Criminally Confident in Our Kids

Hi dzrreethkh
Readers — Here’s my syndicated column from last week. Sorry it took me to long to get to the Tennessee bike rider story. Got overwhelmed by other stuff. Here goes! – L


So, a mom in Tennessee, Teresa Tryon, has been told by the police that she was wrong to allow her 10-year-old daughter to bike to and from school. Do it again before the police discuss this with Child Protective Services, she was warned, and she could face charges of child neglect.

Though Tryon believed her child was safe, the police officer didn’t. And that was enough to put the mom on thin legal ice.

The bike ride is less than 10 minutes each way. The mom herself said she passed a total of eight cars on her two journeys on that same route that same day. Moreover, she had her daughter take a bike safety class before any of this.

Does it get any safer than that? Perhaps the girl should just never get on a bike at all. That would probably satisfy the cop. But what about the kid, who wants a childhood? And the mom, who wants an active, independent little girl? And the town, which could be buzzing with kids playing outside or could be just a barren expanse of empty lawns?

The cooped-up kids and lifeless lawns are collateral damage in the war against terror — the terror we are supposed to feel whenever we think of children doing anything on their own. If you don’t share that terror, you risk trouble with the law.

I know because it happened to me, too. After I let my son ride the subway solo at age 9 a few years back, I also let him ride the commuter train out to the burbs when he turned 10. He went back and forth to his friend’s house many times, but then, one time, one of the conductors noticed him and went ballistic. “You should NOT be riding alone!” he said. Izzy offered to let the man talk to me on the phone, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, he radioed ahead to the cops, who were waiting when my son got off the train.

Also waiting, by the way, was the family of the kid my son was going to see.  They always pick him up.

You’d think that would be proof enough that this was a situation both families felt comfortable with, but instead, the train was held for several minutes while the police questioned the friend’s family and then called me. Finally, the cop conceded this was probably OK, so the conductor got back on the train, and that was that.

Until about a month later, when it all happened again.

The same cop called me. And when I said that Izzy was now carrying a printout from the train’s own website that said kids as young as eight can ride alone,  and that furthermore that I personally felt my son was safe — at rush hour, surrounded by hundreds of commuters — the officer said, “But what if someone tries to abduct him?”

I said that in that very unlikely scenario, I thought the other people would help him.

Countered the cop: “What if TWO guys try to abduct him?”

This is what I call “Worst-First” thinking — jumping to the very WORST scenario FIRST and acting as if it were likely to happen. Two guys waiting at a commuter train platform just in case a 10-year-old might happen to be riding by himself that day and they could somehow grab each arm with no one noticing? (And as my son asked later,  “Isn’t the policeman there to KEEP me safe?”)

Of course, there are police officers who understand that kids are not in constant danger and allow them to go about the business of learning to navigate the world. But when a cop comes knocking on your door or calling you from the train platform, you realize that until we abolish “Worst-First” thinking, kids can’t be kids — and the police get to parent.

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101 Responses to Criminally Confident in Our Kids

  1. Greg September 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    what a farce! how could the parents protect the kid when two armed and determined attackers want to abduct him? and adults can be abducted as well, so should they lock themselves up at home? get real!

  2. Michael Chermside September 13, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    Perhaps you should have explained that you were sending him on the train because you were deathly afraid that if he stayed home, THREE men might break into your house in order to abduct him.

  3. Alan September 13, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    What if you wrapped the kid in bubble wrap and sent him FedEx, would that be safe?

  4. Marcy September 13, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    @Michael Chermside: lol hilarious! Thanks for that

  5. Lollipoplover September 13, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    When a child biking to school or a child riding public transit become police matters, we are no longer protecting anyone.

    What they ARE protecting is this country’s high rates of obesity, diabetes, and mental illness. These children are trying to learn independence, once a trait that was encouraged.

    My 10 year old bikes every day to school (and leads younger kids, too), and thankfully in my community, is recognized as a good kid for being active and responsible, and not negatively impacting the environment by making his parents drive him to and from school.

    Izzy and Ms. Tryon’s daughter should be commended as well. They sound like really good kids.

  6. Kara September 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    @ Michael–Exactly! All choices come with risks. There are a great number of risks to leaving the kids in the house.

    I have had the police in my area tell me I must never let my child out of my sight. (She was 7 at the time.) In my own neighborhood. At the park. A block from my house. When did we decide to criminalize parenting?

  7. Dirge September 13, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    Maybe, upon giving birth, every parent should be charged with child endangerment for daring to bring a child into such an unsafe world. You never know what will happen.

  8. vuyot September 13, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    I don’t understand how the police has the right to threaten parents like that. I am from Germany and if a cop did something absurd like that here the public would go ballistic.

  9. Hels September 13, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    I am not sure I would have resisted the urge to (rudely) tell the cop: “Then why don’t you go and actually catch those guys, or research who they might be, instead of spending your taxpayer-funded time questioning the kid who has violated no law.”

  10. thinkbannedthoughts September 13, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    My worst-first thinking goes as follows: “If I allow my child to do this totally safe 99.99999% of the time thing, and some busybody sees her, they’ll call the cops.”
    Then the question in my mind becomes, “Is this something I could reasonably defend and talk my (or my child’s) way out of?”
    I no longer fear bad men doing bad things. I now fear ignorant people doing ignorant things out of their own misguided fear that the world is a horrible place.
    Most days I decide, yes, we can talk our way out of this, it’s worth the risk of attracting a busybody, and the police who are sure to follow.
    Like yesterday when my 3rd grader was home sick after a night of puking and my husband had to be at work and I still had to get my kindergartener to school.
    My 3rd grader clearly was in no shape to walk the block and a half to school, and my kindergartener isn’t allowed to make the walk alone, though she is completely capable, plus I had paperwork to drop off and a volunteer position to postpone.
    So, I left my 3rd grader alone (she hadn’t puked in over 8 hours at that point, and she knew where the toilet, and the puke pan were) I reminded her not to answer the door, or the phone, and then walked my kindergartener to school. I stopped in the office to tell them my oldest was home, talked to the kindergarten teacher to tell her I wouldn’t make my volunteer gig that day (30 minutes at home alone I’m fine with, 3 hours, while sick, not so much – at this age.)
    When I got home my oldest was napping in bed, surrounded by books.
    My fear was never that anyone would abduct her while I was gone, or that she would hurt herself, or light the house on fire. At worst I thought I might have to clean up some inconvenient puke in the hall.
    My real fear was that one of our nosy, “well-intentioned”, neighbors would notice I was only walking one kid to school and that my husband’s truck was gone and decide to check in on us, realize my daughter was home alone and call social services.
    Luckily no one did.
    Today, I’ll be risking it all again. The sick kid needs one more day of recovery, and the healthy kid still needs to get to school.

  11. facie September 13, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    I have what is maybe a stupid question that I don’t feel like researching. Is there an age at which kids are “allowed” to be left alone, whether in the car or at home? My kid is 8, and there are times I need to run into the mini mart to pay for my gas or get something. I hate taking her out of the car for something that will take only a few minutes, but I am afraid that someone will come up to me and report what I am doing because it may be a crime. I live in PA, and I recall a law put into place probably when my kid was a baby that said you could not leave your kid in the car unattended, but I don’t know the age.


  12. Beth September 13, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    @Kara “When did we decide to criminalize parenting?” Not only that, when did we decide that every neighborhood in every city/town/village is a war zone, requiring the utmost in preventive measures to ensure “safety”?? We ARE talking about walking to school or biking to the park (or similar), right? Not maneuvering through an area frought with armed gunmen and random land mines.

  13. gpo September 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    I am proud to say my kids and two friends went to the park by themselves on Saturday with two neighbors. My girls are 10 & 6. The other girls are 8 & 6. The park is almost 1/2 mile away. They came in and asked and I waited to see what my better half would say. We went over with my 10 yo how she was responsible for everyone. She took a watch so as not to lose track of time. She also had the idea of taking some band-aids just in case an accident happened. They left and then they came back all fine. I am glad they got a little freedom. I just hope more will come of this.

  14. Brenna September 13, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    I fear self-righteous cops, nosy neighbors and over the top CPS agents a whole lot more than I do kidnappers. Why, exactly, does the government (in the form of bureaucrats who don’t know me from adam) decide how I get to raise my kids?

    I was raised on a farm, and the latest news I saw yesterday is that the Department of Labor is going to come out with an entire list of guidelines as to when farm kids can perform certain chores. All in the name of protection, of course. Forget knowing how it feels to help out, accomplishing new things, the value of hard work, and contributing to the family. You might get a boo-boo, so we are strictly prohibiting this activity. It’s all for your safety, of course.

  15. David September 13, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    I thought I’d shine a bit of a positive light here, since mostly we just hear the horror stories for kids biking to school. I live in Erie, CO (a suburb of Boulder and Denver), and a new elementary school just opened right next to our neighborhood. I think I may have seen *one* bus since the start of the school year, and virtually no car traffic that seems to be parents dropping off kids at school.

    What I *have* seen is such an incredible number of bicycles that the school has had to at least triple the number of bike racks available, and I see children walking to school in groups without adults present virtually every day.

    While it’s hardly the rule, this does happen, and there is some hope for the future!

  16. Jashby September 13, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    I’ve read (on this site, I believe) about NASA now asking applicants about their childhood to see if they’ve had creative, problem-solving experiences. My husband is an engineer and works with many mechanical engineers, electrical or mechanical technicians. These are well-paying, secure jobs, and many of them are filled by former farm-boys. Kids growing up on farms working with heavy equipment early, figuring out how to fix them, and working hard have the skills that those with mechanical engineering degrees (but no childhood heavy equipment tinkering) don’t.

    Even if schools were able to provide more creative experimentation in the classroom, it still wouldn’t ensure kids have problem-solving skills learned through real world experimentation. We contextualize too much. That is, we can learn problem-solving in a controlled school experiment but that doesn’t mean we’ll do the same problem-to-idea process when faced with an issue out of school.

  17. antsy September 13, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    Is this the downside of decreased crime rates? Seems that the police don’t have enough to do in some communities if they’re trying to make crimes out of what used to be very ordinary actions during my childhood (1970’s). I wonder if many (or any) police lament the way that their former image as community helper and friend of the children has changed so much. How many children are now afraid of the police after having been “caught” outside somewhere, or after having seen their parents chastised by police for something. My own children for starters!

    Beginning in first grade, I rode my bicycle to and from school alone. It was seven blocks, and I even had to ride past a street where a recent murder had taken place (when I was in third grade). The murder was a tragedy, but it did not stop us from living our lives. I find the changes since I was a child terribly sad. Sad for the children (being stymied), sad for their parents (being denied their rights to be the parents), and sad for the community (suspicions and paranoia rising at the same time as a hobby known as “meddling” which has become way too popular since the invention of cell phones).

    Thanks for the hope, David – I hope scenes like that become commonplace again!

  18. Steve September 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

    Picture a city or town with kids everywhere – Biking and walking – small kids and teenagers, on streets, sidewalks, bike trails, in groups at street corners. The more of them we see, the safer it will be for everyone.

    We have 60 miles of bike paths in our city, and there are so few kids using the trails you might assume we are a retirement community. But, hey, the school system has 300 school buses on the roads, not to mention all the parents driving their kids to and from school.

  19. SgtMom September 14, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    David – I too live near that school and have been fuming!

    My once quiet street and easy access to the Parkway is now a jam up. I now have to wait for a benevolent person to “allow” me to leave when I’m stuck at the stop sign.

    For my end of the street, traffic has gotten much worse.

    … the new flashing traffic signs FOUR blocks away are a bit of over kill as well.

  20. RobynHeud September 14, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    @Brenna, do you have the link to that article? I would love to read it. We don’t live on a farm but we do have our not quite 2-yr old throw away trash and help with the laundry. I despise anyone who tells me what magical age my children must achieve before being “allowed” to perform “risky” behavior. It’s about what the child is ready for, not what the world says he should or shouldn’t be able to do. Oh, and we also let our son play with hand tools, including saws and hammers. For his birthday in a couple of months he’s going to be getting his very own toolkit. At five, I knew enough to take my own training wheels off my bike and was often in the garage sawing 2×4’s and nailing them together. I didn’t start at that age, but I remember doing it for some time before so I imagine we were allowed to play with the tools for some time before. Still have all my fingers and toes!

  21. -dsr- September 14, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    Any martial arts instructor will tell you that there’s this one guy — it’s always a male — who will pester with questions like this:

    Q: What would you do if you were attacked in a dark alley?

    A: I wouldn’t go in a dark alley.

    Q: OK, how about if you were attacked in a supermarket?

    A: By whom?

    Q: A guy with a knife!

    A: I know this disarm [demonstrates] and this one [demonstrates]. But running is probably a good idea.

    Q: Well, what if you were attacked by two guys?

    A: In a supermarket?

    Q: Yeah!

    A: I would run.

    Q: But what if you couldn’t run because ninjas were blocking the exits?

    A: You’re looking for an excuse to fight, aren’t you?

  22. Stephanie September 14, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    @thinkbannedthoughts, been there, done that. I even tempted fate a little and mentioned to another parent that my daughter was home sick. She thought I was nuts at first, but I think I got my point across that it was the best choice and really quite safe.

    Our neighborhood school just turned into a charter school, which looks to be nice in terms of curriculum, but is frustrating in that very few neighborhood kids attend it now. I thought only a few kids walked there before, now there are fewer yet as most the neighborhood kids now go to a school further away, while kids from other nearby towns have signed up to go to the charter school. Makes the parking lot situation an even worse mess than it was last year, despite that the charter has fewer students. So glad we’re walking distance, rain, shine, and if we’re really lucky, snow.

  23. antsy September 14, 2011 at 1:31 am #

    Robyn’s post reminded me of my wonderful kindergarten class in Dallas, Texas in 1972. We had an enormous open classroom with many different areas for us to play. One was a science area where we had a live tarantula in an aquarium (within reach of the children, with a lid that just lifted off). We had a table where we would leave all the snakeskins that we found while out at recess. And we had an area where nails, saws, hammers and a big box of wood pieces were left for us to play with as if they were just a bunch of Fisher Price toys! We didn’t have an adult standing over us to supervise and didn’t even have goggles to wear. Nobody had to give us a big safety lesson before hand – it was easy to figure out what would hurt. (I think only one child at a time was allowed to play in that area though). We also carved our own little pumpkins (yes, with sharp knives) for Halloween, our whole class sitting around a long table. I was so proud of that! I wonder how long Miss Francis would have kept her job if she tried to have a kindergarten like that today.

  24. Paul R. Welke September 14, 2011 at 1:31 am #

    It sounds like your son was abducted in a sense. Wellllll, maybe not “abducted”, but certainly detained.

    To me, it sounds like the only people who seem even remotely interested in depriving Izzy of his freedom are the police.

  25. Jen September 14, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    I have mixed feelings about this one. Obviously, the kid should be able to ride her bike to school. However, the issue wasn’t just that the child was riding her bike to school – the officer reported that she was riding unsafely. If that is the case, the answer is not to ban the child from riding to school, but to address the actual safety issues. Instead, both sides are digging in and refusing to see the other’s side. The child and the community would be much better served by the concerns of both parties being addressed, by finding a way for the child to ride her bike to school safely.

  26. Dave September 14, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    The police are there to keep us safe not accuse us of wrong doing. Maybe the police don’t want young people traveling alone so that they don’t have to do their job. No people on the street and the police have no one to protect. They need to leave the decision of when children can travel alone to the parents and they need to protect them when they do.

  27. E. Simms September 14, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    There is a lot more info on this site where the mom in Tennessee has been posting. The police chief has done several interviews where he claimed the girl was riding unsafely, even though there is absolutely nothing in the police report about unsafe riding.

  28. Lynn September 14, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    @facie. I live in PA as well. There isn’t a legal age (I’ve checked), although if they’re taking care of other children they should be 12. It’s really up to you, but you have to be able to defend yourself when CFS comes calling. I leave my 8-year old at home sometimes. Not for hours, of course, but I give her the chance to be independant while I head to the store for milk or something. She is good with the rules knows to leave the phone and the door, and where to go if she needs help. My neighbour across the street is in on it, knows that Julia may be home alone for short periods of time, and is prepared should my daughter arrive on her doorstep. My son, who is five, I don’t thnk I’ll be able to leave alone even when he’s 18! When he’s around, even WITH me in the house, everything falls apart! HA!

  29. KMH September 14, 2011 at 2:05 am #

    This is nuts. What a hyper-paranoid, over-policed lunatic society this is. All while life as a human being now, in America, is safer and less dangerous than life for man has ever been, EVER. As in, since like 50,000 BCE.

    This is what happens when we allow the state to think it’s job is to keep us safe. It’s not. It’s job is to keep us free.

    I am more afraid of these armed self-righteous bandits than I am of some boogeyman hiding in the bushes.

  30. Cassandra September 14, 2011 at 2:05 am #

    So sad. Our elementary school let’s kids bike to school, and tons do. It’s so great to see the 4 bike racks full.

  31. Teri September 14, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    Here is where it gets even stupider……..I live in TN………….this is a true story. ALL of the small-town school systems, ours included, applied for government grants last year to build sidewalks so that kids could bike/walk to school. I think it was part of Michelle Obama’s attempt to get kids more active and to lose weight. Urban areas already have sidewalks and most suburban areas are too sprawled for them to be efficient, so it was mostly the small towns that this money was being offered to. Our school system even sent a letter home to parents to gauge the interest, trying to get a number of kids that would utilize these new sidewalks before proceeding. NONE of the parents that I know said they would allow their kids to walk to/from school. Why? Because in our area, the school is in the older section of town. No kids live there – it’s mostly older people who have lived in the same house since their kids went to school there. Now the grandkids and any new-comers to the area live on the OTHER side of the highway. The school would NOT offer a traffic officer to assist the kids across the highway and there is no redlight (and the state refuses to allow one – I’ve petitioned). We have one redlight in town at a major intersection where 2 major highways cross (one state, one federal). The school is not at that intersection, nor is it even near it. So, you would have all of these kids trying to cross a major state highway with no redlight and no crossing guard. This is a highway with a lot of large trucks. The school itself is not on the highway, but the highway runs between the school and the subdivisions where the kids live. Remember, it’s just older people who live in the older homes near the school (downtown is 3 whole blocks if that gives you any idea of what type of town we are talking about.) Despite the fact that ALL parents said no to the sidewalks, the town still got a grant to put them in, matched the grant with their own tax money and even took money out of the school budget to build sidewalks on both sides of a road that nobody would dare walk along. It’s barely wide enough for 2 cars now that they put the&%^*$@# sidewalks on part of the street. No, they did not run them in the yards with a little grassy area between the sidewalk and street. Step off the sidewalk and you are in traffic. NOBODY uses the sidewalks. To top it off, the whole d@mn area now floods when it rains because the drains weren’t set right. The fire department used to be on that road and is being moved. Why? You can barely get the firetrucks in/out of the fire station because of the sidewalks and the much-narrower road. It’s been the biggest waste of money I have seen in a long time.

  32. gap.runner September 14, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    @Vuyot, I also live in Germany and agree that that people would go ballistic if the police went after children walking, cycling, or using public transportation alone. In the city where I live, just about every parent would be charged with child endangerment because kids walk to school by themselves in first grade, cycle to school in 4th grade after a special safety course, and take public transportation to school in 5th. My son has been riding the train or public bus by himself to visit friends since he was 10. Children out alone or with their friends are a normal sight in my town. If the police went after every parent who let a child over age 6 or 7 go out without an adult present, they would be spending all of their time doing that and not apprehending real criminals.

    My son’s experience riding the train was much different from Izzy’s. When he was 10 he took the train by himself for the first time. He went from a friend’s father’s house, which was a 25-minute ride from my town. The first thing that he said when he got off the train was, “That was fun! I want to ride the train again by myself.” He was proud of showing his ticket to the conductor and having some independence. He also said that nobody bothered him on the train or asked him where his parents were. People here are used to seeing children age 10 and over on trains by themselves.

    I believe that letting a child take a solo train or bus ride when he’s ready helps him to pay better attention to his surroundings. He has to know where to get off the train or bus or how to ask for help from a nearby adult. When I was in New York City last week, my son rode the subway with my husband, brother, and me. Every time we got onto a subway train, we told my son which stop was ours and which train to take to our destination if we got separated (we often had to change trains). After our first day in NYC, my son knew which trains to take to my brother’s apartment and the stop. He relished the responsibility of holding onto his own Metro Card. I think that my husband would have freaked out if my son asked to ride the subway by himself because he (my husband) thinks that NYC is still something out of “Fort Apache: The Bronx.” But we wanted to our son to be prepared in case we somehow got separated.

  33. antsy September 14, 2011 at 2:23 am #

    Here’s a good police story, the kind of thing I’d like to hear more often. Seven years ago we lived in Navy housing that wasn’t located on a Naval base. There were A LOT of children living there and lots of bike riding. One day my boys came inside from bike riding (ages 7 and 9) and told me that a police man had come around. He had stopped the boys for a few minutes, taught them some bike safety, and handed them buttons (pins) as a reward. That is real help – unlike shooing the children back inside and harassing the parents.

  34. EricS September 14, 2011 at 2:28 am #

    The worse cop on the beat, is a SCAREDY CAT cop. Cops CANNOT be “worse case thinkers”, it clouds their judgement, and everyone knows a clouded mind is an ineffective one. Now would anyone feel comfortable having an incompetent cop protecting the neighborhood? I don’t think so. Plus, IT’S NOT AGAINST THE LAW TO RIDE YOUR BIKE TO SCHOOL. We all did it when were where kids, and many rode (or walked) much further. No one should ever be afraid to stick up for themselves. Backing down only empowers these kinds of people, making them feel they can do it whatever and whenever they want. Let scared cops call child services. They all will have a viable lawsuit slapped in their foreheads. lol

  35. Tracy September 14, 2011 at 2:50 am #

    if a law isn’t being violated, how can the cops justify stopping the train from moving on? Cops acting under a ‘worry’ is more than excessive, it just violates our rights to raise our kids the way we want.If we have to account for every decision we make we are living under dictatorship.

  36. LauraS September 14, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    All police officers need a little free-range training.

    An officer was at my daughter’s summer camp one day, doing a public safety for the kids and parents. And, of course there was the usual ‘don’t talk to strangers” mumbo-jumbo.
    After, my daughter was super excited to go talk with him. She asked him, “How can I meet any new friends if I can’t talk to strangers?”. She’s only six, very social and will talk with anyone and everyone.
    You should have seen the look on his face and the faces of some other mothers.
    He explained the difference between adult strangers and children. So she said, “Well, I do need to talk to strangers a lot. And my mommy told me that it’s OK to talk to strangers that it’s good to talk with people and sometimes strangers can help me.”
    He was speechless and so was I, so proud.
    Then one mom said, “But you have to be careful because some strangers are dangerous.”
    She said, “Not really, you just can’t let them grab you or take you anywhere or do anything that makes you uncomfortable. Then you just yell and scream ‘help’ and ‘no’ and run away for help.

    Another proud free-range parent moment.

  37. Dolly September 14, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    I live in Tennessee and we have little to no public transportation in most areas. Only small parts of the bigger cities and TN is fairly spread apart. So cars are the means of transportation in this state. We do have a lot of bikers though, but they do it more for fun than this is the only modes of transportation I own. Because like I said, TN is very spread out.

    My kids will be walking to school and from what I know our school is totally cool with that at least for the kids that live in our subdivision behind the school. I see other kids doing it. I have not seen a bike rack but I assume if they wanted to bring bikes they could chain them to the back fence or something but that will have to be asked about.

    I think if the parent thought it was safe and there had been no problems thus far, then they need to back off.

  38. Dolly September 14, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    ps the car pick up line at most schools around here is about a mile long. Almost all parents pick up their kids at least in the suburban areas. I am SO glad that at least for elementary we won’t have to sit in that line because we are walking!

  39. momentsofexhilaration September 14, 2011 at 3:57 am #

    So sad. I rode my bike to school alone when I was six years old. The school was probably at least a mile away. It wasn’t a big city, but at least 40,000 people in the town. No one batted an eyelash and I was, of course, always fine.

  40. Library Diva September 14, 2011 at 4:24 am #

    I’d like to share a cop story that might give people a little hope, one that I especially like because the cop in it is my uncle 🙂

    Over the summer, a father was driving his two fairly young children (I think 2 and 4, or thereabouts). He had to stop at a relative’s house really briefly, just to either hand him something or pick something up. Then, the worst, the freak thing happened. During the two minutes he was inside, someone stole the car with the kids in it.

    The car was found abandoned a few miles away, with the kids completely unhurt. The guy was a wannabe thief, not a kidnapper, and thought he was just stealing a vehicle. Since this was not the work of a master criminal, the thief got caught almost immediately too.

    Here’s the really good part: in all media interviews, my uncle stressed that the father had done nothing wrong in this scenario, hadn’t done anything any parent hadn’t done a million times, and would not face any charges.

  41. Jeff September 14, 2011 at 5:52 am #

    All I can say here is Gaaah! I grew up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. When I was 10(ish) I was biking on my own to Coney Island. The interactions I had with the police was all good. When I got a flat there were no questions asked as to what I was doing ‘so far from home’ – all of about 1.5 miles. The bike was tossed in the trunk and I got a lift home.

    As to the cops stopping that poor girl, a response I just thought up in my ire is “Why are you working to harm my child? Not allowing her to exercise and learn is going to hurt her _and_ the future of our country.”

  42. Deja September 14, 2011 at 6:06 am #

    @facie I live in PA and there is a law regarding leaving children in the car alone- it’s 6 years old unless you can see them from where you are, then it doesn’t matter how old they are. I frequently run into a gas station near my house and leave my 4 year old in the car. I’ve had a cop walk right by the car and wave at my son.

  43. This girl loves to Talk September 14, 2011 at 7:16 am #

    well my latest police story is : my mother was babysitting my four kids. She was on the deck with my one year old. The other kids (10 and 8 and 5) were in the cul de sac ripsticking with a neighbour. The police turn to drive up the street and the kids all freeze. Cops told off the kids and neighbour parent and my mum said she was watching them (the police couldnt see her at first)

    all though the cops were nice, they said that “children just dont have the reflexes these days” (as in the kids didnt get out of the way of the car) and shouldnt be playing on the street.

    well how are kids meant to be getting these reflexes? and the kids always move out of the way if the very occasional car comes by and my daughter said they ‘didnt move’ because it was the police and they thought you had to listen or stop when police see you/want to talk to you. lol.

  44. Mel September 14, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    I remember as a child walking to school, a block away, on my own from Kindergarten through 6th grade. I remember riding my bike all over the neighborhood as soon as I no longer needed training wheels. I remeber my mother having a parent-teacher conference with my kindergarten teacher and her sending me home, on my own, to check on my 1st grade brother who had walked home from school, alone, and was thus, home alone. I remember playing on school and park equipment with a brother, or a friend, as a young child without any adult supervision. I also remember my mother having me memorize my address and telephone number and teaching me what to do if a dangerous situation should arise. I remember a man pulling up to me while I was riding my bike around the block and asking me to come to his car window… I rode as fast as I could home and was safe…. because I rememberd what my mother told me to do in dangerous situations. So, now what do our children do, if, God forbid, we are not in their presence. I dare say a free-ranging kid has a better chance of survival in such a situation, and in all situations, a more creative, productive approach to life. I was born in 1982 and fear my generation is the last to be allowed to walk or bike to school alone, to play alone, and to enjoy childhood without the unfounded fears society now instills in our youth.

  45. Kimberly Herbert September 14, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    The mayor’s e-mail is let him know what we think of his police department’s action.

  46. KD September 14, 2011 at 8:01 am #

    I am dealing with a somewhat similar situation in my small neighborhood with ONE parent. Most of the parents are like me and allow the kids to be out and about when the weather permits (we live in the NorthWET so those times are limited) but one parent whose child is between 8 and 9 insists on one, keeping track of the kids at the bus stop one block from everyone’s home and across the street from two homes where kids take the bus. We allow our daughters (ages 8 and 9) to walk the one block to and from school and wait for the bus. We know they are there with a large group of friends and they are safe. 2. Waiting in her car at the end of the street for her child. The first time I saw this I walked up to the car and asked if she was wiating for someone as a strange car at the end of a street watching children is enough to get my curiousity up (I didn’t know her or the child). She had an attitude and asked if I was going to get my kids off the bus, I said know and walked across the street to my house to wait for them. She then preceded to walk my girls home. This only happened once as I made it clear my girls can and do walk by themselves. 3. She is constantly outside with her child and attempts to interfere with the other kids playing. My kids (all four) ride their bikes, walk to the skate park, the older ones take the public bus or walk to the park about 2 miles away to play basketball. She has also attempted to walk my girls home from their adventures but I told them to tell her no, that they are playing with their friends and then to be friendly with her daughter and encourage her to come play. Needless to say she will not allow this because the kids are not constantly supervised despite their being about six sets of parents who are all available for emergencies.
    We live in a very small neighborhood with lots of kids and lots of parents. The kids are between all the houses within a 2 block area daily. In fact, my kids just tell me “going down the street” and I know they are at one of four or five homes or playing in the small culdesac around the corner or riding their bikes. The kids are well behaved and all very competent. Sorry for my long post, needed some venting over this woman and possibly some suggestions??????

  47. Kelly September 14, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    Lenore, this may be one of my favorites of your columns yet. Thank you so much for writing and speaking up, and succinctly. “When cops get to parent”, what a scary idea. I’ve been there myself – lectured to by an officer who knew the statistics (local and national) less than I did. For being “mouthy”, he told CPS I appeared not to care about the welfare of my child.


    Thanks, again.

  48. Mary Zanotelli September 14, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    I love the idea of Free-Range Kids, and,yes, I do plan on allowing my son to ride his bike home from school in 3rd grade….

  49. Lisa September 14, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    I love your son’s response. “Isn’t the policeman there to KEEP me safe?” That’s what you should have said when the cop asked what if two men attempted an abduction–“Then it’ll be a good thing that YOU’RE there, Mr. Police Officer!”

    I lived in a small town in Romania for a year, and I frequently saw three- and four-year-olds walking to the store by themselves to pick up something for their parents. The store was usually a block away or less, and there’s no traffic to speak of. Kids are on the street everywhere there. Even in high school, what kids do for fun is go for walks, just strolling up and down from one end of town to the other. There’s no traffic and no crime to speak of. Kids hung out in the street all the time. I miss that.

  50. Dolly September 14, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    KD: you are not wrong in this situation, but you have to realize that if she wants to be out there with her kid, she can. That is her right as a parent. Maybe not the best choice but again, her right. She is not allowed to interfere with your kids by making them go home or walking them home, etc. So I would just concentrate on how she deals with your kids and leave how that lady deals with her kid out of it.

    Also just want to point out that I often will be the parent playing with the kids and it is not because I don’t trust them to play by themselves or whatever. It is because I might want to and because they want me too. Kids always want to play with me. Mine and others. I am just a kiddy person. So not saying that woman is like me, but just consider that the kids might be asking her to play with them. I was at Pump It Up the other day with my mom friends and our kids. I decided to take a break from the mom talk and go play with the kids a bit. Within 2 minutes I was surrounded by 5 kids wanting to play with me and NONE of them were mine! LOL! When I was done playing with them they continued to follow me around begging me to play with them again. So you know, just realize that it is not always the parent forcing or barging into to the kids play, but sometimes they are asked to join!

  51. Heather P. September 14, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    I permit my three kids (7,8,10) to ride their bikes to the local elementary school to play. or to the (even closer) charter school parking lot when school is out. If they are brought home by police, I plan to respectfully ask what law they’ve broken. If they respond with some nonsense about being unsupervised, I’ll suggest they could make their ticket quota on a pleasant weekday afternoon ticketing all of the children walking home unsupervised.
    That sure could solve any municipal budget shortfall, I would think. Or perhaps , more usefully, point out the folly of the police officer in question.

  52. Avi September 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    I share custody of my 6.5 year old daughter with her mom. For a few weeks now she and I have been talking about the next little step in her independence, and on Saturday she took it. It wasn’t much — she walked down our block to the corner, turned the corner and mailed a letter about half-way down the block. Then she came back. She was probably out of my sight for 45 seconds. She came back absolutely beaming, exultant.

    When I told my daughter’s mom that I was going to do this, I thought it was the right thing to do. She’s got a lot of fears, and I thought it would be smart to make her a partner in this little step.

    Well, she freaked out. All day Friday she was bombarding me with emails demanding that I assure her that I not allow our daughter (who’s a very together, smart, responsible kid) to walk anywhere alone whatsoever. I ignored her cascade of emails, knowing it would only lead to greater hysterics if I tried to talk it out with her, but afterward I shared with her by text how great it went.

    On Monday, she sent a request to the private judge who arbitrates our case, asking him to forbid me from doing again what I’d done.
    By Tuesday, the Judge had issued his order, and I am now forbidden by law from allowing my daughter to walk anywhere alone.

  53. FrancesfromCanada September 14, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    School’s been in for a couple of weeks up here and I’m happy to report that kids are walking, and taking the bus on their own, in my neighborhood and in others I’ve been in as well. Not always crossing the street in the smartest fashion, mind, but no adults in sight either. Drivers on their toes, I hope!

    I was in another city this week, in an middling sort of neighborhood right as school let out, and the sidewalks were pretty much packed with kids (elementary and junior high, I think) lugging big backpacks. Many with bikes. So either the situation isn’t as bad here or things are looking up.

    Avi — doubtless there’s more to the story, but how does telling your child’s mother you are going to do something then proceeding to ignore her objections, however misguided they might be, “make her a partner”? Even though I think the errand your daughter did on her own was entirely appropriate, I gotta say that would really tick me off. Just saying. Will now mind my own business.

  54. Avi September 14, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Frances — interesting you should bring up this point. In her email to the Judge, my daughter’s mom complained that I had “refused to co-parent” with her in the situation.

    In 6 years of joint custody, without a single exception, when she demands that we “co-parent” on an issue, she means only one thing: that I do as she wishes. Completely, and without “debate” (shes actually calls it ‘debate’ when I venture an opposing or qualifying opinion on a topic.

    My daughter’s mom is a woman drowning in fears, and she parents our sweet, outgoing, daughter that way. The steady drum beat of warning, anxiety, fear and retreat have begun to show in our little girl. She was kept away from camp and interactions with kids her own age for much of the summer because her mother, a teacher on break for the summer, insists that our vivacious little girl is suffering from separation anxiety — from her mother, of course.

    When my little girl and i go camping — which we do a lot of in the summer — we’re required to provide not only campground information but lot #. Until I recently went to court to have it changed, my “co-parent” had succeeded in adding to a court order that required 14 day advance notice if I was going to be taking our daughter to spend the night anywhere but our home. If I had an idea 13 days out to take her for a sleep over at a neighbor’s home, I literally could not do it — this happened several times.

    So when mom expressed her objections — actually, she just demanded that i not do this little walk of my daughter’s, and demanded written assurance — I listened. In this case, I simply did not agree. Engaging her further in a discussion would not have added gray to her black and white view of the situation, and frankly at a certain point it becomes tiresome being second-guessed and ordered around by a woman of very shaky temperment and parenting skill. i’m an outstanding parent with 50% custody, I’ve made my daughter the center of my life, I’ve done things the right way, and I feel pretty good about how I handled this — except the conclusion.

  55. Avi September 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    So Frances, I completely agree to the theory that consulting with your co-parent on a wide range of issues and decisions affecting your child is really important, imperative even.

    But what do you do when your co-parent is committed to a parenting approach in her own custodial time which you think might be pretty bad for your child’s normal, healthy development? And what if that parent actively agitates against and actively opposes age-appropriate growth for your child? She’s voiced absolute opposition to lots of things — like playing in the river (too risky), driving to a national park (7 hours, too far), flying to the east coast to join my family for thanksgiving (too long away from …. you guessed it, mommy), playing in the sun in the summer (she actually demanded that we play only in shaded areas; we live in New Mexico, it’s a challenge).

    I’ll tell you what I do, Frances — I go with my instincts as a parent. Collaborative parenting would be terrific. But in the absence of a reasonable partner, I sometimes go it on my own.

  56. Daisy September 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    As a happy antidote to the original story, just yesterday I thought of this site when I observed a 10 year old boy taking the tram alone, in a Dutch city of some 500,000. It was clearly not his usual route, because at the tram stop, he checked with a friendly-looking older woman (me) which tram stopped here and when. Once on the tram, he was having trouble with his electronic ticket so he checked with the tram driver on how to use it and to confirm that this was the right tram. All went well, strangers were friendly and helpful to him, and there were no ninjas lurking about to abduct him. That is how it ought to be, no?

  57. Kenny M Felder September 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I’ve really been thinking about this one. My gut reaction was to want “revenge” on that cop. But there’s no way to make that happen, and it wouldn’t be productive anyway. Not really. So then I turned it around in my head, and here is my suggestion, Lenore, and I am really serious about this. Have lunch with that cop. Call and tell him that you genuinely appreciate the fact that he is trying to help your family–which is, after all, exactly what he is trying to do, for no selfish gain of his own–and you want to talk to him about it. Sit down over coffee or lunch and really talk to him. Show him crime statistics. Talk about the freedoms he presumably had as a kid. Give him a free copy of your book. My guess is, you can get him to view the whole thing in a completely different way, because people are usually taken aback and shocked by basic politeness and conversation. *That* could really make a difference–for your son and others.

  58. Marion September 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    Allright, I’ve posted this link before but I’ll do it again for those who missed it.

    This is how children in the Netherlands go to school.

    No fuss. No fear of ‘strangers’ who film them. No helmets. And the safest traffic record *of the world*.

  59. Heather September 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    KD, we live in a similar neighborhood and have that “one parent”. In our case her parked car at the bus stop caused a hazard because it created a blind turn. Various neighbors offered their driveways for her to park (so she could keep the anxiety but all the kids could lose the danger). After she turned them down the HOA and county stepped in and told her to knock it off before anyone was hurt (they also put up a no parking sign) . She has since let her kids walk the 7 houses to the bus stop, but I haven’t seen them play with the other kids in the neighborhood.

    There really isn’t much you can do beyond what telling your kids to politely refuse when she wants to supervise them and have the appropriate people step in if her safety creates a hazard (like ours did). Unfortunately just as she can’t save your kids from your parenting you can’t save her kids from hers. All you can do is hope time will ease her into it.

  60. LS September 14, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    A similar incident happened to me as well-my then-five year old daughter was outside of our house (townhouse neighborhood) learning to ride her bike, and I went inside (less than 30 feet) to get her a glass of water. When I came back outside (less than 3 minutes) a cop was there, and told me that she shouldn’t be left outside alone. When I asked why, he said that “anything could happen” and “she’s really cute.” I asked him when the last time there was a stranger abduction in our smallish NC university town, he said he couldn’t recall one. Then I dropped it. The irony is that here in NC, it is a law that all kids have to have helmets on when riding bikes. But she didn’t. So he ignored my law-breaking-and focused on a hypothetical one instead.

  61. Heather September 14, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Avi, I have to wonder if your daughter needs her own advocate with this judge. Obviously issues aren’t going to be mediated away between the two of you. I have to wonder if the judge would be willing to consider the option of an advocate who is qualified in matters of child development and age appropriate activities to speak on her behalf when her mother has such demands. It won’t solve all the problems but it would give a neutral voice to your daughter’s needs and wants.

  62. pentamom September 15, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    Library Diva, that story is so heartening! Thanks for sharing it.

  63. pentamom September 15, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    Well, I did a Free Range thing yesterday I would never have done a few years ago. I drop off my 13 year old at a park across town for her middle school cross country practice every day after school, and they had a meet at the same place yesterday. She asked if my 10 yo wanted to stay for the meet and watch and hang out with her teammates, whom she thought he’d enjoy meeting. I couldn’t stay; I had to pick up another child from school. My husband brings her and my HS son (on the team also) home since he works on that side of town. And the coach has (wisely) made it clear that he will not be “responsible for” unsupervised kids at and around practice and meets, but that he does not require anyone else to be, either.

    I thought for a moment, and said, sure, why not? It’s not a big deal to a real Free Ranger, I know, but I was protective-by-default (that is, I never lived in fear, but I just swallowed the conventional wisdom about what you “do and don’t do” with your kids) for the first 15 or so years of my parenting.

    So of course they had a great time, there were plenty of kids around, not to mention an 18 year old brother, and everything was fine. OF COURSE IT WAS, but it’s just a good feeling to realize it’s fine to do such things — that it’s even better to give them that kind of independence than not to.

  64. Railmeat September 15, 2011 at 1:40 am #

    Hi Avi – Boy have I been there and done that. Be careful. The courts *will* side with your ex, and you could very easily lose the 50/50 custody arrangement that you and your daughter enjoy. You need to sit tight on this topic, until your little girl is a bit older. By the time she is 8 or 9 she’s gonna wonder why she has so much richer an experience at her daddy’s place than at her mommy’s. That’s when you enlist her as a co-conspirator – you’ll know what to do. With my daughter, we had an interesting discussion about truth, lies, and the idea of ‘intentional with-holding of important information’, and how this was different than vomiting forth *every* detail about what went on, say when she and I went to a park near a reservoir.

    BE CAREFUL! You are understandably concerned about your daughter becoming a fearful child because of her mother. Imagine the circumstances she will have to endure when the time you have with your daughter is every other weekend, supervised (by guess who?).

    The court will NOT listen to any advocate for your daughter *other* than her mother. You must placate her.

  65. Railmeat September 15, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    Avi – another thought. You handled the mailbox issue poorly. Next time, don’t ask and don’t tell. Keep the things you do to help your daughter to independence pretty low key, and your daughter wouldn’t even think of spouting off to her mom. Then, there is no harm – no foul.

    On the other hand *if* your daughter proudly tells here mom about all the cool stuff you and she do, and mom blows a gasket, you have to back off.

    But make sure when you inform your daughter that she can no longer pay for her ice cream while you watch from 10 feet away, she knows exactly why.

    “Your mom loves you very much, and decided that it wasn’t safe.” You will love the look of outrage you will receive, and mom with either chill out to keep outraged daughter from treating her like the hag who locked up Rapunzel, and/or your daughter will know what, and what not to share at her mom’s house.

  66. coffeegod September 15, 2011 at 2:07 am #

    My son and two other boys who live on our street are no longer allowed to get off the bus at the top of the hill and run home.

    The distance is all of 600 feet and that estimate is generous.

    Yeah….I’m still scratching my head.

  67. LRH September 15, 2011 at 2:15 am #

    As much as I love my kids, sometimes I wonder if I really should have been a parent. The reason: my attitude is VERY entrenched that I and I ALONE decide what is safe for my kids. Not the police, not social services, absolutely NOBODY has the right to tell me how I parent my kids. My rights are only limited from the absolute in that I don’t get to molest them, leave them on top of the Empire State building while I go home, beat them to where they’re bleeding from the eyeball, etc. (Needless to say I have no desire to do those things.)

    But–child seats or not? None of their business. Want to ride in the back of an open-bed pickup truck at highway speeds? If I allow it, that’s the end of that discussion. If they want to bike-ride to school & I’ve decided the road is safe enough, then screw what the cops think, I and I ALONE make these decisions.

    Alas, I’m not big enough to fight these evil forces. Oh how I wish I could be like JR Ewing. That cop who messed with me–I’d find out about how close brother who’s up for parole & make sure that his claim was denied. His wife the nurse at the hospital? She’d be fired for a trumped-up charge at her job. His sister who’s the office manager of a local law firm who moonlights as a stripper? It would be not only revealed, but in dramatic fashion.

    Oh, and the factory in the city which I owned and employed about half the employees–I’d unceremoniously shut it down.

    And–regarding all of these things, it would be made known that the reason for it was because of a rogue cop who dared to question my authority to parent however darn well I please. Don’t mess with my family and my parental authority, or this is what will occur.

    Alas, I’m not JR Ewing, so I don’t know what to do other than just parent how I feel and hope nothing goes wrong, and if & when it does, stand up for my beliefs. I’m sure not going to kiss butt. I didn’t give them my consent to butt in my business, I will do what I have to–the MINIMUM–to avoid arrest–but otherwise I can only hope that in an after-life they burn a hot fiery death that they richly deserve.

    I’m sorry if my post is too “inflammatory” or “over-the-top,” but I really feel this way. The only thing is this: in the end, the way things are going for us now, basically we ARE able to do as we please with little or no interference, so just focus on that. But I burn with anger at hearing the scenarios where others run afoul of an evil and amoral system.


  68. Lollipoplover September 15, 2011 at 2:25 am #

    My anger with the police involvement is the double speak we are giving our kids. There are so many public service messages for “Let’s Move!” and even a government website. On the website, under things to do in your community, it says:

    ” Mayors and community leaders can promote physical fitness by working to increase safe routes for kids to walk and ride to school; by revitalizing parks, playgrounds, and community centers; and by providing fun and affordable sports and fitness programs.”

    It didn’t mention that attempting to ride to school will cause you to be stopped by police. How is a kid supposed to understand this if even the adults are having trouble with it?

  69. N September 15, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Here’s a new story:

    It’s about a mom who dropped her 11-year-old and 6-year-old off at a Barnes and Noble for an hour while she shopped somewhere else. A 6-year-old is too young to be in B&N alone, I get that, but certainly an 11-year-old is old enough, right? I used to walk to a book store alone and shop by that age with my allowance anyway. If it were a 13-year-old and a 6-year-old would it be OK? Because at some age the older sibling should be able to watch a younger sibling for a while. Also, the article calls them “two young children” where I would call one an older child or a tween, and the other just a child. To me, “young children” is younger than that, maybe kindergarten but maybe younger than school age even.

    Also, it would be awesome if this site had a forum to discuss stuff like this.

  70. owen59 September 15, 2011 at 6:55 am #

    It is a very strange thing that it is ever illegal for a child to be moving freely through society. It should be illegal to impair that movement. Thus kidnapping should be illegal. Commuter trains that have unsafe traffic should be illegal. Perhaps people not talking to children and showing them the fantastic opportunities of engaging with older minds should be illegal – but perhaps I’m getting carried away on this one.

  71. KD September 15, 2011 at 7:21 am #

    Thank you for the suggestions. I am also one of those moms that all the kids want to play with when I am out. I guess the issue with this mom is the interference. Like “don’t climb that tree, you will fall” that is directed at children other than her own and outside of her property that is the big issue. She also knows that one of my children has a vision problem and uses that to direct play. We don’t. We have never stopped our daughter from doing anything due to this problem other than walk at night because she is night-blind. I have spoken to her about the fact that our daughter is highly adapted, is main-streamed and that her vision issue is only impacted at night and for reading small wording, but this continues, to the point that I want to keep my kids inside when she is out or keep them our yard, which goes against every fiber in my being. I also have the CPS fear as she has commented about my teenagers (16 and 13) being home with the younger kids. Like “oh, I didn’t see your car yesterday when the kids walked home.” She also does similar things to the single dad down the street but along the lines of commenting on why he has his daughter and how wrong it is. ERGH!
    I am planning to continue to have my kids refuse her “help” and if they need help continue to teach them which adults to go to. As far as the bus stop, my husband has taken to watching from our yard where we can see the stop to put an end to her “helpful” behavior. I hate to do it, but something about this woman just bothers me.

  72. Avi September 15, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    Railmeat —
    I’m most in touch with your second comment. You know, for years I played everything super-scared-straight — that is, straight in line with mom’s demands. Wnat i found was that a) I was absolutely miserable, and I noticed my daughter wasn’t happy either. 2) the fact that I was capitulating so easily to her strictures just made her more ravenous for obedience. So I stopped all that. She knows now that our daughter has fantastic weekends with me, is pushed and challenged and engaged in ways she’ll never get with her mom. The truth is, at this point it just doesn’t work very well when we try to reach consensus, and in truth she rarely ever tries to control my time anymore. And yeah, you’re right — my daughter gets it.

  73. bOBCA September 15, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    Quotes from Ayn Rand shed light on this from my perspective…

    “The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap.”

    “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”

    “We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.”
    “You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live. You, who have lost the concept of the difference, you who claim that fear and joy are incentives of equal power—and secretly add that fear is the more “practical”—you do not wish to live, and only fear of death still holds you to the existence you have damned.”

    “Everyone has the right to make his own decision/s, but none has the right to force his decision on others.”

    “The man who lets a ‘leader’ prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap.”

    “A government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims.”

  74. Dolly September 15, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    Larry: The problem is that if you go to that extreme of “I am the parent and I can do whatever the hell I want with my kids” and that is going to be okay then you have to give the parent that wants to make their child do pornography, or beat their child severely, or decide not to feed their child the “Okay” to do that as well since “They are the parent and they can do whatever the hell they want.” There HAS to be checks and balances. Just because you are a parent does not mean you are free to do whatever you want with your child if it means harming them horribly. Sometimes the checks and balances are not fair or overstep, but to say there should be NO checks and balances is just naive.

  75. Stan September 15, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    If you allow young kids to take responsibility for themselves, they can and usually will. My wife and I learned this one winter many years ago when we both got the flu at the same time. There were about three days when we were both so sick we could hardly get out of bed to go to the bathroom. Our daughters, then 6 and 8, ran the house for those three days, fed us (tea and toast, mostly),fed themselves, got themselves up and put themselves to bed and kept the wood stove going, as that is how we heated back then. I am pretty sure that they also went to school, which was about a half mile away, though I don’t remember much about those days,since we were both pretty out of it. However, when we got well enough to get up and check out the house, everything was fine and so were the girls.
    Now, 20 years later, they have grown up to be self-sufficient adults with jobs that they enjoy and a wealth of experiences to build on.

  76. Ingrid September 15, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    As a first time mother, I am constantly worried about my son’s well being. Sometimes I get so paranoid to a point that I won’t leave my son to my mother in law’s house. This is because they would let him play around their pool unattended.

    Anyways, my being overprotective with my son especially around with other people, I make up when I am with him. I let him round around the park, let him dress himself (he’s just 3), help me with simple house chores.

  77. Cheryl W September 15, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Stan, we had similar type of situation when the family got the Noro Virus. My oldest, then 6, got it first. Then my oldest son who had just turned 4. Then my husband and I at the same time. My then 6 month old was fine (somehow.) It was constant vomiting, sometimes while not totally awake. My daughter got well first, right about the time that my husband, myself and oldest son got it. She ended up caring for the youngest son – changing his diaper, getting him clean clothes, and feeding him. The fact that she and he mostly ate spicey Chex Mix is besides the point – she cared for herself and her brother for an entire weekend. Had she not fed him, he wouldn’t have gotten anything to eat as the only other time I have been that sick is when we had the swine flu. (Neighbors stepped up and helped us with some wonderful chicken noodle soup that time. Which was great as we were moving and living in our house on camping supplies for a week until we could follow our stuff to the new state.)

  78. Cheryl W September 15, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    “What if TWO guys tried to abduct him?” My response would be as a short woman, that if two guys tried to abduct him it wouldn’t matter if even I was there, as nothing I could do would stop them from holding me down and taking him. And the chances of others noticing would be pretty likely!

    Geeze, how stupid can they be? Do you think he went home and thought “That was really stupid of me?” I hope so.

  79. LRH September 15, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    Dolly In case you didn’t notice, I did say that the “absolute” nature of me being able to parent as I please was NOT so totally absolute so as for me to be able to do such things as you mentioned. I have never said that a parent should be able to have their children do pornography or be starved to death and it be okay.

    However, I will say: for the “checks & balances” to go too far is just as wrong, maybe MORE wrong, than for there to be none at all. I think it’s equally evil, maybe more so, for this atmosphere to exist where parents are looking over their shoulder & having to justify such decisions. They shouldn’t have to, and even more than that, I think there should be revolting against it. It’s easy for me to say, but I seriously think parents should tell police officers basically “I don’t answer to you for how I parent my kids.”

    It was one thing when the police or social services etc were protecting kids from porno freaks and shaken baby syndrome etc, but now they’re getting swelled heads thinking they have the right to meddle in every little thing, and it’s just wrong, evil even, and people should revolt against it. (Again, that’s easy for me to say when I’m not the one in that position.) The mother shouldn’t have to explain why she thinks it’s okay for child to bicycle, it should be “I’m the parent, not you, now leave my house.”

    Yes, they always say “you attract more flies with honey than vinegar,” but flies spread germs, who wants them around anyway?


  80. FrancesfromCanada September 15, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Dolly — checks and balances, yes. LRH — you’d really shut down the main employment for many families because someone questioned your parenting? Or hunt down said someone’s extended family? Even hypothetically, that’s frightening. Also ridiculous. Sure, the cop overstepped. Sure, if there’s a policy behind it and not just one misguided authority figure, the policy should change…and even if not, the authorities need to be better educated on why this is wrong so it doesn’t keep happening. But a vendetta? All I can say is thank heavens you don’t, as you say, have the power to launch one.

    Avi — see, more to the story, though I wasn’t really asking for the details. Probably more from the other side, too. Someone mentioned an advocate for your daughter; good idea.

    Cheryl W — thanks for your last comment. Now I have a mental picture of the cop bopping himself upside the head….

  81. Diane September 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    This is the very thing that makes me hesitate over the free range kid ideology. I know my kids are very capable,but I fear that arrogant police officer and that nosy neighbor.

  82. Sheri September 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    awesome article and informative

  83. LRH September 15, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    francesfromcanada What’s wrong with wanting to right a wrong “JR Ewing” style? I would agree he was a crooked person with almost no morals, but I think he resonated with viewers because he had the power to get back at those he felt wronged them. How many of us wouldn’t love to be able to do this?

    The only thing I see as maybe wrong with my descriptions of what I’d specifically like to do is that I mentioned things I’d do to his family when it should be focused on HIM alone. Nothing that the mafia would do of course, no death threats etc. Things like digging up seedy elements of their past or catching them in the act, say, of being with a prostitute etc. I liked that one plot where JR found out Sue Ellen was being unfaithful to Peter Richards & he had him framed to look like he was doing drugs & had him arrested.

    Yes it’s low down, to say nothing of hypocritical since JR cheated like no one’s business, but how many of us would like to be able to get back in a NON VIOLENT way (again nothing like what the Mafia does no way) at people who have wronged us that way? I think that’s why the JR Ewing character so resonated with people despite his shadiness.

    Sure, the best way of all is to change the system itself, I’m all for that. Still, anyone who meddles in a parent’s private affairs is evil & they deserve an appropriate response of non-violent vegenge. You don’t want to get yourself in legal trouble obviously or be consumed with the lust for revenge and waste your life consumed that way. Still, there needs to be an appropriate response to people who meddle in your business that does more than just criticize them verbally for it. They need the power to meddle taken away from them, or be made to hurt for what they’ve done–in a way like JR Ewing or (say) Victor Newman from The Young & The Restless would do–buy their company & fire them or buy up their mortgage company & foreclose on their house etc. (Note: I don’t watch either show anymore, I’m operating on memories from when I used to years ago.)

    Android 2.2

  84. Dean September 15, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    Positive police officer story … my 6 year old has been walking the dog alone for a few months now, a route that we did together several times and then she did a ‘test run’ to show me that she knew the route and could safely cross the (neighborhood) streets. It takes her perhaps 10 minutes and she is out of sight most of that time. I was watching for her to come around the corner one day (and I get a kick out of watching her bound along with our large but very well leash trained dog), and saw our neighborhood police officer draw up next to her in his car. I could see that they were chatting for a moment and then he drove on. When she got home, I casually asked her what the police officer had said and she giggled and reported that he’d suggested the next time she walked the dog she could just ride home on it instead. A nice, friendly exchange, and no issues about anything else.

  85. antsy September 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    Love the positive police stories – those officers understand what their role should be and really do help make the world a better place!

  86. FrancesfromCanada September 17, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    LRH — um, the “no morals” thing pretty much sums it up. As for digging up someone’s past — as somebody once said, let he who is without sin, etc. You know the rest.

    I figure if you have a problem with something someone did, deal with that something and that someone. Don’t go dragging out unrelated dirty laundry. That’s dirty pool, in my humble opinion. Also, in case you hadn’t noticed, a useful tool for political distraction: if voters spend all our time worrying that politician A (or B or C, it seems pretty common) was behaving badly, then maybe we won’t notice the policies he or she is pushing for.

  87. ditchMD September 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    Following the abduction and return home of 3 year-old Kienan Hebert of Sparrwood, British Columbia, whose alleged kidnapper is a sex offender, The Toronto Star published this article (–why-kienan-s-abduction-was-1-in-10-million?bn=1).

    It’s nice to see that in this day and age, some media outlets continue to publish facts backed up by data and not perception.

  88. ditchMD September 17, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    Disregard my previous post, it belongs in another blog entry.

  89. LRH September 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Well FrancesfromCanada, I’m all for just dealing with how someone butted into your parenting and wreaked havoc in the process, if that act itself was something with significant consequences for doing so. Instead, just about all of the time it’s allowed under the guise of “good faith reporting” where the snitch supposedly had “just cause to believe abuse was occurring.” The fact that them butting in lead to the family being separated from their children for a period for no good reason is rarely factored in.

    If it was,if one could pretty readily respond with charges of false reporting or harassment etc, that would be fine. Heck, I wouldn’t even pursue that option if it existed if the snitch, assuming they did make the report in good fath just not knowing any better, subsequently apologized face-to-face for the problems they caused. Someone who does this, I’m all for just letting it go and moving on (in fact, I’m all for doing that regardless of the situation ultimately if for no reason than your OWN piece of mind).

    But it doesn’t typically occur that way–either their identity is concealed, or they don’t apologize due to indifference, or they may even go so far as to have an attitude of “yeah, I called, I’m glad I called, and I’ll call again if I feel like it” etc.

    For those types, as there typically isn’t legal redress or it doesn’t adequately respond to the harassment, either you just tolerate the interference or do you whatever you can otherwise, legally, to respond to it so that the message is delivered–no abuse is going on here, stay out of my business, leave us alone, or else. By all means, you don’t want to spend your entire life just chasing every perceived offense & responding to it, revenge shouldn’t consume you.

    HOWEVER, by the same token the environment shouldn’t exist where people can just butt in this way in a very unaccounted, open-season on parents sort of way either. There should be a legal response available that goes beyond a verbal scolding.


  90. John September 19, 2011 at 2:49 am #

    The cop isn’t there to keep anyone safe — he’s there to catch the bad guys after they’ve abducted you. That’s the whole problem with the way policing has evolved in this country. A few decades ago, policing was focused on maintaining order in communities. At some point the focus shifted to crime-fighting, hence the shift away from proactive foot parols and toward reactive 911-response policing.

  91. Nicole Krieger September 19, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    When I was a kid in the 80s, we had the cop come to school for the safety talk. It wasn’t so much “Don’t talk to strangers” as “Don’t get into a car with a stranger”. In fact, if a stranger tried to lure you into a car you were to go to the nearest house and scream and bang on the door. Probably because the odds of the randomly selected house hosting a pedophile are pretty low.

  92. healthy educator October 1, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    I understand your wanting to have your son be a little more free range. But it really only takes the wrong person to see your son along at the wrong time, follow him off the subway, and abduct him. There are sick people out here. Believe me, I see them come through all the time at the hospital psych ward. They are out there. You only have one son and can’t replace him. Is it really worth the risk?

  93. DAR November 24, 2011 at 3:43 am #

    Excuse my profanity, but WTF?

    Kids take the subway to elementary school in New York all the time.

    I took public transit to and from school starting at age 7. (The previous school, I walked to.) My mom went with me the first few days to be sure I knew the way.

    Yes, there are bad crazy people in this world. (A lot of them are competing for the Republican presidential nomination.) But the overwhelming majority of people are just fine.


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