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kid safety

Readers — What a perfect way to start 2014, with a great story of two boys walking to the store and the mom who fought for that right.

Yes, that RIGHT. It is OUR RIGHT to believe in our kids.  And it is our kids’ right to grow up FREE from the limits imposed by delusions of danger.This story was sent in by Ben Rossiter, head of Victoria Walks, an Australian non-profit dedicated to getting people back to doing just what these boys did: Walking around their neighborhoods. How radical. – L.

Women call police after spotting young boys walking alone to Port Fairy shop — but mum is not happy

By Jarrod Woolley

PATRICK Blythe doesn’t understand why a group of women stopped their car and told him and his brother William to go home when they were walking to the shop yesterday morning. …“I was holding Will’s hand, we weren’t running and we stopped and looked properly when we had to cross the road,” the six-year-old said yesterday.

“I told them Mum said we could go, but they just said go home. It made me feel sad, I didn’t do anything wrong.”

It was the first time the brothers had been allowed to walk to the shop without their mum Kelly, a walk they had made together hundreds of times.

“I KNOW MY CHILDREN, AND I KNOW THEY ARE MORE THAN CAPABLE OF WALKING 300 METRES ON THEIR OWN.”

…Ms Blythe said she understood why the women stopped their car to check on her boys, aged six and four…. But what she can’t comprehend is why they called in the police.

Read the rest of the story here. Then MAKE YOUR DAY by reading the mom’s incredibly wonderful, Free-Range letter to a local paper that begins:

To the car of women who pulled over and stopped my two sons on their first unchaperoned walk to the shop to purchase milk, I would first like to acknowledge your concerns about the welfare of my children and I appreciate that you may have a different opinion about whether they were old enough to undertake such a task without adult supervision.

I understand that we do not live in an ideal world where we can presume our children are always going to be safe.

I would love to think that I could protect my children from any sort of harm and I shudder with horror like any parent when I hear about child abductions and other abhorrent abuses innocent children suffer, which are reported by all forms of the media on a daily basis.

I do not, however, want my children to grow up being afraid of the world.

I am a teacher and in my job I am responsible for the welfare and education of my students on a daily basis.

I teach many students who have limited independence and their reliance on myself and others to help them navigate their way through their daily world leaves me concerned about how they will cope with the realities of life once they leave school and have to look after themselves…

Here’s the rest! It ends:

I believe in raising my children to be intelligent, independent beings who will have a lot to offer the world as adults. I am teaching them to be aware of the dangers and realities of life, but to not be afraid of it. Yours sincerely, Kelly Blythe

Kelly is my hero! – L 

PORT FAIRY, VICTORIA: What a terrifying looking town!

PORT FAIRY, VICTORIA: What a terrifying looking town!

Dear Readers — A very merry to you and yours, and hopes that someday soon a story like the one below will just seem NORMAL again. – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: My sister from New York just sent me some photos of us growing up in the South Bronx in the late ’40s and early ’50s. One is of my sister Helen, me and Santa Claus. The story behind that photo describes perfectly the differences between child rearing 60 years ago and the present bubble wrap age.
 
Helen and I lived in a tenement building on 141st St. in the Bronx. As a kindness to her kid brother (me!), my then 9-year-old sister took me by the hand and walked me up to 149th St and 3rd Ave, a business hub in the Bronx. We went to Hearn’s Dept. Store to see Santa. She negotiated the purchase of the photo, put us in line, and this lovely 1949/1950 photo emerged, a photo that we both cherish.

We had to cross many busy streets, ride the escalator (! – always an adventure) and wade through Christmas crowds. No one thought it at all odd that a 9-year-old girl could do that safely or competently. You can see in the picture an injury to my face that occurred when I did some stupid unsafe kid thing…that’s why the eight kids in my family always had scars. It was thought to be an integral part of growing up. How times have changed! I live in Australia now and called Helen – she’s 72 and I’m 68 – this morning and thanked her again for her venturesome kindness.

Yours, John McCormick

Scone, NSW, Australia

P.S.  By the way, the Santa in the photo is THE REAL SANTA. All the others are frauds.

A 9-year-old took her kid brother to see Santa. Normal responsibility.

Santa did not report this family to CPS.

Dear Readers — When you live in a society spasming with fear, it is hard not to flinch. That’s why we are here on this blog together. To support each other when the world mistakes our confidence and rationality for neglect and abuse. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I just finished reading Free Range Kids, over the course of 1.5 days. I never send fan mail, but I couldn’t keep my gratitude and relief to myself.

I am the mother of a 22-month-old boy, and I have been parenting him in a Free-Range style without really having a name for it.  He has always been very independent, so I’ve always given him as much freedom as I feel a toddler can have.  Parents who follow their children around the (fenced-in) playground have always confused me, and I’ve gotten my fair share of concerned looks when he has climbed on top of something really high (again) and I haven’t been rightbyhisside.

Though I knew my parenting style was more hands-off than most of my counterparts, I always felt confident in my choice to trust my son and let him set his own limits (within reason of course – I have yet to let him sit down to play with cigarette butts in a busy parking lot).  But about a month ago, something happened that really made me wonder if I was a terrible parent and wrong to think “stranger-danger” was overblown:

After an afternoon of running errands, my son and I made a last stop at the post office. I needed a flat-rate shipping box.  He was getting sleepy, so I decided that he could stay in the car while I made the 20-second trek to go inside, grab a box, and come right back out.  It was a mild October afternoon and I was able to snag a parking spot that would allow me to keep the car in my line of vision.  I handed him a book, told him I would be right back, locked the doors, and was back within literally 20 seconds.  We were about to be on our way when:

“IS THERE A BABY IN YOUR CAR???”

Oh jeez.  An elderly lady parked in the car next to us was hanging out of her window staring at me. I rolled down the window and hesitantly replied, “Yes?”

“DID YOU LEAVE IT IN YOUR CAR?!”

Oh crap.  “Well yeah, just for two seconds–”

“YOU DON’T DESERVE TO HAVE CHILDREN! YOU DON’T DESERVE TO HAVE CHILDREN!”  Her screaming drew a crowd and I was absolutely mortified. Even thinking about it makes my hands shake and my face flush.  My first instinct was to f-bomb her, but my son was with me and she was well, old, and you can’t f-bomb an old person, even if they are telling you that you should be sterilized.

I decided to roll up my window and just drive away. Then I became worried that she had probably written down my license plate and was on the phone with the police.  I began to wonder if I have actually been making choices that were endangering my son.  My stomach was knotted for days and I couldn’t sleep.  My husband was assuring me that she was crazy, or maybe she knew a child who steamed to death in a car.  Either way, my confidence was gone.  Never had my parenting skills been so publicly condemned, and never had I felt so much FEAR about parenting.

Then I read your book and found this blog. Ahhh (that is a sigh of relief).  I stopped feeling so alone and fearful.

Parenting is hard enough without living in fear. Thank you a million times.

Sincerely, Catherine in Richmond, VA
It is hard to stay sane in a society that sees a boy like this as hideously endangered.

It is hard to stay sane in a society that sees a boy like this as hideously endangered.