“Don’t Bother Abducting Me — I’m a Pain in the Ass” T-shirts, and More!

Hey Readers! Kindly allow me to interrupt this blog to advertise for a moment. It’s gift-giving season, so why not think Free-Range, ksyteksrrn
as in the book itself, just .53
! Lots of laughs, tips and a look at how we got so scared. It’s got a 4.6 outta 5 rating in 118 reviews on Amazon. Not too shabby!

And while we’re at it, why not give the gift of spunky self-assertion? The Free-Range Kids Gift Shop (well, our Cafe Press shop) is filled with lovely items, including America’s Worst Mom (or Dad) sweatshirts, t-shirts and hats.

For non-Americans (or Americans who think globally) there are also World’s Worst Mom and Dad items.

And for kids there are two shirts. One, summing up the whole philosophy here,  declares, “I’m Not Lost, I’m a Free-Range Kid!”

Then there’s our signature shirt that turns even the most mild-mannered child into a feisty Free-Ranger:  “Don’t Bother Abducting Me, I’m a Pain in the A**” .  (Yes, the t-shirt uses asterisks, not the whole word.)

BONUS: No child wearing the shirt has ever been abducted!

Here modeling the shirts are Izzy Skenazy (the very boy, now 14, who took the subway at age 9), along with pal Ellis, son of Eileen Mullin,  the woman who designed this website. The shirts, in turn, were designed by Michael Gray. Here’s wishing them — and you — a lovely holiday! – L.

Izzy & Ellis


40 Responses to “Don’t Bother Abducting Me — I’m a Pain in the Ass” T-shirts, and More!

  1. Emily November 30, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Wow, I love it–the Free Range Kids website was designed BY a free-range kid. 🙂

  2. gap.runner November 30, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Great to hear that no child wearing that shirt has been abducted. Because if even one child wearing it got abducted, that would be one too many and the shirts would have to be recalled. 🙂

    The message on your shirt is very similar to a running joke that my son and I have with each other. When I’m out running errands and my son wants to wait in the car, I tell him, “If someone wants to kidnap you while I’m in the store, tell him to find someone else because he won’t be able to afford to feed you.”

  3. Sarah November 30, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    I’m probably old fashioned, but I’m not sure the “pain in the a**” shirt sends the right message. Let me explain my train of thought. I think that kids having independence and being responsible and that the world isn’t a scary place are all messages we are trying to convey. I think another big message is that we are normal, responsible parents that teach our children right from wrong and good manners. We want to convey that we are like any other responsible, caring parents and that we have a certain level of class. (Does that make sense?) I think some people have the incorrect notion that free range kids come from lazy parents who are too busy to watch their own kids or teach them proper social etiquette. I think putting a word like that on a child’s shirt doesn’t convey the message that we are teaching our kids proper social etiquette and manners. Does that make sense? I think we need to show that our kids are educated, mannerly, intelligent, capable, and all around nice, polite kids that are a pleasure to be around. Not little hoodlums running around with even suggestions of crude language on their shirts. I know most schools wouldn’t even allow such a shirt in the classroom. Just my opinion, and I may be the minority, but thought I would just put it out there for thought. 😉

  4. Marianna November 30, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    Sarah, I think you’re totally right

  5. Fred November 30, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    I’m sorry – but the “pain the a**” shirts have NOTHING to do with free-range philosophy. In fact, I would say IF a pervert was even considering an abduction and he saw that shirt he might actually take it as a challenge (“I’ll show them who’s a pain in the a**”). So you’re not really advancing your cause at all – just being provocative (to earn some $$ no less).

  6. vjhreeves November 30, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Yes, at first I laughed at the PIA shirt, but I totally agree with Sarah about why it’s probably not a great idea. We are NOT those people who put rude t-shirts on their kids.

  7. Trish November 30, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    Thank-you, Sarah! I feel that way too.

  8. PaigeN November 30, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    I need a shirt for my kids that say “The gypsies brought me back, and so will you”. But I presume that would be considered Non-PC, so I’ll have to go without cute shirts.

    Besides my teens would just roll their eyes at me actually EXPECTING them to wear them…

  9. opsomath November 30, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    @PaigeN – That is much funnier. But the idea’s been around awhile: who remembers O. Henry’s “Ransom of Red Chief?”


  10. Shireen P November 30, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    My sister tells her kids, “Remember, kidnappers prefer well-behaved kids. So, just be yourselves.” 😀

  11. CLamb November 30, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    PaigeN, How about something like “The UFO aliens brought me back, and so will you.”.

  12. Donna November 30, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    Give me a break – that is directed at the comments, not Lenore.

  13. Just a Nameless Joe November 30, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    It’s a freakin’ snarky slogan, meant to bring laughs. It is not a message, it’s comedy. Lighten up!

    It seems to me because no child wearing the shirts has ever been abducted, this shirt is proven to be the only source of protection they will ever need!

    Proven by statistics!

  14. Sam November 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    I completely agree with you, Sarah. I also think that just living your life letting your kids have independence and freedom while still instilling in them proper manners and how to interact and be friendly, helpful, and kind to others is all that is needed. I fear that when you start wearing the shirts like this, it suddenly seems that you are “different” and promoting a cause that isn’t popular or “normal” – like the “worse mom/dad” shirts. We should be conveying that this is completely normal and a desirable way for families to live.

  15. gap.runner November 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    @PaigeN,and CLamb, Both of your ideas are very funny. My son is a teenager and feels like he was kidnapped by space aliens at birth and held hostage by them his whole life. When kids get to a certain age, their parents are automatically considered alien beings! My son has even said that he wants to go off with the gypsies because he thinks it would be an adventure. But I told him that they only want boys who happily do their chores, so they would bring him back right away.

  16. David November 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    “It’s a freakin’ snarky slogan, meant to bring laughs. It is not a message, it’s comedy. Lighten up!”

    Maybe it is. But I think what many of us are saying is that it’s distasteful comedy to put these on our kids. I don’t think it’s tasteful for anyone to go walking around in public with crude language on their shirt. Even if it is only implied.

  17. Mark November 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    I got a gift card once to make my own shirt with a slogan. I made one that said, “I Believe in Mayberry.” Everyone knows and likes that show so it has done a lot to start a lot of thoughtful conversations about giving kids freedom and building community in a positive way. I agree with most everyone on here that the other shirt gives the wrong message of what we stand for with the crude language.

  18. Donna November 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    If you don’t like the word “ass,” then by all means don’t buy one. The wonders of a free country – you don’t actually have to own something that you don’t like. But your sensibilities are not everyone’s sensibilities.

    I detest religion and believe the world would be a much better place without it. I think it is wrong to put children in tshirts that espouse god, religion or the like. If Lenore was selling a tshirt with some message that referenced god, I would not buy it (I’m not buying this one either for the record but only because my kid wouldn’t wear it). I might even roll my eyes at it. I would not lecture her on her bad taste and comment that we are ALL people who would not put our children in such shirts since I realize people have different views on things.

  19. Donna November 30, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    I also find it funny that people keep insisting that it is sending the wrong message about free range kids. Hmmm, the creator of free range kids is … LENORE SKENAZY. The creator of the message is … LENORE SKENAZY. The creator of the tshirt is … LENORE SKENAZY. I think Lenore is actually the best judge of the message Lenore wants to convey.

  20. Emily November 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    I think my favourite slogan here is, “I’m not lost, I’m a free-range kid.” Not only is it more polite than the P.I.T.A. shirt (although I don’t find it offensive; it’s actually kind of funny), but that seems to be what happens most often–not abductions, but rather, overprotective strangers assuming that kids are “lost” or “neglected” when they see them walking somewhere alone, or playing in the park without an adult, or something like that.

  21. Sam November 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Donna, Lenore created the website, the book, and the TShirts. But she did not create the idea behind them. That idea has been around for generations. She is merely promoting it. And I assume the reason she posted about the TShirts and then left room for comments meant that she wanted to hear other like minded parent’s opinions. No one suggested she should be forced to get rid of shirts or that they should be banned. We were simply giving our opinion that the product she created to promote a cause that she is promoting (but did not invent) and that we also promote in our own communities doesn’t send a message that we agree with. Of course she can sell whatever she likes. But as a marketer, I think she is probably welcoming other’s opinions. You speak of a free country. Well, part of that freedom is expressing likes and dislikes. We do not have to be politically correct and say we love and accept everything for fear of stepping on someone else’s turf or hurting their feelings. I think most people on here have been polite, (no one has personally bashed Lenore and started a movement to ban the shirts), and so we should just listen to and accept that everyone will have different opinions. And that is perfectly OK.

  22. Sam November 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    “….comment that we are ALL people who would not put our children in such shirts….”

    Also, I looked back through the comments and I couldn’t find one that said that we ALL disagree with this shirt. Some said “many” and I assume that was based on the fact that the majority of the comments have expressed that opinion.

  23. Havva November 30, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    @Donna, I’m not quite sure what has you so upset here.

    What is so wrong with a community of like minded people gently disagreeing with a blog author? “Hey, I’m not so keen on that product, because…” Then toying with other ideas, isn’t an attack.

    Moreover, Lenore survived being called “America’s Worst Mom” and has made a brand of it. She isn’t that fragile.

  24. Havva November 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    I would love to see a Free-Range Kids T-shirt contest.

    @ Mark… I love the story about the “I Believe in Mayberry” t-shirt.

    I wish I had better graphic design skills. I’ve been toying with a few ideas.

    Maybe a big bold “Free-Range Kid” across the front and something to look like a, “How is my Driving” bumper sticker? Saying “How am I thriving?” with a mock ID number And space to write in a parent’s phone number.

    Or a bold: “I talk to strangers!”

    Or a demure: “Old fashion kid. — Free-Range” With kid hanging upside down from a tree.

    The “Don’t Bother Abducting Me…” shirt made me think of a few people I let hold my daughter who suggested they could just take off with her. I said: “I could use a good night’s sleep. You’ll bring her back tomorrow.” They gave her right back.

    If I weren’t so sleep deprived I might have made a onesie, for synagogue and mom’s group, saying: “Don’t bother kidnapping me, I still have colic.”

  25. Mary November 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    Donna, I think everyone has been fairly polite about it. They just have different opinions. No big deal. But it does make sense to get opinions from the group of people your product is marketed to. You said you don’t practice religion and don’t believe in it. Well, then religious shirts are not marketed for you. They are made for people who practice religion. But for those that practice religion, it would be reasonable for them to give opinions to the creator of the shirt, if given the opportunity, of whether or not they like/agree with the message. Likewise Lenore has given us (a group the shirts are particularly marketed to) the opportunity to comment on these products. She may not have directly asked for opinions, but by posting an advertisement for us to buy these shirts and leaving room for comments, then she would certainly expect comments. And I’m sure Lenore will expect that everyone will agree with her 100%. That’s just the way life is.

  26. Mary November 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    Sorry, that next to the last line should have said, “And I’m sure Lenore will expect that not everyone will agree with her 100%.” 🙂

  27. Jim Collins November 30, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    I’d rather see a kid in the PITA shirt than one with a picture of Che Guevara on it. I’ve seen quite a few of those at the mall.

  28. Crystal November 30, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I love the “I believe in Mayberry” shirt! And also the Tshirt slogan contest idea. I say go for it!

  29. mighthavejoy November 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    I second the t-shirt contest idea.

  30. AW13 November 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    @Jim: One of my high school students once came to school in a shirt with the iconic picture of Che Guevara, and the slogan “Suburban White Kids Unite” written on it. It made me laugh a lot.

  31. Just a Nameless Joe November 30, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    Che Gueverra is far more offensive that the PITA slogan.

  32. Donna November 30, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    I don’t have a problem with people stating their own preferences as to clothing choices. I have no plans to buy the shirt myself. I don’t have a problem with other tshirt ideas. Some of them were funny.

    I do take issue with people saying “We are NOT those people who put rude t-shirts on their kids” as if they speak for Free Range Kids as to (a) what is rude or crude, (b) what clothing is appropriate for children and (c) what Free Range Kids should stand for. This isn’t an organization that you joined so have some vested interest in the image portrayed. It is a blog written by Lenore. How she markets herself and defines Free Range Kids is kinda up to her. It is like the many comments of “what does this have to do with free range kids” on posts they don’t like (hasn’t happened in awhile but was pretty prevalent not too long ago) as if they get to decide what is appropriate for Lenore to talk about on her own blog.

    As someone said, religious shirts are not made for me. As a result, I don’t comment on them. If Lenore decided to sell a tshirt that said “Jesus was a Free Range Kid,” I’d think it very odd, but feel no compulsion to state my opinion about its appropriateness to Free Range Kids.

  33. Betsy November 30, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    Oh, man, (some of you) people. I am able to chuckle at lots of things I would never do/wear/buy. I’m sure glad I’m not a blogger. This is where I stop reading the comments and get on with my own life.

  34. Beth December 1, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    Come on Betsy, really? It’s pretty low to passive-aggressively accuse people of not having a life to get on with just because they read the comments.

  35. pentamom December 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Donna — nice that you’d feel no inclination to comment. Others do. On a site on which they regularly comment, giving their opinions.

    I agree that the “we’re not those people” language was speaking for others where the person was not in a position to do so. But I can’t for the life of me fathom what is objectionable about voicing an opinion on whether the t-shirt is a good idea, on whatever basis the person chooses to form her opinion.

  36. Jespren December 1, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    I want one (for a fews years from now since my kids are still little) that says “Yes, I have my Mom’s permission” on the front and the “I’m a Free-Range kid!” On the back. I also like the “I’m not lost shirt” (in a few years).
    I like the kidnap one, but for adults!

  37. Emily December 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    I agree with Beth. After all, for Betsy to have decided that the people here who’ve read the previous comments, and disagreed with some of them, “have no life,” then she would have had to read what people wrote as well. It’s like when I was in grade four, and the ultimate insult was “I saw you at K-mart, you must be POOR!!!” Umm….in that case, the deliverer of this insult would have had to have been at K-mart, AND be there at the same time as the insultee, who could turn that comment right back around. Anyway, shopping at K-mart is fine, reading this blog is fine, and disagreeing with others (respectfully) is fine, so let’s just all live and let live.

  38. Kim December 2, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    In the last year since my oldest really began to read I’ve noticed a lot of what I call inappropriate shirts and bumper stickers. I guess because my kid is reading all of them out loud, things I would normally tune out I know see everywhere. Try to explain the bumper sticker “If you are riding my a**, you better be pulling my hair” to a 5 year old.

    At our local ice cream shop the scooper was wearing a shirt with the word “shit” on the back of it (I forget what the point of the shirt was) which I saw once she turned around. I was shocked. What kind of numb-skull wears that at their job – where they mostly scoop ice cream for kids?

    I wouldn’t put anything on my kids with anything we describe in our house as disrespectful or cuss words and if a kid showed up at my house to play wearing something like that, I’d send him home to change.

  39. AW13 December 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    @Kim: I know what you mean. I’ve noticed the same thing. I’ve also realized how much casual violence there is on TV, and how much of it I just tune out.

  40. Kay December 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    How about one that says, “Don’t worry about me, it’s called a normal childhood. Remember what that was?”