UPDATE: To The Man Who Called the Police on 2 Little Girls Instead of Calling Their Parents

UPDATE: itdzedssde
Readers, this is from the mom who wrote the post, who, like me, as been very touched by your emotional support as well as your offers of financial support:

“To all the kind people who have made such supportive comments, thank you very much.  We are very touched by the offers that have been made of financial contributions, and though we’re not accustomed to asking for help, all of this is causing both families financial hardship, so we are looking into setting something up to accommodate that, and will let you know.  Unfortunately, we are advised for now to remain anonymous until after the trial, which is some time away yet.  Again, thank you.”

Readers, This comes to us from a mom in D.C. who, believe it or not, still participated in “Take Our Children to the Park … and Leave Them There” Day. Talk about a dedicated Free-Ranger!  And so — her story (long, but worth it): 

To the man who called the police on two little girls instead of calling their parents:

A couple of weeks ago, on a Sunday at around noon, my family were visiting family friends.  Our older child, 6, and theirs, 7, had been playing games on a tablet and getting underfoot all morning, so we sent them outside to get some fresh air.  We told them that they could go down to the creek in the woods behind the house, visible from the back windows, where they had been many times before.  We made them wear appropriate footwear and packed extra socks and tissues for stuffy noses.  We gave them explicit instructions to stay on the near side of the creek.  No matter how many times I have reviewed that decision since then, it still always looks like good parenting to me.

Shortly after the girls got to the creek, however, they made another decision—they decided to continue through the woods on a route they knew,  walk past the shopping center on the other side, and loop back through another section of woods to the house.   They wanted to show that they could do it.  This was undoubtedly a poor decision, and it has certainly been made abundantly clear to both of them that this is so.  It was not, however, inherently unsafe, or something  they were not capable of.  It was a poor decision simply because they were disobeying their parents, and creating a situation in which, had anything gone wrong, we would have had no idea where to look for them.  Both girls knew where they were going and how to get back, and our daughter’s friend knew her phone number and address.  Both girls know how to behave safely around cars.  Both girls have even had some self-defense training, if it should come to that.  They are competent, responsible little girls, which is why it was so surprising to us that they did what they did—we gave them the freedom they were granted precisely because nothing they had previously done would have lead us to expect this of them, and we trusted them.

They were at the furthest extent of their looping route, less than a thousand feet from the house and twelve minutes after they left us, when they encountered you as they walked through the shopping center, and you stopped and questioned them.  They spoke readily to you, because neither of them have been taught that they must not talk to strangers.  Strangers are simply people that we don’t know yet, and we refuse to train our children to fear people or shut themselves off from new connections.

I’m sure that you acted in good faith, sir.  I can easily guess that you are a product of a culture that has made much of “stranger danger” and become very uncomfortable with the idea of children on their own, not protected from the oft-imagined lurking predator.  But I don’t know why you didn’t call us when you were given a phone number that would have reached us immediately.  Perhaps you genuinely believed that any parent who would let their children slip away like that was deserving of police scrutiny.  Perhaps you have no children, and so imagine that parents can always have perfect control over their young charges, which we clearly didn’t.  I very much wish you had just called us—we would have been there in minutes, our children would have been amply horrified by the consequences of their actions, and we would have been duly warned to extend them less trust for a time.

Whatever your reason, you decided that the appropriate thing to do would be to call the police.  Did you call 911, I wonder?  Did you actually consider two calm, articulate little girls on a walk to be an emergency?  I don’t know.  Maybe you are just a very firm respecter of authority.

The police came with admirable speed.  Somewhat less admirably, they chose to put the girls in the cruiser (with no car seats) rather than, again, resorting to the completely available option of calling their parents to come get them.  They brought the girls back to us a total of twenty minutes after they first walked out of the door.  They could have just told us what happened and admonished us to keep better tabs on our children.  They could have just handed over their official-looking little card about age restrictions (which they incorrectly believed to be law, but which in fact were only county recommendations) and told us not to let it happen again.  But you see, when you call the police, this creates pressure on the police to Do Something.  So what they did was arrest us—one parent from each family, our choice, with no chance for private conference to decide.  They tried to arrest us for felony neglect of a minor, but apparently even the magistrate thought that was ridiculous, so they went for misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor instead.  They informed us that we would be reported to the Department of Social Services and probably contacted by Child Protective Services — which we have been.

Now, we have carefully read all of the relevant laws and recommendations since then, and it is clear to us that we have not actually committed any such crime, for the principle reason that our daughters are not delinquent.  They are not “in need of services,” they do not habitually run away, they are certainly not neglected, and they harmed no one.   We hope and believe, therefore, that when our court date at long last comes up, we will be acquitted of the charge and we sincerely hope that our records will be expunged, because if they are not, you probably realize that having a criminal record of any sort can be very limiting to one’s career and opportunities.

By now, as you have been subpoenaed for the trials of both families, you probably realize a little of what you have wrought.  I hope that you are dismayed.  Even so, I find it difficult to imagine that you have any idea of the fear, shock, humiliation, and rage that our families have experienced because of all this.  I find it difficult to imagine that you know what it’s like to be afraid that your own government will punish you for having done your best to be a good parent.  To be arrested for absolutely nothing anyone is even claiming that you did, in the middle of a peaceful afternoon of sewing and childcare.  To jump every time the phone rings, every time a car slows down.  To forget for a few minutes or an hour, as the days go by, and then suddenly remember with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.  To have to let a stranger into your house—a stranger with the virtually unchecked power to take your children away from you—so that she can poke around and interrogate your child and decide whether you are fit parents.  To see your confident, strong-willed child afraid to play outside or let her little sister do so, because the lesson she has taken from this is to “never go outside.”

There are also more tangible problems—several thousand dollars in lawyer’s fees, for example, which we will not get back even if we are declared wholly guiltless.  And if, heaven forbid, a further miscarriage of justice declares two devoted parents to be criminals, then there will be large fines and much, much larger blots on their record and reputation from then on.

Possibly you believe that, while all of this is unfortunate, it is a necessary side effect of a reasonable effort to keep children safe from predators and abusive or neglectful parents.  Do you remember when you were a child?  Did you ever roam the neighborhood with your friends, or walk home from school, or go to the gas station to buy candy?  Maybe you walked to the library from time to time.  We did all of those things, and gained skill, independence, and confidence by doing so.  No one believed that our parents were neglectful.  Perhaps you believe, as many do, that those are bygone days of relative peace and security.  If so, you may be interested to know that this is entirely a media-created illusion, a product of the sheer selling power of horror stories and “stranger danger.”  Crime rates, against both children and adults, are actually lower now than when we were children.  What’s more, the overwhelming majority of missing children are taken by relatives, or run away, or are simply abandoned.  Only a tiny fraction of them are kidnapped by strangers.

Our daughters disobeyed us, yes.  But did they create an emergency?  Were they in imminent danger that required the police?  I cannot believe that it is so.  By turning to the police for every problem, real or imagined, we waste their time and our money, and we create enormous pressure on them to Prevent Bad Things From Happening and thus to Do Something About It.  The consequences of which I hope you now see clearly.  By living in fear of the wildly improbable, we deprive our children of the chance to learn and explore and grow up.  I hope that next time you see a child in public and don’t see a caretaker right away, you’ll consider just being a good neighbor, maybe asking the child if he or she needs help, maybe waiting by the child until a caretaker can be found if you really, really feel the need.

Maybe you could save another family from the terrible, terrible experience we—and others like us—have had. – D.C. Mom

Do we have to call 911 anytime we see kids on their own now?

Do we have to call 911 anytime we see kids on their own now?

, , , , , , , , ,

195 Responses to UPDATE: To The Man Who Called the Police on 2 Little Girls Instead of Calling Their Parents

  1. Will May 19, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    This guy who called should be jailed for false reporting. The police officers involved should be reprimanded or suspended without pay for a year. The parents should be repaid their legal costs out of government funds. The CPS officer who followed up on this joke of a situation should be removed from service.

    Anything less, and this will continue to happen.

  2. Caiti May 19, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    This story had me in tears. I know first hand how humiliating and scary it is to face senseless allegations, knowing that the unthinkable very well may happen. Please post information on how we can contribute to legal bills. What I’ve learned is the best way to win is usually to hire an experienced (read: expensive) lawyer and other experts.

  3. E May 19, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    So well written. I wonder, would a newspaper/publication print it in full? I would hope the parent pursues that — it’s SO good.

    And I’m so sorry for what happened. Just awful.

  4. Sara A. May 19, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    I’m raising a little girl in DC and this terrifies me.

  5. BL May 19, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    They (the police and CPS) are from the government and they’re here to help.

  6. SKL May 19, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    Crazy! And my mom thinks I’m nuts to keep my house “clean enough for CPS” just in case. :/

    I let my kids walk to the park a mile away when they were 6. This story is freaking me out. Now my kids are 7 and I think people will let them be. But who knows, especially with one of them being petite.

    One thing I try to do is to make sure that if my kids are going somewhere, they have someplace to go. I figure if kids look like they are headed in a clear direction, nobody will think they are lost / abandoned / disoriented etc. But obviously if they decided to wander off for the fun and adventure of it all (like I did as a kid), that plan would not work….

    Good luck to these families. I’m glad they subpoena’d the guy who called the cops, so he could get a tiny taste of the havoc he has wrought. I hope it makes him nervous and that taking off work is a hassle for him, at the very least. :/

  7. Puzzled May 19, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    >Shortly after the girls got to the creek, however, they made another decision—they decided >to continue through the woods on a route they knew, walk past the shopping center on the >other side, and loop back through another section of woods to the house. They wanted to >show that they could do it. This was undoubtedly a poor decision, and it has certainly been >made abundantly clear to both of them that this is so. It was not, however, inherently >unsafe, or something they were not capable of. It was a poor decision simply because they >were disobeying their parents, and creating a situation in which, had anything gone wrong, >we would have had no idea where to look for them.

    Hmm. This, I imagine, comes down to the question I rose a few months ago on the comments – between free-range as a good way to raise kids, and a choice that should be respected by the outside world – and free-range as a moral imperative in response to the rights of children.

    As always, I’ll emphasize that I’m not a parent, and would probably feel differently if I were. But my beliefs are my beliefs, and I’m not going to silence them simply because I’m not, as it were, “within” the situation.

    So, my question is – why is it wrong to do something that is perfectly safe, and in the spirit of the initial activity, simply because doing so is disobedient? Is obedience a good value to teach to children, or should we be teaching them to question authority? For myself, I don’t want to be obeyed. I know I might give a wrong instruction. I don’t want my students to obey me – if my instruction is incorrect, I want them to disobey. In fact, I think many problems our society faces can be traced back to children learning all too well the importance of obedience.

  8. Steve May 19, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    This story is one more illustration of our country as the totalitarian police state it has become. I have recently read a number of books about Red China under Mao and you may or may not be surprised at the similarities.

    Books I recommend:

    Son of the Revolution Paperback
    by Liang Heng



    Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard
    by Fan Shen


  9. Tom May 19, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    @Will, I’m not sure the problem is false reporting, though he was obviously a busybody who seemed to know what was best for other people’s kids.

    The worse problem is that the reaction of the police was not to admonish him to use more common sense next time, maybe call the parents (not even sure that is necessary less than a half a mile from the house) and let it go at that.

    As the writer said, I hope he is horrified to see that his little stunt has turned into criminal charges and a supoena for him.

  10. SWaldron May 19, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    Seriously, there needs to be some sort of recourse for people who are found innocent of accusations. People are all too willing to be tattletales, completely forgetting the lesson we all should have learned in kindergarten that “tattletales are not helpful.” That said, I too would be willing to contribute to a defense fund.

  11. Mike May 19, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    I think this illustrated both people’s tendency to panic over children alone and their misunderstanding of our legal system. The person who called the police probably didn’t think it would explode like this. They don’t understand that this is what the legal system does. If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you’re a cop these days, everyone look like a criminal and if you’re CPS, everyone looks like an abusive parent.

  12. Rick May 19, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    Why would anyone call the police in such a situation? Don’t they know calling the police can get you killed?

    Call the cops at your peril: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38459.htm

  13. Neil M May 19, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would be surprised that children might — gasp! — disobey their parents. I thought that kind of thing was pretty much wired into kids, along with Limited Attention Span, Sometimes Making Poor Decisions, and Incomplete Emotional Control.

    I think we have to expect that children will often do things we don’t want, and calibrate our responses based on the harm they do or experience. In this case, two children wandered out of the area in which they were permitted to go, and came to no harm. While that may be a subject of parental concern, it is not a matter for the police.

  14. Steve S May 19, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    I agree that this is not a false report, but it is certainly an overreaction by everyone that responded. I can’t imagine calling the police in that type of situation. I am also disappointed at the actions of the police and the prosecutor. Is this really a good use of the court system? I hate to sound cliche, but aren’t there enough real criminals to go after? Honestly, unless there is much more to the story, I can’t see anything that approaches criminal neglect.

  15. L Nettles May 19, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    When I was seven years old my parents let me sail a Sunfish sailboat with my friends. We did have to wear a lifejacket.

  16. anonymous mom May 19, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    @Puzzled, I was actually discussing this issue with somebody else this morning.

    “Is obedience a good value to teach to children, or should we be teaching them to question authority?”

    I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I think that questioning or challenging authority when it is unjust or illegitimate is a good thing. However, I think a healthy respect for legitimate, just authority is also a good thing. I think parents can teach their children to do both.

    My oldest is allowed to take his little sister for bike/scooter rides around a field across from our house. He can also take her, if they let me know, around the block, with no street crossing. If my son truly felt those rules were unfair and that he was capable of taking her to, say, the library five blocks away, and he wanted to make a case to me for that, I’d be open to hearing him out. I don’t think he needs to unquestioningly accept all of my rules. (That doesn’t mean I’d necessarily allow it, but I’d definitely hear him out and consider what he had to say.)

    But, if they decided to tell me they were going to ride around the field and it turned out they decided to ride to the library, I’d be very upset and there’d be consequences. To me, that kind of outright disobedience is not questioning authority, but is just lying and disrespect. I think there are right and wrong ways to question or challenge authority you think is unfair, and I don’t think lying and breaking a rule you agreed to obey is one of them.

  17. Don May 19, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Mmph, I’m not sure I’d condemn the caller. I would not call the cops in this circumstance, but just like the author doesn’t want him to make assumptions about their parenting, can we make assumptions about his reasoning? I don’t know what else was going on in this person’s head or observation. If they felt like they needed to involve authority I’m kinda inclined to cut them that slack.

    The clear miscreants here are obviously the cops – who seem totally cool with cutting all KINDS of slack to fellow law enforcement under “professional courtesy,” and making judgment calls about skipping many other sorts of arrests – and the various other agencies who turned a wander-off into arrests and charges and processes. I seriously worry about police over-steps and dog-murdering, but that’s not the fault of the person who makes the initial call. That’s too close to victim blaming for me.

  18. Krolik May 19, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    So sorry this happened to you! I hope the local papers will print your very well-written letter.

  19. David DeLugas May 19, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Will (and others posting) are correct. Until and unless people responsible are held accountable for such outrageous responses in violation of the Constitutional right of parents to control their own children except when necessary to protect children from actual harm, physical or long-term emotional harm. The National Association of Parents is growing in strength (number of dues paying members and funds) with which to seek legislative changes to prohibit such responses and to bring legal action against those who commit such violations. Only then will others be forced to find better responses, responses that do not violate the rights of the parents and, candidly, of those children to play freely!! https://www.parentsusa.org

  20. SOA May 19, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    Did you admit to letting the kids off on their own? I don’t know but maybe in situations like this it might be better to be all “OMG I thought they were in their room playing!!!! You know you are not allowed to go outside by yourself blah blah” and that might actually get a better reaction.
    Or at least tell them you told them to play in the back yard and they wandered off.

    Honestly that may be the way to play it. Because cops generally don’t seem as willing to punish parents for mistakes as they do willingly doing something. Because many cops are parents themselves and they know kids wander off so if you play it that way it might go better for you.

  21. Margaret Moon May 19, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    I believe that the agencies that followed up this incident were just justifying their existence. If they didn’t “make a show” how would they continue to convince the public that they are needed because they are “protecting the children.”

  22. Jenna K. May 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    I just don’t understand the call the police mentality. I once found a 4-year-old child in a store (IKEA) who had clearly gotten separated from his parents. My kids and I just walked (backtracking) with him until we found his mom, who was talking to a salesperson and hadn’t realized he’d wandered off. We returned him to her and that was that. Why can’t people think logically anymore? It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind to raise a ruckus over something like that.

  23. E May 19, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    @puzzled, if a parent and child agree that the kids will be in place X for Y long, it’s an agreement. It doesn’t mean that the kids (in other situations) wouldn’t be allowed to do other things, it just means that right here/right now, this is the agreement. They might want to leave in 20 minutes and don’t want to have to figure out where they are. Whatever. That’s why the adults are the parents.

    I’ll also say that it’s probably a pretty bad precedent when kids feel like they can just supersede rules/agreements if they can rationalize it (in their own minds). It would make parenting a teen pretty difficult.

  24. MichaelF May 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    What about protecting kids from an abusive “justice” system?

  25. SKL May 19, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    We teach kid stranger protocol etc. Is anyone teaching adults the protocol for what to do if you encounter a child?

    In this case it seems obvious to me that you ask the child a few simple questions (if you’re going to meddle at all).

    1. Hi! Whatcha doing / where ya going / where are you coming from?
    2. What’s your parents’ cell phone number?

    Based on the answer to 1, decide whether it’s safe to send the kids on and/or whether a call to their parents is appropriate.

    I think what would have been most helpful in the situation would be for the guy to point the girls toward home and then call the parent so the parent could respond appropriately to the girls’ choices.

    Maybe we need a law that requires people to call the parent first if the child is able to provide a phone number.

  26. Susan May 19, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    Please post info so we can help contribute to legal fees. This is ridiculous and makes me so scared to let my kids play at the park or anywhere unsupervised. It’s not stranger danger; it’s stranger-busy-bodies and the State.

  27. Donna May 19, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    @puzzled – Being told that you can go to area A and deciding yourself that you want to go to area B is not questioning authority; it is completely ignoring authority. I don’t expect my child to ever unquestioning obey me. I am always very open to discussions about our rules and, while I don’t always agree with her, I don’t think I’ve ever told her “because I say so” about anything. I do, however, expect her to not completely ignore what I tell her and just do whatever the heck she wants to do whenever she wants to do it. You can’t parent in that kind of chaos.

  28. Neil M May 19, 2014 at 12:53 pm #


    Couldn’t agree more. I’d add also that, if we want to be a truly family-aware society, we must recognize that parents have only two eyes and one brain, and that limitation means that occasionally kids will slip away in a crowded store or pick up a piece of refuse from the ground or do something else that is not optimal. Instead of putting parents before the Star Chamber for every infraction, we could just pick up that teeny, tiny bit of slack by lending a helpful hand where appropriate and then minding our own damned business.

    (Sorry to be so grumpy, but I’m tired of all the judgment that’s levied against parents for things that are COMPLETELY NOT A PROBLEM.)

  29. Brooke May 19, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    Here’s a head exploding thought…with the guy that stopped the two girls (which wasn’t his business for sure) called the cops because he was afraid of being falsely accused of something after talking to two young girls?

    And how sad for these girls that it’s “their fault” that mom or dad got arrested. As a child with OCD, that would have doubled my therapy needs for years.

  30. Donna May 19, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    Wow, this is the second time in the last couple weeks I’ve read almost this same scenario. The other case didn’t result in arrest (to my knowledge) but police were called and CPS became involved after a couple of kids wandered off and a busy-body refused to call their parents, despite them giving said busy-body the phone numbers, and instead insisted on calling the police. The other case was in Atlanta and just happened so would be no where near subpoenaing trial witnesses, so it was definitely a different case, but scarily similar.

  31. Dee May 19, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

    This letter should appear in every newspaper in the land. Lenore is getting the word out, but there has to be more! You still hear it all the time about “how you can’t let your kids do that anymore.” It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy! Forget kids questioning authority, we need to!

    This summer, I want to teach my son to use our bus system so that he can use it get around on his own. He’s 12 and fully ready for it (perhaps past ready but this is the first chance we’ve had). I get two responses from people generally. Thankfully no one has called me crazy, but response #1 is a wide-eyed stare and a quick subject change. Response #2 (a much smaller group) enthusiastically agrees with my choice.

  32. SKL May 19, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    I also thought “what if he was afraid of being accused…” But then I thought, BS, he didn’t have to do anything but talk to the children from a reasonable talking distance and then decide if a call to the parents was warranted.

    Chances are the parents would have gotten there to pick up the kids as fast as the police did, or faster.

  33. SKL May 19, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Call me evil, but I do tell my kids that if they do xyz, I could get arrested and they could be forced to live with a stranger.

    I can’t wait until they are too old for strangers to “worry about the poor little darlings.”

  34. tana C May 19, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    I agree with Will, except I think the parents should recoup their attorneys’ fees from the man who called the police as part of his fine for waste of government time and money, or possibly as damages for causing unnecessary pain and suffering to the families. Why should taxpayers have to pay for the consequences of one misguided man’s actions?

  35. SKL May 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    As for obedience – I agree that there was an agreement and the kids broke it. Presumably they were allowed out “alone” because they agreed to stay within specified boundaries.

    Most kids of this age are not ready to be trusted to handle certain risks. Without some expectation of “obedience” we couldn’t allow such kids many freedoms.

    I also submit that parental boundaries make young kids feel more secure than “use your brain and do what you think is right” or “I don’t care what you do.”

  36. E May 19, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    I don’t know if this is just not common where I live, or I just haven’t heard about it. It does make me reflect on the time that my elementary aged kid hit a car in our pool’s parking lot with his bike. I wish I could remember how old he was, but he scraped her door panel with his handlebar as he turned to avoid her (to the tune of $1500). She called the police before she called us, she wouldn’t let him go get his brother (who had left a few seconds ahead of him), and refused to move her car (like it was a traffic accident) blocking other cars. By the time we arrived to get him and deal with her, my son was shaking head to toe thinking the police were coming for him (he’d heard her call).

    The GOOD NEWS is that both the police and her husband refused to come to the “scene”. She finally agreed to take our contact info and let my husband leave (I’d insisted on taking my son home).

    We were advised by a lawyer friend (who heard about it — we did not seek advice) that there was no way to pin the responsibility on him at his age and in a private parking lot where she was also moving, but we paid for it anyway.

    Was so glad the police had better things to do.

  37. Reziac May 19, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Someone asks,
    “Is obedience a good value to teach to children, or should we be teaching them to question authority?”

    I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.

    What they need to learn is reasoned obedience, so if authority demands something obviously irrational, they at least think about it rather than just blindly obeying it.

    As to the kids being disobedient, I got the feeling that this might have been a consequence of the ‘free range’ being perhaps a little more restricted than the parents realise, which is going to lead to more ‘testing the boundary’ because for their age, it’s artificially close.

  38. Megan G May 19, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    My friend and I would really like to contribute to this family’s legal bills – because it is that ridiculous that they should have any related to this nonsense! If such a fund is set up please let us know.

  39. E May 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    @tanac….do you not believe in good samaritan laws? Of course, this man over-reacted to the situation, but wouldn’t it just be an opportunity for the police to educate him that he was indeed overreacting?

    He may have been well intentioned, yet wrong, but I imagine he had NO IDEA that this would snowball into what it became.

    But if people are afraid to do anything for fear of legal or financial repercussions, would they ever call for help?

    That’s why the letter is great. It educates people who might make a similar decision, and it educates the population what is happening AFTER that phone call is made. The worst part, is that the man STILL doesn’t know what happened as a downstream effect. He probably thinks the kids got a ride home and the parents talked to. Who would ever imagine this is the outcome?

  40. Reziac May 19, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

    Well, here’s a tit-for-tat defense against busybodies: when your kids notice an adult bent on interfering in this way, have the kids holler for the cops to save them from the perv with too much interest in children’s affairs. That would put a halt to this crap in a hurry.


  41. E May 19, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    @ Reziac , I don’t think any of us have the ability to judge what was free-range enough for these 2 kids. They might not have wanted them to cross the creek for whatever reason. They might want them to be close enough to call them in for whatever reason.

    That’s the whole point. The parents can evaluate the exact situation and decide what the parameters should be. 6/7 year olds don’t get to do that on the fly after an agreement has been made. The correct behavior was to return to the house, explain what they wanted to do and ask for permission. That’s it.

    I have a sister that is as free range as on could get. Never once would care if her kids were dirty head to toe. At the end of a long camping trip they were packing up to leave. Her youngest would not stop playing with the fire pit. He’d split wood, stoked and tended to the fire all week. But he had on his last clean clothes and they had a 20 hour drive home — she didn’t want soot all over him and the car. He was convinced that he could mess around with out getting dirty. Guess who was right? She was. He got dirty and they had to deal with him being dirty and smelling like ashes. I don’t think I’d ever seen her so annoyed. Sure, playing in the fire had been fine all week..but not today.

  42. J.T. Wenting May 19, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    “Do we have to call 911 anytime we see kids on their own now?”

    Given the current propensity to accuse every man alone near children of being a pedophile, as a man alone if you see a child alone the best thing you can do is call the police. At least that way you’re creating a trail of evidence to support your claims that you were not trying to abduct those children…

    That’s sadly what we’ve come to.

  43. John May 19, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    This is absolutely insane. I certainly hope there is more to this story than this lady is letting on but I doubt it. Now giving the man who called the police the benefit of the doubt, most likely he didn’t realize what these parents would be put through or perhaps he would have called the parents directly. It’s all hindsight now. But then again, you see two young kids riding their bikes, so what? What is there to report? As far as the charges these parents are facing, goodness gracious, young children disobey their parents all the time. Older children disobey their parents quite frequently, even in good and stable homes. So now do we arrest the parents for that? I’m not even a parent and this just pisses me off to no end as to what our nanny state put these parents through! I’m telling you, these parents NEVER would have been put through all this mess and legal expense if they were in the Philippines or in many other countries. Only in America!

  44. Puzzled May 19, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    Well, I certainly got a lot of responses. I didn’t expect a lot of agreement on my question, although I think Neil maybe did a better job of getting at what I meant than I did. Anyway, I guess I just viscerally react to ‘disobedience.’ Where I work, most detentions are for lateness, which I think is absurd (half an hour of physical labor as payment for being 2 seconds late?) But I still react more strongly to the detentions given out for insubordination, not following directions, and inappropriate behavior. I object to the first 2 because of what they teach, and the third because it can mean just about anything. In any case, I guess disobedience is just another word I’m allergic to, since I can see the points made about agreements. However, if you and I agree to meet for lunch, and you don’t show up, I won’t punish you – the consequence, if you want, is that we don’t have lunch together. Why should an agreement with your child be any different?

  45. Puzzled May 19, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    Well, I certainly got a lot of responses. I didn’t expect a lot of agreement on my question, although I think Neil maybe did a better job of getting at what I meant than I did. Anyway, I guess I just viscerally react to ‘disobedience.’ Where I work, most detentions are for lateness, which I think is absurd (half an hour of physical labor as payment for being 2 seconds late?) But I still react more strongly to the detentions given out for insubordination, not following directions, and inappropriate behavior. I object to the first 2 because of what they teach, and the third because it can mean just about anything. In any case, I guess disobedience is just another word I’m allergic to, since I can see the points made about agreements. However, if you and I agree to meet for lunch, and you don’t show up, I won’t punish you – the consequence, if you want, is that we don’t have lunch together. Why should an agreement with your child be any different?

  46. MiRoLa May 19, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    Two thoughts occurred to me as an attorney:

    1. We need to start a “free range legal defense fund.”
    2. We need to start a network of pro bono attorneys around the country who can be called upon to defend against these misguided prosecutions.

  47. john f May 19, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    As I read further and further into this self promotion, I kept getting a stronger feeling of ATTITUDE. This woman’s child had made it to a shopping mall, AKA out of sight not in view all the time. Perhaps some errands by children are harmless, but the ” over the river and through the woods to the shopping mall we go ” does seem a bit much. Should the police simply return these children to parents who appeared, at least to me, to tell their daughters to go play in traffic because they were underfoot instead of introducing them to participate in the crafty pursuits of that afternoon instead of the IT’s not my fault America you evil busybody, LOOK what you did to me. Please, I gave you more credit than this claptrap Lenore. She got what she deserved, and unfortunately still doesn’t understand or accept responsibility. Stupid is still stupid even in the 21st century.

  48. john f May 19, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    Since you require an email address from commenters, you should easily be able to discern if I had commented earlier which I hadn’t. Not to worry, GOODBYE.

  49. Mark Swan May 19, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    I bet the busy body will double down on the witness stand to try to make himself look responsible instead of ridiculous. The police should have asked if the girls were causing trouble, then asked if they could get home, and maybe told them to go home just to end the situation.

    My worst first thinking always jumps to CPS.

  50. Puzzled May 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    Just to add – I also have an issue with the idea that freedom is granted conditional on doing what you’re told. The idea that the kids are free to go out on their own, as long as they go where they’re told, is a caricature of freedom.

  51. E May 19, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    @Puzzled. You are trying to equate a working manager/subordinate and an adult friendship to the management and upbringing of a child, who by definition does not posess the education and experience to make all the decisions as it pertains to their day to day life. It’s absolutely not the same as any adult relationship.

    And you know, sometimes parents have good reasons for making the ‘rule of the day’ a certain way. If they want to say “today, we need you to stay in the backyard” the kids can ask why or not, but they can’t expect to do something different and not get questioned about a unilateral decision.

    (well, unless you’re at the play place in the last post, then I guess it’s ok, LOL)

    But this is OT from the very troubling topic and the writers awesome letter than needs to be shared. Does Huffpost pick up these kind of things? Reddit??

  52. Mark Swan May 19, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    Sadly, J.T. Wenting, that thought occurred to me as well. We men can’t be trusted to help children on our own so he has to rely on police.

  53. AOB May 19, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    I am so sorry this happened to your family. It especially saddens that your children learned to fear going outside. My husband and I both stay home at the moment, as my husband is between jobs, and we are completely dedicated to our children. We have made free-range decisions that have also lead to several 911 calls, and it was utterly humiliating, even though it did not lead to arrests. I sympathize with the extremity of your situation. I would also like to contribute to your defense and hope that your story received wider coverage. The situation is especially dire, as I imagine no politician could possibly take your side, for fear of appearing irresponsible and negligent. Again, I sympathize with you deeply.

  54. Betsy in Michigan May 19, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    OP, please get this published in your local newspaper! And do consider a lawsuit against this misguided man, not for revenge, but to help us retain our civil rights!

  55. anonymous mom May 19, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    I had the same thought about fear of false accusations. At the very least, the man might have felt that he could not approach the girls himself without either freaking them out or raising suspicions, and so felt calling the police was his only safe option (for himself, not the parents, obviously).

    Back to the authority issue, I was loathe to invoke my parental authority when my first was younger, and it didn’t go well for either of us. Just like it is frustrating for kids to be denied freedoms they are ready for, it’s also frustrating to be asked to make choices or to be given explanations that they simply can’t understand. I’ve come to realize that there is a kind of innate authority that comes with being the parent to a child–even my very defiant oldest recognizes that he is supposed to listen to me and his father and feels badly when he doesn’t–and parenting goes more smoothly when you use that wisely than if you refuse to accept it.

  56. JulieC May 19, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    When I read this kind of thing I’m so grateful to live in a community which encourages kids to walk to school, ride bikes around town, etc.

    Once I was dropping my son off at school and I saw a kid crossing the street in the middle, head down, clearly not paying attention to cars around him. I did not know who the kid was, but my son knew his name. When I got home, I called the school secretary and told her I was worried about this kid because he didn’t seem to be interested in crossing the street near school in a safe manner. She knew immediately who he was, and I found out later that the boy lived with only his father, who was rather a distant parent (I won’t go so far as to say neglectful but certainly not very engaged). She assured me she would talk to the boy about crossing at the crosswalk.

    It would never have occurred to me to call the police! He was a goofy kid who, as it turns out, had some other issues to deal with, but they didn’t rise to the level of criminal behavior. And thankfully the school secretary was (and still is) as level-headed as they come.

  57. E May 19, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

    @Betsy in Michigan….sue the man that called???? So, the answer to over-reacting is over-reacting? Maybe he can counter-sue them and on and on.

    The guy made a decision that had far reaching impact that he probably had no idea would start this snowball. He was misguided and wrong. He does not deserve to be sued. You are trying to hold that man to a higher standard than the police who should be experienced and level headed enough to deal with this completely differently than they chose to.


  58. Andrea May 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    @Puzzled — You pose a question I grapple with as well. I try to teach my kids about the positive uses of disobedience, and try to respect when they make their own decisions even if they go against the original plan. But I think when you’re letting little kids roam the neighborhood, especially in the “OMG CALL CPS” climate, it’s important for kids to understand that they are being trusted with a big responsibility, and that sticking to the agreement of what they’re allowed to do is part of being trusted with that responsibility.

    My seven-year-old son has been allowed to walk and ride his bike around the entire block of our neighborhood for the past year. He has also walked home from the grocery store alone after our grocery trip, and has even ridden his bike home alone from the creek and the bike store across from the same grocery store on the other side of a busy street, crossing by himself and all. We had planned for him to be allowed to walk from our house to the grocery store and back alone this summer (about a mile round trip), but he’s been making a lot of unwise and impulsive decisions with his freedom lately. Last month he went inside a neighbor’s house who we don’t know, which broke a very important rule! She turned out to be a nice grandma who was having a BBQ for her grandson and some other neighborhood kids, but it got too windy to eat outside. He knew he shouldn’t go in, but he didn’t want to be rude. I told him I understood his dilemma, but that not going inside people’s houses without permission was such an important rule that we had to postpone his solo trips to the grocery store until he was showing me he could handle difficult decisions better. We also decided he needs to get his act together and finally memorize our phone numbers so he can call if something like this comes up again and that in general he needs to cut back on all the sneaky impulsive things he’s been doing lately.

    He’s so eager to go to the store by himself that he’s got the phone numbers down and has been much better about the sneaky stuff, so he’s back on track for going to the store in a couple weeks. I think it’s also important that I can trust him to follow the rules while he’s out on his own because he’s in a position to demonstrate to the nervous public that a seven-year-old IS capable of handling himself safely, independently, and responsibly in the world. It may seem sad, but his generation has certain responsibilities they must assume if they are to reclaim their childhood freedoms. They can’t just suddenly have the freedoms of the early 1900’s in the current cultural climate, much as we wish they could.

  59. Donna May 19, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    Puzzled – Children are not treated like adult friends because they aren’t adults or friends. It really is that simple. We talk a lot here about infantilizing children, but adultifying children is equally as damaging to them.

  60. E May 19, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    @Andrea — what you are are describing is parenting. There are no rules or approaches that apply to all situations. I trust the original poster that she had legit reasons (even if those are reasons of convenience) to limit the kids, just like you are in the process of doing.

    I have to admit, I’m curious about allowing your kid to attend a BBQ at someone’s home but not inside the home? I can understand saying they shouldn’t go into someone’s home they don’t know, but if it is a social event for which they have accepted an invitation?

  61. anonymous mom May 19, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    @Donna: “We talk a lot here about infantilizing children, but adultifying children is equally as damaging to them.” I totally agree. I think this is also a huge area where age comes into play. I think our society’s “0-18 is all the same” mentality is really silly and damaging, in that it both causes people to underestimate and put really unnecessary restrictions on their teens (developmentally-typical 14 year olds who have babysitters, 15 year olds who can’t walk to school, 17 year olds who have mom go on jobs interviews with them) and to have unrealistic expectations for the capacities of smaller children (expecting toddlers to be able to behave in environments where they simply can’t, thinking preschoolers should respond to reason).

    At 6 and 7, I do think most children still require a lot of direct parental authority, and are not old enough to make decisions about things like appropriate boundaries for a day outside. I don’t think “free range” means allowing children to simply roam free, period, but allowing them freedom within reasonable, non-hysterical boundaries. My 10yo is old enough that I do trust him to have input and sometimes make his own decisions about boundaries: if he feels that he can safely ride his bike to a friend’s house, I respect that and trust that he can do it (especially because I know he’s pretty cautious and will tell me if he *doesn’t* think he should do something). At 6 or 7, I wouldn’t have allowed him to make decisions like that, and at 4 my daughter would *insist* that she was capable of riding her scooter by herself to a friend’s house that involves crossing several busy streets and making a few turns, when she is in fact not at all ready to do that.

    I try not to pull the “parent” card, but this really wasn’t something I understood until I was a parent. Kids, especially little kids, are unreasonable. Left to their own devices, my 2 and 4 year olds would eat nothing but sugar cereal, watch endless TV, run in the street without looking, and never sleep. This isn’t because they are bad kids or I’m failing as a parent, but because they aren’t developmentally capable of making good decisions about self-care right now, the way that their older brother is increasingly able to. And my parenting has to reflect that.

  62. Jen (P.) May 19, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    @Puzzled “I also have an issue with the idea that freedom is granted conditional on doing what you’re told. The idea that the kids are free to go out on their own, as long as they go where they’re told, is a caricature of freedom.”

    A friend of mine once described parenting as watching your child drive down a highway while you control the guardrails. With a baby, those guardrails are high and run right alongside the road, so the baby is protected and can’t stray off the path. And as your child gets older, you gradually lower the guardrails and move them out to afford your kid more freedom. It’s not absolute freedom, because a young child is too immature for that. And when your kid screws up, you might have to move them back a bit. The idea, obviously, is to prepare them for the time when the guardrails are gone. . . . You seem to think they should never exist (even metaphorically) in the first place. Are you really suggesting these 6 and 7 year old kids should have been free to go anywhere they wanted?

  63. Andy May 19, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

    “So, my question is – why is it wrong to do something that is perfectly safe, and in the spirit of the initial activity, simply because doing so is disobedient?”

    It is not only disobedience, it is also that parents suddenly do not know where to find kids if they want/need to see them. That is big one. If they would call that they are going elsewhere, or went in predictable place that is different.

    Plus, kids at that age do not have enough reasoning skills to correctly decide what is and what is not safe/reasonable in all situations. The more obedient the kid is, the more likely I am to give him more freedom.

    “Is obedience a good value to teach to children, or should we be teaching them to question authority? ”

    Kids should think for themselves. They should not follow authority unquestioningly. I do not think their parents or anyone here would object if the creek would turn out to be dangerous that day or something similar.

    However, they should not disregard authority if there is no reason to do so. There is not much value in rebellion without higher cause. Especially if you have no chance to win.

    Plus, there are important and less important commands. I would teach my kid to know the difference. Staying where we agreed to would be an important one.

  64. E May 19, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    Brains continue to develop in teens, let alone 6 year old brains. That’s why it’s experience AND regular ol’ development.

    I hope we get an update on this process/procedure. And I wish the best to the parents!

    I think it’s been talked about recently, but how even grandparents who raised kids in a free range mindset (even w/o knowing it) have become more conservative. We were at the beach recently and there was a long boardwalk from the campground to beach. My niece’s daughter (almost 5) begged to run ahead (her younger brother was slow) toward the end of it to meet her grandparents already there. This was a very unpopulated beach, probably 30 people at a wide beach. She misjudged where to go (despite instruction and recollection of where they had been the prior day) and took off down the beach. When everyone realized she’d not made it to them, my sister and my niece took off down the beach. They quickly spotted her and had to run to catch up. Anyway, my “fear” would have been in sending a kid near the water, NOT that she’d get lost (how?) or abducted. She quite literally would have had to go MILES before she reached any development (this was NPS property). My mother (in her 80s) was quite wound up about it. Then my other sister reminded her we all walked to school from day 1. She didn’t quite buy it, but couldn’t really say much more. I was actually surprised at how “upset” everyone was — they were the ones that let her go to begin with!

  65. GFHardin May 19, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    Thanks! I’m very sad the lengths I need to go to give my son independence. I am BOGGLED that no one just Called The Parents.
    Thanks for sharing this – truly.

  66. SicSemperTyrannis May 19, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

    I am the father of the other girl.

    “Why would anyone call the police in such a situation? Don’t they know calling the police can get you killed?”

    Yes, all four parents are, unfortunately, painfully aware. We memorize names like Kelley Thomas, Abner Louima, Patricia Cook, and Aiyana Jones. All four of us have, as a result, approached this situation with somewhat less bravado than we might have dreamed we would.

    “Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would be surprised that children might — gasp! — disobey their parents.”

    I was delivered to my parents in a cruiser for the first time when I was less than three years old. I maintain to this day that I knew what I was doing. So I both expect it, and have spent all seven of my daughter’s years equipping her for it.

    “Honestly that may be the way to play it. Because cops generally don’t seem as willing to punish parents for mistakes as they do willingly doing something.”

    Both cops involved admitted to growing up free range. Both cops also freely discussed their time in the military and offered their training in following orders as an excuse for doing something they were clearly uncomfortable with. I’m not making that up.

    I’ve since found out that the invalidity of “just following orders” is covered by Nuremberg Principle IV. Look up “Nuremberg Principles” on Wikipedia. Perhaps if your child isn’t on the line and you feel like taking a spin on the nightstick shampoo roulette wheel, you can use that.

    “I believe that the agencies that followed up this incident were just justifying their existence. If they didn’t “make a show” how would they continue to convince the public that they are needed because they are “protecting the children.””

    Whether you believe it or not, this is objectively 100% accurate.

    “What about protecting kids from an abusive “justice” system?”

    The most depressing thing about this is the frequency with which I run into people who offer the ‘What if someone took your child’ argument. I always respond with ‘Someone DID TAKE MY CHILD…. someone who meant EVERYONE IN MY FAMILY harm.’

    “This is absolutely insane. I certainly hope there is more to this story than this lady is letting on but I doubt it.”

    I assure you, I’m reading this synopsis for the first time today and the only reactions I’ve had are editorial (as in ‘I would have phrased that slightly differently’).

    “Two thoughts occurred to me as an attorney:
    1. We need to start a “free range legal defense fund.”
    2. We need to start a network of pro bono attorneys around the country who can be called upon to defend against these misguided prosecutions.”

    I haven’t been in contact with OP as much as my wife but unfortunately our attorney’s tack is to win the case, which involves more personal humiliation than I would prefer (read: an amount greater than zero). I understand that attorneys must be pragmatists, but if there were such a fund/ network, one with a goal of fighting back as opposed to simply staying out of prison, I would definitely be far less cowed than I currently am.

  67. Michelle May 19, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    Something I learned in my many creative pursuits — first you learn to follow the rules. THEN you learn how and when to break them. Small children simply do not yet have the experience or the cognitive ability to make *all* decisions for themselves.

    Yes, you can explain to kids WHY they can’t jump around in the bathtub (because bathtubs are slippery and hard, and you could fall and bump your head), rock back in the chair (because the chair will break), hold their baby sister so she is sitting on their head (because you aren’t strong enough to keep her from falling if she jerks away from you), etc. But kids have an annoying tendency to think, “I’ll still do it; I’ll just be careful.” Which is why I have had to replace all of my dining chairs TWICE.

    Kids have to start out with structure. Then you give them small amounts of freedom, letting them gain experience within a context of understanding. That’s how they learn *how* to make good decisions on their own. Then they can see how, when, and why breaking the rules is ok (or even necessary).

  68. Aaron May 19, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    If people were like that back in the early 80’s when I was growing up, my parents would have been in to see a judge weekly.

    My mom was particularly irate with me when I walked home from her office 4 miles away when I was 7 or 8. hahaha! Good times. 🙂

  69. Sandy May 19, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    To the 2 parents– you can use a site like ‘GoFundMe.com’ or similar to set up a way for us to contribute to your legal defense. Assuming Lenore allows you to post the link in this thread, it’d be a start, though only for your case.

  70. Michelle May 19, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    “I think it’s been talked about recently, but how even grandparents who raised kids in a free range mindset (even w/o knowing it) have become more conservative. ”

    Sometime last year my mom was driving me to a doctor appointment and decided to drive through our old neighborhood to show my 7yo daughter. (My mother and I grew up in the same house.) She and I were both pointing out the places we played as children, and then she turned to my daughter and said, “But you can’t do that. Don’t ever go play outside without your mother. It’s not safe!”


  71. BL May 19, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    “Yes, you can explain to kids WHY they can’t jump around in the bathtub (because bathtubs are slippery and hard, and you could fall and bump your head)”

    I think part of the problem is that modern kids are so restricted they don’t even take small falls or get small bruises or scrapes.

    When I was a kid, we got those all the time, and it wasn’t hard to extrapolate and really believe that falling out of a tree would be much worse than falling off a tree stump.

    Which didn’t mean I didn’t climb trees, because I did. I just did it carefully (did anyone else here learn about three-point anchoring?)

  72. E Simms May 19, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    Regarding children following authority:

    ***E said “She called the police before she called us, she wouldn’t let him go get his brother)

    ***In the OP’s story, the girls stayed with a complete stranger while he called the police because he told them to.

    I agree that children should be taught to respect and obey authority figures. However, this should include ONLY people with actual authority such as parents, teachers, uniformed police officers, firefighters, and any one else the parents decide should have authority over their children. These authority figures do not include random strangers on the street or in parking lots.

    I know that it is difficult to teach young children to distinguish people who have legitimate authority over them from people who have merely assumed authority, but teaching this distinction is just as important as teaching them not to go anywhere with strangers. The message should be “Don’t go anywhere with strangers and don’t STAY anywhere with strangers if it makes them feel uncomfortable. Teach them to say “My Mom/Dad wants me home now” and to then run away.

    The girls in the OP’s story may have been too young to stand up to the strange man, but they would have been perfectly within their rights to just run home. I doubt that there are many men in the US today (barring criminals) who would have chased them.

  73. Peter May 19, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    I gotta admit, I’m sort of with “Puzzled” on this one.

    This is the part that stuck in my craw, emphasis in bold:

    It was not, however, inherently unsafe, or something they were not capable of. It was a poor decision simply because they were disobeying their parents, and creating a situation in which, had anything gone wrong, we would have had no idea where to look for them. Both girls knew where they were going and how to get back, and our daughter’s friend knew her phone number and address. Both girls know how to behave safely around cars. Both girls have even had some self-defense training, if it should come to that.

    So here we have two competent girls who are capable of making that trip. If the busy-body hadn’t interfered, they’d have arrived safely back at the home.

    So what could have gone wrong? Hit by a car? They knew how to behave around cars, so that’s out. Pervert? They knew self-defense, so that’s out. Getting lost? They knew where they were going and how to get back. Some sort of injury in the woods (sprained ankle from tripping over a tree root)? Possible, but there were two of them. The odds that some injury would happen to both of them such that neither would be able to get home and get help is pretty high.

    Worst-first thinking is creeping in. “Well, something could have happened and our wonderfully competent children would not have been able to cope.”

    I mean, this discussion wanders off-topic a bit, and what the parents are emphasizing is reasonable. The question is, if they had arrived home without the police and had said, “Oh, we decided to do this other thing” would you have been as offended?

  74. Yocheved May 19, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    Holy cats! That is just beyond horrifying. This only serves to further cement my commitment to get the heck OUT of this insane country!

  75. anonymous mom May 19, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    Would I be offended if my child, especially at that age, went somewhere without telling me? No. But, I would consider it an act of disobedience–and lying–worthy of a consequence. The problem is, 6 and 7 year old children are *not* perfectly competent, and parental rules need to reflect that. Plus, parents are responsible for their children, legally, and part of that responsibility means knowing where the child is. I personally would feel that a parent who let a 6 year old child roam a town or city following their whims all day was not being “free range,” but negligent. Can some 6yos handle a walk to the corner store to buy a snack? Sure, but probably only if they’ve made the trip numerous times with a parent and know how to get there and what to do once there. Can a 6yo walk to school? In many cases, yes, but, again, probably after doing the route a number of times with a parent or older child. 6yos do not have the capacity to just decide where to go and go there, and it’s a completely reasonable parental expectation that a child that age will be where they say they will be.

    Not everything is wrong because it’s dangerous. Sometimes it’s just wrong. Were the girls in any danger? Very likely not. But, that doesn’t mean it was okay for them to wander off from the boundaries given by their parents. It wouldn’t actually put my 4yo in danger if I let her spend a week making all of her own choices about food and bedtimes, but that doesn’t mean it would be okay for her to just decide that she will refuse meals, sneak candy, and stay up until 1 a.m. every night. Part of maturity is self-control, and it’s by obeying reasonable rules (and this rule sounded very reasonable) that a child demonstrates they have the self-control they need to make mature decisions. I can trust my oldest to get himself breakfast in the morning, because when I’ve told him that, if he wakes up before us, he should make himself toast or a bagel or a healthy cereal, he’s done just that. So now he can be trusted to make his own breakfast decisions in the morning if he gets up before us. If I told him to get a bagel and instead found that he’d eaten half a carton of ice cream, that would indicate to me that he was not ready for the freedom of making breakfast decisions, even if ice cream for breakfast one day is really no big deal.

    I am not in any way faulting the parents in this. I think they had a totally reasonable boundary, and I think kids just push boundaries because that’s what they do. And I don’t think anybody should have involved the police, because the girls were NOT in danger, and that’s the only time the police should be involved, if there is clear, imminent danger that can’t be prevented another way. But, I do think disregarding parental boundaries is an issue that matters, and there are good reasons why 6 year old kids need some pretty firm (if wide) boundaries.

  76. Kate B May 19, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    Really I would not fault the guy at all for calling. He clearly cared enough about your child’s well being to call the police. Where the problem actually lies is not with that man but with the over reaction by the police and the over reaching of the Child Protective services. It seems that the police forget their job is to “protect and serve” not to punish. And the CPS while I don’t know their motto I would imagine has something to do with “Protective Services” as well but they seem to have lost all better judgment as well in this case.

  77. A. Jacques May 19, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

    I’m father of three children, and I can’t imagine going through all what you just said. This must have been very horrible, and indeed the consequences are that your two little girls didn’t get the right lessons out of this.

    There is some people who seems to overreact. I truly believe the stranger acted on good intention, that the policeman did their duty considering the law, and I hope the court will see the flaw in this. But when we acknowledge this kind of event, we have to think about what kind of society we want. Do we want to always leave in fear? Always expect the worst? Or we want to give tools to our children, to learn them how to be independant?

    Great article.

  78. Donna May 19, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    “The question is, if they had arrived home without the police and had said, “Oh, we decided to do this other thing” would you have been as offended?”

    I wouldn’t have been offended, but I would have had the same reaction as I would have had here (toward my child, not the situation as a whole).

    My child needs to understand that she must follow my rules. That doesn’t mean that there is not an ability to discuss rules or that I won’t make changes if my daughter makes a good case for doing so. It means that as a rule stands she needs to follow it until it is changed.

    If your version of parenting is basically “my rules are completely meaningless unless you actually get hurt in violating them,” you’re putting your kids at risk and making them completely confused and unsure of any boundaries. Even if we ignore the fact that the vast majority of parental rules have nothing to do with safety to start with, young children do not have the proper mental capacity, knowledge, experience and reasoning ability to reliably evaluate risk much of the time. If rules are enforced willy nilly, your kids will ignore all your rules, even the ones that do have very valid safety reasons behind them.

    So, while this experience may show me that my child is more capable than I gave her credit for being, there would be consequences for THIS time and she would have to earn my trust back before she will be given a broader range to roam.

  79. Brenda May 19, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    This brings me back to a couple of years ago. I’m not a parent, but was staying with a friend. I had the day off, so she asked if she could leave her 7yo daughter with me instead of paying $100 for a babysitter for the day. I said sure. The following day, the mom left for work before I woke up (at about 7:30). I woke up at about 8. I looked for the 7yo but she wasn’t in the house. I was about to go outside to look for her (she’s free-range in that her mom allowed her the run of the one-street neighborhood–any further and she’d be on a major highway). I was going to tell her that she wasn’t to go outside without telling me first. I opened the door to find a police officer standing there. They had found the girl walking along the high way trying to walk to her mom’s work. In this situation, I think a call to the police was warranted (she was walking along a major highway after all). I told the police that I was staying with her mother and had just woken up and realized she wasn’t in the house. The police went to question her mother at work. That was the end of it. No arrest, not even a written statement.

  80. Jay Pierson May 19, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

    I am sorry this happened to you and your family. First, this man although wrong, did what he assumed was correct. The guilty party here is the cops. It is time we take back the streets, not from criminals but from the cops, who have decided they must control every aspect of our lives. We now live in a Military State, were cops are no longer peace officers, but military thugs, who believe because they have a badge they can do anything they want. And mostly they can. When you are found not guilty, why are the cops, district attorney and judge not held responsible for their actions. If we really want to help our country, we need to revamp our legal system and make these people accountable to the people. Lets start with the Supreme Court, which is supposed to be non-political, yet is always divided down party lines.

  81. anonymous this time May 19, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    My husband just heard from me about this post. “Can you believe it?” I say to him. “That people actually call the police when they see children without adults—children who aren’t coming to any harm, and who aren’t harming anything themselves?”

    And it’s happened here, in our little bucolic town as well. We became friends with the mother whose sons were “reported” because they were playing at the park (two houses away from where they reside) “alone” (but of course they weren’t alone, they were among other adults and children).

    Happily, that mother ended up with a police officer who acknowledged that this wasn’t a matter for the police, and reassured her that should her kids be “reported” again, the police would know that these kids are fine playing in the park on their own.

    Sad, though, to think that we need to “register” our kids with the police to get special dispensation for them to avoid bringing a hailstorm of prosecution onto their parents’ heads just for… well, playing outside.

    These girls in the OP could have been my girls. Yes, they would have gotten a stern “talking to” about wandering off from the agreed parameters, because in this house, you go where you say you’re going to go, and you don’t go anywhere else, because we want to be able to find you quickly if we need to. That goes for kids AND adults.

    But I would have been utterly MORTIFIED BEYOND BELIEF to have the police get involved, to be arrested, to be charged with a crime, to be accused of something so egregious when all that happened was my girls went farther than I told them they could go, and weren’t in any trouble beyond being “in public without a parent.”

    I’m reading a lot about human evolution, and how our species developed as cooperative breeders who relied enormously on others to help protect and feed our kids. It wasn’t at all the setup we have now, where biological parents are expected to be the sole providers and protectors for their own personal young. The way we operate now is counter to everything we were genetically programmed for. This episode of someone calling in the “authorities” to alert them to the “crime” of a child wandering away from their bio-parent’s care is… well, it’s possibly the most horrific example of how wrong we’ve got it right now.

    Bio-parents need SUPPORT from the community, not to be surrounded by police who are laying in wait for their every minor slip-up. It’s obscene, it’s unnatural, and it’s DETRIMENTAL TO CHILDREN AND FAMILIES.

    In the name of “child protection,” we are killing ourselves.

  82. mb68 May 19, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    Lenore – please contact the families involved and suggest that they take this to the media. Every government official involved in this situation needs to have their names become public knowledge – people need to know who among our public servants overreact and blindly enforce laws without any common sense or sense of proportion. They need to know who they can trust – and who they can’t. These officials need to be held accountable for their stupidity and publicly shamed – their neighbors need to know that they are not be trusted, their superiors need to answer pointed questions from the media and the public. This situation calls for complete transparency and the disinfectant of public discussion.

    I live in the DC area and this story scares the ever-loving crap out of me.

  83. C.J. May 20, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    I can’t say that I would even pay attention to kids that age that are not looking distressed or lost. I would probably assume their parents were nearby and gave permission for them to go off on their own if they looked like they knew where they were going. The only person I have ever known who called the police because they saw an unattended child is my mother. The child was 2 and wandering around outside crying wearing only a t-shirt and a diaper in the middle of winter. We had just moved to the neighbourhood and didn’t know anyone. Mom brought the little one in the house to warm up and called the police. The child hadn’t been reported missing but the police knew who she was. It ha happened before. The mother had a history of drug and child abuse. I can see calling police in a situation like that where a child is in danger but not for school age children who are not in danger.

  84. SKL May 20, 2014 at 1:17 am #

    To Puzzled, about how the parents feel about the children wandering off in violation of the agreed boundary:

    What if I told my 7yo daughters that I was dropping them off at the gym and I’d pick them up after their class. And then I changed my mind and decided I’d rather go shopping at another store. No phone call or anything, I just don’t show up until about an hour later. That’s OK, right? I mean, I was safe, I was happy, I was having an adventure! What’s the problem?

    Oh wait, it matters what the other people involved might feel about not knowing where I was, whether I was OK, and when, if ever, I was planning to return?

    What could be wrong with teaching children to be considerate of the other people they have an understanding with?

  85. Emmy May 20, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    I’m doing all in my power to spread this post around.

  86. David May 20, 2014 at 5:43 am #

    This sounds familiar. My wife and I got arrested for almost the exact same thing 6 months ago. We got one year of supervised probation and are required to take a county sponsored “nurturing parenting” class. If we complete both, the case will be dismissed. However our laywes do not think we will be able to get it expunged so we will always have an arrest for contributing to the delinquency of a minor on our record.

  87. deluxe fox May 20, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    great story, but then after a few sentences i get a screen pop up telling me to download some software allegedly from google but not linking to google. This is why it won’t be shared. Put it somewhere that isn’t going to leave your readers infested with malware and maybe your message will be better received.

  88. mer May 20, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    I certainly hope they get this bozo on the stand and start questioning with “Do you remember when you were a child? How many times did you disobey your parents? We have them in the gallery to testify to the fact that you disobeyed them on numerous occasion”

    Of course when the police got there the girls should have immediately started crying, saying how the bad man wouldn’t let them go home and was trying to make them “do things”.

  89. Dalia Tubis May 20, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    Arresting good parents and micro-managing society helps distract people from the real dangers brewing abroad that the government doesn’t have the guts to face.

  90. Warren May 20, 2014 at 7:58 am #

    Would it be great if the defense attorney refused to question the busybody, until he had legal representation? Since he will be question about holding the two female minors against their will.

  91. Jen (P.) May 20, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    @mb68 – “Lenore – please contact the families involved and suggest that they take this to the media. Every government official involved in this situation needs to have their names become public knowledge – people need to know who among our public servants overreact and blindly enforce laws without any common sense or sense of proportion.”

    Totally agree but would point out that this can’t even be construed as “blindly” enforcing the law. The only crime that occurred is the filing of charges against innocent citizens evidently for no other reason than to justify the time the police spent in responding to the call. I hope these parents win and then file civil rights charges against the relevant “authorities.”

  92. Linda May 20, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Wow. Land of the free? I think not. I grew up in Sweden where it’s very unusual to see government overreach like this. As a free range parent who encourages unsupervised play outside this really scares me.

  93. E May 20, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    It makes you wonder…does this mean that if you are going to the bathroom/taking a shower/drying your hair, and your 6/7 year old goes outside (without permission) and find themselves in this position, a parent can be charged like this? I don’t see the difference.

    Going back to the car/bike incident my son had as an Elem School kid, my lawyer friend said it really was just a “crap happens” scenario in a private parking lot (where traffic law does not apply), a moving car, and a moving bike driven by a young child.

    So, in this case, when children breaks the boundaries that have been set by reasonable/thoughtful parents, why isn’t the same thinking applied? It’s a small child that broke a rule (not a law). It appears that there is the belief that “someone broke a law” when…well…crap happens.

  94. Crystal May 20, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    I am so sorry you had to go through this. Very well-written — I would like to see this on other news and parenting sites! Lenore, can you use your connections to get it published elsewhere?

  95. SKL May 20, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    How exactly does “delinquency” fit into this picture? There’s only one way I can see calling the girls “delinquent,” and that is in that they disobeyed their parents. Is it even possible for a parent to “contribute to” that kind of delinquency?

    Or is the parents’ offense taking their eyes off of a school-aged child for a few minutes?

    I don’t have experience with procedure in this kind of situation. It would be nice if the accused could request a clarification of exactly what they are accused of, and what facts are alleged to support the accusation, before anything permanent goes into their record. Maybe when the Powers that Be realize they are unable to articulate evidence that a crime was committed, they could back off. But then again, maybe they don’t have that option after it’s reached this level.

  96. Jen (P.) May 20, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    @SKL – In my state, a child becomes a “delinquent child” by engaging in certain acts, none of which fit here. The closest seems to be “habitually disobey[ing] the reasonable and lawful commands of the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian.” But this wasn’t habitual; it’s a one-off. Plus, in order for that to qualify a kid as “delinquent,” the child must also “need[] care, treatment, or rehabilitation that: (A) the child is not receiving; (B) the child is unlikely to accept voluntarily; and (C) is unlikely to be provided or accepted without the coercive intervention of the court.”

    No way would this qualify as delinquency. I’m not sure if these people are actually in D.C. or a neighboring state, but I suspect the laws are not dissimilar. I just can’t imagine this could satisfy any legal definition of delinquency. These people need to get themselves acquitted and file a civil rights claim.

  97. Donna May 20, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    SKL – I can’t speak for DC law, but in my state, contributing to the delinquency of a minor is just a shorthand version of referring to a statute that actually encompasses much more than actual delinquent acts of minors. Our statute also includes acting or failing to act in such a way that could define the child as a child in need of services or supervision.

    So, in essence, my guess is that, yes, they are pretty much being charged with taking their eyes off of children for a few minutes.

  98. marie May 20, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    I think part of the problem is that modern kids are so restricted they don’t even take small falls or get small bruises or scrapes.

    Great observation. Kids need to fall down, bump their heads, scrape their knees, earn a few scars. All of that helps them learn their limits. They learn that the world doesn’t come to an end when they are hurt and they learn how to stop the bleeding and apply a bandage. All essential skills.

    If I had sent my kids out to play and they ended up going farther than I had told them to go, I might give them a stern talking-to. I would be pleased, though, that they had the chutzpah to venture out on their own.

    I am sorry for the OP’s family and friends. It is very painful to learn how fragile our security is and that officious authorities can mess with it so easily…and with no reason.

  99. SKL May 20, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    So part of the problem is that there is this vague “offense” that doesn’t have specific elements that have to be met (allegedly) for the issuance of an arrest warrant.

    So it is OK to arrest people when there is no actual law being violated. (Surely DC does not have a law requiring parents to be looking at / physically restraining their school-aged kids 100% of the time.)

    What can we do about this?

  100. Donna May 20, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    SKL – No, the contributing to the delinquency of a minor statute gives specific elements of the crime. I can’t give the specific elements here since I don’t know what jurisdiction we are talking about – DC, Virginia, Maryland, etc.

    However, laws involving dependency, negligence, supervision, children in need of services, etc. are not defined exactly as in “No child under the age of 8 shall be more than 15 feet away from an adult.” First, we cannot possibly fathom the ways that some parents will abuse, neglect, etc. their children. Including a laundry list of specific behaviors has the tendency to exclude others in statutory interpretation. Second, it would be impossible to generate such standards. You have two kids so you should understand that they are not actually equal in every way despite being very close in age. Allowing my brother to do some of the things I was allowed to do at the same age would have been negligent while keeping me to my brother’s standards too limiting. And that is just in reference to “normal” children without even getting into the many disabilities that children may have that may further guide their care.

  101. KB May 20, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    I am concerned about all of the responses that indicate that that children are incapable of making good choices. Yes, there is a lot of recent research indicating that impulsivity control brain centers are not mature in younger people… has it occurred to any of you that this is a “use it or lose it” type of center and that brain development is plastic?

    My great grandmother watched her 4 and 6 year old siblings for four months while her parents traveled to Germany from Sweden to sell their wares. She was ten at the time. Caring for siblings involved milking and caring for the cow, keeping a wood stove going, and cooking (from gathering eggs, managing fresh milk and cream, and occasionally slaughtering a chicken for dinner). My husband started driving tractors at six and graduated to grain trucks at ten.

    Think of our childhoods, of the kids growing up during the thirties and forties, of the many children around the world that have to work to make a living (which is not acceptable for other reasons – but, not because they aren’t capable of it).

    Kids are capable of oh-so-much – if they are given opportunities to grow into it.

    We can’t pack kids in bubble wrap and expect them to miraculously be capable and risk-free after some expiration date… we are just putting off their helplessness until they are so old it is absurd.

  102. CrazyCatLady May 20, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    So sorry that both of these families are going through this! I hope, that like another poster, that they end up with something as minor as parenting classes (which I used to teach, and honestly, would never say that the parents couldn’t allow kids to play outside just like this family allowed!) The impact on these children way outreaches the consequences of not following directions.

    All of this leads me to thinking I need to teach my kids one more lesson. That is, if someone says that they are going to call the police because they are alone in the car, walking to someplace, etc, that they should actually RUN (or bike) as fast as they can back home or to me. (Being aware of traffic, of course!) There is respecting the authority of adults in situations like following rules of places, and there is looking out for ones own needs. I can’t help but think how differently this would have been if the girls took each others hands and ran back home. The cops would not have been there fast enough to actually “catch” the girls and the busy body would have ended up looking totally stupid.

  103. lollipoplover May 20, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    The biggest fear now among parents is not child kidnapping, it’s CPS kidnapping.

  104. Donna May 20, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    “Think of our childhoods, of the kids growing up during the thirties and forties, of the many children around the world that have to work to make a living”

    Yes, my grandfather worked at a very young age during the Great Depression. He also was supervised by adults at work and lived at home with his parents so wasn’t left his own devices to make all of his own decisions at 8. And he can still tell many stories of doing stuff so crazy in his limited free time that he really is lucky to be alive.

    It isn’t a matter of being unable to master the skills needed to work a job. Or even of incapable of making good choices. It is a matter of having limited foresight, knowledge, life experience and impulse control to always know what the good choices are.

  105. SKL May 20, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    Isn’t it sad that before I let my kids play without my physical presence, I look around shadily to see if there are any cops or busybodies noticing, and then I worry about what the neighbors may think….

    The fact that kids are well-cared-for and loved is apparently irrelevant.

  106. SKL May 20, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    Donna: AND it’s a matter of not knowing what will get your parents arrested. :/

  107. SKL May 20, 2014 at 11:19 am #

    I was a free-range kid, smart, creative…. and I did some really dumb things. 😛 I fully expect my kids to do dumb things as well – including when I’m standing right there.

    This morning we were discussing the thing that triggered my daughter’s school discipline issues last year. She was a new student to the school, and borrowed a phrase she’d learned in KG: “come on, buttcheeks, let’s hurry up!” “Buttcheeks” was a term of endearment at KG and at home, but obviously it doesn’t fly in this school. LOL. I chuckled when I heard about this, which didn’t help matters at all. It was all downhill from there. 😛

    If it’s criminal to have a child who strays from set boundaries, then we are all in deep doo-doo.

  108. Hollie Benne May 20, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    very sad story… and an over-reaction from the police.
    Your older child of six is about kindergarten age, and the seven year old is 1st or 2nd grade, and sending them down to the creek in the woods seems like a very poor decision as many children have accidentally drowned. I know I would never allow my kindergartner, first grader age child to go down to a creek in the woods without parental support for safety. And then they wandered further, about 1,000 feet from the house and you were watching from the back window… and did not know someone called the police because of their concern to see such young children wandering without someone watching out for their safety. In this situation the police over-reacted. The stranger who felt responsible to care for your children was just showing concern. Maybe they were unable to get the information from the children. Where does your responsibility come into play? Should you blame others for something you are responsible for? I remember wandering the neighborhood as a child but an older middle school aged child. Why does society over-react to situations that can be handled with easy conversation? sorry for your frustrations and inconveniences, being a parent is a tough job.

  109. Donna May 20, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    SKL – True. I admit that I am rethinking whether I should make my kid come to court with me tomorrow or allow her to stay home by herself as planned. I trust her to follow my rules and do not think she is in even remote danger – I would be shocked if she actually did anything other than watch TV while snuggling with her new kitten – but god forbid anyone find out that I left her alone for a couple hours while I was two counties away (only a 20 minute drive). We will definitely have to have a lesson on not telling anyone she is home alone before I leave.

  110. BostonMom May 20, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    If the first response to what should be a parenting moment (ie, disobedient children whose parents were perfectly capable of disciplining) is to call the police and bring this to court, then the only way to fight fire with fire is to take it back to the court.

    Sue the person who reported two children who were breaking no laws and in no danger. Sue the police department for arresting parents for breaking no laws.

    This must be heartbreaking for these families, and it has taken what should have been a teachable
    moment (don’t disobey your parents) and turned it into a nightmare and the wrong lesson.

  111. E May 20, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    @KB, people aren’t saying kids aren’t capable of making decision at any time, they are just saying they don’t make the right decisions ALL the time. That’s why classrooms and parents have guidelines or rules or communication methods that work for all parties involved.

  112. E May 20, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    Suing the person who called 911 is the worst reaction that’s been suggested (a few times). First, that basically will put any thought of “good Samaritan” practices in the garbage. People will never reach out for help if they think they’ll get sued.

    People can be well meaning and uninformed at the same time. Or maybe a kid gives a wrong phone number by accident (or forgets it). I’m fairly certain that this guy had no idea the parents would be charged with a crime.

    In this case, they came upon 2 kids he thought were in an unusual place unsupervised. Given that the parents told them NOT to go there, he was correct. He made the wrong phone call. He doesn’t deserve to have a financial burden any more than the parents.

  113. J.T. Wenting May 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    “We teach kid stranger protocol etc. Is anyone teaching adults the protocol for what to do if you encounter a child?”

    Same Cesar Millan teaches as protocol to use when encountering a dog: no touch, no talk, no eye contact.
    And add to that: cross the street, get as far away from the child as possible as quickly as possible.

  114. Monica May 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    I get it. You may think we live in a safe world, but i am a nurse in a very different world where little girls like this get hurt all the time unfortunately. It is a little naive of you to let your very young children wonder around in light of that. No matter how many times you “wish” it safe, does not make it so.you are lucky this stranger was acting to protect your children and not a psycho preditor

  115. anonymous mom May 20, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    @KB, I think part of the issue is that “kids” covers, in our contemporary language, everybody 0-17. We can’t talk about what “kids” are capable of without specifying an age. Especially in early childhood (0-7 or so), there is an ENORMOUS amount of development that happens so that what a child is capable of changes very rapidly.

    There’s a reason your great-grandparents left your 10yo grandmother in charge and not her 4yo sibling. Because a 10yo is capable of much more than a 4yo. That’s not a parenting issue, but a developmental one.

    I agree that 10yos are capable of a lot. My son, who just turned 10, has in the last year really matured a lot, and is capable of taking on many responsibilities. I think that, by their teen years, people have the capacity–if given the opportunity–to handle many if not most of the responsibilities of adult life, as evidenced by the fact that, for much of human history, they did just that.

    But, 10 isn’t 2 or 4 or 6. My 4yo doesn’t know how to read. She doesn’t know basic math. She still sometimes bursts into tears or screaming fits if she doesn’t get her way. She is NOT capable of many of the things that her 10yo brother is capable of, because she lacks the cognitive and emotional maturity for it. I can trust my 10yo to cook eggs on the stove or to use the sewing machine without supervision, because he has both the physical ability (he can reach the stove and sewing machine pedal, for example) and the cognitive maturity (he understands the risks and how to minimize them) to handle the tasks. I cannot trust my 4yo to do the same. She lacks those skills. And my 2yo lacks those skills to a greater degree, and there are things his 4yo sister can do (like be in the bathtub with minimal supervision or play in the yard unsupervised) that he can’t do. My daughter, at 4, can understand things like not crossing the street without permission and not playing with stray dogs, so I know that if a stray dog ran into the field across from our house, she wouldn’t dart across the street after it, but my 2yo most certainly would, because he doesn’t yet understand those boundaries.

    I wholeheartedly agree that we underestimate what kids–especially older children and most especially teens–are capable of. I do think many 10yos are capable of things like watching younger siblings and doing many household tasks. However, I think we can also overestimate the capabilities of young children, and expect them to have a level of intellectual and emotional maturity that they just do not have. And I do think that kids will develop best if they are met on their developmental level, and that trying to rush small children into being able to make mature or reasonable decisions before they are ready isn’t going to lead to more mature or reasonable kids, but just really frustrated kids and parents.

  116. Ashley May 20, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    I am so sorry this happened to you, and your family, I hope all charges are aquitted and expunged so you all may get back to some kind of normal. I too had CPS called on me for medical neglect, I choose to have a Naturopath as My families primary care physician, the nurse at my childrens school, doesn’t believe in Naturopathy and equated it to witch craft…. I was so grateful that the CPS employee is married to a Naturopath and his family has experienced similar discrimination. It still felt horrible, and a huge pit in your stomach, and anytime you child has a sniffle you question sending them to school fearing the nurse to call CPS again. People need to realize how serious reporting someone who doesn’t fit your idea of normal is, it has real consequences.

  117. Shannon Schnurr May 20, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    This kind of stuff makes me afraid to be a parent. And we shouldn’t be afraid to be parents! It’s a natural thing to be a parent but we are being shown that if we parent (make choices on how to raise children) we can be punished. Argh!!

  118. Donna May 20, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    It isn’t even just intellectual and emotional maturity, young kids don’t have the ability to conceptualize abstract things like death and serious injury and have far too little life experience to equate with things that have never happened to them.

    For example, I expect that a 4 year old understands a rule not to cross the street. He can even understand that he may be hit by a car if he does that. He cannot understand what being hit by a car truly means to him — the fact that he will be dead or very seriously injured. He may be able to parrot the words “dead” and “hurt really bad” back but cannot fully understand those abstract ideas. Death is incomprehensible and “hurt really bad” is only equal to his worst hurt of memory, which is going to be really far away from the hurt from getting hit by a car.

    4 year olds do understand following rules, disappointing mommy and daddy and not being allowed to go out to play or time out or whatever works for your kid. That is why, particularly for young kids, we have rules and mom-made consequences.

    I think most here are talking about kids around the 6-7 age range as that is the kids in question in this scenario.

  119. Jenny Islander May 20, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    @Monica: “Psycho preditors” (check your spelling please) are less common than lightning strikes from a clear blue sky. Should I keep my children indoors at all times, because that clear blue sky might kill them at any second?

    Oh, wait, most “psycho preditors” restrict their horrific acts to children who are already within their orbit. Should I keep my children away from all adults, because you never know when somebody might turn out to be one of those?

    It’s no way to live. That’s what this site is about.

  120. GRS May 20, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    @Monica: When someone sees a concentration of the bad, they think the whole world is that way. Hence nurses (like yourself), many policeman, and CPS folks (who get the referrals) see most or all of the worst case scenarios–the entire numerator of the incidence RATES, so to speak–that they forget that the denominator (the population as a whole) is often very, very large in comparison.

    What these families are going through is horrid and uncalled for. It’s an example of how some prosecutors and policeman go for charges NOT because there is a real problem or danger, but simply because they CAN. To them, putting as many people in jail or charging as many people as possible because they CAN is the goal, and the collateral damage to citizens and to society be damned!

    This whole scenario confirms my long-ago made decision not to have children.

    Lenore, to whom can we send $$ to help with their defense?

    DCMom and SicSemperTyrannis, please keep us posted.

  121. SKL May 20, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    I don’t think the question is “what can kids do and usually come out alive.” But ideally, “what can kids do and come back better for it.” And that depends largely on the child.

    Regarding the anecdote about a 10yo running a household including young children for months – assuming he had no assistance such as helpful neighbors or relatives – sure, that is possible, but is it ideal? Most likely the arrangement was made because the parents didn’t have a better option available. Even today you have 10yo kids who are left in charge of the home and younger siblings for long time periods. Just because they usually survive does not mean they come out better for it. Personally I think I will still have something valuable to offer my kids when they are 10yo, and it’s not because I am a slacker parent who isn’t preparing them for life.

    My kids are 7 and I am often challenged to find the balance between freedom and guidance. It’s not because I think they are too stupid to think for themselves or find their way back home. If I don’t send them out into the wild world on a given day, it’s usually because I decided that another experience would be more valuable to them just then. And 7yo is young enough that I should be the person deciding these things.

    Although I’ve already sent my kids to the park on their own at times, they didn’t really get that much benefit out of it, because they felt funny about it. It was a big leap from what they were used to. They are happier just playing on our street right now. (Plus I don’t have to worry as much about busybodies dialing 911, because the folks on our street at least know where they live.) Every time they head off down the street, they are getting ready to go farther next time. It’s not like they are going to be addled if I don’t make them walk the entire city on their own at 7yo.

  122. KB May 20, 2014 at 2:16 pm #


    You are a nurse, you know how risky the world can be. I agree, the world is risky. Kids need to develop the sense of how to deal with risks, slowly, over time.

    I live on a relatively busy street, with a horse farm across the road, and a lake in my backyard. We are raising three boys, eight, ten, and thirteen. The boys are allowed to boat (with vests), fish (in pairs), ride bikes (with helmets), and are encouraged to be outside. I know all about water safety – that’s why they know all of the dangers of ice, of drowning, about low-head dams (college kids die from these every year around here), and all are strong swimmers. They can walk to the park, but not bike on the road. We even leave them at home on their own at times.

    Could something tragic happen? Yes. But, I think that it is less likely because they are more savvy. They have flipped a boat and been surprised enough to know that even strong swimmers can be caught off guard. They are wary of hooks, and heights. They look for cars. They have cooked plenty and know to be careful of hot things and what to do for a burn. They can call me, dad, grandpa, or a friend or even 911 if needed.

    In this dangerous world, kids need to recognize risks and respect those things that are truly risky. If we keep telling them that everything is scary – from strangers to toasters to bugs to darkness to cooking to playgrounds – we lose credibility and they lose the all-important sense of personal risk that we all need.

    Most of all – we know our children. I know that our youngest is more ready to be on his own than our middle child. I know their individual competencies. No CPS can do that in any blanket fashion, nor can any stranger for a random kid that they see on the street. It is all about recognizing the individual and letting them develop at their own rate.

  123. anonymous mom May 20, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    I think 6-7 is a tough age range to make any strong statements about what kids can or can’t do, because even typically-developing kids in that age range vary a lot. They are on that little kid/big kid border, and some are much more like little kids while some are more like older kids.

    My oldest, at even 7, was hyper and inattentive and completely lacked self-control. He was a lot more like a little kid than a big kid. (A few years can do wonders, and now he’s much more mature and trustworthy.) I know that I walked my sister to school when I was 7, and it was about 5 blocks from my house. My son, at 7, could not have been trusted with that responsibility. I’m not sure I could have trusted him to even get himself to school. He’s the kind of kid who, if he’d seen a squirrel he thought was interesting, would have followed it halfway across the city before remembering he should have been at school.

    I trust the parents that the 6 and 7 year old were mature and responsible enough to play unsupervised within the boundaries they were allowed to, but I think you could easily find both 7yos who could navigate around their neighborhood with no problem and 7yos who aren’t close to ready to do so yet. I trust parents to make that judgment far more than I trust law enforcement or social services who doesn’t have as much experience with the child.

  124. anonymous mom May 20, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    @SKL, I think the issue with a child today running a household for a few months at 10 is less that it’s less-than-ideal in some fundamental way, and more that it just doesn’t fit with modern life. A child that age, a few generations ago, might be working full-time on a family farm, and the family may likely have had a pretty self-sustaining lifestyle so that much of what that child needed would be available right in the home. Plus, they would probably have had relatives nearby. Today, they need to be in school, they have homework to do, they would probably need to make regular trips to the store for food, and many families do not have other relatives nearby. It would just logistically be much harder for a 10yo to do all the things they’d need to do without adult supervision.

    But I don’t find a 10yo being capable of it surprising. I was sick last week, and my not-especially-mature 10yo took it upon himself one morning, when I fell asleep on the couch for about an hour, to entertain his little siblings, then help them clean up the entire first floor, and then make me tea and toast. I don’t know if it was a bid for sainthood or for unlimited video game time that afternoon, but it was behavior he would NOT have demonstrated even a year ago. (And it worked. He got unlimited video game time once he finished his schoolwork.) I’m just not sure we can equate what 6-7 year olds are capable of to what 10 year olds are capable of any more than we can equate what a 6 year old can to do what a 2 year old can do.

  125. SKL May 20, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    No, it’s not surprising that a 10yo could keep himself and two siblings alive for a few months. But in an ideal world, all 3 of those kids could probably have been doing things that were developmentally better for them.

    From age 9 onward, I used to be in charge of my baby brother for hours every day while my parents worked. That was great, but a few hours is a lot different from a few months. Quite possibly the younger siblings could have suffered injuries or illnesses that the 10yo would not have handled the way an adult would, and this could have lifelong effects. Quite likely the discipline employed by the 10yo was not as well-thought-out as a parent’s discipline would be. Likewise his dietary choices. Certainly the 10yo made age-appropriate mistakes that made things harder than they needed to be. One or all of the kids probably suffered more stress than is ideal, and high levels of stress are proven to cause permanent brain damage. That level of responsibility at that age is not something to try to emulate in my opinion.

  126. Gloria Bagley May 20, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

    I think you should review your decision once again. Do you believe a little self defense training could help a child escape a grown man? Do you think there aren’t any perverts around? Do you still believe the girls are as responsible as you thought when you told them exactly where they could go and they disobeyed you? I think the cop went too far but thank God it was an officer and not a predator. If you watch the news these days you should know that our children are no longer safe.
    Sad but true.

  127. SKL May 20, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    If the news reflected the actual balance of good vs. bad outcomes, instead of going on and on about only the bad and being silent about the good, then maybe people would realize that yes, our kids are pretty safe out there, if they are allowed to go about their business without cops interfering.

    But then where would we be? The fear industry would be kaput.

    On a totally unrelated but similar note, it recently occurred to me that the producers and sellers of educational supplements are probably ecstatic about the failures of Common Core. Because parents like me are going nuts trying to mitigate the damage. Our kids are smart, and here we are trying to protect them from becoming dumb. The “dumb” is artificial, and so is the “unsafe” we keep hearing.

  128. marie May 20, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    I think you should review your decision once again. Do you believe a little self defense training could help a child escape a grown man? Do you think there aren’t any perverts around? Do you still believe the girls are as responsible as you thought when you told them exactly where they could go and they disobeyed you? I think the cop went too far but thank God it was an officer and not a predator. If you watch the news these days you should know that our children are no longer safe.
    Sad but true.

    I think the perversion I have observed most frequently is people who imagine what perverts can do with small children.

  129. E May 20, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    @Gloria….rethink what decision? The parents actually told the kids were to stay and they disobeyed. These aren’t toddlers, they are not preschoolers. They were playing in a familiar place (one of their backyards!) and left on their own accord.

  130. Christina May 20, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    Been there, still in court over it, only my kids were almost 5 and almost 9.

  131. Laura May 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    I am outraged and sorry for you. I am hopeful though that you will be able to make your case and get acquitted.
    This is so American! Here in Switzerland, kindergartners (they start when they’re about 4.5) are expected to walk alone to school, crossing busy streets maybe even take public transport. If the parents still accompany them after a month they’ll get a talk from the kindergarten teacher about letting go and how not to be a control freak.

  132. Lisa May 20, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    I sympathize with your pain. Our 2 year old was running in our fenced yard with his brother and hyper-extended his elbow when his three-year old brother tackled him. We took him to urgent care where it was determined it was a break requiring surgery that evening around midnight. The next morning we were interrogated by social services who then went to our home where our other children were with grandparents & questioned them in depth about sexual & physical abuse. This was extremely upsetting to my young daughter. We later learned that the social worker didn’t think we were scared enough by her accusations & chose to falsify the reports to say our son was playing in a neighbor’s yard unsupervised at the time of the accident. She also threatened us by saying that if any of our children were seen in the emergency room over the next 3 years, they would all be removed from our home. Our legal records still state that we were convicted of child neglect and the only way to have these charges removed would be to put our whole family thru another investigation which we are not willing to do. The same social worker also forced us to sign a document stating that we would keep all of our children, not just in sight, but physically with us in the same room at all times. It is difficult to chose not to live in fear every time the doorbell rings or a child falls down. Making parents paranoid about taking their children to receive medical attention or second-guessing themselves about riding a bike seems counterproductive to raising healthy, confident children. We live in sad times.

  133. Beth May 20, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    Glad someone call 911 on them. Glad they got arrested. Glad I dont have to see their faces on TV crying because someone kidnap their kids and killed them due to leaving young children walking like that with out a parent. Glad the cops did their job in protecting a child from bad parents.

  134. Bron McGrath Australia May 20, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    This guybmakes my blood boil the police and courts are a joke.
    We should be encouraging our children to be independent, we cant keepmthem locked up how is that bring upmgood strong young people.
    I will be praying for this family and what they are going through, remember if you are brought to a situation God will get you through. Have faith that their is a bigger plan.
    Good luck

  135. Donna May 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    anonymous mom – Your 10 year old did that ONE AFTERNOON, not months. Huge difference. My daughter took care of herself, including getting her own meals and checking on me, for an entire day when I was ill when she was 7. That in no way indicates to me that she would be capable of taking care of herself for months on end.

    A 10 year old taking care of other children and a house for months is absolutely not something that we should hold out as ideal or want to emulate. Nor is it even remotely common for the time period that we are talking about. 10 year olds left to fend for themselves, let alone with younger children, was very much the exception and not the rule, even in the early 1900s.

  136. Donna May 20, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

    “Do you believe a little self defense training could help a child escape a grown man?”

    I have a black belt in taekwondo and I couldn’t escape many grown men. The greater size and strength of men is still a problem, despite me knowing the moves to make.

  137. Jay David May 20, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    So explain why you felt it important to preface your “I’m a victim” diatribe by stating that your kids could be seen from a window yet you were entirely unaware that they wandered off and disobeyed your instructions. The kids are wrong, the stranger concerned about them is wrong, the cops are wrong, and you were just being a unwilling participate of the fear mongering media. Yep, you get my vote for parent of the year. Like to hear your reaction of outrage had the stranger been the last person to see them before becoming an amber alert. Your problem should be with your govt representatives who created the CPS nightmare for you, God knows your town is completely dominated by useless bureaucrats.

  138. Mom of 2 May 20, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    I don’t know what the right answer is to kids out by themselves at that age. I freely admit I was paranoid and did not let my children even play in the yard without supervision until they were probably 10. There seems to be a lot of bad things that happen in seconds. Having said that, calling 911 is absolutely RIDICULOUS. This person should have found out where the children lived/came from and if they were lost. Beyond that, MOVE ON. The police had NO COMMON SENSE. That is a theme these days; example – expelling a straight-A student for sharing Midol with a friend. I think someone could win an election on a platform of ‘I have common sense and will actual use it.’

  139. Marjie Clockmaker May 20, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    Very well written. It would be a shame if this piece were not published elsewhere as well.

  140. Mommy2jr May 20, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    Sorry….I have a 7 yr old…as soon as those kids were out of site from the back windows, I would have whistled or gone down to check on them. What this man did was the RIGHT thing to do and I would have done the same. Shame on you for blaming an innocent man for your parental neglect.

  141. John Rohan May 20, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

    Here’s some good news. In the United States, you have the right to face your accusers. If this actually is a criminal trial, they will need to call this man as a witness. Even if they don’t call him for some reason, your attorney can call him as a hostile witness.

    Why is that important? You will know who he is. Now he finds out that busybodiness swings both ways. Drive by his house and take a good look. Is the fence in disrepair? Mailbox the incorrect height? Too many cars in the driveway? License plate expired? Trees covering a street sign? There are many local ordinances you could probably report him for. Immature? Yes. Will make you feel better to do it? – Oh Yes.

  142. E May 20, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    @John Rohan, you can’t possibly be serious. The man that called 911 didn’t accuse them of anything…he reported that he found a 6&7 year old walking around a shopping center alone. That’s it.

    I really love how those that are so indignant about improper citizen behavior advocate the exact same thing as retribution. No wonder we find ourselves were we are in society.

  143. mme6546 May 20, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    anyone else notice the last 4 out of 5 “ack, bad parents, good cops” trolls had the same speech patterns, same spelling mishaps, and same font choices in their names?

    on topic, this would be why I have a hard time being free range. anxiety over crap like this. on top of PTSD. funny thing is, when you HAVE a recognized anxiety disorder, they PUSH you to do things like let your kids play alone in the back yard….WITHOUT devolving into hair-on-fire worst first thinking.
    whatever flavour crazy you pick, its all the same. you cant control life. sit back, pack band-aids, and keep calm.

  144. E May 20, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

    @mommy2jr, do you get that the entire letter is written to educate the man (and the anyone reading it) that there are ridiculous, expensive, frightening, consequences of involving the police? Do you get that the author freely acknowledges that the kids were wrong and that they would have faced consequences from their parents? Do you have 100% perfect children that never ever ever do something they were told not to do? Do you take a shower when your kids are home and you are the only parent there? Heck, do you go to the bathroom alone when they are home? Because if the answer is yes, then you have the risk of having a kid leave…it was 12 minutes!!

    That’s the beauty of the letter, it’s written to describe the ENTIRE process. To educate the public that police will CHARGE YOU WITH A CRIME when your children do a very typical childhood thing. The letter is educating anyone who is reading it that there are other options, like walking the kids home or calling their parents. The kids get a talking to or punishment and…well the end.

  145. Betsy May 20, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    Lenore, Haven’t read your blog in awhile and I read this!
    Americans know deep down this has all gone too far.
    Police are out of control. My sympathies.
    “By living in fear of the wildly improbable we deprive our children.” I love that!
    All the Best.

  146. Connor Bjorklund May 20, 2014 at 11:13 pm #

    I grew up in NYC, E. 54th St. I always was allowed to go wherever I wanted, from about age 5. When I was 11 I was waylaid and abused. So I have mixed feelings. I think that 99% of the time kids will be okay, but that one percent….. well it sure screwed up my life for a long time. And this was in a “good” neighborhood (Sutton Place).
    That being said, I would have called the parents. That just makes more sense. If they were up at the Cloisters, then I may have considered 911. Who knows. It’s hard to second-guess someone who is presented with a situation that they don’t know how to deal with.

  147. JKP May 20, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    I’m glad the man was identified and could be subpoenaed, rather than an anonymous caller. Hopefully the hassle of dealing with the legal system himself will make him think twice before calling emergency services for a non-emergency. I don’t think people should be able to make anonymous calls.

    If it were me, after the trial I would sue this man to recoup the legal costs, lost work, and the damage he inflicted. He misused emergency services and harmed two families for no good reason, and the only way people will stop doing that is if they are held accountable for their actions. Maybe the busybodies will stop if they realize they may face consequences themselves. What if there was a delay in responding to a real emergency because the police were wasting time responding to two school aged children happily playing alone within walking distance of their house?

    For those worried that this could stop Good Samaritans in the future… He was not being a Good Samaritan and shouldn’t be covered by those protections.

    For example, if I were in a restaurant and the stranger at the table next to me started choking, flailing about, in obvious distress, that would be a true emergency. It would be reasonable for me to call 911, reasonable for me to give him the Heimlich maneuver. And if I accidentally broke his rib while doing my best to save him, the Good Samaritan laws would protect me for stepping up in an emergency.

    However, what if I were in the restaurant and merely notice that the stranger at the next table was not cutting his steak into pieces as small as I think they should be? After all, there’s a chance – however small – that he may end up choking. He’s not being as careful as I think he should be, and of course my judgment is more important than his. Would I get any support for calling 911 because I’m worried that the stranger at the next table could possibly choke? If I took it upon myself to go over to his table and cut his steak into smaller pieces for him, I would definitely be out of line. If I accidentally cut him with the knife, no Good Samaritan would protect me. That could possibly even be considered assault or harassment.

  148. SKL May 20, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    I don’t think the 911 caller should be punished. Especially since we haven’t heard his side of the story. There is no witness other than him to tell us what state the girls were in when he encountered them. Were they looking very lost and did they fail to tell him their phone number when asked? Were they crying or did he see them run in front of a car? We don’t know.

    However, I do think the community needs to be educated about better options and why calling 911/police is only for certain situations. I think that is one key point of the above letter, which is why it should be published nationally. But that could hurt the OP’s case, so it won’t be.

    I’ve recently seen a series of well-meaning parents send out a “should I call 911” type query in internet communities. They don’t seem to understand how out of control things could get if they call 911. Once put in motion, you can’t stop that train. I’m sure the guy who called does not want those girls to be removed to a foster home just for wandering out of their backyard. But he probably pictured the cops simply taking the girls home and telling their parents what had happened. Which is what happened when my kid sister wandered off at age 1.

  149. Puzzled May 21, 2014 at 12:15 am #

    >Are you really suggesting these 6 and 7 year old kids should >have been free to go anywhere they wanted?

    Yes. I believe that children have equal rights to adults. I believe that, in the past, the prevailing wisdom was “equal rights for all adult, mentally competent, white males.” Over time, we dropped some of these limitations, but are still stuck with mentally competent (by whose judgment?) and adult. I believe that we will someday see that these too need to be dropped.

  150. SKL May 21, 2014 at 1:08 am #

    So Puzzled, what do you think parents should do if their kid has “exercised the right” to wander off and hasn’t arrived home after a rather uncomfortable stretch of time? Or do you think that would never happen if 6yo kids were allowed to go where they pleased?

    At what age do you think this freedom should begin? At the time they start to walk? Please explain your reasoning for your cutoff age (if any).

    Are you a parent?

  151. Chris S. May 21, 2014 at 1:54 am #

    Very articulate presentation. Sorry you and your family had to go through this. Unfortunately, to many people, your wonderful ideas on parenting are completely incomprehensible. However, authorities, once notified, seem to choose to take everything “seriously”, and then inflexible laws often take precedence over common sense.

  152. Andy May 21, 2014 at 4:23 am #

    @Puzzled When I tell another adult that I will be at the place X at some time (creek afternoon) and I know that adult probably wants to come meet me, then it is very inconsiderate for me not to be there.

    When I am somewhere with a group (even non-organized camping) and suddenly wants to leave for short walk or whatever, I will tell somebody. It is just politeness, so they do not wait for me if they decide to do something (play a game) or do not look for me.

    Especially if the group is organized and there is a guide technically responsible for me.

    If I’m about to unexpectedly come later then usually home, I will tell significant one. He will not know not to expect me there and will adjust his own plans for that evening. Plus he will not worry.

    There is not that much double standard actually. Adults live much more independent lives then kids, so situations like that occur much less often. However, when they occur we let each other know where we are.

  153. LRothman May 21, 2014 at 8:48 am #

    Puzzled and Peter: It is simple consideration to let people who care about you know where you are going to be so they don’t worry and can get a hold of you in an emergency.

    Puzzled said: ‘Worst-first thinking is creeping in. “Well, something could have happened and our wonderfully competent children would not have been able to cope.”’
    First of all, there is a difference between “worst-first thinking” and “being prepared.” What if something had happened at the house and they needed to get the children and leave suddenly? Second of all, at 6 and 7, children can make mistakes and misjudge their abilities.

    Peter said: “I also have an issue with the idea that freedom is granted conditional on doing what you’re told.” Using your criteria, life is a caricature of freedom. Try, for example. deciding to go enter a military installation without permission. Try ignoring a policeman who is trying to pull you over. Everyone has authorities they have to obey.

  154. E May 21, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    I’m just as frustrated at the people who are suggesting the 911 Caller should be sued and asked to pay. Why? You realize that by suggesting this, you are holding an avg citizen liable for what the police chose to do? The man did not break any laws. Someone already pointed out that we don’t know what he encountered or why he called the police.

    But the whole point of Good Samaritan laws is to not dissuade citizens from helping for fear of being sued or prosecuted. If he believed that he was offering the correct level of assistance, would you prefer he walk away? Is there some reason the police could not more properly vet the situation and respond accordingly? Can a public servant not advise the average citizen by saying “we appreciate your concern for the kids…instead of calling 911, next time…”

    And as many have already said…perhaps he was leery of calling the parents to announce he was in the presence of 2 little kids. Remember what happened when the Grandpa took the wrong kid home from school and drove him back? They went ballistic. Perhaps he (wrongly) thought the police were a better option for fear of being accused of something.

    Geez, the original article saddens me, but I hate that people are using “worst first thinking” in regard to the guy who (correctly) recognized the kids may not have been where they should.

  155. derfel cadarn May 21, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    Put simply if the children were in real danger this individual would likely have turned their back wanting not to get involved. People need to start using their brains, i know this is difficult as so many brains out there suffer so little use. Let kids be kids !

  156. Puzzled May 21, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    I’ve said many times that I’m not a parent. But in most cases, the question as to whether I am or not is intended to demonstrate that if I thought with my emotions instead of reason, I’d come to a different conclusion. I heartily agree. If I were a parent, I’d want my children to have less freedom than I think, in the abstract, that they ought to. So what? If I were President I’d probably also oppose political freedom.

    As far as walking in front of cars – I’d stop an adult from doing that. That’s not unequal.

    And yes, it is inconsiderate to tell someone you’ll meet them and then not do so. These children weren’t meeting anyone, though, and inconsideration as an adult is not punished except by social means. Parents exercise more power than that. A better comparison would be if you ask me to dinner and I say I have a meeting when, in fact, I want to go to a bar and be alone. In that case, I’m not being particularly inconsiderate – I’m considering your feelings by not rejecting you outright.

  157. Donna May 21, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    Puzzled – The reason that I asked whether you had children (way back when I did that is) is that your comments exhibit a total lack of understanding of child development and behavior. I imagine, or at least really hope, that your opinions will change should you ever have children, not based on emotion, but based on the realization that children, particularly young children, are not simply short adults, but do actually have limitations not present in adults that need to be taken into account.

  158. Warren May 21, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    If people would read the posting, you would stop defending this idiot caller.

    The kids were not lost, not in distress, and not crying. Someone said something about not turning over their phone number to the man. Why should they? If an absolute stranger wants your phone number, do you just hand it over?

    This moron 911 caller, called because he personally does not like kids out on their own. No other reason. And now parents face legal problems because this goof couldn’t mind his own business.

    And if these girls even mention they wanted to go, and he wouldn’t let him, I hope they charge him. If these were my girls, I would be making his life a living hell.

  159. Troy May 21, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    This is insane. I am a police officer in a large US city myself and cannot think of any reason why anyone would need to be arrested or charged for anything. As far as I can tell the officers involved failed to use their discretion and common sense and did not stop to think of the second and third order effects of their actions. Just like in any job there are those who do stupid things and make everyone associated with them look bad. Everyday I see horrible parents that knowingly neglect their children and only have children in order to receive more money from Uncle Sam and yet DCS does nothing due to “case overload”.

    I hope you get a good lawyer and can get this taken care of. Our “justice” system has some serious issues but I hope for your sake that they get this one right.

  160. E May 21, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    @Warren, the guy made have made a mistake, but making a mistake is not a crime. The girls made a mistake (by disobeying their parents) but it’s not a crime. Being a parent and setting rules that aren’t followed well is simply unavoidable when you choose to have children (and clearly not a crime).

    For all I know the guy is a jerk. Or maybe he’s not. The parents ADMIT that they (the kids) were not doing what they were supposed to do. His judgement of the situation was not incorrect by definition of what the parents are saying. His reaction was disproportionate, but not the fact that he reacted.

    And the more practical discussion about this is that while the parents are dealing with the charges…it seems quite impossible to expect to be able to sue or harass the private citizen. The police validated his call by arresting and charging them.

  161. Donald Stanley May 21, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    totally uncalled for this event with the police. I remember as a kid, I would ride my bike for miles.. yes miles away from home. Usually told my parents where I was going. Even rode my bike to school about 4 miles away. And often on weekends or summer days would roam the fields north of my house again for several miles. Occasionally meeting the farm owner out in his field. He never called the police and never really forbid us to wander his fields.
    When we would vacation usually camping, we were allowed to roam outside of the camp itself. Exploring the woods as it were. We knew about snakes and scorpions and black widow spiders. Never got bit by any of them. We did not have a dangerous mall to poke around in though with over developed protectiveness or moral self righteousness and pointing fingers at perceived “BAD BAD BAD” parents when they had no clue as to what the kids were about. Just to make themselves seem like good people. What the hell happened to common sense here guys. I do feel for you and your dilemma. And I wish you the best.

  162. karleen May 21, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    This is plain stupid. Why would any parent trust a 6 or 7 year old. Their minds are more curious at this age than ever. I’m not saying they don’t deserve to be trusted But don’t be do naive!!!!! The world is different believe it or not. Don’t care of your statistics, crap happens! This is so crazy. I would of called the cops too!! Children don’t mature or gain confidence when left alone like this….they are left to unnaturally make decisions which are not capable of doing and this story proves it. Children disobey!!!! Even the really good ones!!! A child will griw healthy and independent when she’s ready not when she’s dropped off by herself or another child and then gets told to obey instructions. It’s dumb to even think this works. 6 and 7 year old!!!! Wow. I’m sorry what this family has gone thru emotionally but I hope they learn from this. Less trust and more guidance works best at this age. Oh and by the way, yes I’m a parent.

  163. Donna May 21, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    Puzzled – That was harsher than I meant. Your comments show a certain naivety and lack of real world experience that I think will change if faced with raising an actual child, not based on emotion, but based on the reality of the situation.

    It is like my job. Our state recently rewrote the entire juvenile code. The new code was written by a bunch of law school professors that have absolutely no real world experience practicing law whatsoever. It is based on all these lofty ideals rather than the realities of legal practice. And absolutely none of it works … and some is even detrimental to the very people they were trying to help, although it all sounds really good on paper.

  164. Red May 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    My son is a 7-year-old second grader. He comes home from school, does his worksheet for the day, then exits via the front door and takes off for two or so hours.

    If I want to find him (and he’s not on our street with a pack of kids, which he is about 50% of the time), I get on my bike and ride around the area he’s permitted to be in. That area is our entire neighborhood, excluding the two areas still under construction. Generally, he’s at one of the four parks within his boundaries, playing with other elementary-aged kids who are also wandering free. Sometimes he comes running into the house, grabs the money I keep near the front door for the ice cream truck, and runs back out with the money. I assume he’s getting ice cream.

    I guess we’re lucky though … if someone around here tried to call the cops on kids wandering free, the cops would probably come, look at the packs of kids we have wandering the neighborhood, and laugh. They’d be taking home at least 50 kids if they tried that, most of whom are between ages 5-10. (Yes, my son is 7, but he runs around with several even younger kids. The older kids keep an eye on the younger kids.)

  165. Linda May 21, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    Happens all the time, my son is 24 now and still relives feeling raped by cps when a jealous family member of a friend of mine called to report complete untruths. The cps felt it necessary to examine my child’s bottom for corporal punishment bruising without me present. he’d been taught that private areas are his and should not be exposed to anyone other then his parents if he had a medical question or drs, until he got married and that this was a touch for way later. So the worker came where i was waiting abd said, we have a problem Mrs, he won’t let us pull his pants down. I was horrified at how that sounded, instantly imagining the scenario. I came in as they directed me to and explained to him what it was about and why he needed to show himself to these strangers that were not his parents or doctors. As I pulled his pants down for cps to verify that he had no marks, he looked around the room at the several workers that say in a circle around him… I tried not to cry to avoid adding intensity to the situation but it seemed to carry it’s own intensity, laying years after i thought he’d forgotten when he broke down years later and told me how it had scared him.

    Cps took a perfectly normal child who had gotten 8 years into life without having ever had a single emotionally scaring experience and took his mind to a place that took him years to recover from…if he has.

    i know it seems petty, but everyone is different and for some one who’d been so protected in life to be raped even subtly….was extremely devastating to him. Maybe some people are just used to shine things…. but he was not. they ruined all the work i did to protect him…. at a random persons false accusations without ever asking that person to answer to the open n closed case. when i asked if they’d be punished, they simply said if they continued to report falsely, then cps could charge them.

    What a mess, i guess it saves a lot of children, but in my case it exposed my child to what it’s designed to protect children from…and to this day he’ll tell you he felt raped.

  166. E May 21, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    @Red, that’s why context matters in all of this. If the kids were prohibited from going to the shopping center then that’s beyond the ‘approved area’.

    I guess a comparison would be if your kid DID enter the area under construction and how someone (an observer or the police) would react. Is there a crime? Nope! Is it good to get them out of there? Yup!

    When there is no crime, it shouldn’t matter who helps out or how…there’s no crime.

  167. Linda May 21, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    “*topic* for way later” not touch…lol….sorry I’m on a tiny phone, hard to check n fix the typos.

  168. Red May 21, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    @Puzzled: As I mentioned above, my son has boundaries of “our neighborhood” set upon him for general playing outside boundaries. When it started getting warm in February and he wanted to be outside with the other kids who were starting to emerge (we just moved here), we went around with him and told him what his boundaries were. The boundaries are there so that I know where to look for him in general.

    If we are planning to do something soon (like on a Saturday) and he wants to outside, I may give him another set of boundaries “for now” such as “stay on our street or B&M’s cul-de-sac” which further limits those boundaries so I can find him more quickly if necessary. If he disobeys that on that day, there will be a consequence. It’s not dangerous for him to go beyond those more limited boundaries, but it’s inconvenient for the rest of us at that particular moment in time. And yes, obeying certain restrictions for the sake of making everyone’s life work well today is a good lesson to learn.

  169. SKL May 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    Puzzled, I agree with Donna. You talk as if a child is a computer, that can never make a mistake except for user error. That’s why I asked the question.

    Every child is different and unless it’s your own child, you really don’t know what that child is ready for. I have a sister who could be trusted to cook a meal without supervision at age 4. And a brother who could not be trusted to do that at age 10. I guess I could have applied your logic and let him burn the house down, but that just isn’t a sustainable plan in real life.

    You didn’t answer my question as to whether a child is entitled to be treated like an adult from the time he can walk, or some later time in early childhood, and why.

    Call me crazy, but I like to have an idea where my kids are while they are young.

  170. Puzzled May 21, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    SKL – You’re right, I didn’t answer your question, sorry about that. I’d say a child is entitled to the same rights as an adult as soon as they are self-aware enough to demand them. Beyond that, getting into the nitty-gritty, I’d sooner suggest a book I completely agree with than try to work out a theory in blog comments. John Holt has one, I can’t remember the title at the moment, but it’s on the subject of the rights of children.

    That said, there’s no point to continuing this. Maybe I am naive – but the same applies, I think, to my President analogy. If I were President, I’d advocate for more governmental power – and think that people who disagree are naive as to how hard and complex my job is.

    The thing with the juvenile law example is that I’m not sure exactly how motivated those ivory-tower types really are to improve things on the ground – and even if they are, they’re missing the point that greater simplicity in law would help. So I agree with you on the analogized case, but I’m not sure the analogy is helpful to me.

    Anyway, I can be wrong, and I don’t expect anyone to be convinced by me – or me to be convinced by anyone. I’d leave it at that.

    On the case at hand – totally agree that the caller is wrong but that it would also be wrong to prosecute him. It’s a lack of judgment on his part (in our opinion) and that shouldn’t be a criminal or civil offense.

  171. Kay May 21, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    This is appalling and so scary it is hard to address. Someone on here talked about not only getting charges dropped but trying to fight back against this mentality with legal recourse. It’s a good suggestion to get the media involved as well and to address that this is not just pervasive in the citizens of the community but that same mentality extends to those working in positions of authority, i.e. the police and CPS. There are some who might say, well, if the police and CPS think it is wrong, then it must be wrong, or there must be more to the story. We must all keep in mind that police officers and CPS are people, too, with the same bias, judgment, prejudice, and most of all FEARS to support their opinions of this change in our culture. These fears are not just busybody nosy neighbors or helicopter parents, these same people are using it to rule over us by changing laws or using subjective opinion to rule over vague laws. The parents have said there is no law per se, and yet they are charged. Why? Because they ruled from their fearful opinions of “what if”.

    It has made me stop and think about what happened with my 9 year old the other day. He was given permission to ride his bike with a friend on the bike path but afterward reported how they went off the path into town to buy candy at a local video store. I was not happy he went somewhere without letting us know where he was going but somewhat glad he did a “free range” activity that I was normal when I was a kid. However, in reading this story, it could have gone very wrong and ended up a nightmare. My heart goes out the parents of these children. What a way to live.

  172. Kay May 21, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    *that was normal when I was a kid

    By the way, I never told my parents when I went to the store and was buying candy either, I would hide the candy so that they didn’t know because they didn’t like me eating a bunch of candy. Nowadays a parent can get charged for kids withholding information of their whereabouts. But really, do parents need to have an exact knowledge of where their child is at any given time or a general knowledge? My 9 year old has just gone out for a bike ride again. I told him where he can go and he cannot make any stops without telling me and to get back home after he went around the block. That is because of this article and what can go wrong. I am legally responsible if he decides to stop and chat with one of his friends or play a bit. He would be doing something without me knowing.

    I also wanted to address the girls ages. It is not unheard of that children at those ages know what they are doing. My boys at that age would have been too immature and they have other issues and probably wouldn’t have thought of doing something like that anyway. But they have some cousins, especially one that when she was six it was more like she was going on twelve. She even played well and was treated like an equal with older children. You can tell by reading this that these girls knew what they were doing and weren’t just wondering about unaware of their surroundings like some toddler. One cannot always compare children at certain ages to their own.

  173. The Real Beth May 21, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    How did all the “omg, predators, you-should-be-HAPPY-he-called-the-police” posters even find this site? You’d think they’d run screaming from anything called Free Range Kids.

  174. Andy May 21, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    @Puzzled My two years old was self aware enough to demand all kinds of rights and no way she was mature enough to have them. But the best example would be my kid demanding to stay on playground alone when she was three years old. She has heard about older kids being alone and liked the idea. Three years old is way to soon it.

  175. Kate May 21, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    When I was a younger mother I read a book called The Child Abuse Industry. It was quite an eye opener and the ideas and cultural constructs it reviewed became applicable to many other facets of our culture as well. The “industries” of State Schools, Day Cares, Prisons, etc. My heart felt prayers for your courage in this situation and healing. You will be a font of strength for many others having been through this.

  176. John Bradley May 21, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    The article says this is from a mom in DC. I know that in a lot of instances, this is used to refer to the Northern Virginia area. If that is the case, I’m a Virginia licensed attorney, and would be happy to talk to you about handling this case.

    Because this is utter BS, and you shouldn’t have to spend money to defend yourself against government bullying.

    John Bradley
    (703) 740-7030

  177. laurie brown May 21, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    it is not false reporting if you see 2 very young girls on their own with no supervision. They could have been hit by a car,they could have been kidnapped and killed-you never know what could happen these days. They could have disappeared forever and their parents would not ever know what happened to them. Luckily, they were brought home safe. I dont agree that the parents should have been arrested,but I dont agree that the 911 caller should be punished. I am sure he had their best interests at heart. I would hate to be in his shoes,and read that young girls are missing or killed,and think those are the girls I saw,I could have saved them…..
    You just never know. Better to call and be wrong,then to let a 6 and 7 year old wonder around by themselves. Giving them tissues and sending them on their way can not stop a fast moving car,an idiot with a gun or knife or anyone with evil intent….

  178. Anon May 21, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    C’mon people, don’t offer to help with someone’s legal fees when you have only heard one side of the story…
    I can understand this woman being upset about the repercussions of this incident. And, if this story is really told the way it happened, in my opinion no arrests should have made, but I don’t think the gentleman who called the police did the wrong thing. He saw a 6 and 7 year old wandering around a shopping center l, “6 and 7”, they are incredibly young to be walking around a shopping center alone and unsupervised. (I know that they went there without permission) but, they were there. Our local mall does not allow children under the age of 13 to be without an adult, (again they are 6 and 7). I think you should be thankful that a concerned citizen called the police rather than a pedi file offering them a ride home (and yes they are out there).
    This mom doesn’t seemed concerned about “stranger danger” yet, she’s says both of them have some self-defense training. I’m wondering what they were told the training was for? I highly doubt that a 6 and 7 year old girl are going to be able to defend themselves with “some self defense training” against a crazy person/s.
    She also states that crime rates are down (compared to when we were children). Could that be because most don’t allow our children to roam freely (at that age). Life has changed and it is a scary world.
    I certainly don’t put the fear of god in my children and they have a ton of freedom, but at 6 and 7, even in my very safe neighborhood I would have never allowed them to walk that far.
    I know that theses girls weren’t given permission to walk this far, but this mom seems to defend their safety in this matter, when in fact she didn’t know where they were.
    My 9 1/2 year old just recently started walking home from school (1 mile) and I’m very nervous about it. If he wandered off to the store in another direction, I would be upset, would it warrant a call to the police from a concerned citizen, probably not, but if he was 6/7, I don’t think I would be that surprised if the police came a knockin’ (an arrest on the other hand, I don’t agree with).
    She raises concern about the police officer not having car seats to drive their children 1000 feet, I think there is much more to be concerned about than that.
    I have to question the 1000 feet, my small family room is 250 feet long, doesn’t add up, they were in a shopping center.
    This man did what he thought was right, what happened after that was out of his hands.
    One last thing, had she gone down to the creek looking for them and they were not to be found, wouldn’t she have called the police? Or, would she be pretty sure that they were safe since they are competent and responsible and they had an extra pair of socks with them. And, let’s not forget their self defense training.
    Again, if the story is how it’s told, I don’t believe any arrest should’ve been made… but, there just might be more to this.
    Kids do crazy things, and thankfully they are both ok, because really that’s all that matters in this whole situation.

  179. mme6546 May 21, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

    um. anon? what does the size of a room in your house have to do with the believability of this post? do you simply find it hard to believe a shopping center could be so close to houses? when I was 10, we lived in a condo complex that had a one car garage under each unit, a one lane drive in back, then a guardrail, then a 2 foot wide bit of running water, rocks, and frogs, then a grouping of trees, then a Tommy K’s video, a 7-11, a nail place, and a dry cleaners all in one lot. you could, quite easily, stand and pick out a slushie 1000 feet from my back door. INSIDE a store. You say 1000 feet is less then believable, because your family room is 250…AND “at 6 and 7, even in my very safe neighborhood I would have never allowed them to walk that far” ??? so which is it? to me, thats the POINT… OP isnt claiming they walked for miles- they were gone 12 min. on a path they’d been on before that was practically IN their back yard. the fact that it looped in a bit of a parking lot with some stores doesn’t suddenly make it freakin Beirut!
    lastly- yea. who knows. if they were physically tiny kids, emerging from some woods in front of me (no doubt muddy and wet, cause, um, yea. kids. creek.) I might be a bit spooked. and would probably insist they CALL THEIR PARENTS. or else walk them home.
    but THIS guy wanted maximum emotional return with minimal actual investment. therefore- call cops. “keeping them safe” without having to do more then twiddle his widdle fingers, and then no doubt walking away patting himself on the back for being a “good person”.
    here’s a clue.
    you’re concerned?
    actively go find out stuff.
    check up. check in. get INVOLVED in something other then the damn internet. actually interface with FACES instead of a damn screen, or phone, or dispassionate impersonal public servants.
    accept that your way is not the only way, and FIND OUT if there’s something bad going on. if not, hey….your a good person, and nobody loses their right to parent differently from you. if there is- THEN you call the damn cops.
    I swear- this whole “I did something, I called the COPS” mentality pple have makes me sick. you did nothing but pass the buck, bud. DOING something means you DO it. not tattle to someone else so THEY can do it for you.

  180. Anon May 22, 2014 at 2:23 am #

    Um. mme6546?

    Your right, FIND OUT if there really is something going on, kind of like FIND OUT who you are offering money to to help with legal fees, because everything you read on the internet may not be true and people will tell their story the way they want it to be heard. This story could be true, but FIND OUT.

    Anyway, I think you might be missing my POINT. When I mentioned the 1000 ft, I was actually referring to 2 things. 1st, the police driving the children home 1000 feet without car seats hardly seems like something to worry about when you look at the big picture (“do you remember when we were children” we didn’t use booster seats, just saying). 2nd, I only question it, because a shopping center is (probably) much larger than my family room, and if they were inside the shopping center, I’m only taking a guess (just a comparison) that they were most likely further away than 1000 ft.
    But, 1000 ft or even 5000 ft on your own property or a safe environment is very different from a 7-11 500ft down the street. And, I am willing to bet that the majority of parents out there would not let their 6 or 7 year old even go there by themselves.
    This had nothing to do with the me believing this post, it’s just that some of the details are questionable.
    I don’t think calling the police is considered tattling when it concerns the welfare of 2 young children. If this guy wants to pat himself on the back for being “a good person,” well, I would rather him do that than have some other guy drive off with the children and possibly never see them again.
    There was no mention about the words that were exchanged between the kids and this man. Maybe the kids were afraid of getting in trouble?Could this man possibly have sensed their fear and thought it was something worse? Is this what warranted the call to the police? We really don’t know the full story.

  181. Teri May 22, 2014 at 6:36 am #

    “I have to question the 1000 feet, my small family room is 250 feet long, doesn’t add up”

    Anon, while I agree that driving 1000 feet without a booster seat is not a big worry, I have to say that I’m amazed at the size of your living room.

    250 feet? An American football field is only 160 feet wide (I googled it). My entire three-bedroom apartment is probably not even as wide in any direction as that American football field, let alone your 250 foot long living room.

    I would say either you have an abnormally large house, or you mistyped a 0 on the end of your 25 foot long family room.

  182. Cynthia812 May 22, 2014 at 7:47 am #

    Anon, she didn’t say that they were IN the shopping center, just that they took a route that went by it. And while I agree that it’s perfectly reasonable for the police to drive a child 1000 feet without a booster, a parent may well be arrested for doing that. Heaven forbid common sense prevail. And I agree with Teri. 1000 feet about three football field lengths. It’s plausible.

  183. Bill Randle May 22, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    What a sad, no, pathetic, commentary on our culture! We have a 4-year-old son and we too encourage him to talk to strangers. Meanwhile, many parents in our son’s preschool have been reading the “Stranger Danger” books for years to inculcate fear into their children’s lives as a means of keeping them safe. By the way, That’s FEAR, as in False Evidence Appearing Real.

    For any parent with half a brain, the reality is that children are at far less risk of being “hurt” by a stranger than by a family friend or relative. That doesn’t mean we allow our 4-year-old to roam alone wherever he chooses in our big city, but it does mean that we are thrilled whenever our son asks a stranger how he or she is doing, or wants to know what’s in their package, or inquires about where they’ve been or where they’re going. When our son speaks to strangers we are so hands-off that the grownup our child is talking to sometimes looks around to determine who the parent is.

    The bottom line is that while we want our son to know how to identify risky or dangerous situations we also want him to see the glass as half full and assume that most people he encounters in life have good things for him. Why? Because it’s true. We want our child to live a life filled with opportunities to connect to the world, and not to live in a bubble of protection as we micromanage all his experiences. We want to avoid projecting irrational fear onto our son.

    The United States is a fear-based nation in which many if not most parents feel compelled to monitor all their child’s activities, to the point, in fact, in which they continually step in whenever their child is confronted by even minor or innocuous obstacles. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve observed parents stepping between children the moment even the slightest conflict occurs between children in a playground or park. And each time I feel the urge to blurt, “Let that go for 30 seconds and see if the children can work it out. Let’s at least have a modicum of faith in our children’s ability to deal with conflict.”

    Last week my son and his best friend with cavorting around the playground in their underwear, joyfully running through a water feature, when, while perched on top of the slide, they decided to take off their underwear. There weren’t many people in the playground at the time, and they looked so thrilled with their decision, I decided to let it go. These two 4-year-olds excitedly chased each other around the playground for 45 minutes, relishing the opportunity to be naked and free.

    Eventually a 7-year-old girl confronted them by sternly admonishing them with, “You’re naked, and that’s inappropriate.” The boys looked at her quizzically and then ran past her and onto the climbing bars. Meanwhile, the little girl frantically ran to notify her mother, who was across the playground glued to a cell phone, about the serious problem of two 4-year-old boys running naked around the playground. The mother looked concerned and I wondered if she might call the police. Apparently, she didn’t.

    I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that we grownups have to allow our children to live free of our constant interference or they’re going to grow up being hesitant and fearful of the world. I would rather have my son learn to be bold, independent, and autonomous than constantly looking over his shoulder to see if daddy and mama approve of his next step at the playground. And if that’s illegal in the United States then consider me an inveterate lawbreaker!

  184. T Wagamon May 22, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    Let the kids borrow your cell phone if they are playing outside.

  185. SKL May 22, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I hesitate to comment on the factual details such as 1000 feet etc. But I will say that if her yard is anything like mine, it’s one thing to walk from point A to point B and quite another to drive it. Remember the time Lenore posted a neighborhood map where to get to the house on the other side of your fence, you had to drive like 2 miles around the development?

    My backyard includes a ravine that goes down to a stream (not a creek, but then, “creek” might mean different things to different people). On the other side of the ravine are more houses like mine, and if you cut through a backyard, you are within about an eighth of a mile of the park. If you drive, however, you have to go in the opposite direction for a while and then turn back, so it’s about a mile that way.

    It’s also impossible to guess what the “shopping center” scene was like. In one place OP says they were going to go past it, in another place she says through it. However, around here, “shopping center” means a line of 2 or more independent storefronts with a parking lot out front. It’s not like a shopping mall where going “through” it means being indoors.

    The specific details don’t really matter, but I do think it’s plausible that a nice backyard is very close to a shopping center and that a school-aged kid can easily walk to, through, and back from such a shopping center without getting lost, hurt, or abducted. When I was a school-aged kid this was an absolutely normal occurrance.

  186. Cynthia812 May 22, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    SKL, that was my assumption about the shopping center as well, especially because in my experience that type is more likely than a big mall to be near houses.

  187. Warren May 22, 2014 at 5:23 pm #


    He had absolutely no reason to stop the girls. As described in the letter, they knew what they were doing, where they were going and how to do it. Yes they disobeyed their parents, but this moron had no way of knowing that. Doing what they were doing, they would not have appeared upset, or in distress.
    So he stopped two kids because what they were doing went against his personal ideals.

    I am sure the girls did not want to stick around and wait for the police. Therefore being detained against their will. Where I come from that will get you in some serious trouble. Maybe not with the police, but definitely with Dad.

    And for all you pacifists, no I don’t give a rat’s rear. Maybe if some of these busybodies got knocked on their butts, they would think twice about calling in about BS. Detain any member of my family against their will, you best hope the police get to you before I do.

  188. mme6546 May 22, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    “But, 1000 ft or even 5000 ft on your own property or a safe environment is very different from a 7-11 500ft down the street.”
    seriously…why is 5000 ft away on private property safer then 500 at 7-11? because its not yours? because…other people are there? what? what is it, exactly, that makes farther away safer then nearer, in your eyes?


    “If this guy wants to pat himself on the back for being “a good person,” well, I would rather him do that than have some other guy drive off with the children and possibly never see them again.”

    why are these the only two possibilities? why couldnt he walk them home, if he was concerned?
    better yet- why are the only two options in your mind
    A. police are called
    B. children are kidnapped

    why isnt there
    C. kids go home

    this is not snark. I’d like a serious answer, please.

  189. Amanda Matthews May 23, 2014 at 12:12 am #

    As someone that remembers my childhood… I agree with you Puzzled.

    And I must say, that if my parents ever set a boundary or rule that I did not think was logical, yes even with my 6/7 year old brain, I just went outside of the boundary it in a way that my parents wouldn’t find out. And that probably made it a lot more dangerous than if I’d been able to tell them where I was going, what I was doing etc. so that they could find me if anything happened. I know it certainly made it more dangerous because I could not ask them for help if something went wrong. Though I am probably a stronger person for having to figure out how to get out of those situations myself, many situations I got into could have gone MUCH more wrong.

    I’d rather be fine with my 7 year old walking to the shopping center while I’m not exactly sure where she is, but her feeling comfortable pulling out her own phone and calling me when a man stops her and tells her to wait for the cops.

  190. pentamom May 23, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    “my small family room is 250 feet long, doesn’t add up,”

    That sure doesn’t add up! I think you are confused about the size of your family room — 250 feet is five times as long as my whole house, which while not particularly large, is not particularly small, either. Maybe you live in a mansion, but even most people who live in a mansion don’t think that a room the same size as many whole school buildings is “small.”

  191. Puzzled May 24, 2014 at 12:12 am #

    Thanks Amanda!

  192. alanstorm May 24, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    Find out who this person is and sue them out of existence. His intentions are irrelevant – he is evil.

    I’ll bet the girls no better than to tank to strangers NOW.

  193. Warren May 24, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

    Lets get something straight. The idiot that said their family room was 250 ft long. We have what is considered a large home, just over 4000 sq ft in finished living space. There is not one outside dimension that even comes close to 250 ft. Most common rooms in average homes are at least 10 ft wide, therefore your family room would be 2500 square feet in area. Now unless you are a very rich person, I highly doubt your family room was bigger than the average house. Just saying.

  194. dave May 26, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    Sounds like a counter suit against the police department should be in order. I would consider one against the lazy jerk who called the police–instead of actually trying to help–but I assume it would get thrown out and be a waste of money. He deserves a few spankings though; that’s for sure.

    This mindset of keep everything and everyone at a distant and just let the government take care it has officially pissed me off. How could anyone in their right mind think that unless there is an actual emergency that the police should be involved? Even in the midst of an emergency I still consider whether it is better to get the police involved.

  195. Amy May 26, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    Having fostered and adopted through the system, I would always try to reach out to parents before contacting the system. Most just don’t understand how it works so they think they are doing what is best when they call police. The over-reach of the system is never truly understood until you are in the middle of it (children in custody = dollars to the state). I hope everyone takes this in consideration the next time they find themselves in a situation to make that choice between contacting parents vs the police.