A Mom Lets Her Son Walk to Soccer…And The Police Come Calling

Dear hedasedfss
Readers: The following is an exchange I had earlier this week with a mom who wrote to this blog. It shows how those of us who trust our own eyes, and guts, and neighborhood, and children can get beaten down…and rise up again.

A WOMAN NAMED LORI WROTE: I went searching for your story after an experience last night. My 10-year-old son wanted the chance to walk from our house to soccer practice behind an elementary school about 1/3 mile from our house. He had walked in our neighborhood a number of times with the family and we have driven the route to practice who knows how many times. It was broad daylight – 5:00 pm. I had to be at the field myself 15 minutes after practice started, so I gave him my cell phone and told him I would be there to check that he made it and sent him off. He got 3 blocks and a police car intercepted him. The police came to my house — after I had left — and spoke with my younger children (who were home with Grandma). They then found me at the soccer field and proceeded to tell me how I could be charged with child endangerment. They said they had gotten “hundreds” of calls to 911 about him walking. Now, I know bad things can happen and I wasn’t flippant about letting him go and not checking up, but come on. I live in a small town in Mississippi. To be perfectly honest, I’m much more concerned about letting him attend a birthday party sleepover next Friday, but I’m guessing the police wouldn’t be at my house if I chose to let him go (which I probably won’t). 

I WROTE BACK: Incredible! It’s like the Salem Witch trial era, when people were hallucinating witchcraft. Today we hallucinate horrific danger in the safest of settings. I am so sorry you – and he – went through this!

LORI WROTE: I appreciate you responding. I was more than a little upset yesterday and second-guessing my actions. I tend to actually be more of a hovering parent, so even though I was nervous about my son going on his own yesterday I really didn’t think it was a bad decision. I really resented the police officer trying to lecture me about how the streets aren’t safe. Rather than give in to the hysteria or naively ignore the danger, I think I’m going to go down to the police office and ask to see detailed statistics about what happens on our streets in the afternoon hours. I’d like to base my decision on facts rather than hysteria. ‘Course, I don’t quite know what to do about the “hundreds” of people who called 911 when they saw him on the street. I can’t imagine that many people even saw him in 3 blocks in a mostly residential neighborhood. But, if they were watching out for him, that just makes me feel like he was that much safer.

I WROTE encouraging  her to go get those statistics and keep me posted. She did!

LORI WROTE: Guess what. I just got an apology from the Chief of Police. I emailed him this afternoon to ask for stats and explain what happened. He called me almost immediately, assured me that I lived in a safe neighborhood, and apologized for the officer’s conduct. He asked if I really wanted the stats, or if I just wanted to know that I was right. I told him that knowing that I was right was enough for me. I still don’t know what I can do about the people who call 911 because they see my son on the street alone, but at least I don’t feel like a naïve mother anymore. And, I like our chief of police even more J. He promised to handle this himself with the officer.

FREE-RANGE MORAL OF STORY: It takes fortitude to trust your own instincts, especially when well-meaning (but deranged) authorities tell you not to. But in times of mass hysteria, that is what’s required. — Lenore

162 Responses to A Mom Lets Her Son Walk to Soccer…And The Police Come Calling

  1. Jenifer March 18, 2009 at 11:28 am #

    This amazes me. We do not let our children play in our front yard or street. Mostly because of traffic. However, many YOUNG children, some as little as 3-4 years old are on a regular basis found wandering the streets of our community.

    I believe our neghbohood is generally safe, however, we do live less than 2 miles from open desert. We also live blocks away from thenational story seen on the news about the13 bodies being found out in the dirt of an un-built subdivision. I cannot imagine allowing my kids to wander out in the streets. During summer they are out until the wee hours even. Well past dark.

    Sometimes I think I’m just being paranoid but sometimes I’d rather be safe than sorry.

    By the way, I do let my kids walk the dog around the block as a group and they also walk 1 block to the mailbox daily. I’m not crazy protective but I feel like these neighborhood parents are not doing enough.

  2. Annika March 18, 2009 at 12:45 pm #

    This safety hysteria extends to 10-year-olds in small towns? If I hadn’t walked around without an adult at age ten I would never have gone anywhere! (I wasn’t exactly a big traveler. Once a week I walked to the library after school with a friend. I wonder if kids even do that anymore.) And here I thought you and Izzy were so attacked because you’re in the big bad city!

  3. Melodie March 18, 2009 at 12:45 pm #

    Holy smokes! Is there actually a law I’m not aware of that says children under a certain age can’t play outside, walk down the street, take a bus by themselves, etc? I know times have changed but in the 80’s I was walking an hour to school, through woods at one part and I used to walk to town and ride my bike from one community to the next (4 miles?) and although people might have had an opinion about it my mom never got in trouble, and I grew up feeling confident and strong. I learned about safety and to this day I feel safe walking pretty much anywhere at anytime. I plan to pass this on to my kids. We teach our children how to fear when we fear the unknown and the slight chances that things could go wrong. Happy to have found your blog!

  4. Stuart March 18, 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    I love the fact that if one actually bothers to look at rates of assault and abuse (sexual or otherwise) of children, you find that most cases occur in the home, usually at the hands of their parents or another close relative.

    Perceived risk and actual risk are two very different things.

    As for the police officer, some people put on a badge and take leave of their senses. I seriously doubt they would appreciate someone coming up to them in the street and behaving so stupidly. If they actually did this in front of the child (or any child, considering it was at a public event specifically for children) the only result would be to teach the children that police are morons. That dunce needs to be put behind a desk until they learn to exercise some good judgement.

  5. Gaea March 18, 2009 at 1:16 pm #

    I let my eight-year-old son walk to school by himself this morning.

    We usually walk together, but in one of those odd coincidences, he begged to walk alone a few days after I started reading this blog. We all talked it over, my husband agreed, and we gave him street-crossing reminders. I had two panicky moments. For the first, I made my husband reassure me that our son was fine.

    The second was caused by fear of something exactly like this happening. We live in a safe area and have a car, but I walk a lot and am usually asked if I need a ride in the same tone you’d reserve for offering a bucket of water to a man on fire. And don’t get me started on how cold everyone thinks our baby girl is. There seems to be a wildly overprotective and meddling instinct here. (Everywhere?)

    I’m glad to read that Lori stuck up for herself.

    As for us . . . he called me from his classroom ecstatic and proud, and asked me to bring him a dollar he’d forgotten. Heh.

  6. Denise March 18, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    This is exactly one of the reasons why I started practicing free range parenting. I do not want my children to be afraid…holy cow…10 years old is plenty old to walk 1/3 of a mile.

    And we live in an INSANE society that doesn’t think so. I get dirty looks from other parents for letting my children walk 1/2 block to the bus stop.

    Good for Lori!

  7. Mad Woman March 18, 2009 at 2:01 pm #

    WOW. That’s insane! I cannot imagine that I would have been able to go ANYWHERE at 10 if I hadn’t done so without the accompaniment of my parents.

    How utterly ridiculous..but good for Lori for following up with the Chief..and good for him for backing her up.

  8. catastrophegirl March 18, 2009 at 3:02 pm #

    absolutely amazing. when i was growing up i walked or rode my bike a mile to middle school every day. if you lived closer than two miles from the middle school or high school it was up to you to get there and parents didn’t drive any kids that i knew who lived within that distance.

    i was of an age with adam walsh – the son of ‘america’s most wanted’ john walsh [and whose murder was the reason he was on that show] and i lived not too many towns away from that.
    so of course i learned not to talk to strangers, how to call for help, pay attention to which of my neighbors were home so i knew where to go for help if i had to.

    can you imagine what my favorite childhood thing to do would be considered today? i was always thrilled when my mom trusted my 6 yr old and up self to run into the convenience store, [in front of her eyes through the plate glass window where she could see me every step of the way ] and lug a whole gallon of milk to the counter and pay for it. especially because i got to keep any change smaller than a quarter.

    now it would probably be considered child abuse

    i don’t have kids [and can’t have] to raise the way i would want: free range, so i guess i need to resign myself to living in a nation that will eventually be run by 40 year olds who need to go to the bathroom in pairs and use the buddy system at the pool.

    for all the free range parents, thanks for raising kids who won’t be afraid of their shadows.

  9. Homeschoolchick March 18, 2009 at 3:14 pm #

    My question is two fold.
    First, why do police make such a big deal of things anymore? It seems they avoid like the plague the “Andy Griffith” style, be a neighbor and a friend as well as cop.
    Second, are there any safe quiet towns left in America, where our young children can walk anywhere and be safe? I let my daughters run and play all over our neighborhood, but there was always a prayer right behind them as they walked out the door. Now my 3 yr old Grandson (whom I’m raising) will get the same thing…but perhaps he won’t be able to roam so far (sigh).

  10. Jenna March 18, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    Wow. I used to walk a couple miles to school for 4th and 5th grade. There were no sidewalks in this area, and I never had a problem. I used to ride my bike 5 miles to the store on VERY blind curvy streets, and never had a problem. I can’t tell you how many wanderings I made, near lakes, creeks, swamps, or whatever happened to be around – at age 9 and 10 – for hours upon hours.

    If I had to coop up kids all day, *I’d* be insane, let alone the bored kids! No wonder kids today are all TV and video games – no one lets them do anything!!

  11. Angie March 18, 2009 at 4:05 pm #

    I used to walk to school about that same distance when I was seven. Nothing ever happened, and the only time my mom happened to be watching and questioned me was when I set off in a different direction than I took the first few weeks when she walked me — I’d found a shortcut that didn’t involve back-tracking to get to the street the school was on. I also went “street exploring” on my bicycle when I was eight to nine or so, ranging out farther and farther and adding the new streets to a map I was drawing; I probably made it a mile or two in a couple of directions.

    I can’t imagine fussing over a ten-year-old walking by himself. o_O Unless it was a horribly bad neighborhood, that’s just cracked. I hope the police chief got that officer’s head screwed on straight. And definitely props to Lori for standing her ground.


  12. Mac March 18, 2009 at 4:32 pm #

    Let’s agree that is almost impossible for the officer to have truly gotten ‘hundreds’ of phone calls.

    So isn’t anyone else worried that the police officer most likely LIED ?

    This means that the police officer is known to be a dishonest liar.

    Is the fact that there are dishonest cops in this town indicate a larger problem than someone someone worrying about the child?


  13. Angie March 18, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    Mac — good catch. [nod] I definitely thought “That’s impossible!” at that point in the story, but didn’t pause to trace it to its obvious conclusion. :/


  14. Wendall March 18, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    I remember walking to school at 6+ yrs old for about a mile. The problem I had was I couldn’t have any fun enroute because my mom would hear about even before I got home.
    This really becomes a statement of our society now a days where no one takes the time to know or meet there neighbours, thus no one looks out for anyone but number 1. Unfortunately it is our kids that suffer the most by not have freedom.

  15. Southpark Fan March 18, 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    @Stuart :

    There’s an excellent Southpark episode about that.
    All the kids get send away, because parents are the biggest threat to children.

  16. Anothersuburbanmom March 18, 2009 at 6:46 pm #

    That is amazing! I would think the police have way better things to do!

  17. tm March 18, 2009 at 7:31 pm #

    Seriously people – I can’t believe this is even a discussion.

    What happened that we have come to be a cowering fearful people in America.

    Turn off your televisions. Take a walk in nature. Do some yoga. Stop living in fear!

    The world isn’t out to get you or your children.

    Go live in another part of the world, don’t be a tourist. Go to a third world country and see how children live there.

    I think your lives will be enriched.

  18. Andromeda March 18, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    See, that’s what I’d like to see more of here, though I guess you’re not a lawyer so maybe you can’t say — how can I protect myself from cops and social services if I let my daughter, a few years down the line, walk through our safe and pleasant neighborhood to the library by herself?

  19. Judith Golden March 18, 2009 at 8:19 pm #

    In the 1960s I was living in Sydney, Australia. A girl from San Francisco came to our school. She told us she loved the freedom of living in Sydney. It was the first time in her life (she was 15) that she had been allowed to walk to school! We were amazed.

  20. Mike March 18, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

    I’ve been one of those people calling, but nothing like this. I have had kids step out in front of me to ask innocuous questions. I’d look around and see no parents. I would then call the cops.
    The last time this happened, the mom gave me death stares. Her child could not have been more than 4 years old!

    Yes, when I was a kid. I’d ride my bike everywhere. But I would not let mine do that.

  21. Mike March 18, 2009 at 8:42 pm #

    FIrst of all, I hope the person who the comment under the name “thetruth” was trying to be funny although it wasn’t. If not then your a racist idiot.

    This story about a child not being able to walk one-third of a mile, whether the police officer lied or not about the calls, is indicative of why Americans are fat and that we’re paranoid.

  22. Angie March 18, 2009 at 8:44 pm #

    “thetruth” smells like a troll. But whether or not it thought it was funny, it’s still a racist idiot.


  23. klip March 18, 2009 at 8:48 pm #

    I live in Canada – not that that makes a big difference but perhaps we are a few years behind the depth of paranoia that seems to run rampant in the States. My 7 year old walks to school with another 7 year old on a daily basis. And they started when they were 6. It’s a four block walk, the only street they have to cross has a crossing guard, and there are many other groups walking the same way. I do live in a bedroom community outside of Canada’s largest city. The growing confidence in my daughter and her friend and the obvious sense of accomplishment and delight they feel is well worth the small moments of anxiety I feel. That’s my job. To raise my daughter to go out into the world on her own confident that I have given her the skills to deal with what life brings her way. I don’t want her in a bubble. I want her to live. And I want her to know that life is a great adventure that is meant to be lived. Cause guess what people? None of us are getting out of this alive! So live!

  24. Andrew Milner March 18, 2009 at 8:49 pm #

    Here in Japan, 10-year-olds walk to extra-curricular activities all the time. Often with friends, but only because they like company rather than for safety considerations. The cops picked on this mother because she was middle class. Britain: A good country to be from. A long way from.

  25. Peter March 18, 2009 at 9:00 pm #

    I have coached youth soccer for over 20 years. Back in the ’80s, there was a safety program called “Street Smart Child” and one of the rules was “Never put your name on your clothing.” Apparently bad guys would gain a kid’s confidence by calling them by name. For 15 years, we didn’t put names on soccer jerseys. Gradually, parents started requesting that the names be added, and now they get absolutely irate if the name is NOT included on the jersey. I was wondering what happened to the old Street Smart Child rules, and then realized: These parents never let their children out of sight. A bad guy has no chance of calling a child by name, because mom is always there.

  26. Abe Froman March 18, 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    Good Luck! You just got egg on this police officers face. I cringe at the harassment you and your family are now going to endure at the hands of this police force.

  27. Uly March 18, 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    I wouldn’t worry about people calling, either. Hundreds of people is sure to be an exaggeration. ONE person, maybe. More likely the cop just pulled these alleged “calls” out of his ass.

  28. Sandra March 18, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    I am shocked and dismayed that our police have nothing better to do than harass a perfectly normal child doing a perfectly normal thing.

    Oh wait… they’re busy scaring everyone into thinking that no one is safe.

    My sons started walking to school at the age of 5. This after more than a year of playing in the neighborhood without me having them on a leash. They all lived. No one so much as blinked at them. I would be mortified if my judgement were to come into question in this extremely safe world. This stuff just gets me worked up! Ugh!

  29. Shylo March 18, 2009 at 9:28 pm #

    Let’s accept for a moment that this cop actually did get hundreds (or even dozens) of calls. I’m amazed that all of these folks who supposedly ran to their phones didn’t go outside to ASK this kid where he was going, if he was okay, what the story was, etc. If they had, the confidence of this child might have assuaged the situation.

    It seems like people are so afraid to get involved, to make contact, with people in their neighborhoods. We’ve got to get out there, join community groups, attend local policing meetings, etc. Talk to people! You’ll feel more engaged and more secure!

  30. James March 18, 2009 at 9:29 pm #

    I live in a town where no children are ever left to play alone outside, and most only ever play with other kids at school and “play dates”. There moms saw that one show that one time where that one kid was kidnapped. Sure that kid was a one-in-a-million, but “why take the chance?”.
    I couldn’t imagine growing up like that. And we wonder why so many kids are fat and just play video games all day.

  31. Nene March 18, 2009 at 9:29 pm #

    You deserve a medal for this website, which I’ve only just discovered via Boing Boing. I’ve been writing about this myself several times. In Denmark, where I come from but don’t live, we call these new cotton-wool wrapped children “curling-kids”. If you recall the winter Olympics, you might also recall the odd sport called curling. If you do, you understand what a good metaphor that is. See these posts for my take on the subject.

    Thanks again.

  32. Gerd Opedal March 18, 2009 at 9:33 pm #

    I live in Norway. We tend to believe that walking is safe and sound for children (and for grown-ups). My eight year old granddaughter walks half-a-mile together with a friend every day to school and has been doing so since she started at six. The biggest problem for the kids when they get close to school are busy parents dropping off their kids who do not walk.
    You did the right thing!

  33. Lola March 18, 2009 at 9:37 pm #

    Sorry, I´m soooo outraged I didn´t take the time to scroll all the way.
    So, according to this cop, honest people should bar themselves indoors, as the streets are only for criminals????
    Why on Earth are we paying taxes for???? Certainly this guy is not earning his salary. I mean, if the baddies are out there, what is he doing about it, as a police officer?

  34. The Mother March 18, 2009 at 9:46 pm #

    We live in an affluent neighborhood in Houston, with cop cars every two blocks.

    I let my homeschooled sons walk everywhere, even during school days (we are two miles from the library, the soccer fields, etc.). The cops have stopped them numerous times. They smile and explain that they’re homeschooled, and give them my phone number.

    No cop has EVER called the house to chew me out.

    At first I thought it was intrusive, but then I realized that, at least, it meant that the police were watching over my kids.

    I’m actually shocked at Lori’s restraint. I would have told the cop to shove it, and probably ended up in jail myself.

  35. cagey March 18, 2009 at 9:48 pm #

    When I was 4 years old,we lived in the country and I was allowed to roam all over – even to neighbors who lived a mile away, but since it was quicker through the pasture, I always took the shortcut. Later, we moved to town when I was in 2nd grade, where I had free reign to go everywhere. Later, when I was in 4th grade, we lived in the country again. My friend’s house was a few miles away, but there was a shortcut through the woods that made it only a mile. Sure, it was a small Kansas town and sure, maybe my parents were too lax.

    But a TEN year old walking to a soccer game? That’s ridiculous. I bet ONE person called 911 and the cop felt he had to do “something”.

  36. Stephen Blackmoore March 18, 2009 at 9:53 pm #

    I wonder sometimes if this sort of thing has less to do with the perception of crime and more to do with neighbors not knowing each other.

    Not to jump into another “Back in my day” story, but here goes. I grew up in a small town just outside of Los Angeles and wandering around the town as a 10 year old was normal and common and nobody thought about it because so many people knew each other and just naturally watched out for each other’s kids.

    Even if we didn’t all know each other we’d all seen each other. There was a community aspect to it.

    And that makes me wonder if a lot of this has something to do with a loss of that sense of community and sense of local identity.

    Or maybe people are just crazier than they used to be.

  37. jessie March 18, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    i would have asked the county to provide proof of these hundreds of 911 calls. if the officer lied to you, in the process of an “investigation” he committed a crime. ive lived in some pretty rough neighborhoods in Dallas, TX and when someone was shot 15 times on my porch it didn’t generate hundreds of 911 calls. a kid walking down the street in broad daylight didn’t generate a single call, i bet. now, if he was being abducted, mauled by a dog, swarmed by bees, yes. i could see that generating a call or two, but not a hundred. if you’re in that small of a community, and someone had that big of a problem with your kid walking to soccer practice, i imagine they’d come to you directly.

  38. LK March 18, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    If you raise your child to be safe and responsible, you should have no problem letting them walk around the block.

  39. johannes March 18, 2009 at 9:59 pm #

    Wow, now I am really amazed by that story and the things I read in the comments. Sounds like from another planet.
    I grew up in a small town in Germany (about 5000 citizen) and we walked everywhere. My sisters an I went do school (about 500-1000m) since about the second grade, We walk to sports (which was also at that school). On afternoon I often went to meet my friends on the other side of town, which was about 2-3km. There we went to the forest to play (police and robber and whatever).
    There was _never_ a grown up around.
    To read here that many poeple, even some year back where never alone in the childhood sound unbeleavable to me. I would not want to miss the childhood with my friends.

  40. Aaron March 18, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    I started walking to and from school on my own in the morning and evening (when it was usually still dark) by the time I was 5. It’s about half a mile. Most of my friends lived further away then that and I walked there too. This was in a city of nearly 80,000 people.

    Some people need to chill the f*ck out.

  41. Lisa Z March 18, 2009 at 10:44 pm #

    Saying that this is like the Salem witch trials where we’re hallucinating all sorts of dangers that don’t exist is a perfect way to put this. Thank you so much for bringing these stories to light and helping more and more people see the ridiculousnss of our current culture. If we all would send our kids out to play then we’d all be happier and safer!!! Why don’t parents get that?

    Trying to be a free range parent in a paranoid society…

  42. Mary March 18, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    I let my 8 year old son walk to school every day (weather permitting). We live right across the street and the sense of responsility and empowerment has done wonders for his self esteem. I sometimes let him go to the park across the street (though, it makes me a little nervous). If we keep our children on leashes, they’ll never learn to walk freely. Independence is a critical skill to learn and we have to be able to give them this skill as they are prepared for it.

    You go, girl!

  43. Skeptic March 18, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    I find this story, as told, very hard to believe.

    The kid walked “three blocks” before a cop intercepted him. Three blocks might take a kid what, five minutes? I’ll accept that “hundreds” of calls was hyperbole, but I don’t think there could be time for multiple calls AND for a cop to show up in just a handful of minutes. Did the neighbors start dialing 911 as soon as the kid stepped out the door?

    I’m not suggesting that the story’s fabricated, but something’s GOT to be exaggerated here.

  44. Dan March 18, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    When I was a kid (from age 7 to 17) I walked or biked to school every day (1 to 5 miles, depending on the town). My friends and I rode our bikes for miles and miles, for recreation. We would go on 10 mile hikes down train tracks. We explored abandoned factories. Built forts out of discarded wood and slabs of cement. 10 years of true freedom and not once did a stranger lay his/her hands on me.

    I think parents today are ridiculous. They raise their kids like veal, and use prescriptions to solve problems that aren’t actually problems. I’d rather have my kids grow up in a 3rd world country than America.

  45. Scott March 18, 2009 at 11:24 pm #

    I live in a small town. About every three months there is an article in the paper about a child found outside a house unsupervised. In a common scenario, the mother is taking a nap with the child, the child wakes up and goes outside to play, and a neighbor sees this and calls the sheriff. In every case the parent is arrested, put in jail, charged with child endangerment, and kept in jail since these are all poor families who can not make bail.

    I try to debate this issue with other locals, but the overwhelming consensus is that these children should be taken away from their parents and put up for adoption and the parent should rot in jail.

  46. Scott March 18, 2009 at 11:29 pm #

    Just for reference, when I was 4 I would walk 10 miles by myself and get back to the house with no problem. When I was 10, I was flying around the world unsupervised, including making plane changes at airports in third world countries.

    Now we have 10 yr olds that can not walk 1800 feet (1/3 mile) by themselves? What will these kids do when they turn 18? They won’t know how to count or take a bus or walk down the block. When exactly are they allowed to do this? It seems that you now have to be 18 to be left unsupervised by your parents and before that birthday they are responsible for watching you continuously 24/7, accompanying you to friends houses, etc.

  47. danielb March 18, 2009 at 11:30 pm #

    Hmmm…someone named “Lori” emails a story without giving fact-checkable specifics, that within 1/3rd of a mile (maybe 1000 footsteps?) cops are called, and intercept a boy on his way to a kid filled soccer field? And those nasty old cops come up with a totally implausible and easily refutable statement that they’ve received hundreds of calls?

    While parent’s can be overprotective, this whole story comes no where close to the reality I’ve experienced in any city or neighborhood I’ve lived in. There are tons of kids, 10 years old and younger, walking to school, sports fields, etc. every day.

    I smell major BS here. This is the internet after all..

  48. John March 18, 2009 at 11:33 pm #

    Amazing how dumb things get sometimes.
    When I was ten, I used to walk 5 miles to
    school. In Africa, through bushland. I never
    thought anything of it – it’s what everyone does,

  49. Lori March 18, 2009 at 11:38 pm #

    This is Lori – of the story, Lori. I appreciate he supporting comments. A response to skeptic. The story is NOT exaggerated. Yes, the cops intercepted him within 5 minutes. We live in town – and a small town (about 30,000 residents in city limits). I have found that the police usually respond pretty quickly. This I am grateful for. The other obviously point would be that they weren’t doing anything else at 5:30 and could respond that quickly!

  50. otakucode March 18, 2009 at 11:53 pm #

    “Better safe than sorry” is a lie. It assumes an absolutely false point – that sheltering children does not harm them. It does. It harms them extensively. Any parent that prevents a child from developing independence is a child abuser. Most parents do this because they are powerfully ignorant about how human development works, and because they were sheltered during their adolescent years – when the human brain develops the ability to handle complex human relationships like the parent-child one.

    Being a parent requires emotional maturity that most parents today lack. Because they were sheltered during adolescence and prevented from having the types of relationships necessary to cause brain development, the emotional centers of their brain have never matured. In consequence, they find themselves unable to face the fact that their children NEED to become independent of them, and to leave their reliance on their family behind. That is how one becomes an adult. This is painful for parents, of course, who never want their children to leave them, let alone find them unnecessary. Emotional maturity gives parents the ability to overcome these petty impediments and raise their children to become adults.

    Unfortunately, most parents today do not raise their children to be adults. They raise them to be larger children. And when they have kids, they won’t raise their children to be independent either. They’ll choose the “safe” route and doom their children to a lifetime of emotional immaturity, dependence on other people, and an inability (due to lack of experience) to develop a wide range of human relationships.

  51. Lori March 18, 2009 at 11:59 pm #

    Ooops – forgive my typos. “he” should be ‘the” and “obviously” should be “obvious”. Should have had someone else review them :-).

  52. bill March 19, 2009 at 12:18 am #

    Hi Lenore,
    I’m a former colleague of yours from The Food Network (1997) and just I as did back then, I still read and enjoy all of your stuff. Your article today was posted by someone on reddit.com and it’s getting a lot of hits. Just fyi.

    I used to live in a town with mostly stay-at-home moms driving their kids 2 or three blocks (not miles- BLOCKS) to and from school, events, etc.. This is an upper middle class town that has zero crime (maybe a burglary now and then). Kids are chauffered everywhere. They also sit idling in ther SUV’s an hour before school lets out. Traffic would get choked from all of the extra cars every day at 3:00. And this is a tiny town. These kids could be walking everywhere around town with absolutely no problems.

    I just want to point out that this is also an environmental problem. It’s a tremendous waste of gasoline, it creates needless traffic jams, more emissions.. etc.


  53. KateNonymous March 19, 2009 at 12:20 am #

    I’ve called the police when a child was on the street alone. But she looked four (turned out she was six) and looked lost. And before I called the police, I asked her if she was okay, and she said her parents had left her at home and she didn’t know where they’d gone or when they’d be back.

    It would never occur to me to call the police because a 10-year-old was walking down the street, particularly if I hadn’t even spoken to the child in question.

    I mean, seriously, someone couldn’t have leaned out their front door and asked him if he was okay, and then found out that he was making a completely innocuous and safe trip? It makes me imagined that anyone who called was panicked, yelling, “There’s a child on the loose! Get him before he gets us!”

  54. Michael March 19, 2009 at 12:40 am #

    I am 30 years old and I remember running around the neighborhood “Sand Lot-style” when I was 10. My mother before me grew up in the 60s and did the same thing.

  55. Heather March 19, 2009 at 12:47 am #

    My sister got a visit two years ago from Child Protective Services because her 11 year old was out alone “across a highway.” When my sister invited the lady in she said that the house was “unsafe”. Laundry was being folded and 3 loads were pilled on the living room floor! My sister keeps a much cleaner house then me!

    My neice was 100 yards from the house, playing on the edge of the gold course across a road with a 25 mph speed limit. She was not near the road, or doing anything dangourous. It turned out that local CPS was having turf battles with the army base they lived on. My sister called the MPs who said that children over 8 were allowed to play unsupervised in housing areas, and children over 5 with “limited” supervision (means stay where I can see you!)

    Still it was weeks of phone calls, a couple home visits, and a call to supervisiors before CPS stopped harrassing my sister…

    What a world we live in!

  56. oopoo March 19, 2009 at 12:55 am #

    That’s what you get for allowing the media to get to you. Paranoid people dumping their paranoia on the rest of everyone else. calling 911 thousands of times? That’s plain ridiculous .

  57. Kevin March 19, 2009 at 1:01 am #

    You are right, something is fishy here. My bet would be the cop’s story and that he didn’t receive a single call. He saw the kid, stopped him and made up the part about the calls.

  58. beanie March 19, 2009 at 1:03 am #

    I think the officer made the decision on his own (however well-meaning) and fabricated the 911 scenario. That’s just me.

    10? 10 years old? And we’re having this discussion? My daughter, at 6, walked the half-mile to the produce stand around the corner. Oddly, nobody nabbed her on the street or in the field as she walked across it. Perhaps my neighbors are not diligent enough…

    So what’s next? Will we be expected to hold our children’s hands at they walk to class at University?

  59. Lauren March 19, 2009 at 1:04 am #

    I think it totally depends on where you live. And what your boundaries are. I let my kids run around our neighborhood with the other kids because I know all our neighbors and its a tight-knit group (12 and 14years old)…but I also know parents who let their kids walk or ride their bikes to school and look down on those of us who dont. One of them lost her son two years ago because she engouraged him to ride home from school on a road with no shoulder, lots of hills and curveds, and no sidewalk. He was hit and killed by a car. How do you think she feels now???? …..Is it worth it??? There’s no subject for good judgement. If a cop is concerned about your son walking alone…it may be because of what he’s seen happen with his own eyes. I would be hesitant to label him a fanatic. He’s the one who has to tell the parnents, “Your son has been killed”. Think about it. Theres a TON of middle ground here.

  60. Angela March 19, 2009 at 1:05 am #

    I own a store in a mall in a town of 10000 with insanely low crimestats (graffiti makes our local news). I often have my four year old at work with me and he now is allowed to go to the dollar store five doors down to buy Mommy and himself cans of pop. He loves this and has a special bag to carry change. The mall workers all watch out for him but I sometimes get a lot of flack from “knowing” mothers that think I should have him tethered to me. Nice to know I am not alone.

  61. catwings March 19, 2009 at 1:09 am #

    When I was a kid I had to walk five miles to school uphill both ways.

    Seriously, I did walk to school, over a mile and nothing bad ever happened to me. I also wandered my neighborhood from age 6+.

    Folks need to lighten up.

  62. Tom Hespos March 19, 2009 at 1:33 am #

    I have a seven month old at home – my first child. I can’t believe things have changed so radically since I was a kid, and I refuse to accept the notion that kids aren’t supposed to be free-range. When I was a kid, I doubt my parents knew where in the neighborhood I was at any given time. They just knew I was within a couple miles of the house and that I would be expected home in time for dinner.

    Most parents I know in my new neighborhood shuttle their kids everywhere in minivans or SUVs, set up play dates and take all the spontaneity out of playtime for their kids. How are they going to cope when they get older?

    I want my kid to participate in neighborhood pickup games of wiffle ball, flashlight tag and kickball. And play dates have nothing to do with that. How does a kid learn to strike up new relationships with new people if you pre-select their friends for them and dictate when they can play together?

    That’s why I’m appalled that a police officer would think it completely alien to see a 10-year-old kid walking down the block unaccompanied. It shows me that our culture is being overrun by the helicopter parents.

  63. danielb March 19, 2009 at 2:02 am #

    When I was a youngster we walked 62 miles to school in the snow and was glad to do it! And it was uphill both ways, too, by jiminy.

  64. Kevin March 19, 2009 at 2:28 am #

    @Tom Hespos
    Tom, I completely agree with you. However, as the father of three, ages 6,5 and 2, I have slowly come the to the realization that the days of the pickup wiffleball game have past. You may let your kids out to run around, but there will be nobody at the empty lot for them to play with. My wife and I engage in “play” dates not out of choice, but simply because that is the only way to get our kids a chance to play with other kids.

  65. Brock March 19, 2009 at 3:12 am #

    Is this the freedom terrorists supposedly hate? Are we sure? Freedom?

  66. Michelle March 19, 2009 at 3:18 am #

    I was babysitting at 11! This story is crazy. It does remind me a few months ago, I saw a child in my neighborhood (about 8 I think) walking home from school alone. It remember it drawing my attention, only because I stopped to think if, in the year we have lived here had I seen a child walking home from school. I didn’t find anything wrong with the actual act but it did stick me as odd than I didn’t see it more often.

  67. herb March 19, 2009 at 4:00 am #

    Glad to see some folks can think intelligentlly in this day and age. My mother would have been in the state pen if today’s standards were around when I was growing up. I not only walked to school, half mile through town, not a suburban development, but walked to the library, made weekly trips thru the park and woods, walked across town to visit relatives and once even booked my butt over to see my grandparents who lived 3 towns away, all while I was still in grade school. The last did get me into trouble, not for the doing but for not letting anyone know I was doing. That was the mortal sin. I could go almost anywhere shoe leather would take me but I had to let my parents know in which direction I was headed and had to be back by the time they stipulated. Other than that I was free to wander. I laugh nowadays because, while I no longer live in town and have put a few restrictions on my daughter’s wanderings since there are no sidewalks and the people drive like crazy on some of the local roads I still have no problems with her walking, or riding her bike, down into the development behind us or even into the state park behind it as long as she stays away from certain roads. While I let my daughter roam I notice that most of the other parents accompany the children up to our property line when they come to ask if my daughter can come play. Must think I’m a terrible parent

  68. Rachel March 19, 2009 at 4:31 am #

    When I was a kid, my mom would shout out the front door that dinner was ready and it might take five minutes but we’d extract ourselves from wherever in the forest and underbrush and run home for dinner. Same thing worked for our cat.

    Now cats aren’t allowed outside without leashes and apparently children aren’t either.

  69. CourtneyS March 19, 2009 at 4:52 am #

    I am almost 28 and preparing to start my own family in a few years. This story is an appalling example of what our society has become – paranoid, fearful, and terribly overprotective.

    We pay for cops out of taxes. If you don’t like cops bothering your kids for doing kid things, go to your town meetings and speak up! The police state has encroached upon us due to lack of community involvement.

  70. Mary March 19, 2009 at 5:38 am #

    I just happened upon your website. I am an American who has been living in Switzerland for the past 20 years and I am not sure what has happened in the U.S. since I left. Here kids walk to kindergarten alone. They are shown the way, there are crossing guards on busy roads, they wear reflective vests and the police come to school and demonstrate how to safely cross the road. When the children are older they are taught bike safety and are tested by riding through traffic. Children are also taught how to take public transportation. They play outside for hours and hours and hours. My 16 year old can legally drink beer and wine. My 12 year old takes the bus and train to her dance class (about 45 minutes with 3 changes). Yes things can happen and I do get nervous at times but then I see how mature and self confident my kids are compared to their American counterparts and I am pretty O.K. with that.

    I heard about the subway incident and my first thought was “good for her”. That is his environment and he better know how to manage it.

  71. Chris March 19, 2009 at 6:07 am #

    There is just no possible way that hundreds of people called 911. That is absurd. They do not even get hundreds of calls for buildings on fire!

    I would urge you to still get the statistics and look up the sex offenders in your area. Do not buy into the hype of all the MSM, but as long as that information is public knowledge, it will not hurt to know it.

  72. Sandra March 19, 2009 at 6:15 am #

    Ahhh. but the sex offender database has been rendered virtually useless… all those little red dots on your map do comprise a FEW genuine offenders (who are not sitting on their front proches with a bowl of candy and a puppy, I might add), but it includes a plethera of once 18- or 19- year old boys having sex with their 17 year old girlfriends – then Daddy finds out and presses charges. Or the boy doesn’t call the girl and she makes a good story for the database. There are men on there loooong married to their “victims”, with a family and a home… but due to movements to scare the crap out of everyone, they won’t ever come off the list. Nope,, I don’t buy that list at all.

    But that’s JMO. I know someone will tell me better safe than sorry – but nope, better live than hide.

  73. Dianne March 19, 2009 at 6:27 am #

    I am 61 ,and we alwasy walked,rode our bikes to school.In thoses days we didn’t have to worry about the public.We went ice skating with our friends all the time.
    I don’t think there is anything wrong with walking or playing with your friends durning the day time.
    That policeman should come to the beach and see all the young kids walking around here @ night,where are they’re parents,I often wonder?
    I am sorry to say,my sister and I were in more danger from a few of our family members,sexual abuse.,in our own home.

  74. Rick March 19, 2009 at 6:36 am #

    You can check via the access to information laws to see how many actual 911 calls- and it might be a good idea. Cops can be vindictive pricks. Leverage can be nice. A thought- ask your son if he was placed in the back of the car and effectively imprisoned w/out arrest? Another- does your son usually ride in a car seat? Is it an offense in your state to transport small children w/out a car seat (Idon’t know how big he is, sorry)?

  75. Sour Kraut March 19, 2009 at 6:59 am #

    I was shocked to see that this happened in the Southern US. I am ashamed to say that I almost expect this kind of behaviour here in Canada. I was under the impression that common sense prevailed in the South. Oh Well. In my home province we are debating whether the speeds in school zones should be lowered from the current 50 kph (30mph) to 30kph (18-19mph). Sure, then they will want cars pushed through school zones. A lower speed limit is not going to eliminate a drunk or inattentive driver. Well rounded children with a sense of responsibility and the knowledge of how to keep themselves safe in what can (in rare instances) be a dangerous world is a better option. I have found that the more you expect from children the more you get. Good for this mother and son. She is on the right path and he is going to be a better person for it. Another thing. What happened to the days when a neighbour actually came out of their house and talked to a child rather than calling 911 while peering out through the drapes?

  76. Uly March 19, 2009 at 7:38 am #

    Lauren, can you honestly think we don’t know how that woman feels now?

    I bet she feels damn guilty if she spends her time talking to you. I’m sure you go over and make sure she knows you think it’s all her fault.

    Except… except… except that children can die just as easily in their own cars driven by their own parents. Can and do – accidents that kill passengers? That’s a leading cause of death in children. But when it happens, nobody gets up and says that they were irresponsible and should have found a safer mode of transport, or kept their children home. Because that would be absurd. (And a little cruel, too.)

  77. Preston March 19, 2009 at 7:44 am #

    I almost got into an argument with my girlfriend last night about all these “coddled” kids these days.

    Someone’s comment above hit the nail on the head.

    My g/f’s experience is mostly around her neices and nephews. My g/f (and her sister) are totally the type of over-protective parent this blog cautions against being. (or at least, attempts to mellow out a bit)

    Guess what? Her neices & nephews were abused right under my g/f’s nose.

    The real danger? Lurking at home the whole time. Not some random stranger on the street-corner.

  78. Preston March 19, 2009 at 7:46 am #

    Oops – it was my g/f’s sister I was talking about (whose children were likely abused by their father).

    So sad… he might even get visitation rights back again too, since the PD in the town thinks there isn’t enough evidence for a case against him.

  79. fun in the snow March 19, 2009 at 8:23 am #

    I was out cross country skiing the other day and came across a 1st grader skiing the trails by himself. Seemed like the wrong thing to me especially since there are wolves, moose and bears to worry about.

  80. Christopher March 19, 2009 at 8:30 am #

    Sandra, are you really telling me that there are more people who did not commit sex offenses on the registry than there are people who committed acts? Really?

    Look, there may be a few people on the list who should not be, but unless you point to some facts that back up your assertion, you are just repeating what you have heard which is dangerous.

  81. Kenny Felder March 19, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    I really didn’t expect this story to have such a happy ending. Hooray!

  82. Jazy Epskamp March 19, 2009 at 9:48 am #

    Always enjoy reading this website! So glad to see I’m not the only “bad” parent around! LOL
    I live in Australia, in a small country town, all 4 of my kids (now 24, 17, 13 and 10y old) walk or walked to and from school.
    Being married to a policeman means I very aware of any statistics on crime and as I tell my mother in law time and time again, if I was worried I would be more worried about my kids spending time with family and friends of the family then them walking home to and from sports and school! As the statistics show most assaults are perpetraded by someone known to the child

  83. Ron Australia March 19, 2009 at 10:00 am #

    I wonder if anyone dare mention that in small town Mississippi there is a lot of fear among white folks of black-white bullying confrontation. That many white folks are most afraid that if a group of black kids see a solo unprotected white kid he wil be accosted by them.

    In my tours of many small towns in Mississippi a few years ago, this ‘unspoken’, but prevalent fear was often clear to me when I saw ALL the black kids playing outside, and ALL the white kids never to be seen out on the streets.

  84. Lori March 19, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    A couple of answers to questions brought up here. I did go home and check the sex offender registry online and there are NONE within at least a mile of the route my son walked.

    I also just went and asked my son where he sat in the police car. It was in the backseat. But, he doesn’t not need to ride in a booster seat, so that wouldn’t be an issue.

    I also agree with the comments about being more worried about whose home go spends time in. There is a much greater chance of him being harmed in a home than on the street.

  85. Naru March 19, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    When I was ten (less than a decade ago) my younger sister and I went to the park around the corner from our house all the time, and there was a stream that we could have drowned in (it was only two inches deep), not to mention all the rocks that we could have cut ourselves on on the banks. There was a hill that we would go down on our bikes and scooters as fast as we could. We got driven to school and only caught the bus about twice when we were in primary school, but still.

    The times when you have the most fun as a kid is when there aren’t any adults. You can get dirty without feeling guilty.

  86. S L March 19, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    I can’t believe how many of you commend the parent and not the police officer. Just last month a girl was beaten to death while she took a short-cut through a field. Don’t think that just because it was safe when you were young that it’s safe today because it isn’t. Yes, I walked to the corner too when I was 12 and did plenty of other things too. We’re living in a day and age when things happen in broad daylight, in big cities and in small ones too.

    Your child is not immune to bad things happening to them. No one’s is. We need to take better care of our children.

  87. renee March 19, 2009 at 10:37 am #

    I have a 10 year old. She has been allowed to walk the three blocks to school (crossing guard) for 4 years. Sometimes I go with her. At first I checked to make sure she was there when she walked along and then recognized that the school would call if not. Just this year she has been allowed to walk home alone.

    Today at the library she went to a public bathroom and didn’t come back for 15 minutes and I paniced turning the library upside down. But I know I have to let go little by little and she needs independence.

    It isn’t without possible risk that we let them go off as safely as possible but every time we get into a car there is possible risk. My daughter does know basic self defense, not to ever go off with a stranger, and how to scream. She knows safe houses on the block. These are all things that I’m glad she knows and has had to consider.

  88. Andrew March 19, 2009 at 11:26 am #

    Hi all!

    I just had to respond to this post after a friend of mine heard our story and posted this link to me.

    We had a similar response from the local constabulary after my wife let our 7 year old daughter do a similar thing. Granted she is small for her age, but she also had walked the route to the shop before with us and it was less than a mile.

    The variation to Lori’s story is that my wife, who studies sociology and had written several essays on the topic of media hype and statistics, had a stand up argument with the police officers who came to our house.

    Wasted breath I say. They were never going to listen and she was not going to have any converts that day.

    We still let our kids go to the park alone and we still intend letting them catch the bus to school alone in the next year or so… as soon as we and they feel they are ready.

    Wonder how many ppl will be phoning the police, or the school, about that one?

  89. Max Wilson March 19, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    I am a single father. I have raised my son, age 21 years, alone since he was 1 year old. I can understand some of the parents worrying about their children, I worried then and I still worry today. That being said, you are doing your children no favors by being over protective. Children must be allowed to mature and face the outside world and if you do not allow them to learn how to cope with the daily trials and tribulations of life they will not be able to function as adults and as parents of their own children. We must not give in to our fears. Teach your children safe behavior and how to think on their own and show them that you have confidence in their judgement. It is hard but , it is necessary.

  90. ebohlman March 19, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    Christopher: Just about all the people listed on the sex offender registries have committed sexual offenses. But that’s a very broad category that includes a lot more than sexual abuse such as rape or child molestation. As others have pointed out, a lot of it is “statutory rape” which means sex with a willing but underage teenager (often with another teenager). In some states, public urination gets you on the registry, as would skinny-dipping at night on a public beach. Or doing what former Senator Larry Craig was caught doing. Or getting caught soliciting a prostitute.

    Originally the registries were supposed to list only people who had committed violent personal offenses like rape or sexual assault against little kids. But they’ve expanded in scope because states get Federal money based on how many people are listed on the registries (which results in double-dippping because the registries include people who are currently in prison, for whom the states also get money; in a particularly egregious case, the state of Florida keeps people on the registry for a year after they’ve died).

    Remember that people who abduct and molest little kids get LONG sentences. The VAST majority of people convicted of child molestation have NO priors (if they committed multiple offenses, they did so BEFORE they were caught). And again, the vast majority of such offenders offend against family members or other people they’re in an authority relationship to, and most research has found that there’s very little overlap between them and “stranger danger” offenders (though of course if you’re a single mother you want to be warned so you don’t try to date them!).

    By the way, teenagers are at far more risk of abduction and rape than younger kids (for the simple reason that even most rapists are as horrified by the rape of a little kid as we are).. Therefore, it’s actually safer for kids to develop their “street smarts” when they’re younger so that when they’re teens, they don’t throw out “I’m vulnerable” signals.

  91. Fred March 19, 2009 at 7:30 pm #

    Kids should be allowed to live. they should be allowed to learn how to assess their surroundings and any danger or risk thier situation posses to them… this cannot be achieved sitting at home afraid to go out the front door.

    Police are sticking their noses in everywhere these days – it’s almost like many officers are on a power trip or something

    As for your ‘hundreds’ of concerned neighbours… if only!!! Back in my youth (here in N. Ireland of all places), a rather dangerous period of time, us kids played in the streets, wandered off to parks etc.. We learned to keep an eye open for danger while still having the time of our lives (as kids should be doing) – not one of us got hurt, kidnapped, or anything apart from the odd graze on the knee from playing soccer. If neighbours actually did for a community these days and looked out for eachother, not just themselves our kids would be so much safer. Neighbours these days are more nosey parkers and trouble makers than true members of a community.

    We are all vulnerable in some way. We all need to recognise out individual weaknesses and focus our ‘defenses’ there. If over time human-kind had guarded their young and only allowed them to live in the totally protective shadow of their parents.. then only living life openly once the kid had grown up and/or the parent died.. well, our species would have been long extinct as the ‘young’ got picked off right, left, and centre by preditors our kids being totally unaware of how to protect themselves and unable to see the danger approaching.

    The greated thing we can do for our kids is to teach them to think on their feet. To assess danger etc.. Not to look, but to observe – which requires some brain activity not just pointing ones eyes in a particular direction… anyone can see, its the thinking about what you see that is important.

    This mother did well, she trusted her child, her community. In the UK this ‘fear’ parents have is way out of proportion to the actual risks. It is now being recognised here that we are creating a generation that cannot effectively look after themselves.. and God help their kids.

    Keep up the good work. Kids should be free-range. They are healthier, smarter, and fitter – all proven by research. They are happier and better adjusted too. Never let a child grow up in the protection of a ‘guilded prison’.. after all to have your freedoms restricted, no matter how pleasent and welcoming your surroundings.. is still a prison. Do not raise your kids in a loving ‘open prison’ – they deserve so much more.

  92. RML March 19, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

    Odd, to state the obvious. My girl is 11. On a regular basis (read: several times a week) she rides the tram and bus to school in the morning; a thirty minute, 5+ mile trip. Once a week she has to go home from school by herself. She gets home and fixes some food for herself (frying an egg if she wants, boiling water for tea, you name it). No, she doesn’t bring a cell phone. She just calls me from home when she arrives. We live in Amsterdam, Holland; better know to some as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorra, and the Venice of the North because of all the canals.

    Hurray for children who can take care of themselves!

    Besides, did anyone ever look into the statistics concerning child abuse by parents, siblings and other close relatives? The danger is not out there in the streets. The danger lurks in your own living room. Get your kid outside and (s)he won’t be in as much danger as (s)he is at home.

  93. SheWhoPicksUpToys March 19, 2009 at 8:49 pm #

    My 10 year old daughter has been questioned by residents for riding her bike (on the sidewalk) in a cul de sac 1/4 mile from our house. Of course they don’t know we live only a 1/4 mile away, but the only thing they DO know is that she doesn’t live in the same cul de sac.

    Admittedly she looks young for her age, but still. She’s riding her bike slowly on the sidewalk in a quiet neighborhood with almost no traffic, but also with enough people around that she couldn’t be snatched in broad daylight without it being noticed. What is the matter with people?

    I’m hardly a free-range parent by the definition used here, though I guess by some people’s standards I would be, since I’ll send my eight year old out into the immediate neighborhood with the understanding that he’s only to play with kids he knows, not go into anyone’s home without my permission, and let me know if there’s any problem. But it gets beyond ridiculous when a kid can’t ride a bike in a cul de sac without getting the Nervous Nellies upset.

  94. SheWhoPicksUpToys March 19, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

    I just read Gaea’s comment. I share her feeling — I worry much more about some kind of problem arising because someone thinks my kids shouldn’t be out alone, than some actual danger to them. My daughter was fairly nervous about going anywhere after she’d been questioned for the bike-riding incident, just because she’s easily intimidated by adults or from thinking she’s doing something “wrong.” It makes me nuts.

  95. Tom Hespos March 19, 2009 at 9:20 pm #

    I love the comments from the paranoid folks in this thread. For those folks:

    Listen up. Nothing has materially changed since you were a kid. The only difference is the culture of fear. Entire businesses have been built on things like pulling misleading information out of the sex offender databases, overlaying red push pins on a Google Map and making your neighborhood look like it hosts a pedophile on every block. (Oh, and would you mind plunking down your credit card for full access to our database, so you can see where the REAL ghouls are lurking?)

    Take it from someone in the marketing business. Fear is used as a primary motivator to sell product. If you choose to cave into this and believe that the world is a fundamentally different place than it was when you were a kid, then so be it. Your loss. Your kid’s as well.

  96. Sandra March 19, 2009 at 9:23 pm #

    Tom, that was beautifully said. All of our Free Range Kids are incredibly lucky, incredibly blessed to enjoy life with freedom instead of fear.

  97. Jen March 19, 2009 at 10:05 pm #

    Good lord. Now that I’ve begun allowing my son to ride around the block on his scooter, I have to worry about the police knocking on our door?! Every day after school, my son wants to enjoy this new freedom—instead of playing video games, I might add!! When I was a kid in Cincinnati, I rode the city bus all over kingdom come…downtown for a haircut, across town to my Dad’s for the weekend, to and from school and late evening rehearsals, to Music Hall for a show…and I lived to tell about it. Now we live in Minnesota and most of our neighbors know our son. Hopefully when they see him riding alone down the sidewalk they’ll say hello instead of calling the cops.

  98. sue March 19, 2009 at 10:52 pm #

    At ten, I was cooking for 6 people, making sure my diabetic grandfather who lived in our basement got his food and meds on time, cleaning the house, doing laundry with a wringer washer, and covering most of 2 square miles of pasture, timber and creek in my spare time by myself. Of course as a rural community, there were no strangers really. But still. . .

  99. NJMom March 19, 2009 at 11:20 pm #

    This story is unbelievably frustrating–thank goodness it ended with some sanity or I would have one more reason to wake up at 3 in the am and think too much.

    I really like what Otakucode said–that’s the issue in a nutshell: “Unfortunately, most parents today do not raise their children to be adults. They raise them to be larger children.” I would add that what passes for parenting today is overprotectionism (is that a word?). That’s what it means to be a “good” parent. My mom said that for her generation a “good” parent was one who helped the child become independent. Well, that seems sensible, doesn’t it?

    And one more thought re the police. I think there is a culture of police “do-goodism” going on in our country as it relates to young people. I have been to a few lectures on the dangers of the internet, technology, etc. and there is always a slight sense of–a vibe if you will–what naughty things our young people are up to…tsk, tsk. As if we wouldn’t have been all over facebook, nagging our parents via our cell phones, and downloading too many songs from itunes. So to help me make sense of all this, I decided to read a book called the “Rise and Fall of the American Teenager” by Thomas Hine. (BTW it has a great cover with 3 1920’s newsboys smoking like chimneys and darned proud of it.) This is what he said about teens and authority today (actually 10 years ago, but it still applies.) I think the quote below might help make sense of this silly police officer’s behavior..and schools.

    “Teenagers spend much of their lives dealing with people who do not know them as individuals, and under the control of institutions that strive to deal with people uniformly. Once they leave the house, they are at the mercy of a battery of bureaucracies…teenagers are a suspect class, of particular interest to local police and the security forces of shopping malls and other private businesses. Teenagers are often expected to be transgressors, and when they do fail to conform to the frequently ambiguous rules within which they are suspected to live, they can be punished….”

    I know, the boy in question was only 10 and not a teen, but I think the police officer was just starting the above process a little early.

  100. Richard March 19, 2009 at 11:48 pm #

    The police were obviously lying, but being American Police this isn’t surprising. How can they have had “hundreds of calls” about him in just 3 block, and get a petrol car there by the 3rd block.

    I’d do them for Police Harassment if I were you.

    Richard, in England, UK

  101. Uly March 20, 2009 at 2:27 am #

    S L, that’s an interesting story. Where did this happen? How old was the girl? What time of day was she walking through this field? Were there other people around (as there clearly were in this post) who could see her? Do you have a link to more information?

    If you don’t, how do we know you’re telling the truth and not trying to scare us into compliance as the policeman obviously did with the “hundreds of calls” story?

    As far as this day and age goes, I don’t rely upon unsubstantiated stories – or substantiated ones, for that matter! I rely on statistics, and the statistics say, very clearly, that violent crime has been steadily decreasing over the last few decades. This world is much, much, MUCH safer than the world I grew up in… and probably the world you grew up in as well.

    I literally look up these numbers at least three times a month, for one conversation or another. They don’t change. I’m not looking them up today. You can google them for your own self.

  102. trish March 20, 2009 at 3:37 am #

    “S L, on March 19th, 2009 at 10:03 am Said:
    I can’t believe how many of you commend the parent and not the police officer. Just last month a girl was beaten to death while she took a short-cut through a field. Don’t think that just because it was safe when you were young that it’s safe today because it isn’t. Yes, I walked to the corner too when I was 12 and did plenty of other things too. We’re living in a day and age when things happen in broad daylight, in big cities and in small ones too.

    Your child is not immune to bad things happening to them. No one’s is. We need to take better care of our children.”

    I know someone-actually,many – who died in a car accident. It’s unfortunate and tragic. However, With the above logic, I shouldn’t drive nor let my child ride in the car despite safety restraints. I “heard” a story where a couple set up on the side of the road and murdered the good samaritan that tried to help them. Remember that next time you’re stuck on the side of the road in need of assistance, watching all those people pass you because they’re afraid you’ll kill them. We need to quit letting our children eat lunchables,McDonalds, and watching TV all the time and ENCOURAGE them to get out and explore a little bit. It’s good to be wise, but we cannot constantly let unhealthy fear control our lives and determine every little move we make with our youth. We (as a whole) have begun to stunt our children’s growth by hovering over them all the time.

  103. Bruno March 20, 2009 at 5:04 am #

    Great thread, I didn’t know the expression existed but I am proud of being a free-range parent. I remember two years ago, my older son was two and a half, he got into the habit of waking up in the morning and instead of waking us up, go downstairs and play… one morning I went down to find him sitting in front of a toasted waffle submerged in maple syrup! I cannot even begin to express how proud I felt. Who cares about his pride 🙂
    And I was raised in a humongous world capital, a pretty unsafe one by US standards, and spent every single afternoon playing in my neighborhood since the age of 7. I lived to tell the tale, and so did most kids my age.

  104. Mogs March 20, 2009 at 11:12 am #

    This is crazy. Starting when I was eight, during elementary school I frequently biked two miles to soccer practice by myself, along a fairly busy four-lane road. Never had any problems.

  105. Rob C March 20, 2009 at 1:31 pm #

    “I can’t believe how many of you commend the parent and not the police officer. ”

    What exactly are we to be commending this police officer for? Bundling a ten-year-old child who has committed no offense and was not in need of any assistance into the back of a police car, all for the ‘crime’ of walking a couple of blocks by himself? Lecturing a responsible, sensible mother for the sin of letting her child actually live in the world? Contributing to the overall climate of fear that is crippling our children and preventing them from developing into sensible, independent adults?

    You tell us some kid got beaten up in a field, so we’re supposed to keep our children under lock and key, or under constant supervision, 24/7? No, sorry. I refuse to live in fear. Yes, bad things can happen to kids. Bad things can happen to everyone. But if you sit inside all day, so worried about the bad things that might happen that you become too scared to venture out your front door without somebody holding your hand, you’re not living. You’re just waiting to die.

    And I refuse to make my kids live like that.

  106. Heather Ryfa March 20, 2009 at 8:44 pm #

    If I were you, I would request the 911 tapes. Under an open records request, you are entitled to that information. You won’t be able to tell who called (they will redact the numbers), but I would bet that the officer is exaggerating. He might have received one call, or maybe even none. I think it would be important to know, because if he did exaggerate, then he was bullying you. Bullying behavior by officers is not acceptable, should not be tolerated, and should be stopped before it can escalate.

  107. Suzyactiondoll March 20, 2009 at 9:17 pm #

    Perhaps the police officer overreacted because he is an overprotective parent himself? I’ve encountered plenty of criticism from overprotective parents who are not police officers as well as from those who are police officers. As far as the hyperbolic claim of “hundreds of calls…” Please. Hundreds of people don’t call for a stranger being murdered, much less for a child walking alone. Take a chill pill and complain to his supervisor about that!!
    I’m a free range parent and a police officer. It’s tough because I’ve seen all the bad things that can happen to kids–sex abuse, car accidents, random beatings by peers as well as strangers, shootings etc. Granted I live and work in a large city. A little girl (9yo) was grabbed off the street and raped by a stranger just a block from my daughter’s school. The guy hasn’t been caught yet. I’m showing my daughter a different way to walk home, teaching her to stick with crowds and teaching her that it’s okay to scream and yell and punch and hit adults who are trying to hurt her. I’m told that I’m being over aggressive in one breath, and a bad mom in the other because I’d even consider letting her walk home alone knowing what I know.
    But what else am I supposed to do? I have to let her grow up some time.

  108. Uly March 20, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    Suzy, I couldn’t agree more – though, in fairness, I think the period of time before this guy is caught might be a sensible time to add a little extra precaution.

    There’s no harm in saying “For right now, I want you to only walk to school with an adult” (or a pack of friends, or whatever), so long as you correspondingly lighten up when the danger level is normal again.

  109. SheWhoPicksUpToys March 20, 2009 at 10:14 pm #

    “But what else am I supposed to do? I have to let her grow up some time.”

    I probably don’t have to tell you this, as you are a police officer, but the other alternative is to let her grow up as a fearful adult. And there are lots of those out there — people who won’t shop at certain stores because they’re within the city limits, for example, because of beliefs that every part of the big, bad city is lethal, and only their nice suburbs are places where people can reasonably hope to stay above ground until sundown. But as a sensible mom, you apparently don’t like that alternative. 🙂

  110. GeekGirlsRule March 20, 2009 at 11:12 pm #

    Wow. That is amazing. I grew up in a really bad neighborhood as a kid. I mean, walking past chalk outlines and used syringes neighborhood, and we went all over the place (usually in a pack). We learned early on that if an adult you didn’t know wanted to talk to you from a car, you stood on the sidewalk and yelled any answers to questions they might have at the top of your lungs. You never got close to strange adults, or teenagers. We lived and played on busy streets. We walked to school, just us kids, from 3rd grade on.

    Honestly, the most damage done to the kids I went to school with was done in their own homes. Mom’s boyfriend, Dad, uncle, grandpa, or in one case an altar boy at the church. Even in our crappy neighborhood, I had never heard of anyone being abducted by a stranger for nefarious purposes, just members of their own families.

  111. DJ March 20, 2009 at 11:59 pm #

    Many people think I am crazy.

    I love the school bus. It picks up my 8yo son a block from the house and drops him off in front of it. Yes, I hear of school bus accidents, but I still think the statistics are better for the bus than for cars (plus, I don’t have to wait for the car line!).

    My 5yo daughter is in a tuition-based Pre-K program in the school system. She goes to a different school than my son. They teach them sight words, journal writing, etc., but require that I walk her into school — no bus, and no dropping off/picking up in car line.

    Now, I’m faced with a potential dilemma. My husband may have to work 12-hour shifts if the union in his company goes on strike. Three days a week I leave for work at 7 a.m. (I teach college). My son leaves for the bus (yes, he walks there alone) at 7 a.m. My daughter can’t be taken to school until 7:30.

    The thoughts go round and round in my head — do I take her to a friend’s house? Is it imposing because the friend’s mom will be required to walk her in (and take her in early)? Do I let the friend take her in late (and get a tardy slip–and potentially get referred to a counselor/truant officer — a real possibility). Do I find another classmate she can go with? If I do that, I’ll have to take her out of the neighborhood and leave before 7 — what will that mean for my 8yo — leave him at home alone and trust him to get to the bus stop (and what if he misses the bus)?

    What I really hate about this dilemma is that I am the most “liberal” of my group of friends and so I have no one to say to me that it’s okay to be a free-range mom and help me pick a “good-enough” solution.

  112. george March 21, 2009 at 12:25 am #

    It seems that there many people prepared to make their feelings known about not only about this subject but many others. If there is such a groundswell of feeling, perhaps it would be a good idea to pool the obvious resource of commonsense and feeling and form a group. There is no telling where this could lead; it could also frighten the living daylights out of the mainstream parties in the same manner as the BNP has in here in the UK.

  113. Keith Rispin March 21, 2009 at 12:50 am #

    I was just recalling the other day about the first time I was sent off to take the bus on my own at the age of 10. I had taken the trip dozens of times with my mother and then it was time for me to take it on my own. I came back in one piece and 99.8% of children who did the same today would return safely but it is our culture of fear that has created an entire industry out of “keeping children safe”

  114. SheWhoPicksUpToys March 21, 2009 at 2:03 am #

    GeekGirls, I think you’ve touched on what I think is a dirty little secret about all this.

    Everyone knows that most kids raised in a lower income, urban environment are out fending for themselves *all the time.* If the cops stopped and questioned every kid in a rundown urban neighborhood who was outside, away from home, without a parent, they’d be doing nothing else. And nobody thinks much of it. In such neighborhoods, this probably applies to kids of all races.

    But somehow, our little pampered small town or suburban kids, or those from better urban neighborhoods, especially white ones, are supposed to have someone watching over them every minute. “Those kids” are allowed to run free because “everyone knows” nobody can do anything about it anyway. But “everyone knows” “our kids” are supposed to be “taken proper care of.”

    Now I imagine there will be those who will give me an eyeful. And I could be wrong. But it is a sneaking suspicion that I have.

  115. Keith Rispin March 21, 2009 at 2:30 am #

    SheWhoPicksUpToys – Very good point! As I am sure you know, the problem is that watching kids 24/7 is NOT how to raise your children properly.

    We have a population of children who cannot look after themselves because some parent or care giver has been watching the every minute of every day for 18 years and sometimes beyond.

    We are raising useless young adults in the name of “keeping them safe”. Now we have children living out of mom and dad’s back pockets well into their 20’s because they can’t care for themselves.

  116. reeky March 21, 2009 at 2:49 am #

    I read this and became angry. At the police, at the people that called the police, at society in general.

    If there is a law, it should be changed. If there isn’t, the officer should be informed that they were incorrect.

    I started free ranging things with my son late last spring. recently we’ve let him start riding his bike to his friends house 3/4 of a mile away. We don’t live in a sleepy little town, we are in a suburb 1/2 hour away from Philly. He has a cell phone (which we just got for just this reason, riding to his friend’s house). NOBODY better tell me or my wife we are bad parents. We are good parents that care about our children but are trying to not overshadow their every movement (and trust me it’s hard not to be overbearing). In the 9 or so months of free ranging, my son had developed into a child that is more responsible. He’s also proud and aware that we consider him mature enough to handle the free range.

    I am still growling to myself. grrrrrrrr.

  117. CHP March 21, 2009 at 4:53 am #

    We live in Concord, NH (the capital yet a small town of 35,000) and a similar incident happened to my two boys (10 and 7) about a year ago.

    We were downtown and on our way home when I remembered I had to do some shopping. The boys didn’t want to go with me so I told them they could walk home — a total of 6 blocks and in what I’d consider a very safe neighborhood where many (including us) leave their houses unlocked during the day. This was in the late afternoon, with plenty of daylight remaining. Plus our kids have always had the freedom to play outside on their own and I never thought twice about letting them walk home. (We even let them ski on their own, with a mobile phone in case of emergency.)

    When I got home, I learned that half way home a cop pulled up next to them and asked them where they were going. Apparently, someone had called the station and told the cops that there were two kids walking unattended. Fortunately, when he heard where they were going and I assumed based on their confident demeanor, he left them alone as it was only 3 more blocks to our house. My husband’s reaction was “it’s nice that there are people looking out for kids” but I really felt violated by whoever called the cops. I know people in my town who are super paranoid about leaving their kids alone but I refuse to let fear control what we do. And I definitely don’t want my children to develop unwarranted fears.

    We lived overseas for almost 2 decades before moving back to the US and it’s so sad to see what a paranoid nation we’ve become. I’m just happy to see there are others out there who are not giving in to this.

  118. Keith Rispin March 21, 2009 at 5:13 am #

    Wow CHP that is sad. I have to say that things are not that bad around here. I live on the edge of a large city up on a mountain side where our biggest concern at various times of the year are bears and cougars but the local dogs that play with the kids in the neighbourhood keep them at bay.

    Unfortunately, most parents in our neighbourhood still hover constantly and want their kids to be watched constantly although there is little to no risk to their wellbeing. With that said however, I cannot image a police officer stopping to ask ask a 10 year old what they were doing while walking on the street.

    We need a forum for this chat… Should I create one?

  119. Uly March 21, 2009 at 8:04 am #

    SheWhoPicksUpToys, although I’m not sure I totally agree with your conclusion, I think you’re absolutely correct about the demographics of “kids can’t play outside” parents.

    I see all the time that in the projects near here the kids run back and forth on their balconies (connected to each other) and out to their playground all day. I see that in the other projects (not an apartment, but a set of small houses) the children do the same, going from stoop to sidewalk to playground and back. And I see on my own block the kids play in the street (the very street! they spent a whole summer dragging a skateboard ramp into and out of the street!) all the time.

    But we’re a poorer area, you know? I’ve long since seen that kids don’t do this on richer blocks.

    (Of course, there are also more adults home in our area. Why? Because to save money, just about every house on our block has an extended family – cousins, aunts, uncles, and more than a few sets of grandparents. With more adults, somebody can always arrange to be home – or they can trust that if they’re *not* home, another family certainly *does* have adults in the house!)

  120. James March 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    What ever happened to the good old days?

    Me and all my friends were “Free Range Kids”.

    I was raised on a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina in the late 50’s and early 60’s . I remember when I was ten. I would ride my bike five miles, one way, to a elementary school located on an adjacent island, almost every day, weather permitting. It was further if I rode down the beach, which I quite often did.

    We had school bus service, but I didn’t like waiting for or riding the bus. As far as riding in a car, it didn’t happen unless I was in trouble at school. Sometimes I rode along with friends but I rode alone most of the time. They were usually whiny about having to get up earlier than necessary or the weather, etc.

    On weekends and holidays we’d be out of the house after breakfast and usually wouldn’t be back till supper time. I say we, I had six brothers and a sister. I could imagine my mother running us out if we didn’t want to go, but she never really had to.

    My parents never worried much for our safety. We had the same basic safety instructions as are used today. i.e. Watch out crossing the road, don’t talk to/go with strangers, etc. The worst danger we faced was ourselves. There was a lot to do growing up on a mostly undeveloped island.

    I moved off the island to a small town in the late 80’s. We, my ex and I, have since raised three boys of our own and didn’t have to worry too much for their safety either. Our main concern was traffic. They wern’t allowed the freedoms I had but we didn’t worry about them in or around the neighborhood.

    I believe as CHP (21 Mar 4:53 am) does that we’ve become a nation of paranoid parents afraid of the boogyman. These parents arent giving their kids enough credit. Most kids have sense enough to keep out of harmful situations just by being tought the safety basics.

    I also agree with Preston (Mar 19 7:44 am) “The real danger? Lurking at home the whole time. Not some random stranger on the street-corner.”

  121. Henrik March 22, 2009 at 4:22 am #

    When I was seven years old I walked about half a mile to school. As if that wasn’t enough me and my friends biked to each other. My best friend lived closer to 3 miles away, and that was a good bike ride too.

    A few years later I was riding alone on the bus across town every week carrying a cello.

    Apart from that we played a lot and did things that would probably have horrified our parents. But I still think it was healthier for us, and undoubtedly better for the environment, that we walked and biked rather than having our parents drive us to where we wanted to go, or just ended up sitting at home.

  122. M Baker March 23, 2009 at 3:25 am #

    I just started letting my almost 11 year walk to school in the mornings by herself. She locks the door to our house and then heads off. There are 2 crossing guards which makes me feel safer and she carries a cell phone. She meets up with friends and we have worked with her on safety and what to do in certain scenarios. She also calls me when she arrives at school so that I don’t worry. So far it has been working out very well and she is enjoying the independence. I think it is really good for her self-esteem and I also feel that when we don’t shelter our children too much, they are able to handle challenges like drinking, sex, and drugs better later on in life. I think the key is taking the time to teach your child before giving them a big responsibility like walking by themselves. If you have done your job by teaching your child, then it is alright to give them some space to learn for themselves. I do get very annoyed when I see kids who are running wild, with no training and no discipline. But all you can do is be a good parent and teach your own child.

  123. Lee March 23, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    All I know is I used to take the city bus all around Baltimore city back in the 80’s when I was as young as 7 years old, all the way up through teenager, and I never had any trouble at all. I went to school, to the store, to the library, to the park, went to visit my dad at work after school. No big deal. I used to ride my bicycle or take the bus all around the city. You just need to teach the child how to stay out of trouble, that’s all. They’ll never learn anything with the parent being over-protective all the time.

  124. SheWhoPicksUpToys March 24, 2009 at 12:03 am #

    Uly, I’m not sure I have a conclusion. I have some observations, which could lead to a conclusion. But not every conclusion one can think up is the right thing, so I’m just thinking out loud. There does seem to be a correlation, but I don’t have a firm opinion on the cause — it was just a thought.

  125. j_king March 24, 2009 at 12:31 am #

    I can’t even imagine growing up as a kid in today’s world. It’s not any more dangerous than the one I grew up in. People just have a little less good sense about them.

    Kids gain necessary life skills from independence at an early age.

    The most any kid can ask for is to be treated like a grown-up and there by learn to be one.

  126. Jennifer March 24, 2009 at 3:03 am #

    I agree with the posters that said the cop may have his own agenda. Maybe he is also paranoid or a helicopter, and wanted to make and example of Lori and scare her (and I guess assuming she had no critical thinking skills to ponder how absurd “hundreds of calls” sounds after a while. :P)

    But, I am reluctant to get too angry with the cops. (I’m more angry at the do-gooders who call the cops and don’t care that they could recklessly destroy someone’s life, and for what? IMO, calls should be saved for kids who are really in danger/abused/lost. Circumstance should also be important. Kid in diaper=BAD. 10 year old= FINE.) As the wife of a former police officer, I know cops are under TREMENDOUS pressure. If a kid dies, it is the police (or lack thereof) that will be blamed. Why weren’t the cops watching? Why aren’t there more laws to ensure that more cops are patrolling the streets?! Add to this that most parents are the paranoid, not Free Range, types, and you have lots of pressure. If you speak out against this pressure, you are seen as a bad parent. And if you’re a cop, well, then you’ll probably be bad at your job too.

    It’s a lack of responsibility and a mentality that is fearful of relying on our own judgement (because what if we are wrong and someone gets hurt!?) Better to put all the onus on police and schools. And better to defer to “experts”, because we have no clue about how to raise our own children “right”.

  127. Presto March 24, 2009 at 4:29 am #

    I can understand some people’s fear. My cousin was abducted when he (and I) was a child. He was in a grocery store, just a few feet from his parents. He was missing for almost a week. Fortunately, he managed to escape the abductor by being smart.

    However, If I have kids, I would let my children walk any distance that I thought they were prepared for. The key is to teach our kids to be street smart. If we allow ourselves and our children to be fearful, the creeps win. I for one will not allow that to happen.

  128. MJWitt March 24, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

    I’ve been a reader of your website for a few month now and love it. I’m a fairly new parent (11 mo. old daughter) and am committed to raising my child as a safe, yet independent child with the capacity to experience the world with her eyes open. Obviously time will tell.
    We are trying hard already to expose her to the world around her and make her an active child. We thankfully live in San Diego where there is lots to see and do (flowers gardens, beach, parks, playgrounds, Sea World, Zoo, etc.) She goes out and does something almost every day and we joke that she has a more active social life than we (her parents) do.
    Her grandmother lives a few blocks away and comes to take her for about a 30 min. walk to the playground every morning for some fresh air. It’s a routine for them, and has been since she was a month or two old. Although we generally have nice weather, it can get chilly and we always make sure she is well bundled with a jacket and knit cap.
    About a month ago two police are cruising our street (unusual as we live on a cul-de-sac) and we find out later it was a welfare check because some neighbor had reported that “a woman had a baby out in the cold and it was too cold for an infant”.
    Now I don’t blame the police, they are doing their job and responding to a complaint as they should. However, it irritated me to no end that someone called and reported it. She had on warm pajamas and a thick fleece body suit including hood and was carried in a sling to boot (body heat)! It was 40 degrees, which, while chilly for San Diego is far from dangerous for a short stroll.
    Anyway, long story short, we called the police when we found out they were looking for us. They thanked us for calling in and assured us they were not concerned, but just following up on the report.
    What can be done about neighbors with a penchant for crying wolf in this nature? Probably nothing unfortunately. While I’m glad that they are watching out for others, restraining their complaint calls to valid dangerous situations would be better for everyone. Maybe we need another movement for helicopter neighbors as well?

  129. Rob C March 24, 2009 at 11:08 pm #

    “What can be done about neighbors with a penchant for crying wolf in this nature? ”

    As a wise munkee once said – “The solution is fire.”

  130. Uly March 25, 2009 at 9:15 am #

    MJWitt, what’s *really* annoying about your story is that if that wo/man were actually concerned s/he could – and should – have spoken to you directly! It would have been much faster.

    But nobody likes to be known as the neighborhood busybody, i guess.

  131. Jan March 28, 2009 at 9:18 pm #

    I was in Texas for a year in 2002/2003 as an exchange student. I was 16 turning 17 at time.

    Since I had no licence, (I’m from Germany, you don’t get permission to take your licence, ’til you’re 18), I was supposed to ride the bus to school.

    Reading this blog, I’m quite thankful to my host parents to let me ride a bike to High School. The bus would take an hour to get me to school, a distance, that i could walk in twenty minutes.

    I even got offered a courtesy ride home by the police once, when i was walking home, but not, before they rode beside me for about ten minutes. I was wondering then, why they should do that.

    What made me wonder the most was this: About halfway between our home and HIgh School was an elementary school, where kids rode their bikes to every day, some of them alone. Nobody bothered. When I came to High School to ask for a place to put my bike, they thought I was joking, and then told me, it would be far too dangerous, to do that.

  132. whattakes March 31, 2009 at 4:46 am #

    10 years old and can’t walk alone… Wow… When I was 10 I was out walking to the park alone to meet friends, or to school in the morning, at lunch, and afternoon alone since my older sister would not walk with me. That was only 12 years ago. We lived in a small town with nothing but houses and parks, and no one ever called the cops on my mom.

    And high school, grade 9 I walked 30 minutes (Really 30 minutes! I was 0.5 km to the school to take the bus), sure I was 14, but what things can’t happen to you as soon as you turn 14? (We moved closer to the school that summer)

  133. Marc Eastman April 1, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    The apology from the Chief is good news anyway, but that would be on ex-cop if he came to my house.

  134. Stephanie @ Faithful Follower of Christ April 2, 2009 at 6:46 am #

    My son started walking to school when he was eight. This winter, I only allowed him to get a ride when it was below zero. I want him to get the daily exercise he needs. I also just went to a workshop by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka a week and a half ago, and she stated that it is actually not any less safe today that it was thirty years ago. The number of abductions has not increased, but the media would have you think that it has!

  135. carennedy September 10, 2009 at 2:14 pm #

    If we knew our neighbours and looked out for each other instead of critizing and looking for fault every kid would be safer. When my kid was in grade 2 I let him walk 1 km to school. When he was 9 I let him walk 3 km to visit friends. Now he’s 10 and we’ve moved to Vancouver, BC and I won’t let him go 1 block to the park by himself. He is having a hard time with his new limitations, but we don’t know enough people to have enough safe houses for him to knock on.

  136. Anonymous September 22, 2009 at 4:26 am #

    Yea, what is this society turning into..? I had the cops called on my 3 year old daughter for walking her puppy around our house… Yes I said our house… She wanted to be a big girl and do it all herself. So I watched her from the kitchen go around and around and around. Then she was escorted by some stranger to my front door… This guy yelled at me that it was wrong to let her walk a dog by herself.. I told the man I knew she was out there walking because I was watching from the kitchen.. Then 15 mins later I have 2, yes 2 police officers walking to my house. I didn’t wait for them to come to the door I went out to them and said “Did he seriously call the cops for my daughter walking her puppy”.. The said yes but they have to report on the call any ways. He said they get calls all the time like this. He said it’s just a way they view Parenting and each family is different. While talking to them the puppy came to see them, but this puppy is so lazy the officers just laughed when the puppy just lay on the steps.. So is it wrong to let our children build confidence in themselves to try to be stronger and trying things on their own. Or are we suppose to raise them to be scared and tell them NO No NO you can’t because it’s bad or you don’t want to do that because people will degrade you on your actions.

  137. Steve September 6, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    I’m glad that this story had a great ending!

  138. car review September 9, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    WOW. That’s insane! I cannot imagine that I would have been able to go ANYWHERE at 10 if I hadn’t done so without the accompaniment of my parents.

  139. Finance manager December 19, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    This can be a most suitable blog for anybody who wants to are aware of this specific issue. You understand such a lot of the country’s essentially tough to be able to argue at hand (not which i actually need to…HaHa). You actually put a new rotation even on a matter that is recently been written about cardio. Excellent goods, only great!

  140. Tahir Ahmadov February 18, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    I wrote a post about this in general….


  141. Tahir Ahmadov February 18, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Is this how you do it? I started a group on Facebook – can people that’re not my friends, join?



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