SUBMISSIONS NEEDED: Your Best or Worst Free-Range Moments of the Year!

Hi Folks! This being the round-up time of year, I’m wondering if maybe we shouldn’t be doing a round-up of our own. To that end, I’d love you to submit, below, any Free-Range moment that warmed your heart…or any incident of totally unnecessary worrying/warning/coddling/chiding/CYA-ing or waiver-writing that you witnessed or had to deal with when YOU felt your kids were fine, but some segment of society did not. The “perps” can be anyone from passersby to principals to CPS and beyond. I’m also looking for any silly rules or regulations you came upon.

So think back on a year of milestones (yay!) and millstones (argh!), and jot the stories below. Many thanks! – L

And what did YOUR family deal with, Free-Range-wise, this past year?



114 Responses to SUBMISSIONS NEEDED: Your Best or Worst Free-Range Moments of the Year!

  1. Helen November 28, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    I sent my 5-year-old son Matias to the bathroom to wash his hands at the Dunkin Donuts. I told him to go in the door marked “M”. A “strange” man both opened the door and turned on the water for him. My 3-year-old daughter wanted to go by herself too, so I let her. Unfortunately, Violet was unable to complete her mission because she only found two doors…one with an M and one with a W…and her name starts with V!

  2. Filioque November 28, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    This worst free range moment didn’t happen to me personally, but I think it’s so ridiculous as to be worth mentioning.

    My kids attend a large camp throughout the summer. There are various options for school-age kids all the way up to 15 years old. At the end of the day, Heaven forbid that parents wander around and locate their child themselves; the child is located via walkie-talkie and then escorted to the pick-up area by a camper.

    This is all good enough for my two youngish kids, I guess, but the saddest thing I saw all summer was a *15-year-old* being escorted to his waiting mommy by a camp counselor not more than a year or two older than him.

  3. Bethany November 28, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    I let my three year old play outside with our neighbor girls down the street age 7, 9, and 10 without direct adult supervision. We let her go down the street to play in their backyards as long as one of us is within shouting distance (such as on the front porch or working in the garden, or even inside with the door open on the nice day). She must come home to ask permission before crossing the street or to go to a different person’s yard. We want her to learn some independence plus she loves playing with the older girls. Many of our neighbors think this is crazy, and unsafe but I know enough parents on the street that I know there are responsible adults around in case something should occur that needs adult intervention (serious injury etc).

  4. Kate November 28, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    My best free range moment of the year was when my 7yo son volunteered to walk home from the library himself so that he could stay and read longer when I needed to take his younger siblings home. He did great, was well behaved at the library (I checked), and was very proud of himself when he made it home. :-)

    I was also pretty proud when he received his first pocketknife as a gift – but irritated when (after I reminded him not to take it to school) a relative instructed him sternly not to TALK about it at school either, because someone might interpret talking about a knife as a threat!

  5. Erin November 28, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    One day this past summer my kids (ages 2 and 4) were playing in our backyard. I was out on the back deck, watching them and puttering around a bit. The gate to the front yard was open and they wandered through. I could still see/hear them from where I was, when the phone rang. It was my neighbour, calling from across the street to make sure that I knew my kids were outside PLAYING IN OUR YARD. Seriously, they were right beside the house, at least 30 metres away from the road. When I didn’t make a big deal about it she seemed a bit taken aback. Then I added in that I could see them from where I was in the backyard and she sighed, knowing that they were being supervised.

    I love her, but she also will not let her six-year old twins cross our quiet suburban street by themselves, nor are they allowed to play outdoors (in their yard) without direct supervision. I, on the other hand, have no problem at all letting my kids play in our back yard, even when I’m – gasp! – in the house, keeping an eye on them from the kitchen.

  6. Kim November 28, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    I had a great moment at a Halloween party. My daughter was just over two (27 months) old at the time and we went to a party at a house she’s familiar with. There were a lot of adults there that she didn’t know and she left her water bottle outside on the deck. I was at the other end of the house and said “well, you should go get it. ask the adults for help with your nice asking words if you have any problems.”

    She walked to the front door, and knocked on it to ask the adults outside to open it for her, picked up her bottle, then asked for help again to open the door and get back inside. She used all of her kind asking words and remembered to say thank you to the adults who helped her. I got so many comments that day about how wonderful it was that my daughter could do these things for herself and all the adults were impressed that she was asking them for help instead of being scared of them.

    I know it’s not much, but I really felt like I had laid a groundwork of independence and problem solving.

  7. Captain America November 28, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    (I like Helen’s story).

    This year, my son rode his bike to school. The only one in the whole grade school who did so.

    The payoff? Quite a few kids admiring the idea and wishing they could also do this.

  8. Emily November 28, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    My pianist friend and I (a clarinetist) ran a “homemade” music camp this past summer, at a local church. The kids played cardboard zithers (stringed instruments) that my pianist friend made, drummed on ice cream buckets that I got from a Chinese restaurant, and stomped around on tin-can stilts (again, with cans that I’d collected). We also did “matchbox percussion,” where the kids used matchboxes (taped shut) as little maracas. At one point, just for fun, we took a picture of the warning label on one of the matchboxes, that said “Keep matches away from children,” and then had one of the youngest kids hold her matchbox up for a photo-op.

    At lunch time every day, we took the kids to the park across the street, where pretty much anything went–they had to stay within visual/shouting distance, but they were allowed (and encouraged) to do cartwheels, hang upside down and do flips on the monkey bars, play “Grounders” (a variation of tag where you apparently have to keep your eyes closed while running on the play structure), and pretty much anything else they could come up with.

    The camp staff wasn’t police-checked either; it consisted of Pianistfriend, her older son and daughter, aged 16 and 13 (her ten-year-old son was a camper), one of Pianistfriend’s private students, the brother of another one of her students, and myself. So, it was all people she knew, and trusted from–get this–actual, real-time interactions. During the two weeks that the camp run, we only had one vomiting incident (from a little girl who spun too hard on the tire swing, but later performed in the last-day “recital” anyway), one First Aid incident (one little girl cut her foot, not seriously, when she was barefoot at the park), one kid with a stomach ache on the last day (but she was good to go after a freezie and some quiet time), and a few minor “emotional” issues, that were quickly remedied as well. I know that, according to a lot of schools, and larger organizations like Scouts/Guides, this day camp would have screamed “Danger, Will Robinson!!!”; at every turn, but it really wasn’t dangerous–Pianistfriend, OlderSon, and I were all trained in First Aid, and we never let anything happen that was truly dangerous; we just used common sense, and let the kids have fun, while learning about music.

  9. Ann November 28, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    We live in a very free-range neighborhood. I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but all of my neighbors appear to be in an unspoken agreement that we are happy to be free-range. All the kids roam around all weekend unsupervised, ride their bikes to friends houses, set up lemonade stands on their own, and eat lunch at whatever house they happen upon around noon. It reminds me of my childhood. Recently, I was at the bus stop in the morning with my kids (not because they need to be supervised there but because the bus is sometimes extremely late and parents have to scramble around to figure out who is driving all the kids to school!). All the kids at the bus stop were in the street, playing soccer with an empty Gatorade bottle. I just watched them and thought to myself, “This is what childhood is all about! Figuring out that you don’t need anything more than an empty Gatorade bottle to have fun.” It made me wonder if helicopter-parented kids would have been doing the same thing. My guess is no. All of these kids are just used to entertaining themselves. When my 3 year old and I take naps on a Saturday afternoon, I tell my 11 and 8 year olds that they are not allowed in the house while I am sleeping unless they are bleeding or on fire. They happily skip out of the house and stay out playing with friends all afternoon. I love it! How else are they going to learn that an empty Gatorade bottle makes a great toy?

  10. Dlee November 28, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    I’ve actually been considering writing this for a month or two now but for reasons that will become obviously, I’ve been somewhat ashamed to share. This took place in Bendigo, Australia. A place you visited earlier this year and when I had the fortune to interview you for a friend’s radio show, you commented on how free range the regional city is and how you’d seen children walking to and from school without fear, the huge park surrounding two schools and other things like that. Well, this story proves that it’s not just a child friendly place, but parent-friendly too.

    I have a 4.5 month old newborn and I haven’t been coping very well with the birth. I’ve got a very clear case of PND and at times have found it incredibly overwhelming. My partner goes to work around 4pm and it’s usually in those hours that the baby is not only teething but tired too and it’s pretty much non-stop crying for ages.

    One day about a month ago on one of his particularly worst evenings, I lost it. He’d been screaming non-stop for about three hours only pausing long enough to feed or catch his breath to scream some more. I fed him, I’d change him, I’d jiggle him around, I’d rock him – Nothing was ceasing it. I ended up losing it and went into the other room to scream and cry desperately to myself when I heard a knock on the door. I considered ignoring it because I really wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone but got up, collected the baby one the way, and answered the door.

    I’m really glad I did. It was a woman I’d seen in my street but hadn’t really bothered to get to know since we moved in 10 months ago. She said, “Hi, what’s his name? How about I take him for a little walk, is that okay?” I had the sense to ask where she lived before handing him over, shutting the door and slumping down in the hallway to finish my cry. It was only about ten minutes later that I realised I hadn’t even asked her name and a complete stranger had basically taken my baby! But, I remembered your blog and the talk I saw you give here and didn’t panic. (Well, maybe a little…) I reassured myself that the odds of a someone hoping to steal a baby were just walking past were slim and even less so, that they’d outright ask and receive like that. She was just a neighbour sensing a distressed mother and someone who wanted to help. After all, they say it takes a village.

    Eventually I calmed down enough to find the courage to go across the street to the house I guessed was her’s. (Although I did um and uh a bit over that first, terrified she’d done something like call child protection on me for being an awful mother.) Her daughter answered the door, immediately let me in and there I found my neighbour on the chair with my baby snuggled well and finally sleeping. We spoke a little and I found out she’s a nurse with several of her own. I told her I’m a new mother, studying at the same time, and a few other details. I thanked her, took my baby home and all was well. A few days later I dropped by with a thank-you box of chocolates.

    Even though we haven’t spoken since, I know that should I get desperate again, I can probably rely on her. I’m getting help for my depression now and things are getting a little bit better so I haven’t needed to. I don’t know how I may have responded to someone trying to “steal” my baby if it hadn’t been for your blog. I’m not sure if this is the kind of story you wanted but I’ve been meaning to write to you since it happened to thank you for your blog anyway.

  11. Theresa November 28, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    About 6 wks ago, my granddaughter, Abby (11), was at home alone with her 7 yr old brother and one of her friends while her parents were at a soccer game with her other brother. Abby had transferred a load of wash to the dryer and then went upstairs to play with her friend. She heard a loud popping sound and started smelling smoke just as the fire alarm sounded. She got her friend and brother out of the house, retrieved her cell phone, called her parents after asking a neighbor to call 911.

    The house sustained a lot of damage from the dryer fire, but everyone was safe. Abby kept her head and did what she had been taught by her parents. The Fire Chief awarded her a Citizen’s Cross medal and the Mayor proclaimed a day in her honor. All of this was good and we are very proud of Abby.

    The frustrating part came in the fact that the Fire Chief had to notify CPS that Abby’s parents had left an 11 yr old and 7 yr old at home alone. Supposedly, Abby can’t be left alone at home until she’s 13.

  12. Neener November 28, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    Bad moment: The Cough Drop Debacle of 2012

    Finding out that in order for my 11-year-old daughter to have a cough drop (plain old Hall’s) at school when she clearly – to anyone with ears – had a pretty bad cough but was otherwise fine, I was required to personally bring in the UNOPENED bag (!), check said bag in with the school nurse, fill out TWO forms detailing what was in the bag, the dosage / frequency / reason for administering / my contact info / her pediatrician’s info (!!). And then when she needed one, she would only be allowed to get one at a time and two per day max, would have to get a pass out of class to go to the nurse, wait in line, sign it out on a form initialed by the nurse, finish it BEFORE LEAVING THE CLINIC (lest she choke on it while walking back to her class? drive other kids mad with envy at her cherry cough drop? who knows), then go back to class.

    Remains literally one of the dumbest charades in the name of safety I have ever heard in my life. I wanted desperately to have her sneak some in her pocket, but our district is Zero Tolerance, and I just had visions of my gifted honor student / all around awesome kid being expelled because of a freaking cough drop.

  13. Eliza November 28, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    Dlee- amazing story, brought tears to my eyes. Best of luck with starting to feel better.

  14. Gina November 28, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    When I was a teen, I took first aid classes- lots of them. To become a babysitter, to serve as a youth counselor at camp, for girl scouts. I know my way around a first aid kit and a pharmacy pretty well, considering I’m not an EMT.

    Early this year, my three year old was riding on the bottom of a shopping cart. I had three kids five and under with me, the toddler was in the baby seat of the cart, the five year old was in the basket after having a temper tantrum in the store, and the three year old found a way to ride along.

    He’s done this before and is very careful at keeping his hands out of the way.

    This time, however, he got his finger snagged. There was some blood and a lot of tears, and it looked like he was going to lose the nail. I cleaned and bandaged him, despite his protests.

    All my mom-friends, however, were shocked.

    “You’re not going to take him to the emergency room?!?!”

    I doubted myself.

    Eventually I caved and went to the emergency room, where they didn’t even bother with x-rays to tell me the finger was not broken. They even told me the nail was still in tact, and that all they could do was to bandage it.

    While changing the bandages, I found that the nurse had not applied any ointment and her bandage stuck to the wound (mine had not) and that the nail was, in fact, gone (as I had assumed).

    TL;DR version: My kid was fine. I was qualified to take care of the problem. The hysteria was unnecessary. And I did a better job than the nurse.

  15. Gina November 28, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    A good experience:

    My oldest is six and a half. In grocery stores, I’ve been giving him “tasks” to do. He has a small portion of our list that he is responsible for. I send him to find his items- usually in the same aisle I’m in, but not always.

    “Okay, go find the string cheese and bring it back.” He heads off to the cheese aisle, gets the right brand and size package and brings it back to the cart.

    “Okay, go get ten apples and bring them back.” He heads off to produce, while I’m in the nearby bread aisle, and does his job.

    Through a simple miscommunication between my husband and I one day, our oldest was “lost” in a grocery store. Neither of us panicked, but instead we set out looking for him. Before we could get very far, he emerged from the cereal aisle, holding a bag of his favorite cereal, and heading right back toward us.

    He hadn’t wandered or panicked. He simply decided to get some of his “work” done while he had a moment alone.

  16. Becca in Alaska November 28, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    My son who just turned 4 last Friday has the annoying habit of telling me he has to use the potty when my shopping cart is full but I’m no where near done. So I started sending him in by himself. He’s still to small to get the door open at some places so I stay close enough to make sure he can get in. The other day my husband took him and he told me that as he started to walk into the bathroom with him, my son stopped him told him No and made him turn around and leave. I was so proud.

  17. Havva November 28, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    My daughter will not be 2 years old for a few more months. So for her age this feels great. Anyhow, I have been training her to respond to commands like “stop.” One day a visitor left a door open and my daughter ran headlong for the unguarded stairs, shouting to her pets downstairs. Unable to catch up I yelled “stop” and she listened (hallelujah)!

    So I set up a test with her outdoor play and discovered/developed her ability to play safely outside.

    We have a pretty flat driveway that slops toward the house. When my daughter rode her toy car, I had been standing guard at the end of the driveway to stop her and turn her around, lest she roll into the street. After the stairs stop worked, I backed off, kept an eye on the road, and used a “stop, come back” reminder instead. Then I hesitated on the reminder, and lo and behold, at the crest of the driveway she turned and came back, on her own! It has been a couple of months, and she hasn’t once gone into the street. I’ve even caught her eying the street and stopping further up the driveway to let a car pass, before she edges up to the crest to launch herself back toward the house. I still keep an eye on her, and the street, but it feels so nice to have and adult conversation and let her just play.

    Similarly, when we walk she stops at the curb and reaches for my hand before crossing. All of which gives me the comfort to let her have a little leeway in familiar, uncrowded, situations. It is great to see her taking a role in her own safety.

    It’s been about a year since I became frustrated with the safety obsessed cult(ure), and went looking for Lenore. I would like to thank all the parents here, especially Lenore, for showing me the thought process behind sane parenting. Seeing how other parents judge their children’s ability, set up tests, and accordingly let go bit by bit, has put me back in touch with my own good sense, and made me a better, happier mom.

  18. Mike November 28, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Neener, you are right to be concerned about the school overreacting to a cough drop. To a bureaucrat, results don’t matter, process does. See, they have this Wonderful Structure, put in place To Protect The Children. Any violations of the procedure are bad, by definition.

    Resident school thug brings in hard drugs? Expel!
    Straight-A honor roll student brings in a cough drop? Expel!

    Publicly shame them. At the next PTA / school board / etc meeting, describe the process in all its convoluted detail, and demand a simpler process.

  19. pentamom November 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    My two “worst” experiences weren’t all that bad, and they weren’t so much personal problems as examples of bureaucratic stupidity that I had to put up with. Both involved my then-19-year-old son.

    The first one was the permission slip for the traditional last day of school “Senior Slip ‘n Slide.” They set up a slip n’ slide in the stadium that adjoins the school, and the seniors get to play on it for a couple of hours. This is a college-prep magnet school with a very low rate of serious disciplinary problems.

    But still, for a kid who is old enough to be in Afghanistan, learning to be a firefighter, or driving a delivery truck, I had to sign a permission slip that contained the sentence, “I understand that my student WILL GET WET.”

    A couple of weeks later we dealt with the clearances for his summer job. In order for him to work cleaning and painting an EMPTY elementary school over the summer, he had to get three clearances — at the cost of ~$50 plus a two week hiring delay until the clearances came through; IOW, the cost of two weeks’ pay.

  20. Amy November 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    My 7 year old son stays at school for after-care until around 5. We signed him up for a soccer team that practices at a park one block away from the school at 4:30. What I wanted to happen was that at 4:00 he would be dismissed from the after-care, he’d go to the bathroom and change into his uniform, then walk the block to the park.

    I was gearing up for a major battle with the school principle or the people who run the after care program. I calculated how long it would take him to walk there, found crime statistics for the neighborhood, and got ready to make my case. But when I met with the principal, she just smiled, said she thought it was a lovely idea, and had me put in writing what days he had soccer practice. No one gave me the slightest hassle.

    He started walking with no problems and enjoyed his independence.

  21. Doug D November 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    A recent article from the Calgary Herald talks about kids riding their bikes to school. It seems to me like it exemplifies the free-range philosophy. It includes kids, safety, freedom and a level of common sense that should pervade our society.

  22. Jacob Hugart November 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    My 9-year-old daughter decided to go out biking in the neighborhood. She has several blocks where she can freely go on her own in our residential area that dates to the early 20th century, a number of single-family houses.

    This day, I had a friend over, and she noticed it was starting to rain. She asked if we should drive out and find my daughter. I declined, saying that my daughter wasn’t evil enough to melt from water, and that it wasn’t enough rain to prevent her riding her bike back home, or walking it back as a worse case.

    My friend kept asking, though, and I said rain didn’t make it automatically necessary to rescue my daughter from a bike ride. It was just weather. She has to wait at a corner in such weather to catch her school bus, too.

    My daughter came home just fine, only a little damp from the rain. But my friend’s clear upset became my teaching moment on free-range childhood.

  23. Havva November 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Big hugs. I never talked to a doctor about it, but I was in a pretty dark place in the first year. I’m glad to hear you are getting help.

    I totally lost my ability to cope when my still colicky baby was 5.5 months old. I just told my husband I was leaving and walked out, late at night, in pajamas. Two blocks from home I crumpled up crying in a neighbor’s yard, feeling like a doomed woman, and the worst mom in the world. A cop (!) found me. I was nervous, flighty, and evasive, not how to act around a cop. But I managed to give my name and choke out what was wrong. She told me that though she has no children, she knows sleep deprivation and colic frustrates many moms. Her own mother had a rough time with a sibling. And the cop told me very firmly that I had done the right thing by walking out of the house that night. She talked to me about everything and nothing until I mostly calmed down, and walked home. When I got home my baby was sound asleep.

    I felt pretty ashamed too, and a little worried. But it meant the world to me to get sympathy and reassurance. The experience helped me understand what many friends, and my parents, had been trying to tell me from the beginning:

    Sometimes mom can’t fix the crying, and that isn’t your fault.

    Go ahead and give yourself permission, anytime you fell too stressed, to put the baby somewhere safe and walk away. Do something to take care of yourself for a few minutes. Grab a bite to eat, water some plants, anything not baby related. You will be amazed how many of your baby’s problems you will solve by taking 5-10 minutes for yourself. My husband and I started calling it the oxygen mask rule. As the airlines say: “Always secure your own mask before helping your child, or others.”

    Hang in there, Dlee. Plenty of moms have had a rough start, even more have seen it happen to someone they love, and understand. You aren’t alone.

  24. Michelle November 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    I don’t know what you’d call this, but I’m amazed at all the moms I know that say “oh I could never leave my kid overnight with my husband.” I’m always baffled. I mean, didn’t you marry the guy? But you don’t trust him with your kids? Sure, he may not do things the same way you do, but I’ll bet he has a vested interest in their safety.

    In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed several trips over the few years we’ve had our son with friends while my husband enjoys his guy time. He goes on trips as well and then it’s my turn.

  25. Chris V November 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    I have a neighbor that appears to feel the safety of every child in the area is her personal responsibility. She is so busy admonishing the other children not to climb trees, touch the communal mailboxes, ride their bikes too fast, etc., that she general ignores her own 2-year-old. I have nearly hit her when she has run out in front of my car more than once, and can no longer walk my non-child-friendly dog near her house because she runs up and tries to grab her every. single. time no matter what I say. So I have taught my children (8 and 10) to politely tell her that their parents are fine with them doing x. That goes over like a lead balloon, but then they just keep on tree-climbing and ignore her.

  26. Krolik November 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Love the stories above, especially the music camp, the 2-year-old who plays safely outside, and all the little kids using the bathroom unsupervised.


    10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old friend taking the metro to DC for an unsupervised tour of the monuments.

    A scavenger hunt for daughter and her friends. They walked over a mile (unsupervised) and completed assignments like “Climb a tree. Meet a stranger and ask them to take your picture.”

    Daughter’s weekly walks to a strip mall three blocks away to buy lunch, an ice cream cone, and hang out at the toy store.


    School notifying parents that we will not be able to celebrate 5th grade promotion with a pool party this year (a 20-year tradition), because it is no longer considered safe.


    Principal threatening to call CPS because daughter rides the city bus to school.

  27. hineata November 28, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    @Michelle – these days you’re right, unless the man concerned has PTSD. Totally off topic, but my grandmother and friends in her ‘burb seldom left the children home alone with their fathers because the men were subject to shellshock etc, some drank like fish to cope and most could be dangerous – you never snuck up on my grandfather, for instance, even into his eighties. Wasn’t worth the trauma, for you or him!

    Back to the topic at hand, my kids are all older now, 16 down to 11, so you’d expect them to be doing most things alone/ in pairs okay, and they do. Have been very pleased with the way I can just let them get on with the baking etc and how they now give me advice on what I should be doing differently with my biscuits…. Also how the two girls do fine repairing each other when they crash their bikes on the way to/from school, play etc. Since Midge’s immuno-crap diagnosis, 11 year old has even become the antiseptic nazi, insisting on washing her sister’s wounds with antiseptic wipes from her kit and then applying the cream before fitting the correct sized sterile wound pad, yada, yada – the rest of us, including Midge herself, still just rinse stuff with water and bung on a bandaid! Anyway good to see them getting on with most things.

  28. marie November 28, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Funny you should ask! Just received an email from the school district:

    Dear Parents and Guardians:

    We want to make you aware of an incident this morning that occurred in or near your child’s school attendance area. A man driving a van stopped at the Kingswood Avenue bus stop and attempted to start a conversation with a North High School student waiting for the bus. The student did the right thing, turning away and running to a nearby house for help. Police were notified, and the man has been taken into custody.

    This is a good reminder of how important it is that we all talk with students often about stranger danger. Please remind your children of these safety tips:

    – Children should walk with a buddy. Parents can also ask older students to accompany kids on a walk.
    – Tell children to always refuse to go anywhere with people they don’t know.
    – Tell children that they are not expected to help adults with directions or lost puppies. If a car stops and the driver attempts to ask for help, children should run away.
    – In potentially dangerous situations, children should make lots of noise to alert neighbors, run to a safe place or find an adult they can trust.

    Thank you for your help in making sure our children understand the importance of this information. Children need to hear these tips often from adults they trust. If you have any questions about this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to call. Working together, we will keep our community safe.

    For those of you who missed it, this was an incident involving a high school student. Even high school students, who should be quite capable of giving directions to a lost driver, are told to RUN if a driver even attempts to ask for help.

    Worse, the man, who attempted to start a conversation, according to the newspaper report, was taken into CUSTODY. Under what charges, I cannot imagine.

  29. Jenny Islander November 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    The good: My two daughters, ages 8 and 6, going downtown by themselves, on foot, together, with my cell phone in case they got scared but without me. They were gone for almost two hours and had a blast doing I have no idea what. I just reminded them to take their purses just in case, mind their manners because every business owner in town knows our family, and stick together at the crosswalks.

    The bad: I had to put my sleepy toddler into the stroller on the way back from the corner store. Traffic was light and I could see the one crosswalk between us and home. My 8-year-old was off doing something else, so only the 6-year-old was with us. I had her practice good crosswalk behavior while I was tucking blankets and such around the toddler, and off she went. Well, she was doing so well that I doubled back to check the store bulletin board. And what should I see in the vacant lot along our route home but my daughter, eyes like golf balls, next to an SUV with a strange couple leaning over her.

    They saw her going home by herself, pulled off the road, drove across the vacant lot, and rolled their giant truck after my little girl because, I dunno, they thought that she was going to be eaten by a lion on the way to the house she could point at from where she was standing! She was just fine until the scary strangers started acting like she was in danger.

  30. Brenna November 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    I had a bit of an inadvertent free-range moment recently. My six year old (and highly precocious) daughter decided, completely of her own accord, to get off the bus at home. I was in a meeting, and came out to find several frantic messages from the after school sitter. My daughter, (who said she decided she just wanted some alone time), went into the house, got herself a snack, cleaned up, did her homework, practiced piano, made my bed, and started to read. Frankly, I had a really hard time being too mad at her.

  31. Mike Blanpied November 28, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    An article on Huffington Post lauds and reprints a statement by Jada Pinkett Smith (wife of Will) responding to critical comments “letting” her 12-year-old daughter Willow do various things to her hair:

    “The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be. More to come. Another day.”

    Well said. Pictures and story here:

  32. Janet November 28, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    My 9yo and her best friend started walking to school – 3km, with a doozy of a pedestrian crossing on the route.

    After just two days of doing this, they took it upon themselves to visit the school office to check that it was okay to ride their bikes. It was, so one day a week (when neither of them has before- or after-school commitments) they ride to and from school, so 6km in total.

    Oh, and a baby step for my 7yo, who I sent into the supermarket alone for the first time yesterday with cash and instructions to buy some tortillas. She was in and out in no time, arriving back at the car with the biggest grin on her face that she had accomplished something on her own.

  33. Chihiro November 28, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    Both a good and bad Free-Range story.
    I work at a movie theater, and on this particular night I was working the night shift, so I didn’t get done until around eleven. A few of my guys friends asked if I wanted to go to Applebees after work. Keep in mind that I am a seventeen, soon to be eighteen, year old girl. All three of my friends are guys, the youngest one being just a few weeks older than me and the oldest being twenty.
    I called my parents (Father and Step-Mother) after I got off to let them know I was going, but they didn’t answer. I sent them a text so they knew not to expect me (I knew that it wouldn’t be a huge deal) and went off.
    I had a great time with these guys for nearly an hour, but a bit before midnight, two of the guys had to leave.
    Why? Midnight curfew. I usually wouldn’t think it was so weird, but the younger one was turning eighteen in two days. Like, he would be an adult in two day’s time.
    The other one was nineteen, but he had taken some time off school to make some money and was still living with his parents before he enrolled in spring semester courses. He had a midnight curfew as well.
    The oldest one had no such curfew, despite the fact he also lived with his parents, (paying rent) so we hung out and talked for another half hour. My father called a bit after midnight and said I could stay out if I wanted to, just nothing ‘too crazy’ and to text him when I left. (It had just snowed recently and roads were icy.)
    So good for my dad. I just don’t understand giving your nineteen-year-old (especially a responsible one like my coworker) a midnight curfew.

  34. Jenny Islander November 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    Willow’s latest hairstyle is just so cute on top; it looks like one of those tiny expensive hats from the 1860s, that’s just a bunch of little pink satin flowers sewn together into a doily shape and perched on top of the head. In fact I thought that was what it was at first. Cute, cute, cute! And incidentially not actually my business because it’s not actually my head!

  35. Irene November 28, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    The good: Going to Amsterdam, Netherlands, which is generally a more free-range city and letting our non-Dutch-speaking little girls (6 and 8) go around the corner, out of sight, to the nearby playground! And take walks around the block!

    More good: letting the same little girls bake treats, pick cucumbers in the garden, etc., and deliver surprises to our neighbors – all have large woodsy lots and are spaced kinda far apart on our curvy road. They know to walk on the grass and I trust all our neighbors to keep an eye on them. Our older neighbors have been delighted by their visitors. :)

    The bad (or just DUMB): The girls’ elementary school outlawed CHAPSTICK last year. Chapstick! Apparently there was some confusion with the younger kids sharing chapstick that was supposedly “medicated” or intended for cold sores, etc. So instead of teaching children not to share their chapstick/lip gloss, they banned it all. If I want my children to get help for their bleeding/cracked lips, they need to go see the nurse. She will give them some Vaseline. Or, if I want them to be able to use regular Chapstick or lip balm, I must get a medication request FROM OUR DOCTOR, stating when/how often it can be applied, specifically mentioning the product name, and it must be kept in the nurse’s office! Chapstick! I might have off-handedly mentioned to them that they could keep it in their jeans pocket and maybe put it on while in the bathroom stall……sigh…..

  36. Stephanie November 28, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    I have my two oldest walking to and from school on their own. It’s a 5 minute walk, but this is the first year they’ve both been agreeable to the idea, and the first year that neither has been in a grade level where the school prefers to have all the kids picked up by an adult. Nice thing is that even the parents who didn’t like the idea at first are more used to it now. Haven’t had any trouble with anyone offering them rides home.

    We did have one massive storm earlier in the year where I went to the school with coats and umbrellas for them, but that was an unusual day where a mild day with only a little rain forecast turned into a major storm with downed tree branches and rain hard enough that it was hard for me to cross the street with all the water rushing through the gutters. Most times, I warned them, they can just get wet.

  37. vjhr November 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Ten- and twelve-year-olds taking the metro into DC for unsupervised monument tour??? WOW. I am all for free-range but no way I could go for that one.

  38. Maegan November 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm #


    Sorry, but the reason most women rarely left their children at home with Dad was based on society’s belief that women belonged in the home and needed to provide all care for kids.

    My relief over the fact that this idea has faded quite a bit by now is immeasurable. My husband and are planning to co-parent heavily. He’ll be alone with the twins a lot from the time they are infants. I do have family members who still don’t leave the kids with Dad for long periods. It will always baffle me, and I’m just grateful that I married a man who doesn’t put any duties on me based exclusively on gender. If you can make people, then you can care for people.

  39. Paul R. Welke November 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    My son, wife, and I were visiting his best friend and their parents. It was a really nice day out, so both moms and I decided to take the kids to the spray park by their place while the other dad fired up the BBQ.

    We let the boys, both four at the time, pretty much run around and play as they saw fit, while we found a shady spot to sit down and chat. After some time, I figured that it was probably time to check in on them, and my boy had split off to head over to the swing set, where he was being pushed by some massive dude with a beard who looked like an extra from “Sons of Anarchy.” (He was also pushing the kid beside mine, which we’re assuming may have been his.)

    Nobody freaked out or anything. We mostly thought that it was kinda funny. As we left, my boy and I both thanked his new friend, who waved and smiled as we walked back.

    Basically, we don’t subscribe to the “Don’t Talk to Strangers” rule. Our rule for our son is that he can talk to anyone he wants, but he can’t go anywhere with strangers.

  40. AnnMarie November 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    17 year old daughter went to Cambodia on a service learning class with a dozen schoolmates and two teachers. The students fundraised for the trip and helped to plan it. When my daughter and three of the others got separated from the group and had to negotiate a large city in a very different country they were able to work together to find their way. It’s an extreme example of free-range, but as my daughter heads off to college I don’t’ have to worry about her finding her way in the world.

  41. Warren November 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Re: leaving kids with Dad.
    I have had family members, usually the older ones make the mistake of calling it babysitting when the kids and I are together. They only make that mistake, once.

    Best moment of the year is also the worst. Finding this site, was the best. Seeing the disturbing trends, the worst.

    Here is to a brighter future.

  42. Drew November 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    It’s just a small thing, but a large part of this last year has been marked by my 7 and 8-year-old kids (and several neighbor kids) playing outside — after dark! (Typical kid games: Hide and Seek, Ghost in the Graveyard) And nobody at all suggesting that this was somehow a bad thing.

  43. Gina November 28, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    @Neener..I just did exactly the same thing for exactly the same “medication” (cherry cough drops)…Do you live in Scottsdale? LOL I think my favorite part of it is the Doctor’s Phone Number….In case of a cough drop emergency????? My son is 15. He cooks, cleans and stays home alone…OMG..what if he gets a cough drop when I’m not at home???

  44. Michelle November 28, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    @Warren, I agree, it’s very strange. My parents still will call my husband when I’m out of town and make sure he’s ok, as if he’s incapable of dealing with a 4 year old. But it’s a generational thing I suppose. However like I said, I still know people now that balk at leaving the kid alone with the husband. I think my son is better off having some daddy alone time anyways.

  45. Meagan November 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    My older son started Kindergarten this year. Even though we live close to the school, he takes the bus because of the state highway with no sidewalks that he would have to cross to get to school.

    My Free Range issue has been a recurring problem with our bus driver. I’ve sometimes come home shaking in anger after dealing with her and her paranoia. Sometimes I feel like I’m the crazy one… until other parents, including another family with kids getting on at the same stop, reassure me that the driver is overly protective.

    We’ve had issues with her yelling if the kids so much as move when the bus isn’t at a complete stop. She spent the beginning of the year insisting that I hold my 4 year old’s hand, even if he was standing still next to me (for the record, I refused). I finally convinced him to stay home most days (1 house away from the stop), although I was worried the first few times that she would call and report me for leaving him there. Really, he could step out our front door and wave to me if there was a problem. The 5 minutes I’m at the stop is not much different from when I take a shower or am otherwise indisposed.

    One of my (least) favorite incidents came when the driver insisted we had to walk over to the driveway where we usually wait before she could leave after dropping the kids off. Considering we live in a neighborhood with no sidewalks, we were at least 10 feet away from the bus, and he was standing still next to me, holding my hand (not because I insisted but because he likes to do that sometimes), I refused. And we walked across the street and headed home instead.
    (If you really want to read the full story, I blogged about it here:

    While I understand that she is concerned with the kids’ safety, we prefer our kids to learn how to deal with traffic rather than be scared of it. Just a week after that incident, while walking in our very safe neighborhood, something we do frequently, both of my sons jumped out of the street into the grass when a car drove past us. Not the lesson I want them to learn.

  46. Maegan November 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    “Ten- and twelve-year-olds taking the metro into DC for unsupervised monument tour??? WOW. I am all for free-range but no way I could go for that one.”

    Really?! I love it! In my opinion, it all depends on what the children can handle and what they’re comfortable with. I wouldn’t force a 10-year-old who wasn’t comfortable to do something like this, but I definitely wouldn’t stand in her way if she felt she was capable. What’s going to happen? She’s going to get lost and have to call me from a payphone to pick her up? She’s not going to fall into a black hole and be lost forever.

  47. CrazyCatLady November 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    Best: Librarian said that she “Loves!” having my kids unattended at the library because they are so good.

    Worst: My daughter can’t go to the bathroom at school by herself, she must take a buddy. The reason is, the school is homeschoolers, but the campus is shared with an alternative high school. The high school is letting our kids use one room (one day a week) , but it is a portable, and it has the highschool in between it and the other homeschool buildings. Kids in the portable are not allowed to use the high school bathroom and they must have a buddy in case they meet up with the high schoolers as they walk over to “their” campus. While I see that some of the alternative school kids do go off campus to smoke, I am not afraid of them, and appreciate the fact that they are looking for a good education too. My daughter is almost 13, and there are high school aged kids in our homeschool group, which she and all the other kids are allowed to interact with. But, they can’t interact with the alternative school kids of the same age. I wonder who they think will corrupt who!

  48. CrazyCatLady November 28, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Meagan, actually, have you seen a pay phone lately? I gave my daughter some money to call me when she was done at the library….but there was no pay phone, just a hole in the wall. The librarian did say it was fine to use the desk phone.

  49. Mary Fran November 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    Just yesterday, I overheard another mother at school pick-up tell the school secretary that she had seen two kids left alone in a car out front. The secretary said it’s ILLEGAL to leave a child under 14 alone in a car (it’s NOT) and the two of them discussed all the worst first things that could have happened, including “someone smashing the window and TAKING them.” Yes, right in front of the school and I’m sure that no one would stop them. I stepped in it and got an ear full from them.

  50. Krolik November 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm #


    It took a lot of preparation, making sure they knew exactly where they were going, both on the metro and when they got there. Both of them ride metro a lot and visit the monuments a lot with parents and had taken their first solo metro trips that summer. My daughter had also practiced navigating DC with a map. It’s bringing it all together in one trip that was scary (for us parents) but the kids did great.

  51. Mary B. November 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    My personal free-range story is simple, but makes me happy. We recently moved back to my hometown, and our new house has a small backyard. My daughter is still a baby, and often falls asleep in her stroller during our walks. When this happens, I usually wheel her into the backyard and let her have a nap in the fresh air, while keeping a window open so I can hear her if she wakes up. I recently met my the neighbour that shares our fence in the backyard, and she mentioned she had noticed the baby napping in her stroller from time to time. I braced myself for a “worst first” lecture, but was thrilled when my neighbour congratulated me for letting the baby sleep outside. My neighbour also reassured me that she would keep an eye on things if she noticed the stroller, because caring and friendly communities are what keep neighbourhoods safe!

  52. GiGiSeattle November 28, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    My milestone was when my husband let his 6 year old daughter walk 2 doors down to visit her friends by herself. Typically, he would just tell her that should couldn’t go if I wasn’t there to walk her because he doesn’t want to deal with it. I have been saying for months that she can walk on her own anyway. And finally over thanksgiving break, she asked and he relented. She walked just fine, stopped and looked and listened for cars and made it there and back in 1 happy child piece. So proud of my hubbie and thankful for this blog to keep me thinking along the lines of an independent kid!

  53. Warren November 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    I am sorry, because I know this is going to probably irk some of the parents here.

    One of the disturbing trends I wrote of is parents just accepting idiotic rules, set down by others for their kids.

    For example, the whole cough drop thing. I do not know where you live, but I highly doubt that the school has the authority to override your own instructions when it comes to your own kids.

    We have had the high school here once, try to control my oldests prescriped anti-infamatory/pain med. They told us to leave it in the office, and they would dispense it, accordingly. I told them, no thank you, she will keep them with her, and dispense accordingly.
    They argued school policy, rules, safety and on. I gave them our doctor’s phone number, and told them to call him.
    They did. And a couple minutes later, they apologized for any inconvenience.

    School rules and policies cannot interfere with the wishes of the parents, and the directives of the students attending doctor. Got to love my Doc, he loves putting these power mad admins in their place.

  54. Becca in Alaska November 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    hineata, be careful with your blanket statements. My husband has PTSD but he does just fine around our kids. In fact two weeks ago he had a four day weekend, so I sent him packing, with all four of our kids (4,2, and 8 week old twins) to his mothers house, seven hours away. I had an amazingly quite and peaceful weekend alone and all my kids came back just fine.

  55. mary colby November 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    We recently took our 9 year old boys on a trip to SLC. the hotel where we were staying had a couple of tables in the lobby where the boys could play checkers. they asked if they could go play. we said yes, even though the lobby was quite far away….but we trusted them to behave themselves. so they walked away down the hall around the corner and played a game of checkers. my only parting words to them???? “No cheating!!!” I wasn’t worried in the least. They loved their freedom and felt like big kids.

  56. Jackie November 28, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    @Warren-I agree the cough drop thing is totally stupid. I keep some in my desk and if a student needs one, they’ve been known to ask for one. However, I do see the need for restrictions on prescription meds-we’ve had kids who have sold/given out their ADD meds or pain meds to other kids while at school. If a child has a prescription medication, they’re required to have it in the office and then they simply go down to take it at the required time. There’s no long lines or forms to fill out-our secretaries know the kids well so it’s not like there’s a long and drawn out procedure. While I’m sure you trust your child to use the medication appropriately, there are those who would not, which is why that particular rule is in place at most schools. Rules for non-prescription meds should be totally different, I think.

  57. Brandi November 28, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    First the bad: I started letting my 1st grader walk to and from school this year(<< not the bad part).We live less than a mile from school, and a LOT of kids from the neighborhood walk (yay!). We started letting my son walk because the pick up/drop off line was INSANE, but also because he was ASKING to walk! We started out with me picking him up and dropping him off at the front of out neighborhood, which is right across the street from the school… he just needed to cross 1 street which has a crossing guard… Easy peasy! Once he got used to that, I stated allowing him to walk the whole way. Now, here's where it gets upsetting… about 2 weeks after my son started walking, my grandma finds out. She called me crying, begging me not to let him walk because "anything could happen", "kids get snatched left and right", "what if…", and my least favorite (which she uses a LOT), "THEY say….." No word on who "They" are. She even went so far as to repeatedly ask if SHE could drive from across town to take him to and from school!… So I guess that's my free-range milestone for the year, I had someone (someone close to me, no less) tear me down and call me a bad mother for letting my kid walk. *Sigh*

    Now for the good: A few weeks ago, my son's (same 1st grade son) school had a fall carnival in the school parking lot. I'm co-room-mom for his class, so I was in charge of running the class booth for a large part of the festival, so my husband was left to walk around the festival with the kids. Well my two younger kids got tired, so my husband needed to take them home, but my 6 year old son wanted to stay and use the rest of his tickets.It was a pretty busy event with hundreds of people in attendance, but he has been showing a lot of responsibility lately, so we decided that he could stay and walk around by himself. We gave him the rest of all our tickets and sent him off to play. He. Had. A. Blast!!!!! But my favorite was when he came up to me at the booth to show me that he bought a hot dog for himself. I was amazed that he didn't "waste" all his tickets on games, and come beg me for money when he got hungry, but he did it all by himself. And he was SOOOOO proud of himself for it!!! He was positively BEAMING when he came to show me his food, and told me about how he counted out the tickets by himself to pay. The next day he couldn't stop talking about how much fun he had walking around by himself! I'm so proud of my responsible little boy :)

  58. Krista November 28, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    We got the bike rack back at the local elementary school! Thanks to Live Well we got a new bike rack so the kids can ride their bikes to school again…Very happy to have accomplished this and help prevent childhood obesity in my new town!

  59. Krista November 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    And they walk or ride the whole mile alone!

  60. Lisa November 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    We’ve had a couple of successful moments that come to mind as I look back over the past year. First, my daughter (10) asked to go to the library after school. It’s only about a mile from our apartment, and we live on the main road so it’s a straight shot. I asked her to call me when she got home from school before heading out to the library, and reminded her to bring her watch and library card. I met her there about an hour later. The whole experience was good, and she actually ended up talking a couple of friends into going with her!
    Then, a couple of months ago a friend asked me if I were free to grab dinner after work. I called my daughter, who had gotten home at around 3 and was expecting me at 5:30. On her suggestion, I accepted the invitation, while she crossed the street to the grocery store, bought a microwavable dinner, made it for herself, and cleaned up. I got home at around 7:30 to find her reading quietly, having eaten dinner and finished her homework. She even told me that I didn’t have to pay her back for the ice cream she bought, only the dinner! It sounds like a little thing, but I was really proud of the way she just handled what needed to get done in the evening. I know women that don’t leave their husbands in charge of dinner without making something in advance and leaving instructions for reheating… my 10 year old managed just fine!

  61. Puzzled November 28, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    @Neener – honestly, at this point, I’m fed up enough with our society to say “so what?” Ok, expel her – over a cough drop. Fine. She’ll have learned the most valuable lesson a child can learn – how stupid so-called authorities are.

    What are we all so afraid of, really? We’re afraid that, if punished, we will not rise to success in their idiotic system – which is important because…

  62. Kim Z. November 28, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    When my daughter was 13 years old she was invited to attend a leadership camp. Her session was athletics and they were given a uniform but could do laundry during the week. Out of 16 girls my daughter was the ONLY one who knew how to do laundry so she organized lights and darks and did EVERYONE’s laundry.

    When my youngest was 10 she forgot her key at home and couldn’t get into our house after school. I was at work and I got a call from her at the neighbour’s house to explain what happened. I asked her what she would have done if they weren’t home. She said she would have gone to the other neighbour’s house or her friend’s house or back to the school if none of those worked out. She created her own plan on the fly.

  63. Sarah November 28, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    My 3rd grader started riding his bike to school this year and loved it. 3rd grade is when children in our district are allowed to do this and many kids who live in the neighborhood adjacent to the school do. We live outside the neighborhood and it’s about ¾ of a mile for him. I started over the summer by having him ride his bike to his junior lifeguard summer camp. A few month into the school year said 3rd grader decided to follow a friend home from school and didn’t tell any-one where he was. He is supposed to be home by 3:30, at 4:30 our babysitter (the babysitter watches our 1 year old during the day) called me at work to let me know he hadn’t come home from school. No panic, I called his friends parents to see if he was at any of their houses. No one had seen him. Getting worried I left work and drove to the park, school, 7/11 and started checking the neighborhood near his school. Still no sign of him. By now it was 6pm and he still wasn’t home. Thoughts ran through my mind of him being hit by a car and taken to a hospital, or the very unlikely chance of abduction, but I knew the most likely scenario was that he went to someone’s house. As it was now dark, my husband and I decided we had to call the police. Of course as almost as soon as they arrived at our house to take the report my husband spotted him several streets over heading home. He had followed a friend home from school, not called anyone, and then got lost in the kids neighborhood filled with cul-de-sacs, eventually he spotted his own bikes tire tracks (from riding through the mud) and followed them out.
    Thankfully the policeman who responded was wonderful. He lectured the boy about not calling, not us for allowing him the freedom of a bike. He did very firmly suggest that I get the boy a cell phone, which I have been firmly against. But, due to the fact that the boy does have a tendency to wander and I am pretty sure that the city is going to send me the helicopter bill (yes, they deployed a helicopter) if it ever happens again I am planning on getting him one. Once he is no longer grounded.

  64. Librarymama November 28, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    My kindergartener rides the bus (already a big deal for some). When we first walked to the stop, I told her that if she gets off and no one is there to get her, she should walk to her daycare. It’s one block away with one street to cross at a 4 way stop.
    Well, I forgot to inform her daycare that soccer had ended so they would need to pick her up on a day they didn’t normally. What happened? She did just what we had talked about! She got off the bus and walked to her daycare. Done. The daycare was freaked out but I was SO proud that she just did exactly what she was supposed to do. And guess what? SHE wasn’t freaked out at all. Now, the other parents I tell this to are another story altogether.

  65. hineata November 28, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    @Becca – so sorry, you’re right, I probably did overstep the mark. Not sure why I even thought about it….happened to be the case for a certain group in a certain area of town miles away from you years ago…..and a group of people who didn’t get any kind of psych help, aside from the odd zap with ECT. Just feel sorry for them, I guess…..was not easy being a WW1 (or 2, for that matter) vet. Not the understanding or help people get now. Just families left picking up the pieces.

    Am glad your husband had a good time with your kids, and you had a good time too.

    I did love my grandad very much, you just had to be careful around him – as I meant to say, for his sake as much as ours. And the others I met of his time and experience…..

  66. Kim Z. November 28, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    The bad: My 9th grader is involved in high school swim team with early morning practices. I made mention that she was getting tired and starting to go to bed of her own accord quite early. This other mother comment, “aww poor thing and I see you make her walk home from school too. I see her walking home all the time”

    and most recent: Tag, manhunt and football has been banned from the public school for JUST the grade 7s. Haven’t gotten to the bottom of this one. but I’m thinking a blanket approach of punishment for all for the aggressive nature of the few?

  67. Jessica November 28, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    During the first snow of the year last year, I took my 1-year-old daughter outside to let her see snow for the first time. We live on a very quiet residential street and it was early in the morning.

    She saw squirrels running around and making footprints across the road and was delighted when she found that she could also make foot prints.
    We held hands and walked back and forth over the road, making foot prints, and when a car turned down the street at the end of the road I picked her up and carried her back to the sidewalk.

    Later that day my husband came home from work and asked me what I had been doing letting our daughter play in the road. I was confused at first, then he explained that one of our neighbours had went to tell him that I was letting our daughter play in the road and he needed to make sure I knew how dangerous that was.

    When I explained that we were holding hands and just making footprints he was furious with the neighbour for blowing things out of proportion. But anyway, I’ve been branded as a neglectful parent on the block and am now always getting comments from neighbours about what my daughter is wearing, or eating, or how many steps in front or behind me she’s walking when we’re walking up town on the sidewalk.

    It’s exhausting.

  68. Marcela November 28, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    There is one event that happened in the last year that above all others, made me think about being a free-range parent. My seven year old and her seven year old buddy (and neighbor) wanted to leave the school playground before their respective families were ready to leave. They were whining about it and I jokingly said, “why don’t you just walk home then?” It was a joke as we had never walked home from school, not only because it’s almost 2 miles, but because there are several obstacles in the way- a major road to cross, and a HUGE hill that crosses through a rather bad neighborhood. After my off the cuff remark, the other Dad and I went back to our conversations and watching the younger kids but we soon noticed that the seven year olds were missing. We laughed off the possibility that they would have taken me seriously and guessed they were hiding or had gone back inside. Soon we got worried and organized a search party. The girls were eventually found halfway home (having navigated the busy street, the huge hill, the scary neighborhood) and of course, they were distressed that they had not been given enough time to reach their destination. They had lots of stories from the trip. They had been stopped by a “nice man” who told them to be careful- he had also given them his card- it was our local councilman. (I’m still not sure how I feel about that part of it)
    I consider this a GOOD moment because the girls showed what they could accomplish, and they felt great about their adventure . I felt BAD about it because it showed how much we underestimated them. Of course they knew the way (we delayed our search because we were so sure they wouldn’t be able to retrace the way we drive every day). Of course they would have the courage to try it together. And of course they were fine.

  69. Mareese November 28, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    We were camping with some friends this summer. One adult had taken all the kids to the campground playground while the rest of us prepared dinner. Suddenly i heard a unknown man say “Is this them?’ and my 5 yr old son say “Yes, thanks!”. I turned to see my son walking into our area with a man we didn’t know. My son had wanted to walk back to camp before the other kids were ready and had gotten a little confused on the little roads in the camp, so he had seen a car coming (bear in mind this is a family campground with 5mph roads) and had waved down the car. He told the man that he had lost his family and needed help to find his campsite. The man (of course) jumped out of his car and walked around with him until we were located. I was just amazed at the confidence and initiative of my son to ask for help. My son assured me that he knew not to get into the car. I’ve told this to several people and a number of them were horrified…… “You should tell him to go to someone with a uniform or someone in charge”, “but the man could have been anyone!!”…..the “what ifs” were very creative! What proportion of people wouldn’t help a 5yr old who asked them for help? I am proud of my son for his initiative and confidence!

  70. Crystal November 28, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    good: the middle school principal at the school where I teach and where my daughter attends has read Free Range Kids, the book, and puts it in practice with his 200+ middle schoolers. They get an hour long lunch, unheard of in many schools, and are encouraged to play, run, jump, and play ball, eat lunch and generally be a kid. Teachers are asked to nudge kids off of their laptops during this time and kick them out of the building to enjoy the outside. Love it!

  71. Lyndsay November 28, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    I let my, at the time, 2 1/2 year old play about 20 feet away from us in a wide open public shopping plaza away from any roads in broad daylight. We had a clear view of her and she has never been a runner. That didn’t stop a scolding Grandma from telling us we needed to be watching her better and that anything could happen. She concluded with “There she goes, now” as Zoey climbed off of the bench she was on and danced closer to us.

    The same type of woman (thought we were 700 miles away at this point) scolded me last week because my soundly sleeping, wrapped in fleece four month old wasn’t wearing the hat she had ripped off 6 times.

  72. Warren November 28, 2012 at 10:51 pm #


    The whole idea of my kid being treated the same as one of the untrusted, is totally unacceptable, and will never happen. According to our family doctor, a school may request such procedures be followed. But they cannot require they be followed. Meds, prescribe by a doctor, by law, are not to be in the possession of any person other than the one named on the prescription.
    Also, a school cannot interfere with the directives of a student’s doctor.
    Any employee of a school board that attempts to take the meds, from a student, can be criminally charged. They can be charged if they attempt to contravine a doctor’s care, as well.

  73. pamastergardener November 28, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    I must preface this by saying that I live in a helicopter community. We live on the border with Mexico. (The border wall is literally less than a quarter of a mile away from our house. The kids and I admired the sun setting over it on our way to Walmart tonight.) We are also in the 5% non-hispanic minority, and therefore my blonde headed, colored-eyed (local expression) children stand out like a sore thumb. Within the first six months of moving here, I was turned into CPS by a woman driving by who saw my blonde children out-of-doors playing by themselves. After a police officer threatened to arrest me and ripped me apart, and a full investigation, my name was cleared. It was after this that a friend told me about your website/FB page. I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt this way about raising children. Thankfully, my husband and I are not alone in our thoughts and actions.

    You have no idea how many times I’ve been told I shouldn’t let them out of my sight in the library, let my daughter play out-of-doors without her brother, etc. because “there is war going on over the border and someone MIGHT kidnap them.” The drug war is especially violent just across from where we live, but I fail to see how my children could be used as pawns.

    My favorite was when a woman just about had a heart attack when she saw my son crawling over the cart coral in the grocery store parking lot. She got my attention and started spewing her worst first thinking. I asked her what she thought was actually going to happen. “Well, I’m AFRAID he MIGHT fall.” I told her it was 3 ft. to the ground and I didn’t think anything would break.

    We had been without incident for a while so I should have known I was due. Where we live is blazing HOT all the time, except during this time of the year, which is why we get a lot of winter residents. I had promised my daughter that when it cooled off, we would come pick her up from school with our bikes. (I homeschool our son.) My daughter is a kindergartener at a small charter school .6 miles from our house. (I’d let her walk but she’d have to cross 5 lanes of traffic and traffic guards are not a thing here.) My son and I got out our bikes, fashioned a rope harness to pull her tricycle along and off we went. We got to the school a few minutes before three. I parked our bikes in a parking slot a few feet from the gate and told my son to stay with the bikes. I’ll be right back with his sister. I go in to collect my daughter and it took a few minutes for her class to come out, etc. As we exited the building, I see the security guard standing over my son in the parking spot. “Here we go”, I thought.

    Yep, you guessed it. At 9 1/2 yrs, he is too young! to be alone by myself in the school parking lot for 15 minutes. The guard told me that when he finds an unaccompanied child on campus, he must stay with them and if a parent/adult does not appear in 15 minutes he must call the cops. Now, let me tell you, my child is safer standing in a parking spot than our three bikes left unattended in the same slot for the same 15 minutes! Our town is terrible for petty theft.

    I was not going to let him tell me we couldn’t ride our bikes to her school. I asked what he suggest we do the next time? We are to park our bikes at the front office, then my son and I have to walk together to the back building where the kindergarten is. He tried to liken this with a child left in a car last year with the windows up. He said he actually broke the window to get the child out. Now, I get that. Like I said, it is blazing hot here 9-10 months of the year. But that is NOT the same thing as a 9 1/2 year old boy standing in a parking slot on an overcast day with a high of 80 and people wearing sweaters all around him!

    I’m grateful he didn’t call the cops ’cause that’s all I need again, but come on fella. Are you really telling me my daughter is not safe on your campus…because that’s what it seems is implied.

    Now the positive:

    1. Said 9 1/2 year old son now completely handles the deli order when we go to the grocery. The deli people all know him and are tickled he can remember what he is supposed to get, how much, and what slice.

    2. All the librarians think he is a genius and so cute because he selects his own books and runs the self-check-out himself!

    3. But the best was about 6 weeks ago, I woke with a massive migraine. I got my husband and daughter out the door and went back to bed. My son came in asking for breakfast. I told him to give me a few minutes and I would come out. What seemed like a few more minutes, but was actually an hour later, he came in and said not to worry about his breakfast, he’d scrambled some eggs for himself! He has been known to make pancakes for his sister if the batter is already made.

    It is the things like this that make me keep going free-range. I just hope my son realizes that while society thinks he is an infant, I can see he is turning into a young, reliable guy!

    Thanks for listening.

  74. Gina November 28, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    @Warren…I also work in Child Care and it is my understanding that the STATE OF ARIZONA prohibits the dispensing of ANY medication to a student without these forms being completed. Also, if my son carries the cough drop, he can be expelled.

    Lest you think I am afraid of the authorities, let me tell you that I allowed my 8th grade daughter to dye her hair purple, in defiance of her middle school dress code. Then, when she was put into “In-school suspension” (ie stuck in a little tiny room all day)…I kept her home. The principal called me to ask why she had been absent…I told her that she was absolutely NOT sitting in a tiny room and that if they felt her hair was distracting, she just wouldn’t come to school. In fact, she had gone on a trip with her dad to LA. The principal then told me that her hair color was against the dress code. I said, “you will have to take that up with Sophie, I don’t make those choices for her.” I was then told to please send her back to school and they would allow her to attend classes. Then I was told to please not allow her to re-dye it when it grew out. Again, I said, “you will have to talk to Sophie about that. Her body, her choices.” I never heard another word about it.

    The difference is my son would rather I follow that rule; I will not disrespect his wishes and force him to break a rule just as I wouldn’t force my daughter to follow one when she wanted to protest it. My other daughter recently told me she always carried advil and midol when she was in high school. I never knew. It was her choice.

    Of course, I still think the law is stupid and that administrators should be able to actually THINK about the issue at hand instead of enforcing zero-tolerance. There is a difference between a kid carrying a cough drop or two advil and a kid selling Ritalin or Adderall.

    But if I am going to allow my kids to make choices and accept the responsibility for those choices, I have to respect them even when I disagree. THAT is what Free Range Parenting means to me.

  75. ChickyBee November 29, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    My worst witnessed moment was at a playground with my son (6). Other parents were there with their 2-3yr old – the mother was pushing her son down the slide and the father was catching him before his feet even reached the end of the slide! Me sitting at a table and watching my son do all sorts of things that 6 yr old boys do horrified them so much, they approached me about it.

    “He really should go down feet first sitting up.”

    “Why?” I wondered. They exchanged a look of surprise. “What if he breaks an arm or leg?”

    “Then he’ll have a cool story to tell at school.”

    Outright disbelief this time. “What if he breaks his neck?”

    “Then it’s a good thing I have ambulance coverage.”

    They left, muttering under their breath.

    Good: Recently we got new next door neighbours with kids a year younger and older than my son. When the weather is fine the three kids run happily between our houses, either by driveway or climbing over the fence with little more than a yell of “playing next door!” It brings back a lot of childhood memories of doing the same thing and I’m glad my son can experience it too.

  76. Megscole64 November 29, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    The Sunday before Thanksgiving our church had a brunch after service. My little boy is three and as most three year olds is active and when there are other kids running around he of course wants to join them. Our church meets at a high school in the common area so it’s a wide open space and there are several glass doors to the outside. I was keeping an eye on him but I told him he could go outside if he wanted to. It was cold and there weren’t any other kids out there but he really wanted to go out.

    So I see him go out the door and immediately one of the older gals is running after him. I’m shaking my head but I just stay seated at my table watching. She picks him up and carries him (like a football I might add) over to our table and asks who’s child it is…that he was outside by himself.

    It was SO hard not to get snarky. I said He’s Mine and I told him he could go outside. She looked like I’d grown two heads.

    I can SEE him playing outside. It’s not like he’s out on the back fifty by himself. And she wasn’t the only one who was obviously concerned about him being allowed to “roam”. I’m trying to encourage him to explore within appropriate limits for a three year old. *sigh*

  77. Michael Barton November 29, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    I’ll share my blog post about kids playing with sticks:

  78. Donna November 29, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    @ Warren – Quoting ones doctor about legal matters has as much authority as medical diagnoses given by a lawyer.

    On topic:

    The bad – My 6 year daughter ran ahead across a parking lot from office to the library alone this summer. I was delayed longer than I had intended (20 minutes) and received a call from the library. Although my daughter was perfectly behaved, she was not allowed in the library alone because of the possibility of earthquakes, tsunamis, fires and pedophiles (actual threats given). This is a small, barely used library and I’ve never seen more than 4 or 5 people there unless there is a program going on.

    The sort of good – My now 7 year daughter wanted to go trick or treating with her friend this year. Her friend immediately shot down the idea – and due to the dog issue on the island, I wouldn’t have allowed it anyway – but I was thrilled that she wanted to go alone.

    The good – This year my daughter has begun to stay home alone for short periods of time. It started when I needed to go to work early and my daughter stayed home alone for 10 minutes waiting for the neighbor to pick her up. Now I often leave her home while I run to the store. I also leave her home while I go hang out with the neighbors, sometimes for hours while she is asleep. We live in townhouses that are a few feet away from each other and she knows to come to Mike’s if she wakes up and I’m not home.

    The ordinary to me but has seemed extraordinary for others – I frequently leave my daughter with men who are not related to her. My male coworker/neighbor has babysat while I’ve gone out. She has twice spent the night at her best friend’s house while the friend’s mother was off-island and just the father was home. She has also spent the day hanging out with her friend and her stay-at-home father while the moms worked.

  79. MrsSell November 29, 2012 at 12:32 am #

    My favorite (by which I mean I had blood shooting from my eyes for days) was when I took my five-month-old daughter to a nearby military base so that I could run on the track there. She fell asleep in the car, so instead of leaving her in the car (I knew THAT would be bad), I left her in her car seat, and set her in the shade of the bleachers beside the track. The weather was mild, and I tucked her blanket in, then proceeded to get some exercise.

    The final time I came around the track, I was accosted by a strange woman who told me that I couldn’t leave my (happily sleeping) baby there because 1) she could (would) be abducted, or 2) THE MILITARY POLICE ON THE BASE WOULD THINK SHE WAS A BOMB, CALL THE BOMB SQUAD, AND BLOW HER UP. Yes. She said that because our soldiers were getting blown up in Iraq, it wasn’t safe to leave my baby sleeping within a 30-second dash of me.

    I will admit that it never occurred to me that someone would decide, upon finding a baby by herself, that blowing her up was the appropriate decision.

  80. Warren November 29, 2012 at 12:54 am #


    When it comes to the law in regards to medicine, I will take his word for it. In Ontario, the schools cannot demand you leave meds, with them. They can ask, but cannot force compliance. If a person is in possession of another’s prescribed meds, without the consent of that person, they can be charged.
    If a doctor has prescribed a med or course of action for a student, the school cannot stop, interfere or change any of it. Again they can be charged.
    Our Doctor has fought these battles for his patients and their families. He is not one to sit back. He has fought the mandatory vaccinations, and won. Meds in the office and won. Most of the time all you ever hear a school official saying on the phone, is “Yes Doctor, No Doctor, Of course Doctor.”

  81. gap.runner November 29, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    My son (age 13) had two best moments this past year:

    1. Last spring one of his friends, who lives in a neighboring town on the local train line, had a birthday party. My son and one of his friends insisted on taking the train to the party instead of being driven by a parent. They called the birthday boy and told them which train they would take. My son’s friend’s mother drove the boys to the train station and wanted to help them use the ticket machine to get their tickets. Both boys told her, “You can go now. We know what to do.” They obviously made it to the birthday boy’s house safely because when the party was ending, my son called to tell me which train he and his friend were taking home. I picked the boys up at our designated meeting point and all was well. Both boys loved taking the train together.

    2. On Halloween my son wanted to go trick-or-treating on base with a friend. I had just finished work and didn’t feel like getting back in the car to drive them to the base. My husband had surgery the month before and it was uncomfortable for him to drive. We told them that they would have to figure out how to get to base and back home again. The boys decided that they would take the city bus there and back. They got into their costumes and walked to the bus stop. The particular bus stop where they went has several lines that stop there, but from experience of riding the bus last summer, they knew which ones went to the base. After trick or treating, they got to the bus stop just in time to miss the bus. They looked at the schedule and called to inform my husband and me when the next bus came. The two boys walked home from the bus stop by themselves (after dark!) without any incident.

    The worst: Germany is a very free range country. I guess I would have to say that reading the posts on this site make me glad that I live here and not in the States. I can’t imagine my son having the same freedom in the States that he has here.

  82. Donna November 29, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    @Warren – Unless prescriptions can be bought, sold and traded by anyone on the street in Canada, I am fairly certain that it is against the law to possess a controlled substance prescribed to another person even WITH their consent. Otherwise street sales of prescription drugs would be legal as a buyer/seller relationship mandates consent. I’m also fairly certain that no school has ever, or will ever be, charged with violating such a law any more than any parent who holds drugs for his young child will ever be (although technically illegal under the law). If that is the legal advice that your doctor is giving you, I’d get a second opinion.

  83. suzyq November 29, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    A best moment: letting our 14-year-old freshman son go into the city (35 miles away) via train with a bunch of 15-18 year-olds he is in robotics club with. They had an itinerary (followed to the “t,” naturally – they are engineering kids), and provided 2 of students’ cell numbers as alternate contacts in the event that you couldn’t reach your own student. Our son had 12 of the best (and most free) hours of his life that day!

  84. Angela November 29, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    I have wanted to post this story for a bit, so thank you for the call. I am an American expat living in India with my 4 and 6 year old kids. India is very free range, not always in a good way. But between witnessing how much freedom (and responsibility ) Indian children have and reading this site I did something that we are pretty proud of. I let my 6 year old daughter fly from where we live in Ahmedabad to Mumbai with the Dad of her best friend. A few days later they took her to the airport and she flew from Mumbai to home as a unaccompanied minor. She does not speak Hindi, but she has a lot of frequent flier miles! She had a great time visiting her friend, met new friends on the plane and coped quite well without us. And she was as proud as a peacock walking off that airplane.

  85. Art November 29, 2012 at 9:01 am #


    The ONLY word of caution on the living right at the border is the drug wars. The security guard is probably a good idea. There’s plenty that media is not reporting.

    I have friends that live in El Paso, Tx, he teaches High School, and constantly reports of gunshots coming across the border, gangs making runs into the city of El Paso, and other issues.

    There’s also body dumps out in the desert proper that are not being reported.

    While I totally agree with the free range philosophy, blond children in this situation, might stand a slightly greater risk of running into something unpleasant.

  86. Jenna K. November 29, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    My brother and his wife recently moved back to the states from London, England. While having Thanksgiving dinner at their house, my sister-in-law told us how their 9-year-old daughter is dealing with major anxiety. The reason? She is constantly worried about one of her siblings (or herself) getting kidnapped or lost. That’s because back in Merry Old England where they lived, parents hover excessively. The older daughter, who is 11, my sister-in-law once let walk four houses down to a friend’s house by herself and my sister-in-law was reamed by all the parents in the neighborhood because it “just wasn’t safe” for an 11-year-old to walk four houses down by herself. These people will literally get in their car and drive their kids four houses down the street if it’s raining and they don’t want to walk. Back here in the states, at least in Utah where we live, it’s pretty common practice to let your kids walk to school by themselves and do a great many things by themselves. My brother and his wife live about a block away from her parents and she lets the kids walk over to Grandma’s all the time by themselves, even the 6-year-old. But the 9-year-old is terrified to do it and worries excessively whenever her 11-year-old and 6-year-old sisters walk to Grandma’s house. I just found it interesting that it wasn’t my sister-in-law, the mom, that was worried about the whole free range concept, but the 9-year-old daughter who had picked up on this very unreal fear people have based on her experiences living in England.

    A comment here too, when I read your book, you compared the U.S. to some countries in Europe that are much more free range. Apparently, England is not one of those countries, as they are much worse than the U.S. (like the no-hugging rules a lot of schools in Great Britain now have). Parents REALLY hover there, based on the experiences my brother and his wife had living there the last six years.

    Makes me glad we live here, even though I don’t particularly like a lot of things about Utah, I do like how free range the parents here tend to be.

  87. Brandy November 29, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Last December my doorbell rang at about 7pm. When I looked out my window there was a bunch of young teenage boys there. I opened the door to them and they started caroling! It was absolutely delightful, especially so because they were teen boys, the kinds of kids that usually get labeled as menaces and here they were, engaging in an old-time tradition.

    Sure enough, I overheard my neighbors talking the next day. “Did you see that suspicious gang of kids in black hoodies last night? I didn’t open my door for them, I was too scared.” I was so psyched to tell them what they were “up to” and see the shock on their faces!

  88. bobca November 29, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    My 11 year old son signed up for computer programming camp at the local high school. The day before the camp started, my son asked me about driving him. As it was early Summer, and the weather was good, I told him to ride his bike. He said…”I can do that?” I confirmed it. He was elated. The high school is about 3 miles away, has sidewalks the entire way, and proceeds along a 4 lane busy street.

    On his way home, the chain came off. He called me for help. Before I could get out the door, he called me to say that he had fixed it.

    He was so happy to have the responsibility and freedom. He was the only one that rode his bike to camp. All the other participants were drive from/to everyday.

  89. Warren November 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Will not argue this topic. I know our experiences, with schools and meds, be them prescribed or OTC.
    School rules that force the majority to do things, because of the very few, just to make things easier, for the staff, are worth fighting.

    I do not know about your kids, but I know mine. Mine do not sell there meds, nor will the give even an Advil, to a friend. So for responsible kids, to be treated as and lumped in with the few that are not responsible, is completely unacceptable. Blanket rules and zero tolerance rules do not belong in society. By allowing your kids to be treated as such, you are telling them that you agree with the treatment they are receiving.

    There are those that talk, and then there are those that do.

  90. Emily November 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    @Warren–I don’t necessarily think it’s “irresponsible” for a teenager to slip a friend an Advil or whatever to a friendor someone in need at school. I did this many times when I was in high school, because I usually had Advil or Tylenol in my backpack or purse, because I was prone to headaches when I was that age (it’s since gotten better). Anyway, I only remember one instance of a teacher expressing even mild disapproval at this practice, but he said it was “okay this time, but it’s really not kosher.” Then again, the rules were somewhat unevenly enforced at that school–I was a good student, and involved in multiple extra-curricular activities, and the adults liked me, so the other similar students and I were treated a lot better than, say, the special ed students.

  91. catherine November 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    Chihiro: a curfew for a young adult living at home is a courtesy to the family which is allowing the young adult to continue to live at home. That’s not a free-range issue; it’s just good manners. It’s the same reason why my husband calls if he’s going to be home late from work.

    (not to mention that, frankly, there are a limited number of legal things that people under the age of 21 can do after midnight.)

  92. smokymtnlady November 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Worst free-range moment of 2012: Back in October, trying to speak logic into a big facebook argument about “how can we prevent our kids’ from meeting the same fate as Jessica Ridgeway?” It was 76 long-ish comments, mostly telling me I needed to stay out of it because I’m not a parent. (I’ve worked with kids 20+ years)

    Best free range moment: Reading about Tony Hansberry, which was actually written in 2010 but I learned of just recently.

  93. Liz November 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    There is a local amusement park we frequent during the summer and they have wristbands you can get, free of charge, for your children. You can load money on to them so they can feed themselves and there is a place for your number, if they get lost. There are signs up all over the park reminding us to have a designated time and place to meet our children! I never really thought about this as a Free-Range issue until I started reading this blog, but after some of the things I have read here I am glad that our local park encourages us to separate from our kids for a day of fun!

  94. Gina November 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    @Warren: Whoa! 1. My kids would not sell their drugs (THEIR*) but the girls may have shared Advil..that is a choice they make for themselves..again, fully aware of the consequences which they (with my support) would fight, should it come down to that. 2. Yes, I say and I DO. Did you not read the part about telling the school my daughter would NOT serve a detention for her hair color? But the fight has to be THEIRS, not mine because I will NEVER use my children to prove MY point. That’s what my own parents did and believe me, it is the worst kind of parenting there is. 3. My kids are fully aware that I don’t agree and they know that I will break any rule that I think is dumb as a form of peaceful protest. What I will NOT do is force them to do that. How is that different than preventing them from doing something? FREE RANGE means making one’s OWN decisions and accepting responsibility for them.

    I have no problem with respectful disagreement, but I resent the implication “I do not know about your kids, but I know mine. Mine do not sell there meds”. I have raised 5 kids…they are now 15-28 and I can honestly say they are ABOVE REPROACH. Not one major problem in all my 28 years of parenting. I never intended to imply that they would sell their meds. In fact, I think I said that I wasn’t concerned about that. Please watch your tone and your words.

  95. pamastergardener November 29, 2012 at 6:22 pm #


    I live down the valley from El Paso. Very far down the Valley.

    Yes, I know there is a lot of unreported news on the drug war. It seems to be in our newspaper but not that of our friends as far away as Austin or Dallas. I ask my husband every morning what the latest body count is. The “spill over violence” here in our town ALWAYS involves people in the drug trade, not innocent bystanders or children. I don’t see a lot of narcos hanging out in the children’s section of the library or trolling my quiet neighborhood street. Many of my friends’ husbands have federal jobs (and lots of blonde children) and never once has an FBI agent/Border Patrol/DEA officer said there is a risk of kidnapping on the US side of the border. I refuse to live my life in fear and be shut up in the house. The heat may drive us indoors faster than fear!

    Every school here, be it public, private, or charter has a security guard. Other places I’ve lived have called them resource officers. He mostly directs traffic during pick-up.

    Update: This morning I asked my son if the guard talked with him at all. He said he asked why he wasn’t in school to which he replied he was homeschooled. The second and most funny questions was, “Did you come here by yourself?” “With three bikes?”, I said. “Exactly!”, said my son. : )

  96. Warren November 29, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    My comments were not directed towards you at all. I am sorry for any misunderstanding. I was speaking in the general terms. Again, a sincere apology.

  97. Warren November 29, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    Gina, sometimes I let my passion get in the way of diplomacy.
    I just got finished with an article about security at an Edmonton High School that routinely take kids cellphones and search the call logs, and history. All in the name of safety and security. Again, I am more disappointed that the parents there allow this to happen.

  98. Yan Seiner November 29, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    The worst: not my kids… In a community where I used to live, the county built a skate park so the kids would have something to do. An 11 year old girl organized a competition. This was a simple local kid contest, nothing fancy. She went to county council, got their blessing, organized the event, put out fliers, signed kids up, got volunteer judges, the whole thing. 6 months of planning by an 11 year old. The Tuesday before the weekend this was supposed to take place, someone reminded county council that the rules forbid competition in the park. The girl requested a special council meeting, got a quorum, went before council with a well-researched variance request. Council refused to grant the variance for this event, in spite of huge community turnout. The event was forced to cancel. That child learned a lot that evening….

    The best: my daughter and her friend, both 13, wanted to go shopping at a mall about 5 miles away. Due to a certain lack of organizational skills, each thought the other’s mom would drive them. So they meet, and no car. So they got their bikes, and rode out there and back. Later on, we found out they also ran to the mall on other excursions. 10 mile round trip, running, and they both laughed at the other girls in the mall, all nicely made up, while they’re both sweaty and nasty. :)

  99. Gina November 29, 2012 at 9:37 pm #


    Apology heartily accepted! :)

    I agree with you about being disappointed in the parents, but what I think you are trying to say is that these parents should support their kids if/when the kids protest the rule. I know my kids would protest, I know I would support them! But if my kids didn’t care, then I would have to let their judgment stand in the name of respect for THEIR feelings. That’s what I mean.

  100. Jynet November 29, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    @catherine, a my 18yo has never had, and will never had a curfew. She, like your husband, is aware that it is good manners to let other family members know where she is, and when she expects to get home. Because she has manners she has never needed a curfew.

    And really? “limited number of legal things after midnight”? Seems like there is a limited number of ILLEGAL activities, but an almost unlimited number of perfectly legal things they can do.
    catherine, on November 29th, 2012 at 4:01 pm Said:
    Chihiro: a curfew for a young adult living at home is a courtesy to the family which is allowing the young adult to continue to live at home. That’s not a free-range issue; it’s just good manners.
    (not to mention that, frankly, there are a limited number of legal things that people under the age of 21 can do after midnight.)

  101. Jynet November 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    Since my daughter is now an adult, I’ve stopped counting ‘free range moments’, since that would imply that I had some responsibility for where/how she ‘ranges’!

    But the ‘disagreement’ I had with the school board came close.

    My daughter may be 18, but she is still in high school. They seemed to think that since she was living at home it was somehow my responsibility to MAKE her do education related things, and also to ‘give permission’ for her to go on field trips, or leave the school property.

    At her age I was living in a different province, working and going to college, but she couldn’t make the decision to come home from school on her spare??

    In the end I wrote a email to the principle and guidance councilor and gave a ‘blanket’ permission based on the fact that she is over 18. They weren’t pleased, but they are respecting it!

  102. Jenn November 30, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    We had new neighbours move in this summer and you worry about who they are and what kind of neighbours they will be. We were happy to see that they had a two year old and another on the way. My own kids (6 and 8) are often running around the street on their own adventures so I wasn’t sure how the new neighbours would feel about my kids, knocking on their door or running between the houses. It was a great ice breaker because my kids are constantly knocking on their door asking if their two year old will come out to play and thankfully, these parents are free-range because they send him out too! They said they feel comfortable sending him out to play with my kids because they know that they will keep him relatively safe, he’s learning lots and everyone is having a great time. Now that their new baby has arrived, the mom has confessed that my kids have been a saviour the first weeks after her baby was born because she knew that she could rely on my two to entertain her son while she tended to the newborn. She even gives them a loonie every now and then as `payment for babysitting’.

  103. Glennda Sutton November 30, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    At a friend’s wedding I looked up to see my 6 year old out on the dance floor on a man’s shoulders. I had no idea who this gentleman was, but in his usual way my son was making friends. I smiled, relaxed, and enjoyed chatting with my friends. The entire evening my son “played” with his new friend. I was ecstatic that someone wanted to spend time with my active son (parents of “active” children ask me if he is always so “busy”).

    But what made this the best of all our moments this year was that no one at the reception felt the need to lecture me or worry about my son. We have several men both with and without kids of their own who enjoy spending time with children. I am grateful for every moment they spend with my busy son!

    I had to pick my 12 year old son up in the middle of the day for a doctor’s appointment. As I did at our old school, I called ahead to let them know I was coming and have them get him from class. I was informed that I would need to come in and sign him out. Worse yet I would have to go inside to sign him back in. When I went in to sign him in I told them that I thought this was a ridiculous rule.

    I was informed that the rule is there for my son’s safety and I should be glad they do it. I asked how this was safer. The office staff can not see out the front door and therefore could not watch my son go to the car. He might get into the wrong car. I asked why they thought my son who was that day being enrolled in the gifted program was so stupid he would get into the wrong car? Apparently I should be more concerned about my son’s safety because anyone could abduct him. And I should be glad they aren’t checking IDs.

    There are a few flaws in this thinking. It’s highly unlikely someone my son doesn’t know is going to show up to school to abduct him in the middle of the day at the exact time I called to get him. On the other hand, most child abductions are from an adult they know and often the non-custodial parent. Therefore, if we are going to go to all these extremes shouldn’t we be sure I am who I say and that I have permission to pick the child up. I filled out a form at the beginning of the school year listing these people.

    Additionally, no one cares where my son goes after school. Normally, he rides the bus. But if he doesn’t know one worries about where he is. He could be walking home or with me. At this point in the school day there are lots and lots of cars where he could get in the wrong one. (I frequently walk up to other cars that look just like mine before realizing it’s the wrong car.) And yet I don’t have to notify the bus driver or the school of a change in after school plans.

    And worst of all, this is a middle school with 5-7 graders. They want these kids to have recess (HOORAY!) but there is no playground. So there are basketball hoops, hop scotches, etc in the parking lot. So when I tried to leave after parking in the designated visitor parking space I had to worry that I wouldn’t hit a child running around the parking lot. It was difficult to confidently back up. If we are going to worry about the safety of our children we should worry about this. I applaud them for letting the children have recess (a disappearing joy in childhood), but let’s provide them with a safe place to do so. And yet I’m afraid to complain about this issue because I’m sure the knee jerk reaction will be to end recess until we can fix the problem.

    So all the schools is accomplishing by this sign out process is that I have to take even more time out of my day any time my child has an appointment. My child is not safer and it is clear that the school is not appropriately thinking about the safety of my son.

  104. Gina November 30, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    @Warren–BTW..I LOVE your comment on “Babysitting”…when someone said that about my husband I usually just stared at them for a few moments and then said “No, I didn’t say I had a babysitter, I said they are with their dad.” :)

  105. Frankie November 30, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    A Mom at my daughter’s (age 5) swimming class was overheard in the change room reminding her child (about the same age) not to talk to strangers. The child began to cry. Eventually she managed to explain that she was confused – her new swimming instructor was a stranger, so she wouldn’t be able to talk to her! My daughter went over and said “it’s okay. You can talk to her. Just don’t leave with her.” Yay! My wee lass spoke to a stranger, comforted her and confirmed to me that she had absorbed the lesson correctly.

    On a related note, at Kindergarten orientation last June, our soon-to-be Kindergarten teacher assigned two summer homework projects: 1) take your child to the playground and teach them how to introduce themselves to new children and play with them. 2) play with your child. Now several months into the school year, I continue to be impressed with her. Her advice to help with small motor skills development: make Christmas Tree ornaments. She said: “above all, keep it fun and put away the workbooks”.

  106. Deirdre December 1, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    I was sitting in the local coffee shop, when the owner (a friend of mine) got a call from her 8 yrs. old daughter, A. (from the cell phone she provided to A., btw). My friend had allowed A. to walk the six blocks to the post office by herself to check the mail (these are town blocks, much smaller than city blocks, and this was not the first time she had allowed this). On the way back A. noticed a woman in a white car following her. A. immediately entered the closest business, a restaurant, and called her mother. When her mother arrived where A. was waiting, she tried to approach the woman in the white car, but the woman sped off. Approximately 5 minutes after they arrived back at the coffee shop, a Sheriff ‘s Deputy entered, asking how old A. was and saying he received a complaint from a woman, who identified herself as a child psychologist. The woman said that she had seen a 3 yrs. old child walking alone on the sidewalk and followed her back to the coffee shop. What!
    A. doesn’t look like a 3 yrs. old child by ANY stretch of the imagination. And being a small town, the majority of us know A., and to whom she belongs. The woman terrified A. by following her like that, and then called the authorities, and identified herself by her profession, as if it gives her some special right to do what she did. If she was concerned, why not speak to my friend instead of speeding off. And since the woman did not follow A. all the way to the coffee shop, how did she know where to send the Sheriff’s Deputy. The whole event was sad and disturbing, and I think I would have had a hard time believing it had I not been present when it occurred. I am truly disgusted.

  107. Ms. Future PharmD December 1, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    Our 4 year old daughter is allowed out on her bike with training wheels to ride on the sidewalk around our (small town) block while an adult works in the yard. Once she fell and skinned her knee and a neighbor came out, helped her get her bike back up (it’s too big for her to lift quite yet), and then walked chatting with her back to our house. Another time she fell and knocked her shoe off, and a different neighbor walked her back after helping her tie her shoe on. Both times she was pretty upset and with the knee, she’d been crying and given a tissue before they walked back. No threats, no “how could you let your 4 year old out of your sight?” nothing. They just helped her out and she recognized they were helpful strangers, so she didn’t go running or anything. I’m really glad we have sane neighbors who let their kids outdoors and aren’t shocked to see ours doing the same.

  108. Sarah F. December 2, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    I know this is late, but I wanted to share a big moment for me that happened just last week. My older son is in Kindergarten, and we are required to pick him up at his classroom door. (Don’t get me started) Well, last week it was pouring down rain, and my 9 month old finally fell asleep for his first nap of the day on the way to school. I was early so I got a good parking spot in the parking lot, all of 50 yards from the classroom. I sat there and hemmed and hawed for several minutes, but then I decided to do it. I left my sleeping baby in the (locked!) car for about the three minutes it took to go and collect my older son. I was nervous, not that he would be abducted, the parking lot was swarming with parents and kids. No, I was scared that I would get the cops called on me! But I did it, and the baby stayed warm and dry and asleep, and survived! Thanks Free Range Kids, I’m getting better at this one step at a time.

  109. Jim F. December 3, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    One story happened a few years back when our daughter was in grade school. She usually let herself in the back door, but the housekeepers had “accidentally” locked the back door. Having seen enough McGyver, our darling daughter hotwired the garage door panel to let herself in. She has not forgotten these skills and one of her wedding gifts was a fairly complete tool kit. When a refrigerator arrived that did not quite fit through the door, the burly guys refused to take off the door, claiming they did not have the tools. My under 120 lb. daughter removed the door herself in minutes and got the ‘fridge.

  110. Joshua Kelley December 3, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Over the summer, our city parks department runs a playground program for kids of (almost) all ages. They have one or two staff members at the park to coordinate activities from 10:30a to 4:00p. They’re specifically NOT babysitters, and there’s no waiver or permission slip to sign, since all they do is coordinate activities. AND, the city provides a free lunch!

    Our six-year-old son was extremely excited to participate! He loved going to the park to play on the playground and learn some sports! He knows Mom and Dad’s cell phone numbers, so he could borrow a phone if needed. We really appreciated the opportunity for him to play, and we didn’t have to worry about him (too much!), just his 1- and 3-year-old sisters and brother.

  111. Joshua Kelley December 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Once a week, the city’s “Technology Bus” came to the park, too, so the kids got to play age-appropriate video and computer games in an air conditioned RV.

  112. Rachel C. December 6, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    My Son got in to trouble with his Teacher, she had the whole class walkibg in a line through the halls for 20 minutes because a few students where talkung in class. My son was not one of them, he is 11 and finally got tired of it and gold his teacher, My Mom spend me here to get a education not to learn how to walk in a line this is a waste of my time here. She sen a note home saying he was talking back.

  113. Emily December 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    This isn’t going to be an “of-the-year” story, but I have a 9.5-month-old daughter. Since before she was born, I’ve thought that it was important to practice free-range attitudes, and that being a free-range parent starts long before the dangers are about strangers or traffic or any of that. She slept in our room until she was about 6.5 months old, when we decided it was time to move her into her own room. We made it completely kid-sized and accessible, with her mattress on the floor. There was no transition time and she was thrilled. Now, when she wakes up, she’ll amuse herself for half an hour or more before she cries for us to come get her. When she does, it’s often just because she can’t get to something she wants! She is also completely into toddling around, and I notice almost every day that someone else will gasp, cry out, or reach towards her when she falls (including my husband, who knows how important it is to avoid conveying the message that every fall is scary). But she’s great at falling. Moreover, she’s great at falling and not noticing. I notice that I can even comfort her better after a big fall when I’m not also scared. I am always nearby, and I always have a bit of my attention on her no matter what, but I think that’s the point–every mother’s brain has a special place for knowing exactly what her kid’s up to and exactly how much attention she really needs to give. My baby is incredibly independent, and it’s my job to make sure my worries aren’t her burden. That’s what makes me the parent.

  114. Luru December 26, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    While staying with my brother, his wife and their 6 month old baby for the Christmas holiday, my 7 year old daughter woke up with a sore throat and headache on Christmas Eve. I informed my brother of this when he got up in the morning and his response was if the baby gets sick his wife is going to be pissed! He called his wife at work to inform her of the illness and 30 mins later my sister-in-law arrived home from her “mandatory” work day. Next, we were asked to go home or they would go to her parents house 3 hours away. So we left. With both of my children (age 7 and 4) bawling about how they are missing Christmas with our family and their new cousin. I was also bawling. I couldn’t believe we had been kicked out of my families house on Christmas Eve over such a mild illness…which lasted less than 24 hours by the way.