If Only She’d Trusted Her Son to Make His Own Way Home


Weirdly, this is almost the exact plot of the kazzhryads
Tim Allen/Last Man Statnding episode
I discuss in the post below this one!

Dear Free-Range Kids:

I hope this isn’t completely off topic but I have a story from yesterday.  So we started letting my 8 year old walk home this year from school.  He LOVES it.  However, we have rules and the first rule is don’t cross the street.  There is no need, we live just under a mile from the school and it is a straight shot on the same side of the street and it is very busy.

Anyway, it was raining off and on yesterday so I decided to go pick him up on his way home and go to the store.  Long story short, I didn’t see him.  I checked both sides of the street as I was driving and he was nowhere.  No problem I think, he probably saw it was rainy and decided to put himself in the car rider line. I go to the school and OF COURSE I can’t just walk to the back of the school. I have to wait for them to look for him and at the same time the crossing guard, who is a very sweet woman, is telling me how concerned she is for Lucas since I let him walk and he is so friendly and will talk to everyone.

So, he is not in the car rider line and his teacher tells me she saw him go out the back fence which opens onto a different street.  My worry goes from 1 – 5 (with 10 being outright panic).  I take off and there is a cop sitting in front of the school so I ask him to drive around the block and look for Lucas while I run home and see if he is there.  I get to the house and of course Lucas was at home eating a snack he was not supposed to be eating as fast as he could before I caught him! I throw him in the car, call the school and go find the cop to let him know I found my missing kid.  The cop was nice, but I had to give him all my info and now I AM JUST CONVINCED I am probably on a list of people who lose their kids.

ANYWAY, all this to say that if I had just trusted my decision making skills and trusted Lucas to get home and given him 5 more minutes none of this would have happened. The drama happened because I panicked. On the upside, I did find out he was crossing the street without permission and as his punishment I will be walking to meet him for the rest of the week instead of letting him walk home all by himself.  Also, this particular group of people here may appreciate that he told me that when he got home he was SO EXCITED  because he was home by himself and he was hoping I would take longer to get there.

I love that kid and I don’t even know him.

And what was that delicious snack he’s not allowed? – L


Mom can't find me!

Mom has no idea where I am! (Detail of a painting by — who else? — Norman Rockwell.) 



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35 Responses to If Only She’d Trusted Her Son to Make His Own Way Home

  1. John October 13, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    Good job mom!! Now Lucas, you may be a naughty boy for crossing the street without mom’s permission BUT at least you survived! So I’d say an even better job by Lucas!!

  2. VV October 13, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    That punishment for the rest of the week sounds more like a punishment for you and not for him:-)

  3. Ed Ximinez October 13, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    How sad is it that in reading this story, I consider her only mistake to be talking to the cop?

  4. Muriel Strand, P.E. October 13, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    when i was 6 my mom told me how to walk to school. i dreamt i walked to school the forbidden way, and the dream was so vivid i wasn’t sure if i actually had or not.

    result? i suppressed memories of my dreams.

  5. Reziac October 13, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    Obviously the kid is hungry when he gets home from school. So make sure there are snacks he likes available, and he’ll come home the sooner. 🙂

  6. dmg October 13, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    nice story! I have been letting my son go to the ice cream truck by himself. He loves it! The other day he and his friend went out together to walk his friend’s dog. Yesterday, he was off of school and stayed at a friend’s house. They were making apple pie and his friend’s mom discovered she was out of butter for the crust. She gave the two of them the empty package of butter (so they would know what to get at the store) and money to walk a 1/2 a block or so to the grocery store to buy butter. Mission accomplished! they were so proud of themselves, they decided to buy some gum with the change.

  7. Dee October 13, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

    I’ve had my share of “where’s my kid?” who walks himself home. I’ve called the school, etc., etc., but he’s always found in the end. Usually, no, always, he caught a ride from a friend, lost his key, or something benign. I tend to blow it off. If the school wants to make a big deal of it, let them. My son is 13 and parents of kids older than him FREAK OUT about letting their kids do the least little thing. I know my son is capable. They, sadly, don’t know their kid is b/c they’ve never given him/her the chance to be.

  8. Dan October 13, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    I was crossing streets at age 6. I Walked to school (1 mile) at age 7.

    When it was raining, I’d just give up trying to stay dry and jump in every single puddle on the way home.

    Had a blast.

  9. shdd October 13, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    Last night my daughter gave me a list of 8th graders (13 and 14 year olds) who don’t take the school bus. Middle school is five miles from our home. The most common reason is they can’t find a seat and they hate to wait outside in the cold and rain for the school bus. The parents drive them everyday and either or a parent or an older sibling drives them home. I said my daughter should try once to walk home from high school (2 miles away) next school year. She will probably survive and maybe could even use if for her college essay

  10. ChicagoDad October 13, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    @shdd, When I was in 6th grade, age 11, my middle school was about 3 miles from home and no school bus was available. My mother bought me a city bus pass and told me to stay on our side of town. It was great!

  11. Anna October 13, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

    I enjoyed the detail about how much he enjoyed his solitary snack. It reminded me of how when I started high school I had to get up and leave earlier than the rest of the family, and that first year I got such a thrill out of getting up and making myself oatmeal or eggs in the quiet house, with everybody else still asleep. I actually got up earlier than necessary, I enjoyed it so much.

  12. hineata October 13, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    I just love that the default here in my neighbourhood is kids walking to school. There’ll be bunches strolling or stomping past (dependent on mood ☺) right about now and for the next 40 minutes or so. And the usual stragglers in 45 minutes, who’ve dawdled and are now late, whose footsteps are even slower, not wanting to face the music from the school office ☺.

    The point of that is that in seven hours or so they’ll be doing the same thing in reverse, usually taking longer because they hang out at school to play for a while, or just talk under the verandah if it’s raining. Only my opinion, but I think you need to give kids a good 20-25 minutes over and above the time it ‘should’ take to get to and from school before you go looking for them. Give them some ‘dawdle’ time.

    And, while he was naughty to disobey, obviously this particular 8 year old can cross the busy street by himself, so maybe Mum could ease up on that rule next week ….

  13. lollipoplover October 13, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

    Great story and it reminds me of this one that happened last week:


    Kids are so very capable. We worry so much about the “what ifs” that could happen to them and forget that these type of responsibilities and adventures make them so much more confident and worthy of our trust.

  14. John October 13, 2015 at 4:07 pm #


    “Obviously the kid is hungry when he gets home from school. So make sure there are snacks he likes available, and he’ll come home the sooner. :)”

    Yes, most definitely. Like lots of steamed broccoli and brussel sprouts with a bit of cauliflower mixed in and maybe even a big slab of liver too! 😉

  15. Rachel October 13, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    My girls (6,8, and 10) walk to and from school. The first few weeks I walked to school with them, then they started walking themselves. I walked with them home from school for a few weeks after that. Then I decided they could walk home by themselves too. Apparently they didn’t get the memo (my mind is like a sieve at this point, I thought I told them) so they stayed and played at the park waiting for me for like 20 minutes before they decided I must have wanted them to walk home themselves. I started to get a little panicky when it had been like 45 minutes since school got out, and went to go find them. As soon as I got onto the main road I saw them coming and turned around. It was a little frightening though.

  16. Shannon October 13, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    I wish more kids in my town were allowed to walk to school. I walk my daughter, but she’s 6 and the cars don’t even stop for me to cross the busy road, never mind for my kid so I walk her to the beginning of the sidewalk leading up to the school and she takes it from there.

    As for the rest of the town, there are so many cars at drop off, I wonder why more parents aren’t letting their kids ride the bus (it’s free.) The amount of cars far exceeds the amount of kids who live within walking distance. These parents not only drive them to school, the parent gets out of the car, goes to the passenger door, removes the child’s backpack from the car, helps the child out (we’re talking about kids ages 6-12, old enough to exit a car themselves), helps them put on their backpack, then they walk the child right up to the door. The kids don’t even need to cross the street, just go up a sidewalk. We live in a very small town, the school is on a small, one way side street.

    My friend and I both live within a few blocks of or elementary school. Our kids live too close for a bus. She was telling me a story that her daughter, who was in 5th grade at the time, walked to school. She has a classmate who lives even closer. So close, in fact she’s about half a block from the school and can see the school’s front door clearly from her house. This girl’s mother, however, refused to let her child walk to the school. The mother walked or drove the girl. My friend said that her daughter would be happy to stop at the classmate’s house on the way to school and walk with her. The mother refused even that.

  17. SKL October 13, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

    Well, breaking the rules (and learning the consequences) has always been part of growing up. So it all sounds good to me. 🙂

  18. Papilio October 13, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    Funny coincidence indeed.

    “Don’t cross the street” – does she mean he has no sidestreets to cross?? For a MILE?

    “Middle school is five miles from our home. The most common reason is they can’t find a seat and they hate to wait outside in the cold and rain for the school bus.”
    Another good reason for decent cyclepaths etc.

  19. Suzanne October 13, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    My son is in second grade, and I’ve been letting him walk to school and then from school to aftercare.

    It’s three blocks to school, and he keeps trying to leave 45-50 minutes early so he has extra early recess. I remain firm on the fact that he cannot leave for school any earlier than 30 minutes before class starts.

    The aftercare teacher and I have agreed upon a time that is the “must be there or we take action” time. He has made it to aftercare (which is 3 blocks in the opposite direction) before the kids who are picked up and driven.

    So proud of the responsibility he is showing! Our kids live up or down to our expectations.

  20. Jana October 13, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

    Great story! Fear can be our worse enemy… I remember when my 8 yrs old had been 5 minutes late from school during the first year I let him walk alone. I started panicking. My fear grew every minute. Then I could not stand it and went out to look after him – all pale and shaky. Of course, he was fine, walking with other boys and playing soccer with a stone along the way…

  21. Susan October 13, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    Good story and great mom and kid! But I would be very concerned about the crossing the busy street in direct violation of the rules. Honestly, that tells me he’s not really ready to be trusted on his own, because he’s not recognizing the danger of the busy street OR keeping to his agreement. I would probably take away some privilege for a while to convince my kid I’m serious. I have a kid who breaks rules, tests limits, and I have really had to play hardball sometimes. This gets scarier the older they get, especially when driving, and you really have to trust them to do what they agree to do. If you can’t trust him now, there needs to be some consequence, imo.

  22. hineata October 13, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

    @lollipoplover – those boys were so cute! . Though I can understand why the parents were upset, I feel angry at the general public. Why does it appear nobody stopped by to talk to these wee lads? Even when I was young, adults would have questioned tiny tots out by themselves. Obviously capable kids, but a bit of a community failure…unless the boys did have kind strangers watching out for them who haven’t been mentioned.

    Of course I don’t know anything about this neighborhood, though it looked pleasant enough.

  23. Christine October 13, 2015 at 9:06 pm #

    While I smiled as I read this and at times questioned myself on what I would do in this situation, something else ningled in my mind. I am a firm believer that when you have a “feeling” to go to your child you honor that feeling and go. I am thrilled and laughed at the end of this story. However, I also feel that should this not have had the happy ending it did, you did exactly right. You didn’t waste precious time but set a plan and people in motion to look for your son. Great story!

  24. Jill October 14, 2015 at 7:37 am #

    When my husband was eight, he was riding the subway from Brooklyn to his school in Greenwich Village with his younger brother. They were by themselves and they did just fine.

  25. Jeff_Birt October 14, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    When I was 6 I walked about a mile across town to kindergarten with an older sister who was in fifth grade. After kindergarten was over (at noon) an older, married sister would pick me up. She fell asleep one day (had two kids of her own) and so I walked across town (maybe 1.25 miles) to her house. She was frantic and I lied telling her I got a ride ‘from some man’. I got in trouble mainly for lying, but also for walking by myself without permission. The point is, even at six, I knew how to make my way around because that is what we were taught; it was not an oddity to walk or ride your bike.

    Any 8 year old kid should know how to cross the street. But judging by the number of college age students who don’t know how to cross a street near the university where I work I suspect that ‘crossing the street’ is a skill no longer taught.

  26. sexhysteria October 14, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    Kids should be taught how to prevent and treat adult hysteria.

  27. Barbara October 14, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    Hi, I am Lucas’ mom and I have had so much fun reading all the comments. Lucas does know how to cross the street and there are several small cross streets along the way so we practiced several times before I let him walk on his own. It’s the big street that he is not to cross and that is because the HS is very close and this street gets a lot of traffic from teenagers as well as all the MANY MANY parents who drive to p/u their kids. You guys are correct, he is starving after school and we usually eat dinner as soon as he gets home so snacks have to wait. However, that day he was FREE…. FREE I tell you and the chocolate covered creme filled sweet roll was just there for the taking. 🙂

    I couldn’t stop laughing last week when I saw the episode of Last Man Standing… it was so similar to my story.

    I also have much older kids who grew up in the same house and went to the same school and when they were his age most, if not all, of the kids in the neighborhood walked home to and from school (unless they were in daycare) and then played outside as soon as they got home. Now I am a little shocked when I see another kid in the neighborhood. I know they exist, but no one ever comes out to play. Anyway, thanks for the comments I really did enjoy reading them. Also, Lucas asked that I say Hi for him. 🙂

  28. The other Mandy October 14, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    I walked a mile home from school from age 7. For the first few weeks I tagged along with a 5th grade neighbor, but we quickly grew tired of one another. The only scary incident was with a large dog who chased me and nearly had me for lunch. A nice lady out front gardening rescued me. I walked home on another street after that; problem solved.

  29. Joel Arbic October 15, 2015 at 5:07 am #

    As many have said, I started walking to school at age 6….

  30. s.ceja October 16, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

    Man I grew up in a small town with only like 300 people. We all walked to school. And one of the residents of the town is this creepy drug addicted alcoholic and mentally ill man but None of us were afraid of him. Only one year he apparently threatened to rape all the girls but his mind is so messed up I don’t think he knows what he’s saying. I mean he called himself the red devil and says God talks to him. Not saying rapists don’t exist but not everyone is a rapist just be cause they look and act creepy.

  31. adam October 18, 2015 at 9:26 am #

    The punishment for “crossing the street without permission” sounds like a paranoid parent.

  32. Tommy Udo October 18, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    When I started kindergarten at the age of five, my mom walked with me to school the first day to make sure I knew the way. I walked home by myself and walked to and from school every day thereafter alone. So did all the other kids. What’s the big deal?

  33. BL October 18, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

    “When I started kindergarten at the age of five, my mom walked with me to school the first day to make sure I knew the way. I walked home by myself and walked to and from school every day thereafter alone. So did all the other kids. What’s the big deal?”

    Same here. Actually, there was no question of not knowing the way, since my first school actually bordered on our back yard. There was a fence, however, so I had to walk to the end of the block. I was walking 5-6 blocks to friends’ houses, though.

  34. chris watts October 20, 2015 at 2:57 am #

    you didn’t have to give the cop anything. just walk or drive away. if you want to be polite, just say ‘I’d rather not, thank you’ if he persists just ask ‘am I being detained?’ if he says no, you are free to go. if he says yes, ask him what his reason for detaining you is. He must have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that you have or might be about to commit a crime in order to legally detain you

    in practice, most cops will get right up in your face and make all kinds of threats. just keep asking “am I free to go, am I being detained’ and they will eventually let you go, or tase you.

  35. brookst October 26, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    I have lived this story too. I let my daughter walk to school, the whole 4 blocks. All in our neighbourhood so no busy streets to cross. I consider myself easy going old-school parent and still I have had to fight the hysteria when she is late. I always told her if she lost her key or couldn’t get in (we had a wonky door that was tough to open sometimes) she could always walk to my sisters ex-husband (yes we all still get along) a few blocks away. I was at work one day, she didn’t answer the phone. I was losing my mind for the 20 minutes I couldn’t find her. She had gone to Uncle Bud’s because the door wouldn’t open. Later that night she said to me, “Why were you so worried? I did exactly what you told me to.” Now at 13 she comes home from school and is on her own until I get in from work and she loves every moment of it and I see the independent, responsible young woman she is becoming…and the grey hair it is causing me, but I know it is the right thing for her.