This Kid Sounds Like Me! Or, Rather, Like Us!

Hi Readers! Love this note from a middle-schooler!

Dear hkrfsifdfh
Free-Range Kids: I am a 13-year-old and I really think that kids need more freedom. I regularly ride my bike to the library and friends’ houses, but for going longer distances and using public transportation my parents would like me to have a friend with me. However we haven’t been able to find many friends whose parents are willing to let them have this freedom. Recently I  wanted to take public transportation a few stops but my parents were afraid that some “concerned stranger” would call the police.

Parents really need to stop sheltering their children and prepare them for the outside world. I’m not saying that parents should just push kids out the door one day and expect them to find their own way across town with no street smarts, but to to teach and encourage them to be independent. Walk with younger kids to school, farther and farther behind until they’re ready to walk on there own.

P.S. This is just my opinion.

P.S.  It’s mine, too! — L.

57 Responses to This Kid Sounds Like Me! Or, Rather, Like Us!

  1. Maggie February 12, 2010 at 12:42 am #

    This kid is awesome. I totally get his frustration, especially the bit about his parents being worried someone might call the police if he took public transport on his own.

    My own 13 year-old raised the hackles of some nosy do-gooders a while ago when they noticed that on Saturdays, he and his older brother would get on a bus without me – or take off on their bikes – and be gone for hours. Younger Monster’s guitar lessons were a few miles away, they would go without me.

    The police did, in fact, show up at my door. And left about a minute later, when I told them how old the Monsters were. They were under the impression that I was letting a 4 year old loose without supervision!

  2. Uly February 12, 2010 at 12:52 am #

    Albert Einstein was let loose without supervision when HE was four.

  3. Elizabeth February 12, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    I used to walk to school by myself when I was four. It was only a block away, so no harm. My parents also regularly let us go to various parks and stores walking or on our bikes, as long as we told them where we were going. Hopefully my kids will be able to enjoy similar freedom.

  4. Maggie February 12, 2010 at 1:03 am #

    @Uly, yeah, but he was Albert Einstein, and his parents weren’t bombarded with the stranger danger bullshit we all have to put up with now!

  5. Maggie February 12, 2010 at 1:06 am #

    @Elizabeth – I wasn’t allowed to go off my block when I was four, but when I was five, I was allowed to walk to and from school by myself. (Three blocks away, you could see school from my back porch.) Until I was 6, I could only go as far as my friend’s house three doors down from school, but after that, I had run of the neighborhood.

    When I had my own kids, it never occurred to me that it should be any different for them.

    Until I pissed someone off and got CSB sicced on me.

  6. Alex February 12, 2010 at 1:34 am #

    Puts a new twist on stranger danger, now, doesn’t it?!

  7. Bike Path February 12, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    Anytime anybody shows alarm about permitting young kids some freedom, take it as an opportunity to advertise the Free Range Kids Book!

    Be kind, but firm, as you say something like this:
    “You know, I had the same fears you do until I read Lenore Skenazy’s book, Free Range Kids.” (and of course mention the blog)

    Tell them if they read the book they’ll learn they are paying too much attention to the media which has them fooled into thinking our country is not as safe as it used to be. Then, pull out a note you keep with you and quote some stats like those on page 19:

    Mention that 20 times more kids are killed by drowning than abduction. (So are they going to allow their kids to swim without a life jacket?) And 40 times more kids are killed by car accidents. (So does this mean they will stop allowing their kids to get into cars?)

  8. KateNonymous February 12, 2010 at 3:19 am #

    Since the parents do give some freedom, I wonder if this middle-schooler might ask them when they’ll be ready to give more. Maybe there are specific concerns that aren’t mentioned in this letter. While I agree with the principles, I also know that specific circumstances may vary.

  9. frances February 12, 2010 at 3:22 am #

    This is exactly why I am leery of giving my oldest daughter too much freedom. Not because I am worried about kidnapping, or because I don’t trust her! I’m afraid some busy body will stick their nose in our business.

  10. Ellen February 12, 2010 at 3:31 am #

    I sympathize with both the kids and the parents. Some of us ‘helicopter’ parents are that way not because we want to, but because we have to be do to circumstances. Right now my daughter is out in the snow playing with her friends. If they go in, she is SOL. There are no other kids to play with. There are plenty down the block but I never see them outside and available to play.

  11. Rimma February 12, 2010 at 3:33 am #

    “concerned stranger” = freerange strange danger 🙂

  12. Brian February 12, 2010 at 3:40 am #

    Ellen, Frances – as a Free Ranger, sometimes I have to do think which seem strange to my neighbors. For me, I have found that almost all of my efforts have been met with other parents loosening up a bit, in a good way. One neighbor went out of her way to organize a game of street football with neighborhood kids, even though we have a perfectly good park right around the corner. her point was to help the kids learn how to deal with the streets that they have to cross walking to school, and to help them watch each other’s backs.

    In terms of dealing with potential threats from neighbors who “might” call Child Protective Services, that’s your job as a parent. Know the law about what freedoms you’re allowed to give your kids, and then sit back and wait for the busybody to do their worst. f you don’t get called out, then you will know that those busybodies either aren’t there or don’t care. If you do get called out, no worry, you won’t have done anything wrong, and you will have taught your kids that dealing with the authorities is no problem if you know your rights and haven’t committed a crime.

    Remember, if you start giving up your rights because of fear of potential negative outcomes, then the terrorists have won. And by terrorists, I mean those that would terrorize you into keeping your kids in your house away from dangers that don’t really exist.

  13. Maggie February 12, 2010 at 3:55 am #

    Brian writes:

    If you do get called out, no worry, you won’t have done anything wrong, and you will have taught your kids that dealing with the authorities is no problem if you know your rights and haven’t committed a crime.

    You’ve clearly never had CPS called on you.

    I have. Multiple times. I’m not Christian, my kids are Free Range, we don’t do TV, I work on the Internet, I refuse to babysit for neighbors – pick your reason that a neighbor would be pissed off, and I’ve had it used as an excuse to have CPS at my door.

    Let me tell you something: It’s not “no problem”. It’s a godsdamned HUGE problem, it’s terrifying, and it’s INCREDIBLY invasive. It doesn’t matter that I’ve done nothing wrong. They are trained to treat you as if you have done something wrong, until YOU can definitively prove otherwise. You can know your rights inside, outside and upside-down (and I do!), that does not render their visits “no problem”.

    Every complaint against me has been dismissed as frivolous and unfounded – but not until they’ve flipped our lives upside down and scared the ever-loving fuck out of us again.

    So yeah, my kids are Free Range, but it’s not the cakewalk it was when I was a kid. CPS because my kid won’t wear socks? Cops because my TEENAGERS are riding the bus without me? “No problem”? Ah…no.

  14. Stephanie February 12, 2010 at 4:03 am #

    What a great kid! It’s wonderful to read about a child whose parents really get it, even if it’s a pity that there aren’t friends available to go along for even more fun.

    That’s one of my concerns for my kids. I’ve been lucky enough to deal with some parents who don’t mind letting their kids play out front without the adults, but everything else so far has been pretty restricted. It amazes me how hard it is to get some parents to even just let their kids come over to play with mine.

  15. Mary Margaret February 12, 2010 at 4:08 am #

    Dear Lenore,

    I just finished your book. Before I found your website and book, I thought my husband and I were the last sane parents standing.

    We bought our house while still in our 20’s. We picked a nearby small town with friendly neighborhoods and an extremely low crime rate. Less than a mile from our house is the bay and farther north is a system of rivers bayous, and creeks. We wanted to raise our future children to be Opie Taylor and Scout Finch. It was 7 years before we had our daughter. In that time, my husband and I volunteered for everything and walked around downtown often – EVERYONE knew who we were. When my daughter was about 2 mos, I strolled her around town all the time. The shopkeepers knew her, the librarians knew her, the mail carriers and police knew her. When she was 8, she was allowed to ride her bike all over town by herself. I would have prefered she go with friends but the other parents were too busy questioning my sanity. My daughter liked to go to the bookstore/coffee shop and read magazines while drinking hot chocolate, go to the art gallery and talk to the artists, go to the park, walk around the toy store to daydream and even go to city hall and chat with the Mayor. If she wanted to spend the day painting, she piled her supplies in a wagon and set up downtown selling whatever she painted while she painted other peices. Occaisionally the police chief would call us because tourists reported an unsupervised child and he apologised for having to follow up. Since everyone knew who she was, I would get reportson her behavior. By the time she got home, I would know that she made a left turn on her bike with out signaling.

    What other parents didn’t understand is that my child is much safer than theirs. If anything is off kilter or odd concerning my daughter, at least a dozen people will notice. The sequestered child is unknown by the community. How will the nice lady at the drugstore know when those people with her are not her parents? How will they know if she is in trouble?

    My daughter is 12 now and more parents are opening the doors so their older children can roam. Giving her friends with whom to lunch.

    What I’m taking forever to say is thanks, Lenore. We are not alone.

  16. Andy February 12, 2010 at 4:14 am #

    It’s funny that the “concerned stranger” is a bigger threat than the windowless van man in this letter.

  17. KarenW February 12, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    Oh come on! Would a concerned stranger really call the police about a 13 year old using public transportation? Public transportation was how I got to school and back every day from 7th grade on! Middle-school age kids are old enough to legally be home alone and even babysit younger kids. What I want to know is: isn’t there some point where CPS would just dismiss a complaint as being totally ridiculous? (I’m almost afraid of what the answer will be).

  18. Maggie February 12, 2010 at 4:42 am #

    Karen writes:

    Would a concerned stranger really call the police about a 13 year old using public transportation?

    Obviously, they did. The cops were not merely bored and toodling around my neighborhood, looking for someone to harass. At least, I surely hope they weren’t, or I’m going to have to have a word with our Chief.

    Whoever it was told the police that my boys were being “allowed to roam unsupervised” and that they were “afraid they might be in danger”.

    Is there a point that CPS will just dismiss a complaint as totally ridiculous? Absolutely not. They are required by law to investigate EVERY complaint they get, no matter how outlandish is sounds. Because really, just because you think that it’s an absurd idea that someone might be keeping their foster kids in cages, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. So they have to go investigate everything.

    And even if you’re completely cleared of the allegations, they keep a file on you forever.

  19. Shiri February 12, 2010 at 4:46 am #

    Maggie, I so so so hear you. I learned hard way, that with CPS, you’re guilty until proven innocent. It’s official, and they make no secret of it. CPS *can* remove kids from home based on suspicion. And then, the burden (and expense!) of proof of innocence is on you. And even if all charges get dropped eventually, you will still have record for the rest of your life (some people say for 10 years?). And what it will do to your kid… sigh…

    The kid who wrote the letter is awesome. Notice, he *took initiative* to write a letter. How many 13 y o helicoptered kids take initiative?

  20. Christie February 12, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    my daughter hates going around the block by herself to her friends house. She’s 8. Why is she scared? She really doesn’t like to talk to people and she thinks someone might challenge her about being by herself. the other stuff she knows she can handle. The idea that someone might ask “where’s your mom?” totally freaks her out.

  21. Bernadette Noll February 12, 2010 at 4:54 am #

    Not long ago a mom at school was telling me how appalled she was that she had seen a pack of kids walking along a sort of busy street (but in a neighborhood) without any supervision. She went on about how ridiculous it was for some stupid parent to do this and how it looked to her like the oldest one there was only 13 or so. I paused. Asked her if it was on a Tuesday. She said yes and I told her, “Actually the oldest one there was only 12 and the youngest was 6. Those were my kids with friends.” She shut up pretty quickly and I enjoyed seeing her tail between her legs.


  22. Craze February 12, 2010 at 4:59 am #

    Maggie’s not the exception to the CPS rule, either. I’ve had ACS (Administration for Child Services) called on me multiple times. My oldest goes across the street to her friends house, nosy neighbor calls CPS. Before my daughter transferred schools, if she went to school in something not “normal” (My daughter, for as long as she’s been able to dress herself, has had a love for ‘alternative’ clothing, and hey, she’s clean, matches and is covered, so why would I fight about it?), CPS gets called. My daughter once was talking to a friend about watching an internet cartoon, teacher called CPS, stating we were letting her watch “Inappropriate” things.

    And yes, they do come into your home acting as though you have already been proven to be doing something wrong. And they DIG, deep, to try and find something to make their case stick, if they don’t agree with what you’re doing. Don’t get me wrong, ACS, CPS, and DCFS are all agencies that are needed because abuse DOES happen…but abuse is often overlooked because everyone is so eager to report people they dislike.

  23. Maggie February 12, 2010 at 5:08 am #

    Craze writes:

    Don’t get me wrong, ACS, CPS, and DCFS are all agencies that are needed because abuse DOES happen…but abuse is often overlooked because everyone is so eager to report people they dislike.

    Yup, these organizations are necessary to help kids who really are being abused, but there is no shortage of people who think that these organizations exist as their personal Hit Men.

    Take a stroll through any number of the “childfree” communities, and you’ll find people BRAGGING about calling CPS on their neighbors because the kid was standing at the window, pretending to be a dog, and it annoyed them, or they were pissed because their neighbor kid has nice toys (no, I’m not kidding), or because the neighbor kid was outside, being a kid where the “childfree” person could see them (still not kidding).

    People will happily make shit up and waste valuable resources because they think they know better than the kid’s own parents.

    And that’s not even taking into account the thousands of malicious complaints called in by busy-body grandparents who are pissed that the ex-daughter in-law is denying them visitation because they keep overstepping their bounds, or disgruntled ex-husbands/ex-wives who are angry that their ex is moving on instead of pining away for their dead marriage. (One of my jobs is working for an attorney. I see THIS one every day, and twice on Sundays.)

  24. Craze February 12, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    As bad as those people are, you find that its almost worse with people who have children of their own. I can’t count the times I’ve heard other parents talking about calling ACS on someone because THEY didn’t agree with how they were parenting. I, myself, have had ACS called on me for the way my daughter dresses. Right now, she’s ten and has purple hair. If she were still in her old school, I’d have ACS kicking down my door. Whatever happened to just minding your own business unless you see someone actually getting hurt?

  25. corianne February 12, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    I remember a commercial from the late eighties/early nineties advertising summer bus passes for kids. The whole point was that the kids could go places like the library, the zoo or the water park by themselves. I remember wanting one, and being extremely jealous of the lucky kids who got such a pass–but I lived in the country, some 100 miles from the city where these bus passes were being sold. This seriously makes much more sense to me than some “concerned citizen” calling the cops because they see a teenager roaming around unsupervised.

    I think that program only lasted one summer, and it never occurred to me until I was an adult that the kids who got those bus passes might have been jealous of the fact that I could freely roam around in the fields, deserts and mountains surrounding my home.

    I’m not a parent yet, but I’m so grateful for this blog. Free-range kids describes the kind of parent I want to be.

  26. KarenW February 12, 2010 at 5:19 am #

    Holy crap. What if I called CPS, telling them that my neighbor lets her 15 or 16 year old take the bus alone and leaves him home alone occasionally? They wouldn’t just say “so what – it’s perfectly legal for a child that age to do those things”?

  27. KarenW February 12, 2010 at 5:23 am #

    P.S. Please don’t think that I don’t believe what Maggie and others are saying. It’s just almost too outrageous for me to wrap my head around.

  28. sue February 12, 2010 at 5:34 am #

    those who have not had cps called on them have no clue what it’s like. my middle child’s boyfriend’s mom wanted them to have sex and i objected. she’s a schoo; volunteer and called the police and cps, told them i was beating my kids and had seen them with bruises and black eyes[funny how their school missed that].my youngest polevaulted in school…guess what she had a few of. i was arrested and charged with neglect and abuse was told that my kids had said i beat them[ not true]. was not allowed to bring coaches as witnesses and my boss was threatened if she did not fire me. the da wanted a restraining order without interviewing me or the kids. it took my entire retirement fund and more then 2 years before the state was forced to admit everyone[ boyfriends mom, police ,cps, pyschologist da] had lied and i was innocent. i still have a file in cps despite numerous court rulings. there is no such thing as innocent.. just people whose lives they haven’t ruined yet. i’m 53 no retirement and sick.when you apply for insurance and they see you hsve a file at cps…good luck. they have to accoumnt to nobody it’s just a way of getting more state and federal aid.

  29. Maggie February 12, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    Karen writes:

    Holy crap. What if I called CPS, telling them that my neighbor lets her 15 or 16 year old take the bus alone and leaves him home alone occasionally? They wouldn’t just say “so what – it’s perfectly legal for a child that age to do those things”?

    You’re not thinking like a busy-body, Karen. Tell CPS that it’s a 16 year-old taking the bus every once in a while, yes, they will laugh and say “That’s legal.”

    Tell them “She leaves her young kids to roam the neighborhood and regularly take the bus across town with no supervision, and I’m afraid they’re not being taken care of and are being neglected!”, and they will be all over that.

  30. Maggie February 12, 2010 at 6:01 am #

    Craze writes:

    Right now, she’s ten and has purple hair.

    Me too! The purple hair part, not the ten part. I’m forty.

    My long purple hair is one of the reasons CPS has been at my door. Some knuckledragger took that and my Pagan faith and cried “Satanic rituals!” It’s hell being Asatru in Ohio.

    When I am elected Supreme Ruler of the Cosmos, Rule Number One is going to be “Thou shalt not use CPS as your personal grudge cudgel, you asshat.” Then I will smack offenders on the nose with a rolled up newspaper, yell “BAD DOG!”, and take away their grown-up creds until they can show me they deserve to have them back.


  31. SKL February 12, 2010 at 6:07 am #

    It’s hard to believe that I went to college at 16, seeing how people today treat their 13-year-olds like toddlers. When I was 13 (younger, actually) the only thing I couldn’t do was drive. My mom didn’t even ask me where I’d been. Shoot, she was married at 17 and bought her first house at 19. What do today’s parents think they are preparing their fragile little babies for?

  32. KarenW February 12, 2010 at 6:07 am #

    OK, I think I understand. So basically it doesn’t matter WHAT you do as a parent. If you piss off the wrong person, they will make up lies. So really, us Free Range Parents should just do whatever we want and stop worrying about the busybodies of the world, because if someone is out to get you, they will get you.

  33. Maggie February 12, 2010 at 6:11 am #

    So really, us Free Range Parents should just do whatever we want and stop worrying about the busybodies of the world, because if someone is out to get you, they will get you.

    And that, my friends, was the clear, resounding song of the nail being whacked squarely on the head.

    You’ve pretty much got to look over your shoulder every minute of the day to see who’s watching, but yeah, that’s really it. Just keep doing what you’re doing, do the best that you can to help your kids be awesome…and carry a rolled up newspaper.

  34. SKL February 12, 2010 at 6:22 am #

    As far as CPS goes, I openly admit that I occasionally spank and do a few other things some busybodies wouldn’t approve of. My 3-year-olds gleefully told one of their teachers that “B is for Beat’cher Butt.” I don’t deny there is a risk out there, but I can’t let other people’s opinions control what I do.

    It helps that my kids have been followed by a social worker since they came home, so there are documents showing that I’m apparently doing some things right. When it comes to bruises and other marks, it’s a good idea to document the reasons, e.g., by filing a letter with your doctor and school explaining that your kid gets bruises or other marks for a reason. Then if you are ever accused, you can pull out that paper.

    My kid came home with a birthmark that looked like a horrible bruise on her butt and lower back. Luckily I’d been warned in advance, or I might have thought the foster parents had abused her. The first thing I did was tell everyone about the birthmark, before they had a chance to get their own ideas. Other parents have taken photos and filed them with their doctors. Because you just never know.

  35. Tristan Band February 12, 2010 at 6:30 am #

    That kid is wise beyond his years; I wish I was when I was 13, and I have always been considered the brainy kid!

    I’ve been overprotected; if I ever have children (which, I probably won’t) I would never put them through that; the whole point of raising a child is to prepare them for adulthood. Leave childhood to children; micromanaging it will only make the transition that much harder. Humans grow through interacting with the world; along the way, physical and mental scars will abound. But, it is through the struggle that is life that one self-actualizes.

    Great philosophers, such as Nietzsche, knew that life was struggle and how important that struggle was. Hopefully, the world will realize that too.

  36. Anna February 12, 2010 at 7:02 am #

    Mary Margaret, me and my siblings were raised the same way you are raising your daughter. Everyone in our little community knew us, since they saw us out and about all the time. My parents were teachers at the local school, so they were also well-known.

    As an example, I wanted to sell produce from my grandfather’s farm on a farmer’s market on Sundays during summer. I got this idea when I was seven years old. My parents and grandparents helped me with picking the produce and I had my own little table at the market. Often my mom or an older sibling (9 and 13 at the time) hanged out with me there, but I was sometimes all alone, bagging peas and flowers and counting change. But again, everyone knew me and if they had seen someone strange with me, it would have been noticed.

    I hadn’t thought about it that way before, but you are right. When everyone knows your kid, they will also notice if something is amiss. THAT is safety for your children!

  37. gramomster February 12, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    I had a good experience with the CPS here in our city. When my grandson was tiny, his mom (she was barely 16) and I would stroll him down to the neighborhood coffee shop hangout late on summer evenings. We had checked with his pediatrician the first time somebody got cranky about an infant hanging out late at night in ‘the hood’. Pediatrician said it was just fine for him, in fact probably better than going out in July daylight. No direct sun, less car exhaust, fresh air. He was a breastfed baby, it was summer, I didn’t feel like she needed to be cut off from friends, I was with her. Got the cops called on more than one occasion, my husband took complaints about the responding officer to her supervisor (with whom he’d taken a crim class, happily), and she finally backed off. But CPS called. They didn’t even come by. I explained the situation, I gave them the pediatrician’s number, I was told, “okay. Thank you for your cooperation. This case is closed permanently.” End of story. Nothing. Not even a visit. They literally made a phone call. I was pissed at the hot dog shop worker who thought babies are supposed to be home in bed at 8 (at 6 weeks old. Good luck with that), but very pleased with the ration of CPS.

    There was another incident later with another young mom we knew, but that call was absolutely warranted, and it was a great relief to us all to know that the baby was safe. She was in a seriously bad environment. Our baby wasn’t. Our baby was just out later than many midwesterners seem to think is okay.


    My daughter had blue hair in 2nd grade, but thankfully, we lived in Seattle. It was mostly some type of color from that point on until very recently.


    I can only imagine how challenging it is to be Pagan in Ohio! Grand Rapids is sketchy too, man. And I don’t have purple hair yet. I want more gray first! I’m 43… I think this may be the summer for it.

    My grandson is the cutest thing ever. He’s almost 4, has not had a haircut (our men and boys generally keep their freak flags flying), and he has curls curls curls. Ringlets. And they’re long and blond. And he often has the front part in a hair tie. So lots of people think he’s a girl. I think there are some people around here who would consider that alone grounds for calling the authorities.

    And SKL

    My youngest is about to get his AA. 5 days after his 18th birthday. Took himself down to the community college at 16, figured out how to enroll, then asked for the 20 bucks to register. He’s held a 3.97 GPA. Loser drop-out. Just ask my in-laws. Sheesh.

  38. kherbert February 12, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    I know it is a thin line, but I wish there was a way to press charges against those that make CPS reports in bad faith.

    I’ve had to report parents because of obvious bruises from a belt on the back and front of a child. The same day a student next door made an accusation against his father giving him a black eye (have to report it is the law), and a third student showed up with a broken hand that had been untreated for 3 days. He broke it Friday night, and Monday had been a holiday.

    1. Family #1 – CPS found the kids not in danger, but mom enrolled in our schools parenting classes on her own. She asked that her younger child be in my class – because she felt I cared about the kids.

    2. Boy was mad about being grounded. He got the black eye in a fight he started at his football game (he was kicked off the team). Their were reports from neighbors about this boy beating up his younger brother. (Neighbors didn’t tell parents what they saw). Parents rearranged their work schedule and boy was put in some anger management classes. He was moved into my room a few weeks later after he threatened to beat my pregnant co-worker so she would lose her child.

    3. Nurse and I talked it over after talking to his Mom – who had thought it was a bad sprain. We didn’t report because knowing the boy he hadn’t complained about being in pain much. (My sister had pulled a similar stunt at age 5 – everyone thought was a sprain including the docs. They did the x-ray only because the school had express concern. Her wrist was broken.)

  39. kherbert February 12, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    Opps hit post before a meant to.

    Those that report to get back at the parents though – are endangering other children. I have students (in foster care or living with family) that went through hell. You see it when the jump at a noise, or wrap their arms around the tray at lunch so no one can take their food. They way they say “I didn’t do it” and flinch when you call the name to answer a question.

  40. Brian February 12, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    Maggie – Mom my used to work for DFS (Dept of Family Svcs) in Philly from the late 70’s to the early 90s. It was a different time then, but the level of allegation required to get their attention was reasonably high, because they were dealing with actual abuse.

    I’m sorry if I demeaned the difficulty of gov’t officials on a power trip. You’re absolutely right, they can make your life a living hell. On the other hand, the issue is really with our fellow citizens abusing the system.

    So, even though your experience and mine are direct opposites, we come to the same conclusion – prepare your kids for the unlikely but difficult situations, don’t freak out (your self or your kids) about the very unlikely (prepare for them if you feel the need), and then live your life as you want to live it.

    As an aside, the Free Range position here is that citizens minding their own business not actually hurting anyone should be left alone by the government. As an aside, making a false statement to the authorities should be dealt with very harshly, including both civil and criminal remedies. We are all harmed when our government is used against us. We wouldn’t tolerate someone using a gun to harass us, kidnap our kids or steal our money. Why should we tolerate someone who uses the government to accomplish the same end?

  41. Debbie February 12, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    When I was 11 I was allowed to take the bus downtown to go “shopping” with my best friend. This would never happen today…and it’s incredibly sad.

  42. Mae Mae February 12, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    My kids regularly take public transportation without me. They are 9 and 11. I’ve never had any problems. However, we also live near a school district where all the students who need bussing take city buses. Maybe that’s the difference.

    I would have this girl ask her parents to ride the bus with her for a while so she could meet some of the drivers and learn the stops and such so she can go alone and they can trust that she is safe.

  43. Ali February 12, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    We have a lot of free-range kids in my neighborhood, but we are in a lower income, more racially diverse community where that has been kind of normal instead of weird. A few years ago there was a tween crew that wreaked some real havoc including setting a damn yard on fire – but that’s ancient history now. My real concern is the way cars FLY through our streets. I have thought about printing some “You are entering a Free-Range Neighborhood – SLOW DOWN” signs (In English and Spanish) to remind everyone who enters our neighborhood to let off the gas pedal for the sake of our kids!

  44. Tracy Lucas February 12, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    ” It’s hell being Asatru in Ohio. ”

    I would like to announce that I am first in line for that bumper sticker.

    Being spiritually alternative in Boondock, Tennessee, ain’t no roller coaster ride, neither.


    Keep rockin’ the purple.

    Conformists were made for scaring!

  45. bmj2k February 12, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    Somehow we’ve been conived into believing “it takes a village to raise a child.” Personally, seeing all the “do-gooders” out there ready to raise an alarm, and people who think they can raise a child better than I can, and spying eyes ready to call the police on a loving parent, I’d like “the village” top keep its nose out of my business.

  46. amy February 12, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    My 10 year old wants so badly to have some freedom. He’s such an independent kid. Like many of your kids, his biggest fear about walking to the hardware store (where he LOVES to explore) was people “looking at him funny”, because he’s without his mom. He’s such a reliable kid. And the store is a 3 block walk (I can see him the whole way if I want to, because there is open space between our house and the shop). I just HAVE to let him do it. I assure him that if anyone raises a stink, I will deal with it because we are doing nothing wrong.
    When they put a fence around a school yard last summer because of vandalism, I gave my children permission to jump the fence and use the playground to play wall ball. The same fear— “what if someone says something”. I feel better giving my kids permission to “break the law” (if that is what it is) than allowing them the freedom, the fun, and the access that they deserve, can handle, and need. I give them the reasons the fence was put in place, and say that as long as they are behaving, they have nothing to worry about.
    Reading these posts makes me realize I’m not alone. It’s great.

  47. Gail February 12, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    “You’ve pretty much got to look over your shoulder every minute of the day to see who’s watching, but yeah, that’s really it. Just keep doing what you’re doing, do the best that you can to help your kids be awesome…and carry a rolled up newspaper.”

    Except near my kids’ school, since that’s the one place that’s reported me so far. For letting my not quite 8 year old ride his bike home alone.

    Gramomster, count yourself lucky about the hair. I’m also 43 and I’ve officially given up on ever having enough gray to do the purple. You should see my mother at 65. My hairdresser las been suggesting other ideas for me to have some fun.

  48. Uly February 13, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    Somehow we’ve been conived into believing “it takes a village to raise a child.” Personally, seeing all the “do-gooders” out there ready to raise an alarm, and people who think they can raise a child better than I can, and spying eyes ready to call the police on a loving parent, I’d like “the village” top keep its nose out of my business.

    The thing is, you WANT these people. You want them to tell your child not to pull up their plants, and you want them to tell the local bullies to leave your kid alone. And if your kid is alone and acting scared or worried or sad, you want them to make sure your kid isn’t genuinely lost or in trouble.

    Unfortunately, communities are so fragmented in many places that people don’t know it’s okay to talk to kids. Or they know it’s not. Or they don’t want to be bothered. So instead of doing the right thing – checking in on a situation and then using good judgment to find a solution – they do the easy thing. They call the police every time something strange happens.

    Which is stupid, but done right you really do want the village. The village is what makes it safe to send kids out and about, because everybody knows that if something happens to your child that’s actually bad (slim as the odds are) that IT WILL BE KNOWN.

  49. Dittony February 13, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    I have enjoyed reading all the responses. My twin girls have been using public transport since they were 11 (now almost 15) to go to school and to go shopping with their friends. It never occurred to me that someone might report us to CPS! We live in a VERY conservative state with lots of children (guess which one!) but the city is pretty liberal. I guess ignorance is bliss. They are very comfortable on the buses now, but their best friend is not allowed to ride.

    Please continue to free range your children and the world will learn eventually that it is the right thing to do.

  50. LindaLou February 13, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    A couple of things.

    First, it almost seems like these days city kids have more freedom than small town kids. I live in Seattle and no one even blinks over teens (and younger) riding the bus.

    Second, if you (general) have had CPS or the equivalent called on you multiple times by multiple different people, I don’t buy that you’re an innocent victim of circumstance. In fact, I don’t want to be on the same (Free Range) bandwagon as you. Something is amiss if that many people are concerned about your children and their safety. Having three children, I know an awful lot of families and the vast majority of them (99%?) have never had any dealings with CPS.

    Finally, I find it funny that the world is such a safe and wonderous place for our children to explore… except that every single vindictive busibody neighbor is out to get you (general)! You can’t have it both ways.

  51. Maggie February 13, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    LindaLou writes:

    Second, if you (general) have had CPS or the equivalent called on you multiple times by multiple different people, I don’t buy that you’re an innocent victim of circumstance

    I lover it when people who don’t know what they’re talking about show their ignorance for all the world to see.

    Do tell, how many different people called CPS on me and my family? Or on anyone else here who has talked about their experiences with CPS? I’d be interested to know how you’ve come to the conclusion that it was “multiple different people”?

    They don’t tell you who called. They don’t even tell you if it was more than one person. They tell you it was “an anonymous complaint”.

    Now, I have my suspicions. Two families are constantly bitching because I don’t do things their way. But I have no way to confirm – even if they did give their names when they reported, I couldn’t get them without suing for them.

    (I like how you glossed over that everyone here who had had dealings with CPS was completely cleared of all allegations. WTG! Trust me, honey, I don’t want to live on your street either, because you’re probably the type that calls CPS if a kid farts crossways, if your judgmental Mommier-Than-Thou snottiness is any indication.)

  52. LindaLou February 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    Maggie, I can speak generally abuot any topic that I like. I wasn’t speaking specifically about you, and yes, you’re right. I don’t know a damn thing about CPS. I’ve never had any dealings with them and I’m pretty sure I never will. I’ve called CPS once in my life over children I knew personally who lived with two drug addict parents. Mom had let slip that she found the baby chewing on a piece of clingwrap with a crack rock in it. Guess what? Those people kept their kids too.

    Maybe you think I’m snotty, but hey! I’ve managed not to antagonize the neighbors to the point where they’re calling CPS on me so I guess that puts me one step ahead of you. 🙂

  53. Peter Brülls February 14, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

    @LindaLou, I’m afraid I find your tone extremely condescending. While I haven’t had any trouble with CPS, I’ve witnessed enough snotty neighbours who love to make trouble by calling services.

    For example, one of the places I worked at got new neighbours. Mind you, zoning works different over here and while the area *looks* like residential area, it isn’t, and thus a software business like ours is perfectly legal.

    In come new neighbours and the complaints start, city services coming to our down and checking things they’ve approved years before and which didn’t change – including that big, fat company sign at the house, telling said new houseowners that they build next to a business.

    We probably should’ve been glad that one employee didn’t bring his kids more often or “concerned neighbours” might’ve called CPS, since we probably make them dust the servers or force them to program on Windows machines. (as if).

  54. Carol the longwinded February 15, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    There’s a great deal of shame and embaressment about having CPS called on your family, even when the allegations are groundless So you may very well know many people who have had baseless accusations made on them, and they may not feel comfortable sharing that experience with you. Based on what you have just posted, presuming guilt rather than innocence, I think I can suspect this may be the case.
    We had CPS called on us, for a very brief call. The social worker was rolling her eyes the whole time, but someone had called to say our house was filthy. Maybe one of my kids ran out of the house nude. Maybe it was the heroin addict at my husband’s work that called after the addict got fired. We don’t know, and never will, but it is flat out terrifying.
    Our pediatrician offered to go to court for us if it ever came to that.

  55. Matter-of-Fact February 16, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    The oh! so liberal Dutch are following suit. With the Americans that is. But this freerange kids’ revolution is inspiring. We have very independent children ourselves, result of a somewhat contrarian upbringing. The eldest is 12, the youngest almost 9. When she goes out riding her bike and visiting friends in the very quiet neighborhood we live in, the friends’ parents are always amazed and envious. ‘Our child would never be able to do that’. And then I tell them the story of a 7 year old in Amsterdam, who, years ago, was told by his mum not to climb a tree that was 10 ft tall. ‘If he doesn’t learn now, he’ll never learn it at all and end up dropping down from a higher tree at age 16,’ I said to her. And: ‘Go and watch the monkey rocks in the zoo for a day or two, it’s an educational experience’. She got angry at me and turned away. But she didn’t look me in the eyes because she knew I was right. I’m confident that over-protection creates children that go out to find their challenges later in life. I’m not sure that’s a good thing and it’s high time for a steep turn.

  56. Catherine February 22, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    Fortunately it is still pretty normal for 13yos to catch public transport on their own in Australian cities. My daughter will be starting doing this next year when she is not quite 12 as it is how she will get to and from high school. She has one friend who already gets the train home from primary school – this started at age 10. My daughter has also caught the train with this girl – from our place to theirs. It was a great adventure for her!

  57. HartKitt March 5, 2010 at 3:58 am #

    It does seem that city kids have more freedom if everyone’s posts are any indications. We live in Brooklyn and taking the bus to school is a necessity for many kids. My kids are 9, 11 and 14 and they ride together but we’ve been over procedures to follow if the youngest gets separated in the crush. In any case, after years of slowly evolving free-rangeness they all seem remarkably competent. Prior to the bus they were walking 10 blocks to school together.

    Our neighborhood is full of kids walking by themselves. And my impression is that everyone from the video store owner around the corner to the bus drivers are keeping an eye out and are part of the proverbial village, even in our borough of 3 million people.

    On the other hand, I know full well that lots of people don’t approve of the way I’m raising my kids. Last year we dyed my 9 year old’s hair fuschia after extensive discussion to make sure she really wanted it and the reaction was very instructive. Many people were appalled, horrified. It made me wonder: what exactly is so horrifying about a girl dying her hair? I still haven’t figured it out. Of course, she’s in a school where fuschia hair is normal so that hasn’t been a problem.

    I also have a little nagging concern at the back of my head because my kids aren’t maintained like prize thoroughbreds. I’m worried that someone is going to call CPS on me because my son looks more like Huck Finn than Tom Sawyer. They choose their own clothes and are responsible for a lot of aspects of their personal care which means they are not always perfect looking. For that matter, I never put house-keeping at the top of my list so they’re surrounded by a legion of dust bunnies. For me, being a parent was not about being a maid. It was about reading books or doing science experiments or drawing pictures, not vaccuming. But I know there are people out there who are prepared to think I am abusing my kids because the house isn’t House Beautiful.

    I only hope that the fact that all three are personable, intelligent and healthy will speak for itself if the time ever comes. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed.

    Oh, and that stuff about documenting bruises. I can only say ??? Aren’t bruises a part of childhood? I spent my entire childhood covered with bruises and cuts from climbing and running and falling. My kids have their share but nothing like I did. I don’t think it would even be possible to go around taking note of every bruise or nick they get.