The Right Way to Handle A Case of “Negligence”

Hi inrezzbehf
Folks! Here’s a nice little antidote for despair. A story of common sense, human decency and happy endings, from a reader in Norway:

Dear Free-Range Kids: A 3-year-old was found toddling about on the streets of Tromsø, a city up North in Norway, wearing only his diapers.

The police were called, and they contacted the child protective service. They found the mother after only 45 minutes, reunited her with her little one, and sent them on their way. Operations manager at the local police department told the newspaper that this was in no way a case of neglect.

There was a misunderstanding, which can happen to the best. The mother went out shopping, and the child toddled after her. The babysitter thought the mother had taken the child with her. No lengthy investigations, no treating anyone like a criminal. Just public employees helping out a family after a misunderstanding. 🙂

Here’s a really bad Google translation of the news story. — Marius

33 Responses to The Right Way to Handle A Case of “Negligence”

  1. coffeegod May 13, 2010 at 3:41 am #

    Wait a minute….you mean a parent can make a mistake and keep their child in a Westernized country? Scandalous!!!

  2. Eric May 13, 2010 at 3:48 am #

    That’s what it’s all about. Why make worse of a situation that COULD have ended worse, but didn’t. People learn from their mistakes, are greatful and move on. They don’t need to be chastised, sued, or ridiculed. Different if they were really negligent. In this case, and as in other cases I’ve heard the parent(s) weren’t neglectful. Unfortunately, in some of those cases, things got blown way out of proportion.

    Props to Norway for their level head and logical thinking! 🙂

  3. adriennebreaux May 13, 2010 at 4:18 am #

    Yes! Definitely understanding and the right way to look at things. Parents DO make mistakes and they don’t need to be sued/thrown in jail every time a simple one is made!


  4. Mary Margaret Thomas May 13, 2010 at 4:20 am #

    I wish this website dealt with a wider range of parenting issues. We’re all free range – maybe we could help each other.

    This is my question: Does anyone read actual fairy tales to their children any more? Does anyone still sing lullabys to their babies ( turning on a cd doen’t count)? I am a fairly active mother with a wide range of aquaintances but when my dd was very young (she’s 12 now) I was the only mother who did this.

    When she was in Kindergarten, children got prizes for the having their parents read them the most books.. As one of the volunteers to check the lists of what was read, I found no fairy tales (except mine).
    I can understand it to some extent. In the 50s and 60s FTs had all the violence removed thus becoming so watered down that they were rendered meaningless. Feminists attacked FTs for being incredibly sexist accusing them of making our daughters wimps.
    My mother always read me FTs and I have always loved them. There are just as many stories of girls saving princes as the other way around. The truth is, if read with violence in tact, they teach children to always be aware of their surroundings, to show kindness to those less fortunate, cleverness wins over strength, and greediness, sloth, and vanity are the qualities of the evil. I would like to hear what ya’ll think about this.
    As for lullabys, How come we no longer soothe a crying baby with Mama singing a song? I’ve been at parties when a baby wouldn’t stop crying. I ask the exasperated mother, “Have you tried singing to him?” She looks at me like I’m insane. If I’m comfortable with the family, I’ll hold the baby and sing a simple pleasant song. The baby usually stops crying and people look amazed.
    I’ll be 48 next month and I was raised by parents who were born in 1915 and 1923 so my experiences are kinda old fashioned. I would love to hear from younger parents on this topic.

  5. kario May 13, 2010 at 4:26 am #

    Hello MMT —
    I am 46, and have a 14 yo daughter, so similar. My husband and I still sing lullabies to my 9 yo son most nights. Also old blues songs, and the occasional turn of “What do you do with a drunken sailor….” And yes, we read fairy tales. Also scary stories from Norse and Greek mythology — often with murky morality and an unhappy end.

    I think these old stories help kids sort out right and wrong, and give them a taste of the fact that life may not always be fair — but that doesn’t excuse you from your personal moral obligations to be honest and kind and try as hard as you can.

  6. Jewels May 13, 2010 at 4:30 am #

    You know, stories like this make me feel all kinds of guilty. My sister an I were “wanderers”. That is, as toddlers, Mom used to put us down for our naps in our cribs. Then we would get up, get dressed, then walk right out of the house and wander the neighborhood on our own. My Mom thought we were in bed sleeping, she was cleaning the house, we were actually a mile up the road in a neighbor’s backyard!

    The second time I did it, I had the sense to put on a jacket, scarf and boots (it was snowing outside! In Wisconsin!) alas… no pants. I was 3, after all.

    I wandered up to a stranger’s door, knocked and wandered in and settled myself down to watch some bugs bunny cartoons. Of course, when she offered me a lollipop, I said no. I clearly remembered my mother’s words to never take candy from strangers.

    Thankfully, that incident ended well. My mother saw my empty crib, panicked, called the apartment complex office, got the secretary, explained the situation, and the woman said to her “oh! Well I think I can help you! You see, my mother just called. She said a toddler just wandered into her house and to be on the look out for any mothers missing their young.” Mom laughed, thanked her, and then drove over to pick me up.

    End of story- though it wasn’t the end of my wandering. I did it a few more times over the years. Until my mother managed to get locks installed that I couldn’t reach. 🙂

  7. Arianne May 13, 2010 at 5:10 am #

    Jewels, those stories are so hilarious. That’s totally the logic of little ones, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing those.

  8. L. Vellenga May 13, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    @MMT – we read to our kids and sing to them all kinds of wacky things. definitely lullabies when they were younger; now weird al songs and other such fare. we didn’t read fairy tales all that much but we told them, to the point where the kids memorized the stories word-for-word. i know that i discovered the grimm and andersen books at a later age (jr high, maybe?) when i could read them for myself. i wonder if my mom still has those books…

  9. gramomster May 13, 2010 at 5:31 am #


    I’m 44, my kids are grown (18, 20, 25), but they were read fairy tales and sung lullabys for sure. My daughter (20) had a son at 16. He’ll be 4 on Friday. When she was having particularly crappy pregnant days, she’d ask me to sing ‘the baby songs’ for her. When the grandboy was tiny, we’d sing the same medley of ‘baby songs’ for him. And I make up songs. Always have. I’d sing and sing to him in the car. He still asks for the songs I concocted when he was an infant! And just the other day, daughter and I were singing You Are My Sunshine, in harmony, for him while riding to the store. Followed by I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad…
    We don’t so much read fairy tales to him, but he gets read to a ton ton ton. I should dig out the old book of fairy tales from my own childhood… I think you have inspired me.
    And I was raised by grandparents born in 1907 and 1912. So the generational experiences are fairly similar. Historical milieu-wise…

    And, funny thing… Grandboy makes up songs all. the. time. About whatever he is doing at any given moment. Or about the dog. Or the birds in the crabapple tree. Or the clouds. Yeah. He’s related for sure! He also thumbs through books while walking if the opportunity arises… I have walked into more fire hydrants and roadsigns with my nose in a book… Sheesh!

  10. Linda Lou May 13, 2010 at 6:58 am #

    We sing lullabies and read fairy tales. I’m 44 with kids who are 13,10,5.

    I don’t agree that it’s no big deal or a funny anecdote when a toddler wanders away unattended though. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this could never happen to otherwise attentive parents. Of course it can! However, in the instant that it happens, it’s equally obviously a moment of neglect.

  11. Li May 13, 2010 at 7:12 am #

    However, in the instant that it happens, it’s equally obviously a moment of neglect.

    Only if you consider a phone call a moment of neglect. My husband was on the phone yesterday when my three-year-old son opened the door and took off down the hall because he decided he wanted to visit Mama at work. By the time my husband realized he was gone, the kid had made it to the elevators (though thankfully hadn’t gotten on). You can’t watch them every minute. Even a helicopter mom has to pee, answer the phone, write a note, change her clothes, etc.

  12. Stephanie - Home with the Kids May 13, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    I love that the mom was treated so well. I say this as a mother with a 15 month old who is trying very hard most days to get out the front door on her own. She’s also fearless on walks and will go off on her own and not look behind to see if anyone’s following her. I have to be very alert when we go anywhere.


    We sing lullabies to our kids, and they love fairy tales. Singing really is wonderful for comforting babies and toddlers. My oldest daughter’s favorite book right now is one about myths and legends.

  13. idahodogs May 13, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    I am 27, and my mom read me fairy tales, and pointed out the difference between the original and the “disney” versions. I do remember having a Mother Goose book where all the rhymes had been changed to be more feminist. I found and read the original Grimm stories when I was 12-ish, and remember being read to from a book of Scandanavian tales which definetly included trolls, dead parents, etc. I think my mom was pretty OK with violence/sad endings, but wanted lots of female heros.

    As for songs… we sang a LOT! My mom has a cassette tape of me singing every song on the Peter Pan soundtrack. Also “Really Rosie” and other Maurice Sendack, Raffi, and from my dad, Jimmy Cliff and Pete Seeger. We were well-rounded singers 🙂

  14. Vanessa May 13, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    I’m 38, my daughter’s 11 and has grown up on lullabies and classic Grimm’s fairy tales, plus Greek, Roman and Norse myths. She loves both books and music – we regularly belt out everything from show tunes to Lady Gaga while in the car.

  15. Kawaii May 13, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    I am 30, my son is not quite two and I sing him to sleep most nights. Singing in the car is a good way to calm him down when he is upset, too. We haven’t started reading fairy tales regularly yet, but we made a point of purchasing an unadulterated copy of Grimms’. I’m looking forward to Aesop’s Fables, Just So Stories and RLS poems: the staples of my childhood.

  16. Donna May 13, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    “However, in the instant that it happens, it’s equally obviously a moment of neglect.”

    Please. I, too, was a wanderer and I assure you that I was never neglected. My mother did, however, occasionally have to go to the bathroom, put dinner in the oven, not awake the second that I awoke, etc. I simply believed that I was an adult and didn’t need to check with anyone before i decided to go visit my friends. They were constantly having to call my mother to let her know where I was. Now that I’m a mother, I feel guilty for the years I probably shaved off of my mother’s life and am thankful that, for all her independence, my daughter isn’t a wanderer.

  17. bequirox May 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    Something similar happened when my husband was a toddler, but he was in his diaper in a snow storm. A lady looked out her window and saw him, brought him in the house, and waited patiently for someone to come look for him. The End.

  18. bequirox May 13, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    Oh, and MMT
    I’m 25, I sing “Summertime” to my daughter every night and we sing lots of radio songs for her. My husband plays guitar and when she’s cranky he’ll go make up a song for her and she cheers right up.
    As for fairy tales, We bought a collection of shortened versions, but the same death and carnage. Like with the 3 Little Pigs, the first 2 pigs got eaten and that was the end of them and the wolf ends up in a pot of boiling water. I also have all of Grimm’s Fairy tales, Aesop’s Fable, and Hans Christian Anderson, and I’ll start reading them when my daughter is old enough to care about a story with no pictures.

  19. Uly May 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    Bequirox, don’t forget to get a collection of Perrault’s tales – he’s the one responsible for our normal version of Cinderella and of Beauty and the Beast.

  20. Scott May 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    We’ve had several of these toddler in diapers stories. In one case, the toddler got up at 3AM, managed to unlock the door, and went for a walk. In another, the mother was fixing dinner and the child was playing in the backyard, and walked about a mile down the road in an area with little to no traffic. In yet another, the child was playing in a fenced yard, the mother at work, and father, who works the night shift, had fallen asleep on the couch.

    All three cases have in common that the parents were arrested and put in prison for child abuse and child endangerment, and the children were put into foster care permanently. In all three cases, as far as I have been able to determine, the parents are still in prison awaiting trial.

    Of course studies have shown that foster children are 8 times more likely to be abused or neglected during their stay in foster care, are five times more likely to attempt suicide, have a higher mortality rate, have a 75% chance of dropping out of high school. Fifty percent of foster children become homeless at age 18. Thirty percent of homeless people in the United States are former foster children. The fact is that foster care is, statistically at least, on numerous metrics, the worst possible thing you can do to a child.

    But the system decrees that that’s the best situation for dealing with a child that got out at night or was playing in the yard. At the minimum, it provides the state more control over people’s lives, which is always presumed to be a benefit.

    What’s my take? Obviously I believe that the police, the social workers, and the courts are endemic child abusers, all drunk on their own power and filled with the most sadistic form of evil known to man – that of the utopian self-righteous do-gooder.

  21. HappyNat May 13, 2010 at 8:16 pm #


    Do Beatles songs count as lullabys? We sing to our kids almost every night, my wife sings more traditional songs, but I sing them whatever is in my head (They Might Be Giants, Billy Joel, Midnight Oil, etc.) but I usually end with Good night by the Beatles.

    We haven’t gotten into fairy tales much, as I never liked them as a kid. When they get older I’d like to read them/have them read some ancient mythology.

  22. Mika May 13, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    MMT -we used to sing lullabies, but less so these days (my kids are 2.5) but they will ask and we will. Be we sing other silly songs throughout the day that I just make up. When they were little we sang to them ALL the time and perhaps it is because there are two of them and we had to get rid of the rocking chair for space issues that we have stopped the “lullaby” singing, but we do other singing.

    Also I just purchased for them their first Enid Blyton books -lots of faries and pixies and magical adventures in those books -I can’t wait -although I did wonder if it wasn’t for me knowing about Enid Blyton, what would they read for fairy tales.

    My inlaws have traveled the world to Australia and the Caribbean and they bring back lots of folk tales about how birds got color and tales of ghosts and mysteries that my kids just love!

  23. pentamom May 13, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    Something somewhat similar happened to me when #4 was about 3. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, hubby said something about going out for a walk later, and then eventually left. DD had expressed some desire in going with him but I don’t think he heard her. I went about my business (with four other kids in the house I wasn’t aware of the movements of each one of them every minute) and lo and behold a while later a lady came to the door hand in hand with dd. Seems dd had decided to go find Daddy on his walk, and a lady minding a raffle table at the church across the (extremely busy) street had noticed a three-year-old wandering the sidewalk alone, and concluded it wasn’t a good thing. DD has the presence of mind to show where she lived (she’d only got about half a block) and the story ended happily. Thank God the lady was of the sensible sort who knew that a child who wandered outside in search of her Daddy on a nice spring day was not a case of neglect.

  24. Lou Doench May 13, 2010 at 11:26 pm #

    @Scott… Chill dude, loosen the tinfoil hat a smidge ok? There are lots of darn good people who work in child protective services and foster care. There are lots of kids who benefit immensely from the foster care system. Does it need better oversight and perhaps a more sensible application? Sure, so do lots of government programs. But please check the bathwater for any babies before you toss it out.

    Oh yeah…
    “the most sadistic form of evil known to man – that of the utopian self-righteous do-gooder.”

    GFYS and have a nice day.

  25. gramomster May 13, 2010 at 11:43 pm #


    My husband (grampa/Papa) sang to both of our kids, and also to our grandson, Basketball Jones from the Cheech and Chong movie, whichever one it was. He’d cradle the little thing in his big ol’ man hands, and rub noses, and, swaying back and forth, quietly sweetly sing Basketball Jones.

    Grandboy’s first multi-syllabic word was ‘baketball’ ( ‘s’ intentionally left out). He started singing ‘Baaketball Jones’ to himself, (oh baby oooooooo) at about 15 months. Hilarious!

    With our daughter, she was one the year MC Hammer came out with “Can’t Touch This” (or ‘That’… whatev) It became the diaper change song. Instead of It’s Hammer Time, it became, It’s a Diaper Time! and she would respond with the ‘whoa whoa whoa’ part. Holy cats that was funny!

  26. coffeegod May 13, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    I used to make up stories for my son at bedtime. He is now eight and still requests stories every once in a while. My mom sang ‘Be-Bop A Lula’ while rocking him. ‘Tiny Dancer’ and ‘Your Song’ were favorites for me to sing to him.

    Also, I wandered and climbed fences. My mother was anything but slacker. She just never thought an 18 month old could climb a six foot wood fence. I really wanted to go visit the puppies down the street!

  27. just a nurf clip May 14, 2010 at 1:08 am #

    Thank you for the anecdote! I’m glad mundane items like these get highlighted. And I’m glad partly because I’m amused that I find this mundane incident so ordinary.

    Rare, of course, but oddly so very – .

    Please take care and thank you for your work.

  28. just a nurf clip May 14, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    Ouch. I just finished reading some of the previous entries. I can see why it’s been trying lately.

    The funny thing is that even though sometimes kids do wander off, in the main nothing really happens.

    And yet kids largely don’t wander off at all. I’m kinda shocked at times by how smart kids actually are. Even the little ones understand schedules and go from place to place in school and other environments with little if any difficulty at all. That’s one of the bigger things I think some educators do take great comfort in, at least when they first start out.

  29. Sky May 14, 2010 at 2:15 am #

    Does anyone read actual fairy tales to their children any more?”

    I’m 34. My daughter is 6. I have read her many of the Grimm’s fairy tales. I tried Hans Christian Andersen, but they bored her. She really liked me reading her the folk tales Tommi de Paolo writes (from various cultures). We also read some of Aesop’s fables as well as some from a collection of Chinese folk tales and some from the Arabian Nights. We’ve read Bible stories and picture books based on Greek mythology as well (she was on a brief Greek mythology kick; I try to follow her lead).

    On the other hand, I have yet to read any of that stuff to my 4 year old son, and wonder if he will be at all interested. He seems ONLY interested in character books (based on TV and movies). I loathe those books, but I read them to him because I want him to like being read to and (one day) reading, so I’m not going to force on him my preferences, but I hope he expands his preferences one day…and I do try to get in more quality literature when I can. Mother’s Goose of course.

    “Does anyone still sing lullabys to their babies”
    I can’t sing well at all and am embarassed by the fact, but I did sing in private to them when they were babies. I doubt I’d soothe a baby in public with singing just because I can’t hold a tune. At all. Daddy has always done the good night lullabies – that’s his role.

  30. Mary Margaret May 14, 2010 at 6:16 am #

    Thankyou, everyone! That’s why I love this website. Since I live in a small town, I sometimes feel that DH and I are the only parents who think the way we do. For those interested in fairy tales, might I suggest the Andrew Lang books. They are a HUGE compilation of ft from all over western civilization snd then some. They were first published in the 1890s and are still published today. I bought mine at barnes and noble relatively cheap. I recommend for starters the Blue Fairy Book, the Red Fairy Book, and the Green Fairy Book. They come in many more colors, though. I also suggest reading them like a hammy thespian changing voices frequently and gestulating wildly. When a hurricane has taken out the electricity for a week or so, the whole family sits down and listens to them read by candlelight.

    Great choices of lullabys people! My personal favorites are old jazz torch songs, Irish and American folk songs, and John Denver. Thanks again.

  31. Penni Russon May 14, 2010 at 8:04 am #

    We sing, we read and ‘tell’ fairytales. I’m a YA author, and think fairy tales are some of our inherited culture, our core building blocks (how would you understand and appreciate Shrek, or any Disney movie without a core understanding of fairy tale). Fairy tales teach us how stories work, they make us more literate readers and arguably more critical readers too, and teaching children to read critically in an age of advertising manipulation is very important. My first daughter’s comfort songs are River to Pray on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack and Bye Baby Bunting. My second daughter always loved Rock a bye baby.

    As for this story, a moment’s distraction or a human mix up of ‘I thought you were watching the baby, I thought you were’ should never be confused with neglect. How ridiculous.

  32. Kimberly May 14, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    I have a friend who’s under 3 yo was found in the front yard at 3 am on a busy through street. Parents asleep in their bed – child was sleep walking.

    Neighbor guided child back to the open door and rang the door bell and called from the doorway till the parents bolted upright and ran to the door.

    Friend’s family has a long history of sleepwalking including kids “robbing the house”, night terrors and accompanying black eyes for parents. The next day she went out and got a three of those alarms for hotel doors. One for the hallway door to the front of the house, one for the front door and one for the door to the pool area.

    Noone called the cops.

  33. sonya May 14, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    I love to sing lullabies, although now that kids are 6 and 10 they rarely ask me to anymore. Fairy stories – we have brothers grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, as well as greek myths and bible stories. Older daughter finds them all very interesting, and reads them to younger. However, younger daughter sometimes gets upset by them. The most upsetting stories for her though are Little House on the Prairies series – each crop failure, sale of horses, etc really gets to her! But she still wants to read on, through the floods of tears…