A Predator Behind Every Tree

A zrfsrffksa
mom writes:
Dear Free-Range Kids:
We are a homeschooling family of 7 children ages 16-4, but our kids participate in sports at the school at our church. This year I was asked to coach the elementary cross country team.  The students aged 6-10 run a lap around the campus (about a half mile) to start practice.
On this particular morning, I had 6 runners. The smallest was my own, and she is 7. One boy had a meltdown (he has Autism) and I had to call his mother. As I get off the phone, a woman from the school office is walking my daughter back to me. She states that my daughter was playing in the grass next to the Frisbee basket and not running. When my  10-year-old returns, minutes later, he tells me that he saw his sister with this woman and offered to take her to finish the lap. This woman refused and walked her back, out of “concern.”
She had done all the things we teach our children to run from! She said, “I’m (name). I know your mom. You need to come with me.”
She then proceeded to tell us that she was worried that my daughter would go into the woods (several trees that line the property) and if she did that, she couldn’t live with herself.
I asked her if she knew the statistics on stranger abduction, and she said that there is a warehouse next door where trucks drive in and out every day. This is true. My husband has fixed trucks there. It is a warehouse where trucks come in, drop a load, pick up a load and leave. Not where truck drivers are stalking the woods waiting for a 7-year-old to just happen to stop and play.
She proceeded to tell us that there are men that sometimes eat lunch at that warehouse outside. (It’s 7:30 in the morning when we practice.) Then she said that there are apartment complexes on the other side of the campus.
None of this is good enough for me, I have read the FBI stats linked from your page, and I know the dangers. I told this woman that she just taught my daughter that church is a dangerous place, and it’s okay to go off with a strange woman.
I’m not sure how to combat this in a world where every school is worried about getting sued. I will be standing my ground if they decide to come up with some arbitrary rules. I will be armed with the crime stats, and the studies that Dr. Peter Gray quotes about anxiety in 20somethings. I hope that this is over, but my guess is it’s not.  God forbid any child spend more than 5 minutes alone.
Thank you for taking time to read this, I know it was long winded. — Nikki
I replied:
Nikki — I read it with such agitation. It is almost impossible to convince anyone about facts when they are terrified, and that’s what the woman was. Jon Haidt writes about the fact that we feel something in our gut (in this case, fear) and then along comes our “rationality” to act as its lawyer. “Your honor, this isn’t a case of rank hysteria. Why…there is a warehouse nearby! And, um, men eat their lunches outside! And a few miles away there’s an apartment complex filled with potentially terrible people!” The rationality is nonsensical but that doesn’t matter, since it’s just blather. Really, all she felt was fear and she tried to justify it as sensible, even kind.
I really don’t think you’ll win with facts about crime or depression. The only thing I’ve seen that changes minds is when a parent sees for him/herself how competent her kids can be on their their own. The pride and joy overwhelm the hysteria circuits.
So keep letting your kids do their thing, and warn them about the “lady who is a little strange.” And if you can, try to get the school to run the Free-Range Kids Project. It changes the parents at least as much as the kids. 
Good luck! – L


Okay, I’ll admit it. I AM a spooky tree.


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20 Responses to A Predator Behind Every Tree

  1. pentamom September 8, 2017 at 10:52 am #

    “Then she said that there are apartment complexes on the other side of the campus.”

    Oh my GOODNESS! Homes! Where people LIVE! Why, that’s almost as bad as a NEIGHBORHOOD! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!


  2. Theresa Hall September 8, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    Maybe mom should say unless you need help no going off with strangers unless I say it okay. Then when the busybodies try rescue her when she doesn’t need it their efforts will be thwarted hopefully.

  3. Dienne September 8, 2017 at 11:18 am #

    Well, I tell you, my daughters and I sure had an incident a couple weeks ago. I’m fortunate that my doctor offers 7:00 a.m. appointments so I can get both girls school physicals and still almost sort of get to work on time. However, the office is pretty far from our house, so that meant we had to leave the house before 6:00 a.m. while it was still dark. Just as we got out to our car, there was a man opening the doors to a white van right behind us. Yes, you read that correctly. A strange man in a white van right behind us, and me alone with my innocent young daughters.

    Do you know what happened? Well, let me you. He got in his van and drove off and we got in ours and drove off. Whew, that was close!

    (In case it’s not obvious, yes that was sarcasm.)

  4. John B. September 8, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

    “’Then she said that there are apartment complexes on the other side of the campus.’

    Oh my GOODNESS! Homes! Where people LIVE! Why, that’s almost as bad as a NEIGHBORHOOD! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!



    LOL….LOVE the sarcasm! Very hilarious and so true!

  5. lollipoplover September 8, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    Our elementary school started an after school running club that my kids were very excited to join. They envisioned running distances through seversl of the walking and bike paths that connect the school to neighborhoods. Except they weren’t allowed to leave school property and had to run (in circles) around the playground so they could be in sight at all times.

    They didn’t enjoy it and didn’t sign up again although they enjoy running, just not running around the prison yard. I am more worried about them being struck by a car than a predator. People who concoct these paranoia thoughts need to turn off the cable news and SVU. Look at your local crime blotter instead for a dose of reality.

  6. Michael La Porte September 8, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    Lenore: There is also a possibility that a companion “fear” might take hold (perhaps a fear based in fact) about kids who are incompetent as adults. As Frank Bruni’s piece this Sunday in the NYT makes the case for a generation of young adults who are not able to socialize with others because of the bubble in which they’ve grown up.

    Perhaps parents won’t stop believing that kidnappers are lurking in every corner, but maybe their fear of having their asocial children living at home for years on end might alter their behavior.

    But maybe not.

  7. MonicaP September 8, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

    Granted, people are afraid of all the wrong things. The statistics show that our kids are not in danger from child predators and other things people get themselves worked up about. But ignoring these wackos is ignoring the real danger: “Good Samaritans.”

    While people who prey on strangers’ kids are rare, “Good Samaritans” are all over the place, and they WILL try to take your kids if they think you are a shitty parent. And CPS will side with them, because they are motivated to intervene heavily, and CPS agents have see the worst of the worst, so they will look at your situation through heavily biased eyes.

    Carry on with letting your kids roam if you like, but only if you are truly OK with the consequences of state intervention.

  8. Alanna Mozzer September 8, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

    I’m a substitute teacher for an otherwise great private job placement company that has a policy against ME leaving the school grounds. I have done some substitute teaching of special needs children at a public school located near a village for special needs adults. Sometimes I walk outside with the children and the paraprofessionals, and I have often wondered if I have left the school grounds without realizing it. The end of the school grounds and the beginning of the village are not clearly defined. And if we did accidentally walk onto the village grounds, so what?

  9. Rebel mom September 8, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

    C.S, Lewis was so right…

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

  10. James September 8, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

    So…..this stranger is afraid that your daughter will be abducted, and decides to solve this problem by, for all practical purposes, abducting your daughter.

    I’ve been in situations where someone’s safety was vital (life-threatening injuries, fires that could spread, confined space entries, and the like), and you DO NOT do what this woman did. You plant yourself where you can watch the person/situation, and send someone else to get help. The girl was obviously not in immediate danger, after all, and this woman knew where the girl’s mother was–moving her was the least safe course of action.

    What this woman did had nothing to do with keeping the girl safe, and everything to do with stroking her own ego. This woman now thinks she’s a hero, saving this little girl from……well, that’s not really important, the important thing is the woman Did Something!!! I would bet a fair amount that she also think of you, the mother, as inferior to her, because she Cares and you obviously do not.

    This is why facts and logic don’t work on such people: the arguments you’re making are not addressing the actual issue at hand. The issue at hand is this woman’s ego.

  11. Anna September 8, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    One thing that jumps out at me from this story: the blatant class prejudice. It’s clear from the conversation (at least as reported) that this woman considers the presence of blue-collar workmen in itself threatening. And not just that, but we’re talking here about blue collar guys who are not only employed, but are actually at work at the time in question. Would she feel equally free to discriminate so openly against any other demographic? (Okay, probably she would, but she likely wouldn’t feel quite as comfortable voicing it out loud anyway. . .)

  12. Jen September 8, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

    What i got from this story is that your son noticed what was going on and stepped up. Exactly as it should be — kids looking out for each other. Good for him!

    The sort of adult that detains a child, who was never in any danger in the first place, from re-joining a legitimate, supervised event despite assurance from an older and related child that he would escort her back to the activity is the sort of adult that has an agenda that has nothing to do with your child’s safety but everything to do with virtue signaling and a need to feel superior.

  13. Donald September 8, 2017 at 5:36 pm #


    Busybodies are dangerous as we saw in the last post but are losing power. You handled it beautifully and you should be proud. Well done! That’s also a good role model for your daughter on how to handle conflict. You should be proud!

    Conflict is part of everyday life. Unfortunately, many people treat conflict like a completely incompetent bomb defuser! It becomes a contest of chest thumping and becomes more about saving face. This is why the world is in such a mess.

  14. Donald September 8, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

    “What this woman did had nothing to do with keeping the girl safe, and everything to do with stroking her own ego.”

    I agree 100% that it was more about ego. Unfortunately, sometimes both sides start doing this and that’s why I compared it to an incompetent bomb defuser!

    Nikki did an excellent job and was a good role model for her daughter.

  15. Abigail September 8, 2017 at 6:50 pm #

    I second Jen’s statement!

    The older sibling should be positively reinforced and emboldened to report adults interfering in the future.

  16. Backroads September 8, 2017 at 7:13 pm #

    Nikki, I must know how the busybody responded.

  17. Vicki September 8, 2017 at 9:30 pm #

    I completely agree with every comment here. I’m so glad this blog exists so that I can read the thoughts of like-minded people, who, in my opinion, get it. Between Trump, the terrible effects of climate change, and parents treating their children like precious snowflakes (among other problems), one starts to question one’s own sanity – this is my salve against such craziness!

  18. Jan smith September 8, 2017 at 11:48 pm #

    Very sound advice – to beware of ‘strange ladies’ ie women of a certain age who want to signal their virtue

  19. Papilio September 9, 2017 at 6:55 pm #

    @lollipoplover: “I am more worried about them being struck by a car than a predator. People who concoct these paranoia thoughts need to turn off the cable news and SVU”

    And their SUV, too. Kill two birds with one stone 😉

  20. Z September 13, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

    “Ma’am, let me get this correct, so I can explain it to the police later. You saw my children playing, safely and on school grounds, and decided to separate my daughter from her sibling and the other children by lying to her about who you where, so she would go with you under false pretenses?”

    (Be sure to push your children behind you when you say this)

    “And once your attempted abduction was discovered, you now blame it on a fear of – do I have this right” – Trees? and Workers who are going to be eating lunch about three hours from now? Do you understand how suspicious that sounds?”