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Readers — It’s weird enough when we are warned that our bumper stickers are busy attracting predators. Now there is a new line of school bus that videos the cars behind it, on the bizarre assumption that these may be driven by predators so unsure of where else to find a child that they are following the big, yellow kiddie dispenser. And that’s not to mention the thumbprint recognition and tracking of the students, as if THEY were predators: 

A brief glance won’t tell you the new buses are equipped with voice-over-IP communication systems, or that they transmit data on speed, location and acceleration in real-time. The “Thumbs-Up!” thumbprint scanner, which keeps track of which kids are on the bus and whether they’re supposed to be there, is also hard to see unless you’re really pressing your face to the glass, as are the multiple interior security cameras.

Slightly easier to notice is the rear-facing camera, dubbed — no joke — the “Pedophile Finder.” “I wish we could have come up with a better name for it,” says Dallas County Schools spokeswoman Allison Allison. (Yes, that’s the correct name.) The camera, mounted on the top portion of the school bus and positioned to capture the license plate of tailing vehicles, isn’t just to catch pedophiles. It could be a parent who lost custody of their child, or a kidnapper. But “Pedophile Finder” was the name that stuck. “The bus driver can’t tell if somebody’s tailing him but if they recognize a pattern of a car following a bus” based on video, they can take appropriate measures.

I’m really curious what those “appropriate measures” are. Slam on the brakes and wait for the crash? Alert the police, “There’s  a car behind me!”  Get out of the bus and demand to see if the driver is wearing pants? Please, PLEASE protest if your school district even CONSIDERS these add-ons as “necessary for the safety of our children.” – L. 

To catch a predator...while driving a bus.

To catch a bus-tailgating predator.

Readers: Boy makes tree house, neighbor calls cops (!), cops come and draw gun on 11-year-old. That’s according to the young man himself. If all this is as reported, God help us. Or maybe more civil liberties help us:

UPDATE: Readers, I have removed the video because it immediately starts playing any time you log onto Free-Range Kids and is loud and annoying. But here is the link:

http://bcove.me/yxhs1syj

Hi Readers — Kwasi Enin, a Long Island, NY, high school senior who got into all the Ivies credits his “helicopter parents” for pushing him to excel. So does this mean that helicopter = success and, possibly, Free-Range = failure? Of course I don’t think so. Here’s why.

1  - First is the fact that success can be defined many, many ways, of which “Ivy League acceptance” is just one. But you knew that.

2 – We have no idea where the Free-Range kids are going to college. And even if they all got into Ivies, see #1.

3 – Free-Rangers DO believe in helping our kids to succeed. The way we do it is by loving them (as I’m sure Kwasi’s parents do) and letting them know that we believe in them.  (Ditto.) It’s just that we believe in them —  and basic human nature — so much that we believe they can do many things safely and successfully on their own.

We are still happy to help, and often do, but we don’t think our kids need us to schedule every second, handle every issue, or make every moment “teachable.” We believe in our kids to the point where even when it looks like “all” they’re doing is playing outside, walking to school, or pursuing some hobby that we didn’t choose for them, they are still learning. Note: This may or may not result in higher grades.

We have nothing against helicopter parents, and most likely we are all some mixture of both. I know I am — in part because “Free-Range” isn’t a parenting philosophy so much as a world view: We do not believe our kids are in constant danger, so there’s no need to act as if they are. (Or make laws as if they are.)

All of us want the best for our kids and all believe they can do great things. Free-Rangers may stand back a little more than Kwasi’s parents. But we share the belief that our kids should be grateful, engaged, and kind. And that they’ve all got the goods to be “successful” — however you define it.  - L

Helicoptered Kids Only?

 

 

Hey Readers — This piece on the Huffington Post  is by a mom, Rebecca Cuneo Keenan, who is rarin’ to let her 8-year-old son Free-Range…but can’t:

I’ve been reading about helicopter versus free range parenting for years now. I’ve been hearing about how our kids are being raised on back-lit screens and shuttled from one scheduled activity to another. They don’t get the time or space to explore their neighbourhoods by themselves and learn independence in the process. They aren’t active enough and, quite frankly, all this tab keeping is exhausting for everyone. If there was ever a question about which side I’d take, helicopter or free-range, I’d already long decided to be free-range.

But it’s not that easy.

She adds:

My generation of parents really is just shy of bubble-wrapping our kids and sending them out into the world with a GPS embedded in their bodies. We keep our kids in five-point-car-seat-harnesses for as long as possible, micromanage every detail of their locally-sourced, organic diet and get them cell phones as soon as they’re likely to be away from us all in the name of health and safety. It goes against every fibre of our collective consciousness to send them out to the woods with pointed sticks and sling shots.

And finally she says there are the added problems of worrying about being blamed if her child gets hurt, as well as convincing her son, 8, that it might actually be fun to walk to the park (at least part way to the park) by himself. So, here are some suggestions I’ve got, and I’d love you, readers, to add on:

*Have him walk with a friend! That way he has someone to play with, too.

*Talk to other parents about your interest in Free-Ranging. When you find someone like-minded (and you will!), agree to give your kids unsupervised time outside together.

*To remember how the world isn’t a cesspool of danger, try a day without preparing. Leave the house without Kleenex, Band-Aids, extra water, wipes or even — as we recently discussed — snacks. Or cash!  You’ll see you can survive, which may remind you that your son can, too.

*Speaking of friends, talk to one who’s from another country about what they let kids do there. Often, the things we’re terrified of are simply routine elsewhere. Instant perspective!

*Have your son actually HELP you by doing something on his own. Have him get an ingredient for dinner, or walk the dog, or go to the post office. Anything that really WOULD make your day a little easier. Kids love to be more than just our precious babies. They long for purpose, especially in the adult world.

*Read “Free to Learn,” by Peter Gray. His subtitle says it all: “Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.” (And he forgot to add, “Possibly Slimmer, too!”)

And here’s one suggestion lifted straight from my own book:

* Think of one activity you [or your husband] did as a kid that you are unwilling to let your own sweetheart do at the same age (baby-sitting, biking to a friend’s), and make a list of 20 things that could conceivably go wrong. If there are any worries that strike you as realistic, help your child prepare for them. Teach your would-be babysitter first aid. Teach your would-be biker how to signal his turns. You’ll feel better because you’ve helped them and they’ve demonstrated that they’re ready.

Add your ideas here! – L

Mom wonders: "How do I throw this stuff away?"

Mom wonders: “How do I throw this stuff away?”

Readers — Here’s an alarming idea with no basis in fact, as far as I can fathom. The idea:

Have a picture of little Bobby in his football gear and a “My Son is an Honor Student at Kelley Middle School” bumper sticker?

Congratulations, you just told the world and anyone who may want to harm your child, where they can find him.

sticker

Because otherwise, no predator could ever find a school football player at…a school? Possibly playing football? This smug reporter is  suggesting that:

1) Someone is out there who wants to harm your child specifically, for some reason, but

2) Simply could not figure out how to find him. Ah, but by reading the hieroglyphics on your bumper, he is set! I especially love the fact that a stick figure dog tells him that he need not worry, because it’s a “non guard dog” — a fact one can easily ascertain, thanks to the incredibly accuracy of stick figures.

“Congratulations” — author. You have just succumbed to Worst-First Thinking: Thinking up the very worst thing that could happen thanks to some dumb little stickers, and are now spreading this bizarre fear around. And what of all those predators who only pounce on honor students of the month? – L

Readers — I love this post by a gal named Karen Perry who came up with this great modern-day challenge after thinking back and realizing:

I don’t have ANY memories of my mom ever stepping foot in the park let alone laying down a blanket with a variety of snacks for me to nibble on. She most def was not calling me over from the playground to sit down to eat some cucumber. And she would NEVER ask me to rinse my hands with sanitizing lotion first.

So the challenge?

Let them rip around for a couple hours and work up an appetite…. I just don’t get the “Come take a break, sit down on the blanket and have a few snacks” delio that’s going on out there. Little boys and girls of the world will stop having the time of their lives on the playground and come to us when they’re hungry. And when they are, they can wait till we get home for a snack. Are we afraid these kids are going to pass out? Seriously…what’s the deal?

The added bonus? No 10 minutes of prepping for the park. No bag to carry. No containers to accidentally leave behind when it’s time to go home. Just grab your jackets and go.

I so agree that we often over-prepare when under- or even zero-preparation is necessary! If you take the no snack challenge for a day at the park, please write and let us know how it goes! – L

As much as I love these (or the American version), kids can probably spend some time outside without an infusion.

As much as I love snacks , kids can probably spend some time outside without an immediate infusion.

Folks — As odd as this WABC story is — and it’s a doozy — the truly oddest part is that it took place, literally, in “Toad Suck” Arkansas.

An Arkansas woman was charged with endangering the welfare of her child for breastfeeding after drinking alcohol in a restaurant.

The charge was dropped last week, but the issue of breastfeeding and drinking is still a very real one.

Less than an hour outside Little Rock lies the tiny town of Toad Suck, Arkansas, population roughly 300.

It’s also home for Tasha Adams, a stay at home mother of three. With her baby in tow, she and her parents stopped for dinner in the nearby town of Conway.

“I had a beer, with that, and then I had another one, later on,” said Tasha Adams.

But that’s not what Jackie Connors says she saw. The off-duty waitress showed up early for an after hours staff meeting. “There were two or three, um, drinks in front of her already, when I got there,” said Connors.

Jackie, who has an infant daughter of her own, consulted her own mom.

“She texted me back and said, “Call the police,” said Connors.

She called, they came, and they arrested the mom. Like the report says, eventually the charges were dropped and the busybody waitress was fired.

What makes this a Free-Range issue is:

1) The idea that if a parent does anything the least bit sub-optimal (why wasn’t she drinking organic kale juice???), the child is in immediate and grave danger. That’s  not true. Parents do not have to be “perfect” for children to thrive. But the belief that they do leads to –

2) The idea that therefore everyone should be on the lookout for any imperfect parenting behavior and immediately turn the “bad” parent over to the law.

Let cops jump in if a child is beaten, starved or neglected, not if a mom is enjoying a night out with her family in a way that some waitress somewhere disapproves of. – L. 

See? I didn't make up the name of this town. (Wish I had!)

See? I didn’t make up the name of this town. (Wish I had!)

 P.S. From the La Leche League website:

Dr. Jack Newman, member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council, says this in his handout “More Breastfeeding Myths”:

Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.