“I Was Kidnapped as a Kid, and Lenore Is Wrong.”

Hi Readers! The other day I had a arefrznnfi
piece in the Wall Street Journal
that said moms don’t have be “sherpas,” or hover 24/7. Today the paper published its letters to the editor about it (and me). Here they are. One was from a woman who was kidnapped at age 4 by a stranger, and found 24 hours later. She is an adult today and says her mother spent the rest of her life feeling guilty.

I feel terrible for everyone involved. I also feel a little bad that the letter writer thinks she has to explain that “child abduction takes a huge toll on the entire family.” Contrary to popular belief, Free-Range Kids never thought otherwise. We here are no fans of child kidnapping.

Nor are we fans of actual negligence.  Even Free-Rangers know that 4-year-olds are not ready to take on the world by themselves. We’d never recommend that.

From the letter, however, we don’t know anything about the circumstances of this story: whether the mom was heedless to the point of negligence or simply blaming herself for an unforseeable bolt from the fates.

I can understand why the writer would feel that people can never EVER take their eyes off their kids. But as Laura  Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours, writes in this gem of an essay about that letter  (and another letter from a woman who said that because one 3-year-old was killed the year her own daughter was three, she never let her own child out of her sight again):

…this is the “rare exception” line of reasoning, in which any anecdote which counters a broad based trend or statistic must be evidence that the data are wrong or should be ignored. But while Kathleen Newton of Lindon, Utah writes that “there are too many vicious people out there who seek to do children harm” and this is “why unsupervised play does not exist anymore,” this ignores the reality that the world has changed, but not in the way she’s pointing. Crime rates are lower now than they were a few decades ago. And regardless, in a world of 7 billion people, you can find anecdotes of anything. The fact that an animal could escape from a zoo exhibit doesn’t mean that bringing your kids to the zoo indicates lax parenting.

If you were mauled by an escaped mountain lion, of course, you’d think otherwise. I wouldn’t blame you. But Laura’s point is both true and hard to absorb in light of the fact that sometimes real tragedy does strike kids, out of the blue.

It is terrible. It is shocking. It is very hard to argue with someone who came face to face with something so unspeakable.

And yet, if we do NOT speak up, these terrible stories are the only ones we will hear. They will scare us to the core, and have us believe that our children are never safe. As the letter writer says, in closing, “Certainly those parents whose children were taken from their homes while they slept can attest, parenting is a full-time job with no coffee breaks.”

By this line of reasoning, parents should feel guilty for even sleeping. Why weren’t they awake, standing guard in their children’s room all night? No parenting is good enough or safe enough when we think this way. And, of course, that is the way we are encouraged to think. — Lenore

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165 Responses to “I Was Kidnapped as a Kid, and Lenore Is Wrong.”

  1. Anthony Hernandez May 19, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    What these legions of mental midgets don’t realize is that stories make the news precisely because they are NEWS, which means RARE. You don’t hear about someone having poached eggs for breakfast because millions of people do it daily. You DO hear about every single airplane crash because they are so RARE.

    The day they stop reporting airliner crashes is the day to stop flying. The day they stop reporting child abductions is the day to keep the kids close.
    Until then, wake up, remember your grade-school math for Pete’s sake!

  2. LauraL May 19, 2011 at 2:24 am #

    locally, the one year anniversary of the Kyron Horman disappearance is topping our news.

    In a bittersweet sense, I was gratified to hear Pat Dooris, the reporter last night on KGW-TV, state that 115 kids are kidnapped and killed each year. But he did not couch that number in terms of a percentage of all kids. It was nice to hear the number, but he failed to present it as a rare event.

  3. Larry Harrison May 19, 2011 at 2:29 am #

    “By this line of reasoning, parents should
    feel guilty for even sleeping. Why weren’t
    they awake, standing guard in their
    children’s room all night? No parenting is
    good enough or safe enough when we think
    this way. And, of course, that is the way we
    are encouraged to think.”

    Exactly. It seema that if you’re well-adjusted and well-rested with energy to spare & have kids, then you must be selfish or even negligent in what you’re doing. Nuts. I draw boundaries to ensure I’m not overtaxed–they’ve slept in their own room, on the other end of the house, since BIRTH, I feed them the same stuff I eat (they’re 2 & 4 now) , they stay in bed until 9 am so I can, they play independently on their own inside our outside in a fenced area–and they do great.

    “Parenting is 24/7?” No, breathing is 24/7–that’s it.

    Android 2.2

  4. Uly May 19, 2011 at 3:13 am #

    Two random, off-topic things.

    First, another book you should read (after Museum of Thieves) has got to be The Wikkeling. Very “what if things went on as they are” in style.

    Secondly, check out this link on CandyLand:


  5. megan May 19, 2011 at 3:22 am #

    the letter writer’s experience is horrifying to be sure, but rare. there are risks with everything in life, and sometimes even under protection children can be hurt. i was bitten by a swan as a kid, while strapped into my stroller. my mom didn’t want to let me crawl around for fear i would fall into the pond, but i became easy prey for a nasty swan the moment she turned around to chat with someone. we can’t protect our kids from all things all the time, and shouldn’t shelter them from every experience of independence, fearing a horrible but statistically unlikely outcome.

  6. Jessica May 19, 2011 at 3:22 am #

    I just had one of those complicated conversations about all this (in the context of telling some colleagues about Take Your Kids to the Park…. day). Most people are walking around with a very misguided perception of exactly how scary the world is in real terms. My boss, a very savvy woman, again insisted that “this is a different world from the one we grew up in,” that is, more dangerous. I can cite all the statistics in the world (thanks to Lenore, I know these now!) about crime rates and the likelihood of a stranger abduction, and it doesn’t penetrate. So if someone has actually had a personal encounter with a tragedy like those described, I can see it would be virtually impossible to communicate the reality that our free-range kids really are safe.

    I am at heart a very anxious person, but I have been training myself to let go of that as much as I can in many aspects of my life. Consciously trying to raise free-range kids has helped me, I think, as much as it helps them.

  7. Alexicographer May 19, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    Actually, I can’t tell from the first letter printed (from the woman who was kidnapped as a child) whether she was kidnapped by a stranger or not.

    And yes, Lenore, I agree with your basic point — simply because horrible things do happen (and obviously kidnapping is horrible, regardless of whether by a stranger or not, though thinking through what steps to take to prevent it probably depend in part on who one expects to be doing it) doesn’t mean we can or should necessarily do all we can to prevent them, especially if they are tremendously rare events and the costs of preventing them, e.g., never sleeping, never letting one’s child out of one’s sight, are impossibly high.

  8. Uly May 19, 2011 at 3:53 am #

    Indeed, Alexicographer.

    And really, her whole letter undermines her point. First, she was returned physically unharmed. I know it was traumatic for the whole family, and I don’t envy them, but most people figure a kidnapped child is killed. That’s not the case if they’re still writing letters to the editor about it decades later!

    Secondly, “as parents whose children were kidnapped while sleeping can attest”, sometimes you can take all the care in the world and it doesn’t do a lick of good. Meanwhile, you could’ve had the same thing happen if you’d let your kid and yourself have a little reasonable freedom.

  9. Brian May 19, 2011 at 3:54 am #

    My cousin is one of those people.. She will not let her 4 children play in their fenced in back yard without her sitting there. There is a very busy road that is slightly elevated near her yard. She has told me she worries a “pervert” will be driving by, see the kids, happen to glance over (while doing 35) during the 40′ section of road that you might be able to see over part of her fence, pull over to the side of the road.. Hop the 7′ wood fence, and kidnap one or all the children, so quickly that she could not do anything about it. They way she described it, that it seemingly happens all the time, was really pretty sad..

  10. Lihtox May 19, 2011 at 4:07 am #

    The fear of abduction is a phobia, no different from a fear of water or a fear of heights. Drowning and falling can kill people, no question, but the typical solution is to preach caution, not avoidance. We teach kids to swim, rather than forbid them from going to the pool; we encourage kids to play on the jungle gym, with an admonition to “be careful”. That’s what free-range parenting is all about: giving kids freedom when they’re ready for it, giving them the training they need, and sending them off with the admonitiion to “be careful”, and trusting them to do just that.

  11. charlie May 19, 2011 at 4:10 am #

    I live in a small town where a 5th grade boy was struck by lightning on the playground last summer. The entire elementary school was there, waiting to board the busses, and lightning struck this one child. Since then, I have heard many parents blame the school for not having lightning rods, blame the child for holding a metal skateboard, and blame the school again for dismissing while it was raining. No one seems willing to accept that it was an incredibly rare and unpreventable tragedy. God does not normally go around picking off kids in playgrounds. But now, at the hint of a storm, parents rush to drag their children inside lest they be struck by lightning. People just love to normalize the abnormal, and fear the astonishingly rare.

  12. Lollipoplover May 19, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    Many have said it here before, but there are no guarantees in this life. A tornado could hit your home and kill your family even though you are the Mom who never lets them out of your sight.

    While it’s sad the letter writer was kidnapped as a child and I’m sure the experience dramatically shaped her life, others don’t have to live their lives always thinking the worst case scenerio.

    My beloved father played a prank on me as a kid. It was the year “Jaws” hit movie theaters and I had seen it and was petrified to go in the water. I had always loved the ocean, and it bothered him that I had a totally irrational fear. He got my attention while he swam out deep, feigned a shark attack, thrashing and all, as I screamed on shore! He stopped midway through his joke, yelled at me to “knock it off and get in the water”. We had a good laugh together and talked about how little the chance was of getting attacked by a shark, and not to live a life in fear of small chances. I still swim in the ocean every chance I get.

  13. RobynHeud May 19, 2011 at 4:21 am #

    @Lihtox, I was just having that same thought, that helicoptering really just stems from a phobia. I have a phobia of centipedes that started when I was 7 and one crawled across my face while I was sleeping, waking me up and propelling me into a screaming fit. Since then, I can’t hardly stand the sight of them and if they get anywhere near me I freak out until I or someone else kills it. It’s difficult to overcome such an indelible experience and to take steps to put it behind you. Helicopter and over-protective parents suffer from phobias of the worst kind, but in today’s society it’s not a condition that needs to be treated, it’s “good parenting”.

  14. LauriAnn May 19, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    On a first grade school trip to Cypress Gardens, I was actually forgotten and left behind. Being a very quiet child, no one even noticed I was missing. I wandered around by myself until a nice lady that worked in the camara shop took notice. She called the school and shared her lunch with me until I was picked up. The school and my parents laughed it off as a mistake that shouldn’t have happened but I was fine. Can you imagine that same thing happening today? I can see the lawsuits and the finger pointing. Somehow it probley even would end up being my mother’s fault for allowing me on a school trip in the first place and CPS would have to get involved. BTW I was allowed on many school trips after this I just learned not to be so quiet!

  15. Will May 19, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    As a species, we are absolutely incapable of assessing risk, particularly infinitesimal risk, accurately. Here’s a talk by renowned security guru Bruce Schneier on just how bad we are at this:


    It’s a great video and it’s implications extend to Free Range parenting and every other perception of danger or security we can find. I especially like his brief talk about the Tylenol scare from the ’80s: we are fundamentally just as vulnerable to that today as we were before, but everyone feels better because of “secure packaging”.

    That said, I can agree that if it happens once, we’re more likely to presume it will happen again. I drove absurdly cautiously for about 4 years after my car was hit not once but thrice in the span of 9 months. I have since gotten over that fear and drive much more reckle . . . er . . . I mean . . . normally now.

    Nobody wants these things to happen, but there is probably no way that either of the two situations described could have been prevented. If someone wants to kidnap my kids badly enough, I’m powerless to stop it. So, I maintain a level of vigilance that’s appropriate given my location, the age of my children, and some vague assessment of their ability to spot danger themselves (my son, not at all, my eldest daughter, over estimator).

  16. Jessika May 19, 2011 at 4:26 am #

    In terms of anecdotal evidence. A dear friend of mine lost her son, a 2 year old, to a freak accident. The child was tilting around in the yard, fell down face first in a pool of water and, tragically, drowned within minutes. Now, this happens. Even adults can drown in small collections of water if the circumstances are perplexing enough. Do we avoid water? Do we cease to eat because you can choke on a salad sprout and die?
    The laws of action, reaction, counter-action is not at all reasonable. Things happen, like losing a child to a needless drowning accident. She hasn’t padded her other children down with life wests whenever it rains. As tragic as it was, and it most certainly was, it was something that can happen. Fearful parents create fearful children. My friend has taught her other children water safety until they can recite it in their sleep but nothing could have foreseen that sad moment in where a puddle of water in a lawn became the ultimate death-trap of a 2 y o. Anecdotal evidence or not.

  17. Jessika May 19, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    The pool of water being 1 inch deep.

    Freak stuff happens, lightning can hit the same place twice. But just because it can does not mean it will.

  18. Lola May 19, 2011 at 4:29 am #

    First of all, my condolences for this lady, her family, and “all those parents whose children were kidnapped while sleeping”, as few as they hopefully are.
    Many of us have personal paranoias that may, or may not, have reasonable explanations. In her case, I think her perspective on parenting is obviously and quite understandably tainted by that horrible experience. Let’s face it: if we had witnessed first-hand a toddler being run over by a train, we would probably see train tracks in another light, and have goosebumps all over if we saw our kids approaching them.
    If we, as parents, aspire to be adequate adult models for our kids, we have to make an effort to make reasonable decisions, based on a level-headed risk assessment. If, for whatever reason, we are unable to do so, it is fair for our kids to try and explain our way of thinking. As a silly example, my husband had to explain our kids that we would certainly couldn’t keep a stray kitten they had found, because he hated cats since he was “viciously” attacked by one when he was little. He didn’t say cats were dangerous, he didn’t say that this particular cat would attack them in their sleep, he didn’t even say “because I say so”. He just made them aware that not everyone sees things the same way they do. Surprisingly enough, my very young kids understood. Now they’re asking for a dog.

  19. Elissa May 19, 2011 at 4:30 am #

    I think its sad that we don’t call these fears of kidnapping, molestation, or whatever, what they are – phobias. They are irrational fears. As the stats show, it is irrational to think that something bad will happen to your child when they are out of your sight/care.

    I have ichthyophobia – the fear of fish. This phobia stems from the time when I was younger and my parents had a cabin on a lake full of Silver Carp that would jump into the air and land on you, your jet ski, the boat, the water mattress, anything really. Now, I’m afraid of fish in general.

    If I got on the news and starting warning of the dangers of fish, people would think I’d lost it. Yet when people who have had something traumatic (that is exceedingly more rare than getting smacked in the head by a large flying fish, which has been added to the EPA’s list of “Injurious wild animals”) happen with a child and are warning against the dangers of kidnapping for example, society/the media doesn’t go “gee, that nut has kidnappaphobia” they say “OMG! Listen to this person or this could happen to you!!”

    Its unfortunate really, and a reason to avoid your local nightly newscast.

  20. unitedwelay1 May 19, 2011 at 4:36 am #

    I was also kidnapped as a child because my mother went in for a second to answer the phone. A kidnapping that lasts minutes, hours, or a few days isn’t actually as rare as you might think, and to classify people who are afraid of these incidences based on their own experiences as “mental midgets” as the first commenter would suggest is disrespectful and rude.

  21. dlivtx May 19, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    Protecting our children from the big dangerous world out there should always be a priority for parents but that does not mean that our children need to be completely disconnected from the world in order to accomplish this. The fact is that one day our children are going to grow up and be part of that world and you can either prepare them little by little each day as they grow up by teaching them how to be independent or you can hover over them until the age of 18 and then throw them to the wolves, so to speak, and hope for the best. I say we should teach them little by little so that at age 18 they are prepared to face the world alone. It is simply another method for protecting your child, and to me it makes more sense.

  22. Elissa May 19, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    @united – could you please expand on your experience? How old were you? Where were you? Who kidnapped you? How long were you gone? How were you found?

  23. Obi-Wandreas May 19, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    If any of these paranoid parents ever puts their child in a car, you can tell them right then and there that they are full of sh**.

  24. mapelba May 19, 2011 at 4:42 am #

    More children are harmed by family members than by strangers and yet we do not suggest the police do daily checkins in every home across America. As my son grows and seeks more independence, I struggle with how much freedom to give him, but he needs to learn to be in the world.

    I met a young man recently who said he’d been raised so safely, that he thought he didn’t know how to take risks. That can’t be the way we want our children to grow.

    Remember the plane that broke up and crashed over part of New York a short while after 9/11? Most details escape me, but part of the engine landed on a home and killed someone inside. There that person was, in their own home, believing themselves safe from the vagaries of existence. It is terrifying and painful to think our child are subject to the same universe as the rest of us, but monitoring your children 24/7 is’t going to change that.

    I make the best choices I can, and with any luck have given my son the tools to deal with what he meets on his road.

  25. Deborah Tuttle May 19, 2011 at 4:43 am #

    I read one of the Letters to the Editor that had a problem with the mother leaving her child in the children’s section of the library.

    The whole point of free range parenting is to know your child and their limits. I would never leave my 5 year old son alone in the children’s section, mainly because (due to behavioral issues) he couldn’t be trusted to stay there. Whereas, I’m sure the 5 year old in the story was mature enough to stay there.

  26. RobC May 19, 2011 at 4:53 am #

    Billy Connolly has the best advice for avoiding shark attack:

    “Always swim with a group. They can only eat one person at a time!”

  27. Omri May 19, 2011 at 4:53 am #

    Meanwhile, another dozen or so kids today got squished by inattentive drivers. And trying to do anything about that is an uphill battle that involves having people call you anti-car.

  28. Tim Gill May 19, 2011 at 4:54 am #

    Great points as ever Lenore. Here’s the one sentence from my book No Fear I want everyone to read and think about:

    “If we were always required to see the world through the eyes of the most unlucky, then we would always choose zero risk.”

  29. Elissa May 19, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    Here’s some interesting statistics from amberalert.gov

    From January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2010, 173 AMBER Alerts were issued in the United States involving 211 children.

    At the time the AMBER Alert cases were intaked there were 80 Family Abductions, 74 Non-Family Abductions, 16 Lost Missing or Injured, and 3 Endangered Runaways.

    Eleven (11) cases were later determined to be hoaxes, and 10 cases were later determined to be

    Of the 173 AMBER Alerts issued from January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2010, 150 cases resulted in a recovery, 28 of which were successfully recovered as a direct result of those respective AMBER Alerts being issued.

    As of February 25, 2011, when statistics for this report were finalized 2 AMBER Alerts issued in 2010 remained active and 9 children were recovered deceased.


    That means that 152 kids under the age of 17 in the US and its territories went missing long enough to issue an AMBER Alert. 152 out of 70 some million kids…. Your odds of getting struck by lightning, according to weather.gov are 1 in a million. Your child is 70 times more likely to get struck by lightning than abducted.

  30. Dolly May 19, 2011 at 4:56 am #

    How sad that that happened to her. I can understand why she would feel that way. I can understand why a lot of parents feel that way. To a point even I feel that way at times, mostly because I had to go through hell of three years of infertility and assisted reproduction technology to get my children. I know that if something were to happen to these children I would not be able to just have more and move on with my life. This is it for me and it probably does make me more cautious about them then maybe someone who can have more children easily might be with their kids.

    The point being our views, opinions and actions are all results of our own individual personalities and experiences. There is no one size fits all. Some parents are more conservative. Some more liberal when it comes to free ranging. That is okay. Who am I to tell someone else how to live their life or feel or act?

    I can only control my family. I support putting the pro free range facts out there for people. I do not however support bashing non free range people.

  31. Deborah May 19, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    Thank you Elissa on those eye-opening statistics.

  32. Elissa May 19, 2011 at 5:03 am #

    @Dolly – I don’t think any parent who has ever lost a child, regardless of their fertility has ever “just had more and moved on with their life.”

    I don’t know of anyone, in this day and age (and even those back in the day when infant and child mortality was at an all time high) who thinks of their children as replaceable or could just “get on with it” after a death of a child.

    All parents, and surprisingly most of the general public as well, views children as precious, unique and irreplaceable. Fertility status isn’t an excuse to overprotect or helicopter parents.

  33. Elissa May 19, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    I would also be interested to know how many of the AMBER Alerts were intentional abductions or unfortunate side effects of other crimes. We had an AMBER alert in Phoenix last week because a car was stolen from a gas station while the parent went in to pay and there was a sleeping baby in the child seat in the back. It lasted less than 20 minutes before the car was recovered and the baby was safe.

    But I guess non-free rangers would take this as a reason to rally against leaving your child in the car when you went inside to pay for gas….

  34. Myriam May 19, 2011 at 5:26 am #

    I just read Lenore’s WJS piece. Do newsreaders in the USA really tell viewers to “Please watch your kids”? Wow, I would hate that. The job of a newsreader is to read the news and make lame jokes, not give advice!

  35. Ann In L.A. May 19, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    I compiled these stats for last year’s “Take Your Child to the Park” day:

    Are you afraid of being struck by lightning? No? Why not? Because the odds of getting struck by lightning are– 1 : 280,000

    — Number of missing minors each year (includes teen runaways, parental abductions, and kids who wandered away for a couple of hours): 750,000 (1)

    — Number of missing minors who are kidnapped by strangers each year: 115 (1)

    — Number of missing minors who are kidnapped by strangers each year and never return home alive: 50 (1)

    — Rate of sterotypical kidnapped kids who remain unrecovered/killed vs all missing: 1 : 15,000

    — Number of kids in 2000: 72,000,000 (2)

    — Rate of stereotypical kidnapping per capita: 1: 626,086

    — Rate of stereotypical kidnapping and murder or never-recovered per capita: 1: 1,440,000

    — Number of children injured annually in car accidents: 184,000 (3)

    — Number of children killed annually in car accidents: 1,335 (3)

    — Number of children: 72,000,000

    — Chance of child dying in car accident: 1 : 53,932

    — Number of minors who die of cancer every year: 2,300(4)

    In other words:

    — A child is 11.6 times more likely to die in a car accident than be kidnapped by a stranger.

    — A child is almost twice as likely to die of cancer than in a car accident.

    — A child is 26.7 times more likely to die in a car accident than be kidnapped and killed by a stranger.

    — A child is 46 times more likely to die of cancer than be kidnapped and killed by a stranger.

    — A person is 5.1 times more likely to be struck by lightning than a child is to be kidnapped and killed by a stranger.

    It’s a pretty-safe world out there. Maybe it’s time we act like it.

    (1) link: DOJ report on Stranger Kidnappings (data is from 2002) http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/documents/nismart2_nonfamily.pdf
    (2) link: US Cencus data 2000. http://www.kidscount.org/cgi-bin/aeccensus.cgi?action=profileresults&area=00N
    (3) link: CDC data from 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/childpas.htm
    (4) link: Cancer facts. http://www.kristinasrainbowsofhope.org/facts.html

  36. oncefallendotcom May 19, 2011 at 5:31 am #


    KGW-TV got it wrong even with the 115 number, that’s the number of “stereotypical kidnappings” that occur each year; only 45 of which were permanently missing or killed. By contrast, there were 73.7 people under age 18 in the USA. That is roughly one out of 1,637,777.7 kids. That is a pretty low number. Anyone care to turn that into a percentage?

  37. Ann In L.A. May 19, 2011 at 5:32 am #

    I second the “Museum of Thieves” recommendation.

    It’s a parable about what the world would look like if we followed the precautionary principle to the limit with respect to kids.

  38. Amy Davis May 19, 2011 at 5:36 am #

    I hate that the circumstances of the few ruin it for everyone. The cops have visited my house three times now, because my children are playing outside, in their very own yard, with less supervision than my neighbors think is necessary. (I’m at home,outside with them, by the way, just not within a few feet of them.) I would love to free-range my kids, but they’re not even legally safe in their very own yard.

  39. Beth May 19, 2011 at 5:55 am #

    What really surprises me is that more people don’t make the connection between how we treat our children compared to how the US government has begun to treat us. All this zero tolerance crap, the risk-adverse behavior to the point of insanity, prosecuting men for sneezing in the presence of children, is happening at the same time we are getting body scanners in airports, warrantless digital tracking of our personal information, warrentless GPS tracking of our cars.

    It’s all done in the name of security because, you know, something MIGHT happen. Even taking 9/11 into account, the odds of dying in a terrorist attack are so extremely low it’s laughable. I don’t know how the odds compare to child abduction but I’m sure the two are similarly miniscule. And yet we are throwing millions and millions of dollars at this “HUGE problem.”

    It’s the exact same mindset as these people who can’t justify leaving their kid in the car for 2 minutes because “you never know what might happen.”

    That’s why I think Free-Range philosophy is so important – if we can take back childhood and get more people on a grass-roots level to ease up, maybe the Powers That Be will follow suit.

  40. Dolly May 19, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    Elissa: Maybe, or maybe not. Of course every parent grieves greatly if they lose a child. But still, the fact is that it is not as bad for a couple who could have more as it would be for a couple who could not have more. That is just basic logic. I am sure it is the most terrible thing in the world regardless, but an infertile couple gets no solace or comfort in the thought that maybe they can try again and be parents again someday. They know that that was it for them and their dreams of being parents are over for good.

  41. Dolly May 19, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    Elissa: I do say to not leave kids alone in the car. Not for kidnapping reasons but for car theft reasons which is way more likely to happen because while abductions don’t happen every day in every town, car thefts do!

  42. Dolly May 19, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    ps Elissa, where did I say I overprotect my kids or helicopter? I certainly don’t. I am however cautious and maybe slightly more cautious than necessary, but that is hardly helicoptering. It is stuff like while a mother who can have more kids might be willing to let a baby sleep on their tummy if that is the only way they will sleep through the night. I would not take that chance because this would be the only baby I am ever getting and there are no second chances. Stuff like that.

  43. Atlanta Dad May 19, 2011 at 6:44 am #


    I’ve been meaning to share a story with you for some time, and this seems as appropriate a time as ever.

    Last Christmas evening, snow came to Atlanta. This is unheard of in our southern city, and my children (3 yo girl and 6 yo boy) wanted to go outside and frolic about. I offered to take them on a wintry stroll around the neighborhood. We live in Midtown Atlanta, and can see the city’s skyline from our porch. It was beautiful out. After strolling quite some way, darkness came, the snow started really coming down, and we turned back. It was maybe 7:30pm.

    Within a few hundred yards of home, my little daughter was getting slower and slower, and my son was eager to pick up the pace. He enjoys pushing boundaries, and I feel like it helps him develop personally, so I told him to go ahead if he wanted, but to wait at the next intersection — which was within site of our home. We’d then all cross the street together and walk the last half-block to home. He ran up around the bend, and I urged our little girl onward.

    After a few more seconds of her poking, I got nervous about my son not being within sight. At night. In the snow. Good thinking, dad. So I picked up my daughter and hustled along after him, fully expecting to see him 30 seconds later at the intersection near our home.

    Alas, he wasn’t there. It was now dark. Wet snow was starting to dump. We live in the middle of a nice neighborhood, but we were still smack dab in the middle of the city. Busy roads surrounded it, and on top of that, what kind of crazy people would be out and about in the snow on Christmas evening?

    I called repeatedly for him with no response. Did he cross the street by himself and run back to the house? Did he make a wrong turn? I didn’t know. I guessed he headed back to the house, so I hugged my daughter close and ran the five or six houses home, preparing to give him a tongue-lashing for crossing the street without me. Seconds later, I opened the door, asked my wife where he was, and she replied that he hadn’t come in. I will never in my life forget that moment.

    To my wife’s credit, she didn’t lose it. I told her he’d run ahead and he must have gotten confused in the dark. We left our daughter with my visiting father-in-law, my wife hopped in her car, and I sprinted back to the intersection. I guessed that he had simply kept walking along the sidewalk, not noticing that he’d reached the intersection, so I ran the way he might have gone, calling his name the entire time. The next intersection — about 50 yards ahead — marked the edge of the neighborhood and what was ordinarily an extremely busy through-street, but at that moment was completely empty due to the Christmas snow. The only person to be seen was an obviously homeless man who was walking away from me maybe 25 yards in the distance. Oh s**t, I thought.

    Right at that moment, my wife called: someone in the neighborhood had taken him in, he’d given them her phone number, and he was fine. She was going over there to pick him up, and they’d meet me at home.

    I learned later that my son had indeed gotten confused in the dark, he hadn’t heard me calling, and he hadn’t realized he wasn’t in the right place until he came upon the busy street at exactly the same place where I spotted the homeless man. The people who took him in lived on that same street and they reported that a stranger (almost undoubtedly the man I’d seen) had knocked on their door, told them he’d come across this lost boy, said that judging from the toys on the porch their house looked like kids were welcome, so could they please help him find his home. When my wife picked him up, he was perfectly fine and more embarrassed about getting lost than concerned.

    I’ll never know the name of the man who shepherded him to that family’s porch, and I’ll probably never see him again (I’m sad to say I wouldn’t recognize him if I did), but I am forever grateful to him.

    The time that elapsed between when I asked my son to wait at the intersection and when I received the call from my wife reporting him safe was less than ten minutes — maybe five — but it might as well have been eons. Did I screw up? Absolutely. Did I feel like the worst father in the world? Unquestionably. Did it all end up ok? Thankfully.

    And on that Christmas evening, I was reminded of something incredibly important: A random stranger — even a man who’s so down on his luck that he’s walking around in the snow on Christmas evening — will look out for a boy who needs help and make sure he finds his way home.

  44. Elissa May 19, 2011 at 6:47 am #

    Wow, Dolly, just…wow. There are not words to describe how unbelievably ridiculous what you just said is. Wow.

  45. Juliet May 19, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    We cannot fall into the trap of thinking, “My child wasn’t kidnaped today because I was standing there preventing it.” Sadly, there are horrible tragedies that are pure accidents, and there are also horrible (and thankfully extremely rare) instances of people purposely seeking out children to victimize. But really, it is totally false to think that the only reason your child wasn’t kidnaped is because you were standing there watching over him. First off, nobody can by the laws of physics and reality be everywhere at once. So you’re bound to fail and feel guilty. Second, it’s simply not true.

  46. Becca May 19, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    I am with Elissa, um Wow Dolly! The idea that your children are more precious or that your grief would be greater than mine because I didn’t have to go through infertility treatments to have them is insane! A child is not replaceable and yours are no more valuable than mine!

  47. Donna May 19, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    Dolly, car thefts do not happen every day in most places. If you live in a place where car theft is a daily occurrence, I’d suggest moving. Thefts FROM cars happen pretty frequently and I’m sure a car theft happens somewhere in the US every day but cars are not disappearing off the roads at alarming rates.

    I also agree with Elissa that you are using infertility as an excuse to be overprotective. I also find your belief that somehow your children are more precious and irreplaceable to you than people who didn’t go through fertility treatments to be … I’m not even sure of a word, ridiculous maybe. I had to go through fertility treatments to get pregnant and I’m not married so have the additional problem of lack of regular access to sperm. I am also over 40 and would not consider having another child for health reasons. My daughter still slept on her stomach when she was a baby because it was the only way she slept. She wanders around stores by herself. She’s been left in a car for a few minutes. She just came in from jumping on her trampoline in the front yard unsupervised. And most nights I take the dog for a walk after she goes to sleep. No child is replaceable and the idea that patents who can have more children are less devastated about the loss of a child is insulting to parents who have lost children through any means.

  48. Elissa May 19, 2011 at 7:20 am #

    And, my comment about wondering about AMBER alerts related to other crimes wasn’t directed at anyone. It was just a comment inspired by the statistics from the AmberAlert website.

  49. Elissa May 19, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    “more cautious than necessary” sounds like the very definition of helicoptering. You might not hover as low as some, but a helicopter is still a helicopter.

  50. Elissa May 19, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    And, Dolly, to follow your thought process to its logical conclusion says some pretty insulting things about adoptive parents….just sayin’.

  51. maggie May 19, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Atlanta Dad,
    “And on that Christmas evening, I was reminded of something incredibly important: A random stranger — even a man who’s so down on his luck that he’s walking around in the snow on Christmas evening — will look out for a boy who needs help and make sure he finds his way home”
    what beautiful insight. Thanks for sharing your story.

  52. Valerie H May 19, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    Let’s remember our manners. There’s no persuasion possible when someone is made to feel defensive. Every single one of us doesn’t want to be judged for our parenting style. I do agree that every child is precious, regardless how they come into our lives.

    I come to this blog often but it is new to me to call overprotective parenting a phobia. That makes a LOT of sense to me. Sadly, our entire culture is making this phobia a norm. It’s a lot like fear of witchcraft in the middle ages.

  53. Uly May 19, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    I don’t know how the odds compare to child abduction but I’m sure the two are similarly miniscule.

    Child abduction (with no qualifiers) is not especially common, but it still happens fairly frequently, almost always in custody disputes – Mom has custody, Dad takes the kids anyway.

    Sometimes the non-custodial parent (or rarely another family member) has a good point – the custodial parent is abusive or neglectful and for whatever reason the courts aren’t agreeing with them. Often it’s the other way around – the reason the non-custodial parent didn’t have custody is because they’re a terrible person!

    At any rate, it’s devastating to everybody. However, most of the population of this country isn’t living with such acrimony towards their ex-spouses. Their kids’ other parents aren’t abusive, nor irrational enough to want to take the child to harm them.

    Stranger abductions, which is what everybody *thinks* of when they think of abductions, are very rare (fewer than 200 a year, although *reports* of stranger abductions are somewhat higher due to multiple people reporting the same case and various types of false alarm. However, even reports of stranger abductions aren’t all that common in comparison to the under-18 population of this country) and, contrary to popular belief, are much more common with teens and pre-teens than with small children. This is not just about ease of access (teens go out and about more than toddlers) but also about the fact that even most predators prefer older children or near-adults to younger ones.

  54. LauraL May 19, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    Folks, please? We are all parents trying to do what’s best, even when it means learning to change what we’ve been conditioned to believe. Attacking each other here is not at all productive in teaching parents how to become Free Range.

    In other news, my 15 yo is currently walking her way up to Dollar Tree to get replacement earbud covers, and my 10yo just came back on her scooter from visiting a playmate. She called and asked for an extension in time twice, and on the second one, I said no, she had to feed her cats. She came right home and did it. She’s becoming more and more capable and sure every day – and her GRADES have flown high!

    Teaching these skills is giving them CONFIDENCE IN THEMSELVES, that they don’t have to turn to someone else for help for *EVERYTHING*.

  55. Uly May 19, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    Sadly, our entire culture is making this phobia a norm. It’s a lot like fear of witchcraft in the middle ages.

    I have this book, Dream Babies (the older edition, sadly), which chronicles Western parenting advice for the past several centuries. Now, parenting advice and parenting practices don’t always mesh, but all the same it’s fascinating the way things like this often seem to run in cycles – for a generation or two it’s fashionable to keep your child under your thumb, then everybody pushes freedom, and so on.

    On a similar note, apparently pedophile panics run in cycles as well. There was one in the 20s, another a few decades later, and now we’re in the midst of one that’s just refusing to die, but I suspect the gestalt is finally starting to change. Witness the fact that there are books, for children, framed as dystopias where kids are kept under lock and key for their own safety.

  56. Jen C. May 19, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    It’s interesting that this is the topic o’ the day here at FRK. Just this evening I received an automated call from our school district about two reported incidents of a person in a white SUV attempting to make contact with children (one last evening as kids played in front of their house, and the other today as kids walked home from school).

    To be honest, I had expected the school district to suggest that parents walk with their children, or drive them to school. But I was impressed to hear that no call for panic was made. The superintendent reminded parents to speak with their children about strangers, and what to do if approached by someone they’re uncomfortable with. It’s good to know that in some communities, rationality still exists, and that I live in one such community. 🙂

  57. Lauren May 19, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    I was bothered by the letter to the editor about libraries. When I was kid, it was common for moms to let the kids (who could read) browse the kids’ section while they went and found their own books.

  58. bmj2k May 19, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    There are rational fears with rational precautions and irrational fears with irrational precautions. It is hard to convince someone using logic whne they deal with fear on a purely irrational, over-emotional level.

  59. Another Beth May 19, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    @Elissa, I work for the agency that puts out the Amber Alerts for my state. There is NO way on earth that we can get one out in 20 minutes – you would not believe the work involved and steps to take.

    I think I need to call your state agency to get details on how they’ve streamlined the process!

  60. Caro May 19, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    Good response, Lenore!

  61. Alison Golden May 19, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    The arguments in favor of helicoptering kids are irrational. The people that adopt that style don’t think twice about driving their kids around but those kids are far, far more likely to be killed in a car wreck than be abducted.

  62. Dolly May 19, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    I apologize if what I said offended anyone. I did not mean it to. That is just how I feel about it because I know I am never having more kids nor could I even if I wanted to. That does effect my thinking. I have talked to others who feel the same way.

    I think calling me a helicopter is judgemental and against what Lenore is for which is supporting other parents. Funny, that you think me a helicopter when I am the only parent I know who will let their kids walk to school in our area.

  63. Larry Harrison May 19, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    I am actually going to stand up for Dolly at least a little bit. To wit: by no means can one child replace another. It’s not like buying a new car to replace your old one, or even getting a new home if your old one burns down etc (especially if insurance covers it etc). It’s a human being, a unique life all of its own specifically different from the others–and it’s forever gone.

    HOWEVER, for many people, being baren (having no children) leaves them empty, and for them to go from having a child to not having one–and knowing you will never ever have one (at least biologically)–is an additional pain for such people to bear ON TOP OF the loss of the original unique child.

    But for someone who can have still have children, then at least they will not have that pain, they will still be parents again. True, it does not mean the other child was replaced like a broken refrigerator etc, again, each child is unique & special and nothing will replace them, not even a new one–but the point is, at least that specific couple won’t be childless on top of that specific loss.

    I think that is what Dolly was trying to say, and I have to say–it makes perfect sense. I don’t think she was implying that children are interchangeable like spare parts in a toolbox etc.


  64. Dolly May 19, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Thanks Larry. That is what I was trying to say and you cleared it up. I appreciate it.

  65. Colin Wee May 19, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    Aside from my parenting blog, I am a self defence instructor, and have been involved in the martial arts for 27+ years.

    Lots of the self defence course I have addresses factors within your control, and the decisions you have to make in a crisis situation. But what is important in my program is to understand that no one wants to be a victim, and however much you prepare, sometimes bad things happen.

    It is the ability to roll with it and survive which is the most important element of self defence ever that I share.

    Good work, Lenore.

  66. SgtMom May 19, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    My nephew was almost kidnapped only a few years ago. He is an only child, my sister aged 40 when she had him – do I need to spell out “Helicopter” to the nth degree?

    It was classic – two guys in a white van pull up in an empty parking at dusk, claiming to be undercover police officers and demanding the kids get in the van immediately.

    My nephew froze and couldn’t move. The 10 year old boy started to obey the men, walking toward the van, while the 13 year old girl took off running, calling the police on her cell phone.

    My nephew was visiting the girl when her grandfather started having a heart attack, and the kids were told to take a walk around the block when the ambulance arrived.

    These were all very “watched” children, the parents all had the same “values”.

    Stuff happens just like that.

    My nephew was deeply ashamed that as the older kid, and a male, he froze while a younger girl saved the day. He was also so traumatized he slept in his parents room for a year afterward.

    The guys in the van were caught, tried, and aquitted…they were known drug dealers in town.

    I don’t know what the moral to this story is…

    My nephew graduates from high school this year and does not plan to attend college. He loves his family too much to leave is the explanation.

  67. Frances May 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    @united: I think it is very sad you were kidnapped. That must have been terrifying for you and your mom. But it’s even sadder that you say you were kidnapped BECAUSE your mom went in the house. That’s WHEN you were kidnapped, but it’s not WHY. Being briefly unattended might have provided opportunity, but not motivation.

    @Amy: where do you live that our neighbors are calling the police when your kids play in your own yard? Is that a common experience where you live? I honestly can’t imagine that happening here.

    @ SgtMom: I’m offended that you use over-40 parent with an only child to define helicoptering. That describes me and a number of my friends, and we don’t (though my kid is 2, so I certainly supervise). Stereotyping just a bit?

  68. LindaLou May 19, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    I don’t have time to read all the comments right now, however that I’d like to point out that it’s not accurate to say that this site doesn’t regualrly promote Free Range ideals for four year olds (and five year olds). It’s one fo the main reasons that I’ve stopped following the activity on here so closely, even though I am totally free range with my (older) children. I’ve found that I vehemently disagree with the views many on here regarding the level of supervision required by very young children . To me, it’s a certain sort of extreemism that’s taken over the site, which I cannot support. Respectfully, Linda

  69. TressaRay May 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    Last year I gave a speech in one of my classes about giving kids a little more freedom. During the Q&A section, a girl raised her hand and said, “I have a friend who was kidnapped when she was little.” It was clear that the whole time I was giving the speech, she was waiting for her chance to tell me I was wrong. It wouldn’t have mattered what I said, she still would have said the same thing. I gave the same speech a few weeks ago in a different class. When I gave my final thought, the teacher gave his own speech about the time his daughter had gone to the park without telling them, and he was so frantic thinking that she had been kidnapped. The moral of his story was not, “Even though I was so scared, everything was fine.” It was, “She could have been kidnapped like THAT, so I should have kept a closer eye on her.”

    Sometimes people are so stuck in their own fears and beliefs that we can’t say anything to change their mind. It basically sucks.

  70. LindaLou May 19, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    @Jessika, what the hell? You ALWAYS watch a two year old baby! This it exactly what I was talking about above.

  71. Alexicographer May 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    @Dolly as a fellow infertile and mom-to-one (and only one, not by choice), I don’t imagine you were intending to create offense, but neither can I for a minute imagine that having the opportunity to mother multiple children would lessen my grief an iota were something to happen to any child of mine.

    Beyond that, one of the several things I’ve learned from the infertile communities of which I’m a part is the idea that “there is no Pain Olympics,” that it is not possible, useful, or appropriate for one person to try to quantify the grief they feel relative to another’s. Indeed, I’ve learned that I personally am not even able to predict how I would feel if “X” happened in my life — I know I never imagined until I was told I couldn’t do it (incorrectly as it turns out, but nonetheless) how deeply not bearing a child would hurt me — never mind being able to compare the depth or impact of my emotions to those of others. So sure, if you feel that you personally would suffer more losing the single child you have, than you would feel losing one of many children — well (based on what you’ve said), it will never be possible to know for sure, but perhaps you’re right. But please don’t imagine that the experience of infertility or of parenting fewer kids than one might have liked to affects everyone that way; I don’t want to be painted with that brush.

  72. Tuppence May 19, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Why did parents start thinking it was their “job” (what a yucky modern term that is describe parenthood nowadays) to instill fears into their children, and cultivate victimization, rather than encourage just the opposite?

    Lollipoplover’s story of her father teasing her out of her ridiculous — media induced! — fear of sharks, and encouraging her to enjoy the water, is a great example of what a conscientious parent felt his “job” was a generation ago.


    Really don’t want to get involved in all the “I tried so hard for this baby, so I’m entitled to a bit of helicoptering ” except to say — do you really believe it fair that your child in essence “pay” for what it took to get them here?

    Filed under, Under the Sun, nothing new: please see the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty”. The story is about a long-wished-for child who finally comes, and her parents’ tireless efforts to do everything they can to keep her safe. But you can’t cheat fate. And her destiny is fulfilled, despite all their vigilance.


    Atlanta Dad, what a wonderful story! A Christmas Tale if ever there was one. Wasn’t a dry eye in the house. (Okay, I was the only one in the house – but neither eye was dry!)

  73. Kenny Felder May 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    It is so very difficult to have this argument at all. It is so difficult to combat the “one death is one too many” self-righteousness with dry logic and statistics, making the same tedious arguments again and again, or try to articulate why a childhood spent running through the streets and woods is so much better than a childhood spent safely tethered to a Nintendo.

    But you keep fighting it, Lenore, with common sense and with humor. You’re one of my living heroes, and I don’t have many.

  74. Terry May 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    I am trying to convince my extremely nervous husband why I am in favor of the free range concept. When we talk about crime rates being lower now than the were a few decades ago, he wonders, “Is it because parents have become more vigilant, and don’t let their kids do the stuff we used to do?” I can see the circular argument, and I don’t know the right response. What do you say to that?

  75. Uly May 19, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    No, Terry. You say “No”, because it’s not true. In fact, the crime rates all around have dropped to 1960s levels.

  76. Tuppence May 19, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    @Terry — Do you live somewhere near New York or Toronto? If so, Lenore could personally come over to help you help your husband to become more free-range! She’s looking for families like yours (one parent open to FR, the other not) for a reality TV show.
    Your husband could learn not fearin’ from the generalissima herself!

  77. BMS May 19, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    We struggled with infertility for 4 years before we decided on the adoption route. It came to a point of either choose to try IVF, or choose adoption. There are many reasons that we went for adoption (have you met my inlaws?? Those genes need to die). But one of them was that I didn’t want to become one of these moms who went through 5 IVF cycles and practically bankrupted themselves and destroyed their bodies to have that vaunted ‘biological child’. What sort of pressure would that child be under, I thought? That child has a lot to live up to. And it can lead to the problem of thinking that this child is the only reason for my existance, and therefore I have to guard this child’s every moment. I could see the potential for making myself crazy by needing to have this child somehow grow up ‘perfect’ because they were so hard to come by. So rather than driving myself crazy and getting 1000 shots for a 50% chance of having a kid at the end of it, I went the ‘sign 1000 forms and wait a year and have a near 100% chance of having a kid’ route.

    Another reason I wanted to avoid IVF was that I saw what my old next door neighbors were like. Their son was conceived after a long, long IVF battle. But it seemed like they could hardly enjoy him because they were so worried all the time. If he fell and scraped his knee, they scooped him up and rushed him into the house like he had gotten a knife wound. They didn’t want him to get dirty, to take any risks at all. They ended up moving to another house in the same town, mostly because they were so worried about the traffic on the busy street. The result was a fearful child, and tense, fearful parents.

    My kids are amazing. But I know that they are resiliant too. They spent the first half year of their lives in a third world country, without me hovering, and did fine. They are no less precious to me than a bio kid would be. But they have taught me that I don’t have complete control over my life, and that’s ok. Everyone will do fine anyhow.

  78. Dolly May 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    That is an inspiring story BMS. So glad you got your miracle babies. 🙂

  79. Dolly May 19, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    Sgtmom: That is a sad story about the almost kidnapping but a great ending that at least it was not a successful kidnapping.

    That is what I meant when I said earlier that we really cannot judge others for their feelings because unless we lived the EXACT same life as them, we don’t know what it is like to be them. I would imagine if you were almost kidnapped that it would leave a big mark in your heart and head and effect how you live. It is mean to make fun of someone for say sleeping with their parents like he did after he was almost kidnapped. We don’t know how terrifying that may have been for him. Counseling and therapy would be a good way to help with it.

    I also get that some posters on this blog are a little too militant at times. Raising kids takes sensitivity and understanding that all kids are different. All parents are different. There is no one size fits all. That is why I don’t name call helicopter at a drop of a hat. I am with Linda that there is a disconnect between parents of older kids and parents of younger kids because just because an 8 year old can play outside alone perfectly fine, a 3 year old may not be able to and that is okay. It is not helicoptering. We all live in different neighborhoods with different traffic and different situations. That is why it is up to each individual parent to make that call for themselves.

    I used to not leave my kids outside alone for even a second. I used to stand right by them since our yard is not fenced in to catch them in case they darted for the road. As they grow older I can let up. Now I can feel comfortable going inside to get a drink or something for a minute or two and feel that they are safe. I don’t have to stand right next to them while outside. I trust that they know not to leave the yard or go in the street. It is about progression of allowing them more and more freedom the more older and mature they get.

  80. Dolly May 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    BMS: I am not as crazy as the IVF neighbors you have. Mine get all kinds of bumps and bruises and dirty and muddy. That is called having fun! LOL. But I also know that I had to go through things that most parents never even imagine going through to have my kids. Daily shots to the stomach the entire pregnancy and to conceive. Weeks of bedrest. Tons of money spent. That makes me appreciate my kids way more than I would have otherwise. I am speaking for me personally. I did get pregnant the first time naturally and I lost that baby. I was very laid back and chilled during the short time I was pregnant. I took some chances like taking over the counter meds and having some drinks before I knew I was pregnant. After losing that baby the time of taking chances was gone. I was overly cautious from them on with the pregnancies. So I do feel that it can alter the way you view things. I am speaking just for myself. I was a super cautious mommy when mine were infants and to a point I had to be because they were premature and fragile. As time goes on I let up more and more and more. That is what being a parent is about-slowly pulling back and learning to let them go on their own.

  81. Heather May 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    @LindaLou: You can’t *always* watch any child. You have to let them sleep, you have to go to the loo (and yes, most of them want to come too, but sometimes I want to have a little privacy for that!). My son plays in his room while I shower in the morning. Yes, I would follow him around outside, but I might not be looking at him every second.

    Drowning is fast and silent, contrary to media depictions. It could happen while you were right there, if you didn’t realise that it was happening. That someone’s child drowned is not evidence of neglect.

    And if you think children are going to stop jumping in puddles, you have not been exposed to Peppa Pig recently*.

    *Peppa Pig is a show in the UK. Almost every child I know seems obsessed with it. The whole family likes jumping in muddy puddles so much that it’s the dad’s birthday treat.

  82. Robin May 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    I just had an interesting converstion with my 13 year old last night. We were talking about lenient parents and I asked her to give me some examples of other parents leniency. Everything she mentioned was a “thing”. Money, iPods, phones, etc. Then she talked about the things I’ve given her. They’ve all been experiences. Letting her walk to the library after school, letting her sleep over at friends houses, stuff her brother is allowed to do, etc. She also pointed out how we don’t give her money (she needs to babysit more :)). At the end of her list of differences, I told her that I hoped when she got older she’d appreciate the things she was given as opposed to her friends.

    I’ve tried very hard not to impose my insecurities on my kids. Lord knows they probably have enough of their own. I was a very shy, introverted kid. I am so happy that both of my kids have many friends and do stuff I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing. Isn’t that what we want? Rather than the “I was kidnapped so I’m sure you will be too” mentality?

  83. Donna May 19, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

    @ Linda Lou – Actually what Lenore said was “Even Free-Rangers know that 4-year-olds are not ready to take on the world by themselves. We’d never recommend that.” I have yet to see Lenore or a single other regular commenter on this blog actually support letting 4-year-olds walk to preschool by themselves, stay home by themselves, or many of the things that older children can do.

    Of course, free range applies to small children, in bits of responsibility that they are able to handle. For example, I would never let my child walk to the store on her own at 5. I will, however, allow her to walk around the less than 10 aisle Trader Joe’s to look for the lobster while I shop or go to the counter and “pay” for ice cream (exchange her toy for ice cream) at Chick-fil-a by herself. I won’t let her walk to the park by herself but will walk around the path that takes her out of my sight for short periods of time while there. I won’t let her walk several blocks to play with friends but letting her play in our own yard by herself is fine. Even at 2, my child played alone while I took a shower and didn’t come with me every time I went from one room to another. As a single parent my only option was that or repulsing everyone else by my stench.

    Watching your children 24/7 only to then free them to range doesn’t work whether you free them at 8 or 18. You need to build up and increase responsibility until they are able to handle things on their own. This build up should start at a very young age, even as young as 2, with age-appropriate freedoms. However, turning toddlers and preschoolers out to fend for themselves has never been a part of this blog.

  84. Ben May 19, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

    When I click on the gem of an article hyperlink, it takes me back to the WSJ article. Is anyone else having this issue and is there a link that works?

  85. Donna May 19, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    “Peppa Pig is a show in the UK. Almost every child I know seems obsessed with it. ”

    It’s on in the US too. My daughter loves it. Many episode do involve jumping in mud.

  86. SusanH May 19, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    @Dolly: it’s not your fault you had a miscarriage. I thought that comment was very telling; you are still hanging on to guilt because you were too “chill” and had some drinks and took some over-the-counter medication before you even knew you were pregnant. This is not why you miscarried. That baby was just not meant to be. It’s not your fault!

  87. LRH May 19, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    BMS “Have you met my in-laws–those genes need to die.” HA HA HA! I died laughing at that, that was hysterically funny!

    Kenny I agree, Lenore is a hero to me. I absolutely love that woman–I am not IN-LOVE with her, okay?–but I absolutely LOVE her.

    The posts by Heather and Robin and Donna here are some of the best posts I’ve EVER seen here, EVER. So sensibile, so logical, so lacking in mud-slinging (as I may sometimes stoop to) in making their very sensible points. Donna is right, free-range isn’t about overdoing it to the point of being deliberately neglectful. I will add that some things some of us may do may cross that line, but if it does it’s because we’re “feeling out” what is okay and isn’t, the whole trial & error thing. Example: last year my now 2-year old son left our yard and wandered off into freakish territory, he was actually ON THE ROAD, we were looking all over the place for him. This road is easily 150 yards from our place, he could’ve wandered any other way & just been in nature’s woods–much less dangerous, but he wandered onto the road. Luckily the police didn’t get involved (although I’m told someone called–and I don’t blame them by the way) and he was not harmed.

    That was scary and a very frightening experience, perhaps it was a mistake even–but regardless, in response, we built a fence & if they are in that fenced-in area they’re left to their devices for stretches of time, but outside that fence–if they’re even allowed outside the fence at all to start with, they’re scrutinized MUCH more closely. You live and learn, and try to not beat yourself up over those times you misjudge things.


  88. Nadine Blanchette May 20, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Sorry this is off the topic, I didn’t know where to send this. But did you see the series in Ben about climbing trees now and then?

  89. Nadine Blanchette May 20, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    Sorry I am off topics, I didn’t know where to send this.
    THere is a series about climbing trees now and then in “Ben”. I thought it was interesting.

  90. Jen May 20, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    @LindaLou, My 2 year old is definitely NOT a baby anymore. She is a toddler, and a very independent one. She plays happily in the fenced in yard by herself while I do housework. We go to a playgroup at a local Chuck E Cheese type place, and I get to sit and chat with other moms while she plays. She sleeps *gasp* in HER OWN ROOM down the hall, so I am not watching her while I sleep. Heck, I don’t even look in her room once she goes to sleep. I allow my two-year old freedoms appropriate to her age. Sometimes she plays upstairs while I am downstairs. She gets some of her own snacks. Do I let her walk around the neighborhood by herself? No. Do I leave her home alone? No. Does she still have some freedoms? Yes.

    I have to take it up with Lenore about a comment she made in her original article on WSJ about PBS’ Cat in the Hat. Yes, the mom is now home, as opposed to the original book. But those are free range moms if ever I saw any. No matter what the kids ask to do, the answer is yes, and the kids are always playing in the yard or their rooms by themselves, with an imaginary 6-foot tall cat as their only supervision. Can’t say there’s any helicoptering there.

  91. Jenne May 20, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    I came looking for this post because someone forwarded the librarians’ response to a list I was on as a ‘great example’ of how to respond.

    Public librarians as a group have a phobia of unattended children. In Massachusetts, where a five-year-old was sexually assaulted a couple of years ago in a library in the stacks, not 20 feet from his mom, the librarians are even more phobic. (There are libraries in Massachusetts that won’t let you in the children’s department without a child in tow.)

    Even if they are not paranoid about predators, many public librarians have horror stories about un- and under-attended kids’ behavior, and the demanding/entitled behavior of some parents, who *do* expect the library to act as a supervised drop-off center, and DO expect the librarians to supervise their kids.

    Always ask what the rules are in a library. Always be clear that if you allow your child out of your sight, it is NOT because you expect them to be supervised. And let paranoid comments by professionally frightened librarians roll off your back.

  92. Jenny Islander May 20, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    This bears repeating:

    If a child is playing in a yard, the parent pops inside for a minute to get something, and the child is snatched in that minute, the snatcher did it. Not the parent. Leaving your child unattended in the front yard for a minute will not cause a snatcher to materialize out of thin air and grab that child. Parents of abducted children should not blame themselves for behaving in a way that is perfectly normal and safe except on the extremely rare occasions that there happens to be a snatcher in the neighborhood who feels like grabbing a kid at that exact second.

    I live in bear country. There are certain things that campers and people living in remote cabins are supposed to do in order to keep themselves safe from bears–mostly to do with not leaving attractive piles of food around. BUT–no amount of precautions will stop the very, very rare bear who simply wants to kill a human today. There have been a few, something like one per decade on an island with several thousand bears. Nothing will keep them away. And the people who are attacked out of the blue by these bears are not to blame.

  93. Larry Harrison May 20, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    Jenny Islander 1st paragraph–amen, amen, amen! I think it can be taken farther–if you leave your keys in the car and someone steals it (yes, that includes if you leave your kids in there to pay for gas etc)–it’s not your fault, you didn’t “entrap” or “encourage” the thief. The thief stole your car and temporarily kidnapped your kids. That’s it.

    Yes, there’s something to be said for being vigilant and using locks etc, but still–last time I checked, if I see someone’s keys in their car and decide to go for a ride, I’m not going to get off because “well, your honor, they left the keys in there, you’d think people would have more sense than that, it was practically an invitation to take it.” Nope. It’s stealing, and your example works the exact same way.

    2nd paragraph–I will say that a .44 Magnum with hollow points or a 12-gauge pump shotgun will keep them away (only if you need to in self-defense cases, I’m not talking about hunting), but beyond that–you’re right, nothing will. I in particular take exception to the persons who say that “you’re in THEIR country, and that’s their way of telling you to stay out of THEIR country,” but that’s for another time (hopefully not) to elaborate on.


  94. LindaLou May 20, 2011 at 1:25 am #

    @Donna, then you haven’t been here very long. I’ve seen support of those things and more. And, BTW, since my older kids are now a high schooler and a middle schooler, I’m pretty sure I have more real life experience with allowing them to gradually take on more and more responsibility and freedom than someone wiht a five year old (no offense ~ my youngest child is in kindergarten and I know from experience that you are just at the beginning of your journey with this). I guess you must not have been here when there was al sorts of misguided support for the woman who let her 5 year old walk to school with the safety vest along a very busy street with several dangerous road crossings because she felt the need to make a point about bus service being cancelled. That was about the time that I decided I could no longer support or receommend this site, even though I think Lenore and her ideas (and her book) are great.
    @Jen, you are ridiculous. A two year is most definitely still a baby. if you think otherwise it’s because you are projecting something you want to see on to the child.

  95. Jenny Islander May 20, 2011 at 1:42 am #

    @Larry Harrison: There are Coast Guard dependents who have lived here for years and literally never walked anywhere off the base because a bear might jump out and snatch them. They live right next to some of the most beautifiul roadside hiking and picnicking in North America, all of it theirs for the price of a tank of gas, and they never see it.

    That is the difference between taking precautions and being a prisoner of fear.

  96. Donna May 20, 2011 at 1:54 am #

    @ LindaLou – I have been here for awhile and I do recall the story about the 5 year old and the vest. If I remember correctly, walking was the only way for the child to get to school since the district stopped busing and the mother had a disabled child at home. If I also remember correctly, the child generally walked with an older sibling but could not that day because he refused to get ready to go to school (or something similar). Several were opposed and thought that the mother should have gone to extraordinary efforts to get her child to school or allowed him the reward of staying home. I probably would not let my child walk to school alone at 5 (although I’d let her walk with a group) but I’m not in that mother’s shoes. It is easy for people who have options to criticize people who don’t.

    My child was certainly not a baby at 2. She was potty trained, could fully dress herself, could be trusted to stay out of trouble while I showered (and without watching TV which she hated at that age), could get herself snacks, stayed out of the junk food drawer when my back was turned, could play outside by herself in our fenced-in back yard and many other non-baby behaviors. If you want to treat your 2 year olds as babies, go ahead, but don’t assume all 2 year olds to be babies.

  97. Uly May 20, 2011 at 2:03 am #

    Several were opposed and thought that the mother should have gone to extraordinary efforts to get her child to school or allowed him the reward of staying home.

    I’m not sure reward is the right word here. Maybe if the kid had actively done things to avoid going to school, but the whole situation was out of his league.

    And yeah, two year olds aren’t babies except in the sense of “Oh, you’ll always be my baby!” They’re toddlers or preschoolers.

  98. Robin May 20, 2011 at 2:03 am #

    Thank you LRH, although I do sometimes succumb to the occasional mud-slinging. Te he.

    Jenny – that’s just sad. I spent a week in Yellowstone and I was HOPING to see bears, but no luck 🙁

  99. pentamom May 20, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    “And, BTW, since my older kids are now a high schooler and a middle schooler, I’m pretty sure I have more real life experience with allowing them to gradually take on more and more responsibility and freedom than someone wiht a five year old (no offense ~ my youngest child is in kindergarten and I know from experience that you are just at the beginning of your journey with this).”

    Well, if we’re going to play this game, my oldest is a junior in college and I usually agree with Donna. Now what?

  100. EricS May 20, 2011 at 2:28 am #

    As Donna mentioned, not all 2 year olds are babies. Mine was pretty self sufficient at that age. Could speak a few words, completely understood what we said to him. By the time he was walking on his own, I stopped with the “goo-goo gaga” talk, and spoke to him like I would speak to anyone else. Children, even at that age, are far more adaptable than most parents give them credit for. Your child is only what you make them to be. You treat them like helpless babies who don’t know anything, that’s exactly how they will be. You spoil them by doing everything for them, because you don’t think they can do it themselves, that’s what they will get used to. And as they grow up, will only know that YOU will doing things for them. We all know kids like that. You instil the same fears you have in them, they will grow up fearful. Fearful children have low self-esteem. Low self-esteem gets you picked on. Getting picked on makes you even more fearful. Such a vicious, unnecessary cycle. Sure they MAYBE safer locked up indoors, but it does nothing for his emotional and mental well being. At some point in their lives, they WILL HAVE TO face the world. And if they are ill prepared, they suffer.

    Sure, there’s no dispute that bad things happen. Even unexpectedly. But that is no reason to live a life of fear. And it is a life of fear when you get paranoid about every little thing. It’s just a proven fact, that no matter who cautious you are, or how protective, SOMETHING will always happen. ALWAYS. However, most things aren’t so dire like being kidnapped and murdered. Statistically those are rare when it comes to children. Even the most attentive parent, will never prevent their child from bumping their heads, getting cuts and scrapes, or even being picked on in school. It is IMPOSSIBLE to live a life where you watch your child 24/7. That’s not reality. We say it often here. The best way to protect your child is to empower them. With confidence, knowledge, and common sense. It’s like the good book says, GIVE a man a fish and he’ll eat for today. TEACH a man to fish, and he can eat whenever he wants…and then some. lol

  101. Uly May 20, 2011 at 2:47 am #

    Well, if we’re going to play this game, my oldest is a junior in college and I usually agree with Donna. Now what?

    Now let’s you and her fight. I’ll get the popcorn!

    With confidence, knowledge, and common sense. It’s like the good book says, GIVE a man a fish and he’ll eat for today. TEACH a man to fish, and he can eat whenever he wants…and then some. lol

    Wait, is that one actually in the Bible? The only good book I know with a quote like that says that if you build a man on fire he’ll be warm for the night, but if you set a man on fire he’s warm for the rest of his life. But that book isn’t the Bible either 🙂

  102. Emiky May 20, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    So if I tie my child to my back and wrap us both in bubblewrap, and some crazed lunatic breaks into our bomb shelter and gives my child a papercut, I’m a bad parent? There was something I did not do?

    I’m left wondering, however, just how many helicopter parents practice what they preach. Are they really as protective and wonderful as they claim?

  103. Emiky May 20, 2011 at 3:03 am #

    I just found an interesting article while this has been on my mind…


    Nothing too special, but there is a line in it I love concerning how crucial it is to teach children to travel by themselves.

  104. pentamom May 20, 2011 at 3:33 am #

    “Now let’s you and her fight. I’ll get the popcorn!”

    Pop away, Uly! 🙂 Of course, I don’t really want to have this fight with LindaLou, I was just trying to show that “I have older kids so I know better” can lead nowhere fast.

    And no, the fish thing doesn’t come from the Bible. Some sites say Confucius or “Chinese proverb,” but I’m skeptical. Its origin is probably lost to history.

  105. Jen Connelly May 20, 2011 at 4:04 am #

    On the argument about 2 year olds being babies… I’m definitely on Donna’s and Jen’s sides.

    My kids were NOT babies at 2 except maybe my middle daughter. She seemed much more babish at that age probably because she was just starting to talk (only knew maybe 15 words when she turned 2) and had fine motor skill issues so she couldn’t do all the things her older siblings did at that age. I’ve always been a little more protective of her because she’s my “flighty” kid. She’s 8 1/2 now, though.

    Yesterday I took my 5yo dd and 10mo son to a park a mile and a half away. We walked. I kept having to tell my 5yo to NOT hold onto the stroller. We live in a small town. The only time she has to hold my hand is if we’re crossing a busy street.

    At the park I let the baby crawl around the freshly mowed grass (where he got it all over his hands). Back at home he wanted to go outside in our backyard so my older son (9 1/2) took him out there, set up an umbrella and some toys and played with him for, oh, all of 20 minutes and then left him alone.

    The 10 month old loved it. He sat outside munching on crackers and playing with his toys then started crawling around. Our yard is fenced in and faces the railroad tracks. There is no way to get from the tracks to our property because of the very thorny berry bushes that stretch the length of the tracks all through town.

    If anyone had seen him they would have though he was completely unsupervised but he wasn’t. I was in the house at the computer and could see him through the patio doors. He was having a blast and didn’t need me sitting outside with him. He even crawled out of my direct line of sight a few times but I just waited for him to reappear.

    He wanders all over our house and I sure don’t follow him around. I don’t need to. And I especially won’t need to at 2.

    I totally agree with everything Erica S said. If you treat your children like they are incompetent and helpless they will be helpless. I’ve treated my kids like they can do anything, encouraged them to learn to do everything for themselves and taught them to be independent and self-reliant.

    I’m still constantly amazed when I’m on other parenting sites at the amount of paranoia and fear that mothers have. One woman was all proud to state she lets her kids play alone in their privacy fenced yard with the padlocked gate but only if they are together and their big dog is out there. Her kids were 7 and 13. They were NEVER allowed out of the yard without an adult present not even in their own front yard to play with friends. She lived in a nice quiet suburb but she didn’t trust anyone, not even her kids.

    I can’t imagine being 13 and having to have Mommy watch me ride bikes up and down the sidewalk. How demeaning. By the time I was 13 I was taking the bus or riding my bike to the mall 2 miles away (in Chicago). My dad even bought me the lock so I could take my bike and would give me money to catch a matinee in the summer (if I took my younger brother). That was in the early 90s.

  106. Beth May 20, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    The whole thing about calling a non-infant a “baby” is one of my huge pet peeves. I have heard parents of kids much older than 2 call them babies, and NOT in the context of “she’s my baby”.

    We keep infantizing (is that a word?) kids and it’s no wonder they never grow up.

  107. Myriam May 20, 2011 at 4:15 am #

    I’ve seen plenty of comments on here about people letting four and five year olds out and about on their own. In fact, when I read Lenore’s remark about four-year-olds, I wondered if she wrote it specifically to distance herself from such comments.

    Now, I’m not saying that four-year-olds are not far more capable than we give them credit for today (see anecdote later), I’m saying that society today has a problem with letting TEN year olds out without parents, so if people come here to find out about freerange kids they are likely to switch off if they read about five or even six year-olds out without parents. And if they are looking for ammunition to ridicule FRK, they will find it here.

    Of course saying that assumes that “freerange kids” is actually a movement and that this blog, and specifically the comments, represents some sort of mouth piece for that movement. Both highly debatable.

    * I listened to a radio programme a while ago featuring an elderly woman who said that her mother used to leave her alone to go out to work when she was four . The presenter asked her what she did with her time, and the woman replied “I used to sit by the fire and do some knitting”.
    I’m not romanitising this, I’m not saying it’s good. I’m saying who today can think of a four-year-old and conjure up an image of a child sitting by the fire looking after herself and what’s more use the opportunity to get on with some knitting!

  108. Uly May 20, 2011 at 4:24 am #

    LOL, Myriam, I remember being surprised when reading Lydia, Queen of Palestine (a young woman’s memoirs, more or less) and when she refused to go to kindergarten – kindergarten! – her mother said “Okay” and let her stay home while she went out to work.

    But that’s nothing. I wish I could find the link for it now, but just a few years ago I read a piece on funded day cares in Canada during the second world war (that’s specific, isn’t it?) and they showed some pictures of what people resorted to without day care – such as one woman who just tied her 22 month old son in the yard and had a neighbor check on him every day while she worked in a factory. Yes, just like a dog. That’s not quite free range, and it definitely is a little appalling to me, but apparently her neighbors thought this was just peachy.

  109. Lafe May 20, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    I hadn’t thought of this as a phobia before, but it really fits. It’s a mass phobia — like the fear that your neighbor is a witch who dances in the woods near Salem with the Devil in the pale moonlight, curdles your cow’s milk, and entices your husband to sin.

    What’s interesting here is that these mass phobias should blossom and fade quickly, even when religious leaders or others try to extend them and use them to retain or extend power over people, etc. In this case, though, the media feeds it, the common folk won’t let go of it, and it just keeps going — maybe even getting stronger.

    The government bakes it into our laws, even, perpetuating it even more strongly.

    It’s a phobia fueled by a wave of ignorance that should have lost its momentum by now.

    If I like to run barefoot on the beach, and one day I cut my foot badly on some broken glass hidden in the sand, you can bet I’ll have a (healthy?) fear of running like that again.

    Would I demand that they close the whole beach? Would I support a law for everyone’s protection that fullly-enclosed footwear had to be worn on the beach at all times? Would I tell my children there would never ever EVER be anymore beach visits for me and mine?

    No. None of those things. I’d be more careful than usual for a while (after my foot healed), but before long some circuit in my brain would ease back into “normal” position, and I’d realize on some deep level (whether I thought it through consciously or not) how rare that danger was, and I’d slip back into my old, regular habits.

    People seem to be missing that ‘circuit’ these days. A lot of people.

    Even someone who was once kidnapped should be able to eventually realize how rare that is, and adjust back to something approaching their previous level of comfort with society and normal human interactions (which includes normal, friendly interactions with strangers).

    Kids are the most resilient of us all! They break an arm, and not long after they want to climb that tree again.

    I wonder if the person who was kidnapped and returned at age four was tormented more by her loved ones’ reaction to the event than the event itself. I think many people mess up a kid’s whole life due to how they treat the child after an event and in their hysterical reaction to the event, when the event itself might have only caused a short disruption in normal life, followed by some well-tended healing — if it had been handled properly. Instead, someone starts pumping their minds full of the irrational phobia that lasts forever.

  110. Donna May 20, 2011 at 4:47 am #

    “I’m not sure reward is the right word here. Maybe if the kid had actively done things to avoid going to school, but the whole situation was out of his league.”

    It was my understanding from the original story (and I could very well be remembering it wrong or confusing stories) that he did. His older brother, with whom he usually walked, had already left for school but the younger one dilly-dallied and had to walk by himself. Again, I’m not supportive of the idea of letting a kindergartener walk to school alone for more than a block or two. Life just sometimes has different plans and you have to choose the best option available not the best option possible.

    “I’ve seen plenty of comments on here about people letting four and five year olds out and about on their own.”

    I’ve seen several comments about people letting their 4 and 5 year olds out and about short distances by themselves. I’ve seen very few comments about letting children that young wander long distances, and those thoughts are usually questioned by most of the other regular commenters.

    If you are saying that many of us believe that 4 and 5 year olds don’t need constant supervision and can wander short distances without adult supervision. Definitely! There is a difference between letting your 5 year old ride a bike around the block and letting your 5 year old ride his bike a mile to the store to buy groceries. There’s a difference between letting your kindergartener walk a couple blocks to school or to a friend’s house alone and letting your kindergartener walk across town. I trust my 5.5 year old to not get into trouble when out by herself (if I had a different kid, I might not). I don’t trust her to actually be able to get from point A to point B without being distracted and ending up lost at point C if it’s a long distance away.

  111. Lafe May 20, 2011 at 4:48 am #

    … and none of my children were “babies” at age two. Geesh.

  112. liz May 20, 2011 at 5:13 am #

    When my son was a brand-new baby, I cried over two stories while I nursed him. One was the story of a gang that killed a young boy because the boy’s older brother refused to shoplift for the gang. The other was a child rug-maker who had escaped from a hellish workplace to tell his story to the U.N. I remember that he too was killed, but my memory isn’t reliable. Those stories have stuck with me for 16 years –but now I know it’s because they were so rare, not because I was afraid for my child ending up in either circumstance. Of course I don’t want harm to come to any child, but more harm comes when we don’t allow them to learn how to operate independent of their parents.

  113. LindaLou May 20, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    @pentamom, what do you mena “Now what?” I barely even stop by here anymore because I find a large number of the posters (not LENORE,but the people she attracts) to be ridiculous to the point of negligence when it comes the supervison of very young children. There is no more to it than that. The only final thought I would add is that it’s really sad that Lenore’s good work has been perverted in to the sort of dangerous radicalism where anything goes.

  114. pentamom May 20, 2011 at 6:01 am #

    By “now what” I simply meant “now where do we go with this comparison of whose kids are older?” Having older kids doesn’t prove anything one way or the other — doesn’t make you right, doesn’t make me right. I’ve lived through ages of children neither you nor Donna have yet experienced, and yet I haven’t come around to your view that Donna is advocating anything “radical” or “dangerous.” So I think your point about ages of one’s kids is irrelevant, that’s all.

  115. LindaLou May 20, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    @pentamom, maybe if I were attemtping to lecture you about what you needed to do with your young children in order to ensure that they are independent when they’re older, you might have a point. If you’re claming you wouldn’t respond with “BTDT”, well, I doubt it.

  116. LindaLou May 20, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    Also, for those with poor memories, there are multiple posts about free ranging inlcuding but not limited to, leaving kids at the park (ages 4 & 6), letting a five year old wander the neighborhood for hours, and allowing 5 & 6 year olds to go to the park alone over on the very recent thread about the Take Your Kids to the Park and Leave them event on Satuday. And none of you regulars said a word about. This is why people think all free rangers are negligent and want to diassociate themselves from the movement. I know you want to pretend it’s because the entire rest of the world is full of fear. Maybe we just have some common sense. At any rate, rock on Lenore! You’re awesome!

  117. Donna May 20, 2011 at 7:31 am #

    Wow, I’m a dangerous radical. I don’t think I’ve ever been considered “dangerous” or “radical.” I love it. Although I suspect that anyone who thinks that I’m a dangerous radical probably has some helicopter issues.

    Nor have I read anything here that I would consider dangerously radical. There have certainly been people I disagree with. There have been comments where I think the poster went further than I would go. But “dangerous radicals” indicates a negligence requiring CPS interference and I’ve never seen anything at that point.

  118. Donna May 20, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    Apparently you actually do still read the blog although not that well. I believe that SKL did say something about wanting to allow her kids go to the park alone at 5 or 6 and me and several others said that it was too young in our opinion.

  119. Erika Evans May 20, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    @LindaLou, I’m still stuck on your first comment where you seem to claim that a 2 year old should be watched at all times. Do you mean that literally? So I’m supposed to sit and stare at my 18 month old all day?

    As a SAHM not wealthy enough to hire domestics, I’m responsible for cleaning, laundry, cooking, shopping, supervising homework, errands, yardwork, and religious teaching of my older kids; and I choose to support my older children’s involvement in sports and scouts. Am I supposed to perform these activities for my older three children whilst simultaneously fixing my eyes on my toddler 24 hours a day?

    Because unless you are prepared to say Oh Yes! to my above questions, you have to concede that completely missed the point of Jessika’s story about the drowned two year old, which was that even when you are *keeping an eye out*, which is the reasonable (and real-world) alternative to *continual and uninterrupted staring at child*, ACCIDENTS HAPPEN that are NO ONE’S FAULT. Claiming otherwise perpetuates a horrible attitude that no matter what happens, a parent is at fault and must be shamed.

  120. Timkenwest May 20, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    I just want to say that the Free Range commenters are my favourite people on the Internet.

  121. Alexicographer May 20, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    As for me, I can’t get past the claim that two-year olds are babies. They’re not. Babies are so much easier; you can put them down and count on them being where you left them when you come back (and they can’t follow you into the bathroom).

  122. yuki May 20, 2011 at 11:05 am #


    Also, for those with poor memories, there are multiple posts about free ranging inlcuding but not limited to, leaving kids at the park (ages 4 & 6), letting a five year old wander the neighborhood for hours, and allowing 5 & 6 year olds to go to the park alone over on the very recent thread about the Take Your Kids to the Park and Leave them event on Satuday. And none of you regulars said a word about. This is why people think all free rangers are negligent and want to diassociate themselves from the movement. I know you want to pretend it’s because the entire rest of the world is full of fear. Maybe we just have some common sense. At any rate, rock on Lenore! You’re awesome

    I really don’t understand why it could be viewed as negligence.

    At first I wanted to ask “and in what way is a 5 years old too young to do that”, but I thought about it, only a little, and it dawn on me that not every 5 years old are the same. You can’t expect it to be safe to let a 5 years old who was never given any freedom to know what to do with it. But if she was a FRK for 5 years, you surely can have higher expectations of her.

    When I was five, I was walking to school by myself and the only issue that occurred was when I was 6, I was so into climbing all the snow piles with a friend that I was late to school. It was “only” half a mile though.

    I was also going to the park alone when I was 5. I really can’t see the problem here, why a 8 years old can and a 5 years old can’t? Maybe I don’t know the roads your kids have to go though to make it to the park, but I assume (and I hope) most neighbourhood have a relatively close park.

    At 5, I was also going to the store corner to buy floor or sugar or whatever my mother needed for her recipe and I loved it! She never forced me, I wanted to go!

    I have an issue with “leaving kids at the park ” which could imply that they can’t go there on their own, which is not a good idea in my opinion, they should al least know the way to their home. We don’t give them any freedom if we imposed on them “to be at the park for two hours (or whatever time we want them to be there)”.

    I agree that Lenore is awesome though!

  123. GARY May 20, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    It is a horrible truth that some children get kidnapped, molested, killed. We can and should be aware of ours and our childrens surroundings and activities. But I have to wonder if there were parks full of children and parents, if the streets had dozens of kids playing and the kids all knew each other and the parents in a neighborhood all knew all the children…wouldn’t the world be safer? Wouldn’t the children be safer?

  124. Cyndi May 20, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    One of the things I really can’t stand is people speculating about how a parent who has lost a child would feel. I’m sorry Dolly but I have to call BS on your comments here. I’m sorry for your miscarriage, miscarriages are sad (I know, I’ve had 5 of them), but they aren’t the death of a child.

    My son died 19 months ago. No guilt about it…it was a 1 in 10,000 random chromosome accident and we had no idea until the autopsy. He lived for 3.5 hours.

    My 4 year old (took a year to conceive) was there. Between her and her brother were the miscarriages and 2 years of trying. He was my miracle baby. Born on my 45th and one half birthday.

    We tried for another year (after waiting to heal from the emergency surgery) but I turned 47 and my doctor has made it clear there aren’t going to be any more babies.

    I won’t even try to describe the ripping of your soul that happens when your child dies. You never “get over” it no matter what. It’s like losing a limb. You can learn to walk or type again but you will never be the same.

    Infertility is also painful. Terribly. And there is a special pain about this combo, where I thought I was going to get to raise two children, not just gestate and give birth to two. And we tried so hard not to replace him (that’s impossible) but to create the family I thought I already had, and now I can’t. (If anyone writes to say “but you can always adopt” I WILL have to slap you, you just don’t know.)

    But to say that a child is more precious because it was harder to bring him or her into your family, well that’s bull. And to say that you can bear a death better because you can have more children, that is insanity to even suggest it.

    So here I am with a beautiful kindergartener who I had at a month shy of 41. Her brother is gone and yes of course I worry constantly I’ll lose her too. But I haven’t changed how I treat her. Before and after her brother’s death I was the mom that other parents would come up to, concerned because I wasn’t keeping a close enough eye (you know, like the woman who insisted she was going to get kidnapped because I was one aisle over in the store while she played with some toys on display).

    As for the 5 year old walking home alone…I walked home alone from kindergarten regularly. A full mile, though there was only one busy street and it was the intersection by the school with crossing guards. Granted, this was in the 60’s when parenting was perhaps a little too lax. But it was also normal to walk or bike yourself to and from school. Since most kids did it, it was totally safe.

  125. LindaLou May 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    @Donna, yes you’re a better mother than every other mother. That’s what you’re trying to convince yourself of, right? I’m out. Like I said, this place just gets more and more stupid with each passing day. It’s no longer a place where anyone with a little common sense and a normal understanding of child development can feel comfy. You’re just as bad as the helicopters at this point. “Helicopter issues!” Give me a break. @@.

  126. Larry Harrison May 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Wow, it sure has become nasty in here. Dang.

    Of course, I’ve said a few things that were perhaps “over the top,” so if I’m judging then I apologize.

    At any rate LindaLou if you are still reading here, I am not sure what is upsetting to you, not even after glancing over your posts and Donna’s. I am NOT taking sides when I say this, but I will agree with Donna, thusly–I don’t see in here where people are advocating extreme things like, say, letting their 2 year old drive cross-country or their 6-month old cook a spaghetti dinner etc. I’m just not seeing it.

    The whole idea of free-range, as I understand it, is to allow your kids to experience life without undue restrictions that, let’s say, make them 0.05% safe but 3000% more restricted on actually experiencing life, because even a 1 in 3 zillion chance of getting a 1 millionth of an inch cut is an unacceptable outcome, and nothing but 100% safe is acceptable. It’s also about accepting the fact that some things do happen even if you are reasonably vigilant to prevent it, and that in such cases parents shouldn’t be blamed–legally or shamefully by family-friends-society etc.

    All of us, I think, have the goal of understanding this and making sure we don’t overly restrict our kids and take away all the fun of being a kid just to make thing 3 billionths of a percent safer. The key thing is this: it may be that some of us get a little carried away–and I stress may–in terms of being so determined to NOT be helicopter that we take it a bit too far. And again, I am stressing may be.

    And even if that’s so, I would say that most-times it’s not a matter of negligence, it’s a matter of getting a feel of things and trying to strike the right balance. I think most of us here, myself included, upon figuring out that we granted too much freedom in a certain case, pull back a little. We are not, by and large anyway, advocating extreme things that border on negligence.

    I would say there have been some posts which perhaps have digressed from the free-range ideas and become off-topic, or were perhaps a bit over-the-top. When I have said that I wished the Alabama tornadoes of a month ago could’ve specifically struck just the homes of people who tattle-tale on other parents (non-abusive ones) to social services, that upset some people–and while I do harbor that attitude, I can see where it could be reasonably construed as inflammatory.

    By contrast, when I said that “people don’t need to be all schizophrenic just because their kids aren’t within 3/10ths of an inch of their apron strings” or something like that, it strayed off-topic with the politically correct-types making an issue of my using schizophrenic when I was never meaning to denigrate a group of people, but was instead describing the irrational thoughts & actions of people who won’t let their kids of sight. From there, I was endlessly defending my usage of the word (I still stand by its usage) and bashing political correctness, and I didn’t come here for that.

    So, yes, some of us have been guilty of a little straying off-topic in some ways, and I may be as guilty as the rest of that somewhat.

    HOWEVER, I still think that most of us here–and that includes me–are coming here to contribute QUALITY posts and to offer quality responses to the stories Lenore posts, responses that are ON-TOPIC most of the time anyway. We’re not here, at least I don’t think anyway, to advocate extreme irresponsibility masking as “free-range.”


  127. sue May 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    @Cyndi, I’m sorry for the loss of your son. I can’t imagine how it feels to lose a child.

    This is a bit off-topic, but it relates to the fact that anything can happen anytime. Earlier this month my son and his friend (both age 12) went skiing on their own. My son was very excited about going because it was the first time that he took the ski train without parental supervision both ways. He and his friend ran into some of their other friends (ages 12-15) and did a lot of jumping in the ski area’s terrain park.

    Sometime during that day my son sprained his ankle, though his foot didn’t really hurt him until the next day (his ski boot probably restricted any swelling). I took him to the ER to get an x-ray (no broken bones). He’s still on crutches.

    Did my son’s injury happen because there were no parents watching the boys? Of course not. It would have happened even if my husband, one of my son’s friend’s parents, or a parent of one of the kids who they ran into were there. Will my husband and I forbid our son from jumping in the terrain park? No, because we realize that my son’s injury was a freak thing. He had been jumping in terrain parks for the past couple of years without any injuries. The point is that things will happen whether you’re hyper-vigilant or let your kids be independent.

  128. Sera May 20, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    I’m going to have to pop up in here and stick up for LindaLou.

    I can certainly say that as long as I’ve been following this blog I have seen more than a few comments describing what I would certainly feel to be dangerously loose behaviour in terms of supervising very young children.

    I think there are a few people who forget in the course of debunking all of the stupid, irrational fears about very rare things like child snatching, molestation or whatever, that there are plenty of real, rational fears a lot closer to home.

    Getting hit by a car is a real threat to a small child.
    Climbing up something large and falling off and breaking a bone or getting concussion is a real threat to a small child. Having something large and/or heavy fall on you is a danger when you’re a small child. Being attacked by an animal (dog, snake, etc.) that you don’t have the wisdom or knowledge to avoid is a danger when you’re a small child. Accidentally getting trapped in/under/up/down something is a real danger for a small child.

    You know, things like that.

    No, I wouldn’t let a 2-year-old play alone in a yard totally unsupervised for a period of time longer than a few minutes – I’d want to be able to see and/or hear him every few minutes or so because most yards I’ve been in DO contain objects that can present a real danger to a toddler. I’m not talking about anything drastic – maybe I can see him from a kitchen or bedroom window. Maybe I’m on a porch reading a book and I glance up every few minutes. An inside environment is totally different and usually a lot safer from outside environments, too.

    No, you don’t need to stare at a toddler or infant 24/7, but you DO need to be in a position where you can see and/or hear if any real, rationally likely dangers present themselves.

    The rules, of course, change as rapidly as a child develops. Because a child is constantly getting more and more wise, more and more experienced, physically stronger and larger, learns more words and is better able to communicate, gains better problem solving skills, etc, the world is constantly becoming a safer place for them.

    For example: back in the days of CRT TV screens (the big, heavy ones), it wasn’t an unusual danger for a toddler to pull a TV down onto themselves and get injured because they were squashed by a big heavy TV. You would expect that a 4-year-old isn’t going to pull a TV down onto themselves anyway, but even if they do, they’re larger and stronger and wouldn’t be as badly injured – and may even be able to push the TV off of themselves.

    There’s also a huge difference between a child by themselves or in the company of another child – even if that other child is also very young, one would generally expect that if something happens to one, the other would fetch an adult or at least alert someone nearby by screaming.

    Another example: A few months ago I was staying at an aunt’s house. One day I was asked to babysit my 9 and 10 year old cousins. They were playing in my aunt’s swimming pool. Is bumping their head or something similar and drowning a real, rational fear? The way they were playing, yes it was. What did I do? I told them both that if anything happened to one of them, the other one is to SCREAM for me – it’s not likely that something will happen that would incapacitate them both. I also spent most of my time in a room in the house where I could hear what was going on, and if I turned around (I was playing video games), I could clearly see the pool too.

  129. Tuppence May 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    The parent being physically present in The Cat in the Hat, destroys the most crucial aspect of the Freudian construct of the original.

    “According to this model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the ego is the organised, realistic part; and the super-ego plays the critical and moralising role.[1]” Wikipedia

    Obviously, The Cat is the Id, the children – ego, and the super-ego the parent. BUT it is only when the critical, moral, parental voice, the “super-ego” is INTERNALIZED, that we are on the path to becoming moral beings.

    The internalized parental voice, the super-ego, is our conscience. Those who never incorporate the parental figure’s “voice” within their own psyche (mind), but instead allow it to remain a physical, bodily manifestation outside of themselves – who tells them what they are, and are not, allowed to do – will never be able to conquer their inner Id. And will therefore be doomed to an adulthood of poor impulse control, unchecked base desires, and general amoral behavior.

    The children in The Cat in the Hat demonstrate that they are well on the road to being upstanding, moral beings: They have internalized the super-ego. We know this because time and again, despite the lack of a PHYSICAL parental figure, they deny the impulses of the Cat, the Id. The bodily presence of the mother in the newer editions, destroys this finely wrought construct.

    And yes, this was written while smoking a pipe and wearing a tweet jacket with leather patches (and horn-rimmed glasses, of course!).

  130. Lola May 20, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    Wow! This is really getting silly.
    Please folks, remember this is the internet. Some of us don’t live in the US. Hey, English isn’t even my mother tongue! So sometimes we have to presume that there are big differences in our circumstances.
    LindaLou: when I say I let my 5 and 6 yo daughters go to the park alone together, I mean they can stroll down a private cul-e-sac, about 300m from my house, into a fenced playground, where they are sure to meet older kids that know us, and know where we live. I’m not ready yet to let them roam through a busy city on their own, as you may assume.
    Me, I’m really shocked over some comments about teaching kids to handle firearms, but of course I’ve never seen a gun up close, let alone touched one. It’s just not like that in Madrid. No bears, no snakes, no movie-like baddies (just regular, knife-using thieves, nothing serious).
    So I don’t judge those comments, because I can’t relate to those circumstances. Teaching a 12 yo to use a gun would probably land you in jail here. But I guess that if I lived in the middle of the forest, it would come in handy.

  131. Dolly May 20, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    Cyndi: Sorry for your loss. That does not make it okay to tell others how to feel though and minimize other’s pain. Considering I almost committed suicide during my miscarriages and infertility it obviously was a big deal to me. I also lost 40 pounds in about 2 months because I was so depressed I stopped eating. So yeah, you can call BS all you want but that doesn’t make it true.

  132. Dolly May 20, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

    LOL Sera. That is what my parents used to tell me when a friend and I would swim in our pool. They would say “Don’t both drown at the same time okay?”

  133. Lafe May 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    @ Tuppence: I thought the fish was the super-ego. Now you have me confused. 🙂

  134. Lafe May 20, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    @ Lola: Excellent points! Where you live and what’s going on around you has a lot to do with how you decide what’s appropriate for your kids. It’s not all based just on age.

    Where you live, teaching your kid to use a gun would be problematic, but where I live (smack in the middle of gun-totin’ USA) I’d be a foolish parent if I didn’t teach my kids at least something about how guns work, how to be safe around them, how dangerous they are, etc.

    I tell people around here that even if they don’t own guns they should get someone to go through these things with their kids, because there are so many in this country that they are almost 100% certain to be in situations at a friend’s house or elsewhere in which a gun is present, and other parents are not always so careful about locking them up, and so on.

    Ignorance of gun safety in your part of the world is probably not deadly, but such ignorance here kills many kids every year.

    @ Those Arguing About 2yo vs. 5yo Walking Here or There or Playing In The Yard:

    One of the great things about this blog is that it brings together people who already were fairly free-range with their kids and read Lenore’s book and said, “FINALLY! A breath of sanity in the world!” AND those who have always followed the questionable norms of the fear culture but read Lenore’s book and started making small changes and questioning things.

    We aren’t going to ever agree on specific ages for specific activities. Our kids all have different personalities, different fears of their own, different areas in which they feel confident, different abilities, different levels of maturity. Let’s try to agree on big-picture ideas and argue less about details that just bog discussion down with troll-spewn rubbish, personal attacks, and wild generalizations ( Like “People saying their kid can do such-and-such at age x scare everyone away from FRK because they are really saying that all children should do dangerous things at that same age!” — Nonsense).

    P.S. Yes, Lenore is awesome.

  135. Tuppence May 20, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    @Lafe — Thank you for noting my omission. Further inspection revealed that my findings were based on The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. In this subsequent telling of the tale of the Cat , Sally, and her Brother, the Fish is no longer present.

    We may see this divulgence as a strengthening, rather than a weakening, of the original thesis — evidence that the Children are proceeding developmentally along the path of internalization of the super-ego: In the later story, not only do they no longer require the bodily presence of a parent to do the right thing, they no longer need the parental figure substitute – the Fish – to admonish them about their moral obligations.

    “For him (Freud) “the installation of the super-ego can be described as a successful instance of identification with the parental agency,” while as development proceeds “the super-ego also takes on the influence of those who have stepped into the place of parents — educators, teachers, people chosen as ideal models.”[17] ” Wikipedia

    hehe. And props to you and Lola for your reasoned remarks.

  136. Cyndi May 20, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    Wow, Dolly. And here I was feeling bad for you. You are the one who is claiming your children are more precious than other people’s children. I would never in a million years say that.

    If someone is suicidal and unable to function after a short-term relationship breaks up, does that mean breaking up is “the same” as having your spouse die?

    Given that I referred to infertility and miscarriage as “sad” and “terrible” and have experienced both myself, I can’t agree that I am “telling others how to feel” or “minimizing” anything.

    My calling BS on you was on your claim that your children were more precious than the children of someone who had them easily and could have more if one died. Talk about insensitive!

  137. pentamom May 20, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    LOL Tuppence, very good!

    Yes, the fish is definitely the superego. And FWIW, I put about as much stock in Freud as I do in in Seuss for serious understanding of human psychology — actually, probably less. 😉

  138. Alexicographer May 20, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    Urgh. @Sera I have to admit I cannot imagine a situation where I’d allow a 9- and 10-year old to swim where I, personally (or another responsible adult) couldn’t *see* them. Yikes. And I’m assuming “safe” pool (no obvious hazards beyond, you know, being a pool) and good swimmers.

    Indeed, though I won’t say I’ve never done it, I’m pretty reluctant to imagine it’s safe for me, a confident adult swimmer, to swim unseen.

    Some years ago I swam regularly in a quiet, uncrowded college lap pool where the lifeguards (students) would sometimes be working (reading) while guarding. I thought to myself, “This is dumb, but everyone who swims here is capable and probably nothing bad will happen.” Tragically, someone who swam there regularly and was practicing stayed submerged (holding breath) for long periods of time, drowned. In retrospect, obviously I wish I’d said something about my concerns.

    (Many) risks are real; so are the hassles involved in mitigating them. Reasonable (and unreasonable) people disagree about how best to balance those things, and I (mostly) enjoy reading this site because of the variety of opinions (many, not all, reasonable) on the different topics, as well as seeing the different situations in which people find themselves and the ways in which those affect both the real risks and their assessments of same.

  139. pentamom May 21, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    Reposted from elsewhere ‘cuz I’m a dummy:

    Yeah, kids in pools are a different matter altogether. A kid might not even notice another kid on the other side of a pool (and I’m talking about a backyard pool) drowning, since drowning is frequently less dramatic than we think. I don’t even like rereading this article because I find it disturbing, but every parent really should read it at least once:


    A nine year old might not even notice another kid drowning in a pool, especially if they’ve been goofing around and going under and holding their breath and stuff.

    I don’t let my kids swim unsupervised in our own 24 foot backyard pool unless there are at least two of them, and at least one is a teenager (but I’m not sure I’m ready to give my just turned thirteen year old the privilege of being alone with the 10 yo yet this year.) I had to put my foot down the first year my then 18 year old daughter thought she was “responsible” enough to swim all alone and explain it’s not about that. I will be where I can see them easily at all times, such as hanging out in the kitchen, near the window — I don’t necessarily feel the need to be at poolside, although more often than not, I am. But I won’t let them be in for any longer than it takes for me to run downstairs and grab another towel, without me at least in line of sight, unless there are at least two and at least one is “of age.”

  140. Dolly May 21, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    Yeah on the pool thing I would not let my kids swim unsupervised until they were very good swimmers and probably into at least middle school. It would also have to be more than one kid out there. It is probably not wise for anyone to ever swim alone just in case they get a cramp or bump their head or something. If someone else is there they can get help but if you are alone, you are screwed.

    We don’t have a pool though and probably never will so not really an issue. About last year when they turned 3 I got confident enough to let them be in the bathtub alone for short periods of time or baby pool just because I know there is not much chance of them drowning at this point. I still will check on them every couple of minutes.

    My parents had backyard pools and they did let me swim alone and alone with friends a lot. Maybe not the wisest thing but they were in the house and they would peek out the window at us. This was only after I was about 9 and was able to swim on my own.

  141. Dolly May 21, 2011 at 1:06 am #

    Cyndi: you don’t have to feel sorry for me. You are trying to compare your pain to mine and tell me how to feel. I was stating MY personal feelings on how I would deal with something happening. You can say you feel differently but you cannot argue with how I say I would feel about something. You don’t even know me. That is the beauty of the human race- everyone is different with different personalities and different experiences. So none of us think exactly alike. I am a more sensitive and depressive person so when something bad happens to me it destroys me. Maybe you are tougher by nature. If I feel all hope is lost, then I get suicidal. If my children died, I would kill myself. I have no doubt about it. I couldn’t deal with it and since I cannot have more and my one goal in life is to be a parent, then my life would be over in my opinion and I would end it. That is the truth of it. Just because you might react differently does not mean that how I say I will react is BS.

  142. Jenny Islander May 21, 2011 at 1:10 am #

    @Gary: It is a horrible truth that some children get kidnapped, molested, killed. We can and should be aware of ours and our childrens surroundings and activities. But I have to wonder if there were parks full of children and parents, if the streets had dozens of kids playing and the kids all knew each other and the parents in a neighborhood all knew all the children…wouldn’t the world be safer? Wouldn’t the children be safer?


    Fear isolates and divides. Fear of strangers simply because they are strangers deprives us of help when we need it most.

    When the Y2K thing was going strong, someone rational e-published a free manual about preparing for all sorts of disasters up to and including total breakdown of government disaster response. She poitned out that people who fort up in redoubts full of canned food and shoot anybody who comes near are being stupid. Your biggest resource in times of trouble is your neighbors. More eyes, more hands, more brains full of useful ideas–more people looking after everybody’s children. Get to know your neighbors now so that you can count on each other later.

    Does getting to know your neighbors and letting kids run around in other people’s yards backfire sometimes? It sure does. A former neighbor kid turned out to be a bully and a casual thief. But we dealt with her, specifically, and not by issuing a blanket ban on kids playing in our yard.

  143. Dolly May 21, 2011 at 1:12 am #

    Cyndi: ps just because my kids are my whole life does not mean I don’t let them live their life well. I do everything to make their life good and that means teaching them independence and lettting them flourish and grow up.

  144. Dolly May 21, 2011 at 1:14 am #

    LOL Jenny- not according to any zombie movie I have ever seen.

    Usually there is always one jackass who goes nuts and kills other survivors, robs other survivors and rapes women etc. So honestly should the apolocalyse happen, our family’s plan is to isolate ourselves in the secluded areas and make our own way. I won’t be trusting just anyone. I am a zombie movie aficianado and I have learned enough from them that you gotta watch out for the crazy survivors. 😛

  145. Lafe May 21, 2011 at 2:55 am #

    On FRK 5/20/2011

    @ Dolly: I saw a short film recently about a man in Indonesia who saw his entire family (wife and kids) swept out to sea during the 26 Dec 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. He was understandably devastated, and wandered around in shock for days, wanting only to die himself.

    But he noticed all of the children who had lost parents (about 230,000 people were killed by that disaster), and suddenly felt that he should be a father to as many of those hurting orphans as possible.

    He built (or rebuilt) a house that became a children’s home, and today he cares for dozens of children who love him as a father.

    I don’t discount your strong feelings on this subject, but I would respectfully suggest that you consider two things:

    1) No one really knows in advance what they are strong enough (or not strong enough) to handle. People amaze themselves when disaster strikes, and they can overcome things that were unimaginable to them before.

    2) The world is full of kids who need parents (more than 140 million of them). It breaks my heart that so many in affluent countries ignore this astounding need. We spend fortunes on artificial methods to get a child “of our own”, or think that if our child died there simply would be no option other than death. If that man had killed himself, or folded his arms and said, “Well I’m not going to settle for anything but my own flesh and blood,” what a tragedy multiplied that would have been.

    It’s fantastic that you love your kid(s), but there’s so much that a person can do with a life, even if tragedy interrupts things. Things to think about…

  146. Donna May 21, 2011 at 3:57 am #

    “I can certainly say that as long as I’ve been following this blog I have seen more than a few comments describing what I would certainly feel to be dangerously loose behaviour in terms of supervising very young children.”

    Dangerously loose to YOU in YOUR circumstances. Just because it’s not something that you would do with your particular child in your particular circumstances and with the options that you have available to you does not mean that it’s “dangerously loose” with other children and in other circumstances.

    I think that’s the problem. Some here seem to think that if they personally wouldn’t do it, then it must be dangerously negligent. What works for me with an independent, intelligent, mild-mannered child may not work with other children with different personalities. What works in my neighborhood, may not work everywhere else in the world. Choices that were necessary to get by in my particular circumstances may not be choices that I would have made in different circumstances.

    For example, I left my 2-year old unattended for longer periods of time than many would theirs. However, it wasn’t a “dangerously loose” decision. It was a well thought out decision considering my child’s personality and extremely long attention span, as well as our neighborhood and any dangers in our yard. I never would have left my baby brother alone for more than a minute or two at the same age (he’s 14 years younger). He would have destroyed something or killed himself. Likewise, my mother couldn’t leave me alone outside at that age for a second. Inside I was fine, but I liked to wander off on my own and would be gone if she turned her back on me outside. Each kid, neighborhood and circumstances are different.

  147. Dolly May 21, 2011 at 5:25 am #

    Lafe: What a sad but inspiring story. Actually that could totally be something I would do. I am kinda a mom to every kid I ever meet in that I love and can play with every kid in the world pretty much.

  148. Marie May 21, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    I walked home from school alone when I was 5. Only reason I don’t let my now 6 year old walk alone to school is because drivers here are nuts. I’ve nearly been hit a few times walking to that school by drivers I would have sworn had seen me. But my 6 year old has been going on his own to friends’ houses to ask if anyone can play. No street crossing needed, and I know I can trust him to come back if the friends can’t play. It may take him a touch of extra time – kids are curious, but he’s usually quite prompt about coming home.

    This has been great for developing some much needed confidence for him.

    I don’t trust my 2 year old alone as much as I trusted her older siblings at that age because she’s the first of my kids to be quite so into putting EVERYthing into her mouth.

    That’s the thing to remember about raising FRK. Just because something seems irresponsible to you because of the experience you had with your own kids doesn’t mean it’s irresponsible with other children.

  149. Uly May 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    Oh, Dolly, shut up already about how awesome you are. We get it, you’re terrific, nobody cares.

  150. Dolly May 22, 2011 at 1:04 am #

    Uly: Then don’t read what I write. I was not even talking to you, I was responding to Lafe.

  151. Uly May 22, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    Yes, and you were telling her the same thing you post in every other comment – you’re wonderful, you play with aaaaaall the little kids (whose mommies are busy talking on the phone ignoring them, naturally), kids everywhere just LOVE you because you are JUST SO COOOOOOOL, and you’re the bestest mommy EVAH.

    It’s getting old. It is not all about you. If you want to say “Wow, that’s a cool story! What a great guy!” you can say that without necessarily following it up with “But I’m just as great as he is! Really!”

  152. Dolly May 22, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Uly: Again, if I bother you so much don’t read my comments. I sense insecurity on your part.

  153. Uly May 22, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    Donna, I’m not insecure – and, as I know I’ve said before, attributing annoyance at you and your behavior to somebody else’s mental state is incredibly rude. If you stepped on my foot and I said “ow”, and you then blamed it on where I’d put my foot and my vanity as regards the appearance of my toes, you’d be just as wrong.

    You’re not a mind-reader, you’re just incredibly inept at not sounding boastful and not annoying the heck out of nearly everybody.

    I can’t “not read” your comments. That’s a lot like asking people to “not hear” other people talking outside their window, you know?

    Seriously, stop talking about yourself so much. Try, just try, to make ONE comment to somebody else in reply to something THEY have said that doesn’t ultimately revolve around you you you and how wonderful you you you are. I don’t know why you think we all need to hear how great you are, I don’t know or care why you need to say you’re terrific every other sentence (and you’ll note I have the manners and good sense not to speculate, because I’m sure that if you want psychological help you’ll pay a professional), but it’s obnoxious and annoying.

  154. Donna May 22, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Hey, why is this addressed to me?

  155. Beth May 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    Uly, I think I have a little crush on you.

  156. Dolly May 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    Its easy to not read my comments. They start with my name at the top. Just skim right over them. Which I will be doing with your posts from now on.

  157. Kelli May 22, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    I don’t remember where I read it (probably here!) there was an article about keeping your newborn safe at the hospital and they took advice from a woman who nearly had had her first child kidnapped. She stayed awake the entire time she was at the hospital the second time around. And of course the article didn’t mention how that was bad for her physical and mental health, and an exhausted mom is WAY more likely to bring harm to her child then a one in (is it a million?) chance encounter with a kidnapper.

    NEVER take advice from someone who has faced tragedy (or near tragedy) in such a way! That should be common sense! Their perspective is skewed in a way it shouldn’t be, and they need to heal and learn from their experience. But these people are letting fear teach them, instead of logic. I can understand, I deal with anxiety all the time, but now I have a daughter and I want her to have everything good in the world. Including time alone, including playing outside, including making strangers into friends, including being curious and touching things. I refuse to let the fear teach her, confine her, or make her helpless.

    I don’t understand how people expect their kids to grow into independent, strong, mature adults when they make fear such a big part of their lives. I really don’t.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean for this to be so long!

  158. Dolly May 23, 2011 at 4:40 am #

    Kelli very well put! 🙂

  159. ebohlman May 23, 2011 at 5:58 am #

    Kelli: That was the comment of the decade!

    I call the phenomenon you’re addressing the Sanctification of Victimhood. Somehow, undergoing a tragedy is supposed to make you an expert. It doesn’t. But that’s what celebrity/therapy/recovery culture promotes; displaying vulnerability to a mass audience is considered a “super-healthy” behavior.

    Why should having your son kidnapped in a shopping mall entitle you to be taken seriously about how to choose a babysitter? Why should having your kid killed at Columbine make your anti-evolution views true? Why should having a (questionably) autistic kid and two especially big boobs make you an expert on vaccination safety? The answer seems to be “if it bleeds, it leads.”

  160. Jeff May 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    The link to Laura Vanderkamp’s essay doesn’t seem to be right – here it is for anyone who’s looking:

  161. Stephanie Lynn May 24, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    I’m going to weigh in on the argument about infertility making your child more precious to you. In a very small sense, I think it’s true. What are we really saying when we give our kids freedom? We are saying that it’s alright to sacrifice a little safety for a better quality of life. But in sacrificing that safety we are also saying that it’s okay to take a slightly larger risk that harm could befall our children. In letting our kids walk to school, we are taking a risk. They could be snatched up, run over by a drunk driver, etc. etc. I think the point of free-ranging is not to deny that there is ANY increased risk in letting our kids be free range, there definitely is. To be free-range, to me, means to believe that the risks we take are miniscule and worth the reward. But in saying this, we have to also realize that we are saying, on some level “My child COULD be harmed or killed, but this is a risk I have to accept”.

    If you agree with that, the next logical conclusion is either that parents who helicoptor are grossly over-estimating the risk, or that they are less accepting of ANY risk. What I mean is, the idea that there child is in any danger of harm or death is 100% unacceptable to them (which we all know is silly because you can never truly eliminate risk), and they will take any means possible to reduce that risk.

    Here’s where talking about statistics about this sort of thing gets complicated. If you agree with what I said above, it means that I, as a non-helicopter parent, am more “okay” with the idea that my child could be killed than a helicopter parent. Of course I am NOT okay with it. I would never be okay with it. But I am MORE okay with it than someone who helicopters, who is 100% un-okay with it. As appalling as this idea is, even to me, I recognize that it must be true.

    And the way I believe this relates to infertility is simply that people with more children, or people who can have more children, will feel less grief at the loss of a child. “Less” only as a comparison to people who have just one child. It absolutely does not mean that people with plenty of children will not feel grief at the loss of one, but on some level we must realize that grief is quantifiable. Even if our emotional brains won’t accept it, especially if we are going through it, logically it has to be true. I would feel grief over the loss of my dog. I would feel more grief over the loss of my daughter. I would feel even more grief if I lost my daughter AND found out that I could never have another child. Not because I believe that another child would be able to replace my daughter, but that grief is simply compounded on top of my grief over my daughter. Just like if I had multiple children, my grief would be greater if more than one of them died than if just one died.

    I remember reading a story in high school about a woman with two children taken by Nazis during WWII. One was a boy about 5, the other a girl about 3. The Nazis told her she could only choose one of her children to take with her to the concentration camp, the other would be killed. Of course the woman did not want to choose. The idea of choosing was unthinkable to her as she couldn’t imagine the grief over losing one of the children would be any less than the grief over losing the other. Their lives were equal to her, at least in her emotional brain. But when she realized that she had to make the choice, she chose the son on the grounds that he would have a better chance of surviving, and she left her daughter to be killed. It was a horrifying story and a horrifying choice, but what it shows to me is that grief can be quantified, whether we want to accept it or not, and if we are forced to, we can make these kinds of decisions.

  162. Uly May 27, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Sorry, Donna. I don’t know why I mistyped there. And you know, I keep misreading when somebody says “Donna” too! But you know who I meant, at least.

  163. Uly May 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    And Beth, thanks. Try to remember that if/when I annoy you. (Social skillz. I haz them… sorta. Or, as my other motto goes: Sure, you don’t like me now – but just wait, apparently I grow on you!)

    A few days of deep breathing has given me some perspective, at least. I am calm, cool, and collected again. /sighofrelief

  164. gina January 7, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    @ELISSA–I am in Phoenix too. Where are you specifically? How old are your kids?


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