A Call from the Police About My Son (On Christmas)

Ho efkehesake
ho ho, my child was escorted off the Long Island Railroad today for riding without an adult. The police were called. He’s 10.

He — Izzy — has ridden this route solo a dozen times before. It’s a straight shot on a commuter train and, as always, he was being met at the other end by his friend’s family. But today’s conductor was appalled to see a boy riding alone.

For some reason, the conductor wouldn’t talk to me, even though Izzy called from the train when the ordeal began. The man had no interest in hearing me state what Izzy had already been telling him: We believe a child of 10 is perfectly capable of taking a half hour journey by himself.

So instead the conductor and his superior got off at Izzy’s stop and then, as the train just sat there (I’m sure no one was a rush to get to their families on Christmas day), they awaited the police. I got a call from the friend’s dad who was waiting to take Izzy home. “We cannot leave the station,” he said.

“Why not?”

“The police have to decide what to do next.”

A few minutes later a policeman got on the phone and asked what had happened. I explained that my son often takes this train and that, in fact, the first time he did, we had asked at the railroad information booth, “What age is a child allowed to ride alone?”

There’s no specific age, the agent replied. But personally, she thought 10 sounded good, if there was someone waiting at the other end.

The police officer listened and agreed this sounded reasonable. He said as much to the conductor and the boss and they got back on the train. My son was free to go. The policeman wished me, “Merry Christmas.”

But if I had been given a summons as a delinquent parent, or hauled into family court, or had my child had been taken away from me, this would not have been very merry at all.

Free Range Kids seems like a pretty innocuous idea: Give our kids the freedom we had as children. But in reality, we are up against not just a bunch of well-meaning folks who fear for them, but against some powerful authorities, too. When the policeman got on the phone, my heart stood still.  

What we have to remember, I guess, is that all civil rights movements have had to stand up to people in power who were legally right, but otherwise wrong. And we have to stand up to bad laws, too.

So my gift today was a lesson: I finally learned that Free Range Kids is a rights movement. We want to reclaim our children’s right to take part in the world, and our right, as parents, to let them.

It’s not exactly the gift I wanted. But at least I’m not under arrest and I get to keep my son. I’m extremely  grateful for that.

Peace on earth. Good luck to us all. — Lenore

104 Responses to A Call from the Police About My Son (On Christmas)

  1. Paul December 26, 2008 at 11:43 am #

    They kicked up a fuss over a 10 year old using the trains?
    Lock my parents up then, I routinely made the journey from my home town down to Brighton on the south cost of england on one of the busiest train lines in the country, from the age of 10. It takes between 15 & 30 minutes depending on whether it’s a one stop train or not. Admittedly it was more often with friends rather than solo, but I made the journey solo on any number of occasions. It’s hardly rocket science, and something most 10 year olds should be more than capable of handling.
    For the record i’m only 28 now. In the recent past when making similar journeys, I have seen many kids around the same age taking the route, some solo, some in a group.

  2. phdinparenting December 26, 2008 at 11:45 am #

    Wow! How did your son react to all of the attention?

    I remember at that age reading the map and guiding my grandmother (who was driving) out of a city that wasn’t familiar to either of us. She was in a panic about being lost. I was the calm navigator.

  3. Denise December 26, 2008 at 12:04 pm #

    I could not agree with you more. It is about rights. It is about our rights as parents to raise our children, without interference from the state.

    Our country has become obsessed with controlling every aspect of our lives…regulating when and where and how…and this extends to parenting.

    It is appalling to me what happened with your son. And we do need to stand up for our rights…and the rights of our children.

    We have already started down a path where more and more parental rights are being taken away and we need to be wary of further progression down that path.

    If we aren’t careful, free range parenting and free range kids may be a thing of the past.

  4. archdiva December 26, 2008 at 1:03 pm #

    I agree this is a rights issue and I don’t even have kids (yet! but I plan to raise any Free Range).Interestingly enough,if you think about it, most laws and safety rules have been created in response to demand from well-meaning people -in the form of lawsuits after accidents. They start to say “protect my child/me/myfamily/my community from further harm! Enact another law!”
    This happens hundreds of times for different things. Then someone lobbies their state legislators to do even more. Then enough states have enacted a similar law that the feds decide to get in on it and make it federal law.

    And years later, so-called child protection laws are put light years ahead of common sense. Our labyrinthine laws almost ensure legal conflicts and more lawsuits to create even more laws and…so on to infinity and beyond.

    But methinks we’re protecting ourselves (and our kids) to death.Where does it all end? Not sure. But movements start small and they start somewhere. This blog is as good a place as any!

  5. Mo December 26, 2008 at 7:20 pm #

    I learned about your site on the Dr. Phil show. I remember as a child being very independent (born in the early 1970s) and did things that would shock some folks now.

    I think in many ways we do baby our children and then at 18 years of age expect them to somehow stand on their own and not muck it up. Independence and the confidence that comes with being able to handle a situation is not automatically learned at 18 but is taught through trial and error.
    I live in northern Japan and children much younger than your son walk to school everyday and not just around the block to their schools. In Tokyo school children ride the subways. It’s just part of the culture here. Sure there are going to be problems and there are pros and cons to every situation, but that applies to everything in life.
    So a 10 year old on a train is a concern for the police? What about an elderly man or woman? At what age do we gain or lose our independence?
    Every child is different and all children may not be freerange kid material, but we won’t know if we don’t allow our children some freedom to find out.

    ….and I still shudder when I think about that mother on Dr. Phil joking (or not?) about putting tracking chips in her kids…eeek!

  6. Kay December 26, 2008 at 8:20 pm #

    I work for child services and I am raising my child free range. She is 11 and just babysat three children under the age 9 the other night.. Guess what she did an amazing job for a first timer, the kids keep asking when she is coming back.. A few of my coworkers were shocked I let her do it, because some don’t think she should be alone at all at 11, et alone babysitting. I know I am doing right by her. On the otherside of the coin, professionally I see child services get a bad rap where we are darned if we do, and darned if we don’t. My favorite cartoon is the woman pointing at the child service worker saying” There she is, there is the woman who didn’t catch my child when I threw it out the window.” Bad things are going to happen to children, and as a society we need to start pointing the finger where the blame lies… with the person who hurt the child.. Only when we do this, will we be totally free to allow our children to grow up free and happy. To much is done “just in case..” and what if… As a supervisor I would say.. in response to what if…… What if nothing happens!

  7. Kenny Felder December 26, 2008 at 8:49 pm #

    Lenore, I am so, so sorry that you and your son had to go through this.

    But if you really want to create a civil rights movement, and I apologize if this sounds cynical, then you need moments like this to be publicized as much as possible. See if the NY Sun will publish an article about it. See if Dr. Phil wants you back. What Rosa Parks did was not particularly important: she did not lead millions in demonstrations or change laws. And, what Rosa Parks did was all-important: she created a single moment that could serve as a symbol and a lightning rod.

    Here is one of my essays that I don’t think you’ve read, which focuses more on the “rights” aspect of this. It concerns a story that happened to my nephew, six years ago.


  8. Penny December 26, 2008 at 10:02 pm #

    What a way to celebrate Christmas. As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of all the kids who over the holidays were put on trains and planes by themselves to go visit their non-custodial parent on the other side of the country. Why is it ok for them because they are going to visit their other parent and not ok for a child just going to visit a friend on the other side of town? Glad everything turned out in the end.

  9. CTJen December 26, 2008 at 10:09 pm #

    That must have been very scary; I’m so glad everything worked out okay. Free Range Kids is a civil rights movement in the way the un/homeschooling is too. Keep fighting the good fight!

  10. jessica December 26, 2008 at 10:33 pm #

    Amen, Sister!

  11. Tanya December 26, 2008 at 10:48 pm #

    SOooo many points about your post bother me, but a huge one is how the conductor would NOT even TALK to you. He wasn’t going to take responsibility for your son riding on his shift. He was passing the buck…let someone else deal with it. If he listened to your son, listened to you, and even needed to take it further and listen to the family who was waiting at the other end…whatelse was needed? Can’t a parent parent…make choices with her children? Why don’t people stop and listen to each other anymore? Was he afraid of being sued? I don’t get it.
    If he didn’t ‘approve’ of the situtation..that didn’t matter. There are too many people raising our children, but not enough people listening to the children or their parents.
    A march, a movement…? Sign me up!

  12. NJMom December 26, 2008 at 11:17 pm #

    Yikes! How awful!!!!!! But don’t let this episode make you lose your confidence, Lenore!!!

    And you know what? It needed to happen. 1. I completely agree that free range is a civil rights issue/movement and the silliness of this episode should be publicized. 2. But being freerange means that all sorts of “situations” will arise! Somebody’s window will be broken by an errant baseball, matches will be experimented with, yards will be tresspassed, subway stops will be missed, injuries will occurr…and other adults may demand an explanation. Lenore’s son simply had a freerange experience of today. He probably enjoyed the excitement. Lenore maybe felt–for a moment anyway–that she had “done something wrong”…

    We all agree of course that she had done nothing wrong. She is the parent and she felt he could handle it. And in the end, the policeman agreed with her.

    Have all of FreeRangeKids readers read A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel? Her childhood was the ultimate in free range. It is a wonderful book about the resiliency of children. Once you read her book (and her second one is great too), you will never feel guilty about free range again.

  13. Uly December 27, 2008 at 12:21 am #

    Is your son particularly short or something? Because, you know, he’s *ten*. Sheesh.

  14. JoAnn December 27, 2008 at 1:01 am #

    I’m sorry to hear you were victimized by the nanny state.
    My son is 14 and I still get looks from parents who are shocked that I let him ride Metro-North by himself.

    By the way, for Westchester and Connecticut Free-Rangers, here’s a great training tool for your commuting kid. The Grand Central Terminal “Big Board” online.


    Let your children practice at home. Have them figure out which train they need to take and which track they would need to get to. Then, see if they can do it in real life. For example, both my kids know that they need to look for the “Southeast” train to get home.

  15. Trina December 27, 2008 at 1:42 am #

    well, you aren’t alone.our kids do not need to be victimized by the mere thoughts of what ‘might lurk out there’

  16. Jeff Craig December 27, 2008 at 2:28 am #

    I am so pleased that you got a officer responding who took the most reasonable stance on this issue As you said, that situation could have gone very, very badly.

    My wife and I aren’t planning to have kids for several more years, but I am fully behind this movement. As horrible as something happening to a child is, statistically it’s so unlikely that it will be *your* child, that to worry just isn’t worthwhile.

    A parents job is to prepare their child for life, not protect them from it. I live and work in a College town, and I’m truly starting to believe that the perceived ignorance of the younger students isn’t just me.

  17. Angeline December 27, 2008 at 2:32 am #

    Where do I sign up to march?! Enough is enough!

  18. Kasumi Ghia December 27, 2008 at 4:01 am #

    It sounds to me like the railroad has no actual policy on this matter, or the people there didn’t actually know what it was, and weren’t willing to admit ignorance and started just making things up.

    Please call the railroad administration and find out exactly what there policy *is* before objecting to it. It’s entirely possible that once they find out what happened they’ll discipline the conductor for not following/knowing the actual rules.

    I’ve run into a similar situation (minus the police) where as soon as the people in the main office were called an apology was issued and was told that training on this matter would be issued to the appropriate people.

  19. madmonq December 27, 2008 at 4:21 am #

    Jesus have you hit a sore spot for me. This story is somewhat related.

    I work in a capacity where I deal with teenagers to young adults. You have no idea how many parents freak out when their 21 year old (adult) child is detained, arrested or is in any way involved in truly irresponsible behavior.

    If the same 21 year old leaves their apartments unlocked with windows open, the same parents blame the authorities for not sufficiently looking after their childrens interests. The state cannot prevent stupid.

    There are probably 500 police officers in my town and about 35,000 college students, a majority of them under 21 years old.

    The train conductor was probably a little concerned because some people don’t know where their kids are and probably a little worried about getting sued for not doing the parents job.

    I sort of disagree with you about the nanny state. This is what people want. Or what they think they want. The state is only following through with what the public mandates, though I think politicians should grow some, um, courage and push back.

    I do think it’s a bad idea, but somehow people have gotten the idea the state (local, state, federal) is omnipresent and omniscient and can prevent all wrong. If parents did their jobs, they’d have a lot less to worry about.

    Free Range reminds me of the Midwife movement. Letting people give birth at home, or at a midwife center. We’ve done it for thousands of years without a doctor, hospital or major bureaucracy f-ing things up. I don’t mind help but I’d rather not be bullied by the state or private agency. If this is something your committed to you might want to look into what they’re doing.

  20. Rachel H. December 27, 2008 at 5:57 am #

    I’m so sorry — what a heart-stopping moment! I’m glad that it turned out so well. Sounds like the conductor wanted to protect himself more than he wanted to protect Izzy. Is Izzy ok? I would think it’s more traumatic to be detained by the conductor and police than riding the train on his own :).

    My Grandpa was sent by train, all the way from Cleveland to Milwaukee, with a change-over in Chicago, when he was about 9. He had a note pinned to him, with the assumption that anyone who noticed him traveling alone would be inclined to help. I think there’s an underlying assumption change … “people are helpful” has changed to “people are dangerous.” Also, there’s the sue-happy issue. If something “happens” to someone on a train, whose “fault” is it? Nobody seems to be willing to take responsibility or trust each other. It’s a shame.

  21. Amy December 27, 2008 at 5:57 am #

    Argh. My son — who turned 11 in June — has been riding the Chicago Metra (our commuter railway, much like NYC’s LIRR) by himself to go out to his father’s house in the suburbs for about a year now. He’s never had anyone say anything to him, but I’d be livid if anyone did this to us.

    I can’t seem to find verification of this, but I seem to recall that Chicago public transit “allows” unaccompanied travel for kids ages EIGHT and up. (BTW, I did find this saying that the Metro-North in NYC allows kids 8 and up to ride alone.)

  22. Lisa December 27, 2008 at 7:33 am #

    I think ‘well meaning’ people like this conductor should mind their own business, unless they see an obvious danger. What was he thinking? That having a child removed from his parents’ home would make for a merry Christmas? Thank God the policeman had a little common sense.
    I agree with Denise. I am so tired of the nanny state!

  23. Gabriel - Gadfly Revolution December 27, 2008 at 7:34 am #

    At least the responding officer was reasonable and took on the issue with a rational head.

  24. Uly December 27, 2008 at 8:04 am #

    “My son is 14 and I still get looks from parents who are shocked that I let him ride Metro-North by himself. ”

    Kids in group homes upstate take the Metro-North alone all the time to visit their families. If it’s good enough for CPS it really ought to be good enough for your kid. HONestly! Your friends, they lack some common sense.

  25. amplifly December 27, 2008 at 2:30 pm #

    There are some parents who don’t give a hoot about their kids and the policeman is definitely just doing his job. Most kids that have senseless parents usually end up abused so the policeman is definitely right on trying to spot the accidents before it happens.

  26. Aileen Journey December 27, 2008 at 10:43 pm #

    I had the police called when my 4 and 5 year olds were playing IN THEIR OWN front yard on a beautiful spring afternoon with their friends (who were 12 and 13). The older girls decided that since there was no car in the driveway that no one was home. They came into my house and called my name, but I was in the bathroom and didn’t hear them. They called the police. The police then called Child Protective Services and filed a claim of neglect which was upheld because CPS already had a grudge against me because they wanted me to adopt more children than just the two that I did.

    I feel that children should learn skills and to do things on their own. Already my 6 year old never wants to leave my side to go to camp or afterschool programs. I don’t want my children hurt in any way at all, but keeping them attached to me at all times doesn’t seem to allow them to use their brains at all!

  27. Rachel December 29, 2008 at 4:53 pm #

    When are we going to be allowed to let our children grow and mature without being deemed ‘bad parents’? Most ten year olds are intelligent enough to ride a train or a bus from one point to the other. No one sees anything wrong with a child Izzy’s age walking home from school by themselves, and that’s potentially more dangerous than riding on a train full of people (ahem, WITNESSES). A young child could easily get snatched up off the street without anyone seeing. This situation is entirely ridiculous and should NEVER have happened. As parents, we shouldn’t be forced to baby our children like this. We are stripping them of their independence, and teaching them that it’s okay to rely on Mommy and Daddy for every single little thing they need help with. And then when the time comes for them to grow up and be responsible and independent, the powers that be chastise us parents once more for ‘not raising them right’, and ‘not teaching them the skills they need’. *sigh*

  28. BMS December 30, 2008 at 12:52 am #

    Recently our school sent home a survey asking what would need to change for us to allow our kids to walk to school. Some things the school cannot change. We live a very long way from school. Traffic is absolutely nightmarish on several roads. Some things the school could help with – more crossing guards. But the biggest thing I said was that I need to know that other parents and school officials are not going to cite me as a neglectful parent for allowing my kids to walk to school unaccompanied.

  29. erinchosen December 30, 2008 at 1:58 am #

    This is baffling to me. In my neighborhood (rough, southside) and all around Chicago, I see kids riding the CTA, the bus, and (although less commonly because it is a commuter line) the Metra without a parent, all the time. Seeing a kid, around 8 or so, alone on public transit would not alarm me at all because it is so common. In cities like NY and Chicago, kids have to get around just like everybody else and public transit is definitely the safest way. This is just mystifying. I’m glad the policman was level headed about it, unlike the conductor!

  30. John December 30, 2008 at 2:53 am #

    I must say that you guys must be living in a very safe society, because here in Africa, the idea of me allowing my ten year old child to use public transport on her own is just too scary to imagine. We live in a semi rural area where children and adults are regularly attacked, murdered, raped and beaten, molested and abducted. My wife was attacked right outside our house whilst walking back from the shops with our kids. They witnessed a violent attack by an aggressive, bigger person on their mother and where traumatised for months. Luckly for my wife she fought back and managed to chase her attacker away.

    We too lived a free and happy life here when we where children, but times change and I hope that in your attempts to allow your children to grow into well adjusted and happy adults, you never look back on a decision you made where you think “if only I’d not allowed them to go…” It happens here too often and all it takes is one mistake, being in the wrong place at the wrong time and you cannot un-do the damage.

    I hope you all truly appreciate the gift you have in living in a society that cares enough to contact you when they perceive a possible danger to your children.

  31. Kelly December 30, 2008 at 3:08 am #

    Wow, the authorities would have freaked at my parents. I was left alone at 5 (my mom was the leasing agent at an apartment, and was only 2 buildings away). I was allowed to walk to a party store at 6- 2 blocks and across a two-lane 35mph street, and started flying on planes alone at 5. I even shot and owned my own rifles at 5 (I’m a girl) The funny thing is, my parents were actually quite strict and if I had to be somewhere at a certain time- you bet your a** I was there, or face the wrath that is my father.
    See- my parents set boundaries, and they also gave me “free range” as long as I came home/checked in at set times. I can honestly say I was late 1 time, 30minutes, and it never happened again. I am now 25, have children (twins) of my own, bought my own house last year, graduated college with honors, and I know if my parents didn’t let me see how the world really was when I was young, I would be nowhere near where I am now.

  32. Ruhal December 30, 2008 at 3:39 am #

    The idea of parenting Free Range Kids is a good one but often times, in today’s society of one bad event or other either being reported on the news, told by someone who had a friend who had a friend who had a friend…, parents are too scared to do that. I was taking care of my infant sister at 13 and had a major hand in raising her as a teenager, teaching me responsibility, patience and grounding me as a teenager. Taking her with me everywhere I went, from 16 on up. Imagine, in today’s world, a 16 year-old being allowed to tote along a 3-year old that’s not his child on the NYC subways? We would have been summarily taken away from our parents! In Bangladesh, where my parents come from, there are no preteens, tweens, teens, or young adults… your either a kid or an adult and when you reach maturity, you quickly learn your place. I’m not saying that’s the perfect way to raise a kid, but my parents were never babied when they reached maturity, that’s how I was raised and, lo and behold! I made it into adulthood…more or less :-p My wife just gave birth to our first daughter and I felt immediately at ease taking care of her and was even helping her and offering up tidbits I’d learned from my sister that helped my wife into the process. On the other hand, what some people, who don’t understand this idea of raising “free range kids”, don’t get is that you don’t just unleash your kids into the world but you teach them, guide them and well (gasp!) be a parent to them while showing them how to live in the world. I just heard of a story of a 13 year old who was babysitting her 1 month old sibling and shook her to death, not realizing that the baby was being injured from the shaking; my parents would have never left me totally alone with my sister but they did teach me to be patient with her, to put her down when she gets too frustrating and call an older adult member of the family, preferably my parents for help, and through all her crying, fits, temper tantrums, etc… I never lost my temper with her. I guess in our bad-news laden, litigious society, it’s easier to overburden CPS then to believe that parents are capable of being parents these days…

  33. jenn December 30, 2008 at 4:19 am #

    First, I’m glad it all worked out. Second, I do understand the concern about CPS–you just never know what people will say and somehow, everyone is always so inclined to think the worst of everyone. My husband recently got home a bit late from an appointment with our oldest. As a result, the two youngest kids [nearly 9 and 7] had been waiting about 20 minutes when he got home. We live in a boring middle class on a dead end street. Both kids were unconcerned, knew their father would be home soon and had a blast playing [in lieu of starting homework] but I’ve got a neighbor hardly speaking to me for leaving them alone. And I confess, the first thought I had was whether she might report us to CPS for neglect even though the kids were fine.

    So I also agree with persuing this with the authorities—if the rules say “8” is the age for traveling alone, then the conductors ought to know it so that the next kid traveling by themselves doesn’t have to go through what your child did.

  34. RobertSeattle December 31, 2008 at 6:28 am #

    I grew up on Army Posts and they are probably one of the last bastions of free range kids left since most military posts tend to be pretty safe places for kids to cruise around as long as they stay in the residential areas.

  35. Augustus December 31, 2008 at 7:42 am #

    It is very cold here and there are two feet of snow. Two of my kids and a friend just built an honest-to-god igloo in the park on the next block, and announced that they were going to sleep in it. Bear in mind that these are 15, 16, and 17. But what to do? I don’t want the police at my door again, or those evil social services harpies.
    After some thought I decided it was okay, told them that they had better keep out of sight and get inside quickly – it saddens me that I have had to teach my children to avoid drug dealers and the police with equal care, but I have. The process of getting ready was arduous and drove me mad, but they did it, and arrived back here cold and tired at nearly noon. And everyone is happy, especially me – my kids showed some initiative, and it worked. And what else are we raising them for?

  36. Crystal December 31, 2008 at 8:30 am #

    Apparently you have the perfect right to ignore any evidence to the contrary and play Russian roulette with the well being of your child. You receive no rewards from me for being a good or conscientious parent. As a mother and grandmother, I know there is an inner instinct to protect your offspring. Why, it is missing is some people has given rise to much speculation. I consider you one of those who thinks everything is just fine as all the evidence shows, i.e. “He’s been riding the train without any trouble all of this time….” – until something happens. May you never know that turmoil and may your son always be safe from harm.

  37. Anne au Nîmes December 31, 2008 at 9:05 am #

    That is a sad funny story.

    Here in France, daily you can see kids no older than 5 taking alone bus and metro for commuting in every cities. And everybody is perfectly happy with that.

    There is even monthly public transport cards for children younger than 12.

  38. Anne au Nîmes December 31, 2008 at 9:05 am #

    That is a sad funny story.

    Here in France, daily you can see kids no older than 5 taking alone bus and metro for commuting in every cities. And everybody is perfectly happy with that.

    There is even monthly public transport cards for children younger than 12.

  39. Rob C December 31, 2008 at 9:22 am #

    Crystal – what “evidence to the contrary” are you talking about here? How many children are actually abducted off crowded subway trains? Is that number more or less than the number of children involved in car accidents every day while sitting right next to their over-protective mothers who’ve allowed the media to make them too frightened to let their kids out of their sight for more than thirty seconds?

  40. Scott December 31, 2008 at 9:46 am #

    I think, given the circumstances, the copper should be given high credit for reasonable behaviour and thinking.

    I was expecting the ending to be “and they took him away for christmas”, or worse. I’m very glad things worked out OK despite the hassle, and agree that this level of interference is beyond reasonable.

  41. mckenzee December 31, 2008 at 9:58 am #

    Off topic for the post, but not the blog.

    I thought you might like this comic I did a few years ago: http://mckenzee.comicgenesis.com/d/20060910.html

  42. lucid December 31, 2008 at 1:20 pm #

    Yet another overreach by a nanny state. I’m 36. After being shown the route by my parents for the first week, I walked to school by myself in first grade – granted it was 8 blocks away, but there were some busy streets in there. All of my siblings and myself were babysitting other kids when we were 10. I think the first time I was left alone overnight was when I was 12. I was allowed to travel to West Africa alone when I was 17.

    If parents aren’t allowed to instill independence in their kids, when do they cease to be kids?

  43. lucid December 31, 2008 at 1:22 pm #

    I should also note that the condition of me traveling to West Africa at 17 was that I paid for it myself, which I did.

  44. Unknown User December 31, 2008 at 8:59 pm #

    Live free or die…

    It is better to be free and starving than caged and well fed.

    Kids need to roam; they build the skills to survive in the world. The world is a scary place, but we cant shelter them from it or watch them every moment of their lives.

    And those who dont make it? Consider it the cost of freedom. Consider it darwinism. Dont like that idea? You send your children to school, you let them ride bikes, you drive them in your cars… all of these actions have a better chance of killing your child than letting them roam.

    Cowards raising cowards. Great. Just what the world needs. Butch up, sissies.

  45. Luca December 31, 2008 at 9:41 pm #

    Yes, trends in violent victimization is falling.
    But trend in infant abduction by strangers are increasing:

  46. Stacy January 1, 2009 at 2:18 am #

    I say yes to Free-Range children.
    I was one and I have two teenagers (17-16) that grew up just fine exploring on their own. Of Course, there are curfews, and limits, etc…
    I have a 2 year old that when he gets a little older will have the same freedoms to run, explore, and play and just be a kid.

  47. Sebastian January 1, 2009 at 2:20 am #

    Although I understand the intent, this is a classic mountain-from-molehill situation. A train operator, NOT an authority figure, nor likely well-trained, made a judgment call. One that turned out to be the wrong call. The actual authority figure agreed it was a non-issue. You went about your day.

    Have you ever made a judgment call that later turned out to be the wrong one? There’s nothing to be up in arms about here. Thank the train operator for their concern, and move on.

    Yeah, sounds like the operator was rude. So don’t thank them. But this is not a case of The Man oppressing the Free Range Kids Movement.

  48. Dona January 1, 2009 at 6:31 am #

    It would be wonderful to allow your children to go out of eyesight of a responsible adult, like we did in our youth , if you’re older than 30.
    Unfortunately it is a brave new world out there and things change. Even when I was raising my daughter, who is now 32, I saw the change occuring and eventually I became like the rest of the responsible adults and watched her, and any other child I was reponsible for, like a hawk, as she does now with her children.
    Yes it is based on fear, not of the authorities, but of the preditors and pedophiles who seem to have increased expotentially along with the lack of spiritual developement in our society.
    It seems that trend is reversing as will the need to moniter our children so closely. Things tend to cycle.

    In the meantime, teach them to entertain themselves and get a healthy hobby i.e. sports, reading, sewing, collecting, woodworking, things that require thought and physical movement. They can even have more than one. You may have to contribute your time and a bit of money, make them earn it. Chores were something else that took up our time and energy back then. That is what we did in the 50’s and 60’s.

  49. BILL January 1, 2009 at 7:55 am #

    Was the friends dad at the station when the train arrived ? If so was he told,by the train crew, that he could not leave with your son,before the police arived ? If both can be answerd yes , the term false imprsionment comes to mind. This might be the big stick to use on getting this resolved as to prevent futher events. Cause as you know some ppl. dont like to be wrong ,and can be stupied. Would hate to see your son be on the same train with the same train crew later on next year Yes i know it smell of bs law suit but some ppl only under stand that kind of talk.

  50. celebrateforanarchy January 1, 2009 at 8:24 am #

    I have to say, that is ridiculous. Did you ever ask the police, under which basis did the conductor feel he had the right to impede on your sons business? And yours?

    Myself, I feel that my parents used many of the methods you do with your kids, but I was not allowed to watch tv or play video games on the pc or any of that.

    But I am 18 now, going to OU for Forensic Anthroplogy and Int. Law, and I am even a high school drop out on top of all of that.

    It seems that if you let your children develop as independent personalities, that they will do better in life due to the fact that they understand that they do better for themselves, not to impress.

  51. Uly January 1, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    “Yes it is based on fear, not of the authorities, but of the preditors and pedophiles who seem to have increased expotentially along with the lack of spiritual developement in our society.”

    Wrong. Wrong, wrong, absolutely wrong. And you can do yourself a favor and look up the statistics that *prove* that child molestation cases haven’t increased in the past three or four decades, that *prove* violent crime has been steadily *decreasing* since the late 70s, that *prove* that most molested children are harmed by family members – not strangers.

  52. trout8 January 1, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    Wow thats hard to believe


  53. Rob C January 1, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    “But trend in infant abduction by strangers are increasing”

    And when people start letting their babies ride the subway alone, that might even become a relevant point.

  54. Rob C January 1, 2009 at 5:52 pm #

    “Yes it is based on fear, not of the authorities, but of the preditors and pedophiles who seem to have increased expotentially”

    That’s incorrect. It’s not the amount of incidents that have increased, it’s the amount of reporting of incidents that has increased. By this I mean, reporting of incidents by victims and their families to the police, as well as increased reporting of such incidents by the 24-hour news channels whose ratings jump every time something bad happens to a child.

  55. Kathryn January 1, 2009 at 11:02 pm #

    Two years ago, our new neighbors called the cops because we were allowing our then-9-year-old son 150 ft from our property line. The accusation was that he was being “allowed to roam the neighborhood” and that because he’s a skinny kid that we must not be feeding him. The cops were unable to use common sense on their own, and so called Child Protective Services, who banged on our door at 11 PM at night and demanded admission. Child Protective Services, after investigating, thought this was nonsense, but it scared the hell out of me and permanently alienated me from that suburban subculture.

  56. Bill January 2, 2009 at 9:52 am #

    I couldn’t agree more with what so many of your readers have already stated. When given proper guidance, kids usually make the right choices by themselves. I don’t have kids, but I lived in Long Island from my birth to the age of 17. I feel like paranoia and narrow-mindedness is pervasive not only in American society in general, but especially in Long Island, where people are isolated from one another and glued to their TV sets. Its only in an atmosphere of extreme isolation that you get this crazy fear of everything around you – if you spend some time interacting with the outside world, you realize that for the most part people aren’t all that bad.
    As far as rights are concerned, kids have so little. The assumption is that they’re not even people, that they can’t have opinions or a free mind. I feel personally like kids minds are much more free than adults, who have endured years and years of indoctrination of all kinds.

  57. Jen January 2, 2009 at 9:50 pm #

    I’m an American currently living in Berlin, Germany, where kids around age 10, and probably younger, ride the subway alone without a second glance from anyone (except from me, perhaps, since I have on my mind these free-range debates in the US). It’s also common to see kids around the 8 – 10 yr old age range in the park and at playgrounds unaccompanied by an adult, and it’s just not an issue here. These kids are often better behaved than ones who are in the company of their parents in the States!

  58. Never teh Bride January 3, 2009 at 3:41 am #

    When I was a kid, I was kicked out of the house every Saturday (weather permitting) after breakfast, allowed back in for lunch, and bumped back out until dinner. Something about fresh air, my mom said. What else was there to do out there but roam around, ride my bike, and explore? When I was in grade school, I had friends who couldn’t go past their own streets, but I was riding around all over town. Sure, weird stuff happened. I’d lose my bearings and have to wander until I found a landmark. As a consequence, I learned to navigate. I found the occasional trashy magazine. I caught kids drinking — and ran away quick. I’m no fool! I should add that this was the suburbs and I’m 29 years old. Now I’m expecting my first kid, and I’m hoping I’ll have thye guts to free-range them within reason (our block is flanked by two busy streets).

  59. Konrad Siek January 3, 2009 at 7:15 am #


    I don’t have kids or anything (I’m not even from your country) but I just watched the Penn and Teller episode about stranger danger featuring your kid and you. I thought it was cool how you let your kid roam free without falling into a bunch of paranoia…

    It’s a shame this thing happened to you guys and hope this doesn’t repeat or cause you to restrict your general ‘freerangeness’ too much.

    Good luck.

  60. Mark January 3, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    I’m constantly getting miffed by parents who think that “This is a different world than the one that we grew up in.”

    They are right, but it’s not different in the way that they imply that it is. It’s not less safe. It’s actually more safe. What is actually different is that parents today are not like parents of yesterday. Today’s parents are neurotic and full of fear. Today’s parents are being judged all of the time by other parents. Fathers are not getting the respect that they used to get either and it seems to me that fathers are the ones who would normally provide some balance to the moms who typically seem to be the ones biased towards being safe and not taking risks (Lenore, obviously the exception and not the rule).

    I have other thoughts to add to this at http://tinyurl.com/7tycxv

  61. Stuart Moore January 5, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

    This story – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7811686.stm – has a slightly more proportionate response.

    Joking aside, i’ve got a lot of respect for the stand you’ve made, and I am certain your kid will benefit from them.

  62. Mrs. Olsen January 6, 2009 at 12:45 am #

    I agree with free-range philosophy, was a FR kid myself.

    Yet I wonder (and hope I’m not being sexist) would you feel differently letting your 11 year old kid go solo on the subway if that kid was a girl instead of a boy?

  63. Uly January 6, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    Mrs. Olsen, I was taking the train by myself as an 11 year old girl. In NYC, in a time that wasn’t as safe as it is now… and I didn’t have a cellphone. Moreover, I was an incredibly oblivious child who could quite literally miss a train passing right in front of me, and I had no sense of direction to speak of which, combined with a form of spatial agnosia really wasn’t very *fun* if I ever got lost. Spatial agnosia roughly means that places that ought to look familiar to me don’t always do so. I’ve literally gotten lost right across the street from my house.

    And you know what? With all that stacked against me, I can honestly say that *nothing* bad has ever happened to me on the subway, excepting the numerous times I’ve gotten on the N instead of the R and ended up in Brooklyn. (Not, in and of itself, a bad thing.. but when you end up missing the 9:30 boat and have to wait an hour…!)

    And, as I’ve said on this blog before, by the sixth or seventh grade children in NYC are given bus passes and expected to navigate the transit system, generally either alone or with friends. (And for some kids that age comes earlier, if there’s no school bus route out to where they are!)

    Why would it be different for girls than boys?

  64. Ruadhan January 6, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    I think the idea that “this world is so much more big and dangerous now than it was when *I* was a kid!!!” is coming from the simple fact that people look through thier past with rose-tinted glasses. Hell, it took me going back to my “old neighbourhood” to clear up some BS after my father died, and confirming through old photos that, no, things hadn’t really changed much, that I grew up in a ghetto. Still, I walked a mile to school, daily, from the age of seven or eight onward (only exceptions were when my mother was picking my sister and I up cos one or both of us had doctor’s appointments), we took the bus downtown (living in metro-Detroit, in the 1980s), and when my sister was at a friend’s place, my parents even often left me without a baby-sitter, cos they trusted me to use my good sense and all (though I later found out that they’d periodically call the woman across the street to make sure nothing suspicious had gone on).

    Children are a lot more resilient than most adults give them credit for. People are, for the most part, decent and have no intent to harm children at all. It’s the sensationalism of the news media and that inherently human tendency to romanticise and bowdlerise our own personal histories, especially our environments as children (forgetting or perhaps even not realising how much the adults in our lives *really were* watching out for us) that makes us think “it’s SO MUCH WORSE now!” The reality is that only three things have changed “since we were kids”: 1) the population has grown somewhat; 2) the technology has changed; 3) how people deal with the ever-present “ills” of society has changed, somewhat (actually, this changes somewhat with every generation, making it, technically, a constant).

    Human nature has not gotten any “worse”; people aren’t somehow more “sinister”; the only difference between all of these “threats to our children” now versus twenty-five years ago is that now people are willing to talk about it openly. Yes, this makes certain “threats” seem more-real and more-probable, but when you consider the fact that the molestation of pre-pubescent children is something that has been demonised since ancient Greece(1), obviously, these “threats” are hardly anything new to this last century.

    Being over-protective of children, ultimately, does them more harm than good. They end up, by and large, emotionally stunted and the “adults” that become of these children often have to teach themselves the life-skills necessary to deal with the adult world, and they essentially “teach themselves” these things with hours of weekly therapy, hundreds spent on self-help tomes, and so forth. Well-adjusted over-protected children are an anomaly.

    And girls aren’t really any more precious than boys are. Boys can, and do, get molested, raped, and abducted, too. Anybody who thinks that girls need greater protection than boys is just sexist, plain and simple.

    (1) “youths”, in ancient Greece, were actually teen-aged; think ages 14-20. Also, the average age for a girl in ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, etc, was about 14, which was late-stage pubescence, even then

  65. Mary January 7, 2009 at 11:30 pm #

    Hey Lenore,

    Thought i’d drop in and say hello, i was just listening to you on the radio in the car (in ireland) – yes

    we don’t have twinkies but we do have chocolate

    but you should also know we don’t have ‘Mac and Cheese’ – an online friend from chicago had to explain it to me as i never heard of it before 😉

  66. Liam January 9, 2009 at 3:18 am #

    That’s crazy. When I was a child, my parents separated and my father got an apartment in Manhattan. On weekends when my sister and I went to visit him, our mother would take us to Stamford station and we’d take the Metro-North train to Grand Central Terminal where our father would meet us on the platform. I was about 7 or 8 and my sister 10 or 11. And this was in the early 80’s when crime rates were exponentially higher than they are now, but even then my parents knew we’d be safe on the train.

  67. Jane January 9, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    While I can unerstand and perhaps even respect the idea of teaching our children to be independent, I cannot immagine allowing my child to take the subway in a large, over populated, and at times more than your average dangerous city such as New York. I was born and raised in NY, and have done my share of traveling via subway. The things I have witnessed, both as a child and an adult, traveling alone or accompanied are startling, worrysome, and at times even innaprorpiate for young children, and perhaps even adults. Personally, I do not want my 4 and 6 year old little girls exposed to drug dealers, drug users, flashers, muggers, and thugs. These are the elements I was exposed to as a child. Personally, I found it rather frightening when some guy or chick would snort cocaine within 10 feet of where I was sitting! If the kid knows what to do, great! If he knows how to handle a potentially bad situation, fabulous! nothing wrong with teaching our kids the ins and outs of life, but why take chances with their life? why put them in harms way? there is a huge difference between playing outside (independently) and taking a one hour subway ride (unattended). Just my 2 cents…free range is a great idea, my girls are independent, well adjusted, and able to do certain things without mommy supervision…taking the train is not one of them.

  68. elle January 9, 2009 at 8:21 pm #

    My children are fairly free range 10,8 and 8. I let them ride their bikes about a half mile to the park or the bus stop. But I can’t help worrying that some pedophile is going to snatch one of them up, especially when they are not all together. How do you get past the thought that on his way to the subway, or train that some weirdo in a car won’t snatch him up? I mean that has happened to adult women in parking lots. It happened to adam walsh in the mall.

  69. CyberMan January 9, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

    Children are a lot more resilient than most adults give them credit for. People are, for the most part, decent and have no intent to harm children at all.

  70. Meghan January 10, 2009 at 2:28 am #

    Hi! Just thought you might be interested in this if you didn’t see it already:

    Have Americans Gone Nuts Over Nut Allergies? from Time.com


  71. Rob C January 10, 2009 at 2:51 pm #

    Elle: You just need to keep reminding yourself that your kids are about a thousand times more likely to be hit by a nondescript white van on the way to the park than they are to be dragged into one. And the odds of even that happening are incredibly low.

    And, despite what the media wants to scare you into believing, there are not pedophiles lurking behind every bush and around every corner, just waiting to get their hands on one of your kids.

  72. Uly January 11, 2009 at 7:40 am #

    Jane, NYC is actually consistently rated as one of the *safest* large cities in which to live, often in the top 20.

    Safer than Minneapolis. Safer than Boston. Safer than St. Louis, Tulsa, Phoenix.

    As far as “I felt unsafe when seeing people sniff cocaine on the train”, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve lived in NYC all my life. I’ve been taking the trains half my life. I’ve never once seen that. Maybe you’re speaking of things that happened a few decades ago, when things were much less safe, both in NYC and in the nation at large?

  73. Gerard McGarry January 12, 2009 at 6:41 am #

    Frightening to see that your parenting decision was called into question with such force by the railroad authorities. I can imagine exactly how frightening that must have been for you and your son, especially considering that you had done some research beforehand to see what age was acceptable.

    My wife’s teenage brother stays with us at weekends, and I’m pushing for him to be allowed to get the bus out to our house. He’s 13, has a mobile phone and would be met in town by us, but his parents are totally against the idea and so drive him out every Friday instead.

  74. Jane January 14, 2009 at 6:22 am #


    I’m 38 years old, not by any stretch of the immagination “old fashioned”…actually I’m quite progressive and in my opinion, open minded. The acts I referred to were in fact when I was in my teens to mid twenties. However, they have been recent as well since I revisit NY on a regular basis and have taken the subway into “The City” to catch dinner and a Broadway play. Personally, I don’t care how “safe” a city is, my children would need to be a bit older before I let them ride the subway un supervised. I currently live in Florida, I have sexual predators living down the street from me. Should I allow my children to play outside unattended while I do housework or other chores just bcause they are well trained in how to handle themselves in a crisis? And in response to the person who said that people mostly don’t have any intention of harming children….I say watch the news sometime. (no sarcasm intended) It doesn’t seem prudent to me to leave my girls on their own at such a young age, although I will agree that it does depend on the child’s level of maturity, both emotionally and cognitively moreso than their actual age. My first priority is their safety. Perhaps you and the other bloggers are correct; the chances of anything happening are slim, but on the off chance that something DID go wrong on that train ride and the boy got hurt, or worse, who will the authorities look to for answers? Certainly not the train conductor or the boy himself. They will hold Mom accountable in every sense of the word-morally, legally….and otherwise. Let it be clear that I am not judging anyone for their parenting…I am simply stating it doesn’t work for our family. My husband would never dream of leaving one of his little girls unsupervised in such a setting. An ounce of prevention… I SAY.

  75. youngermum January 15, 2009 at 4:52 am #

    much as i don’t think i’d trust most ten year olds to ride alone, i do think it depends on the childs’ understanding and if he’s used to going on that route and knows enough people to look out for him when he gets on and off i don’t really see the problem. i see why the conductor had issues, as they have a duty to report any suspicions to the police in case he was running away. but to just insist you have to come get him without giving you a chance to explain is a bit ott. my son is nearly two so i don’t know how i’m going to be with him when he gets that big but it just sounds a bit too much.
    there are kids who get abused every day, kids who need police’s help. children going missing and running away or into danger. your son clearly was not at any more risk than had if you gone with him

  76. Uly January 16, 2009 at 3:02 am #

    The news, the news…

    Another father killed his kid. Another son killed his mother. Another mother, for that matter, hurt her daughter.

    And most sexual predators stay within the family.

    So yes. You should let your kid play outside. You’re more likely to harm them (especially if you’re constantly with them) than anybody else.

  77. Uly January 16, 2009 at 3:23 am #

    And you should definitely never, ever, EVER let your children alone with your husband. What are you thinking??? Don’t you know that nearly 20% of molested children are harmed by their fathers? 30% – THIRTY PERCENT – by stepfathers? Together, that’s four times the percentage of molesters who target stranger’s kids.

  78. Yam Erez January 19, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    Yep. We live in a tiny, outlying income-sharing community in Israel’s Southern Arava. Last month we sent our 12-year-old (who’s small for her age) on the interurban to Beer Sheva to visit a friend. Eyebrows were raised, but I felt OK about it: She’s been riding Route 394 all her life, in contrast to many others’ kids who’ve never seen the inside of a public bus because their parents think it’s too much trouble to use public xportation, or don’t want their kids xposed to the riffraff. So they rent cars and yeah, are with their kids, but are their kids safer? With all those other clowns on the road? My daughter’s friend’s dad met her in Beer Sheva, end of story.

    Two years ago, during the Lebanon War, my 14-year-old went to visit a friend in Pardesiya, a six-hour bus trip. She got off in Netanya, where Friend’s dad was supposed to pick her up. It was already dark and he was 20 minutes late. She found a pay phone and called us, we called the dad, found out he was stuck in traffic, we called her back and told her to wait for him. He got there shortly after. The next day we got her a cell phone. End of story.

    Yea for this blog! By the way, Lenore, your intro is missing an “is”: “This site dedicated to sane parenting”. You’re gonna be busted by the Writing Police! I’m gonna have the County Lady after you and take your kid away… : )

  79. Jessica January 20, 2009 at 4:29 am #

    My goodness. I could understand if they were concerned about him standing all alone on the platform after dark or something, looking like an abandoned child, but there are hundreds of people on a train, he is hardly *alone.* Thank goodness the police were on your side this time!!

  80. Renee January 20, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    I found this site the very day my daughter took commuter rail alone for the first time. She’s 13. However, she’s been flying commercial flights as a UAM since she was 5, and flew cross-country as an “adult” flyer last Easter, changing planes in Chicago, at an airport, in a city she’d never been to. Since it was the middle of when the FAA was grounding a bunch of flights for missed inspections, I took the precaution of contacting a friend in the area, who agreed to be “on call” to pick her up for the night if anything went amiss. No other preparations were needed.

    Thank you for this! I’ve been trying to raise my daughter to be independent and capable, and I take so much flak for it from both family and friends who are certain I’m putting her in harm’s way if she’s not 100% supervised. Finally, I don’t feel quite so alone in this…

  81. Rob C January 25, 2009 at 9:45 am #

    “I currently live in Florida, I have sexual predators living down the street from me. Should I allow my children to play outside unattended while I do housework or other chores just bcause they are well trained in how to handle themselves in a crisis?”

    Yes, you should. Because really, if you know about this person, so does everybody else in the neighbourhood, and he knows it. Do you really think he’s gonna make a move on your kids, or anyone else’s, under those circumstances? It’d be like somebody trying to shoplift in a store full of uniformed police officers.

    It’s not the sexual predators you’re aware of that you need to worry about, it’s the ones you don’t. It’s the over-friendly sports coach. It’s the uncle that likes to tickle the kids just a little too much. It’s the older cousin who just loves to take the kids camping. It’s that nice-looking, friendly, personable fellow who takes weeks, months, to ingratiate himself with your family and who you just know would never, ever try and do anything like that with your kids. *They’re* the ones you need to watch out for.

    “And in response to the person who said that people mostly don’t have any intention of harming children”.I say watch the news sometime.”

    I say stop watching the news so much. Yes, occasionally children are harmed by adults, and that’s just about the most awful thing that could happen. But these cases are, despite what the fear-peddlers would have you believe, incredibly rare, on a statistical level. Does the news tell you about the hundreds of millions of kids who go UN-harmed by parents or teachers or relatives or creepy old men down the street every day? No they do not. But something bad happens to one kid, and they’re shoving it down your throat for weeks on end, reminding you every five minutes that “This could happen to YOUR child!” just so you’ll stay tuned for the next update.

    Fear is just another product these days, but you don’t have to buy it. Don’t let them convince you to be afraid. Take reasonable, sensible precautions to ensure your children’s safety, by all means. But don’t keep them locked up in the house unless you’re there to hold your hand every minute of every day. Let them off the leash occasionally. Chances are pretty good they’ll come back to you in one piece.

  82. watzabatza January 26, 2009 at 1:52 am #

    here guys in the Philippines is too different there in your country…

  83. Grown up kid January 30, 2009 at 10:01 pm #

    Oh my, this sounds crazy, why wouldn’t a 10 year old kid be able to travel alone when someone is meeting him on the sttion? I’m from Sweden and I saw the episode about this issue on Dr. Phil. I’m a little over 20 now and me and my whole family watched the show. My parents were kind of upset about the “helicopter mom” and my dad couldn’t believe what he saw on TV. I have always been allowed to play outside with friends, ride my bike, playing by the sea and exploring life and nature. My parents or grandparents have of course had their eyes on me while swimming, but when I was 12 I was paddling the canoe with friends, biking to lakes etc. They have always encouraged me to develope all of my abilities and to explore life. We have a very open relationship and what a great childhood I’ve had! I could always talk with my parents, grandparents etc and the rules have been kind of outspoken but still reasonable. They have talked to us kids about alcohol, drugs, sex and it feels like we have had a mutual respect for each other. Most of the people I know have been raised almost like me´, but of course some parents were more strict or more loose. I don’t know if it’s true, but after what I’ve seen on TV and heard from American friends of the family I’ve come to the conclusion that wwe have another way of raising kids here in Sweden/Europe. In southern Europe countries kids are always running along the beaches alone, playing and having the time of their lives. So I’m really wondering, what’s the fuss about? Kids are kids, let them play and grow. I mean, a door can be dangerous if you hit your head and a chair can kill you if you are really unfortunate to have an accident. We can’t protect ourselves from bad luck, but if kids learn about life they have a greater chance to make the right decisions if a really bad situation occur. Great site btw, good luck and hope your kids are having a great winter with a lot of skiing, snowboarding or snowman-building:)

  84. Grown up kid January 30, 2009 at 10:11 pm #

    A follow up question: Is it dangerous in America? Because we seldom have problems with child-molestors, it’s often by dads or stepdads and it’s very rare that strangers harm kids here. I’m asking this because media is portraying a picture of a dangerous USA and of parents that are watching their kids every move. Please, give me some opinions.

  85. Uly February 1, 2009 at 6:46 am #

    No, it’s not nearly as dangerous in the US as many people (even within the US) believe. There aren’t very many child molesters, and those that are generally target their own kids or other children close to them – not strangers. Children don’t get randomly harmed, and despite people nattering on and on about how it’s “not like it was when we grew up” the truth is that it is *safer* in the US than it was even just a few decades ago.

  86. Jess February 2, 2009 at 11:28 pm #

    With the way the county steps into people’s lives these days I would be too afraid to do this. My daughter wanted to go live with some friends because we were planning on moving again… so her and her friends came up with a good story to get her out of our house… it backfired. She lied to the school about 4 people touching her inappropriately. She was careful to include people from family where she knew they would try to put her so they had to put her with friends. She did not realize that CPS instantly takes kids with fear of sexual abuse and puts them into foster care… Now, when I got the call on my way home from the police they told me right then that they did not believe her since she told different stories to the school, police, and the CPS lady that picked her up. They told me and my husband at the police station that they believed our stories too… yet they still put her in a foster home that day, she ran away from there and ended up in jouvinal detention, then over a year of court before they finally let her alone…
    The damage the year of hell they put us threw was so much worse then just punishing a child for lies.

    I have been terrified of doing anything that CPS may look at twice since.

    My youngest daughter had a nurse practicioner (we had her fill in for her busy doctor) call CPS on us because we told her that we were not going to follow her recomendations and go with what 2 other doctors told us to do about a certain condition she had. Now CPS came to our house and found out the report was a bunch of lies, but it still reinforced the fact that you CANNOT raise you children how you see fit, you have to watch your back 24/7.

  87. Uly February 3, 2009 at 2:58 am #

    Jess, I’m sorry your daughter lied. I am. But I’m not sure how that had anything to do with how you were raising her – except that she learned to lie, and honestly, some kids are just stupid like that, no fault of their parents – nor how it’s CPS’s fault.

    I *want* CPS to step in if the child says she is being abused. Yes, even if she’s a lying liar who lies.

    But CPS didn’t step in because you let your kid go outside by herself. CPS didn’t step in because she happened to play in the mud a few times. CPS didn’t step in because she took the train alone. CPS, to be honest, didn’t give a damn how you were raising your kid so long as you weren’t molesting her. Which you weren’t. So they gave her back.

    As far as the nurse practitioner goes, well, that was a load of bull. And CPS didn’t do a damn thing about it other than confirming that you weren’t denying your child needed medical attention – again, because they don’t give a damn if you’re raising your child as you see fit.

  88. Nico Sap February 8, 2009 at 6:47 am #

    Tried to read through all the comments, but it’s to long.
    Interesting read though.

  89. jess February 19, 2009 at 3:29 am #

    I wasn’t going to leave anything until a got to Uly’s response:

    “But CPS didn’t step in because you let your kid go outside by herself. CPS didn’t step in because she happened to play in the mud a few times. CPS didn’t step in because she took the train alone. CPS, to be honest, didn’t give a damn how you were raising your kid so long as you weren’t molesting her. Which you weren’t. So they gave her back.”

    Actually CPS does “step in” for all of these things. Our family had the police show up on our doorstep because our two children were playing outside and we weren’t visible (we were in fact in and out of the house doing repair work.)

    And while they may “give them back” that speaks nothing about the trauma that is caused by a force separation (i.e. kidnapping) done by the state. Even if they child(ren) are not actually taken the fear that that they can be at any point during an investigation is terrifying for parents and children alike. That isn’t even to mention the risk of a child being victimized *while in foster care* whether by a foster parent (less likely) or another foster child (quite likely).

    before the state should step in they should be absolutely certain that any risk to the child of staying with their family are greater than the risks of removal. It is not a outcome neutral decision.

  90. Uly February 21, 2009 at 1:06 pm #

    Jess, were your children taken by CPS? Sounds like they weren’t. It seems unfair to blame CPS for doing their job – following tips and calls – when they didn’t even take the kids.

    And the girl who said she was molested, the one I was referring to, well, I hate to say this, but her trauma was self-induced. What the heck was CPS supposed to do? It’s not kidnapping when the child – truthfully or not – says they’re being harmed.

    The person I was replying to was making this case how she can’t parent how she wants because her children might be removed, but the only child who was removed? That happened because the kid filed her own complaint. I can’t consider that evidence of that viewpoint.

  91. Jess February 22, 2009 at 5:55 am #

    My daughter was taken by CPS, even after they said they knew she lied. We went threw 12 months of court cases until they dropped it, she was out of our home for 4 months, she was forced into counceling (which made her rebel horribly), and we had to have an inhome counceler come once every other week when she came home until CPS dropped it. The stupid girl would sit on our couch and look at us… did not say a word, and would ask us if we felt there was anything to talk about.

    Basically CPS put our family threw hell for 12 months because they stepped in to a situation with a lying teenager that needed to be grounded. They mentally had her so screwed up when they were done with her that she ended up going out and getting into bad situations where she would never had gone before. One foster home she was in had other teenagers that used drugs often and offered them to her (her first time trying pot), one foster lady offered to buy her cigarettes (she does not and never has smoked)… she got so messed up from the whole ordeal that I will never trust CPS again.

  92. Jess February 22, 2009 at 5:58 am #

    FYI, the feb 19th response is not from me.

  93. whattakes March 31, 2009 at 10:12 pm #

    When I was 14, my dad had just moved back to Toronto, and my sister (being 16) no longer wanted to visit as often as I did. I’m very close to my dad, still at 22, and I thank the world everyday that the didn’t just walk away from us kids too. Well instead of my mom driving me in (my dad didn’t have a car as he took the subway to work), they both agreed that I could take the GO Train in. It’s about an hour ride, and you can’t miss Toronto. I was 14, riding alone and other adults often made a big deal about a girl alone on the train on a Friday evening. My dad was always at the other side waiting for me.

    What I never really got about this was my mom was okay with my taking the Train alone for an hour, but not the city bus to meet her at the mall for dinner.

    I never understood why its a huge deal for kids to travel alone.

  94. Stephanie Calman May 5, 2009 at 9:08 pm #

    Hi Lenore
    Well done for publicising this. Here in the UK I started the Bad Mothers Club which espouses the same philosophy, along with encouraging women to have time to themselves and to spend with each other without having to be perfect, nurturing mummies all the time. I’ve done many TV and radio appearances here about this and I really do agree that we need to draw more attention to these events rather than cower and hide. It’s the same as women reclaiming the streets at night; the more we and our children exercise our freedom and common sense, the more we have a chance of beating the insanity that is creeping forward in our cultures. If we don’t, things could get even worse. Solidarity – that’s all important.

  95. X. J. Scott May 16, 2009 at 3:40 am #

    When I was 10 my dad placed me on an airplane in Jakarta Indonesia with a ticket to fly to the US, with an overnight stay in Hong Kong, and a complex terminal change in Los Angeles.

    There was no adult escort, I flew by myself and figured out the plane changes. In Hong Kong though, when the flight crew discovered I was on my own, two of the stewardesses took me along to their hotel.

    In Los Angeles, I telephoned my mom to make sure she would meet me at the airport in San Diego, which was good because she had not received the telex that I was coming.

    This was a bit more complicated than the innocuous train ride your son took, but a reasonably experienced and responsible 10 yr old can handle these things with no problem.

    Speaking of child abuse, it is the parents who do not let their children out of the house because the parents are afraid of nonexistant boogeymen who are the child abusers. Not the parents who teach their children how to navigate the world.

    At age 10 I could locate myself anywhere in the world within a 1/4 mile using a sextant and map my location on nautical charts. I could make course corrections based on this data, change sails, get from one country to another with a compass, drop and raise anchors, engage in hand to hand combat against pirates, fish, cook, and use a radio direction finder.

    Figuring out an airport map was just not a problem.

  96. upset July 2, 2009 at 8:41 am #

    I am the mother of a ten year old boy. I have a cranky neighbor who call the cops and the HOA when ever my son is riding his bike outside. I have lived next to this man for 5 years and just a few months ago found out he has a 10 year old daughter who lives with him who is never allowed outside or allowed to even look out the windows. He is the child abuser. Not the mother who lets her son play outside until the street lights come on.

  97. blufindr September 5, 2009 at 10:52 pm #

    My family would have been right on board with the police, on this one. I was walked to and from primary school (about a half-hour, walking) every day until I graduated at 11. A short trip to the library, two blocks away, had my grandfather following me, worried I would be “raped” or “murdered” (I kid you not).

    Heck, I used to go to tutor three blocks away from my current address, which finished at around 6.30PM at the absolute latest. My grandfather would walk out and accompany me home — again, fearful for my safety, even though I am 17 and can pick him up without even thinking. Strangely enough, he doesn’t worry when I go to the city (about an hour away on the train) by myself, unless I don’t return until rather late (7 or 8ish).

    I’ll acknowledge that the world is a dangerous place. What I refuse to accept, though, is that it’s any different now than when it was when my partner (who is 28) was a kid. The scaremongering that has happened, via the media, has had all of us up in arms against imaginary enemies — and deprived children of their childhoods. And yeah, I genuinely do believe I was shafted out of having an enjoyable youth.

    You might find this video interesting:


  98. car review September 9, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    That must have been very scary; I’m so glad everything worked out okay. Free Range Kids is a civil rights movement in the way the un/homeschooling is too. Keep fighting the good fight!


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