are ridiculous to entrust the safety of young children to children. Why don’t you marry your 12 year olds off and they can have their own babies if they are so parental and responsible. You cannot create the perfect upbringing and the perfect environment and think you are safe from everything. You need to wake up and open your eyes.

  307. nathan w September 19, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    Have you all been dropped on your heads as babies or what? It doesn’t matter if you live in a picturesque town where everyone goes about leaving their homes unlocked, and their keys in their cars; or a violent metropolis where you have to have security guards and twelve locks on your door. YOU CAN NOT TRUST ANYONE! I’m sorry for your bad judgement. I really am. However, you deserve whatever judgement is handed down. I too, felt sick while reading your diatribe. Not shock and disbelief at uncaring police officers, but toward you and your utter lack of ownership of the situation. YOU messed up. YOU need to own that mistake and deal with the consequences. Your defense is completely flawed and wrong on so many levels that I am totally shocked and awed that I didn’t see one other response from a sane person. Two twelve year old girls do not an adult make my dear woman. There is a HUGE difference between leaving your young children at home with a well behaved, educated, and responsible pre-teen; and dropping the kids off at a place of business for THREE hours with the same child. What would you have done, how guilty would you have felt if someone had taken those little ones home with them and molested them or worse? What kind of guilt would you have heaped upon your daughter and her friend? You don’t get to have sympathy for what you did. So what if you were tired. Guess what! We are all tired. We are all expected to own up to our mistakes as well. Grow up.

  308. Jon December 4, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    I think that while one would hope that kids would make the best choices, they are kids, and history is full of stories of children and teens who made poor decisions. The problem I have with this story is that naivete utilized by the mother or father who allows kids to roam free and assumes that the kids will make proper choices. There is always a chance that someone could victimize the children, that the youngest kids could be distracted, etc. No matter where the kids are, the best solution is to err on the side of caution. I am much older now, and even in the 70’s as a pre-teen, adults would try to approach me when I was with family. If I was with family, what would have happened at a mall with complete strangers???

    I just think that after so many tales of predation on the part of men (think Jaycee Dugard), think less about what the kids may or may not do, and more about the outside dangers that they do not control. Malls are large, crowded, and people get separated. Common sense is lacking here. My daughter, who is 12, would never be allowed to roam in a mall unsupervised. I think people who protest their guilt should refer to Shakespeare-methinks thou dost protest too much…further, I do gamble, but leaving kids alone in any venue is a huge risk. At a mall, you might as well remember the adage about heart attacks. The first symptim can be your last. Never assume anything.

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  310. Laura December 12, 2011 at 9:16 am #

    Thank you for sharing your story….I stumbled upon it as I was researching what age was considered “appropriate” to drop your kids off at the mall alone.

    Unfortunately, children do not come with instruction manuals and for the most part–it is ALL trial and error. We take others advice, think about how our parents raised us, have to make our own judgement calls and decisions– and be responsible for them–whether they are right or wrong.

    Thank goodness nothing happened to them…

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  313. Beth July 20, 2012 at 1:07 am #

    I agree with the officers. You were wrong to drop off your kids at the mall. It’s not a babysitting service for you. Malls are perfect environments for predators because there are a lot of unsupervised kids there. Unless your kids are old enough to drive themselves there, they shouldn’t be “dropped off” at the mall.

  314. Rebecca September 3, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    I know this is late, but all the same I support you.. While personally I wpuldnt leave my 3 yr old with a 13 year old, thats because my boy is particularly hyper, and easily distracted, and requires CLOSE supervision. However, thats my boy. And YOU know YOUR kids…. Theyd have had a field day with my mom. My mom was a single mom. At 13 years old I was responsible for my special needs 8 yr old sister, and 7yr old sister. In philadelphia. Heck at 12, I was riding public transit to and from school (located in the projects) by myself. But my mom taught us common sense (much like im sure youve taught your kids). Any major trouble, call the cops, then my moms work. ….. im pretty sure your daughter is smart enough to figure things out. Plus she had a cell phone. I never had that…. Nowadays, everyone is so afraid. Its almost ridiculous.

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