Readers — This note had me shaking, a reminder that when we give our kids more and more freedom, we have to remember that lessons go with it…and so does the possibility that we didn’t cover the very lesson they’ll need. My advice? Lots of lessons (particularly about being around water), not less freedom. – Lenore
Readers — This note had me shaking, a reminder that when we give our kids more and more freedom, we have to remember that lessons go with it…and so does the possibility that we didn’t cover the very lesson they’ll need. My advice? Lots of lessons (particularly about being around water), not less freedom. – Lenore
Dear Free-Range Kids: My Free-Range Kid got herself into some trouble yesterday, and I thought it was something your readers might want to hear about. Â My daughter is 10 years old and in 5th grade. Â She has been walking to school for 3 years, and generally is allowed to go out and about on her free time as long as she asks permission, tells me where she is going, and comes home when I way. Â Yesterday we were at our friends’ house. I was inside with the parents, she was outside with her friend. Â They asked if they could leave the yard, and went to a nearby park. Â While there, the two girls decided it would be fun to see how strong the ice on the pond was. Â Well, the answer was “not very” — it was 40 degrees (4 degree Celsius) yesterday, and the ice was thick on one side, but very thin on the other. Â They tested it out near the edge a bit, then walked across it. Â When they were almost to the other side, the ice cracked and they fell in.
The girls screamed, and others in the park heard them. Â Two kind strangers assisted by pulling one girl out with a stick, and going in after the other and carrying her out. Â The police were called, and they put the girls in the back of the police car with the heater on while they got statements from both and called us to come get them. Â They determined that an ambulance was NOT needed, so when we got there they told me to turn the heater on high in the car, and we took the kids home for warm showers and dry clothes.
They were both terrified, rightfully so — falling through thin ice is extremely dangerous and we all feel very fortunate. Â I generally avoid “worst first” thinking, and not having spent much time in the park in the winter, we hadn’t talked about ice rescue. Â However, we have talked about it now, because the girls, while doing the most important thing (making a lot of noise to attract help), did *not* know how to get themselves out when the ice broke. Â They are both researching how to properly attempt to get up onto the ice, starting with staying calm, and flattening themselves out as they pull themselves up to take up as large a surface area as possible.
I have gotten a couple of comments about her being too young to be expected to use good judgement, and people saying that they wouldn’t trust a 10-year-old Â in the park with a pond nearby. Â I’m happy to say that MOST people have simply said how glad they are that the girls are okay. Â I am, of course, scared of what could have happened… but what DID happen is that my daughter made a stupid decision to go out on the ice, and when a problem occurred, several very kind, helpful adults stopped to assist kids they didn’t know. Â Then our amazing first responders took over and made sure they were returned safely.
In these situations, one tends to revisit the decisions we make as parents. Â Hindsight is 20/20, and if I could do things differently, I would have talked more about possible “worst case” scenarios and how to handle an emergency situation. Â I would not, however, have told my daughter that she couldn’t go to the park unsupervised. Â Nor will I in the future. Â Important lessons were learned yesterday, and if anyone else wonders “if something happened to my kids, would I wish I had kept them under closer supervision?” the answer may be “no.” Â You might, however, wish you had thought of more of the possibilities and discussed them. Â Please encourage everyone (who lives in cold-weather areas) to talk to their kids about safety around iced-over ponds, to remind them to stay OFF ice that hasn’t been tested and approved for safe use, and what to do in case they are on the ice and it cracks. Â I would also hope that all kids could hear about things like this and use it as evidence that *most* people they will encounter are good, kind, and helpful, and strangers are sometimes the people that will help them to avoid a tragedy. – A Shaken but Still Free-Range Mom
Apparently her kids haven’t seen enough classic movies like Little Women. I was terrified of the ice even when it was sufficiently thick because every movie and book I read, if you go out, you fall in!
Good Job, Mama. Thankful with you that things turned out as they did and that you have taken it as a learning opportunity and not as a freak out opportunity!
Thanks and praise to the passerbys, great job.
Lesson learned. Now they know what natural ice is about, and what to do. Great Mom for not overreacting.
Where I am and grew up we were around natural ice all winter, every winter. It was one of those things you just learned as a matter of life. I am not sure if I played more hockey on the bay or in arenas.
Like open water, fire, wild animals and the like, natural ice is something to learn about, respect but not fear.
I also grew up – and still live – in a cold part of the country. We were not permitted to go on the ice until a Dad had tested the safety. Once the ice was determined to be safe, that Dad often built a fire to keep us warm during breaks in skating – frequently cocoa would also magically appear – sometimes even cookies. Great memories.
Good reminder. I have told my kids in the past about ice, but not this year.
As a kid, we went skating on a nearby pond. We had to wait a for a week of below freezing weather, and then my brother also took a hatchet and tested it in several spots before we went on.
My rules are the same – if it hasn’t been below freezing every day for a full week, no going on the ice. And no going on ice over moving water (stream or river) as that takes even longer.
Sometimes it is not worst first, it is common sense thinking to warn of dangers. Ice is one of those things. Swimming is another – kids should not swim alone, ever (according to my rules.)
No swimming alone in natural bodies of water. Our kiddie pool and above ground pool are fine after a certain age.
Kids are naturally attracted to water (and ice). My son fell through ice (though in a creek) when he was 9. His friend also did. They came home to change their sopping clothes and said “That was really stupid what we did.”
Life lesson learned.
Off topic, but I just saw this set of vintage Kool-Aid ads I thought everybody might appreciate.
And yeah, I’m glad the OPs kid is all right.
We ice skated a lot when I was a kid; played pond hockey. I still do.
Was your child a scout? Typically the whole ice thickness thing gets introduced here; kind of interesting, too.
In your shoes I think my take-away would be, “stuff happens.” Maybe you’re yourself not familiar with using outdoor ice.
I always gave my kids boundaries and a clear set of consequences if they went out of bounds with good reason. Not unlike when they were toddlers and I had a room full of toys that was completely safe for free exploration. We have woods nearby with water in them and there is unlikely to be anybody nearby, so we taught them about ice long ago and insist that they use the buddy system in the woods anyway. We have showed them that depth matters (wet ankle vs. fall through) and stomping the edges and looking for cracks, as well as how long it usually takes for ice to be safe. Free range kids are an active process, not a passive turning loose.
Great lessons for both mom and daughter to reassess a situation when we face something overlooked before.
I don’t want to take away from the seriousness of learning from mistakes. The handle I use here is part of some Yale graphiti from 1981:
“If You’re Going To Tread On Thin Ice, You Might As Well Dance.”
It is not about real ice but the attitude of going big when faced with a no-win situation.
The rule for my 8 year old and water is: you can go there without an adult, but you can’t go alone. The buddy-system is always our fall-back safety factor with or without water.
I’m so glad to hear the girls are okay!
I also grew up around lots of bodies of water and natural ice and did tons of ice skating as a kid. I was taught how to check the ice for safety, and instructed that I was never, ever to go out on snow covered ice until an adult had tested it. Ice under a blanket of snow can actually melt because the snow is a natural insulator. Ice that was perfectly safe a week ago may not be once it’s been covered with snow. Also, snow is HEAVY, and therefore reduces the amount of additional weight the ice can bear.
Anyway, good on you for using this as a teachable moment. I ignored the safety rules and got wet up to my knees, once. After that, I had a healthy respect for the ice itself, and the freezing cold water underneath!
I think this Mom handled the situation beautifully. Much praise to her and glad her daughter and friend are fine plus good folks about to help them out !!!!
Like many here, I grew up and still live in Ontario, Canada. Skating on frozen ponds was a given as a child. We had several relatives with farms or lived in the country with ponds nearby to skate on. We just plain knew that you didn’t walk on frozen ice unless you were absolutely certain it was safe (same general idea as Warren was speaking of) You just plain DIDN’T. I do walk on Lake Nippissing which is 2 blocks from my home in the winter but after a sufficient amount of time (it usually freezes to well over a foot thick of ice) Everyone does it on clear, cold days but I would say this is the exception. And folks around here know exactly when its safe to go out or not to.
Honestly? It never occured to me either to teach my son about frozen ice or walking on it. Kids are curious and do things like this; mine would have chanced it also, I’m sure.
Scary! But it happens every year and even to teenagers and adults.
We were taught that “pond ice” was unreliable and to just stay off it. Same with river ice creek ice and ditch ice … it could be -20 and the danged stuff would be weak and let you drop right through it. Also, water levels could drop, leaving an unsupported ice bridge.
Someone would flood a pasture and let it freeze over so we could skate.
Good job, Mama! And a huge hug- that would shake anyone!
Not only am I impressed by the parent’s response to this but kudos to the police for not making an issue about it.
My Granddad’s old rhyme for deciding if ice was thick enough to skate on:
1 inch, keep off
2 inches, 1 may
3 inches, small group
4 inches, OK
I’m just glad to hear she lets her kids playing outside.
Seems children now spend 1% of their day outdoors-
THAT scares me more than thin ice.
As the mother of a 11 and 9 year old who are given a lot of responsibility, I take a differing view. I am very happy these kids are ok and there were good, kind people there to assist them. However, I think the praise is not appropriate. Ten year olds are still ten. It is their parents’ jobs to teach them, and if this mom knew there was water in the park she gave permission for her daughter to go to unsupervised, it was HER responsibility to talk to her daughter about ice. To not have done so is utterly irresponsible. I too live in this community… and we celebrate the fact these kids’ story ended up okay. I do not understand why there seems to be no consequences, though. I allow my kids many freedoms, ones I know they can handle. I don’t play around with safety. It is my job to teach my kids about the dangers (or potential dangers) I know they will encounter. Let’s be happy this is good outcome, but I refuse to jump on the “praise” bandwagon. I also find it disturbing mom doesn’t seem to grasp she made a stupid decision, too. We all need to take responsibility and frankly these kids were lucky. The story could have had a different outcome. Couldn’t it have?
Thanks for the reminder!
My kids also went off to the park by themselves on Saturday, an amazingly beautiful day for a January in Snowbelt-land. All went fine, but unfortunately they were the only people at the park the entire time (other than me after I came to pick them up). So had they gotten themselves into a predicament, it would not have ended the way this story did. I found it sad that it apparently didn’t occur to any other kids/families to go have some spontaneous outdoor fun on a beautiful day.
I’m glad you are so certain that you have covered all the bases with your kids’ safety instruction. I humbly admit that I don’t think of everything in advance, though I wish I would.
A few years ago, I was at my step-niece’s house for a birthday party. Two of her kids went out to play IN THEIR OWN YARD and did the same exact thing the kids in the OP did – foolishly walked on ice that broke. Her 11yo rescued the 6yo and they came inside to tell about it. The mom was very upset at what “could have happened,” but the fact is that her kids KNEW BETTER and did this anyway.
Yes, those kids were lucky, or being watched over, or had good instincts, or something. Thank goodness. We’re lucky our kids survived pregnancy, childbirth, infancy, driving in the car with us, the few times they no doubt ran into the street, storms, illnesses, bullies, and a million other things that “could” suddenly take them. Nobody’s taking that for granted. It’s one thing to recognize that living involves risks; another to curtail living because it’s risky.
This seems like the opposite of worst-first. Here, something potentially bad happened, and both child and parent learned that even then, things turned out ok. I think this is a valuable lesson for everyone involved. In a sense, it’s another step – we already knew that it was unlikely that a child playing in the park would fall into the water. Now we remind ourselves that it is unlikely, despite what we see on the news and Rescue 911, that a child who falls into the water will drown.
More importantly, though, the mom in this story should be incredibly proud of her daughter’s reaction – and that of the friend, which likely can also be credited to the successful parenting of the mom. Too many children, after an embarrassing and scary experience, will simply avoid the largely innocent things they associate with the experience. Not so in this case – here we see the children responding exactly as we’d like them to, and as we hope we would – researching the factors involved, figuring out exactly what to avoid, and wanting to know how best to respond in a similar circumstance in the future.
How many children who are raised in CAFO (confinement absent figuring-it out) would react so intelligently?
@beth ” I do not understand why there seems to be no consequences, though. ”
Sorry, which consequences were you looking for? The kids already fell through the ice and had a scare that will stay with them as a lesson far more than any grounding you could imagine, and mom got a phone call from the police about her kids. What more do you want? Would grounding the kids or punishing them embed the lesson any more than falling through the ice? Or maybe you meant punishing the mother? What good does fining her or arresting her do?
Agree with TM. Look back on those moments where you made the decisions you now regret. What were you after? Mom, saying go ahead to the park kids… probably wanting to support play, well-being, fun, health, and growth… kids stepping onto thin ice… probably wanting fun, excitement, challenge, connection to each other, friendship… and then there was an accident. So those things we do in the name of fun and health sometimes turn out to be things we regret, and learn from. This is all life is. We’re not perfect, we don’t prepare our children perfectly for all they may encounter, their reasoning isn’t perfect.
Punishment doesn’t even enter into the equation for me. Encouraging people to learn from their actions, without heaping shame and punishment onto them, is the only way I can see constructive learning taking place. Isn’t that what we want? To do better next time?
Of course, there are inherent risks in letting our kids grow up.
There are consequences to my kids when they put themselves or others (as in this case) at risk. I shudder to think about the kind strangers who helped and am thankful they were not hurt (ie: fell in, too).
(I am a parent who is often criticized quietly for giving my daughters what others say is too much freedom). The story told to those who hold authority was that the kids asked to go to the backyard and they didn’t listen and instead went to this park. Well that’s not true by the author’s description here.
Last winter In our town, on a different pond, a couple went out on the ice and had to be rescued. It was all over the TV news and the couple were villified for their stupidity.
There are at least 3 ponds in our community and as parents it is our job to talk about these things. Not the unknown, but things we know about. I talk to my kids about poison ivy before letting them into the woods for a few hours with their friends. That’s my job.
Thankfully, public safety officials did what they are trained to do, they helped people (adults last year, kids this year) who did stupid things. I simply want to know where the accountability factor lies for those in charge of the kids.
If the police did not make a big deal out of this incident, I’d consider that lucky for the parents. I also would not be self righteous about people (friends and neighbors who adore these girls btw) who shared they were surprised the kids were near ice and didn’t know ice safety. The author seems shocked anyone would do anything but 100% support her.
Hopefully this is a lesson for child and parent… and a reminder that 10 year olds should explore and be outside, but they might need someone looking over their shoulder in conditions where there are obvious safety dangers.
Wishing peace and the best to all involved and still a believer in letting my kids learn and explore, but always giving them the educations they need so they can enjoy nature and not be scared by it.
…several very kind, helpful adults stopped to assist kids they didnâ€™t know. Then our amazing first responders took over and made sure they were returned safely.
“First responders” is a phrase said here without thinking. The helpful adults in the park were the first responders.
Glad the girls are okay.
I’m also glad that the girls were okay, but more than that, I’m glad that the parents handled the situation sensibly–they didn’t punish their daughters by never allowing them out alone again; they just let the unfortunate incident of falling through the ice and getting wet and cold be the “natural consequence” of their actions, while reminding them that said consequences could have been much worse–not that they would have needed much reminding, seeing how they had to be pulled out of the pond with a stick. Anyway, I’m Canadian, so of course, I’ve had ice safety drilled into my head since before kindergarten, but we don’t know where Shaken But Still is from, so maybe snow and ice aren’t regular fixtures in her family’s life, like they are in mine. Maybe it just didn’t occur to them to teach their daughter about ice safety until life taught her. That’s okay–not everyone gets everything perfect with kids, but not every imperfect moment is the end of the world.
For example, when my brother was four or five, my dad was teaching him to ride a two-wheeler, and he was doing great, until he accidentally rode into the metal edge of the garage door, busted open his lip, and had to get four stitches, from our wonderful family dentist who came in on a weekend especially to fix my brother’s lip. It wasn’t pleasant, and he had to live on Carnation Instant Breakfast milkshakes for a few days, but it wasn’t the end of the world either. From that experience, my brother learned how to stop on a bicycle (coaster brake, so, pedal backwards), and my dad learned that he should have taught my brother how to stop, before letting him ride independently, or failing that, not point him towards the garage door. Nobody was traumatized, and nobody accused my dad of abuse. Of course, that would have been in the early 90’s, when people weren’t quite as paranoid as they are now.
Small thing. I don’t know when this “Pull Quotes” feature was added to the site, I just know I don’t like it because it distracts me from the actual article and comments.
I’m sure it has its uses, but is there a way to disable it?
I’m in the camp of not seeing any reason for praise of anyone here except the people who pulled the girls out of the lake.
Either mom never taught her child the basic #1 rule of outdoor play in cold climates – never go on ice a frozen body of agree unless it has been deemed safe by an adult (or is something very small) – or daughter knew the rule and chose to ignore it. Neither situation is praise worthy to me.
I grew up in New England and New Jersey. It was drilled into all of us from the time we were old enough to walk that you never, ever go on ice unless mom or dad says it’s okay. This isn’t failing to consider every little possibility; this was some of the first words out of our parents mouths when it started to get cold. I don’t consider it praise worthy if this admonishment never was made. Not prison worthy, of course, but not something I’m going to praise mom for.
Or the girls knew this rule and failed to follow it (which does seem to be the case), showing that maybe THEY are too irresponsible to be trusted to free range at a park with water. Free range isn’t a right. It is a privilege kids earn by proving themselves responsible and lost by proving themselves irresponsible. Part of responsibility is following the rules your parents set out for you even when they are not present.
I would have concerns about letting my child free range due to the failure to follow my rules while doing so – a failure that got into her into serious trouble. It isn’t about now fearing ice; it is about my child losing some of the trust I had in her that allowed her to go out in the world alone.
I think maybe this is what beth meant by consequences here – consequences for failing to stay off the ice after being told not to get on ice without it being tested by an adult. If it is my kid, she is not free ranging again until I am convinced that she understands that I expect her to follow rules when I’m not around. Falling in the ice, may be enough to convince her but I would not be as flippant about my child going back to this park, or anywhere, unsupervised after this as this mother. Again, not because I fear ice but becaucse I’ve lost some trust in my child.
I am sorry, but your attitude that someone must be blamed, is over the top.
Crap happens. As someone that enjoys the outdoors all year round, you cannot prepare your kids for every possible bump in the road.
One of the biggest reasons why kids make the mistake of falling thru thin ice, is memory. They remember that at this time last year they were out playing on the ice. They do not take into account the difference in weather from year to year.
Should these kids have been on the ice? No.
Was it just bad luck and kids being kids………yes.
Both parent and child learned a lesson, and great passerbys saved the day. No blame needed, nor punishment.
@donna Thank you for saying what i wanted to in a much better way. Yes, the ONLY praise should go to the folks who risked their well-beings to rescue these kids. Being allowed out alone is indeed a privilege and not a right. If my kids did something like this, I would feel really guilty and they would have to earn their privileges back. What is un-natural about that? I am a very imperfect parent but I am also willing to own my decisions and, when necessary, re-evaluate the abilities of my children.
I am sorry, but young people (and adults) make poor choices. Even the smartest, most responsible ones do it at times.
There is no child (or adult) anywhere who can be trusted 100% to never make a risky choice. It’s part of being a kid / human.
So does that mean no child is ever allowed to play alone? No, it means that humans need to understand that living and growing is a risky endeavor. Staying indoors is risky, too.
Of course we do our best to manage risks, but at some point we have to say “I’ve done my part, now you do yours.” Hence the ability of a 16yo to get a driver’s license despite the truly significant risks involved. Gulp.
“Either mom never taught her child the basic #1 rule of outdoor play in cold climates â€“ never go on ice a frozen body of agree unless it has been deemed safe by an adult”
You are putting too much emphasis on “Adults and only adults are always right”.
Ask it this way: how do parents know?
They donÂ´t. Sometimes they make mistakes, too, and get scares, or die, or their children do, or both.
What is more important is exactly teaching HOW parents know. What they look for, what they trust, where they are scared to go.
The children have to be adults one day. And they may not have occasion or when another occasion does come, they may not be paying attention that time.
What we need to remember, is that kids and their curiousity are not always satisfied with an adults determination, on whether they should do something.
Hence no matter how many times they are told, some kids still touch the hot stove element. They still touch the paint to see if it is wet. They still try to jump the creek, just to see if they can make it. They will still go out on the ice, because they think it is fine, because Dad weighs twice as much as I do. They still run up to strange dogs because they love dogs.
Crap happens, lessons are learned. And in my opinion these kids, because of what happened are better off. They experienced what could happen, and have their first hand experience, instead of just adult warnings. Literally had cold water splashed in their faces.
Something I used to hear a lot as a kid, but hardly ever hear it now:
“s/he won’t make that mistake again.”
SKL…or as some old-timers here in NC say…”That’ll learn ’em.”
No amount of scolding, grounding, time out, spanking, yelling, etc. could have done more to instruct the ice lesson than spending a few minutes in freezing water. Experience is still the best teacher.
@Snorkack – We actually were taught his to test the ice and, as we aged and and could be trusted to know better, were allowed more freedom around the ice. I was, however, allowed to free range at a house on a lake starting at an age far too young to consistently properly determine the safety of ice. There is a long way between 5 and 18 to learn about proper frozenness of ice.
Sometimes I think people HERE don’t understand the difference between young children and adults and the amount of time they have to mature any more than the helicopters only in the opposite direction. I don’t expect my child at a young age to make adult decisions so I give her some rules that are absolutes now but that she will age out of well before 18. Here it is stay out of the pool without an adult present. As her swimming ability improves, it will become take a buddy and I need to be home. And so on as she improves her abilities and decision-making.
@SKL – So breaking rules should have no consequences because people can’t be expected to follow them all the time? Nice idea and all but would kinda make my job nonexistent.
I give my child rules with the expectation that she follow them. If she doesn’t, there are consequences. Does that mean that I truly expect that she will never break a rule? No, but it does mean that she will get consequences if she does. As I said, the consequences of falling in the lake were likely enough here to bring the point home, but there did seem to be a tone in the letter that the breaking of the rule wasn’t an issue at all.
Maybe it reflection of parents having too many rules in your world that make kids so prone to breaking them. As a child, we had two involving outside play: be home when the street lights come on and stay out/off of the lakes unless discussed with a parent first (we did swim and skate without the parents present, we simply needed to inform them first). Otherwise we were 100% free to do what we wanted. Very occasionally a kid would violate the street lights rule, usually because s/he was far away from home when the lights came on, but that was also the dinner bell so we were usually ready to head in. I can’t recall any of my gang ever breaking the lake rule. But if we broke either, there were consequences.
And as for following the rules, we had some friends over this weekend to swim – age 4, 6 and 7. The kids ran ahead to the pool. My 7 year old, who knows not to go in the pool without an adult or pool day will be over for her while the other kids swim, not only didn’t go in but tried to stop the other two from going in. The two who are completely undisciplined at home immediately jumped in despite being told before they left the house (30 seconds before) not to get in until we get there. Of course no consequences were given and I wouldn’t let these kids free range for a second and actually fear for the world when they turn 18 unless mom ups her game real fast.
Kids do what you expect them to do. My daughter knows I expect her to follow rules and, since I don’t micromanage her entire life so that she can’t breathe, she generally does. My friend’s kids are never really expected to follow rules and I’ve never sen them actually do so.
I’m from the subtropics, so I have a question. Do the first responders usually post if the ice is stable enough in situations like this?
My Uncle mentioned that the Mounties posted that the ice on the river was safe to drive on. He and his business partner drove out to cut through the ice and harvest their mussels. The Ice cracked and sent the truck and partner down into the river. Uncle, who wasn’t in a dry suit, jumped far enough that he was safe. His business partner had a dry suit on and mask – but not his tanks. He was able to follow the bubbles to the hole and Uncle pulled him out. Now he waits till the ice is 1/2 again thick as the Mounties require.
My grandfather, uncles, and now cousins build hockey rinks in their back yards each year to keep the kids off the river ice. Not only is it moving water – but it is brackish (they live on an island), so doesn’t freeze as easily as still fresh water.
Missjane – The point isn’t punishing the child. The point is a loss of trust. We have an unlocked pool in which my daughter cannot touch the bottom in any portion. The major rule of the house is that she is not to go in the fence unless I know she is there and not in the pool unless an adult known to me is present. Before I would allow her to free range in the complex or stay home alone, I had to trust that she would follow those rules. If she doesn’t, ahe will no longer be allowed to free range or stay home alone (for awhile). Not to punish her necessarily but because I can no longer trust her to follow the rule. Once I trust her again, I will again allow hwe freedom. Even if she nearly drowns and gets the scare of her life, I’m not going to allow her to free range or stay home alone until I fully trust that the experience was a good teacher and she gets it now.
Donna, I don’t know what made you think I was against consequences. Kids who have lots of consequences still make poor decisions. Even if you beat a moldable child 10 times per day, she would still make a poor choice once in a while. Imperfection is the nature of humans.
I was no stranger to discipline as a kid. I was relatively smart and prudish, too. However, I did stupid things, both when I was on “free range” and when I was at home under supervision. I still do, at age 46. I expect this to continue until I die. Consequences? Sure, I had memorable spankings, groundings, loss of things and privileges, disapproval, embarrassment, and lots of “natural consequences.” I still do – e.g., having to pull all-nighters thanks to being irresponsible with my time on the internet. Hasn’t made me perfect yet.
It’s foolish to believe that giving a child (or adult) the right lessons makes him fool-proof.
My point in saying this that parents are not to be blamed for the fact that their kids make human mistakes despite proper training, discipline, and age-appropriate supervision. The fact of a mistake or foolish choice does NOT mean the parent did not parent properly.
Parenting does not mean taking away a child’s freedom to choose between two possible routes, but working hard to inform the choice. It’s always going to be a choice.
And as far as consequences for the parents? Anyone who thinks that a parent hasn’t suffered enough by receiving a call from the cops about her kids being pulled out of icewater is a nut.
@kimberley this particular pond is well-known and loved for ice-skating (when it’s safe to do so). hence, everyone in town knows the pond in this park exists. no, there is no sign which says if the ice is safe, or not. we happen to be in new england, this is all part of raising kids in this climate. donna again hits the nail on the head… it was the tone that no one had done anything wrong that rubbed me the wrong way. i disagree with whomever said the facts the girls yelled for help is a result of excellent parenting… don’t you think it’s the same response anyone would have after falling through ice? calling for help. or do others know kids who would not panic and cry/scream? the police were called and i just hope they asked the parents why two 10 year olds were on the ice without supervision. someone said something about her 16 year old and a driver’s license. that’s comparing apples to oranges. these are 10 year old girls (and the other girl has special needs). the tone from the mom saying basically she would let her kid out tomorrow again in the same place, no consequences, no earning back of trust, nothing… just makes no sense.
Beth Ann, I’ve been grounded as a kid for many things, but being grounded for having learned a hard real-life lesson is a new one on me.
Lenore covers a good point.
Hovering over children can keep them safe. It can also prevent them from learning about what not to do or developing the confidence that they need in to live a happy life. The thin ice story will bring up lots of mixed feeling. Some will say, â€œSee! I’m right for being so protective. She could have died! And you’re telling me (a helicopter mom) that I’m preventing my child from living a happy life!â€
Whether or not you allow children to go to the park in winter is not what I’m talking about. I’m not trying to debate for or against this.
Life has dangers and all parents have to determine how much freedom they allow. I’m trying to point out that there are dangers in BOTH freedom and non freedom that need to be considered. Allowing freedom is dangerous. Disallowing freedom is also dangerous.
I did most of my growing up in Upstate NY. We had ice most of the winter. My brother, when he was 10 was in charge of insuring the ice was thick enough for him and I to skate on. Parents talked about ice, because ice was a part of life every year.
When I was a teen, we moved to MD. It never got cold enough for there to be ice thick enough that I would consider going on. That didn’t stop a kid every few years from going out and falling through.
The difference in the two places was the fact that ice was NOT an annual part of the year in MD. Many years ponds would not freeze over with even a small skim. Every few years it would be below freezing for 3 or 4 days. But not enough for a good layer of ice. It was this 3 or 4 days that would get kids thinking it was safe.
I don’t know where original poster lives. But I can see how, after living in MD, that talking about ice would not be something that would cross the average resident’s mind if this was not an annual thing. The fact that she had not talked to her kid about it before (and the kid apparently had not had the safety discussion in school) leads me to think they live in an area where ice on ponds is not a common thing. No, that is not an excuse for forgetting to talk about it, but it is understandable.
I’m picturing two girls who knew full well that the ice wasn’t necessarily safe… why else walk on it?
The adventure is in the test, otherwise, if it’s clearly safe, you might as well walk on the ground. They weren’t skating.
See, Mom didn’t make a special admonishment about the ice, but I was 10 once, in a place where sometimes the river froze enough and sometimes it didn’t, and I can imagine being those girls. Daring to try it. Gaining confidence as they went across, hurrying to beat the possibility of falling in, all the while hearing that voice in their heads that it wasn’t safe, wasn’t safe, wasn’t safe.
Not only did those girls learn from experience about ice, they learned that they actually DO want to listen to adults’ safety admonishments, that it’s not a bunch of blah-blah-blah. There is an instant respect instilled for both ice and for wisdom from elders.
I’m reading a book that was recommended by a commenter a while back… “Deep Survival.” Totally fascinating. Those girls didn’t actually do anything that many adults might have done. Claiming that they weren’t supervised properly, or punished adequately, just shows how much some of us cling to the idea that all human trauma that we bring upon ourselves is somehow preventable if we’re briefed properly beforehand. Neural pathways don’t work that way.
God speed to all of us here, raising kids. There but for the Grace of God go I, and my kids, every minute of every day. I have no judgement of these kids or their mother(s) and father(s). Only a deep understanding of how fragile we all are, and how our brains can betray us in ways we never expected…
I live in the same town as the author. This particular blog post has been circulating like wildfire among parents at our kids’ school today. Just to clarify, the pond in question is part of a neighborhood park. EVERYONE knows about it.
The school is an elementary school not walkable for a “field trip” to the pond and as a parent I do not expect the school to teach ice safety for elementary school children. I expect the parents to have that conversation as these kids are young. We live in the Boston area, cold weather and ice are part of our environment every winter. This mother needs to understand (and seemingly does not understand) that there are many parents who don’t hover/helicopter who don’t let kids this age around water/ice/ponds in the winter without adult supervision. That isn’t even because we feel kids can not make the right decisions. It is because at the age of 10, kids’ brains can’t always exercise self-control, control curiosity, or even always follow directions.
We are so happy these kids are okay. Add my voice to the chorus of those who have said the only people to be congratulated or praised are the rescuers who helped pull the kids to safety. Thank God those people were there.
By the way, I did not say the kids or parents needed to be praised. (I realize some did.) It is not praise-worthy that a child made a foolish choice and used basic human instincts to survive it. Nor is it condemnable. It’s just life.
A kid I knew growing up lost his younger brother when he fell through the ice. They were ice skating with their parents. Their dad was right there and jumped in after the boy, but couldn’t find him. Lesson? Thin ice is dangerous regardless of whether or not kids are being watched. The question is not whether these kids were properly supervised, but whether they were taught to never, NEVER, go anywhere near ice until an adult has tested the weight first.
Can someone explain why there is an assumption that mom didn’t teach these kids about ice? The way I read the story, kids asked if they could leave the yard, presumably to go to the park. Kids arrived at park and saw that the pond had iced over. Kids tested the ice at the edge (implying that yes, they did know about ice) and finding that it held, ventured further onto the ice. It was only after they were some way across the ice that it gave way. As anyone who deals with ice should know, just because you test it and it seems safe doesn’t always make it so, and that short of Alaskan foot thick ice, all frozen natural bodies of water are a risk in some form or another.
Nothing in this story implies to me that the kids were never taught about ice or never taught to test the ice and be careful. And unless other parents here always admonish their children of all the possible dangers they might meet at the park every time the kids go out, I imagine very few people here would have done much different had their kid asked to go to the park, even if there was a frozen lake.
I am the original poster, and I’ve been reading the comments on here and debating whether to respond, but I feel I should. First, thanks to most of you for your kind, supportive words. I would like to be clear that we are *not* looking for praise. What I hoped would come of the post was that some other parents who might not have addressed this particular possible situation with their kids would hear our story and teach their kids about safety around ice.
Add my voice to those saying that the people to be praised are those who pulled our kids out safely, along with the others who called the police, helped calm them down, and of course the police officers who came to the scene.
I do not know the person from my community who is posting here, but it sounds like she (and her kids) probably spend quite a bit of time in that park, and have done so in the winter. I do not. My daughter has been to that park maybe a half dozen times, and only once without me. She likes the cold weather (or tolerates it with friends), I do not , thus our time in the park has generally been spring/summer picnics. I too grew up in New England, and it never occurred to me to venture onto the ice. She doesn’t ice skate (tried it 2-3 times, didn’t enjoy it much). I’m pretty sure she has actually never seen a frozen pond before. No, that does not excuse her poor judgement. Yes, I decided that she has been punished enough; nothing I could come up with would be even close to as significant to her as the natural consequence was. Had we known they were going to the park, one of us likely would have said “stay away from the pond”.
We hadn’t talked enough about what to do around iced bodies of water, because we don’t encounter them and I didn’t think of it. I wish there weren’t people who think I should be tarred and feathered for that, but there you have it: YES, I failed to stress enough one of the millions of possible dangers that she could encounter in her life (but one we had not encountered yet in her 10 years – we’ve talked about a LOT of possibilities, but generally ones that seem more likely in our day to day lives), and YES, when faced with that situation she made a very bad decision. Believe me when I say that the experience itself was punishment enough. I do not think I am a bad mom, nor do I think her friend’s parents are bad parents (actually, they are some of the best parents I know. If I had to go through this experience, I’m glad I did so with them!) I think bad things happen, and we can learn from them without blaming ourselves or others, and just maybe we can all learn from others’ experiences as well.
Making a lot of noise was the most important first thing to do… not noteworthy, except that it may have been the only thing the kids did *right* (they tried to climb back up onto the ice, but did not know to turn around and climb onto the ice in the direction they had come from because the ice would be strongest where they had just been standing on it. They also did not know to pull themselves up lying flat to spread their weight. I don’t know many people who have taught their kids these important self-help skills, and that is a big part of why I posted – even if you’ve covered teaching kids when ice is safe to walk on or not, have you covered what to do if something goes wrong?)
As I said originally:
“Important lessons were learned yesterday, and if anyone else wonders â€œif something happened to my kids, would I wish I had kept them under closer supervision?â€ the answer may be â€œno.â€ You might, however, wish you had thought of more of the possibilities and discussed them.” I never said that we were perfect. I was simply hoping that someone else could benefit from our experience.
First…great response…let’s research this and make sure you understand the risks and how to avoid them!! Great parenting!!
Second..RE swimming–I live in Scottsdale, AZ. It’s the accidental *drowning capital of the world (*my words)..the average drowners are 2-3 year old boys BUT we have many adult drownings…healthy adults who hit their heads, elderly adults who have a non-fatal event and lose their bearings, teens who drink too much, etc…IMHO, nobody should EVER swim alone. Anyone can slip and fall. Not worst first thinking, just caution to prevent very preventable deaths. Kind of like wearing seatbelts or bike helmets.
Sue, when I was a kid, the schools all taught safety stuff. Fire safety, water safety (the high school had a pool that we took lessons at in 4th grade,) bike safety and yes, ice safety. But they did that because there WAS ice. No, we didn’t take a field trip to the pond. But it was discussed each year.
No, I don’t have a clue what schools teach now, because when my daughter was in school, it was in CA, in a very warm area. I pulled her out to homeschool her when she was in 2nd grade.
Maybe schools are spending so much time in the cold north where this is needed talking about how to be safe when a shooter comes in, that they no longer have time to talk about the more common dangers like staying off the ice or how to cross the road safely so you can walk home.
Lisa, thanks for posting this. I DID talk to my kids today about ice. I hadn’t thought much about it because we don’t have it near “our” house, but that doesn’t mean (like you) that it wouldn’t be near a friend’s house. I didn’t scare them by giving the example of your daughter, but they got the point (and my oldest supplied a few examples anyhow.)
Right now we are in an unusual cold spell, where the ice “may” be safe, it has been more than a week of below freezing with no sun. But, we did go through what to do, (go back way came) the swimming advice “Reach or Throw, DON’T Go!” and letting people know where you are before you try the ice (with an adult or someone who knows how to test it.)
Parents should be proactive when there are known dangers involved. We can’t put that on an elementary age kid. Parents are not perfect either. What a blessing the girls were rescued quickly. When they earn back their privileges, maybe the parents can go with them to where this happened. Maybe they can identify and thank the strangers who helped them. Maybe both parents and kids will have learned something important. Kids should be kids, not treated as mini-adults in all situations. Their brains are not programmed like adult brains and by virtue of their age they need loving, gentle, and perhaps from a distance supervision in situations that a reasonable adult would consider a safety risk.
For those of you who maintain these kids should be punished some way – loss of “privileges”, “grounding”, whatever – what exactly is that trying to achieve?
3 questions they drill into us as fitness instructors:
1. What is the purpose of the the exercise?
2. Are you achieving the purpose?
3. Is it appropriate for the group you’re leading?
So, think about those questions and how the apply in this situation.
These kids were probably scared for their lives. Really, truly scared. That’s the time to talk about risk, and risk taking, and consequences of risk, and not punishment. You punish them, you just incite rebellion and increase stupid risk taking, without teaching them anything useful.
My reaction would be to find a class on reading ice and snow, and get these kids signed up. Teach them the respect and give them knowledge about what almost killed them.
I am a teacher in Ontario and part of the third grade curriculum is the Swim to Survive program. Students learn how to handle various scenarios where they may find themselves in danger around water (and frozen water). Since Ontario has more than 250,000 bodies of water classified as lakes (more than 4000 of them are bigger than 3km2), it is a real necessity for children to learn how to be safe around water. Students are taken to a local pool for three lessons, the final lesson being that they have to `swim’ in water (with or without a flotation device) fully clothed since most water accidents occur while fully dressed. It amazes me every year how many of my students have never been swimming, in a pool or lake, considering how much water is around us! It’s a valuable program and I’m glad that our government and businesses invest in this valuable preventative program.
I disagree with Sue, who says parents shouldn’t have to be teaching something like ice safety to their kids. What?!!!??
Here, Melissa’s old poem is excellent.
1 inch, keep off
2 inches, 1 may
3 inches, small group
4 inches, OK
In my book, I make it 2.5 inches before I go on the stuff. I’m not delicate.
We run Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills, so our daughter has been going out on creek ice (over shallow water) and watching her father break it by jumping and axe-work to expose Mudpuppies, ever since she’s been knee-high. I don’t recall that she’s ever come home involuntarily wet from breaking through ice.
The lessons I’d suggest about ice are that you’ve got to always be suspicious, to try it out over shallow water, to realize it may be thin where there’s a current or under snow (and especially when these are together), to carry a pole or other tool that will span a hole you make when you break through if things are tricky, that ice which has held a group of people for a while may suddenly fail, and to become familiar with the way ice forms on the water bodies you’re going on.
I”m also leery of old ice that has been warmed up, chilled down, warmed up, etc. Old ice can be weak stuff. Nice black ice is great!
One of my fondest memories is skating on a frozen over cornfield; perfect ice for about 3 or 4 football field’s worth. Wow!
Lisa- I think as a parent there is no possible way to teach your child about every potential danger. Even if you were able to peer into the future and see what dangers definitively lie ahead, you may turn that adventurous child, into a nervous wreck! Kudos to you for giving your child the freedom to learn from her mistakes. The best discipline is learning from past mistakes and it sounds like your daughter has learned a valuable lesson and will proceed with reasonable caution on her future adventures.
Captain America- Here are the ice guidelines from Ice Fishing Ontario:
General Ice Thickness Guidelines
Great care must be taken when Ice Fishing. Ice thickness can differ within a few feet, and it is very important that you pay close attention to your surroundings when you are out. Below are some general ice thickness guidelines.
2â€³ or less â€“ STAY OFF
4â€³ â€“ Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5â€³ â€“ Snowmobile or ATV
8â€³ â€“ 12â€³ â€“ Car or small pickup
12â€³ â€“ 15â€³ â€“ Medium truck
***REMEMBER THAT THESE ARE ICE THICKNESS GUIDELINES FOR NEW, CLEAR, BLACK ICE. MANY OTHER FACTORS COME INTO PLAY WITH ICE AND ITS THICKNESS
Jenn, I want to “like” your ice guidelines!
Unfortunately, as kids who grew up around ice, and knew the dangers, we still pushed the limits.
Usually it was the newest member of our group that the honour of being the one to check out the ice, fell upon. I guess even then seniority had it’s perks.
Maybe, because I grew up where natural ice was a part of growing up, and yearly there were always reports, or rumours of kids going thru the ice, and being rescued by friends, or whomever, that I do not see this the same as most. Kids will be kids, and every parent in the world could warn them of the dangers of thin ice, and the same number of kids will still go through the ice.
Lisa, nice idea, by having them research the hazard, and by not over-reacting.
And the moral of the story is… people are mostly kind and would help, rather than hurt, our kids! (-:
Just curious – Anyone have any rules about what to do if you fell through the ice? My brother, who probably got it from his friends, told myself and siblings, if we fell through the ice while hiking and got our feet wet, that we should run all the way home to avoid frost bite. (Average temp being in the 20s or less.)
We all did fall through at some time or other each winter – we went wandering around the fields and woods within a 3 mile radius and each winter at least one of us would step into that snow that had a stream under it, and get water in our boots. We ALWAYS ran home.
Schools are spending a lot of time teaching children about what to do in the event of a crazed shooter. They should spend more time teaching safety about things that happen more often.
Even if your schools is in New Mexico and you don’t encounter frozen ponds over there. Chances are that the student will travel to a place that has ice. It’s 10,000 times more likely than a crazed gunman.
I’m so glad the girls were okay. Yes, it could have gone horribly wrong. But I’m really really proud of the mom! Lots of dangerous stuff happened to me as a kid. Yes, I stepped on ice and I could have fallen through (I don’t think I ever did!). But I’m a better person for all of it.
About the “never swim/boat alone” rule, my parents had that rule, both at home (we live a few blocks away from a beach), and at the cottage. However, I think they re-evaluated that rule the summer I was fourteen, and my then eleven-year-old brother had a hiatus hernia attack while swimming far out in the lake, and I swam out to get him, and pulled him in, using the cross-chest carry that I’d learned in Bronze Medallion the previous school year. My parents were sitting on the dock, and they saw the whole thing. After that, the rule morphed from “kids can’t swim without adult supervision,” into “male family members can’t swim without female supervision.” See, my mom and I are good swimmers, but my dad and my brother aren’t, and since I outstripped my dad in swimming ability probably around the age of twelve or so, they changed the rule once they could see that it no longer made sense.
Also, Jenn–do your students really only get three swimming lessons at a local pool? That’s not nearly enough for proficiency. When I was in school, we had something like ten weeks of swimming lessons, every year, from kindergarten through grade eight, if I remember correctly.
Also, about the “knowing there’s a danger, and taking a risk anyway,” has anyone here seen “A Christmas Story,” where one little boy says that his dad told him that if you stick your tongue on a flagpole in the winter, it’ll stick, and then another little boy doesn’t believe him, and it escalates into a “Triple Dog Dare” that results in the teacher and the principal having to come out and unstick the kid’s tongue? Well, maybe this was another “Triple Dog Dare” situation.
Some lessons are learned the hard way. This one was. &*%# happens, despite all our good intentions and cautions. Everyone is okay, the kids AND the parents learned something. And, like previous posters mentioned, no matter what, kids are going to test boundaries and “triple dog dare” themselves into potentially dangerous situations. It’s what kids do. The best we can hope for is that they glean some wisdom from it and come out in one piece. That sounds like exactly what happened here.
If you’re really into outdoor skating, you can make for yourself a pair of sticks with nails in the end of them, that you can use to pull yourself out of the water should the ice break.
Usually you skate with other people. If the ice breaks and someone falls in, find a hockey stick or some other stick, get flat on the ice and reach the stick to him. If there’s a third person, have him also lie flat on the ice behind you holding on to your ankles. Spreads out the weight.
Reach throw row go.
You know, Lenore, what might be happening here is a weird kind of generational backlash. . . some parents may not have a clue about the outdoors, but are keen to let their kids go roaming. . . so the parents (having been indoor couch-raised by screens) aren’t knowledgeable enough to instruct kids in some basic safety.
I’m glad to hear the kids are okay. I commend this mom. Great attitude, great frame of mind even after the incident. Keep it up. The only advise I have, which I’m sure she has learned from this experience, is to always educate your kids when it comes to new things and proper ways of dealing with the situation at hand. And even though the kids made an error in judgement (due to lack of knowledge, which they have now), they did right by doing what they did know. Children aren’t dumb, nor are they weak. Parents just need to let them grow strong both in mind and body, by letting them experience the things they need to. Which is pretty much everything.
Back in the day (30s or so) my Mom recalls she and her sister were playing by the river in winter when they heard a cry. They raced over and found a girl near to their own age who had broken thru the ice. The river was a powerful one; every year several people would drown, in any season.
They crawled out on their bellies and held hands and reached the girl and pulled her out and to the shore.
When they got home they told Mom & Dad (my grandparents, of course) who were very proud of them. They also each got a spanking, which they knew would happen, for playing down by the river where they had been told not to go.
Times change, eh?
Ras, I agree with everything up to the “spanking” part of that story. If I’d been in your grandparents’ shoes, I wouldn’t have punished the kids for rescuing another little girl from falling through the ice and drowning; I would have repealed the “don’t play down by the river” rule, because the ability to rescue another child shows a level of responsibility around the river, that would logically negate the need for a ban on playing near said river, just like I earned the right to swim alone (if I remember correctly) when I rescued my brother from drowning in the lake.
@Melissa – That rhyme is dangerous.
4 inches of crappy “old” ice is not enough to be safe on.
@kimberley – Iâ€™m from the subtropics, so I have a question. Do the first responders usually post if the ice is stable enough in situations like this?
Not around here. It’s up to the people who want to skate or ice fish to decide.
I am not commenting on this particular incident. I am just providing valuable ice safety information. All ponds are not created equal. Natural ponds when frozen are generally okay when they are 4″ thick. Detention ponds, the flood control type, are very common in modern subdivisions. They collect water from streets, parking lots, and basement sump pumps. Their purpose is to reduce the rate of runoff water to a level of pre development. As a result, the water flowing in is often warm or mixed with salt. These two factors will cause melting especially at the point where water enters. These ponds also have a drain. This causes the water level to fluctuate. That causes voids under the ice. As a result the ice can collapse as it really needs the water underneath to provide support. The ice is actually floating on the surface of the water. This is why detention ponds often are posted as not being safe for skating. Take the warning seriously. It is not there just because of legal fears.