Swiss Mom Can’t Understand Helicopter Parents — and Schools

Readers — One of the things I try to explain in my talks, book and blog is that some present-day parenting practices (and laws) that just seem “wise” now will be considered downright detrimental in the future, or are considered weird NOW in other places. For instance:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I can’t thank you enough! When I thought everyone around me is so fearfully overprotecting their kids, I was so relieved to find your homepage. My story in a nutshell:

We moved 4 years ago from Switzerland to Canada. Both my kids, now 4 and 5, were born in Switzerland but raised here in a very small community in Hamilton, ON Canada. But raised by me – an average Swiss mum who had no idea about helicopter parenting.

At age 3, I allowed my older son to go around the corner with his push-bike. No, he was not allowed to cross the street yet. But yes, I did not see him any more… for at least 1 or 2 minutes until I caught up (which is very normal in Switzerland… where also playgrounds are built that way, that parents not always see their kids). But various times people brought him back to me… and I just did not understand what’s going on.

My biggest struggle I have though, is with their school. The kids can not touch each other! I get feedback from the teacher that the “students” are not allowed to hug their friends. They could fall while hugging and hurt themselves! My approach to turn it into a High 5 did also not work. Too harsh. Oh well…

Recess is often skipped. It is too cold. The kids could get cold. They could slip, because it rained in the morning. Their feet could get wet. Sooo many reasons. And yet all my arguments, that we can stand a little cold feet, get changed when the cloth are soaked, I would come in to help cleaning the carpet… if the shoes get dirty and ruin the carpet… nothing helped.

Thanks to the media, parents world wide get probably more anxious. But what I think is very interesting: the reaction from official institutions. While they just ripped away all 20 parking lots at my old school in Switzerland, because they were tired watching how kids get driven to school, they build new ones here. And while in Switzerland they do a “test” with the kids, if they know all the rules to walk themselves to school, it is simply forbidden to let the kids walk to [my] school in Canada. How silly. Being locked out at recess…. happening still in Switzerland (with the argument that in bad weather various kids would just sneak inside instead of playing outside) or locked in (like here… because of bad weather). Interesting, don’t you think so?

But I will keep my kids “on the long leash.” I love seeing them independent, free, wild, sometimes inconsiderate or immature. But I also think they should be able to make mistakes. And learn to live with it. 

Cheers, Lisa

Not only did I love Lisa’s letter, I really appreciate her saying that sometimes her kids — all kids — may be “inconsiderate or immature.” (Especially at age 3 or 4!) One thing Free-Range Kids does not guarantee is absolutely perfect and charming children. Yes, we try to give them independence and responsibility. But no, we don’t have a “perfect kid” formula. (Yet.) – L.

Calling all parents!

Calling all non-Swiss parents!

 

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51 Responses to Swiss Mom Can’t Understand Helicopter Parents — and Schools

  1. Elizabeth Ladd December 17, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    My college aged son is going to study abroad in Lucerne for the spring semester. It will be interesting to see what my free-range but “townie” son thinks of being on his own in the land of free range sensibility.

  2. derpdedoo December 17, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    The taking away of recess ticks me off. When I was a kid I remember a handful of days where recess was cancelled, no more than 3 days in a school year usually because there was a thunderstorm with lighting going on outside.

    Otherwise, rain or shine, snow or heat, we were outside three times a day (morning recess, lunch recess, afternoon recess). Depending on the school recess was 10 or 15 minutes. Even in that time if you forgot your gloves or something 10 or 15 minutes was no big deal. Pull your hands into your sleeves and play.

    My kids this year received a paper letter (all other letters are provided in a secure website, so you know it was important) at the start of the school year informing parents that their children required proper clothing for th outdoors as they would be sent out for recess every day regardless of the weather.

    Sure enough, 4 months in and my kids are lucky if they get out one day a week. After having to be the parents who complained the kids weren’t getting outside, we discovered the primary reason is that other parents complained it was too [insert weather] outside for their delicate offspring.

    Unbelievable.

  3. Maggie December 17, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    I’m heartened to see kids walk to school in our area, even elementary aged ones. Even in when it is cold and snowy.

    No touching rules are unhealthy, IMO. Children need affection. No hugging? GEEZ!

  4. Gina December 17, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    We teach kids to say “no” to a bad touch, but they will never understand what a good touch is if we make all touching bad. They need to learn to say “yes” to what feels ok to them. Beyond ridiculous and a rule I would actively protest if I still had little ones.

  5. Kelly December 17, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    The day my son comes home to tell me they didn’t go out for recess due to weather, will be the day I pull up my big girl pants and homeschool. He’s now in kindergarten, and our school sends them out rain or shine, which is great as we live in the Pacific Northwest, so we get very little shine :)

  6. TRS December 17, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    I don’t know. You really can not pigeon hole American parenting. You have an entire group that could give a crap about their kids and are very neglectful and you have those that are over involved and then you have parents that are in between.

    You really can not compare our Culture to other Countries. In the US you have so many different kinds of families and cultures that sometimes in order for us to get along the guidelines are strict. I have a good friend who is from Iceland and has an adult daughter that lives there. They often go and visit the entire Summer. Her young daughter is allowed to run free when she is in Iceland. She lets her go roam with kids. However, when they are in the US she said the environment does not allow it. The traffic and the amount of people.

    You would actually find that parents in small US towns parent much differently than parents that live in the City and highly populated Suburbs.

    It has to do with traffic and the ability to walk from location to location. The ability to get on your bike and have safe roads to ride it on instead of the six lane road that enters and exits from my neighborhood.

  7. TRS December 17, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Our schools have recess in Elementary School. They don’t have it in Middle School but they have more freedom in other ways. Sometimes it is indoors due to the weather. You would be surprised how many parents send their kids to school w/o coats…… If the weather is bad and the playground is icy they just have indoor recess where they can play with games, socialize, or just read a book if they want.

  8. WinchesterMoon December 17, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    I live in the same city as the woman who wrote the letter and I’m not sure what school she’s sending her kids to really. In my experience the schools around here don’t give a crap how you get there. Walk, race car, zeppelin. They don’t care. I’ve also had to go pick up my kid before when they didn’t take me seriously about her not being able to be in the sun for long and she passed out after being forced to go to recess. Sooo maybe don’t send them wherever it is you’re sending them?

  9. Chava December 17, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    My 4 yr old’s teacher frowns upon her independent and spirited personality. Paraphrasing- she told me that I should scale back on allowing her so much freedom and encouraging her personality because it makes her classroom management difficult.
    I completely agree with this Swiss mum. I used to think Homeschooling parents were crazy… but now I’m very tempted to homeschool.

  10. Ben December 17, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    It would be nice to have considerate kids and from what I’ve seen with the kids in my family, that’s a day job all on its own, but under age 7 I don’t think they need any level of maturity if they don’t want to. Give kids the chance to be kids while they can.

  11. TRS December 17, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Oh! This is a comparison to Canada. I bet if this mom did go to a small town in Canada she would find something similar to Switzerland.

  12. TRS December 17, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    I agree with Winchester Mom. Sometimes the neighborhood dictates the rules of the school. In our area there are very few kids that are allowed to walk to school due to Traffic patterns. However there is a school less than a mile from my house where practically all the kids walk. They have very little parking because of it and full bike racks. I guess when you live in a area with a ton of traffic and the only way to in from school is a 6 lane road that is bumper to bumper traffic. I live next to Tysons Corner – then you understand why people drive their kids to school. Mine takes the bus home but I drive her there because the bus ride is over 30 min and I can drive her there in 4 min. Two days a week she goes in an hour early for Spanish lessons.

  13. Heather December 17, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    My 4 year old son had a playdate the other day. The other mum let me know ahead that they’d be going to the park, so could I make sure he’d have a coat with him. It was only later that I realised she must have had kids show up for a playdate expecting to go car to door with no outside clothes.

    H

  14. Marcy December 17, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    I lived in Geneva for 6 years and two of my three were born there. I was hesitant about moving back to Canada because of some of the stories here. It is true some things are over-regulated/micro-managed. My kids school in Toronto lets the kids out for every recess and sends home letters each month reminding the parents that the lunch break is 40 minutes of outside time so the kids should be dressed appropriately. The school environment changes drastically depending on the neighbourhood, the personality of the principal and on any overly vocal parents. I do find that teaching kids how to cross the road by themselves and how to walk to school properly was done even in preschool in Geneva in addition to what the parents would have done. Conversely seems in Canada it is entirely up to the parent to teach. There is a difference between what the community expects to be a collective responsibility (Switzerland) and what parents expect to be private responsibility (North America).

  15. Suzanne Lucas December 17, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    I’m an American mom in Switzerland and it’s a tough cultural transition. When we first moved here, we visited a “Robinson playground.” They are fashioned after the Swiss Family Robinson idea, and there are boards and nails and hammers so the kids can build their own tree houses, zip lines, tire swings, no rubber padding under the swings, etc.

    My then 5 year old was running around and I was running right after her, pushing the baby in the stroller. Panicked that she was going to fall off the zip line or something. Then I realized that I was the ONLY mother running after her child.

    Then I realized I was the ONLY mother inside the play area (it was fenced). I thought, boy, I have a lot to learn.

    I still am more prone to “helicopter-y” parenting than my Swiss friends, but my American friends think I’m crazy with the freedom my kids have.

  16. Mark Roulo December 17, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    ” I used to think Homeschooling parents were crazy… but now I’m very tempted to homeschool.”

    Some of us are :-)

    But not all.

    How crazy (and in which direction) will be your choice if you choose to homeschool.

  17. Linda Wightman December 17, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    One thing I’ve learned from having grandchildren in both the U.S. and Switzerland is that two cultures (even two first world, Western cultures) can have very different ideas about what is the proper/best/only way to do X, where X is anything from medical care to childrearing to laundry practices. It’s quite liberating, actually — my daughter claims her Swiss side or her American side as she sees fit. It’s liberating, that is, as long as you don’t bump up against officialdom, in which case it’s tear-your-hair-out frustrating.

  18. Marcie December 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    We also live in Canada and our children go to a private Christian school. Here the children are encouraged to hug and love each other and the teachers hug and love the kids which I find very important as their day and learning goes much more smoothly when they know they are loved unconditionally. They also go out for recess in all weather until below -20C which inky happens a few tomes per year. My daughter has a Maplelea doll (essentially a Canadian Girl, like American Girl dolls) that is from Nunavut and comes with a journal that has details of what life is like where she is from. It says the kids there go outside for recess until it goes below -45C! Loved that fact:)

  19. Buffy December 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    “Sooo maybe don’t send them wherever it is you’re sending them?”

    Does this imply that in Canada you can choose your child’s school? I guess I’m thinking about public school, where I think it’s the norm in the US that you send your child to the school district and school dictated by where you live. Yes, there are alternative schools and open enrollment situations, but it’s not generally (in my experience) “I can pick whatever public school I want”.

    Not all of us are equipped to homeschool or pay for private school.

  20. Kari December 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    I’m also a fellow European import to Canada(even more free range I’m from Norway babies are napping outdoors there ). I totally can relate to Swiss mom. However living here for 7 years I have found that each community/each school are so different and you can find parents and schools that match more with your ideals. I also agree with Marcy ” There is a difference between what the community expects to be a collective responsibility (Switzerland) and what parents expect to be private responsibility (North America).”

  21. anonymous this time December 17, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    “Robinson Playground”

    Having a quiet moment of enormous longing.

  22. Donna December 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    “You would be surprised how many parents send their kids to school w/o coats…”

    I’m not sure why we insist on blaming parents for this. Isn’t free range kids about allowing kids to make choices and suffer the consequences? I don’t control my child’s clothing in any way. I advise her that she is dressing inappropriately for the weather (doesn’t match; looks ridiculous) before we leave. Sometimes she changes. Sometimes she blows me off. If she is with me, we will do what was planned and if she freezes or melts sobeit, but I can’t control how other people react to this when she is not with me, and I refuse to helicopter for other people’s benefit.

    I agree that school environment is very dependent on many factors – school population, principal, teachers, local community. School is very different in my inner city, progressive, granola-crunchy, hipster school than it is in any school in the lily-white, highly conservative, suburban yuppie county next door. There are even big differences between our school half-full of kids of university professors, doctors and lawyers when compared to the school 2-3 miles away with a 95% free lunch enrollment, both in the same district.

  23. everydayrose December 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Regarding the “sending kids to school w/o coats” comment…

    That’s absolutely ridiculous to assume it’s the parent’s fault somehow. My girls are 12 and 9 and they’re both responsible for getting themselves up and off to school without any help from me. They were 10 and 7 the last time I did anything to help them in the mornings and that was ONLY because we lived in a place without bus service and I had no choice but to drive them. (And no, before I get jumped on, they weren’t able to walk. We were several miles away from the school with major streets and a highway to cross, and we lived in TX where it was regularly over 100 degrees.)

    We live in the Pacific Northwest now and it does get really cold some days but I don’t think either of them has worn a coat yet this year. I figure it’s not my problem. I’ve provided them with coats and if they get cold enough they’ll wear them.

  24. hineata December 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    @Chava – I don’t know you or your child, or what kind of programme she is in. And four is young, so she still has time to learn classroom behaviour. If by spirited you mean she likes to have and share her own opinions, to run around outside etc then that’s great. But if you mean she prefers doing her own thing much of the time to following the teacher’s direction, and she is vocal and/or physical about it, and she is in a formal type of programme, then she is setting herself up for a lot of pain and discomfort. You do indeed IMO need to either rein her in, change her school situation or homeschool.

    Schools are not homes, and your child will need to learn that. My own kids are spirited at home, and relatively conformist at school. Everything in its place.

  25. Papilio December 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Back in 2009 well-known and popular Dutch columnist Sylvia Witteman lived in New York with her husband, who was a news correspondent there, and her 3 kids. One of her columns was about a certain NY columnist who allowed her 9-year-old son to take the subway by himself, and how that via a media frenzy and even death threats had led to a new parenting model.
    “That was about time. The American child in the middle and upper class grows up insanely protected. There is imagined danger luring everywhere.”
    She tells about the insane rules on her kids’ school, think hand sanitizer and no recess in whatever is supposed to be ‘bad weather’.
    “The only kids mine play outside with are little fellow Europeans. American children don’t play outside, not even in my quiet little suburb. When my 8-year-old son cycled across the street to a friend the other day (with bare torso and no hands on the handle bars), the mother of that kid immediately called me, to sooth me he’d arrived safely and to ask if he could have apple pie: did he really have no allergies or diets? She’d already put sunblock on him and made him wear a longsleeved T-shirt just to be sure. At the end of the afternoon she brought him back, 550 yards, but still, you never know: so with the car, bike in the back as he hadn’t been wearing a helmet (because he doesn’t HAVE one).
    In a country like that you do indeed need some guts to let your child take the subway.”

    She then goes on about how unlikely it is that a kid would get raped/murdered (especially in a full subway carriage), and that the chance of a child dying in a car is 40x bigger.
    “Yet exactly that is the place American kids spend most of their ‘free’ time: in the car. Fat, lazy and dependant does that make them, and they aren’t even safe there. A tragic misunderstanding.”
    She ends with the remark that Americans sacredly believe they can control everything, and so they just can’t accept the ill fate of an unlucky few.

  26. Sara r. December 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    My 3.5 year old daughter was running on the sidewalk in front of me, while I carried get little brother. We were probably 200 feet away from eachother but no less than 5 cars stopped to make sure she was “okay”, and give me angry looks for..not being closer to her? It annoyed me.

  27. Sherri December 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    I am also in Canada. My kids are allowed to walk to and from school, but I had to give them written permission to be dismissed without an adult. Our school has two 15 minute recesses and a 40 minute recess at lunch each day. Recess is outdoors unless the temperature drops below -27 Celsius, or if there is thunder and lightning.

  28. Papilio December 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    “Recess is outdoors unless the temperature drops below -27 Celsius”

    Hahahahaha – that must be a mistake! You mean Fahrenheit I guess? 😀

  29. Papilio December 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    Oh MINUS 27 – okay, sorry.

  30. marie December 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    It was only later that I realised she must have had kids show up for a playdate expecting to go car to door with no outside clothes.

    When I grew up, we lived in the country and had no garage. Our car was as cold inside as it was outside and it would take several miles before the interior warmed up. No heated seats, either. Coats were NECESSARY. Driving miles to school on country roads meant we spent our share of time pushing the car out of snow drifts. Coats, boots, gloves, hats were necessary and no one needed to remind us to grab them on the way out of the house.

    After years of making sure my kids had winter coats and the coats being worn once or twice before the kids outgrew them, I decided not to buy winter coats. (Or “winter goats,” as I typed before noticing…) They go from attached garage to the door of whatever destination, so they honestly don’t need a heavy coat. This explains why so many kids wear shorts in the dead of winter with below zero weather.

    Funny thing is that this year, my son ASKED for a winter coat and my daughter keeps one in her car.

  31. Melissa December 17, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    I live in Hamilton as well, and am curious about where Swiss Mom’s kids go to school. My eldest is in JK (just turned 4) and his school has a lot more rules than I remember, but a lot less than a lot of what I read on this website (thank goodness!). I have been a bit irritated this week as there have been a couple of days that they don’t go outside. It’s been -6C during the afternoon, but it’s dry and comfortable, and I’m rarely wearing the proper hat or mitts. The kid in his snowpants and ski mitts with a toque should be just fine – maybe some rosy cheeks. I feel like perhaps it’s the adults that don’t want to go out on these “too cold” days.

    My biggest opponent to the free range in our neighborhood has been my husband, who was raised decidedly NOT free range, and sometimes has trouble remembering that we decided to let our kids have more of the freedom that I had than the restrictions that he had.

  32. BL December 17, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    So the Swiss don’t let their kids fly helicopters?

    Wimps.

    :-)

  33. Kids Ride On Vehicles December 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Parents & as a byproduct institutions / the system are so protective because of all the apparent & endless perils & dangers … and sadly fear of liability.

    Teaching kids life smarts, awareness and how to handle situations would go a long way in their personal development & growth to be independent and effective people, students, employees and parents in the future.

    I made some mistakes, poor decisions and skinned a few knees growing up, but I learned from it and as a result became a better, free thinking, confident & independent person.

  34. Jenny Islander December 17, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    Re the coats issue: I live in frostbite country. In primary school, children who arrived without cold-weather gear were allowed to pick loaners from the loaner box, but their parents were called regarding their lack of proper clothing. In high school, a student who got frostbite during the school day was considered to be suffering the consequences of his own choices, and the parents were not involved at all. At least, that was how it was when I was in school. Nowadays, the 17-year-old who got a permanent set of frost-tattoos like Mark Hamill’s because he chose to wear a baseball cap on the walk to and from his lunch break at a nearby fast food joint might be embroiled in a legal case against the school–but I sure hope not. I do know that the high school campus is still open.

  35. Ben Trafford December 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Ugh. I grew up in Hamilton, and this is sad news, indeed. Folks from my hometown tend to be a fiercely independent and tough lot — I guess that’s changing.

    Of course, the schools always did pretty much suck, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised…

  36. Emily December 17, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    I like that phrase “on the long leash” – going to use that one! And hooray for Switzerland ripping out parking lots — we really don’t need any more of those. 😀

  37. JP December 17, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    Swiss perspective. Charming. North America has been wussed on the world stage. About time we had our socks rocked.

    No Touching? Has anyone thought carefully about the consequences of this?
    as in: “We’re adults, kids. We touch much like billy-ho, because we’re so…………..human.
    (but, sorry – you’re not)

    I’d laugh my head off if it wasn’t so damned sad…..all those pathetic excuses why the kids can’t to outdoors to play…….
    (playing apparently – is much too childish, now, it seems.)

    Tell the truth, administrators: Outdoors is escape! From anything and everything that is adult! Even the very air in there…
    (and we can’t have that, can we?)
    A soiled kid is a spoiled kid?
    How ’bout let’s just run them through a 3D printer, um?
    faugh!

  38. hineata December 17, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    @JP – so sad, the No Touch thing. While the OP doesn’t specifically mention ‘touching’, I wonder if a school that doesn’t always allow recess would have a similar bizarre attitude to physical contact between students?

    Your comment touched a chord with me as we just had our last day for the year at school, and got several hugs apiece from various departing students. It’s also the kind of school where you can’t cross the playground without some little one (or the occasional big one!) attaching themselves to you physically :-). Long may that last. I would find it difficult to teach in a place where you couldn’t return hugs from kids (am not into initiating them, unless a kid is super upset and you ask permission, teacher power and all that). They need all that normal physical contact, including tag, tackle rugby and hugs :-).

  39. Lauren Matheson December 18, 2013 at 5:13 am #

    I’m Canadian, live in Germany, and have Swiss friends with school-aged children. I think the observations about culture in parenting, laundry etc are very true, and the opportunity to be somewhat exempt from those rules as a foreigner (no one really knows if I’m personally odd, or just foreign) is a blessing I rely on. In Kanton Luzern, at least, kids HAVE to walk to school, and parents are only allowed to walk with them the first week. They all wear reflector vests and mixed-aged groups are organised. Yes, the parents feel weird about it at first – they may be Swiss, but they’re still parents – but it is how it is.
    As nice as a cultural buffet might be, there are certain core attitudes that one will not lose, no matter how long they’ve been abroad. There is a kernel of my home culture that will make me forever Canadian. The issue of personal vs collective (or governmental) responsibility is part of that; I was surprised to find myself furious about some of the school rules here, enough so that we will either seek alternative schools (rare) or leave the country. Yes, kids walk to school alone, but they are legally obligated to be there every day unless excused by a doctor – a parent can not excuse their child for ANY reason. My point being, Swiss Mom’s observations are valid, but those practices probably p*ss her off more than her neighbour because she has a point of comparison and they are an expression of collective culture and will only change if she can convince that collective to see it from her perspective AND trust her alternative. This is a safe place to start, but the risk of being dismissed as a crazy foreigner outside this kind of forum is high.

  40. Per December 18, 2013 at 6:17 am #

    It is interesting to note that the countries that are victims of the recent obsessive-compulsive-child-safety epidemic are also the worst victims of the recent obesity epidemic.

    The obesity rate in Switzerland is at 7 % (and relatively stable). In Canada it is at 20 % and climbing. In the USA it is 55 % and rapidly climbing. http://www.oecd.org/health/49716427.pdf

    I think the schools are well aware of the negative impact their policies have on the childrens’ health. They also known that they can get sued if a student slips and falls during recess, but not if he dies of an obesity-related heart attack 20 years later.

  41. Per December 18, 2013 at 6:19 am #

    It is interesting to note that the countries that are victims of the recent obsessive-compulsive-child-safety epidemic are also the worst victims of the recent obesity epidemic.

    The obesity rate in Switzerland is at 7 % (and relatively stable). In Canada it is at 20 % and climbing. In the USA it is 55 % and rapidly climbing. http://www.oecd.org/health/49716427.pdf

    I think the schools are well aware of the negative impact their policies have on the childrens’ health. They also know that they can get sued if a student slips and falls during recess, but not if he dies of an obesity-related heart attack 20 years later.

  42. Donna December 18, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    I can’t speak for Canada, but some of our non-US commenters need to understand that there is far, far less of a collective culture in the US than in most other countries. We are a country of immigrants with our entire foundation built on the idea that there should be little collective US culture. And we definitely pride individualism over group (The difference was glaring when I moved to a culture that prided the group over the individual).

    I read an article recently (posted by someone on Facebook so I’ll never find it again) that basically broke the US down to 5 distinct cultures. Even within those cultures, each state will be noticeably different than the ones next door. People who choose to live in cities are very different from people who choose to live in the suburbs and both are very different from people who choose to live in small towns and rural areas, so all those places have different norms. When I moved from suburban New Jersey to rural Georgia, I had as much culture shock as I did moving from Georgia to American Samoa. It is what makes the US great and maddening and often is what you see played out in the craziness that abounds.

    So while I am sure some things are more bothersome coming from a different culture, what others are saying about just finding a different community is also very true. You may find a completely different world a town away. Sometimes you have to work to find your niche in the US more than you would anywhere else.

  43. Linda Wightman December 18, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    “Sometimes you have to work to find your niche in the US more than you would anywhere else.” True, true. On the other hand, with all this variety, even if your niche is something crazy, like free-range parenting, you’re likely to find it eventually. Cultures that are more uniform and closed can be difficult or impossible to break into.

  44. EricS December 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    Here, here Lisa! Keep at it. I think the hardest obstacle are other adults who have a holier than thou attitude, as well as paranoia for their own well being. Back in the day where people were smarter, and used common sense on a regular basis (more than people getting engrossed in their mobiles in this day and age), if parents gave a permission note (of whatever kind) to school. They would be allowed to do whatever their parents permitted them. Even if the school thought it was “unwise”. Now it’s become more of a red state. “This is what WE want. You have no say.” Like our kids suddenly belong to every institution they attend, and not the parents. More and more, parents’ rights are slowly diminishing. And the ironic part, is that many parents have allowed this to happen. And just become compliant. Sad. I for one will butt heads at every turn when it comes to my kid. I know what is best for him. And I’ll be damned before someone else tells me otherwise. I teach mine to be respectful of rules. But first and foremost, I teach him to understand right and wrong. And to always stand up for right. Even if it means going against the “rules”. I’d like to see the school reprimand my kid from hugging his friends, or sharing his food/treats (he knows about allergies, so he always asks before he shares).

    Point being, we should succumb to these stupid rules. Live by common sense. The more parents become compliant to the red state, the more they give them power to be Big Brother. And the less authority parents have over their children.

  45. EricS December 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    Oops.

    *we SHOULDN’T succumb to these stupid rules.

  46. BL December 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    @EricS
    “(more than people getting engrossed in their mobiles in this day and age)”

    I just read a story about some tourist walking off a pier into water while on Facebook.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-18/facebook-fan-takes-long-walk-off-short-pier/5163504

  47. Papilio December 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    @Donna: Thanks for the background story.

    @Linda: Which is sort of why I’ll never understand why fundamentalist muslims, you know, who demand that their women wear burqas, still decide to migrate to a country that allows gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, prostitution and cannabis use, and has special beaches and campsites for nudists.
    Shouldn’t that be like hell on earth for them???

  48. lollipoplover December 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

    My kids walked home from school yesterday during a snowstorm. The roads were dicey and traffic was murder so the walk was faster than driving. It was also the highlight of their day! I saw on the news today that in our county there were over 35 car accidents because of the bad driving conditions. Seems walking was the safer choice.

  49. Rachel December 19, 2013 at 1:06 am #

    As a kid in elementary school they had a covered area for when it rained,but I still hated it. It was too crowded and all most kids could do was just stand around,I would prefer staying in and playing boardgames to that. I also live in Washington state so it rained a lot,recess wasn’t cancelled over slight rain,wet grass or cold weather at least,otherwise there would be only a couple outdoor recess a year.

    Teachers didn’t care if kids where bullied,hit or harassed,but rain is just too much I guess.

  50. NicoleK December 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    I dunno, I live in Switzerland and can see my kid from any spot in the local playground. I gotta say I haven’t seen crazy helicopter parenting in either country.

    The playgrounds here are largely empty because kids are in daycare all day, or just play in their own yards.

    That said, yeah, I let my 3 year old play outside alone if she wants.

  51. Jenny Islander December 21, 2013 at 2:26 am #

    Got a new one for the Needs Earth Logic file, Lenore.

    My 9-year-old wants to go caroling with the Scouts tomorrow. The designated drop-off point is just across the street and down a flight of outdoor stairs, and the designated pick-up point is further away from that but so close I can clearly see people walking around there. Also, she has a cell phone in case of trouble, and her dad, who has the car tomorrow due to needing it for his job which supports us all, can be here in 10 minutes. Nevertheless, I must, due to “safety concerns,” walk her to the dropoff and be waiting at the pickup. I will have to drag two much younger children along with me on foot, it will be getting dark on the way out and full dark on the way back, and it’s icy as hell out there, with ice-free spots that a tall girl on her own could pick her way to with a flashlight, but not a mom dragging along two short kids. But if I don’t, she can’t go caroling.

    Because of “safety concerns.”

    Yeah.