Readers! To get the blood flowing this Monday morn:
Dear Free-Range Kids: I got a random issue of a parenting magazine in the mail. I don’t subscribe, but I guess it’s a teaser issue to try to drag me in.Â There’s a Q&A feature in which a mother asked if it was okay to leave her 2.5-year-old in the living room watching a movie while she put her infant down for the night, which involves nursing the baby to sleep in another room.Â (From my experience, this is usually a 15 minute task, 30 minutes, max.)
The response from the “expert” (with some sort of PhD behind her name)?Â NO!!!, because Something Could Happen.Â The advice?Â Put your 2.5-y-o in a “contained” place and don’t nurse the baby to sleep but put him or her down more quickly, if you must be apart at all.Â Even better, the implication is, would be to nevereverever let your 2.5 year old out of your sight, not even for a MINUTE.
Yeah, right.Â As I was reading that, my 2-year-old was in the living room alone, using a movie to wind down for the night after all the stimulation of grandparents.Â I bet that “expert” would call CPS is she saw the neighborhood gang roaming around the semi-country acre lots on our cul-de-sac –“unsupervised,” sometimes. Â There is a 9-year-old, a 7-year-old, two 6-year-olds, a moderately to severely mentally retarded 4-year-old, and the aforementioned 2-year-old, all playing happily while parents do no more than glance out the window periodically and keep an ear out.Â Heck, she’d lead the lynch mob herself if she knew that we let the older four wander in the woods behind the neighborhood by themselves!
My 2-year-old HAS been injured enough to take note–twice, in fact.Â And both times, she was being directly supervised by an adult in the same room with her.Â Once, she was within arm’s reach and just tripped, fell, and put her tooth through her lip.Â The other time, she nose-dived through a screen to an open window that was 10 inches from the ground and scraped the bridge of her nose on the brick.Â There was no way to be fast enough.Â Accidents happen.
But the worst she’s suffered when outside with the boys is a skinned knee because they have been raised to be responsible–as I am raising her.
We like to call those magazines, with tongue firmly in cheek, 1001 ways your child could DIE this month. They’re kinda fun, if you laugh at them.
p.s. Just as an illustration of how screwed up the whole issue is, imagine for a minute that the magazine gave reasonable advice, i.e. “sure go ahead and nurse your infant, your toddler will be just fine”. How fast do you think the parents of one toddler in a million who gets injured during that time would sue the magazine? Good advice in this case is not a good business plan in this case.
I dont read those magazines anymore, but when I did my favorite part was the article where some totally freak accident happened- like some kid lost an eye while playing tag, and now all the kids in the neighborhood have to wear goggles while playing. Those were always good for a belly laugh.
these frantic parents call 911 constantly- ‘just to be safe’- to have the medics ‘check them out’. we call it ‘new mommitis’… usually, it passes. unless they really believe in the crap these magazines pump out.
I wonder how this expert things single parents do anything- clean, shower, or cook?
The only thing I like about TV for the under 2 or 3 set is that, if you limit it somewhat, it works fantastically as a “stay out of trouble while I ignore you and regain my sanity” device.
How do these people live? Anything can happen, and sometimes will. In our town a jogger was killed when a large tree branch fell on her, out of the blue with no warning (i.e. she wasn’t jogging in a hurricane). Do we cut down all trees? Cut off all branches that give shade to weary joggers? If you think about it too much, you’ll never do anything. That used to be called mental illness….
One sad aspect of this is that the mom sent in such a question at all (assuming it wasn’t faked). I mean, if your kid is 2.5 (assuming not recently adopted or disrupted), don’t you know by now what you can trust him with?
When my kids turned 2, I converted their cribs to toddler beds. Their bedroom was downstairs and mine was upstairs. (I didn’t use a monitor.) They had the run of the entire house, including the bathrooms as they were fully potty trained. Within their reach were a decorated Christmas tree (all year), cleaning chemicals, two sets of stairs, the front door, kitchen knives, stove, etc., etc. I’m not a morning person, so they would hang out on their own each morning until they decided to come & wake me up. And they didn’t watch TV, so no passive babysitting was going on. My kids simply knew what they were and weren’t allowed to do. And I knew them well enough to trust them.
As a single mom, perhaps I had more motivation to teach my kids to function without supervision for stretches of time. However, the fact is, most kids are capable of a lot if you challenge them. You’ll never know until you try (gradually).
I did have a large “pen” when they were babies, which allowed me to shower and such. If they weren’t ready to be trusted by 2, I could have kept using the pen. But the point is, I would decide for myself when the time was right to take it down – not ask some magazine “expert.”
This is precisely why I do not subscribe to that rubbish. Those mags are worth about as much as that awful book series “What to Expect…”.
I just left my 3 week old sitting in his bouncy next to his 3 year old sister watching Sesame Street while I put the 1 year old to bed upstairs. I guess I should black out the windows to make sure no one sees me do these heinously irresponsible things.
The must-have zine for every new mother in Springfield
My favorite response to statements like these? “Yes, anything can happen, but it almost never does.”
But wait, aren’t you doing harm to the baby’s long term physical or mental health if you don’t let him nurse to sleep–especially if you put him down when he’s awake, and he starts crying, and then you let him CIO?
I got the subscription to the magazine as a present when my first child was born. In the beginning I read the reviews on toys, bought some of those which I later deemed to be total crap… but still skimmed through the magazine. As a new parent what did I know?… until one day there was an article advising every parent to wipe down the playground equipment with sanity wipes before letting their kids play on them. It hrew all magazines out that day. Taht was like the drop overflowing my brain and returning me to common sense.
Sanitizing the playground equipment… pffff.
The same applies here. These parent magazine should be thrown out, there is no value in reading this fake or stupid advice.
I just talked to an ex-friend who had a kid. The kid is now 1.5 months and she is doing attachement parenting… She – a former manager – is completely unhappy has she has no adult conversation, the kid is just whiny and clingy and would not stop crying when she puts him down instead of holding him constantly when around other people, she is of course still nursing (which is not bad per se, but she has a bad tooth infection and cannot and refuses to take antibiotics because of it)… and she plainly looks so unhappy.
Motherhood should not make you unhappy. If it does, you need to change something… and if it is seeking professional help because you suffer from depression, it is that… But she refuses to adapt or change, as she plans on being the perfect mom as she used to be the perfect employee…
Precisely the reason why I canceled my subscription to all those parenting magazines…after emailing the editors and telling them why. No response, of course.
We had to take my 2 year old son to the ER the other day after getting a nasty bump on his head while going down the stairs (he hit his head on the corner), and I was standing right there. Stuff can happen, yes, but it rarely does.
So basically what the “expert” is saying is, don’t decide what to do based on what is the best and most effective parenting for both the baby and the toddler — sacrifice everything, including what you think is the best way to put the baby to bed, to the “safety” of the toddler, even though there’s a 100% chance you won’t be doing what you think is best for the baby, and a .00001% chance something worse than a bump or bruise could happen to the toddler.
Absolute fuming rubbish. I’m not amused or outraged at this one, I’m angry.
(I hope people realize my above comment was meant with irony…)
Yeah, I have to say it kinda blew me away that they said to NOT nurse the baby to sleep . . . but again, that’s about the last thing I’d ask for “expert” advice on. My mom used to nurse the babies to sleep while hanging out with everyone else . . . I guess this lady didn’t find that a workable solution . . . but to totally ignore whatever reason the mom wanted to nurse the baby to sleep in the first place? Ugh.
I’m sure the same magazine will at the same time advocate for letting each kid sleep in a separate room from the parents. So during the day you mustn’t let them out of your sight, while at night you must do exactly that.
ITA Helen… stunning inconsistency!
They advocate leaving the baby alone to make sure nothing happens to the toddler. Hmm. *That’s* logical.
I’d be nursing the infant to sleep in the main area of the house if I were that worried about my 2.5 year old. Infants will fall asleep even with noise around if they’re tired enough.
Otherwise, just give the 2.5 year old some rules and work on it while you’re in the room. 2.5 is old enough to obey simple rules, and if you’re concerned, fine, pull out the baby gates and make a safe play area.
That said, it shouldn’t take that much, unless the kid is one who tends to put everything in his mouth or otherwise isn’t ready to be trusted. I can trust my 23 month old that far, easy, and she used to put everything in her mouth. Only the mom knows if there’s a reason why her 2.5 year old needs more supervision. I’ll bet the child could cope with less, though.
So, wait, letting the baby scream all by itself in a dark room is fine, but half an hour of unsupervised Treehouse for the toddler is dangerous? o_O
I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do. If you have two kids under three, sometimes somebody is going to be crying unattended for a few minutes. But as a general rule of parenting, I think I’d be more inclined to give priority of attention to the one who _can’t_ come and get me if she needs something. (and put the VCR out of reach of small children eating flat snacks.)
Besides, supervision isn’t foolproof. The time my kid, age four, painted the soles of her feet with peanut butter and danced all over the couch, I was in the same room with her, talking on the phone to a client; I saw the couch-dancing, but didn’t discover the peanut-butter aspect until I got off the phone…
@B.S.H.: I can’t remember which magazine it is, but are you referring to the column “It Happened To Me!” where parents talk about their kids’ freak accidents that, because it happened to THEM, could happen to YOU, so you had better watch out?!?
Why do people ask for advice from these “experts” at magazines? I love when people try to pass this advice on, too. “You know what they say…” Whenever I hear that, I ask “Who are ‘They’? Did ‘They’ go to They University?”
Well, I’m off to shower, while my daughter, who just turned three, watches Toy Story 3 ALONE in the other room.
@Susan, I’m going to assume you meant 1.5 *years*, not months? 😉 It does sound like AP is not working well for your ex-friend, but it does work just fine for lots of (non-martyr-style) parents who find it easier to go with the flow than try to make their babies act like the ones in the book :P. And I’ve met many non-AP toddlers who were whiny and clingy … I don’t think correlation necessarily equals causation in either case 😉
Wow, I guess that means that leaving my 20 month old son in his playroom this morning while I went upstairs to get dressed was practically child abuse.
We’ve put the stuff he’s not supposed to have out of reach or in locked closets/cabinets so it’s (in my opinion) as safe as possible. The big caveat there is that of course they’re never completely safe but like the writer of the e-mail my son’s injuries invariably occur when we’re right there. For example, he currently has a black eye because he tripped over his own feet and fell onto the edge of the cup he was holding while my husband was about three feet away.
Yep, if anecdotal statistics hold any weight, kids are more unsafe the closer they are to their parents. Knock on wood, but my kids have never injured themselves while outside of direct supervision; but our one ER visit resulted from falling over one’s own feet while supervised. I sense a trend, do you?
Regarding what kids are capable of, if you expect it. This is not really on topic, but marginally so, I guess. My youngest just turned 4, and her sister is 3 months older. So I told the girls, “now that you are both 4, this is the year that you will learn to read, ride your bikes, and DD1 will learn to tie shoes (DD2 already can).” The next day, DD2 reported to me that she’d been working hard on reading the words in her books while in her bedroom. Later both girls separately asked: “Mom, when can I get my bike out so I can practice riding it?” (The training wheels were removed last summer.) They fully expect to develop these skills shortly (and I know they can do it). But how many kids are receiving the exact opposite message, and believing that?
What scares me is this:
It’s easy enough to laugh off this kind of ludicrous advice. I’m getting better and better about my standard response when I get someone’s unsolicited opinion: a breezy, “Oh, they’re fine!” coupled with my sunniest smile. Go about my business and repeat as needed.
What is frightening is the prospect of *laws* being passed to “ensure every child’s safety.” When there’s the threat of arrest, jail time, legal bills, etc involved in whatever risk people currently deem unacceptable for MY! kids–that’s enough for me to worry.
I continue to be amazed at how inconsistent and illogical people can be regarding risk assessment–they will foam at the mouth about lap babies on planes, unattended toddlers while Mom showers, kids without parents in cars, abduction, etc; but no one judges anyone else for having pets in the house (how many babies and young children are harmed by dogs and cats a year?), little boys playing tackle football, or the granddaddy of them all: riding in cars. Mind you, I don’t think that people should refrain from doing those things–but they’re statistically much more dangerous than the things people freak out about. I just wish we could let other parents MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS already!
Sounds like one of the arguments I had with social workers/child care expects who knew the “right way” to care for a child. I needed to use the bathroom, baby was asleep. Could I use the bathroom with a closed door or was that a bad thing? To them, it was a bad thing. They demanded that I put the sleeping baby in a bouncy seat in the middle of the bathroom floor so that I could do what ever it was I needed to do in the bathroom. That means waking the baby up to put child in that bouncy seat. I just looked at them like they were nuts and kept on doing what I was doing – Precious minutes of being able to shower alone or even bath by myself were gained by letting the babe sleep. If the child was in the room, there would have been howling and crying and the child wanting mommy. I left the door ajar just to be better able to hear the child should they wake up before my alone time was done. I was always done before they woke back up.
I seriously wonder how the human race survived all these years when we didn’t have “child care experts” telling us how to do things “right.”
I guess she wouldn’t like what we did the one time 3 of us had a horrible stomach virus. My then 3 year old was the only one who didn’t get sick. When she got up in the morning the rest of us stayed in bed. She got herself something to eat and put in a movie to watch. I think my husband was able to get up at lunch time to make her something else to eat, but she was pretty much on her own most of the day.
You have to watch some of the old Little House on the Prairie TV episodes. One had the parents leave for a week while Laura and her younger sister stayed home by themselves.
Right now, my 5 year old and 3 year old are in the living room watching TV. They are also watching their 6 week old baby brother. The main rule is don’t walk on the baby. So far, so good.
Attached Parenting gets a bad rap, but it is not meant to be done the way a lot of people do it. Certainly not meant to be done for their whole lives.
As animals we are meant to be fairly hands on with our young until they can manage increasing levels of independence. These “experts” forget about the increasing levels of independence part. Of course most of them probably refuse to see us as animals.
Personally I do breastfeed, exclusively until six months and then primarily until ten months. That’s right I stop “early” and let them have milk at ten months! OMG! (From a cow no less!). They also get to have Peanut Butter and Jelly as soon as they can manage the bread not choking them. And shrimp (I’m Cajun). We do not have food allergies in our family so I am not going to act like a paranoid fruit loop.
WHO says that it is “normal” to breastfeed even to age seven! WHERE???? They do not list that anywhere. But I can assure you it would not happen in my house. We do not eat a normal junk diet here. I cook at least two times a day from scratch. I am confident my children are getting a good balance of nutrients. Not only that, but as Cajun (French) I have an insane immune system which my children have inherited. They are never sick.
@Robin — DH and I both had a 48-hour GI virus when DD was about 2.5. She fended for herself for almost two full days, and lived to tell the tale (and never got the virus herself). Ate a lot of cold hotdogs and watched a lot of cartoons. Once I had to tell her she couldn’t have any more meh-mehs (her word for nursing) right now because mommy had to go throw up …
Stuff like that was exactly why I canceled my subscription to Parents magazine. I got tired of being lectured.
North of 49 — none of that makes any sense whatsoever. Clearly, your “experts” have either never had a child, or stopped at one and martyred themselves, not eating, sleeping, or bathing (at least without hiring a babysitter) until the kid went to school.
And what about at night? Are you not supposed to sleep? Something could happen to the baby (is the baby not in a safe place while sleeping?????? What is this “crib” thing I’ve heard about? Do they not know it in their culture?) and you might not wake up and hear it. If you can’t come to the baby’s life and death rescue because the bathroom door is shut, clearly she’s doomed if you’re asleep, as well.
If these people had high school diplomas and college degrees, all their teachers should be fired and the schools should be sued. There’s no excuse for being THAT stupid.
Sylvia_rachel, I hear that. I had bad morning sickness with all my kids, which means #1 got neglected in her crib quite a bit, and she was “supervising” #2 and subsequent kids quite a bit for a couple of months during each pregnancy, from the age of about 3 1/2 on. I mean, I was there, and was able to do the truly necessary things and/or things that really weren’t safe to let them do at various ages, but they fended for themselves under my debilitated eye quite a bit. They’re all fine, and there were not even any real incidents during all those years. Of course I did have to keep them on a shorter leash to some extent — they couldn’t be very free-range, because they didn’t always have a functional mom to back-stop them while they learned how to handle themselves, but it was only for a couple of months at a time over several years. What they did learn was how to stay out of trouble — the proverbial “chasing them around” wasn’t an option.
So the idea that you can’t leave your kid for 15-30 minutes in a child-safe environment while you’re in the next room and she’s parked in front of a video is more than false to me — it’s laughable.
How about starting a Free Range Kids Magazine? to spread your message…
“Fear-Monger’s Magazine,” a sort of Free Range Kids “in disguise.” Outwardly, it would feature Wild Stories of Terrible Happenings (illustrated cartoon style) that did not actually happen but “could”…but the primary focus would be how RARELY such things happen and finish with sage, Free Range Advice from you and other contributors like Warwick Cairns and Gever Tully and wise parents who regularly follow and comment on your blog. Just a thought.
Yes, I meant 1.5 years.
And I think AP is bad the way a lot of parents do it, but I get the concept as long as the child is little and as long as you are not neglecting yourself to a point where you are denying yourself critical medical care…
I did breastfeed my kids exclusively for 6 months and they basically weaned themselves off after 8 to 10 months. It worked out well. I think getting the advice to breastfeed well into their kid years is plainly weird. There might be still valuable nutrition in breast milk, but I do not want my 5 year old to ask for that nor do I personally feel comfortable breastfeeding that long… I wanted my body back. Period.
And I still think a happy mother is more important than a mother who neglects her own desires to a point of no return.
And what I do not like about the expert books or parenting approaches… they do not leave room for adjustments based on differing family needs.
And all I found so stupid by my ex-friend was, that she claimed she could not put her 18months old down because she was practicing attachement parenting and he needed to be held…
The question sounds more like something sent in by a busybody who didn’t like the way the mum was doing things and wanted ammunition in their argument.
@pentamom : I refused to use a crib with my kids as soon as the eldest was able to climb out of one. We didn’t use one before then anyway, but his sitter put him in one and freaked when he climbed out of it at 7 months. I kinda guessed he was not going to stay in one because the playpen we had for him was a jungle gym and he could climb out of it at will. The “experts” say to put the kid back in, rinse and repeat until the kid learns to stay there. Some kids refuse to learn to stay in the crib and the meantime, those adventures in climbing risk broken necks if the child falls wrong. I’ve even had a social worker freak out that we weren’t using a crib and demanded we use one and was going to bring us one right then if we said we were. I laughed at her. My baby 5 month old was fine where she was.
And yah, I agree… most of these so called “experts” are only “book experts” and don’t actually deal with the children they are supposedly “experts” on. I swear they are vultures, looking to prey on the weak and unsuspecting parents and families during times of need or stress.
@View Point: I’d contribute – in the “memories of old” part. 🙂
Both my 2.5 yr olds own my household. They get up (on days off) and go I the kitchen and get their own yogurt (already in straw cups) from the refrigerator before I even wake up. Etc. If I had to eye my eye on them (+ the 4-year old) all the time, I wouldn’t just be a filthy, stinky mess, or nuts–I think I’d be dead.
Just a word of caution (cause this happened to me today just before I read this): make sure when your kids are watching a movie while you’re showering, they know not to let in the Terminex guy.
As a former Outward Bound Instructor and retired
from the US Forest Service, it has become very obvious that we have done our children a terrible
diservice by reining them in so closely. When I was
eight years old, living in Miami Florida, I would ride my bicycle to a locale movie theater 2 miles away to
see my Saturday western or take a bus to t he other
side of Miami by myself to see a friend. Those days
are gone. I urge people to read “Last Child In The
Woods”, very sobering book. Where will the environmentalists of the future come from?
I must be the most abusive father ever.
Why? Sorry if I’m bragging, but as a stay-at-home dad for the time being, I have my children trained so well that I can get-up whenever and if they wake-up, they just stay in their room & entertain themselves until I decide to release them from their rooms. They don’t DARE leave and come nag me in my bedroom, and when I put them down for their nap they stay in there and don’t dare leave either.
Heck, today I left them in the house for 20 minutes or so while I was outside taking photos of the snow. I’ve played basketball outdoors while they were indoors during nap-time. I do this sort of thing ALL THE TIME.
And nothing has happened.
It allows me to take care of myself and not be denied my own hobbies etc, and teaches them to not depend on me as their source of a playmate, although of course I do play with them periodically. As the one person states–you have to take care of your own needs first.
Oh, yeah, and the snow? I let them play in it briefly, while certain family members were like “what are you doing–they’re going to catch a cold!!” No, keep them inside all the time, and they’re going to catch boredom-itis, and so will I. So there.
I remember when I was a teenager there was a commercial about plastic. It showed a mom at the door talking with someone. She has about a 1 year old who leaves moms side and states terrorizing the house. Luckily since everything was plastic the baby was safe 🙂 I watched that commercial and thought that it was crazy that the baby was left alone like that. I figured that with a small child of course a parent must be with them 24/7 even in their own home……..Then I had kids and realized not only is it not possible, there is no reason for it! By 2 my kids both had a pretty good idea of what was dangerous and what they could do. They could be trusted to play while I showered or took care of other house things. The only thing that expert got right was not nursing a baby to bed! I always made mine fall asleep on their own straight out of the hospital and they were both the best sleepers. When my daughter was about 3 months old my mom was watching her and wanted to rock her at nap time. She told me the baby just cried and cried until she put her in her crib, then she calmed down and went right to sleep. I did spend lots of time rocking my babies, but NOT at bedtime or naptime 🙂
Whenever I hear “anything can happen”, I start listing some of the most outlandish, unlikely scenarios possible. Hey, they *COULD* happen, right?
An airplane could crash on their head.
An earthquake could open the ground under them.
A meteorite will fall from space and hit them.
A tornado will spontaneously form and blast them. (We don’t live in tornado country.)
etc. It’s really fun to see how flustered the fearmongers get when confronted with the absurdity of “it could happen”.
Nanci, you took the words right out of my mouth. 😉
Larry: lol. You should tell them it’s a wives tale that you can catch a cold for being cold or being out in the cold. You catch a cold from someone else that has it, it’s called a virus. And that your more likely to catch it while trapped indoors with sickly people in there with you, than in an open space such as outside. It think people should start educating themselves with fact vs fiction.
But you are a hard nosed dad. 😉 Different strokes for different folks, but you at least teach your kids to be self sufficient and not coddle them, and especially not teaching to them to be fearful of anything and everything. Can’t argue with that.
I also want to point out that not taking anti-biotics when you need them is not attached parenting. There are anti-biotics that are plenty safe for nursing and even pregnant mothers. There are years and years of documentation over generations to support this.
Turn me in to the helicopter police. My 2-year-old played alone in the snow today after the rest of us packed it in. Like your family, our three children have been injured on several occasions (though never seriously)–nearly always while supervised.
Apparently this “expert” is not a single parent. My kid’s been hanging out in the living room by herself while I took a shower since she was about 18 months old. How else was I supposed to take a shower on the weekend? She was too old for a playpen anymore. And she didn’t watch tv – hated it – but she still managed to entertain herself somehow. She knew where to find me if she needed something.
Today, we left the wimpy 5 and 6 year olds in the house alone while the adults went sledding for awhile. We were close by but not within view of the house.
The only time my child has suffered a serious injury was when I was standing right there. She was helping me make rice krispy treats and insisted that the stove was not hot and put her hand directly on the burner before I could stop her. Second degree burns on the palm are not the tactic I’d suggest taking to teach that the stove is hot but it worked.
My oldest burned his palm the same way. Being on the Autistic Spectrum seems to mean he is just that extra bit of stubborn. No amount of my telling him not to would convince him… He never did it again after that though.
There’s an irresponsibility to this sort of advice. The more they give stupid advice, the less clear actual hazards and dangers become.
I used to throw Parents Magazine across the room every time it annoyed me. We had a free subscription for some reason (they just find you and send it to you if you’re a parent – it’s horrible) and my husband finally had to call them and convince them to stop sending it because I kept throwing it.
@Larry My son also stays in his room until I get up. When I was working full time, I would sleep to 9 on Sat and Sun. He’s 6 and he will wait until he hears me before leaving his room, even if his father ;o) has already gotten up and gone to work!
How will children ever learn to care for themselves, to decipher what is safe from what isn’t, to enjoy a little autonomy, if we as parents are always hovering and telling them what to do and how to do it. Makes me completely insane.
North of 49: sure, I know not everyone uses/likes cribs, but my point is that the social worker probably should have assumed that the child would be in a safe place to sleep, since that is what most people do, and the reason people use cribs. IOW it’s a given that people make arrangements of some kind so that their kids are safe when they’re in bed.
I mean, unless she (just using she for convenience) was talking to you because you were having counseling for your crack addiction or uncontrolled schizophrenia, it was irrational for her to assume that the if the child was SLEEPING she was anymore unsafe with you int he bathroom than you, anywhere else.
This reminds me (very tangentially) of a letter to an advice column (Ann Landers? Dear Abby?) several years ago. The writer wanted the columnist to advise people about the dangerous combination of satin pajamas and satin sheets – she had reached for something just out of reach while wearing satin pajamas in a satin sheeted-bed, and the slithery satin-on-satin conditions made her shoot out of bed, breaking her neck in the process. I remember being very impressed that the columnist (damn! who was it?) handled the reply with a lot of tact and grace…offering sincere condolences for what had clearly been an awful ordeal (the letter writer was now paralyzed), but gently noting that it was very much a freak accident and probably not a situation that required dire warnings to the public.
It’s lazy parenting done to make the parents feel less worry. It was nerve-wrecking at first to watch my tiny 5 year old barrel down a big icy hill on a sled by herself this afternoon but she wanted to do it so I let her. It would have been much less stressful to make her ride with me so I could give myself the feeling of protecting her. By the end of the afternoon, she had figured out how to steer the old Yankee Clipper antique sled with her feet, something she never would have accomplished if I had insisted on riding with her.
I have to say that I was proud of my little neighborhood this afternoon. We were sledding on a street open to traffic with a hill ending in an intersection. Granted the roads are really bad but a few cars were moving around. The adults started the action but all the parents let their kids join in – using the sled of strangers and getting pushed by strangers, including strangers with no children of their own. And these were little kids (5-8). The parents were out too (usually sledding themselves or shooting some footage since this is a rarity here in Georgia) but nobody was hovering over, directing or limiting their kids.
On weekends my son has been getting himself up and fending for himself until one of us drags out of bed for a long long time.
I realize the thread has moved on, but about attachment parenting …
@Brenna is right, nursing is no reason not to take antibiotics if you need them (or get dental work done, or drink a cup of coffee, or take Tylenol, or have a beer, or eat a nice red curry).
AP doesn’t mean sacrificing all your needs and wants to your children’s. It means recognizing that human children are little and completely helpless for a short period of their lives, and they benefit a lot from touch and prompt responses to their cues, so for that short period it’s worth prioritizing their needs over your convenience. It does NOT mean never leaving your baby for one second, or never taking a shower, or never going back to work, or never hiring a babysitter. It certainly doesn’t mean making yourself unhappy or forgoing necessary medical interventions. It should be common sense that you can’t be a good parent if you’re always one second away from totally losing it.
Depending on your style of baby and your own personality, AP may mean almost never putting your baby down for a few months. (I mean, if it’s that or listen to nonstop four-alarm shrieking…) But really it’s about paying attention to what *your individual baby* needs, and part of that — the part I think a lot of people kind of forget to progress to — is paying attention to what they no longer need, and what they are becoming capable of on their own, as they get older. IMO, AP and free range are totally compatible!
@North49, people used to diss me for taking DD into the bathroom with me when she was asleep — for most of the first year of her life, the only place she would sleep for more than 5 minutes was *on* somebody, so she spent a lot of time in the baby sling (because that way I could, like, do other stuff with my hands!), and, yeah, sometimes I had to pee. NO WAY was I going to wake her up by taking off the sling and putting her down!
Late to the party, but…wow. If that’s what the “experts” believe, I am surely going to Mommy Hell for occasionally leaving my 2-year-old on the couch watching “Super Why” so I can I take take a quick shower while my 11-month-old (whom I’m not yet comfortable leaving unsupervised for more than a minute because I just might find him on top of the refrigerator if I do) is taking a nap.
Robin, that senario sounds familiar. When my youngest was about 15 months old or so, all 4 of the rest of us got the Noro virus – otherwise known as cruise ship sickness. My then 7 year old daughter got over it first, and the baby did not get it. So she put on movies, and fed him spicy check mix while mom and dad and 4 year old brother vomited our brains out. That was one scary sickness – the kids were vomiting while passed out and I am only thankful that we didn’t have it all at exactly the same time or my son would have starved. It was all I could do to change the poopy diapers – sister got the wet ones.
Now that I think of it, Noro visrus and H1N1 were the two sicknesses that I have had that I wished my mommy were there to take care of me. (Not that actually I wanted her sick.
I think that too many moms listen to that magazine crap. It may be the main reason that nothing gets done in the house when there are babies. Gosh, I mowed the lawn, hung up laundry on the line, took showers and all sorts of things with babies left with siblings. Golly, I wouldn’t have made it through pregnancy number 3 if I couldn’t have put the 2 year old in the crib to “rest” and 4 year old in front of the TV so I could have a nap.
The sad thing is, these magazines tend to be read by more educated people. (NOT smarter people. Level of education has nothing to do with intelligence.) It makes you realize that the more time you spend in school, the less time you spend in the real world, and thus fall for that crap. You may get a Master’s degree in a university but you may not get common sense or street smarts.
Wow! I never knew that leaving your own child alone in room in your own house was just as dangerous as leaving them alone at the park! appearently anything can happen anywhere *rolls eyes*
Eric, I have been telling people that for the past two decades. I can understand that nobody listened to me when I was seven, but now I’m an adult and I’m *still* repeating that same bit about “You don’t get colds from being cold” to people who REALLY OUGHT TO KNOW BETTER.
@sylvia – I managed to get my kids out of the sling so I could use the bathroom by myself very easily… I’d lay child down in the sling, loosen it, slip myself out of it, and then either arrange it to keep baby warm (wintertime) or out of baby’s way if baby moved, but still would be easy and quick to pick baby back up. My eldest was really bad about my bathroom use. I lived in a small one bedroom with a barely-able-to-walk-in-it bathroom/shower combo with sliding doors that didn’t lock. He figured out how to open the doors and would stand there and scream at me, stopped only by the baby gate I put up between the two doors parallel to the toilet. I had no privacy for months because he couldn’t be away from me, even for two minutes. I knew it was an attachment issue and was worse when he was around other people and he would grow out of it, but damnit! I had to go in peace! A few friends took pity on me and one even baby sat him while I had a long luxurious bath at her place. DH did his best, but not even he could calm him. This lasted from when he started to crawl, and he crawled early, till he was about a year old. Holding it till he fell asleep would have resulted in a bladder infection, so I just suffered through it.
adding in: I don’t know how many times I had to use the bathroom and nurse that child at the same time. His needs superseded my own so much that the minute of two for an uninterrupted bathroom break was too much for him, but what I needed for my sanity! The “experts” told me to use a baby bouncy seat, but by then, he figured out how to flip himself out of it so it was not safe anymore.
We got through it. Oh yes, we did.
Sort of apropos to this discussion is David Gorski’s post, Mothering Magazine: Peddling dangerous health misinformation to new mothers. The comments are especially worth reading, because they have some insight into why parents pay attention to nonsense in parenting magazines, especially when it comes to “extreme parenting” (one comment facetiously brings up “breastfeeding until kindergarten”).
Yep, articles like that were the reason I finally let my subscription run out on the parenting magazine I had been getting since my first was born and the reason I tossed a whole year’s worth without even opening them (by then my oldest was like 4 and I really hadn’t read many of them after the first 2 years when I realized what hogwash most of it was).
It amazes me how people treat little kids like infants. A 2 1/2yo is NOT a baby. They are not stupid. And if you expect them to act a certain way, show them how, train them, whatever they will understand. Yes, they might get into some mischief but if you really do teach them to do things they can do them. I find it so sad when I’m on my mom’s site reading about all these 5 and 6 year olds that are talked about like they are 1 and can’t do anything for themselves. One of the last ones was can my 5yo sleep in a room upstairs from us. This mom was terrified at the idea of her kid on a separate floor (as were 98% of the people that responded…they would NEVER do that).
I was literally just reading a post before I came over here because it reminded me of this site. Her title was about trusting your mommy instincts and then she went on to talk about how her 2 girls were playing in their room and one started to cough and her mommy instincts told her something was wrong. Wonderful. The 4yo was chocking on a smallish toy and she was able to dislodge the toy and save the day. Awesome.
But her response was to take ALL small toys away, all Matchbox cars (I’m assuming the choking toy was similar in size) and to never let her kids out of her site again because you never know what might happen.
Poor kids. Talk about a teaching moment and I bet her dd NEVER puts a toy in her mouth again after that. But, she’ll never even have that option since they are all being taken away. She also won’t ever be allowed to play in private again. And everyone was applauding this woman and her reaction to the situation. I just shook my head and backed out of the topic before I said something and got bashed from head to toe for my opinion.
I’m constantly slammed for saying things about my kids wandering around the neighborhood, going to the park alone, getting themselves up in the morning, etc.
The other night I was up alone with my almost 6mo. Everyone was sleeping and he was refusing to shut down for the night (little snot). I really had to use the bathroom so I made sure anything he might put in his mouth that wasn’t safe was off the floor and left him in the living room to go pee. I was gone a couple minutes and came back to him happily playing with his toys and a big smile on his face. He’s doing the army crawl and can get around. But I know he isn’t that fast yet and hasn’t ventured off of the carpeting in that room. No need to panic and haul him along with me (into the dirty, gross bathroom…it’s the kids’ bathroom and it’s just ick, I could clean it 3 times a day and it would still be gross).
I have NEVER once taken my kids into the bathroom with me at home. I refuse. That is the only room that locks and the only assured privacy. I always left them watching TV or wailing outside the door (my 8yo was the clingy one of the group and followed me every where, still does half the time, like she’s afraid I might escape through the nearest open window if she isn’t watching carefully, lol). I take showers all the time when it’s just me and the younger 2 at home. My almost 5yo can easily handle her 6mo baby brother for 30 minutes while I shower (although I prefer to shower after everyone is in bed so there is no time frame).
As a single parent, I have no choice but to leave my wee ones (4 and 6) alone at times: our washer & dryer are in the basement, so I have to leave them alone upstairs while I swap out loads; sometimes they don’t feel like playing outside while I shovel the driveway, so they’re left in the house, unsupervised; sometimes I can’t wait until they go to bed to shower and have to leave them alone for 15 minutes to do that as well. No accidents, no poisonings, no emergency trips to the hospital. Just some fights and bickering. And maybe a couple of messes made.
Honestly, if your kids aren’t safe in their own homes, where ARE they safe??
Susan (Jan 10, at 23:57) said, “…until one day there was an article advising every parent to wipe down the playground equipment with sanity wipes before letting their kids play on them.”
I SO wish you could actually go out and buy sanity wipes to hand out to people who needed them! It would be VERY bad for parenting magazines once everyone had the paranoia wiped out of their brains, but I think the kids would be happier. 🙂
I would have been sent to Bad Parent School because I would leave my son alone for short periods when he was a toddler. I lived in a second floor apartment and the laundry room was in the basement. He would happily play with his toys or watch TV while I was gone for those 5 minutes. I also left him alone in either the living room or his bedroom while I showered or used the bathroom. Nothing ever happened to him.
Now that my son’s almost 12, he’s very confident about being left alone and doing things on his own. When my husband goes out of town on business and I’m working, he’s home alone for 2-3 hours. He makes his lunch, does his homework, then either watches TV or builds something elaborate with his Legos. I believe that leaving him alone for short periods at an early age led to his confidence with being alone now.
Dr. Spock was right all those years ago when he told mothers to trust themselves.
THANK GOD I found this website. I freakin hate those ridiculous parenting scarefests, oops I mean magazines. I havent paid a penny for those but they keep sending them, renewing each subscription after each one of my 3 kids was born. My kids are 7,4,1 and they are playing nicely (Unsupervised!)in the other room while i type this. Hooray for Free range!!!
I believe it should be about whatever is best for the individual baby/child. Some babies/children need to be under their parents’ watchful eye for a longer time, others for a shorter time. It’s up to the parents to interact with their baby/child and decide, based on how the baby/child interacts, reacts, etc., how much independence to grant them.
My daughter’s a month old and I’ve left her sleeping in the living room for twenty minutes while I took a shower (on a different floor even!) It never occurred to me until now I was being “free range”. On the other hand, I wonder if I’d be considered “helicopter” for using an Itzbeen and being able to predict her sleep/feed cycles with a 15 minute margin of error…
Another “every day” activity over-reacted to.
I carried my daughter on my shoulders until she was a lot older than 2. 6 or 7 probably. I know when she was 9 we were at a concert and I had her on my shoulders for the whole thing (and that must have looked amazing, because she was 4 foot to my 5’2″, lol) but we were at the back and she couldn’t see!
Elfir, you’re not a “helicopter” you’re an attentive parent who meets your child’s needs! It’s great when you’re able to predict sleep/feed cycles, because that consistency helps you both through your day. I’ll bet she’ll sleep through the night soon, too.
Looking back, I think every time either of my kids got badly hurt as toddlers, there was a parent within ten feet of them. We sometimes feel as if parental love is some kind of magical shield against bad things happening. It isn’t.
@North of 49 — yeah, I probably nursed DD while peeing at least once, too, although I don’t specifically remember doing that. I know I nursed in practically every other possible circumstance, including weddings, the grocery store, and the zoo. She’s a lightweight (20 lb at 2 years old), so it was much easier to walk and nurse at the same time than stop whatever else I was doing and find an “appropriate” place to nurse. Unfortunately she was also … I want to say “a light sleeper”, but that’s totally not true, because she could (and can) sleep through vacuuming, TV, our building’s fire alarm, and even jackhammering (on our balcony, 3 feet away) — she could sleep through any amount of noise, but if you put her down she would wake up and start screaming INSTANTLY. Despite years of babysitting, nieces and nephews, etc., I’d never seen anything like it — no fussing, no crying, no rooting or looking around, she went from sound asleep to SHRIEKING in two seconds.
This same child — who, incidentally, nursed until she was approximately four and a half — now packs her own lunch for school, knows how to run the washing machine [which has a warning label saying never to let children operate it…] and the dishwasher, reads herself Harry Potter, takes out the garbage, and goes downstairs to the store in the next building over to pick up a loaf of bread or a bag of milk. Oh, and puts herself to sleep in her own bed all by herself (well, except for the approximately two squillion stuffed animals she has in there with her :P).
Thanks for another great article Lenore!
“Anything could happen!” I am so tired of hearing that rallying cry. Where I live, it seems especially intense right now. This worse curse of all is upon us – snow! it brings out the best in kids and worst in adults. This winter, I’ve had battles with teachers and other parents about letting MY kids: slide down hills (someone might get hurt!), slide on ice-covered sandboxes (someone might hit their head!), make snowmen (it might fall on someone!), make snow angels (they might get wet!) and even just generally play outside (they might get cold AND it’s a bad example for the other kids who aren’t wearing their snow clothes!) Yesterday someone even asked them not to play in the snow beside the school yard because they might get snow on the pavement and make it slippery!
I’m generally happy to risk someone calling Children’s Aid, but yesterday I thought it might actually happen. Another mom was outraged wen she found out that I let my seven year olds walk a block ahead of us on the way to school! Oh the horror!! God forbid she ever find out we’re going to let them go the mailbox on their own!
Keep up the great writing. We need to rally the troops to Team Common Sense!
I was the one who sent in the letter.
My kids as babies were INCREDIBLY high maintenance. Starting after the first nap after birth, neither could sleep in a cot/crib without screaming for hours until they vomited. My daughter, I got to sleep in a place other than on my body for naps by the time she was 6 weeks old, but for my son, it was 6 months of continuing effort. (I co-slept with my daughter for only 3 months.)
Yet these “clingy” kids (my daughter cried hysterically any time anyone held her who was not me the DAY she was born–I guess everyone else smelled wrong), who could not be put down without screaming, are extremely independent.
Starting when he was a young seven and his sister was 18 months old, my son would wake up, get his sister, take off her diaper, take her potty, put her in undies, dress her for the day, and cook them both breakfast using measuring implements and the microwave. He started doing this on his own, which makes my day, as a homeschooler, that much nicer.
In just two weeks, it will be legal to leave my son home alone and in the car alone. I’ve already let him stay at home alone MANY times (having done some quick calculations about the likelihood of death/injury from an accident at home versus the car and determining that taking him with me is roughly an order of magnitude more dangerous!), but now I don’t have to pretend that I’m not.
It makes me wonder how many kids who die in car accidents per year really should have been home alone instead…
My neighbor, who alerted me that this was up, observed that my daughter doesn’t get hurt when she’s with the other kids because she doesn’t rely on them to “save her.” With a trusted adult, she believes that she can’t be in danger, so she does incredibly dangerous things. When she’s alone and with other kids, though, she is many times more careful, as she knows she needs to rely on herself and her own strength and co-ordination. Since she has many opportunities to try out her limits, she know what they are, and she doesn’t get hurt.
My son, with a less reckless personality, did not even scrape his knee until he learned to ride a bike because he was so careful, and he had just as much freedom as she does.
What about those kids who don’t get these opportunities and have reckless personalities like my daughter? They would never learn to be careful! They would be so used to there being someone to save them that they wouldn’t know how to act when they finally did have some measure of independent decision-making. And then they’d get in trouble when the stakes were much higher than a busted lip.
sylvia_rachel–Your daughter and mine are spiritual sisters. I called it the “dingoes eating the baby” cry. I got her over it eventually.
My son could also detect losing body contact even in the deepest of sleeps.
I have to say that as a mom who practices AP AND reads this site faithfully (I even get the RSS updates in my google reader!), I’m offended by some of these comments. My son is a happy, independent, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, 23-month-old. He was a sling-rider until my back couldn’t take it. The two styles can co-exist.
When we go to the library, he and his sister play together in the kids section. If I feel like playing, I do. If I don’t, I read or catch up on bills at a table across the way. She takes him up to the desk, and they check out the books they want. We go to the park with a friend of mine and her 20-month-old. We sit at a bench and talk, and they play on the equipment. In a year or two (DD has Asperger’s, and other developmental issues, or else she’d already be doing it.) I plan to let my daughter walk down to the park without me.
My son bathes with me or his father. My daughter did until last year when she wanted to have big girl baths by herself. It’s not for safety, or because Something Could Happen. It’s because the kids want to and we don’t mind. And yet *gasp* I shower kid-free when I need to do something like shave.
Sadly a lot of people (both outside and inside the AP circles) confuse Martyr/Helicopter parenting for AP. This is not healthy for the parent, and all it teaches the child is that they are a burden and you are a pushover. Real AP inspires courage and independence.
For goodness sakes. I’ve been leaving my son alone in the house, without television while I run out to the car, the dumpster, start laundry in the basement since he was about 18 months! Call the authorities, I guess. He’s three now and I sometimes leave him alone like that with his five month old sister. People are often impressed with how careful he is and I credit it to our treating him like a person. We talk to him about being aware of his surroundings and impose time outs when necessary. He gets it. And he wants to be a big boy. It’s not always going to go perfectly, but we can very quickly start to reap the rewards of giving kids a little credit. Why make parenting harder than it needs to be?
“How do these people live? Anything can happen, and sometimes will. In our town a jogger was killed when a large tree branch fell on her, out of the blue with no warning (i.e. she wasnâ€™t jogging in a hurricane). Do we cut down all trees? Cut off all branches that give shade to weary joggers? If you think about it too much, youâ€™ll never do anything. That used to be called mental illnessâ€¦.”
Oh, Linda, you are singing my song. HALLELUJAH.
Someone had commented on another post, “What do you tell the people whose child DOES get abducted?”
Not that I want it to be me, and not that I even worry about it, but I think no one would have to tell me anything. I wouldn’t say, “Damn that Lenore Skenazy and her tripe about free range kids, I blame the people who encouraged me to let my child go to the park without me! It’s all their fault!”
What I fear most in parenting, really, is that my kids will get injured as I am caring for them, i.e. something I do to try to comfort or help or improve their lot actually harms them, physically or psychologically.
I don’t worry about strangers, and I don’t worry about tree branches. I feel concerned about bicycling at dusk without lights, and insist the kids come out of the street before they become invisible. I go crazy when I see rough-housing on the stairs, or what we call “shut the door games” (not allowing someone passage into a room or a car and shutting the door quickly).
I don’t know, some things are forseeable, and some things just aren’t. In the case of abduction by a stranger, I’m going to go out on a limb (that might fall on me any second) and say that it’s unforseeable. Like an aneurism.
If you came across someone building an elabourate wheelchair ramp up to the front door of their house, and installing an elevator in there, and putting in bathtubs with doors and making all the passages in the house wide enough for a wheelchair, you might ask, “Is someone moving into your house that is in a wheelchair?” or, “Has someone in your family been injured and now uses a wheelchair?”
What if they said, “No, it’s just that we read an article today about a child who developed a rare, degenerative nerve disease. Only one out of every 10 million children gets it, and it’s not diagnosed until middle childhood, but our children are 6 and 8 and although they have been perfectly healthy all their lives, they may end up being carriers of this disease, and develop it. This would mean they would need wheelchairs and we want to be ready for that.”
You would look at your neighbours and probably say, “Wow, that’s a lot of money and effort to spend fixing a problem that doesn’t even exist.” And this is how I see the hysterical insistence that we structure our whole lives around guaranteeing nothing ever harms our kids, not even an insect or a nail outdoors somewhere. It’s a lot of money and effort we spend staying above reproach, a lot of money and effort we spend satisfying the authorities that our children are safe, a lot of money and effort we spend conforming to what society dictates is “good parenting” these days.
Based on the frequency with which it occurs, to me, abduction or molestation by a stranger is right up there with the freak accident that occurred in my town a couple of years ago where a young child HOLDING ON TO HIS MOTHER’S HAND on the sidewalk was run over by the back wheels of a semi truck that took the turn too sharp.
There was just no way to foresee that, and there you are. If someone comes by in a white van with a rag doused in chloroform in a moment when I am not looking where the danger lies, it could be me. Gone forever. And nobody knew what happened. So what? If I find myself in the basement of some serial killer’s house being instructed to put lotion on my skin, I will sigh and say, “Wow, it’s happening. To me.” But I don’t think I’d be thinking, “I wish I’d never left the house or sang in the choir or bought the groceries or visited a friend or gone out dancing or travelled to that picnic or watched that sunset because THAT’S when I let my guard down and now I am paying…”
LIVE, people. Buckle your seatbelts, wear the helmet when you ride your motorcycle. Head injuries and motor vehicle deaths are foreseeable. Don’t drink and drive, quit smoking. We know where that leads. But your kids? Let them LIVE. And if something terrible happens, hopefully they lived their lives fully and joyfully and freely and had wonderful moments that made their time on Earth a real pleasure. That there would be something to celebrate as well as mourn.
The goal for me as a parent is not to make sure my kids survive until they are 18. My goal is to make sure they LIVE. Every day. And I don’t really get to dictate, beyond preventing the foreseeable, how many days they get. That’s just my way of seeing it.