Dispatches from the Busybody Wars: The Bathroom at Target

Readers kznsykbsyh
— Just a note from a mom of three named April who lives in Oakley, Cal:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I feel like I am surrounded by hysterical suburb moms and they are always on the “right” side of the argument bc it is all about “protecting children and keeping them safe.”  It’s hard to argue the side of “maybe it’s ok to leave your kid in the car for a minute.” Very hard! It’s very unpopular!

Before I found this site I was beginning to think, “This is it. We just have to be with our kids all the time.  They can’t go to the park or even in front of the house without me standing on the porch supervising them.  What a sad childhood this will be for them.”  I truly hope that things turn around or at least get more balanced or at LEAST don’t get any MORE out of balance!

The Bathroom at Target

I’ve gotten to a point where I feel like I don’t even want to leave the house anymore.  I had a woman yell at me at Target the other day because I parked the big shopping cart with my 1 yr old (buckled in) and my 5 yr old (who does have the maturity to come get me if something is wrong) right outside the bathroom and ran my 3 year old into the bathroom bc he was going to pee his pants.  (Wearing a pull up but we’re potty training and its really taken a turn so I didn’t want to encourage him to just pee himself.)

We ran in, didn’t even close the stall door behind us, pulled down his shorts, he screamed at the toilet, I said, “ugh ok fine then just pee in your pull up” and pulled his shorts back up. We walked out without even washing our hands.  So it was literally like a minute.

I get back out there and this woman was standing there like a damn superhero.  I was about to thank her for standing w/ my kids in my harried little moment when she started yelling at me and telling that this was “scary” while pointing at the cart and that I needed to “take them in there w/ me or SOMEthing.”

Never mind I couldn’t fit the cart around the corner or into the bathroom for that matter and I couldn’t hold the baby and my 3 yr old on the toilet at the same time.  And putting the baby on the bathroom floor is just..well, i’m sure some other mom would have been yelling at me for that.

It’s like everyone just wants to belittle everyone else’s parenting these days. I was so excited about becoming a parent and now it’s really hard to enjoy the experience.  🙁

Anyways, I just wanted to THANK YOU and your commenters for restoring balance and giving the freedom back to ppl to choose to how to parent THEIR children. I feel like i’m not in the twilight zone anymore when I browse your website.

Sorry for all the run-on sentences 🙂

April in California

Can you leave kids outside the bathroom for a moment at Target?

Can you leave kids outside the bathroom for a moment at Target? 

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91 Responses to Dispatches from the Busybody Wars: The Bathroom at Target

  1. Melissa Simms September 21, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    You’re doing fine, mama. Everyone else is crazy.

  2. Melanie Jones September 21, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    Just wanted to encourage you that if you follow Lenore on FB, then her stuff starts showing up in your friends’ feeds. They start talking about it online. They start vocalizing their secret “me too!” feeling. After years of feeling so trapped, I finally started speaking out with people when I had the chance, and I feel like I have seen my community change a lot. It is good to know there is a “virtual” world of sane people, but I assure you, among those suburban moms you have some allies and by the small assertions you make, I think you’ll find them. Keep going!

  3. Leslie September 21, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    And on the other hand, I would have been happy to chat with your five-year-old and play peek-a-boo with your one-year-old if I saw you racing your three-year-old into the bathroom. But then *I* would be afraid that *you* might come out at scream at *me* for talking to your kids. (Not that *you* would, of course.) We are all becoming afraid of each other. 🙁

  4. Warren September 21, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    There is a time to be diplomatic, and then there are times like this when you lean into the busybody, and politely tell her to “F— off, and mind your own busines. And stay away from my kids.”

  5. Mary September 21, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    I had a busybody yell at me for the same thing outside the bathroom of a Trader Joe’s in CA. I took my 3 year old in and I left my 6, 7, and 10 year olds with the cart. 6, 7, and 10 and she yelled at me!!!!!

  6. FiSyd September 21, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    I actually don’t know any Mums IRL who think there’s a problem with leaving a child/baby in a car for a couple of minutes. You are not alone.

  7. Scott September 21, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    I’d have handed her the 3 year old. Explained that he was in potty training and asked her to “kindly” show you shee would have 1) kept the boy on track by not peeing his pull up and 2) keeping aan eye on the other two, without having them both on “dangerously germ covered floor”, and 3) accomplish the above without having impose on a strange (horrors) to watch the kids. Let her ponder the impossibility of of what she expected out of you, then ask her, politely, to consider ALL the possibilities before she jumped to the worst case.

  8. Andrea September 21, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    I’d never do that, because I know that *my* wild one year old would throw himself out if the cart at the first opportunity. But I’d see that and assume you know your own kid, although I can’t promise that my own experiences would make me stick around in the friendliest way.

  9. SOA September 21, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

    What a b. I would have thanked her if she just came over to help out till you got back. That would be a sweet gesture. I do stuff like that for people all the time. I had twins……I have been there with trying to wrangle multiple kids in public bathrooms at the same time and it is NOT easy.

    I would have actually said something along those lines like “Instead of berating me lady maybe you could be a good person and offer to lend me a hand and help out in my time of need. I had one kid about to pee himself because we are potty training and two other kids to deal with at the same time. What do you suggest I do?”

  10. Kimberly Herbert September 21, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

    I got yelled at HEB for letting my 6 yo nephew go to the bathroom by himself. The woman had a kid – 9 – 10 yo easy and was pitching a fit because the family bathroom was occupied. She started going off at me, because I was setting a bad example. I ignored her and went into the ladies. My niece asked why I didn’t correct her. I told niece – sometimes you just don’t engage the crazy.

    Niece was out before me. She told me that crazy lady had gone off on the people that came out of the family bathroom – A man helping his wife, who was using a wheelchair. Then added I didn’t engage the crazy, but after crazy lady went in, I told the man and woman she yelled at you for letting Brett use the boys room. They laughed.

    For your situation, I probably would have kept an eye on your older two till you came out, but not because you were wrong. Just because that is what neighbors do for each other. I don’t trust those straps because more than one monkey in my family has escaped them.

  11. SOA September 21, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

    Also what Leslie said. I have been rebuffed when I tried to talk to other people’s kids and get odd looks. So while I still do it, people act weird.

    Just yesterday I was at a playground and bumped into some kids I knew and the grandmother whom I have never met was there with them. She kinda acted suspicious acting. I may have read her wrong but she wanted to know where I knew them from and I just got a vibe like she was checking me out so to speak. Which is stupid. The kids obviously knew me and trusted me as they were the ones coming up to me with big smiles talking to me and I knew their names.

  12. Kristy September 21, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    I had a woman yell at me the other day when, at the checkout line as I was putting items onto the conveyor belt, the cart with my 1 1/2 year old sitting in the front rolled a max of 12 inches away- close enough for me to still reach and pull back without even moving from where I was standing. She GASPED and looked at me with horror, and said “at LEAST he is strapped in, who knows what could have happened!” At LEAST he is strapped in, as if being the horrible mother that I am, I did manage to do that much. If you are standing behind me in line and the cart rolls due to it having WHEELS and the floor may be uneven in the farmer’s market, maybe you could stop the cart and smile at the baby and leave it at that.

  13. Orange Roughy September 21, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

    Why are there so many nutcases ready to criticize your parenting. I bet my mom never had confrontations like this when she raised me

  14. SKL September 21, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

    We should all teach our wee children to yell “BUSYBODY” whenever another adult criticizes their mom in front of them. 🙂 Better yet, teach them that putting up the middle finger is the way to get crabby adults to back off.

    So glad I’m mostly beyond that stage of parenthood.

  15. Rachel @ Wife, Then Mama September 22, 2014 at 12:10 am #

    I have asked a lady at Goodwill to watch my babies while I went to the bathroom. I was stranded there (LOOOOONG story!) and REALLY had to go. She had a daughter in the bathroom, and I know strangers don’t tend to kidnap random babies, so I figured it was safe. I am sure she thought I was insane, but it worked out great for me! Safe babies, no one yelling at me for leaving them unattended, and I didn’t wet myself. I make a conscious effort since reading FRK to “be the change I want to see in the world”.

    I also let the four year old little girl I baby sit use the bathroom alone when we go places (mostly the park) because taking a 1, 2, and 3 year old in public restrooms is practically impossible. She is VERY tall and can reach everything herself, so I figure why not as long as I can see the door? Is there a creepy paranoid part of my brain that is *sure* she is being raped and murdered? Well sometimes, but the logical part of my brain knows that most people are good or at least not bad, and that that only happens on horrifying TV shows that should be banned from TV so we quit being crazy.

  16. Liz September 22, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    People are crazy and love to play super hero. I started sending my boys into the Men’s room by themselves at about 5 years old. OMG!!…they could be molested in there or even killed…but will that happen? NO! Most men just ignore them in fear of what someone MIGHT think if they are too friendly. I see it all the time…women taking their boys into the Ladies room or locker room when they are WAY too old to be in there. Cut the apron strings. They’ll be fine.

  17. Kelly D. September 22, 2014 at 7:32 am #

    Don’t tell anyone, but I sent my 3 year old into the bathroom at Target by herself. She is fully potty-trained and can do everything she needs to do without help. Her twin brother is also trained but is TERRIFIED of loud toilets and air hand dryers, so he won’t set foot in a public bathroom. She just can’t reach the sink to wash her hands, so we carry hand sanitizer for situations like this. She came out so proud of herself that we now have a new tradition…

    …unless I run into the same crazy person the author did.

  18. Donna September 22, 2014 at 7:38 am #

    I can understand rolling your eyes at someone’s parenting decisions. I do it all the time, mostly with the many helicopter parents that I know. But I really don’t understand this need to actually stop and berate someone for their parenting choices. It is so bizarre and seems more like a serious anger management issue than anything else.

  19. Miriam September 22, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    At age almost 76, it is terribly alarming and depressing to see the vast amount of parents/people that have lost all shred of common sense that my generation and those that came before me had. I am profoundly glad I have no children to raise as this apparently is a mindless, crazy world.

  20. Vicki September 22, 2014 at 8:06 am #

    I wouldn’t have yelled at you, but I would have hung around and kept an eye on your little one to make sure he didn’t try to climb out. One day in Walmart, I heard the sickening thud of a toddler’s head as it hit the ground from climbing out of a cart. I never want to hear that again.

  21. MichaelF September 22, 2014 at 8:13 am #

    Much as I would want to leave a string of cuss words for someone who would dare do that to me at Target; my natural inclination is just as Kimberly said:

    “sometimes you just don’t engage the crazy”

    It often works out worse once you get on the Crazy Train, easy on but not so easy off.

  22. SKL September 22, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    Off-topic but I have to share. I just saw this post on facebook saying be careful who your friend, because there is this whole network of thousands of pervs who will use your kiddy photos along with their elementary school info to arrange a black market sale of your 5yo daughter to South Africa, all while you think she is enjoying her first day of school.

    Because if it weren’t for facebook, nobody would know the elementary schools are full of little girls.

    I don’t friend random people, but seriously?

    And then people chime in with “don’t have your location finder on etc. etc.” I don’t do that either, but not because I think my kid is going to be sold on the black market.

    I’m betting these folks would not get behind a campaign to have more kids walk to school …..

  23. pentamom September 22, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    “Off-topic but I have to share. I just saw this post on facebook saying be careful who your friend, because there is this whole network of thousands of pervs who will use your kiddy photos along with their elementary school info to arrange a black market sale of your 5yo daughter to South Africa, all while you think she is enjoying her first day of school.”

    Because there are no white kids in SA that would be easier to come by, in the first place. And there’s a whole network of people set up to commit a crime that can happen….on one day of the year.

  24. Andrew September 22, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    It is “scary” for children to be waiting quietly outside the toilets for their parent and sibling to emerge? Scary? Really? As in frightening? So, what was she afraid of? Having to look after the children herself, perhaps? Meteor strike?

    Yes, you needed to take the other children with you, *or something*. As taking them with you was clearly impractical, the “something” in this case was to leave them somewhere nearby and safe and get back to them as soon as you could.

    Forget it. Life is to short to worry about what other people think. Especially when they are wrong.

  25. Jessica September 22, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    @Kelly D. – my son is also afraid of the air dryers and flushing toilets. Always nice to kow I’m not the only one.

    I’m not sure why, but I’ve never been approached, let alone berated, for public parenting. Which is sad, because I have some great go-to lines. My most recent one is “are you offering to help? No? Then shut your mouth and mind your business.” Because honestly, if they really cared about the children (and not about being self-righteous) they would be lending a helping hand.

    On a side note, I got a message from my mom the other day on Facebook where she made a snide comment about a woman who had been in a car accident where another car hit them. Unfortunately, at that moment, her baby had been out of the car seat and was injured along with the mother. I’m a firm believer in car seats, but what riled me was my mom making the comment “what kind of mother does that?” Well mom, I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that you did, or at least that you had us in what would be considered subpar carseats by today’s standards and only until we were able to be buckled in a regular seatbelt. I hate that just because the standards have changed (and I am a firm advocate for carseats, btw) so many women feel the need to judge when how they raised their own kids likely would have resulted in multiple CPS calls.

  26. KMDM September 22, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    That’s total insanity. I too, would have offered to keep an eye on the littles while you ran one to the bathroom. Some people have no common sense these days. I’m going to take a wild guess and say crazy lady either never had to wrangle multiple kids in a public restroom OR (of course) she was perfect o’ perfect mom who had all hers stand at attention at all times. Lol imagine that!

  27. SKL September 22, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    Last week my kids and I were at a park, and another mom was there with her young boys. That mom was jogging around the paths. Her littlest, perhaps 3yo? had decided to try climbing the rock wall and got himself stuck. He was crying, “mama, mama,” so I went and lifted him down and told my kids (who are 7) to watch out for him. I then resumed my walk, and that kid’s mom came jogging in my direction. I wasn’t sure what she was going to say, and I guess she wasn’t sure what I was going to say either. She said, “thanks for helping my son,” and I smiled and said, “no problem.” That was the end of it. Too bad some people think they need to give moms a hard time when it’s already clear they have enough to worry about.

  28. Clare September 22, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    I had almost the exact same experience! I left my baby in the cart outside the bathroom so I could help my toddler open the door and undo her pants. I was scolded for not taking the baby, because “it’s not safe”.

    We were in the back of a walmart. If someone had picked up my baby I could have alerted store personnel before they got to the doors. It’s ridiculous to think a predator would be in that exact place at that exact moment. I suppose parents should never sleep for fear someone might break into their homes, after all, it’s happened!

    Maybe it’s best to tell people, “I know you mean well but I disagree.”

  29. Stacy September 22, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    Obviously, you know best whether your kid is a cart escape artist (one of mine was, the other two would have never attempted it) and whether your five-year-old is mature enough to watch over the little one (mine were at that age). Not to mention, moms taking multiple little people into stores and making emergency bathroom runs need all the help they can get, not admonishment. I’ve held a stranger’s baby in the restroom while she helped a toilet-training toddler, and a stranger has held mine. I thought that’s what moms do for each other? If you’re that concerned, stand by the kids until the mom gets back and then give her a big “I’ve been there,” smile.

    The only time I’ve been tempted to say something to a stranger about her parenting was at the playground recently when a woman demanded that an older child she didn’t know put down the dangerous stick (this is what drew my attention) and then hovered RIGHTNEXT to her school-age kids as they explored the playground, with her eyes constantly moving between the two children while they were two feet off the ground. Just watching her made me feel anxious; I can’t imagine how they feel. She wouldn’t let them separate because then she couldn’t be right next to both at all times. What can you possibly say to someone like that?

  30. K2 September 22, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    Given the current state of paranoia and that parents are responsible, blah, blah, blah… I think all the businesses should redo their bathrooms so that the carts can get in there and all the stalls are big enough to put the baby in the carseat in there too. It shouldn’t just be that the parents go to jail if the busybody feels like calling 911.

  31. SOA September 22, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Just keep in mind about the bathroom thing that a lot of little boys have autism now since it is more prevalent or other sensory disorders and public bathrooms are a literal nightmare for kids like that. Even my typical son hates them. But the hand dryers and automatic loud flushing toilets and echos and bright lights and confined spaces and water running causes my son with autism to have a sensory overload. So he will probably be needing assistance in the bathroom for many years to come. If people wanna think that makes me a helicopter parent so be it but if I don’t go in and manage him he will end up on the floor screaming his head off most likely.

    But even I have let him go in empty quiet public men rooms alone. Just finding an empty quiet one is rare. We did find one once. I send him in with his Dad if Dad is with us but otherwise he has to come with me. He is also an eloper and I can’t trust him not to run off.

    So before you get all judgey keep in mind that may be the case. But you can usually tell because the kid will have on headphones or be flapping or humming or looking stressed or have their hands over their ears.

  32. J- September 22, 2014 at 10:45 am #


    You have no idea! As a man, it is less dangerous (and stressful) to disarm land mines than deal with small children in a public bathroom, even your own.

    Fortunately, this has not happened to me, but on the daddy blogs, and even one dad that I know, dads get everything from the “stink eye” to full throated tirades and accusations of molestation if they help their own children in a public bathroom. The dad that I know was confronted outside the family bathroom at the Wal-Mart because he helped his daughter who was potty training.

    If it is not your child, it is even worse. Little boys rarely master the intricacies of the fly, so often drop everything to the ankles when using the urinal. If this happens near you, RUN! Just get out of the bathroom. If a little boy gets into trouble in there, don’t say anything, don’t do anything, just run.

    You see it of course. The little boy that can’t get his pants off, or touches the rim of the urinal. You think “I should remind him to wash his hands or step outside and see if his mom is there and say ‘there is a little boy in there having some difficulty, is he yours?'” NOPE! You will be confronted with “you LOOKED AT MY SON!?!” Or something of the like. You didn’t see anything, you aren’t going to say anything, and if the boy starts to cry, RUN!

    Most men would rather admit to selling nuclear secrets to Iran than acknowledge the little boy in the men’s room.

  33. SKL September 22, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    Or the stores should provide carts with removable baby carriers that you can wear into the bathroom when your 3yo needs to pee. (Sarcasm.)

    I was potty training both of my kids at the same time. Going to stores was always a complex matter. We’d use the restroom either before we started shopping or after we’d checked out (or both).

    Of course you’re extra screwed if Mom needs to go to the bathroom. I remember a time when I was waiting for friends at a restaurant. My kids were not yet walking and the double stroller wouldn’t fit between the tables on the way to the restroom. Now that was interesting.

  34. Crystal September 22, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    I’ve been yelled at in a Target over my parenting. I had the audacity to teach my son “left” and “right” by sending him to the end of the aisle and asking him to turn one of two ways. A woman watched me, shook her head, stayed quiet for a minute, and then said, “I’m sorry, I just stay quiet. Don’t you know anyone could snatch him?” And I’m thinking right lady, he’s a whole 10 feet away and the entrance to the store is like a half-mile walk away and I would see the kidnapping and there’s no way the bad guy could escape anywhere…but of course, I said none of those things, smiled politely and got out of that aisle as fast as I could. That was a few years ago, and SHOCKINGLY, all of my children are still intact.

  35. Gary September 22, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    I can’t…I just…can’t anymore.

  36. Gary September 22, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    ““I’m sorry, I just stay quiet. Don’t you know anyone could snatch him?”

    “Mind your own f!@#$%^ business you f!@#$%^” harpie is what comes to my mind.

  37. Stacy September 22, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    This reminds me of the time I was criticized by a stranger for walking away from my tantrum-throwing two-year-old who didn’t want to leave the mall when we had to be somewhere. I tried calmly talking to her, and then talking to her more firmly. I tried carrying her and she was fighting so hard I couldn’t hold on to her safely. So, I told her I was walking out and she had better follow. I started walking, glancing back often. I was about twenty feet away in a nearly empty mall and looking backward when an older woman approached her and then glared at me, asked if that was my child, and muttered about “some people.” My daughter caught up to me, and we left. I sure was a terrible mom.

  38. JP Merzetti September 22, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    So there I am in a Target (perish the thought!) and I happen to come upon a cart parked outside the bathroom door, with a baby in the cart and a 5 year-old standing en guarde…and like any normal adult, I pause, taking a brief respite from the shopping frenzy, make pleasant time with the children until the mom returns. Nothing to it.
    And who knows? Maybe I get smiled upon and thanked by the mom for acting my age…..or on the other hand, maybe I get frosted out as potential stranger danger.(eek, a man.)
    Frankly, my dear Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.
    I’m not about to lose my good sense, good upbringing or good social conscience over either outcome.
    We are becoming a worried little hornet’s nest over nothing.
    Line up the usual suspects, and carry on.

    For, it is all about the children. Depending upon us to act like the sensible adults they need us to be. Instead of fighting over ideologies.
    We have created this perfect little world, full of magic and miracles, opulence and arrogance, breezy affluence and influence, push-button gratifications….and haul our children through it like apologetic liabilities. Forever ingratiating ourselves to the monsters we create.
    That’s some life.

    As long as we continue to shop, drive and participate in the great pageant of consumer functions, these scenarios will play out endlessly. We can’t all afford an entourage of secret service persons and bodyguards to attend our every need now, can we? (A subtle nudge toward the law-makers.)
    Is there anyone listening, up there?

  39. Warren September 22, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    Yes stores, restaurants and other businesses can spend thousands of dollars making bigger bathrooms. Not an easy or cheap job, because they likely cannot just eliminate one stall to widen things out, due to strict codes dictating how many stalls they need, based on their square footage of their business. And yes, thousands more for hyper modern carts with removable seats, which will need to be replaced everytime they are stolen.


    People can just suck it up, realize that this is not an episode of “enter favorite crime drama here”, and or mind their own damn business.

  40. Tiny Tim September 22, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    I used to think the “anybody could snatch them” attitude was solely a product of media scare stories about mostly non-existent stranger danger. But recent experiences with some parents have taught me that it isn’t just that they’re worried about the millions of sexual predators lurking behind every target aisle, it’s that they think their little snowflakes are so precious that of course people want to take them.

  41. Warren September 22, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    Just an after thought.

    Unless the kids waiting outside the bathroom for mom/dad appear distressed, why would you even bother stopping and watching over or engaging them in conversation? You may think it is being nice, but you are still saying the parent was in the wrong, and you could very well upset the kids, who were probably told to not talk with strangers.
    Unless they are upset, why would you not just give the parent the benefit of the doubt that they know their kids, and don’t need you butting in?

  42. Mark Roulo September 22, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    I’m a pretty easy-going parent who spent a *LOT* of time with my kid while he was young (… hmmm, and I still do even though he’s a teenager…) and I don’t remember being scolded.

    This is mostly women getting yelled at, right?

  43. SKL September 22, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    I don’t think I was ever yelled at by a stranger about my parenting, but I was told off repeatedly for letting my 3yo trail behind in a perfectly safe place (she was pouting and she walks slow when she pouts).

    I was so mad I could hardly think at the time.

    But now that I can think, I wonder – what exactly did that lady want me to do? Apologize? Swear never to do it again? Offer to give her my kids since she is obviously a better parent? Shoot myself in the head?

    I kinda hope someone did similar to her shortly thereafter, so she might realize what it’s like.

    The other day I was watching a documentary on YouTube about a little girl who was taken from her mother by CPS, supposedly because the mom wouldn’t stay away from the grandma whose boyfriend had an old criminal record involving sex with a teen. Anyhoo, the mother went through hell for a long time trying to get the kid back, and the kid went through hell because she wanted to go back to her mom, and eventually when custody was permanently severed, the little girl failed to attach to the adoptive mom (ironically a former CPS worker). Well, the adoptive mom ended up killing the little girl by taping her mouth shut (during a tantrum) and locking her in the basement, where she suffocated to death. They took away the adoptive mom’s other kids, one of whom was a tot. They showed the killer talking about how sad it was for her tot to be missing his mommy. It never seemed to occur to her that the family she’d helped destroy had gone through the same things. People are stupid.

  44. jimc5499 September 22, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    What is it with Target? A few weeks a go I injured my right leg. I can walk short distances with crutches and drive. Saturday, I had a batch of prescriptions that I needed so my Sister and Niece met me at the store. My Niece was watching a show on her tablet, so my Sister leaves her in the car and goes to get my prescriptions. I am in my car parked right next to my Sister’s car. It wasn’t five minutes before a woman was tapping on her window asking where her Mother was? I lowered my window and said “Her Mother is in the store, but, her Uncle is right here”. She gave me a nasty look and walked off.

  45. Reziac September 22, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    I’m surprised the busybodies aren’t in your homes making sure you don’t let little kids go to the bathroom alone, because, ya know, they might fall in the toilet and drown.

  46. Reziac September 22, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Someone says, “This is mostly women getting yelled at, right?”

    Yeah, because if it’s a man with the kids, they don’t scold ’em, they call the cops because all men are child molesters, doncha know.

  47. lollipoplover September 22, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    No one wants to steal random 5 year-olds and 1 year-olds from a big box store that has security cameras every 2 feet. There’s a lot of *scary* in this world. Waiting outside of Tarjay for a minute isn’t one of them.

    Teach your kids to yell “Stranger!” and point fingers or stick their tongues out at busybodies. I would have come out of that bathroom and handed a swollen pull-up to judgemental mom to bring her off her soapbox. “Get a grip” or “Paranoid much?” would have been my kinder replies.
    We can all look out for the children of this world by being helpful and kind. Try watching the cart until mom returns and telling mom her kids are adorable and it looks like she has her hands full and then leave with a smile. Wanting to exchange words and pass judgement is not helpful or kind. It’s malicious and mental. I would have been happy to watch your cart for your, no judgement. Hang in there mom, there are still good people in the world.

  48. JJ September 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    I like Clare’s suggestion of saying “I know you mean well, but I disagree”. If the person seems angry or off-balance, I would just ignore, who wants to escalate it. Otherwise, you want to show your kids that you know what you are doing and that its important to stick up for yourself.

    And April, what you did sounds reasonable to me.

  49. Tiny Tim September 22, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    I agree with lollipoplover’s basic point that the “strangers” who are busybodies lack the self-awareness to understand that if they’re knocking on car windows to talk to kids or similar they’re precisely the people those busybodies would advise your kids to run screaming from or hit with pepper spray. They are strangers who are bothering your kids. Those are the strangers your kids are supposed to be scared of!

  50. Buffy September 22, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    “why would you even bother stopping and watching over or engaging them in conversation?”

    I was wondering this very same thing; you’re still criticizing the parenting if you stop and hang with the kids til their mom comes out. I’m also surprised at how many comments are along the lines of “I’d worry that he’d fall out of the cart.” Do you really think this mom hasn’t assessed that danger, and quite possibly knows her very own child and his inclinations a bit better than you, who’s never seen this child before, do?

  51. SOA September 22, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    Buffy: So if you saw a child running for the street you would not try to go grab the kid because “Hey I don’t know this child, maybe they know to stop at the street or surely their mother has it handled.”

    If I followed that logic there would be one less child in the world right now. I saw a child almost run out onto a busy street to chase a paper airplane his brother threw into oncoming traffic. The mother ws inside getting more napkins. I screamed out STOP!!! and the little boy thankfully stopped as I was also making motions to start running after him but my voice came out quicker than I was moving. I doubt I could have even reached him in time but my scream did the trick.

    But according to you I should have just sat there and did nothing and figure Hey if I get involved at all I am challenging this mother’s parenting. And if the kid got in the street and hit by a car which would have definitely happened……oh well better than daring to potentially criticize someone’s parenting right?

    The mother came back out from getting napkins just as the event ended and saw the horrified look on my face and the horrified look on my friend’s face and her other son’s face and asked what happened because we were all still coming off of our shock and adrenaline. I told her what happened and she looked very upset to know what almost happened. She did not seem that worried about me insulting her parenting skills. I think she was just happy her kid was not road kill.

  52. SOA September 22, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    As another poster said, kids fall out of carts all the freaking time. I have seen it and yes, that sound is not a sound anyone wants to hear when their head smacks the concrete. Shudder…….

    See that attitude is just anti free range as the other attitude. We are damned if we try to interact with people pleasantly and watch out for one another and we are damned if we do nothing. Either way we are going to piss someone off so that is why so many people look the other way and don’t get involved anymore even when they probably should have. Because even trying to be kind gets you chewed out.

  53. Emily Morris September 22, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    This might just be my own personal interpretation of Free-range Kids, but Free-Range Kids is not about isolating ourselves and our children. I see a lot of community-building in the philosophy.

    If I have reason to believe your kids are in danger you possible did not anticipate, I will watch your kids. I will rescue your children from dangerous situations as long as it is in my power to do so.

    I will not be a busy-body, I will not rescue your children from the horrors of sitting in a car for 45 seconds or from waiting outside the bathroom.

    But I will be neighborly. I will be that extra set of eyes.

  54. ariel September 22, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    in reply to SKL’s comment about yelling “busybody”: YES! instead of yelling “stranger danger”! it would get a lot of attention because it’s not something often yelled, while there are plenty of stories about little kids getting the idea to yell “YOU’RE NOT MY [insert relation]!” when not getting their way, and then security swoops down on the poor parent/guardian like Batman.

  55. Buffy September 22, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    I don’t recall ever mentioning a child running down the street. The story in question is about a 5-year-old and a buckled in 1-year-old waiting right outside the bathroom for mom and another sibling. If there was something in that post about a child running down the street I missed it.

    I do believe that if these children do not appear to be in distress, there is no reason to hang with them til the mom comes out. There’s no reason to worry about the buckled 1-year-old falling out of the cart. Let’s give some credit to mom and to the 5-year-old, who can certainly go into the bathroom and get mom if something terrible, whatever that might be, happens. Or certainly, if you observe something terrible then of course get involved. But two kids whose mother has decided are capable of waiting outside for a few minutes, AND ARE DOING SO, do not need intervention from anyone.

  56. pentamom September 22, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    Buffy — I’d offer one possible alternative scenario, though I generally agree with you.

    I might hang discreetly around kids who look fine to make it look to the busybodies like someone is watching the kids, so they’re more inclined to mind their own business. Better for me not to mind by own business in a way that doesn’t annoy the family or worse, than for someone else to do it in a way that does.

  57. Kenny Felder September 22, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    Every year, somewhere between 500 and 800 people in the US die by becoming tangled in their bedsheets. This is real. It is fatal. Hundreds of times per year, consistently.

    Do you think we could start a campaign to ban bedsheets? I mean sure, it’s not likely to happen to you or your children, but what if it did? You wouldn’t make light of this if it happened to you!

    Now let’s talk about the 600+ fishing-related deaths every year in the US. I am not making this up.

    Can we all just agree to live in hermetically sealed bubbles already?

  58. julie September 22, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    I really don’t judge anybody’s parenting. However, when I am at Bucee’s and two boys are old enough to judge women and make comments about their underwear and their bottoms in the bathroom…. I will judge their behavior and tell the mother that perhaps it is time those boys are no longer coming with her to the women’s room…

  59. SOA September 22, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    Julie: I agree with you on that. That happened to me once too where the boy was easily 13 and was peeping at me through the hole in the door. I actually did say something to that mother because nothing indicated he was special needs.

    But in general, the kids with sensory issues won’t be peeping at you.

  60. Warren September 22, 2014 at 2:59 pm #


    How in the blue hell can you compare a child buckled into a cart, watched by a sibling, to a child running towards a busy street?

    You really need to get some help. You mental and emotional issues seem to be getting worse, by the post.

  61. Jenna K. September 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    Take heart, April. I would have done the same thing. I have done the same thing. As a mom who once had four kids under five, I know the things you sometimes have to do. My oldest is now eleven and an excellent babysitter. He can even change diapers.

  62. Jessica September 22, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    @SKL “But now that I can think, I wonder – what exactly did that lady want me to do? Apologize? Swear never to do it again? Offer to give her my kids since she is obviously a better parent? Shoot myself in the head?”

    This. This right here. If you’re not offering to help, then what do you want me to do?

  63. Cynthia812 September 22, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    I would not be offended, nor would I consider it commentary on my parenting if someone started chatting up my kids in this situation. Unless they gave me the stink eye afterward. After all, it was a situation where she had to move quickly, so she actually may not have left them in the best circumstance. But that’s true many times in life, and doesn’t make you a bad parent.

    I’m always a little concerned about teaching kids to yell that someone is not their parent. My daughter’s favorite thing to say when she’s mad is “you’re not my family anymore”, and my husband says that he was out with her and she yelled, “you’re not my daddy, mister!”. Thankfully, she looks just like him. And it’s not a bad idea, just not foolproof.

  64. amy September 22, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    Seeing your mother being yelled at teaches kids either that strangers are crazy or that your mom did something wrong. Neither is true and the kids are potentially traumatized. The woman was wrong to say something and wrong about how she said it. I might have kept an eye on your kids from a distance because I’m mildly over-cautious, but at the same time I offered to hold a woman’s baby in the bathroom on the turnpike because you just can’t hold a baby and pee and the stroller doesn’t fit in the stall. She let me. I guess I look trust worthy. If more people keep an eye out for each other and fewer people mind that people are helpful we’ll all be better off.

  65. Maegan September 22, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    I hear you. I have 18-month-old twins and I feel like good parenting has been reduced to a string of trivial dilemmas. I was at the park alone last weekend with them in their wide double jogging stroller when I suddenly had to use the bathroom. The park bathroom doors weren’t wide enough for the stroller. I really, really wanted to leave the stroller outside. I wasn’t at all worried that someone would wander off with them in the two minutes I’d be in there. But, as always, I feared judgment and, at worst, police involvement. So I unbuckled them and ushered them into the bathroom with me. Fortunately, they’ve been walking for almost 6 months. If they weren’t strong on their feet, I’d never be able to accomplish anything! Is it really that hard to get them out of the stroller and take them in the bathroom and put them back in the stroller? No. Of course not. But those little unnecessary things really add up quickly. I’ve completely given up on the hope that I’ll ever feel comfortable leaving them in an appropriate-temperature car for 5 minutes. I’ll have a Slurpee when they’re 12.

  66. SOA September 22, 2014 at 11:25 pm #

    Warren: I was making the example that Buffy said any kind of action whether it be berating the mother or just going over and talking to the kids to make sure they are fine till the mother gets back is a JUDGEMENT shock horror on that mother’s parenting and that is stupid.

    The yelling at her one is not okay but the other one is a kind gesture that promotes community. If we take that approach that we cannot intervene at all to offer help with other people’s kids then we basically become like what I said and we stand there doing nothing no matter what happens even if it is a life and death situation. Where do you draw the line to when it is okay to offer help or not? A baby that fell out of a cart could die. If their head is struck just right. Head traumas are no laughing matter. So if someone came over there to chat with the kids politely to make sure they were okay till the mother got back that would be a nice gesture.

    I mean you can’t have it both ways. Either we help each other out in a nice way and talk to each other and promote community or we all just ignore each other completely and never get involved. Which do you want?

  67. SOA September 22, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

    Oh and for the record in that story I told, the older sibling was supposed to be “Watching” his little brother too. That was about the same age difference as in the story. Except instead of “watching” his little brother, he took his plane from him and threw it into oncoming traffic. I don’t think it was intentional but the point still stands that the kid ends up as road kill.

    So yeah……..I guess I did not need to intervene since his slightly older sibling had it under control. Oh wait, he didn’t.

  68. JP Merzetti September 23, 2014 at 12:45 am #

    Hmmm. A few here have mentioned, why even bother stopping?
    It all depends on the style, folks.
    I’ve been doing this for 40 years, ever since I was a teenager.
    The trick is to not be obtrusive.
    The trick is to not scare the kids. (giggle fits are good.)
    The trick is to not be judgemental.
    The trick is to be entirely confident that you know exactly what you’re doing, it’s for a good cause, and you’re not going to put anyone’s nose out of joint.
    I dunno……there’s just a real simple and easy way to keep a very subtle eye on kids – without calling out the national guard. Maybe it’s the nonchalant James Dean shrug, who knows?

    The big question: have I ever been accosted by an irate suddenly arriving absentee parent?
    Only once.
    In a grocery store lineup….it was a complete fiasco…but I survived it unscathed (and STILL managed to give the tots a wink on my way out.) Their smilebacks were just too cute.

    Hint: if they’re not s’posed ta talk to strangers….then don’t talk! (at least, not with vocal language….)
    Maybe kids are just too damned more important to me than ideologies.

    In the town I grew up in…..thousands of adults did this, all the time. I guess that’s where and how I learned how to do it. I’m glad I did.

  69. April September 23, 2014 at 1:49 am #

    Thx everyone i love all ur comments 🙂 maegen what u said about all the little things adding up is right on the money. When you have little kids cutting some corners is the only way to survive. A couple weeks ago I drove all the way to the store bc we needed milk and i just sat there thinking about getting all of them out of the car and to the back of the store and battling that huge car-cart thing and paying and buckling them all back in and i ended up just driving away. Sometimes just thinking about whatever task at hand completely defeats me. There was a story today on my newsfeed that was another ‘dad forgot he had the baby with him and left the baby in the car’ stories. (A mom broke his windshield and got him out). It was one of those actual legitimate stories where someone forgot they had the baby w them- not like the stupid ones where a mom ran up to the atm and someone ripped a tree out of the ground and smashed her window, but the comments just disturbed me- ppl were like “yeah rt. He didnt ‘forget’ his kid in the car. (For 40 mins) I hope he goes to jail forever, etc” i dont know why ppl would think someone would lie about it first of all. (How evil to prefer to believe that a person would intentionally forget their kid for that long, what is wrong w ppl..?) But also, the amount of stress parents are put under w all these eyes watching them, ppl waiting w excitement to go off on you at any minute, and then having to haul ur children around within 5 feet of u at all times- it starts to take a toll on you. I seriously am starting to feel like i have dementia or something! And i really do wonder if parenting has always been this stressful (like dementia-inducing stressful!!) or if this is new. Im frankly not surprised at all to hear about parent-zombies forgetting where they left their kids. We’re completely maxed out. I love the idea of another mom swooping in and helping in my moment of need. I crave that ‘village’ ive heard so much about. I dont have family that im close to in the area and my husband is gone 16 hrs a day, 6 days a week. But ive had too many bad experiences now to expect anything good. I warn my kids about other moms more than anything else bc thats what i feel is the most realistic threat to us. A side note about my one yr old: hes still now at 14 months not even close to walking. Really a pretty lazy little baby lol. He didnt even know that standing up in the cart was an option yet, at the time (he does now). My daughter was a crazy baby and i never would have left her in a cart even to bend down and pick up my car keys but..thats their diff personalities and i made a judgement based on the info i knew and when i came out of the bathroom my kids were in the same positions as when i left them, w exception of the crazy lady who my daughter was ignoring bc she doesnt talk to strangers lol. The woman argued w me for some time before i finally said “thk u for ur OPINION.” And she went away w a disgusted look on her face. Omg mary i cant believe someone yelled at u for leaving ur 6,7 and 10 yr old outside the bathroom. At that age me and my brother were staying by ourselves at home! Thats just insane..

  70. Mandy September 23, 2014 at 1:50 am #

    I’m always the person talking to other people’s kids, standing between the small kid and the end of the sidewalk when mom is halfway down the block, telling the running toddler STOP before he runs into the parking lot. Stuck kid on the climbing wall? I’ll help. I’ve picked up other people’s kids when they’ve fallen down; told a strange kid, hey your mom’s calling you. I also have no fear of (politely) correcting a kid who’s acting like a jerk.

    My husband is like this too, and that does make me slightly nervous– that people would get the wrong idea about him when he’s just being neighborly. So far no problems, though.

  71. Donna September 23, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    SOA – There is a HUGE difference between stepping in to aid a child heading toward potential danger and injecting yourself into a situation that is just fine without you. The difference between stopping a child headed for the road and taking it upon yourself to supervise a child walking contently down the sidewalk. The difference between trying to engage a toddler who is unhappily strapped into a shopping cart and taking it upon yourself to supervise a child who is sitting contentedly in a shopping cart.

    The first is truly helpful and the kind of community that we all want to live in. The second is nothing more than busybodiness and is full of judgment that the mother was failing to properly supervise her child or can’t handle things. And, if you are truly not being a judgmental busybody and just so lack the ability to read social cues that you can’t tell a situation that needs your help from a situation that doesn’t, just stay out of everyone’s business always.

  72. SOA September 23, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    Mandy: me too.
    It is just my nature. Most people appreciate it but you always have the insecure weirdos that think it is some insult to their parenting.

    If I am insulting your parenting I will straight up insult you. If I am just helping your kid climb down from the climbing wall when they get stuck or making sure they don’t run out in the road, I am being a good person.

    It is the insecure parents that can’t tell the difference that are the problem.

    And no Donna, some parents can’t tell the difference. I had a kid climb on top of a 6 foot high mountain of pools on display and I told him to get off to protect the pools and himself. His mother came in after I said it and started bitching me out for daring to say something to her kid. However it was my job as the employee to protect the merchandise and keep us from getting sued. But some insecure parents are going to get mad no matter what if you are offering help or stepping in because they didn’t.

  73. Stacy September 23, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    I said that if the woman was concerned she could stand by because I was imagining she might have had personal experience in little escape artists. My youngest trained me to watch her like a hawk or she’d be standing up in the seat. It’s more likely she was a crazy person who thought the kids were going to be kidnapped, but I would give anyone the benefit of the doubt if they were polite and not judgmental.

  74. Warren September 23, 2014 at 10:41 am #


    You really need to get some help.

    Two kids waiting for mom outside the restroom is not the same as a kid running into the street. One is dangerous and one is a common everyday thing, that presents no risk at all. Can you guess which one is which? Obviously you cannot.
    Then you compare it to a workplace incident. Of course it is your job to stop the kid from climbing on merchandise.

    But if you cannot tell the difference between those three incidents, then you do not have any risk assessment skills what so ever.

    You have shown in the past that you expect certain shows of appreciation for the things you do, and that is most obviously your motivation. Not to actually help, but to find any and all situations that you can either

    1. Be thanked and praised by the parent you are helping. Which feeds your delicate ego.
    2. You can bitch and moan to your friends that the parent didn’t thank and praise you. They will all rally around you, and again your precious little ego gets stroked.

    Either way you win. When in reality, because the only reason you are doing any of these “good deeds”, and that definitely does not make you a winner. If anyone should ever just mind their own business, it is you.

  75. CrazyCatLady September 23, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    After some thought…I think that I would be tempted to berate her right back. All in an authentic, shocked and louder and louder tone!

    “This is scary!” (her)
    “Oh my gosh! What is happening?” (me)
    “You left your kids alone! ANYTHING could have happened!”
    “Oh my goodness – you are RIGHT! Someone might have walked off with them – LIKE YOU!!” (me pointing at her!)
    “In fact, I think you were about to do so! And I shocked you by coming out so quickly! I am going to find security right now!” (Me, walking away to do my shopping.)

  76. EricS September 23, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Your not going “crazy” April. In fact, imo, it’s the people like this busybody woman that are. Just remember, there is NO LAW that prevents you from leaving your children unattended for a couple of minutes while you take another into the washroom. The law (in general) states that neglect entails, IMMEDIATE danger to the child, physical and/or mental distress, or inadequate provision of basic needs. You did nothing wrong. Don’t let other people tell you otherwise.

    Here’s an exert from US Dept of Health and Services. http://1.usa.gov/1lx7KpL

    “Lack of appropriate supervision. Some States specify the amount of time children at different ages can be left unsupervised, and the guidelines for these ages and times vary. In addition, all children are different, so the amount of supervision needed may vary by the child’s age, development, or situation. It is important to evaluate the maturity of the child, the accessibility of other adults, the duration and frequency of unsupervised time, and the neighborhood or environment when determining if it is acceptable to leave a child unsupervised.24”

    Sounds to me there is a level of common sense in these outlines. Which that woman you dealt with did not. These are also outlines, guides, not written in stone. As the site states, different children have different needs. One 5 year old can be more mature and “responsible” than another 5 year old. But that is up to the parent of each children to decide if their child is at a level of competence they are comfortable with, that they can leave them alone for a few minutes. NOT some sanctimonious, self-centred, no common sense busybody.

    What I would have said to that woman, “Thank you for your concern. But I know my kids, and my eldest is more than capable of knowing what to do if he is left with his sibling outside of a washroom that I’m taking his other sibling into, for a few minutes. Good day!” And if she insists on arguing, tell her “There is no law against me leaving my two kids out here while I go to the washroom with the other. Considering the fact that, it would take far, far more effort to drag all 3 into the washroom, while one of them is about to pee his pants. A little logic, and common sense from people like you would go a long way in making a better community for the rest of us. Not just your need to point fingers, because YOU think I’m doing something “wrong”.” Then give her a head shake and chuckle as you walk off.

    If she keeps on you, call the store manager, and complain about the woman for harassing you and your children. I believe that is against the law. Call the police if need be. Some of these people just need to be put in their place to smarten up.

  77. Donna September 23, 2014 at 12:34 pm #


    I didn’t say that some parents don’t ignore their children doing obviously dangerous things. Some parents are crappy, no doubt about it. Other parents are simply harried and in trying to solve one kid’s problem momentarily forget about the other or fail to think through everything completely. And some kids are just really good at getting away. That is what is great about a community who will help out.

    I said that apparently YOU don’t know the difference in the need for interference between running into the street and sitting contentedly in the shopping cart. One needs your help (whether the parents appreciate it or not) and one doesn’t. Helping the one that doesn’t is being intrusive and a busybody.

  78. EricS September 23, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    @Leslie and SOA: Regardless of how people are these days, I still wave, play peek-a-boo, and smile at other people’s children. They can think whatever they want. Fortunately, in my community, most parent(s) don’t freak out. I’ve actually had numerous pleasant conversations. Especially when I bring up my own. I remember one child with his mom (guessing single, no ring on finger), suddenly got attached while I was playing “faces” with him, and stood beside me in line at Starbucks, and held my hand. Both me and the mother looked at each other in surprise. I thinks he felt more awkward for me, than her kid. But I assured her, her son just made my day. He was a good kid. Sadly, from time to time, I do get the odd, “your weird” look, or the “I shouldn’t be scared, but I am” look. And they move away. I don’t take offence. Some people have just let themselves become like that. No one has gotten upset with me though, and called the cops. There is hope for humanity yet.

  79. EricS September 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    @Julie: “…perhaps it is time those boys are no longer coming with her to the women’s room…”

    LOL! I would have to definitely agree with that assessment. But the way many people are becoming, I wouldn’t be surprised if parents preferred to take their teen boys to the washroom with them. “You never know what can happen”. lol

  80. Papilio September 23, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    @Jessica & @SKL ““But now that I can think, I wonder – what exactly did that lady want me to do? Apologize? Swear never to do it again? Offer to give her my kids since she is obviously a better parent? Shoot myself in the head?”

    This. This right here. If you’re not offering to help, then what do you want me to do?”

    I could think of a) look at her like she’s COMPLETELY lost her mind (and perhaps shield your kids from her as if you honestly think *she* is the dangerous person). (Shouldn’t be too hard…) or
    b) go along in ridiculous total over-the-top panic: OMG you’re right! What was I thinking! This totally could’ve killed them within THIS CENTURY! Aaaaaaaah!!! (add some more stuff from the tinfoil-hat category if you like)

  81. Emily September 23, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    1. The woman in this story was completely fine. Middle kid had to go to the bathroom at Target, she couldn’t get the shopping cart with Oldest and Youngest in it into said bathroom, and there was really no way around it, because even if Middle went in his Pull-Ups, she probably would have still had to bring him into the bathroom to change him. If they lived more than a few minutes away from Target, if they had a lot of shopping to do (or other errands after Target), or if they were taking public transit instead of driving, then leaving a child in a wet Pull-Up for the duration of the shopping excursion could give him a rash.

    2. I’d hate to think how much worse the situation would have been if the letter writer was a man, and especially if Middle was a girl. Some busybodies will automatically think “Pedophile!!!” even if it’s just a father helping his small child in the bathroom.

    3. I’m really over the Warren versus Dolly argument that plays itself out in almost every thread here.

  82. Andrea Olson September 24, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    I am actually more concerned about this part than the main topic (which I have also done with my 4 yr old, although he was parked inside the bathroom but outside of the stall I was using, door open as well)…but this bothers me: “We ran in, didn’t even close the stall door behind us, pulled down his shorts, he screamed at the toilet, I said, “ugh ok fine then just pee in your pull up” and pulled his shorts back up. We walked out without even washing our hands.  So it was literally like a minute.”

    If you are “potty training,” using pull ups = confusing. They are diapers. Potty training at 3 – I am assuming you didn’t have the guidance to do it earlier, and we are a diapering culture, and it’s unfortunate because 3 years old is entirely too difficult for both of you! We are inching closer and closer to age FOUR for potty training independence in this culture. I teach infant pottying, so I am absolutely biased, and, if you don’t practice what I teach (elimination communication or EC), you can much more easily conventionally potty train at 18-20 months instead of at 3 years old. OP, I totally feel for you in trying to PT a 3 yr old…with two other kids no less…and I hope that your example can help others to see that it’s much more difficult to wait this long…and to potty train early is what our grandparents did. Just some food for thought…unsolicited food, I know, and very judgmental (I apologize!)…**but in the spirit of “free range” we also need to give skills to our children like being able to poop in the toilet *on their own* vs. pooping in their pants at 3 years old. It sets the stage for more and more capable free range activities as they age, and gives incredible confidence and self esteem to our young toddlers who are following their instincts for natural hygiene and mastery over skills related to their own bodily functions by becoming potty independent between 12-20 months, as Montessori teaches as well. Thanks for “listening” ya’ll. 🙂 Andrea of Go Diaper Free

  83. Maegan September 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    Regarding the discussion within the comments about whether a person should or shouldn’t stop if they, in fact, do have the best intentions and are non-judgmental, I honestly don’t know if it’s that big of a deal either way. It’s more of a personality thing, right? Comparing it to stopping a child from running into traffic is absurd, in my opinion. A child strapped into a shopping cart is in no way in direct danger, where a child running into traffic obviously is. Has a child or two been known to wriggle out of a shopping cart seat belt? Yes. Is it common? No. The point is, if you do choose to stop and observe some children in this situation, don’t pretend to be a hero. Don’t tell yourself you’re saving them. They are going to be fine either way. Someone like myself who is on the shy side is going to be uncomfortable coming out of the restroom and seeing you there with my kids. Does it mean you shouldn’t be there? No. You can be where you want to be. You can talk to my kids. They like people and it’s important that they understand they can talk to strangers and that other people are interesting and kind. Fostering a sense of community is a worthy goal, but if you’ve told yourself that “Hey, there’s a child who might fall and I must stop and watch them”, then you’re not doing it for the right reasons. You’re buying into worst-first thinking and you’re patting yourself on the back for something you didn’t really do. Maybe you’re not judging the mom because you know she’s in an impossible situation. But you’re not really supporting the idea that the kids are all right, which is really the point of Free Range Kids, right?

  84. Nicole September 24, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    The only scary thing that happened to your kids was a madwoman screaming at their mother. Don’t let other people make you think you were in the wrong- call them out on it! If this happened to me, I would not let a person like this walk away thinking they were right. I would tell them exactly what I thought of someone who dares to berate a parent in front of their impressionable children for not being a member of their cult of paranoid fantasy.

  85. JP Merzetti September 24, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    That’s just too hilarious…..having to warn your kids that the stranger danger really comes from other busybody women who want to judge their mom.

    And to answer your question: no – parenting didn’t at all use to be as stressful as it’s become now. Part of that has to do with the re-design of the communties many of us live in. There are many factors in this.

    But the supreme irony – getting through a childhood didn’t used to be as stressful, either. For all the “protection” our kids get, there have never been so many stressed out kids. Or unhealthy, medicated and over-controlled.
    Big sisters are constantly watching.
    Like our own peculiar version of a Cultural Revolution.
    Too many idiots with bright ideas about how things should be done.

    I always thought it was a very good thing for kids to learn how to take care of each other. That’s what I grew up with.
    It engendered pride and confidence, to have a bit of that responsibility and know what to do with it….rather than to be considered completely unable to handle it.
    It was encouraged by adults, and expected of us. Not because they absolved themselves of their own responsibility, but because it was an important part of growing up.
    When I was still a teenager, I knew how to parent a kid. I had to have learned that somewhere….

  86. JP Merzetti September 24, 2014 at 2:37 pm #


    I understand well enough where you’re coming from.
    As I said, it all depends on the style with which you do it, and of course, the spirit in the effort.
    I’m talking about an easy, natural, non-judgemental response.
    Not an over the top, hysterical worst-first hyper-critical melt-down.
    To me that is the point. People helping people. Noticing. Caring. Nothing wrong? Wonderful.
    But keeping an eye out. Noticing. For good reasons, not bad ones.
    No need for heroics. Or one-upmanship. Kids knock me out. Playing my little part feels good. It is entirely a blessing, not a curse.
    Living in a world where one is socially cut off from all this – is a ridiculous way to live.
    Kids are woven right into the human fabric, and part of the grand pageant. They are not pocket hamsters.
    So……we respond to them as little humans. Love it.
    I’ve always thought that this is something to encourage – not do away with.
    Every situation is its own unique little scenario. Knowing how to read the signs is useful. Adults being adult.

  87. julia horne September 25, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

    You are a perfectly good parent. Knowing what your children are capable of means you are an attentive mom. The psycho who spewed garbage at you is just that: a psycho. Next time ask her if she’s been taking her meds. 🙂

  88. April September 25, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    Damn it andrea, (that was meant to be a salutation but it just hit the wall and slid down like a hmaburger pickle)

    I do not want to hear about infant potty training rt now. I can not infant potty train my 3 yr old, that ship has sailed.

    Also, infant potty training would have made the situatuion worse since i still have an infant and then i would have been alternating my 3 yr old and my infant into the restroom, therefore collecting more lunatics surrounding my ‘cart of negligence’.

    And lastly, i have had 3 kids in four yrs (u do not have to tell me how stupid that is, im living the dream over here), all i can do is keep them alive and minimize the trauma due to the mobs of mothers w cps on speedial and parenting advice bookmarked on their iphones. The other night i thought i would make a nice dinner and my 3 yr old stabbed my 5 yr old in the eyebrow w preschool scissors. I do NOT have time to be timing and dangling an infant over the john. Do not. Have time. Infant toilet dangling. No andrea!! Do not rebut w how simple it really can be ‘once u get the hang of it.’ The only thing ‘hanging’ over here is my boobs to the ground bc of all the ppl that insisted that i breastfeed. I am sick of modern advice. Sometimes its right and sometimes its wrong but it ALWAYS is exhausting and it has sucked the joy out of parenting for me. I just want to blow rasperries on baby bellies and push my kids into pools when their being chicken and just not spend another second of my life reading any new age way to be a btr parent. I want it to come natural. If u see a mom in target carrying her kid out by the scruff of their neck in her teeth like a cat- thats me. Im playing it by ear. I would keep my kids in diapers til they were 10 if i thought i could get away w it. Potty training has RUiNED being able to go anywhere of any distance away for us and guess where our relatives all live? 3 hours away. We will see them all when bladders are bigger.

    Ok one more thing. My daughter potty trained when she was 20 months (no nighttime diapers or anything) and we thought we were gods. To anyone who thinks they may have nailed this parenting thing i highly recommend having more children. Theres nothing more humbling than realizing ur greatest accomplishments had very little to do w u and that you are at the mercy of whatever this little being comes up with. At 2 my son was out of diapers and strictly in underwear. At night too. But he kept having pee accidents and then he started pooping and scraping his butt against the corners of the wall like a bear. And hiding his poop in random places. I do realize that a pull up is a diaper but i am renting this house and i couldnt in good conscience just keep letting him have accidents 5 times a day on the carpets and the walls. Its not a big deal to me that he doesnt have it all figured out rt now. He will. Why do ppl even care at all if kids are 2 vs 3 vs 4 to use the toilet? Its like this man made porcelain levitating hole- it makes no sense to me why that would be a natural instinct to a baby to know what to do with. Its just way too silly to even put that much thought into and it amuses me to think thats theres like books about it and ppl distraught over why ppl are waiting so long to teach their babies to ‘go in the porcelain hole’.

    I know ur not trying to sound judgemental- no one wants to sound that way. Everyone wants everyone else to try what has worked for them but.. i am doing my best. Bc of the close age of my kids i have sacrificed a lot of the one-on-one time consuming activites..gymboree packed schedules, etc, etc and my house operates more like a russian orphanage. We have replaced gmo free meals w poridge and multivitamins but..our kids r happy, we r happy and occasionally one of us pee on ourselves and we all get yelled at in public. Que sera sera..

  89. Heather September 27, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    OMG, April. You nailed it! I am still crying right now and my belly hurts from laughing so hard. You are me, except I don’t carry my kids by the scruff of the neck. I dress them in overalls so I can carry them like suitcases.

  90. J.G. September 27, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    I like that the Moms who are Free Range feel liberated from having to be something they are not. I came on this site from a link on a mother’s blog, so I decided to check it out. I can appreciate other people’s viewpoints on parenting so I took the time to read a few articles, then I got to a few different comments sections. What bothers me about hovering parents is that they condemn free range parenting, what bothers me about free range parenting is that some people on here in the same breath comment on how they don’t want to be condemned for living differently than hoverers but yet look down on their “unliberated motherly counterparts” for their archaic viewpoints. BUT WHY? Can’t we all just parent the way we want without looking down on each other. Personally I take a road in the middle, I want to hover but really it’s not healthy all the time to do that. I believe you have to parent YOUR way for YOUR individual family and each child. BUT having said that it’s not my place to tell you how to mother nor is it any one else’s to look down on me because I choose to keep my children closer to my side than maybe another would. I wanted to keep reading the articles and gain insight but I won’t because I feel condemned, and I feel that way because according to this site I am (uncomfortably and unwittingly) labeled as a “hover parent”. Which is too bad because now that I am uncomfortable here and feel judged for my personal parenting style, it stresses me out to read the articles knowing that there is condemnation towards me and “my kind” and since I REFUSE to feel that way about myself and how I am handling my family I won’t be back. I really initially thought that the point of this site was to get away from labels, get educated in an open and loving space online, that the point when you get down to it, is to “Liberate” us to just be the MAMA that We individually want to be and to be secure in that. I have fought so hard to get to that spot and now I feel uncomfortable.. I don’t think anyone meant to do that I just wanted to let you know from the other side that not all of us who choose to hover condemn you. I would’ve kept an eye out on the kids in the cart but I wouldn’t have yelled at the mama, I sure as HELL would’ve yelled at a creeper trying to take the child though. I keep an eye out for kids that aren’t mine, I don’t always agree with how other people parent but unless they ask my opinion I keep my opinions to myself because I don’t want other moms to struggle like I did with how “good” of a mom they are. To each HER OWN. Signed ~Hover Mama JG

  91. April October 1, 2014 at 12:15 am #

    Heather HA!!! Have u ever seen those lifejackets for dogs that have the handle on them so u can scoop them out of the water? The first time i saw one of those i mustve stared at it for like 20 mins thinking it was the solution to all problems. Is it ‘unfree-range’ to state that kids should have handles? Idk..im not sure about anything anymore. @jg- i see ur point. And I also do not have a problem w ppl raising their kids however they want. But it IS the ‘helicoptor moms’ that are reporting ppl for frivilous things and having kids separated from their loving parents so that they can feel justified in their own parenting beliefs. Thats way worse than talking smack thru some comments. I cant think of anything worse to do to another human being than to separate them from their child. Its something in human nature that when something threatens the safety and happiness of ur family it just makes u want to torch the whole freaking colony. But it is nice to know that ppl who r hypervigilent over their kids arent all whistleblowing judgemental psychopaths so i guess im saying that even tho ur disappointed in some of the comments, ur comment actually gives me some hope. Just so u know my brother actually calls me a helicoptor mom. I dont think its overprotective parents that are really the target of discussion for most ppl on here. Its just the busybody aholes that come out of nowhere to tell u that u suck at parenting and try to get ur license plate as u drive away. Keep in mind that internet debate always has a tendency to escalate. God sometimes i hate the internet :/