The Sad and Gut-Wrenching Case of Jessica Ridgeway

Dear Readers — Like no doubt most of you, I am horrified and dismayed by the disappearance of Jessica nhnrtbayfd
and what may be the recovery of her body. My heart is pounding as I read the stories. And of course, I am reading the reactions to the case, too. Here’s one woman’s essay, from the website Chicago Now:

When I read that a body has been found in Colorado a few miles from where Jessica Ridgeway went missing, I got a lump in my throat.  ….This case hits close to home. My tween is 10 years old, just like Jessica Ridgeway.

What hit me about this sentiment, is that the case is not literally close to the writer’s home at all. It’s about a thousand miles away. What it hits close to is…the heart.

These stories always will. In fact, as we go our separate ways as a society, our anger at those who torment children is one of the few things that still unite us. (Think of the Jerry Sandusky trial.) So the media brings these terrible stories to us from afar, and they do feel close by. We see pictures of the girl. We see the parents. It’s a ritual — the media know the script. And the more stories we hear like this, however rare, the more our hearts fill with dread. That’s why the essayist has decided, like so many other parents around the country, that she will drive her daughter to school from now on:

My internal debate is over. Driving may not be best for the ozone or our wallet, but it is for my child’s safety and for my piece of mind. I will drive her to and from school. If that makes me a helicopter mom, so be it.

I think what it makes her is a very normal, 2012 mom. Only 11% of American kids get to school on their own anymore, for lots of reasons. One is surely the fact that when these stories occur, they so dominate the news, it’s impossible to keep their rarity in perspective.

Is there any reason we should even try?

Yes. Not because the world is totally safe. But because it never will be.

As parents, we want to keep our children safe from everything. What we don’t realize is: We can’t. Even driving a child to school comes with it the possibility of getting into an accident. It’s a very small possibility, so we manage to shrug it off. But it’s a far more likely danger than then the chance of a child getting kidnapped and killed by a stranger. (If you want numbers, about 50 children a year are killed by strangers. About 1400 are killed as car passengers.)

So if we really want to protect our children from all harm on the way to school we would have to…I don’t know. Keep them at home, I guess. Just not near the stairs, for obvious reasons. Or the stove. Or a germ. Or a roller skate. Or a cookie they could choke on. Or…you get the idea.

What happens when we try to protect our kids from events so 1-in-a-million random that they can’t be predicted? Well, it’s like trying to protect our kids from being killed by a falling tree branch. Chances are very good that even if they lived to 100, they wouldn’t die that way.  But to reduce the chances to absolute zero would mean never letting them walk by a tree. They could walk in a mall, or in the house, but never outside. In other words, we’d have to obsess about this very unlikely fate, and dramatically constrict our kids’ lives to avoid it.

That’s what many of us are doing today in our fear of kidnapping.

Recently I heard from one of you a saying that may help some parents regain their perspective: Fear doesn’t prevent death. It prevents life. – L.


118 Responses to The Sad and Gut-Wrenching Case of Jessica Ridgeway

  1. Emily October 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    That is SO true. When my brother and I were kids, my parents were constantly reading stories like this in the newspaper (before Internet), so we were always kept on a short leash, because, according to my mom, “It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that I don’t trust the world.” The thing was, back then, it wasn’t normal to do that, so we had to watch other kids playing in the neighbourhood alone, going to the park alone (which our house backed into, through a wooded area), etc., while we weren’t allowed. I was born in 1984, and my brother in 1987, and the hysteria in the news was around the late 80’s/early 90’s, so I think we were probably part of the first generation of “bubble-wrapped kids.”

  2. Donna October 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Or you could drive your kids to school every day only to have someone come into your house and kidnap your children – JonBenet Ramsey, Polly Klaus, Elizabeth Smart. Is the lesson of those cases that we should stay awake all night or that awful things sometimes happen in life.

  3. Becky October 11, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    Unfortunately, this one does hit close to home for us. We live less than 20 minutes from Jessica’s house. I certainly had to think through the “should I, shouldn’t I” of letting my 9yo son walk to school the next day, but I did. And the day after. And the day after. But we have also had a few conversations about stranger awareness, and about what he should do if someone approaches him either on foot or from a vehicle. Just knowing that there is a person nearby who is snatching children makes my skin crawl, but I have to trust that my son can make wise decisions, and that fostering his independence is worth the still very small risk that something unspeakable could happen to him.

  4. RobynHeud October 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    My husband and I are very close in age, and both come from larger families (5 kids in mine, 4 in his), but while my siblings and I were given lots of independence and the freedom to move about the neighborhood on our own, he explained that the reason he did high school sports was so that he could get out of the house. This is the same time that Emily mentioned above, with my husband born in ’86. His mother especially was terrified that something would happen if she didn’t keep them inside. I refuse to give into the fear, even though I can feel it at the edges, and I will throw my TV in the trash before I force my children to stay inside where it’s “safe”.

  5. mr. joseph's dad October 11, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    My son was talking to me about rules his school has for the swings and that no one can jump off or stand up because a kid broke his arm last year. I asked him if the swing broke his arm. He said no, it broke when he fell on the ground. I then asked him why they made a rule about the swing, they should have just made the ground against the rules. He said they couldn’t because the ground was always there. So I asked him if maybe they should just outlaw falling. He agreed.

    My son also told me a month ago that they’d banned playing tag because there was no touching allowed. Then last week they came back and said you can only tag with two fingers. I told him he should start tagging with two fingers and a thumb. or two thumbs and a finger.

    That actually led into a good conversation with him about why they say two fingers and not three or four. I asked him why the rule at all, and he said because people were getting pushed too hard. So I asked him if pushing was already against the rules and he said yes. Then I asked why they would make a rule against something that was already covered by another rule. He was dumbfounded, but eagerly pursued the line of reasoning with me.

    The end result is that he now knows that at our house he’s just not allowed to fall. Oh, and the ground isn’t allowed to push him hard enough to break anything.

  6. Michelle October 11, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Emily, I don’t think you can really say that the media hysteria started in the late 80s / early 90s. Etan Patz was abducted in 1979, and Adam Walsh in 1981, and both of those cases definitely stirred nationwide media hysteria.

    I was born in 1981, and my brothers in 1982 and 1985, and while my mom raised us pretty free range, there was already paranoia in the schools and elsewhere. In my baby book I have a card with my photo and finger prints from one of those “get your kids finger printed in case something awful happens!” drives. I was 3.

  7. Donald October 11, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    Fear doesn’t prevent death, it prevents life.

    I’ll have to remember that one.

  8. joanne October 11, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    In the tree branch example, kids can’t even go to the mall! Some malls have indoor trees. I work in a City Hall and we even have little trees in our atrium. Trees are everywhere. They’re insidious. Better not to leave the house at all.

  9. Anne October 11, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    I live in Colorado. A whole lot of people are castigating the poor parents for letting the kid walk to school. I have an 11 year old 5th grader. I gave him his cell phone, and I told him if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable when you walk or bike to school, go into a business and tell an adult. If you can’t do that, use the phone and call 911. Stay on the main road and don’t go under the bridge by the construction because nobody is down there most of the time. Don’t worry, this is very rare.

  10. AW13 October 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    @Michelle: Johnny Gosch also went missing in the early 1980s. That was a big one, too, I think. At least it was here, since it happened in Iowa (although about 3 hours away from where we lived). But I understand what Emily is saying: my mom was terrified after Johnny Gosch went missing. But she still let me ride my bike to school. She still let my friends and I walk to the swimming pool. She still let me go to the mall. We just went over how to avoid trouble (ad nauseam). This was the norm. But when my cousins were children (the late 80s and early 90s), things were very different than when I was in school. The number of parents who restricted their children’s independent movement had greatly increased.

    These stories will always hit parents hard. It’s a parental fear, perhaps the greatest parental fear of them all. The worst part is that we have no control over the actions of others. And yet, we never will. Our children will have to learn how to comport themselves in a world in which they cannot control the actions of others. It is our obligation to prepare them for this.

  11. mollie October 11, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    Happy to say I’d heard nothing about this case until I read it here, on your site. In fact, that’s how I learned about the last three überpublicized abduction cases in the US: right here, in the context of a community that at once wants to acknowledge the grief and shock of any incident like this, and likewise acknowledge that incidents like these are not a call to radically change our behaviour, especially our efforts to “protect” our kids from random events.

    There’s a tinge of defensiveness here: we all know that the standard response in our culture today is to “learn” from an event like this, and the lesson is: never let your kids do anything on their own. But we aren’t “learning” that lesson, we are defending our right NOT to “learn that lesson.”

    Please, let shared reality prevail.

  12. Maegan October 11, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    “My son was talking to me about rules his school has for the swings and that no one can jump off or stand up because a kid broke his arm last year.”

    This points to a common phenomenon. The idea that this was the first time this would happen, and that they could stop it from ever happening again simply doesn’t make sense. Certainly, if it were the first time a human had ever broken a bone, then the hysteria would be more than warranted. This idea that a broken bone must be avoided at all costs seems new. Is it? Where does it come from?

  13. Lollipoplover October 11, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    My kids bike or walk to school. When I hear stories like this, it gives me pause. I trust my kids. I don’t trust the world around them. But then I read the comments on Jessica’s story, and I get sick to my stomach:

    “This is the very reason little kids should NEVER walk to a “nearby” bus stop or that short block or two to school. I do sympathize with her parents (especially her father) but to me, when things like this happen you can’t help but to lay some of the blame on the parents for letting that child walk to school. Her father lives in another state so it’s obviously not of his negligence, but it is her mothers. I’m not blaming her or saying she didn’t care, but you just don’t let your ten year old daughter walk to school by herself. So many kids are kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered because of carelessness.” (off MSN)

    My kids are better students because they bike to school. They are also good citizens of their community- concerned with traffic and the impact on the enviroment. They also know that their biggest danger when commuting to school is CARS. I am not raising my kids to be victims. I will not hold them prisoners in my car or house when they are perfectly capable of doing something themselves.

  14. Sarah in WA October 11, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    The tree branch analogy is perfect. And truthfully, even if you’re inside your house, a big enough tree could fall through the roof and still kill you. Things like this have happened. But do we need to live in fear of this very thing happening to us or our children? No. It’s a one-in-a-million scenario.

    When a tree falls through a roof and kills someone and it’s in the news, do people rush out and retrofit their homes with steel beam construction? Not likely. Yet when a child is tragically kidnapped and killed people start driving their children everywhere, restricting their time outside the house, etc. Why? When fatal car accidents are reported, do people stop driving? It doesn’t seem like it considering how busy families are these days, rushing off from one activity to the next. Where’s the logic here? I just don’t get it.

  15. Sarah in WA October 11, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    @Lollipoplover, I agree–that comment is sickening. “I’m not blaming her . . .” Um, yes, that person is! This is in no way the mother’s fault. I can’t imagine what she’s going through, and there are people out there who want to add insult to her injury. It’s just heartless.

  16. Michelle October 11, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    This is very close to where I live (like 10 miltes or so). My son isn’t old enough to do anything like walk to school (he’s not even 4), but a lot of my friends and people I know are posting on Facebook about this. I do not wish this on ANYBODY, nobody should have to go through what her parents are going through. I absolutely feel horrific, I really do. However, what about all the other thousands of kids in the area that are fine? Somebody in the area posted “and my 17 year old wonders why I need to know where he is all the time.” I so wanted to post something, but have resisted because it would be taken the wrong way. I hope they find her, and hope it’s a relative or something like that honestly that was being stupid.

  17. Emily October 11, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    RobinHeuyd–It’s funny that you said that your husband joined sports in high school so that he could get out of the house. I was never athletic, but I did band, student council, peer assisting, and co-directed a play I’d written in my final year of high school. I didn’t do this specifically to get out of the house, but it had the side effect of getting my parents to give me a lot more freedom–I guess they figured that if they could trust me to go to an evening band practice, or to help to run a school dance, and if the SCHOOL trusted me to be the secretary of the student council, then they could trust me to, say, go to the mall after school, or to the YMCA to swim.

  18. Donna October 11, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    I bet that kids were abducted before 1980. I can’t say for sure since they are not household names. When people mention abducted children, the same handful of names appear and, with the exception of Etan Patz, all occurred after 1980. Even my mother, who was a child in the 50s and 60s, can’t name a kid abducted then, although she can name Adam Walsh and several others since.

    I think this hysteria really leads back to Adam Walsh. This is the one name that is mentioned every single time child abduction comes up. All other common names come after him. Even Etan wasn’t as well known until recent events reminded everyone. Only now is he part of the common discourse. I’ve yet to meet any adult in the US who doesn’t know who Adam Walsh was. I remember hearing the name and watching TV movies about him as a kid.

    I think John Walsh’s desire to never have his son forgotten, and the fact that he got the airtime to do it through America’s Most Wanted, set off this obsession with child abduction.

  19. Yan Seiner October 12, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    Brian Barrientos 11
    Peter Anthony, 18
    Chris Khan, 18
    Neil Rajaba, 18
    Darian Ramnarine, 18
    Kevin McClung, 17
    Christina Lembo, 16
    Hannah Gilmer, 16
    Ava Kendall, 6

    I’m going to stop now, but not for lack of names.

    What do they have in common with Jessica Ridgeway? They’re all teens, and they’re all dead. They all died tragically in the last week. But since none of them was abuducted, we never hear about them. They all died in car crashes, most as a result of drunk drivers.

    I don’t hear anyone changing their ways to never let their kids inside a car.

    Please, let your children live! Living is a life sentence; we’re all going to die. The question is will you smother your child. Will you let them live and teach them how LIVE! Or teach them to fear life itself.

    For the latin scholars in the crowd, Dum vivimus, vivamus!

  20. CrazyCatLady October 12, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    A life lived in fear is not a life well lived.

    Although, I must say, that I had not heard about this either. I don’t listen to news other than NPR.

  21. Dave October 12, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    Love the quote a out fear preventing life. So true. Before don’t stop what you atrocious doing. Society needs you.

  22. Merrick October 12, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    Also in Colorado. Though further away.

    Grew up in the Columbine community.

    My kids still walk to school. (Except the oldest, who drives and is probably in WAY more danger than anyone on their way to any middle school or elementary school – what could be more dangerous than a parking lot full of teen drivers?)

  23. Ali October 12, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    We live on the other side of the lake from Jessica…we walk to the lake at least once a week. It’s 5 minutes when the kids are especially pokey. When the command center and searchers are combing the area where your kids play, it’s really, really, really hard to keep it in perspective that this is a once in a lifetime tragedy. When I talked with the principal at the school she mentioned that “something like this hasn’t happened in Jeffco that anyone can remember”.

    I’m dedicated free range. But at this very moment, it’s just not happening here. I’m hugging my kids tightly and hoping they find the person that committed this terrible crime. Tomorrow will be brighter, but today the reality of this tragedy is just too close.

  24. Yan Seiner October 12, 2012 at 1:55 am #

    @Ali: If the person who did this is at large, you have every right to keep your kids home. That’s not paranoid, that’s prudent. The problem is when someone who lives a thousand miles away starts keeping their kids at home – from fear.

    My heart goes out to your community. May you and your neighbors get through this.

  25. Warren October 12, 2012 at 2:33 am #

    There are so many differences in society now, than 30 plus years ago. I know that I may come off as being cold, but please remember these are just opinions.

    Mr. Walsh, as much as it is admirable to love your child, as much as he does, it is no longer about Adam anymore, and has not been for a long long time. Mr. Walsh has become a video vigilante, and yes his AMWanted has taken some criminals off the street, it has also created a generation of paranoia. Having people be constantly on alert, checking the shadows, etc. In my opinion, almost as much harm as good.
    The media, as much as they wish to make us believe they are there to keep us informed. That they are providing an essential service of exposing the truth. When it comes right down to it, they are there to turn a profit, as any business wants. Thus forcing them to out do, and sensationalize stories, and bring us stories that they know will scare or outrage us. And unfortunately, there are more ways of bringing those stories to us, than ever.
    Now this is where some of you may not like my opinion. Our society today, has this stubborn need to always remember, and continually memorialize. Schools holding annual memorials for kids who died, and sometimes because they were foolish and paid the price. Events like the shooting at the nursing college, here in Canada, has been done annually, and so on. Yes, we need to remember. Do we need to make it the annual event and news story……no. Because so many of these memorials, have been taken on by organizations, and the actual victims are being used to promote their message. I always feel for the victims, and their families and friends, but sometimes enough is enough, let the dead rest.
    All these memorials do now, for the most part, is bring back the fear, the pain, and create fundraising opportunities.
    We need to get beyond the media, the martyrs, the memorials, and just get on with our lives. Then we can let our kids get on with theirs.

  26. Jenna October 12, 2012 at 2:37 am #

    I still let my kids walk and ride their bikes without me being with them. My 9-year-old and 7-year-old walked home from piano lessons today about a 1/2 mile, crossing one busy road. I guess I’m banking on the odds that are more in my favor than not in my favor. It still scares me a little every time they ride their bikes or walk home from school alone (it’s a mile–but there are lots of kids and parents on that walk), but I remember the odds and realize they are definitely more in my favor than not. Yes, there’s a chance, but they need independence as much as I do not need to spend my entire day driving them around and picking them up.

  27. Havva October 12, 2012 at 2:52 am #

    @Ali… I can’t say it any better than Yan. I wouldn’t ask you to not worry about it while there is apparently a murderer at large in your community. Keep hugging those kids tight, and reaching out to your neighbors. Everyone needs each-other at a time like this. I hope your community has answers soon.

  28. Gina October 12, 2012 at 2:54 am #

    @Ali…I completely agree with you. YOU have a reason to be protective and cautious. There IS a predator in your midst and you have a right to keep your children safe. In your neighborhood, at this point in time, there is a serious risk and the benefit of being FR does NOT outweigh it.

  29. baby-paramedic October 12, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    The case of Jill Meagher was a close one for me. Someone walking several hundred meters home, on a street I once traversed in the same fashion, who never made it. In Brisbane papers, women spoke about their new found fear, and how many would cease to walk home (something I had also done, many a time. Sure, the occasional creeper approached me, but there were contingency plans for that).
    Whilst driving home from work one night, there was a seemingly broken down car. This stretch of road has no mobile reception.
    And I hesitated. I hesitated stopping and helping these two men, knowing that doing so did put me at a risk.
    Then my common sense kicked in, pointing out the chance was small, and more importantly, I had to stop worst-first thinking, most people are not out to abduct, rape and murder me (I do admit, I had my hands on my trauma shears anyway, I figure they could do some damage).
    Their car was indeed broken down. I drove to the next town and organized a towtruck for them. They contacted me and thanked me, pointing out I was the only one to stop and offer help during the four hours they were stuck, on a reasonably busy highway, which everyone knows has no reception.

  30. AW13 October 12, 2012 at 3:22 am #

    @Yan: Concurro. Et dum spiro, hoc spero. 🙂

  31. Havva October 12, 2012 at 3:59 am #

    “Fear doesn’t prevent death. It prevents life.”
    Thank you for sharing words for that sensibility. I had a lovely person show me the grace of living that truth. Her name was Amy. She was a friend’s younger sister. While in middle and high school she battled cancer with a rare grace. She accepted mortality, while fully embracing life. I have known many with cancer, but none like her. She was more alive than anyone. And 13 years ago she beat back the cancer.

    Back when I knew Amy I admired her, but I did not understand.

    Back then I was a hyper careful person. I guess, I thought that if you were careful enough you could ensure that you lived into your 90’s. Then I saw the twin towers fall before my eyes. It just hit me all at once, that you could do everything right, cover every known threat, and still death could snatch you out of a clear blue sky. I realized that if I were dying my greatest regret would be that I had turned down so many chances to enjoy life. I believe Amy understood to her core that “Fear doesn’t prevent death. It prevents life.”

    Amy died today. But I take great comfort in knowing that she lived so well to the very last. And that her approach to life inspired everyone around her. I will take Amy’s lesson any day, over the lessons of fear.

  32. socalledauthor October 12, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    Interesting stories commenters about how things change. I grew up in the 80s. Years later, I learned that there was a young boy who was abducted and killed in my community. My parents were so low key about it, I didn’t even know until years later. I don’t recall the story, but clearly my parents didn’t think that this boy’s unfortunate situation would have any bearing on their kids’ lives. They were much more concerned about us being safe about the main road with it’s blind hill and the speeding drivers. You know, the more likely risk to children playing outside or walking down to the store on the corner to play video games with money from the pop bottles we gathered on the way!

    In my day job, I get a curious teenaged subset of the helicoptered crowd. I have too many students in my school that are afraid of nothing, and I think quite a few of them it has a good deal to do with them coming to realize that all the “dangers” they were warned against were not really that big of a deal. So, they overgeneralize and decide that ALL of the dangers are not dangerous… and act accordingly. Some laugh at how ‘silly’ their parents are for worrying.

  33. Nanci October 12, 2012 at 4:42 am #

    I hope this does not come off sounding insensitive. I have a 10 year old daughter in 5th grade, and I feel horribly for this girl’s family. I have been homeschooling my 9 year old son this year. We have been studying early American life and reading many biographies about famous Americans and their lives. Their lives were tough, and it made them tough. They were swinging axs and hunting wild game at an age when we are barely letting our boys use pointy scissors. The had many amazing accomplishments. Something that has struck me in all the biographies is how many people died. Not one person had all of their children or siblings live to adulthood. In fact we were studying Abe Lincoln last week and of 4 kids only one lived to adulthood. They took risk, and people died, but great accomplishments were made. I can just imagine the world we would be living in now if Daniel Boone’s mother made him stay inside away from the dangers of the world. I am very glad that we live in a much safer society today. I certainly don’t want anything to happen to my children. I feel great sorrow for these poor parents who have lost their child to a monster far greater than a wild bear or coyote. I do fear for our future though, what kind of generation are we raising that will lead us in times to come? I recently heard someone saying they were going to rent their 8 year old a stroller at DisneyWorld because it was so much walking and she complains and whines when she gets tired. I can just imagine how well whining would have gone over with the thousands of kids who walked behind the wagon trains over hundreds of miles to settle the west! In the past death was a part of life, now people seem to think that if they stop living they can somehow avoid death.

    I truly hope that the parents will not beat themselves up and listen to the rude people who are saying this is their fault. They did the right thing letting their 10 year old walk to school. Sometimes even when you are doing the right thing bad things happen.

  34. hineata October 12, 2012 at 5:09 am #

    How awful for the Ridgway family! My heart goes out to them…..

    But yes, child abductions, though exceptionally rare, have probably always happened. In January 1966, the three Beaumont children from Adelaide never returned from a day at the beach, and no one ever found them. My dad was the paranoid type, and this was obviously big news on both sides of the Ditch at the time, and indeed over the years (we shared similar lifestyles with the Australians). But even he didn’t prevent us, as we were growing, from going places alone or together. Really, as my mother said, there was no point in worrying about it – it was so unlikely that we would get that unlucky. So sorry it has presumably happened to this poor girl….

    @Nanci – really, could you rent a stroller for an eight year old? Do they have them that big, seriously? And gosh, if my kid whined while at somewhere as absolutely cool as Disney World, I think they’d be getting a slap on the backside once we left……Ungrateful wretches!

  35. Nanci October 12, 2012 at 5:18 am #

    @hineata I was quite disgusted hearing that about the stroller for the 8 year old. That is actually what she was asking, she wanted to know what kind she could rent that would be big enough!!! If I had a kid who was going to complain about walking in a theme park we would be getting back on the plane to go home! But sadly some kids are actually being raised like this and it makes me fearful of our future!

  36. Donna October 12, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    Hineata and Nanci – I saw many school age kids in strollers at Disneyland when I took my daughter, then 4 and she made it without a stroller. The strollers are parked so deep outside some rides that it was difficult to walk passed. There even strollers parked at big kid rides like Space Mountain and the Matterhorn.

    I had one set of grandparents who moved an hour away from Disneyland when I was 8 and the other set moved an hour away from Disney World when I was 11. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to both Disneys, including a few visits as an adult with my lawfirm to the famous private club in Disneyland. I’d never seen anything like this.

  37. BL October 12, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    1. As rare as the Jessica Ridgeway incidents are, they’d be even rarer if the streets were routinely filled with walking kids, or just walking people of all ages. Witnesses and potential intervenors.

    2. I can sort-of understand the 8-year-olds who want to be in strollers, in this way: they’ve probably never walked this much in a day before going to Disneyland. If they constantly walked their home neighborhoods, a day on their feet would be no big deal.

  38. Kenny Felder October 12, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Clearly we need to start a new TV news network that broadcasts horrific stories of children killed in car accidents, 24/7. There would be no shortage of material.

  39. TVE October 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    The ability to get very scared of danger that strikes around us has probably been extremely important throughout evolution. I would say that it is a basic instinct.

    Having media trigging this for issues that have no relevance to our own survival is one of our times biggest challenges. Not to different from overeating and obecety. We need to se that our bodies and our instincts does not always give us the right information.

  40. Havva October 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    @Nanci & Hineata — Taking your posts together and thinking about history and abductions, I can give an example. My mother’s family is a pioneer family. They were always moving just ahead of civilization, founding towns and so forth. In our family tree I came across an interesting note. “Abducted by Indians” with a date in the early 1800’s, next to a pair of sisters. I believe they were 6 & 8 at the time. They were with the tribe until they were teens, at which point they were somehow returned to their family. That is a note I’ve always been curious to know more about.

  41. Yan Seiner October 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Just a random thought: The options are always presented as:

    1. My child walking to school – DANGER! (There was an incident a thousand miles away, and my child is in immediate and clear danger)
    2. I drive my child to school – SAFE (but wasteful, and potentially teaches your child to drive even when they can walk)

    Never do I hear

    3. I will walk with my child to school

    How about more emphasis on option 3? We have enough overweight, out of shape people in this world. No need to train more people to drive across the street because “it’s too dangerous to walk”.

  42. AW13 October 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    @Hineata, Nanci, et al: An 8 year old in a stroller is ridiculous. Why are 8 year olds ok with this? I would have been mortified to be in a stroller at that age! And my son hasn’t wanted to be put in a stroller since he figured out how to walk. I know he’d be tired if we went to Disney for a day, but I also know he would refuse to ride in a stroller once we were there. He’s 3.5.

  43. Katherine October 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    There were certainly other kidnappings before this, but probably the first famous and nationally known one was little Charley Ross in 1884.

    also, the reason parents are more frightened of kidnappings then car accidents are not because of frequency, but because of the way a child dies. In the car accident, there’s a much higher percentage of a chance that IF a child is in a car accident, they will survive. If they do die, there is at least closure and mom and dad can be with them and try to comfort them in their last moments. With a kidnapping by a stranger, even though much rarer, there is almost a 50% death rate. There is also the thought of your child alone, scared, and being inhumanely tortured with no one around to comfort them which is the MOST horrifying thing in the world for a normal parent to have to think about. And there’s also the very high possibility of a lifetime of never knowing what happened or where your child is. Is he alive? Is he dead? Did he suffer long? That’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Should we lock our kids up? Absolutely not. We need to assess the risks and realize this is something that statistically will never hit even close to home. But we should remember that when we say “statistically speaking” it’s more dangerous for your kid to ride in a car, that even knowing the risks, we just aren’t as afraid of deaths by car accidents for the reasons mentioned above.

  44. Laura P. October 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    All of this is too close to home. I live very close to Jessica’s neighborhood and take the route everyday to work near to where the body was found and where the backpack was left. It’s on my mind constantly.

    My husband’s brother was almost abducted in the early 80’s but my husband saw what was happening and yelled to his brother to run! A few weeks later a boy was abducted. A friend of mine also has a friend whose sister was abducted and she was never found.

    This past month, in our area, a man was reported to be trying to lure kids with candy to his car. A sketch was released and the police are investigating if this is connected to the Ridgeway case.

    Last year a man was reported trying to abduct girls and was also spotted on my child’s campus in which the whole school went on lockdown and the police were called.

    There have been so many incidents that I know of regarding my family, friends, and community that it’s not going to be easy to let my children be out and about alone. I used to walk several blocks to school as a kid. Personally I didn’t like it. I was always uncomfortable because beyond my immediate blocks the rest of the neighborhood felt strange. I am a very independent person and I want my kids to be independent too.

    I hope that they catch Jessica’s abductor before he does something awful again.

    ~Laura in Arvada, CO

  45. Momof2 October 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    It’s amazing how stories like this can make you second-guess what you’re doing for your children. I am completely heart-broken and devastated for Jessica and her family for what happened. And I am still worried for the two missing girls in Iowa. How can TWO girls possibly be missing? Yet, it does happen.
    As a subscriber and advocate to raising children free range, even I had to push the self-doubt out of my mind, wondering if allowing our guys the freedom we have is the right thing.
    I am going to continue to advocate for free range and continue to trust in God that our children will be OK! I’m actually more concerned about the teen years than I am about a kidnapping. 🙂
    I refuse to live in FEAR! There are far too many fearful things we ADULTS have to worry about in today’s society. I’m not going to pass it on to my children.

  46. Carol Everett Adams October 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    I can’t tell you how much this blog and its community have meant to me. I have come a long way as a free range parent. This place is a haven of rationality in the turmoil of the current tragedy.

    After beginning to read this blog, I started to let my kids walk short distances in our neighborhood by themselves. I will continue to do so.

    The blaming of Jessica’s mother makes me sick.

    I travel alone with my children several times a year (my husband stays home & works while I take them to Grandma’s). Years ago I showed them that Walsh & Baby Einstein video with Safety Chick (have you all seen it?), and we’ve had many conversations about safety, strangers, etc.

    I realized yesterday how I’d indoctrinated them. I have this irrational fear that a terrible person will use a trick to kidnap my kids, like asking their help with a lost puppy, or telling them I’ve been taken to the hospital and he/she will drive them to me. I don’t know why this sticks in my mind… where did it come from? Anyway, I’ve told them never never never to believe anyone who says these things.

    Well, you know how it goes with little kids and timing… sister was so sick and I had to get her some help, and I arranged for my son’s best friend’s mom to pick him up at school, but it was too late to get word to him.

    So, she pulls up in her van, opens the door, and says “Come with me — your sister is sick and your mom can’t pick you up.”

    Now, here is a woman he knows well, who has been to our house a hundred times, whose house he has spent the night in, etc., and she said he actually hesitated and asked her if she was serious or telling a story! He wasn’t initially sure if he should trust her! Of course, that hesitation didn’t last long, and he got in her car, but… it really made me think about the messages I’ve given him!

    Later, I thanked him for using his common sense to get in the car, and told him we’d be sitting down soon to talk about more common sense safety rules because I know I can trust him to make the right decisions in these cases. His reply was, “Well, yes, Mom, I do have a brain.”

    Thanks, Free Range Kids, for reminding me that even in a world where heartbreaking and terrible things can and do happen to kids, life keeps going for the rest, and we can’t live in fear, infect them with our fear, and coddle them in safety for the rest of their days. I finally understand that if we want our kids to be thinkers and problem solvers, we have to allow them to use and grow those skills… because they do have brains (thanks for the reminder, son!).

  47. Linda October 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    I am new to this site and I have a question for everyone and I hope no one will jump all over me. 🙂 I have read on this site that statistically speaking, less crimes are happening all over America and it’s a safer place to be. I have a hard time believing that we are a more moral generation than those past. In fact from watching television and movies and from talking to other people, I’d say as a whole, our nations values have declined and continue to do so. So why are we safer? Could it be because we are MORE paranoid and therefore give criminals less of a chance to victimize us? We don’t go out alone after dark in high risk areas, we keep a more watchful eye on our kids, we all enroll in self defense classes, we get security systems for our homes and businesses, we have cameras recording everyone’s move out and about in public, etc. In my mind, this is why we are safer. So if we go back to a more free range lifestyle, won’t crime increase again? By the way, I am not a completely free range parent, but I also don’t think I am completely helicopter either. I consider myself mid ground on the issue. As an example, I let my 10 year old walk to school, but she has to follow the designated way that her father and I feel is the safest, most public way, (no back alley shortcuts) and she has to be with at least one friend. Just wondering what everyone else’s thoughts are on the “statistics”.

  48. Warren October 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Laura P brought up the incidents of sketches being issued, and a campus being locked down. These types of stories feed parents fears just as much as actual abductions.

    And typical to society, everyone remembers that the campus was locked down, and that warnings were issued, and sketches passed around. Nobody ever remembers that it was a false alarm, or the product of an over active imagination.

    I am not saying that all of them are false, but I would bet that the majority of them are. To go along with society and worst-first thinking, all the false alarms are acceptable, to better be safe than sorry. In many other areas of life, these amounts of false alarms would not be accepted, and the practise of lockdowns and the like would be stopped or modified.

  49. Nanci October 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    @Linda The freakenomics guys have a theory about why crime started declining in the mid-90’s. It is a horrible theory but it makes sense. I will preface this by saying I am extremely conservative and will only vote for pro-life candidates. I do not agree with abortion at all. However the freakeconomics guys do rightly point out that about 20-25 years after Roe V Wade crime rates began dropping dramatically. They say it’s because so many children who would have been born and raised in dysfunctional environments, and gone on to become violent criminals, were instead aborted. That is their theory and while it is terrible, I suppose it does make sense.

  50. Yan Seiner October 12, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    @Nanci: There is a statistical correlation between increased abortions resulting in fewer teens and a drop in crime rate. Since most crimes are committed by young men from dysfunctional families this is probably true.

    @Linda: I do not buy into the “our nations values have declined and continue to do so” theory. In the 50s blacks were lynched and women were raped and it was “their fault”. The 60s witnessed a deeply divided society that carried on to the 70s; read some of the accounts of the Nixon whitehouse. A president was assasinated in the 60s. Drug use was endemic throughout society; kids dropping acid and adults drinking and taking valium. Racism was endemic through the 70s. Sexism continued through the 80s. Remember the “I’m Mandy, Fly me” commercials?

    Where are values that were so much better? I certainly don’t recall them.

    All that’s different from the 60s and 70s is that our tabloid press now splashes this garbage all over the front page. In the 60s, if your husband beat the crap out of you, you took your valium, and covered the bruises with makeup. Today, we have the burning bed on the front page, for weeks, with the subsequent trial that goes on and on.

    If anything, judging from my kids and their friends today, their values are certainly better than what I had in school. Their role models are better. Their academics are harder. Their social skills are better.

    Don’t live in fear of a declining society. It’s not happening. Our society is safer; our perception is colored by the tabloid press.

    The best thing you can do is to rip the cable TV feed out of your walls and go for a walk with your kids.

  51. Becky October 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    @Linda – There is some truth to what you say. Part of the reason that crime of all sorts has declined is because we, as a nation, have taken to closeting ourselves within the four walls of our bolt-locked, security system wired homes. Instead of going to the ballpark to watch a game with our kids, we’ll sit inside where there’s air conditioning, and no mosquitoes and, coincidentally, no other people who could bother us or our children.

    But there are problems with this way of “life”. It makes us and our children fat and unhealthy. It makes us and our children dumb and apathetic. If we adopt a more free-raneg lifestyle could crime potentially increase? Yes, it could. And so could health and wellness and happiness.

    Regardless, our more sheltered lifestyle is not the only reason crime has gone down. Our tactics of law enforcement have gotten better. Our awareness that there are bad people out there, and our teaching of defensive tactics to our children, have helped. Other things have had major factor, for instance, the proliferation of social programs. When you help provide for people who are down on their luck, they don’t have to steal. When you give help to people with mental illness instead of letting them roam the streets, they’re less likely to commit crimes. The decline in crime can be attributed to a lot of things. How about baby boomers? Is it a coincidence that crime has decreased since these people (who allegedly grew up in a more “moral” time) started settling down and/or getting too old for stupid hijinks? Maybe yes, maybe no.

    I don’t feel qualified to speak about the relative morality of our country, but I certainly would question your assertion that it’s gone downhill. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my then 80-something grandparents when they were bemoaning how bad things were now compared to when they were young. “What?,” I said, “You mean when you and your combined 13 siblings were forced to start working as teenagers because your families were starving? You mean when the mine collapsed on grandpa back when he was still a teen, crippling him for life? You mean when grandma wrote that letter to the city when she was 13 begging them to not close the high school because she really wanted to go on to 9th grade?” Look how less than a century has changed our moral perspective as to how children should be treated. Once, losing children was expected. Now we all hate to see when any child is injured.

    But the truth of the matter has never changed. Children die. Children get hurt. And there’s nothing we can do to stop that. Oh sure, you can keep the kid inside it’s entire life and it will be safe from abduction by strangers. But will it be safe from Uncle Bob when he comes over for Christmas dinner? Will it be safe from developing juvenile-onset diabetes? Will it be safe from the giant HD television falling on it? Will it be safe from Vitamin D deficiency (the best cure of which is exposure to sunlight)? Will it be safe from Facebook bullying which its never learned to deal with, and thus take its own life? WE DON’T KNOW. We can never know, and that fact is terrifying to parents. I get that.

    So given the choice between being terrified that something will happen to your kid while wrapping him or her in tissue paper, and being terrified that something will happen to your kid while he or she is out playing in the sun, having the time of his or her life….which do you choose?

  52. Havva October 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    @AW13… My hypothesis may be way off here, but I think how the stroller is presented and used may have a hand in which kids are cool with using it far too long, and which aren’t. Basically a question of, is a stroller a normal state when you are a little kid, or for babies.

    Before she was even born, I decided that I shouldn’t use a stroller if my daughter could reliably walk the distance. Once she got to be a decent walker, I took her out for a mile long walk through the neighborhood to teach her to stay on the sidewalk. I didn’t mean for it to be so long, the distance was her choice. Her excitement and pride at being able to get around on her own two feet was enormous. We like to encourage that, both for her, and for our convenience. Before she was 18 months we were able to go into stores and to the park with no stroller. She also knows to stop at the curb and holds my hand to cross streets. The looks from other people are amazing. The stroller now is only for longer or evening trips for “if she gets too tired.” Which is mostly code for, if she isn’t cooperating. So, while she will ask for the stroller when she is tired, she does so reluctantly. Mostly she enjoys pushing it, which has prompted comments of “Shouldn’t she be IN the stroller.” Or, “Someone is missing from your stroller.”

    There are 3 other kids on our street about the same age. After my daughter was moving away from the stroller, they all started to “play” by riding in toy cars that they are strapped into, can’t touch the ground, and mom pushes. Car shaped strollers really.

    I saw the oldest was offered a proper ride on top car. His mom wanted to let my daughter try out the car stroller. He rejected the ride on top car. My daughter was not too impressed with the stroller, but was all over the proper toy car. So they gave us the proper toy car.

    The next, finally, at 20 months has started walking the neighborhood (on a leash *sigh*, but at least he is using his own legs, and learning to stay out of the street).

    And the last, just got his 3rd new stroller.

  53. mollie October 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Gina said, “There IS a predator in your midst and you have a right to keep your children safe.”

    Okay, yes, I get it, there is an unsolved crime, and perhaps this offender will successfully kill or harm again… or not. In my town in the early 80s there was an 8-year-old who was sexually assaulted, murdered, and discarded in a ravine. She had been walking home from school. As far as I know, this crime was never solved.


    I don’t remember missing even one day of walking to get my bus. I guess the odds of a serial offender were statistically even lower than one event happening in the first place, and my mother moved on and we lived life.

    It seems to me this quote of Gina’s could be uttered by any parent, anywhere. The idea is that there is ALWAYS someone in our midst who is just WAITING for the opportunity to offend. We can’t know who it is, but we know there is a POTENTIAL KILLER ANYWHERE, in any community. And, by that logic, it makes “sense” to keep kids constantly supervised.

    Sorry, but I guess I’d have to see the stats on multiple abductions in one location in rapid succession. My guess is that it’s even rarer than a one-off, so what’s the point of missing even a day of living, unless it’s to quietly reflect on the sanctity of life and honour the young child who died?

    Continuing to LIVE is how I honour the dead.

  54. Lollipoplover October 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    “Never do I hear

    3. I will walk with my child to school”

    Because if parents walked (or biked) their kids to school, they would see that it is not that dangerous after all. They might even enjoy it. l’ve always wondered how can you say something is dangerous (like walking to school) when you’ve never tried it.

  55. AW. My13 October 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    @Havva: I agree, it all has to do with how these things are presented. We are an active family – my son was wild to get his own tricycle, and then a bicycle. I get strange looks from people when I tell them that my 3 1/2 year old rides his bike without training wheels. I get even stranger looks when I mention that he regularly goes on 3-5 mile bike rides with his dad. They did 7 miles once (on accident – my son wanted to keep going, my husband wasn’t really paying attention to mileage). But this is our family – we ride our bikes or walk instead of driving whenever we can, my husband rides his bike for fun, and I run for fun. This is the norm, as far as our kid is concerned.

  56. Jay October 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Very sad — and sadly human — that a mother’s response to a tragic story is to deliberately increase the risk of harm to her child by increasing her time in an automobile.

  57. Rachel October 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    I just got home from meeting my 6 year old at the bus stop around the corner, and had one of those moments. He was literally the only kindergartener on the bus today because all 100 other kindergarteners’ parents picks them up at school. (i give him the choice because that’s lonely and many days he asks to be picked up because of that). so i meet him, we chat and cuddle and he asks to walk home by himself. No problem. I remind him to be careful and look both ways when crossing our small street. We live about .1/8 of a mile from the stop – but cant see it from our house. he gets home 5 minutes later and reports 2 people asked him if he is lost. nice. good. nice people. a woman then knocks on the door – asks if a little boy is here. i thanked her and said yes and she just stood there. I said, “I met him at the bus stop. He askes to walk home alone, which I do let him do.” she just stood there. Of course, I don’t play it cool – i say, “are you judging me?” she just walked away. ugh. She’s trying to be thoughtful, i know. She took time out of her day out of concern for the safety of my child. NO more hand on hip – now I just feel like a belligerent and neglectful mom.

  58. Donna October 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    @ Linda – People have a very wrong view of criminals. They are generally not out in the nice part of town victimizing the rich. It happens and is generally what we hear about on the news because nobody cares about robberies and murders in the ‘hood but that is a very small part of the crime going on. The vast majority of the time they work close to home and their victims are their neighbors.

    Very little crime is stranger-on-stranger. Property and theft crimes sometimes involve strangers. Violence is rarely perpetrated on a stranger. The serial killer planning and stalking prey is an extreme rarity. The randomly violent person attacking someone in a dark alley is an extreme rarity. Most violence is an act of impulse; a retaliation for some perceived wrong. Gang violence, domestic violence, friends shooting each other over a card game, shooting a neighbor for being too loud, robbing your drug dealer, date/acquaintance rape, molesting your girlfriend’s children. Those are examples of common violent crimes. The man lying in wait in a dark alley for a hapless passersby is not.

    The middle/upper class is now and always has been very safe. Not 100% safe as nothing can be, but pretty damn safe. Our houses may get broken into when we are not home. Our cars windows may get smashed out and our ipods stolen at the mall. Our lawnmower may disappear one day or we may come home from vacation and find our copper stolen (pipes and air conditioning units). In rarer instances, we may be victims of molestation by Uncle Bob or rape by a date. But we are highly unlikely to be victims of a random violent crime. Always have been.

    So the cameras and alarms and staying out of dark alleys have done little except make us feel safer. The type of crime they are aimed at stopping – with the exception of possibly house burglary (which is almost always done when you are not home) – are and always have been a very small part of the crime rate to start with. And those type of criminals – those who would break into a house to rape and murder – are not actually stopped by an alarm. They might not hit that particular house with the alarm but will hit the one down the road without. So the same number of random acts of violence would occur.

    I think the abortion and birth control argument is probably more correct. Less kids are born to dysfunctional families. It isn’t a great answer since most of my clients don’t practice either. High incarceration rates probably help too. Not in the manner we anticipate. Prison is not a deterrent for crime. But people who are locked up are not producing more future criminals during that time. Lock some gang banger up for 12 years at 19 and you’ve probably stopped the birth of several children who were more likely to follow in daddy’s footprints than not.

  59. Daria October 12, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    I too am in Arvada, CO and have received the same notices from our school about people approaching children and attempting to lure them with candy. My daughter’s soccer teammate is in class with Jessica. This is CLOSE to home.

    Does that mean I will stop my kids from walking under tree limbs? No. Does it mean I’ll stop playdates because the other parent may not watch them as closely as I do? No.

    But I will say they can’t play on the playground out of my sight while I”m in a meeting. I will make sure they walk to the bus together and that they are empowered with the information they need to protect themselves. We will be discussing this often – not to scare them, but this is our immediate neighborhood. The person is still at large…

    I believe in fostering independence. I believe kids should be given freedom and responsibility for themselves, but for now that will be focused on activities that aren’t taking them out alone. They can learn independence in the house, in school, in groups where numbers provide a modicum of safety.

  60. NicoleK October 12, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Daria… no they can’t.

  61. NicoleK October 12, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Isn’t it a bit ironic that you are complaining about the media bringing in these stories from afar? I live in Switzerland… and you’re the media bringing me the story from afar!

    This is a very sad story. But it doesn’t need to be international news.

  62. Andrew October 12, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    You just know that the anti-freerangers will use this event to make it hard on those of us who let our kids have a little freedom.
    On a side note. In the movie version of Stephen King’s “It”,
    a policeman finds the kids playing in a stream in the woods near their town. He tells them that a school mate of theirs has been murdered by the monster that the kids are fighting. Does he tell them to go home and never leave the house? No. Does he arrest the parents for neglect? No. He tells them not to go off by themselves, and to watch out for each other. Good advise,no fear mongering. A cop now days would probably be fired for negligence. I never read the book, but it probably wouldn’t be too different.

  63. Donna October 12, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    “They can learn independence in the house, in school, in groups where numbers provide a modicum of safety.”

    How exactly can they do this? How is it even remotely possible to gain the confidence to handle things on your own when you are never actually alone?

  64. Ali October 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    @ Mollie et al….yes, you’re right we need to continue to move forward with free range. But for heaven’s sake they haven’t even found the rest of her. Only a piece has been found. Let that sink in for a moment. It’s been one week today.

    The predator has been approaching kids, if it’s found to be the same person, for over a year and attempted several abductions within a small area, and he finally got one.

    The threat feels very, very real here. And statistically he will most likely harm again and in the same area. It’s very clear he knows Arvada/S Westminster really well. He knows the bus routes, the hang outs, the open space parks that are inaccessible, and the neighborhoods. Again, I’m not a person who panics, I don’t see danger around every corner, but this particular case is gruesome and demonstrates his knowledge of our area and our kids. Personally I’m not ready to move on and the entire family is wearing purple today, as is most of Jeffco schools, in honor of Jessica.

  65. Havva October 12, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    @NicoleK and @ Donna… give Daria a break. This is really close to her right now. There are things a kid can learn about independence in at home.

    Is it enough for a childhood? NO.

    But for the moment, it will be enough.

    They can learn some independence at home, like cooking dinner, and doing homework without help. The older kids can walk in groups, and be independent of adults. Most of all they will learn community in groups. Right now they need that community. Otherwise everyone starts looking like a dangerous stranger.

  66. Captain America October 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    I went to school, walking eight blocks each way, in the 1960s and 1970s. I’d been given the “stranger danger” lecture, but I think one thing that kept kids safe was that generally you walked with a friend, or ran into another kid going to school, and would walk together.

    I sensed no hysteria at the time.

    Are there MORE dangerous abductions taking place in 2012 than in 1972?

    I don’t know. Do you?

  67. Captain America October 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    . . . I suspect that families being so small and tiny nowadays helps jet up the fear that parents feel.

    Their One and Only Prince or Princess might get hurt! The one kid has so much been the focus.

    There’s of course, safety in numbers. You get a dozen kids outside playing, it’s much safer than just one. Group protection.

  68. Paula October 12, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    For those complaining about 8 year olds in strollers, remember that while some kids are indeed babied and pampered, not all special needs are readily visible to someone walking by or even someone looking closely. I know kids with medical issues that make walking long ways difficult and make tire them quickly; should they be denied a trip to Disney because they can’t traverse the area the way you think they should?

  69. AW13 October 12, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    @Paula: As it happens, I think that a special needs child “should” be able to use anything they need to help them participate in and enjoy their time at the park. Special needs children were never the issue in discussion.

  70. Jeff October 13, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    I agree with the community comment, Havva. Right now there is an actual known killer at large in her neighborhood. Not just an imagined threat. What kind of parent in their right mind wouldn’t encourage community support of sticking together as a group. Even in all the free range stories I’ve read in books and seen in the movies, when there is an actual known danger of a child killer, parents and law enforcement teach the kids to, in the meantime, stick together and keep an eye out for one another. It’s just common sense. We should all say a prayer tonight that this monster is caught before he ruins any more lives.

  71. Emily in NY October 13, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    This case breaks my heart. Just awful. 🙁 I feel absolutely terrible for her parents; blaming her mother is absurdly unfair. We need MORE walking to school, not less. *sigh* I’ll be hugging my own 5 and 7 year-olds extra tight tonight.

    Speaking of which… I did want to chime in on the 8 year-old stroller thing. We’re going to WDW this December, when my daughters will be days away from turning 6 and 8, and you can bet your bottom dollars we’re renting a (double) stroller! We’ve taken them to WDW twice in the past 3 years and a stroller is an absolute necessity for us.

    Now… Before you pounce… ;o) Hear me out. We ditched our own “family” strollers years ago; even the 5 year-old hasn’t ridden in one in ages, despite our traveling by plane to visit relatives at least 4 times a year, walking practically miles through congested airports and to distant car rental companies, etc. (They don’t ride the carts at the grocery store, either…) We go on long hikes a few times a month, they play sports, and both of my girls are resolute and strong walkers. But Disney World is its own special beast, at least for our family.

    We use the stroller in many different ways; our girls aren’t even riding in it the majority of the time! (They walk most places; or, to be more precise, they *run* most places like, well, kids in Disney World. ;o) ) Still, a stroller is a perfect place to put heavy backpacks and any purchases we may have made that day and can’t lug around for hours. It’s a great spot for my kids to sit and watch a parade when all of the curbside spots are taken up. It’s a good place to sit and eat a snack when there are no benches or tables available. It’s a cozy spot for my youngest to fall asleep at the end of the day, when she’s too tired to hold her head up but the rest of us are still raring to go. December can be *cold* in Orlando, and a stroller is a also great place to cuddle under a blanket and watch fireworks or street performers.

    And, yes, occasionally we do transport the girls in it, even the almost 8 year-old. Not because she’s whiny. Not because she demands it. Not because she’s not otherwise capable. (In fact, you’re right – most times, she wouldn’t be caught dead in something like a stroller! Way too baby-ish!) But because, in this one very specific instance, it really works best for our family.

    By the end of most days, we’ve walked upwards of 10 miles, which can be painful for even my feet (and I’m in pretty decent shape ;o) ). My girls get really tired by the end of the day, and if riding in the stroller for 10 minutes as we make our way back to the monorail allows us to not only get there more quickly, but also allows them to take a brief rest and not be completely exhausted during dinner, we’ll take it.

    We’re Disney *nuts* (I had the whole itinerary booked up 6 months in advance – planning a Disney trip makes me absurdly happy), and, especially having recently visited, we know exactly which attractions we want to see and when (there are “good” and “bad” times to see almost every Disney attraction).

    If we know that Space Mountain will be crazy-crowded in 15 minutes, but the line is pretty short right now, we will absolutely ask the girls to hop in the stroller so that we can book it over. Doing so could save us – literally – an HOUR of waiting in line, which we’d much rather spend doing other WDW stuff or just hanging out. Similarly, if our Fast Passes are going to expire in 10 minutes for The Haunted Mansion, and the regular line is 80 minutes long, you’d better believe we’ll use the stroller to make sure we make it on time! For us, the time we can save in line can make using the stroller – however silly that is – worth it. We are *all* happier when we don’t have to wait for hours in line and can actually enjoy our vacation at (ironically!) our own pace.

    Now… If the parent about whom you’re speaking is getting that stroller specifically to cart her 8 year-old about all day just to avoid possibly taxing her precious darling (assuming, of course, the kiddo doesn’t have any special needs), or to avoid hearing any complaints, or just to cater to her daughter’s every whim, then I agree with you: absurd and lazy.

    But, for us, the WDW stroller really works. At home, our kids are about as free-range as they get (my 2nd grader even walks to school alone, and she and I were the ones featured by Lenore twice on this blog because I chose to leave her alone in the children’s section of our library when she was 5 years old). They’re very independent, competent, and confident. Disney World is its own unique vacation for our family, however, and a stroller really makes it more do-able for us.

    Every family is different; we won’t let our kids indulge in cotton candy or ice cream every day of the trip, but by George, we’ll indulge in that stroller! And if we get some strange looks, so be it – it’ll still be the happiest place on earth. 🙂

  72. Jen Connelly October 13, 2012 at 3:17 am #

    This is exactly why I don’t watch the news. This is the first I’ve heard about this case and I can say the same for any other cases between now and the Casey Anthony thing (which I learned about from an online group). Heck the actual last murder case I remember seeing first on TV was the Drew Peterson one (I lived in Chicago at the time and it was all over the place after Stacey went missing).

    When I do read news online I only read local news. What’s going on everywhere else doesn’t really effect me, personally.

    I feel bad for the Ridgeway family. It’s an awful thing but it will not impact my kids in any way (we live in Washington State). They walk to and from the bus stop every day. My 11yo son just got a new bike and broke it in by riding all over town with his friend (miles and miles to parks, the river and stores). He wants to ride it to school now but the road to the school has no sidewalks and gets busy. Mostly, though, I’m worried about something happening to his bike. It was very expensive (my dad got it for $270 on sale).

    As to the 8 year olds in strollers. Never in a million years. If my kids started to complain about a long walk they’d be told to suck it up. It builds character. And we’ve taken many, many long walks. Once when they were almost 6, 4 1/2 and 3 1/2 we went for a walk on this trail near our house. I had just had a c-section a few weeks earlier so we had the baby in the stroller (a double). We ended up walking over 9 miles round trip. The 3yo was allowed to ride in the stroller but she only did it for maybe 1/2 mile. She never complained at all. Later we found out she had blisters all over her feet. Still never complained. The oldest whined the last 4 miles but we refused to let her ride in the stroller.

    I just can’t even imagine taking a stroller for anyone over 3. We stop using ours a majority of the time when the kid is 2-2 1/2. By the time they are 4 they are expected to walk everywhere, no strollers. They can whine all they want but they better keep walking. We bring a stroller to the zoo but expect our 2yo to walk most of the time, by 3 we wouldn’t take it at all.

  73. Sundari October 13, 2012 at 3:41 am #

    SO many judgmental mothers in these comments. Will mothers never get tired of judging other ways of parenting, and patting themselves on the back for doing it right? Apparently not.

    If you are happy with your parenting choices, then good for you and good for your kids. But get off the damn soapbox. You wag your finger and tsk tsk at the cautious parents, and the cautious parents wag their fingers back and tsk tsk at you for being careless. How does this little drama help anything?

    And, dear God, do NOT be judgmental of the parents who live in Arvada and Westminster and are choosing to keep their kids within their sight for the time being. The amount of hubris that it takes to cast judgment in that situation is staggering.

  74. Cara October 13, 2012 at 3:52 am #

    I’m always wondering what is the best approach to take regarding my children and I like to read all points of view. In my travels, I found this article:

    I was most struck by the following comment on his article:

    “The article is informative and can put things into perspective. However, being a mother of a murdered (12 year old) child…. I’m not willing to play roulette. 50 children a year is FIFTY babies a year. Don’t think it won’t happen because it does. It’s not worth the risk. That number should scare all of us because it’s 50 families forever broken. The ripple effect never ends. I agree one should teach “stranger danger” without paralyzing a child emotionally…. But one of those 50 could be your child, like my child. I think articles like these should only be written by someone who honestly knows what it feels like to have your child taken like this. Then maybe the “50″ wouldn’t be MINIMIZED.”

    Something to remember when we talk about statistics. Statistics apply to the group, not the individual. Until I read her comment, I didn’t think what it would feel like to have my child’s murder minimized as a statistic.

    I see so much judgment in each camp on this subject. I know I’m guilty of it. I think we all just want to do our very best at parenting and we want everyone to agree that we’re doing it “right.” I think every child is different, every neighborhood is different and every day is different.

  75. Elizabeth October 13, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    Thanks for all of the comments everyone. It’s helped my internal debate progress a bit. Just one quick comment about the stroller issue: never judge someone you don’t know based on what you see. A family member needed to use one for her daughter due to special needs — needs that weren’t visibly apparent. On a Disney trip we too rented one for our 4 year old. She was too ill on the trip to walk for long and that was the only way we could see the park. Maybe another lesson is that everyone parents differently; as long as our way is right for our own family and our kids, isn’t that what’s important? One way doesn’t always work for everyone.

  76. Donna October 13, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    If I saw a handful of school age kids in strollers, I wouldn’t bat an eye. There were easily a couple hundred of them when we went to Disneyland. There are not that many special needs/ill children in the greater Orange County, CA area visiting Disneyland on one day.

    In general, I couldn’t care less if you want to treat your 8 year old like a toddler. Your kid. Your business. However, Disneyland/World is incredibly crowded. Strollers take up space, impede the flow of traffic and create hazards. When we were there, some rides would have upwards from 60 of them parked out front, clogging the passageways. There were times when we had to walk single file to get through the banks of strollers parked at rides. We were constantly being bumped, run into and having our feet run over by them. Your kid that is so cute pushing his own stroller probably smacked into me 15 times that day. My daughter ended up getting run over by a scooter – knocked to the ground and foot caught in the wheel because a disabled woman was trying to get navigate the huge banks of strollers surrounding Peter Pan and Dumbo and didn’t see her.

    Disney is a little kid place. There are going to be a certain amount of strollers and getting around is always going to be a bit of a challenge. Adding in hundreds of strollers for kids who are perfectly capable of walking and strollers that weren’t even used for kids but were clearly just being used to haul what appeared to be everything the family owned except the kitchen sink make and already difficult process so much worse.

    ‘Maybe another lesson is that everyone parents differently; as long as our way is right for our own family and our kids, isn’t that what’s important?”

    Sometimes being considerate of others – not having it all about what is easiest for your family to get on the rides the quickest so that everyone can enjoy their day – is important too. (Not talking about those whose kids have health problems or special needs)

  77. Lollipoplover October 13, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    Sundari, I’m all for ending the mommy judgement wars that have been going on since the beginning of time. As for the parents here who live close to this tragedy- they SHOULD be doing some thinking and talking to their kids because there is a predator at large in their community. This would scare the bejeesus out of me…and I consider myself fairly tough.
    But am I going to let my kids still bike to school, like the billions who do so around the world? Yes. We live thousands of miles away and my kids have been doing it for 3 years now. The argument here is the tendency for people to leap to this conclussion (and you will see it frequently in the comments of Jessica’s coverage):

    “Yes, it is an incredibly, horrible tragedy for little Jessica and her family. I hope we can learn from it and protect our children from these monsters. One way is by NEVER allowing our young children to go ANYWHERE unaccompanied.”

    10 votes#1.44 – Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:40 PM

    THIS is what I have such a hard time with. If we never leave them alone, NOTHING will ever happen to them. If we turn our children into INDOOR pets, they will never experience tragedy. But they still do. They will meet predators in online chatrooms (1 in 4) much like they would in the real world. They will find ways INDOORS to test your trust- raiding prescription meds, getting high off of huffing and cough medicine. Suicide.
    The danger facing our children will always be there. Kids die.
    We lost two in our community last year. Flu deaths.

    We protect our children from these monsters by raising competent and confident children that IF faced with a terrifying situation like an abduction, they fight like HELL to not be a victim. This will be helpful all of their lives-poke eyes, kick groins, scream like you’ve never screamed before, and never, ever get into a car. Because rapes and abductions still happen to adults. Will you NEVER allow your adult child to go ANYWHERE unaccompanied?

    What we also learn from th tragedy is that life is precious. Hug your kids, tell them you love them, but let them play outside. I love my kids but don’t want this generation to be declared incompetent.
    2012 is the year that kids can never go anywhere without an escort? What changed in our society that a 10 year-old in centuries past was responsible enough to give childcare to an infant but now IS the baby?

  78. Jeff October 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Our family has memberships to Disneyland and I’ve never seen “hundreds” of school age kids in strollers – and we’ve been there a lot. Maybe the day you went, Donna, was unusual. (Unless you are counting 3 year olds as school aged kids, since a lot do attend preschool.) So I don’t see it as a big issue, I guess. I can handle navigating a few strollers. It’s really not that bad, in my experience. 🙂 And Jen, I know you think you are building character forcing your tiny children to walk miles and miles in a day to the point they are crying from being tired – just remember for every step you take, your little ones have to take 2-3. (Simple math because of leg length.) So the 9 mile walk you went on was comparable to a 27 mile walk for your 3 year old (hence the blisters) and maybe an 18 – 20 mile walk for your almost 6 year old. I’m not suggesting we put 1st graders in strollers, but I’m think a little compassion is a better character building experience for kids – and maybe a piggy back ride. 😉

  79. Babs October 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    These are all sad stories/statistics, but as we know, one is more likely to get into an auto accident as opposed to being kidnapped by a stranger. RIght now, there have been reports of a creepy middle-aged man attempting to lure children in my vicinity (both boys and girls). In all cases, the kids did not go off with this man and the police are on the lookout for this guy.

    Our school issued a bulletin and the story has been in the news. However, while I will be telling my daughter about this guy and to reinforce the “Don’t go off with strangers” maxim that Lenore recommends, I’m not about to tell my daughter she can’t play outside either. Apparently, the mom of my daughter’s best friend — who I am also friendly with — is totally wigged out over this, and is one of those “helicopter moms” who won’t allow her daughter to play on their front lawn for fear of her being kidnapped. (I am NOT making this up. She knows I allow the girls (my daughter and hers) to play in front when they come over, and has asked me not to let the girls play together in front “until this blows over.” While I’ll respect her wishes, I’m not about to let my kid live in fear, either. (I told her that I’m usually watching from the house and we have a lot of nosy neighbors anyway 🙂 Am I being rational or not?

  80. mollie October 13, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    Babs, maybe you live in my town. We just got a bulletin from the school, and I don’t watch the news, but assume it’s been covered. Sounds like the guy cross-dresses sometimes as well. “Silence of the Lambs” imagery springs to mind.

    My kid walks to school, though, and knows what to do if someone approaches her. I realize that even if this guy made a point to camp out ten feet from her school grounds and proposition each kid, he STILL might not get to mine, in a school of 400 + kids.

    I don’t want to judge others, I want to celebrate life, and a life that makes room for the possibility of random violent acts. They’re not something to plan around, since doing so inhibits community, health, and enjoyment, so I don’t see integrity in this plan of providing what Lenore has called a “security detail.”

    The crime in my own childhood community was never solved. It was tragic, it was worrisome, it was never repeated, it had never happened before. How tragic would it have been for anyone to change their M.O. of learning, growing, and interacting with each other in the face of this outcome?

    There is a crisis of loss of community in this culture. It is far more damaging than any child murder could ever be, and I don’t say that lightly. Rates of depression and anxiety are directly linked to this, so countless deaths from suicide, drug overdose, alcoholism, and even heart disease are directly related to this phenomenon of the erosion of community.

    Events like this one in Colorado DID happen before CNN. They just didn’t change people’s whole approach to living, in the immediate communities, or farther afield.

    Counteracting the spread of terror and mistrust is sacred work, and I am so grateful to Lenore for doing just that. THANK YOU, LENORE!

  81. babs October 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    Mollie, I’m in Bergen County, NJ, and like I said, this is the big news in the local paper. We had another luring guy last year (not near me, but within several communities in our county) and again, this guy did not abduct anyone, but was definitely out there, attempting to lure kids, and got caught. I feel confident the same will happen here — there have been three reported incidents in three communities within the week, with a very similar description of the would-be bad guy. All the kids were smart and did not fall for the guy’s various ruses and RAN (he employed the tired cliches of needing directions, going to see puppies, coming up to kids playing on their front lawn).

    What worries me is the reactions from the scared moms at large — one person criticized the kids who were playing outside (the girl was 7 and was with her younger brother — mom was inside); others are telling their kids NOT to go out, etc. I told my daughter she knows what’s been discussed before about hypothetical situations — this is the real deal. Kids need to feel empowered, not put in a box living in fear. And if I get flak from other parents for not “protecting” my child, that’s their problem, not mine.

  82. Dave October 13, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    The only thing that would concern me, Babs and Molly, is that if there is an actual guy out there trying to snatch a kid, and he’s trying it over and over again by trying to lure kids into his car, then it sounds like he’s persistent. He may very well decide he’s done trying to lure and simply grab a child next. If he drives up and down the streets and sees houses with no kids outside he’ll drive on. Then drives by houses with kids outside, but there is an adult sitting outside as well, reading or working on whatever, and he drives by. Then he comes to your house where there is no adult in sight and a little girl/boy playing all by themselves in their front yard……guess what he’s likely to do. And it sounds like most of your neighbors are taking this threat seriously and keeping an eye on their kids until the threat passes. Which means your kids out and about alone, are now at a higher risk of being the ones he approaches. If he approaches in his usual way of trying to bribe them, then of course you have trained your kids well, to yell and run away. But if he tires of this and simply sneaks/runs up and grabs them before they have time to react….. I’m not saying your kids should be locked up inside. But it would make good sense to be outside with your kids for the time being. At the very least restrict them to the fenced in backyard. And if another mom is uncomfortable with her child playing out front with your child, I would respect those wishes and if you aren’t going to, make it very clear to her that you aren’t so she can then make her own decision for her child. I am a big fan of free range kids, but sometimes there can be exceptions and that’s OK. They are temporary and the kids will survive until life goes back to normal.

  83. Buffy October 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    One thing I hate whenever something happens to a child is all the commenters on all the news articles exhorting us to hug our kids. My kids, and probably most children (especially those in the socio-economic class likely to obsess over these stories), get plenty of hugs. Does anyone really need a reminder to show affection to our children?

  84. hineata October 13, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    @Emily in NY – okay, shouldn’t be talking about Disneyland anymore I guess (though I love the place too, so I will!), but you have to wait 80 minutes for a ride?! We were lucky enough to get to go to Disneyland in Tokyo years ago, and Paris a couple of years ago, and the longest we waited in line was 30 minutes. Most rides were 10 minutes or so (No strollers visible for anyone over about 3, either….kids with special needs were in wheelchairs, and very few strollers visible at all). Gosh, if you have to hang around that long, I might hire myself a stroller!

    (And for anyone who takes the Small World ride, not sure about how inaccurate it is about other places, but please understand that Maori – we natives of New Zealand – do not stand in the Australian Desert holding or hurling boomerangs! We almost hurled our own weapons of mass destruction – a few guide books – at that part of the display…).

    I see it seems they do know its Jessica, poor girl. Heartfelt sympathies…:-(.

    @Lollipoplover – well said.

  85. Jenny October 13, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    After Jessica Ridgeway’s body was found (heartbreaking, to be sure), a friend posted about in on facebook, commenting “what kind of mother would let her daughter walk a mile to school?!” That idea is the problem. You’re not a bad mother to let your children walk to school (and a mile isn’t THAT far. My kids walk nearly a mile to our neighborhood school). The odds of an abduction are small. The benefits that come with walking to school (like lessons in responsibility, exposure to nature, and exercise) are plentiful. We absolutely shouldn’t let fear rule our lives.

  86. Captain America October 13, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    I like the little stories people type out on this site, so here is a little story from Captain America!

    Captain America and his wife were traveling along a busy interstate highway, out in the middle of the lonesome prairie, about ten years ago.

    It was winter time. A cold, cold January, and it was at night when we saw the car that was broken down.

    Since it was night time, and so cold, and there was no town within walking reach, we pulled over. There, in her fear, was a female college student. Yes, her car had broken down.

    Leery as can be, she climbed into our car. She hardly spoke to us, from fear. (I thought this was curious, because obviously Captain America wasn’t some scary guy from a horror movie and my wife was with me). Her fear escalated when we drove past an exit to a nearby town: we let her know that there was simply no gas station in that tiny speck on the plains. We moved on another 10 or 15 miles down the road, and found the right exit, pulled into a town with a gas station and let her out.

    Her fear is still amazing to me. (And I can realistically ask, “how many people really ARE axe murderers?”)

  87. Yan Seiner October 14, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    I’m so glad we live in Oregon, where there’s still a lot of the old Outback…. A cuople of years ago we were at a beauty salon in the middle of nowhere (long story, but we were literally in the middle of nowhere, a little community of 300 on a side road) when we came across a beauty salon and my wife decided to have her hair done. We were on our way to a wedding but that’s another story.

    We ended up spending about 3 hours there as the farmers were brining in the hay and the owner had nothing to do so we swapped stories. She told us that that summer her car broke down on the way to the next town (about 90 miles) and she spent a day and a night before someone came by, stopped, and drove her home.

    Now she was a very attractive young woman, and not once did she express any fear or concern for her safety. She was just relating a funny tale of getting married earlier that summer, and then “running away” for a night from her new husband.

    So yes, there are still communities where people care for each other and fear is not prevalent. Too bad you have to drive 5 hours from the nearest town to get there.

  88. Kimberley October 14, 2012 at 1:00 am #

    There was a mother who lived in a town near me who always picked up her daughter from the bus stop because she wanted her to be safe and not walk home. One day an overloaded truck that had deficient breaks was going down the hill above the bus stop. It was above the weight limit for the road and it was out of control. all the other children at the bus stop had already walked away to their houses, the child and her mother getting in the car were both killed, leaving the mothers older two children orphaned. Safety is an illusion we build for ourselves.

  89. Jenna October 14, 2012 at 2:44 am #

    Ugh. I posted a reply to a comment on a Yahoo article about this. The person was blaming the mother for not being with her daughter 100% of the time and letting her walk alone to the park to meet her friends. I posted that while it’s really sad and horrible, stranger abductions are still rare and a child is more likely to die in a car accident or be abducted by someone they know. I also posted that this was not the mother’s fault; it was the fault of the person who did this to Jessica. I immediately was attacked by dozens of people telling me that I must not love my children if I let them walk anywhere without me. I can’t believe that people would actually tell someone else they must not love their child because they give their child a certain amount of freedom!

  90. Jenna October 14, 2012 at 2:45 am #

    (and I have to add, I said nothing in my comment about what I do with my own kids, only that this type of abduction is still rare, that’s why it makes national news, and that the mother was not to blame)

  91. Cherry October 14, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    Why are you still saying stranger abduction is still rare?

  92. Captain America October 14, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    re: Cherry above.

    If I’m not mistaken, the bulk of abductions comes from a disgruntled divorced parent making a kid-grab. (Of course, this is bad stuff, but obviously requires a different kind of policing).

    In my Time As A Child, there was a good deal less divorce, and subsequently, this wasn’t a Category of Parental Fear. Divorce is bad news. I was surprised a good many years back when our state required school grounds to set up fences around the school perimeter to stop such kid-grabs by crazy divorced people. As a taxpayer, that’s a lot of fencing and a lot of bucks. . . and in my old neighborhood, the fencing really disfigured some really beautiful, bucolic looking school grounds.

  93. AngieT October 14, 2012 at 4:45 am #

    @Cherry – Because stranger abduction is still really rare. If you look back in the last 6 months of news the majority of the stories about kids either missing or being killed have been family perpetrated. This is the first major story about a stranger abduction/killing and this is definitely the first in our neighborhood since I’ve lived here(I live in the next subdivision over from where the backpack was found). There still isn’t anything that is totally ruling out that this wasn’t done by someone who knew the family (some fishy coincidences in the case imho).

  94. Babs October 14, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    Dave, thanks for commenting on my post. My concern right now is to make my daughter aware of this situation without scaring the daylights out of her — most of the kids we know are given the whole “stranger danger” routine and are scared sh**less to even TALK to an unknown person, which I think is wrong (that would mean EVERYONE one doesn’t know is off-limits). We are not home often enough for her to have much outside playtime, but maybe until this “blows over”, I’ll keep my daughter in the backyard. However, I don’t think I should be reduced to being fearful of never allowing my child to play in front without an adult present because of this fear of abductors (as is the case with the mom whose daughter is my daughter’s best friend) — I will honor that request when her daughter is over my house. It’s just that whenever I’m attempting to instill free-range parenting in my family, I feel that I am not getting any support from our peers or the community at large. We live in a smallish, friendly, suburban community, yet many parents are so paranoid and hover over their kids constantly, even when they are old enough to start venturing out on their own. I mean, I won’t even let my daughter go to the park near the school on her own — my daughter is almost 9 — because I KNOW someone will call the cops for her being there unsupervised. I wish I could find other parents whose kids can go with her — I’m big on safety in numbers, and feel they are at the age to start doing this. (There are kids who do play without parents hovering over — I see groups of kids riding bikes or scooters, ages 9 and 10 or so in a small group — they’re just not part of our social circle.)

  95. Yan Seiner October 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm #


    The number of deaths from stranger-danger abductions is about the same as death by bee stings or death by lightning. Yet we don’t worry as much about those – because they are vanishingly rare. It is, however, greater than the deaths from nosebleeds.

    We only know about the abductions because the media splashes them across the front page for weeks. Not so with bee stings, or lightning strikes, Here’s a comparison. Each dot represents 10 deaths:

    Nosebleeds: .
    Beestings: …..
    Lightning: …..
    Stranger-danger abducitons: …..
    Car accident deaths, children, 1 mile or less from home: ……………………………………………………………………………………….

    That last line represents the “I’m goiong to drive my child to school because it’s safer” deaths. Look how much longer it is than the stranger danger abductions.

  96. Jenna October 14, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    @ Cherry–Because it is. Most child abductions are by someone the child knows–most often a non-custodial parent who is angry or hurt. An abduction by a complete stranger happens, like Yan Seiner said, about as often as deaths by bee stings and lightning strikes (I knew about the lightning strike one, not the bee sting one). When you think of the millions of kids out there that don’t get abducted, that’s still a rare thing.

    I especially love how in the same sentence someone will tell me that they keep an eye on their child 24/7, that they always drive them to and from school. Well, when the kid is at school, they aren’t in your sight, are they? Unless you sit in the classroom with them. I remember ditching school when I was in middle school. My parents, of course, thought I was at school. Hmmm….I guess there are a lot of parents out there with a lot of time on their hands to sit and watch their kids in their classrooms at school!

  97. linvo October 15, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    “I didn’t think what it would feel like to have my child’s murder minimized as a statistic.”

    And that’s what this is about. Think about the above. It is about how YOU would feel if that happened to your child. No parent can imagine getting over the death of a child, yet we ponder on how much worse it would be if they died one way instead of another. The blaming of the parents in the media in cases like these only makes this sentiment stronger. But this isn’t supposed to be about us and our (very unlikely) potential emotional suffering or our fear of being judged by friends, media and total strangers.

    The car accident victims are ‘babies’ too. So are those murdered by a relative. They can all be found in the statistics. But where they rarely are found is in the media so their parents can be publicly chastised for their negligence.

  98. Beth October 15, 2012 at 2:31 am #

    @Jenna, I always laugh at that 24/7 comment too. In fact, on several message boards, I have asked how that works as a parenting model…do you go to school with your child? Sleep with him? Watch him in the bathroom? I rarely get a response, not even “I was exaggerating”.

    And if I could add a comment about my hatred of “stranger danger”. Think of all the strangers we meet every day – the store clerk, the ticket taker at the ball park, the waitress, new people at church, and the first day,or even week, at a new school is full of them. I want to scream when I hear “Stranger Danger”, as if it’s a lifetime mantra.

    The very last thing I want is for my kids to be rude and anti-social toward people because they are strangers, and they were raised to be pleasant and respectful to everyone they come in contact with, while being aware of gut feelings or odd behavior. So far, so good.

  99. Heidi Simpson October 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    I had a long discussion this weekend with some friends about this issue. My kids are 8 and 5 and we live about 1/2 mile from their school. At this point I do take them and pick them up from school. I ONLY do this because my 5 year old is a bit of a daydreamer and doesnt pay attention to cars, or his surroundings. We are working on it and our hope is in maybe a few more months they can start walking together. They bicker too much for the 8 year old to be in charge.
    So, I shared this with my friends while discussing this case. I knew I was the only free-ranger in the group (one doesnt have kids, the other has kids close in age to my kids) and they were completely appalled. *sigh*
    However, as the day went on my friend with kids must have noticed something different about my kids and hers. Mine do not whine. They do not run to me with every little bump or inconvenience in their day, asking me to fix it for them. She shared this with me and then added that it seems my kids have more confidence then hers. They are happier. She asked me if this whole “free-range” thing was hard. I told her the hardest part is constantly fighting society. Our society, including their schools, TV, our relatives, tell my kids to act a certain way and their parents tell them something completely different.
    All-in-all I hope at the very least I have given my friend something to think about. Maybe, just maybe, she will convert! Time will tell. : )

  100. Havva October 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    @Heidi… I wish you and your friend well. To notice that another mom’s kids are happier and more confident than your own, and to wonder if your parenting philosophy is the cause, is HUGE. You are right about the societal forces. It is hard to know you could do better, never-mind actually do so, with no example to work from. But if this mom started making such observations so fast, it sounds like she’s had a sense that something wasn’t quite right and just didn’t know how to parent differently. The need to see other examples, to know another way is how I landed here.

    Even I still could use more live, in person, demonstrations and guidance. Which is why I am so thrilled to have recently re-connected with an old college friend and her husband. They are unselfconscious free-range, and enforce rules and naps with a guilt free ease. Not that they seem to know they are “free-range.” Nor that their discipline is “strict.” They just do what they/their parents did with their younger siblings. They know what their kids are capable of and what works. Funny how it works on my daughter too.

    So keep letting this mom know what you do and why. Let her see and compare your kids to hers. Help her understand how it works. With some luck, your kids will have her free-range kids for company at the park.

  101. AngieT October 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    @Babs – I’m in a similar boat. What I ended up doing was sitting down with my son and daughter to have a talk about strangers and what to do if something happens. I wanted to stress that I don’t want them afraid of strangers, but they need to be aware of what is going on around them. They can talk to strangers but not accept anything from them or go anywhere with them. I went over some things they can do to try to protect themselves such as yelling “I don’t know this person help”. I told them they are to do whatever they need to in order to get away. If they able to hurt the person, then they shouldn’t feel bad about it and just run away. They are to bite, scratch, kick, and poke eyes out and scream bloody murder. Pick up sticks and rocks to help. Then I let my son go through all the scenarios that his little brain could come up with and talked them through them. Above all I stressed to them to remain as calm as they can and not to believe anything that they are told. I told them that recently a girl was hurt really bad by someone who took her and that I wanted them prepared, but not scared. I let them know that while my son could walk to school still, he wasn’t going to walk the green belt trail for a little while by himself. I glossed over the girls death but it really wouldn’t have helped the situation as I don’t want them terrified. I know my 4 year old didn’t soak much of this up but I’m hoping it helps my 7 year old a bit and we will go over it periodically.

  102. JJ October 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    My heart goes out to the family and friends of Jessica Ridgeway.

    The collection of comments in the Yahoo article that Jenna (above) referenced was eye-opening to me. Though certainly not everyone around me is “free range”, I have not met anyone in person that takes the absolute stance of some of those posters. I have been thinking hard about the psychology at play here. As is often discussed on this blog, I do believe that part of it is the misplaced fear that this could very well happen to your own kid—a fear that is fueled by media outlets from national news to Facebook. But I also think there is something else. All those commenters who say things like “I am with my child 24/7” or “I never ever let my child out of my site outdoors” surely must be exaggerating, at least to some extent. I posit that many of these posters actually are much “looser” (whatever that means) than they say, but they make this type of comment because they feel that saying it out loud means that it could never happen to their child. I have seen it happen in other circumstances. Someone hears that her neighbor was mugged walking out of a bar at 11:00 pm on a Thursday and says “I would NEVER walk out of a bar on a Thursday, that is just wrong”. (But they have actually walked out of a bar at 10:45). Or the friend who says “I never text and drive!” after hearing about a tragic accident involving texting and driving, when you have actually witnessed this friend texting while driving. You say it because you want to believe that you are immune, because you think saying it will inoculate you against random tragedy. I am not a psychologist but I wonder if there is something to my theory.

  103. mollie October 15, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    Dave said: “And it sounds like most of your neighbors are taking this threat seriously and keeping an eye on their kids until the threat passes.”

    Until the threat passes? Hm. I don’t know. Does the threat ever really pass? I think there are many more cases of adults *approaching* children than *abducting* children, and, well, there could always be another one popping up out of nowhere, “approaching” children yet again. I put this in quotes because who really knows what happens when a child is “approached.” Children can be unreliable witnesses at best, and certainly with the near hysteria about “stranger danger” that has been inculcated into our kids from nearly every angle since birth, well, many instances that were not “luring” might be interpreted as “abduction attempts.”

    And, well, sure, I guess if someone isn’t getting the job done with asking for directions or offering candy, someone might knock a kid off a bike and grab them. That’s a pretty big leap, though. So we’re going to keep our kids supervised until… the guy we think was “approaching” kids is run out of town on a rail? Incarcerated? Simply stops what he was doing and moves on to the next town? But how will we know he’s given up? How will we know if he even existed in the first place? Maybe he’s just gone into hiding, waiting for us all to let our guard down, and then he’ll strike. (Snake hiss)

    We can make ourselves insane with fantasies like these. If there is a serial rapist assaulting women in the town where I live, I still go to the grocery store and live my life. Would I insist on always having a chaperone? Seems like I’d have to put my life on hold, and there could always be another rapist after they nail this guy. I live my life in a way that I imagine keeps me reasonably safe. Random attacks are just that: random, whether it’s attacks on kids or attacks on adults. Adults don’t stay home when there’s a killer on the loose… or do they? We’d probably look sideways at those who did.

    It’s like Whack-a-Mole. You bop one, another springs up. You’ll exhaust yourself, whacking. Dangers are everywhere. Instead of trying to eradicate them, let’s take reasonable precautions (and I guess that’s where the rub is, since one person’s “reasonable” is another person’s “eye-twitching extreme”) and move on with life as usual. Teach your kids: DON’T GO OFF WITH STRANGERS. But the idea that because of a “specific threat” in the guise of someone “luring children” we suddenly require all kids to walk in pairs… heck, have them walk in pairs whether someone is luring kids this week or not! If pairs is your comfort level, don’t wait for a news broadcast to put it into action.

    Okay, I’m ranting. It’s one of those days.

  104. peanutmom2001 October 16, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    @Katherine I think what you said spoke directly to the fear that I have in going full free range. In a way, I admit to feeling as though I could handle it better if my child died from a tragic accident rather than after being tortured, abused, and horrifically murdered. This is where my biggest resistance from family and friends to my attempts to live a more free range life comes into play. I can quote all the statistics about bee stings and tree limbs and freedom in living versus prisons of fear, but at the end of the day, can I truly answer that would rather my kids die of any of those than what happens when a stranger abduction takes place? I think we need a healthier fear of what a child who grows up non-free range can be and what kind of world would it be if it were run by adults who raised as helicoptered kids. I am just beginning my free range journey and need all the support minus judgement (from both sides) that I can get. Katherine made a great point and not one person really touched on what she said in their response and I would love to hear what you think (kindly).

  105. cupritte October 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    Thank you for this. I just heard about the case today and though ” I should go to free range first “. And I am so glad I did. It is rally nice to get a dose of rationality rather than a disturbing list of what ifs.

  106. Sarah October 16, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    I feel that as free-rangers we need to work to actively build community support so that our children are even more safe when playing outside. Because 50-100 kids kidnapped by strangers/ and or killed is unacceptable. No, I do not think that we start by keeping our kids under lock and key. We all know that a person capable of doing what was done to Jessica Ridgway is likely to strike again, and has probably done so previously. Therefore getting him off of the street is the ultimate priority. As it has now come out that there were reports of “a stranger trying to entice children with candy” in the area what we need to take away from this is that when these things happen communities need to organize- blanket the neighborhoods near schools and parks with posters, organize volunteers to go door to door to spread the word (and take note of suspicious behavior), organize walking school buses or post parent volunteers in the neighborhood to keep an eye out for suspicious activity as kids are going to and from school. If anything send out the message that the community is on watch.

  107. Dani October 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    I’m another reader who lives in the community where this happened; Jessica’s backpack was found 3 miles from my house. So I’m a little freaked out, knowing the perpetrator is still out there… there being ‘here’! It feels like a very real threat. Along with an adolescent bear wandering through our backyard last month, I’m suddenly scared to let my 5-year old twins play outside without supervision. Other than role-playing a few ‘what if someone says they’ll buy you ice cream if you get in their car’ games with them, I’m not sure what else to do.

  108. LoopyNZ October 17, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    @mr. joseph’s dad: That’s some inspired and inspirational logical thinking there, and I’m glad you’re passing it on to your children!

  109. Ali October 17, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    @ Dani, I’m right in the middle of the ‘triangle’ of her backpack, her house, and Pattridge. At this point, given everything we know about this guy, I wouldn’t leave my kids outside either. My neighborhood is usually filled with kids, so are the parks. I’m free range to a fault. I won’t let my kids out without an adult nearby right now though.

    It’s terrible and most of the moms in the ‘hood feel the same way I do. But when the top FBI officials investigating the case say “he’ll do it again” I won’t take the risk. We live in the immediate area, and the risk IS real here despite what other’s on this board may think. The gruesomeness, methodical nature, how well he knows the area, the lack of evidence (still haven’t found the rest of her) and other factors make it too much of a risk at this point to have kids unsupervised. I really hate to say it. Maybe when there is more news about an arrest I’ll feel better, or more time passes…

  110. Amber October 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm #


    First and foremost my heart and prayers go out to the family, friends, and community. I am a mother of two children. Daughter is 9 and my son is 7. Just wanted to say and be honest by saying, I am a single working mom who works night shift at my local hospital and then on the weekends as well. My two children have school @ 8:30 in the morning each day. I get home from work by 6:30 am, exhausted and ready to crash. Luckily I have a sitter stay overnight with my children and then leaves once I get home, having a sitter 5 days a week is not cheap by any means.

    With all that said, even though I fight so hard the urge to go to bed and pass out, I MAKE the time and EFFORT to pack my kids their lunches for the day and either walk WITH them or drop them off at their schoool, EACH SINGLE day. I do this because honestly I couldnt go to sleep each morning and not knowing and seeing my own children get to their destination and know they are safe and are where they are suppose to be. Also I come home, sleep and set my alarm for 2:30pm and either again, walk to the school or dirve my car and be there to greet and pick up my children @ 3pm, daily. Again I know where my kids are, and are safe and will be getting back home just fine.

    Also I have read, the mother’s cell phone was left off in another room, so when Jessica’s school called the mother early on the morning, at 10 am I believe, just 1.5 hours since Jessica got abducted…..but it wasnt until 4pm the mother even became aware that perhaps something was wrong and her daughter might not be safe after all. I know as a mom, especially a single working mom, I have my cell phone always left on and near me, especially during the school days so inacse for this very reason, the school or my kids ever need me during the day, I am there and am reachable for emergencies.

    I know a lot of other parents who do the samae thing and for me at least, it is a pretty standard and common sense practive you just do when you are a parent.

    I just feel in this sad tragic case, as being in the parent role, there was, im sorry im going to say it, and I know a lot of others are thinking it too but dont want to say it, but LAZINESS, SELFISHNEES, and unresponsible actions taking place by the mother in this case. Again, if she waited to go to sleep for just anoter 45 mins to 1 hour and set her alarm an hour earlier to be with her child, and again this want a 15, 16, or 17 year old young adult, this was a 10 year old, not even in middle school.

    I just feel this mother took her daughters best interest ans safety for granted and was being self fish to suit HER NEEDS the best instead of truly her child;s best interest in the end.

    Again, i am very sorry for the mother and father, but between the CHOICE of letting her child walk to and from school, when the mother was even home to take the extra time, effort, and use common sense to escort or drop her child off but still CHOOSE not to and all those 6 hours of that day, when Jessica went mising, her mother never answered or checked her cell phone once. Sadly, time is crucial and everything in cases like this one……I respect others views always but this one is mine and hope you can as well.

  111. Ange October 22, 2012 at 5:02 am #

    I was always far more nervous about my children getting hit by cars driven by parents on their way to school. I never worried about abduction, but the amount of chaotic traffic around the school (all local people dropping children off) always made me concerned. Added to that, we had to cross a busy road with no pedestrian crossing and no traffic lights. So I walked with my children every day right to the school, and when they were a bit older I let them walk home with friends as far as the busy road and I met them there. Too many people in their cars give no consideration to pedestrians, never giving way, not stopping at intersections etc. Even if a small percentage of the parents who were driving their children to school had walked instead it would have made a world of difference. It is not as if they were all rushing off to work straight after drop off – 4 of my neighbours with children at the same school all drove off every morning – 4 stay at home mothers, 8 children, 4 cars all going to the same school only a bit more than 500 metres away. Ten minutes later they would all return home cocooned in their cars. This is madness!. My children are now at secondary school but take the bus, and due to after school sports and music they sometimes don’t get home until after 6.30 pm – even in winter when it’s dark. I feel they are safe, the buses are busy with workers and university students, the walk at the end of the bus ride is short. They have developed a wonderful self-sufficiency and can get themselves around on public transport and by walking with no problems. During the school holidays, a few years ago, my eldest daughter- then aged 14, and walking through a park behind our house – was approached by a man who asked her to help with his car – she was suspicious and kept walking, though he followed her for a bit in his car. She carried out her errand to the post office box, and returned home via a different route, just in case he returned. I feel she was able to do this as she had a good knowledge of the local area and streets, which she may not have had if she had always been ferried about in a car.

    On another note, it’s crazy to blame this poor mother for what has happened to her daughter. It is not helpful and is not justified.

  112. Cara October 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    Ali, I’m so glad to hear you’re playing it safe in your neighborhood for now. Westminster police have now said Jessica’s murder is directly related to the attempted abduction of a 20 year old woman on Memorial Day. The circumstances in that case show he uses force, not enticement. There was also a recent report that an adult male attempted to forcibly abduct an 8 year old boy in the same area. No one has said that one is related, although it also happened in May and was only reported to the media a few days ago.

    Anyway, sorry if I’ve offended anyone but I really hope people take extra precautions in the area for now.

  113. Makeup Wilmington March 21, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    This is all so scary. i remember how free i felt as a child being able to ride around town and explore. we would even take long rides into the woods. i hate that i don’t allow our daughter the same experiences, but things just are not the same!


  1. More News from Good Ol’ USSA for Friday » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog - October 12, 2012

    […] Lenore Skenazy: The Sad and Gut-Wrenching Case of Jessica Ridgeway […]

  2. Jessica Ridgeway: When the answers just aren’t there | Denver Parent - October 12, 2012

    […] do we panic – never let our kids do anything? Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids has her response here. But I have to tell you, it will be a while before I regroup and let my kids walk alone to the […]

  3. Jessica Ridgeway: Was Her Mom Wrong? | Mom In Management - October 12, 2012

    […] The Sad and Gut-Wrenching Case of Jessica Ridgeway by Lenore Skenazy […]

  4. In the Aftermath of Tragedy | ThinkBannedThoughts Blog - October 13, 2012

    […] But, living many towns away from this horrible tragedy, I cannot let the fear of rare possibility rule my life, or my children’s. If I lived states away, I could not let a distant fear of a distant crime take away one iota of my c… […]

  5. theCL Report: A Tinfoil Hat Might Protect You - October 13, 2012

    […] The Sad and Gut-Wrenching Case of Jessica Ridgeway […]