Why Are Parents So Scared? Ask Barry “Culture of Fear” Glassner

Hi Folks! Just read a wonderful, kndybztfda
cogent Q&A with Barry Glassner
, the author of The Culture of Fear and now the prez of Lewis & Clark University. He’s been tracking our escalating worries for over a decade and come to the same conclusions as me (he came to them first!!)  about where the fear is coming from and perhaps how to fight it. My favorite part of the interview:

Why are so many people afraid of such extreme possibilities? 

We need to be careful to distinguish how people respond to fear mongering and who is spreading the fears. If we ask why so many of us are losing sleep over dangers that are very small or unlikely, it’s almost always because someone or some group is profiting or trying to profit by either selling us a product, scaring us into voting for them or against their opponent or enticing us to watch their TV program.

But to understand why we have so many fears, we need to focus on who is promoting the fears.

What’s your advice for someone faced with “fear-filled” news? 

If I can point to one thing, it’s this: Ask yourself if an isolated incident is being treated as a trend. Ask if something that has happened once or twice is “out of control” or “an epidemic.” Just asking yourself that question can be very calming. The second (suggestion) is, think about the person who is trying to convey the scary message. How are they trying to benefit, what do they want you to buy, who do they want you to vote for? That (question) can help a lot.

It sure can. That’s why I try to ask it a lot: Are they doing this to get ratings? Are they over-scaring us about some unlikely or minor problem so they can sell us something to assuage the fear they  just created?

The problem, of course, fear also becomes an echo chamber: If TV keeps showing us abductions to garner ratings, those scary stories resonate for the average person who is NOT trying to sell anything, but has been shaken to his shoes. Now he truly believes he’s being helpful warning us, “Don’t let your kids play on the front lawn, they could be snatched!” or, “Don’t let go of your child’s hand at the store, EVER.”

How to leech the fear infection out of those folks is in part what Free-Range is always trying to figure out. Suggestions welcome! — L.

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79 Responses to Why Are Parents So Scared? Ask Barry “Culture of Fear” Glassner

  1. thecoffeegod January 27, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

    It is far easier to control a population when they are scared. When human beings are frightened, they tend to act without thinking or questioning. The POC have been using this tactic through history. Religions, social groups, and governments have relied on fear to rally a populace via a ‘this is for OUR own good/protection’ party line.

    Always question authority. Be polite but question it. Why is an excellent starting point for just about anything.

  2. Mazhar January 27, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    nice post .

  3. Sassystep January 28, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    For me to stay realistic looking at the source is incredibly important. I actually think that it is really telling that when an abduction does occur that there is a code red issues throughout most of North America. If these things happened on a regular basis then they would no longer be a big deal. My mom worried about me constantly when I moved from our suburban area to downtown Toronto (as almost every person in this area does in their early 20s) because she kept hearing about murders, gang fights, etc. I kept telling her that when we don’t hear about murders anymore we know that there is an issue because they are so commonplace that they are no longer news.

    I also think that it’s important to actually look at the details of the statistics. As I have mentioned before, we have a lot of issues with my stepkids mom, who is an extreme helicopter, and trying to ensure that the kids don’t grow up fearful of the world. As my partner and I keep saying to each other – she should be much more worried that we are going to take off with the kids one weekend than that they will be abducted by a stranger lurking behind a bush while they are playing outside with friends. (Not that we would EVER do that, but statistics lean heavily in that direction).

  4. Bob January 28, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    Years ago, Garrison Keillor used to do funny commercials on A Prairie Home Companion for an imaginary business called “The Fearmonger’s Shop,” purveyors of all sorts of ridiculous products for people who are scared silly over the prospect of something that’s highly unlikely to actually happen. The commercials were very funny back in the 70s and 80s, but I doubt he could pull it off today, when there are so many REAL fearmongers making big bucks off of people’s often-irrational anxieties. And when a business fails to scare enough people sufficiently to induce them to buy their product, they just strong-arm state legislatures and/or Congress into making buying the product mandatory. Follow the money.

  5. Meagan January 28, 2012 at 12:32 am #

    I have two news sources: NPR radio and, yup, the Daily Show. (:-) I’m THAT demographic). It’s not perfect- for local news I’m pretty much dependent on word of mouth, but when I visit my parents and they have news on all day… its no wonder they think the world is so much grimmer than I do.

  6. Susan January 28, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    This reminds me of a debate on a mom chat board recently (actually it reminds me of lots of debates on mom chat boards). In this discussion, someone asked at what age people let their sons go to the men’s room, as opposed to going with them to the women’s room.

    Several people responded that they let their sons use the men’s room and they stand right outside of it. Other moms responded that it is horribly dangerous to do that because in 1998 a 9 year old boy was killed by a 20 year old man in a bathroom while his aunt waited outside for him.

    It was a completely random and bizarre incident that happened 14 years ago, but it just doesn’t matter to these moms. They are fond of saying that any risk is too much risk for them to take with their children. However, they drive with them in the car everyday.

    I really think all of these moms are more worried if people will blame them if something happens to their kids.

  7. Lollipoplover January 28, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    I believe the fear is very real, but we need to stop equating possibility to probability. I could buy a lottery ticket and think that there’s a great possibility that I will win the $200 million jackpot, but the probability is actually quite low. Same thing goes for fear. I could possibly die today, or probably live another 50 years. I’d much rather my tombstone read “She lived an adventurous life and had a vast circle of family and friends” than “She stayed home a lot worrying about all of the things that could have happened, therefore dying alone with little adventure to speak of.”

  8. railmeat January 28, 2012 at 12:56 am #

    There is another dynamic at work here as well. Fearful parents will often point to a perceived risk (or even a made up one) and then claim high parental status points by what they are willing to do to combat that risk.

    ‘I’m a better ‘rent than you, because I’m willing to give up *everything* to keep *my* child safe!’

    And of course, the counter-point of this action is the labeling of whomever is listening to this proclamation as an uncaring, poor excuse for a mother/father.

    The imagined ‘fear’ (or the real fear) is only the fulcrum about which this behavior turns.

  9. gap.runner January 28, 2012 at 1:17 am #

    It’s not only in the States where there is fearmongering. About 20 years ago my husband was working in a small town in England. I went along with him. There were some woods on the edge of town with a golf course and trails that went through them. I asked some of the locals about running through the woods and golf course. Just about everyone told me that it was not safe to run in the woods because someone got murdered there. It turned out that someone really was killed in those woods–about 10 years previously. But the way the locals talked about it, you’d think that the murder happened yesterday. I took my chances and ran in the woods. As you can tell, I lived to tell about the experience.

    As parents we need to realize that an event is newsworthy because it’s so rare. That’s why jumbo jet crashes and train derailments are reported on the news and auto accidents aren’t. Planes aren’t falling out of the sky every day and trains hardly ever jump their tracks. That’s why those events are reported. Auto accidents occur multiple times a day and are therefore not newsworthy. The same thing goes for kids being abducted by strangers. Stranger abductions get reported simply because they are so rare. Kids being taken by a non-custodial parent hardly ever make the news because that is a more common event. If strangers in trench coats were snatching our children 1000 times a day, stranger abductions would soon become mundane and not worth broadcasting.

    I’m old enough to remember doing duck and cover drills in school to be prepared for when the Soviets dropped a nuclear bomb on us.
    Again, something with a very low probabilty of happening was magnified to create fear. There was always one kid in class, usually a girl, who would start crying and think that this time we were really being attacked by the Soviet Union. The teacher would have to say that it was just a drill. My teachers never mentioned that the odds of the Soviet Union dropping a nuclear bomb on our suburban California community were slim to none. We had to always be prepared for a nuclear attack. Now that the Soviet Union has ceased to exist, we need to find something else to fear.

  10. kiesha January 28, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    The fearmongering is on the rise, but I also think it’s straight-up guilt that makes people refrain from letting their children do things. When I was a kid, if I fell off my bike doing something stupid, my parents would say, “Well, you shouldn’t have been doing that stupid thing.” Now it seems more likely a parent would say, “I feel so terrible for letting him do that stupid thing.”

  11. John Deever, Ohio dad January 28, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    “Love is but the song we sing, And fear’s the way we die
    You can make the mountains ring, Or make the angels cry …

    If you hear the song I sing,
    You must understand
    You hold the key to love and fear
    All in your trembling hand:
    Just one key unlocks them both
    It’s there at your command.”

    Cheesy? Maybe. But the flipside of fear is love, and if we want to, we can choose to do one, not the other.

  12. Violet January 28, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    What about the trauma to young boys who are dragged to the women’s room at the mall and see their female classmates? If the kid is in school, he doesn’t need to go to the bathroom with mommy. I only have a son but what do men do with their daughters in public places? It seems almost certain that dragging your little girl into a men’s room will expose her to a penis.

  13. Shannon January 28, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    Hell, I’m 29, and my mother is *still* worried about me biking around my 25mph speed limit sleepy suburb. I think it’s a good indication of how 24-hour news cycles have made us all into quivering blobs. When I was 11 or 12, she let me bike two miles to the library nearly every day with nary a “watch out for cars, darling.” Now that she has CNN on all morning, her 29-year-old daughter (who hasn’t lived at home since she was 17) is barely capable of a pleasure ride down some very quiet streets without potential rapists lurking behind every bush and drag racers around every corner. The thing that most people don’t seem to get about news is that by the very nature of the fact that it’s “news,” it’s unusual and out of the ordinary. If a kid a week was getting molested while out for a bike ride, it would, ironically, cease to be news and would become part of daily experience.

  14. forsythia January 28, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    We had duck and cover drills until it was obvious that they wouldn’t work. Meanwhile we had no earthquake drills ever at all.

    My high school was damaged in an earthquake ten years after I graduated, and a school in a neighboring district collpased. Thankfully, it was early morning during spring break and nobody was hurt. Another earthquake hit during school hours eight years later and there were injuries, but they were minor because they had had some evacuation drills by then.

    We were prepared for an extreme event, and not at all for a likely event.

  15. North of 49 January 28, 2012 at 2:09 am #

    It isn’t that we are scared of the “what ifs,” it is that we are scared of that knock on the door and legislated legalized kidnappers kidnapping our children because someone complained that we were not perfect parents. Social workers are far more terrifying than anything else that can be thrown at children, especially since parents can be doing everything “right” and some nosy busybody, or even someone with a vendetta against you, could call and complain. If there is even a spec of truth in what they said, the investigation, interrogation, and worse could go on for months if not years. Children are removed and subjected to interrogations without proper representation and are forced to live with strangers. Children affected by social workers end up terrified themselves of being removed from their parents whether or not they have been ever the subject of a removal. Those same children, and their parents, suffer from post traumatic stress and other disorders because of not only what is done, but how it is being done.

    It isn’t the rapists, the pedophiles, the murders, the accidents. It is the social worker with an agenda that parents are terrified of.

  16. Cara January 28, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    I wonder if any of this fear will start to diminish as more people watch shows online instead of on a TV. Already younger people (like my husband and me) don’t have cable, and rely completely on Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix for entertainment. Because of that, we don’t watch the news, certainly not the local news. We get our information from online sources or NPR. Because of that, I don’t get exposed to most of that fear-mongering. Hopefully as the entertainment model changes (and yes, news is entertainment, which is why they focus on that stuff) the fear-mongering will lessen.

  17. Claudia Conway January 28, 2012 at 2:17 am #

    I think the ‘car danger’ issue is a good one to raise with anyone who is convinced the world is horrifically dangerous and that what other people/you allow your kids to do is reckless endangerment. Just ask ’em if they drive their kids in their car…

  18. eLisabethH (@ElAitch) January 28, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    I think another contributing factor to parents’ fear is that our culture is so “fault-oriented,” i.e., conflicts and problems are essentially resolved through litigation and the determination of blame/responsibility which is not an inherently bad process, but it does contribute to our tendency to look around when anything bad happens and say “why? who’s responsible?” When I have those moments as a parent of questioning the safety of an activity, I not only have to worry about whether my kid is actually at risk but also what would happen to me/our family if anything bad did happen (or if someone else just suggests it might and calls the police). I don’t know how much this additional fear of reproach factors in to other parents’ overall sense of fear, but I know it does weigh on me.

  19. Cheryl W January 28, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    Cara, I don’t think watching online will help. This morning on one of my local facebook groups was a link to a TV station reporting about a stranger being reported on school grounds. Apparently, according to the report from the TV station online, the school sent home letters to parents, on two days because he was there two days. Kids reported him to the school staff. The facebook replies were all “this is horrible!” “How scary!”

    My kids go to an alternative (homeschooling) school that butts up to the property. This week we do not have classes, but we do have testing and meetings with teachers. Our principal is very good at keeping us informed. We got no notice. Parents do let their kids run around outside alone or in small groups, or sit in the cars alone. The principal knows this.

    Our parents are all background checked but we cannot go and play with our kids on the playground at the school when the school kids are on recess. The staff is very good about chasing us off school property, even when we are not interacting with the school kids, if we are out there when the kids come out for recess.

    My guess is, it was a parent who had kids doing testing and was tired of waiting in the car and wanted to take a walk. I am not certain of this, but I think overall the kids at the regular school are just fine. They are out in herds and they know to talk to teachers about things that are not normal.

  20. EricS January 28, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    Plain and simple…use common sense. Everyone who fears, has that little voice saying, “your over reacting, chill out, your doing more harm than good…especially to yourself”. That’s your common sense speaking to you. Listen.

  21. Suze January 28, 2012 at 4:40 am #

    My husband has worked in a large international department store chain for over 30 years. Over those 30 years he has worked in 5 different stores in 5 different cities. Every time a child is reported missing it has just been that; they are found within a few minutes and returned to the parent/guardian. Not one of those “missing” children in 30 years were EVER abducted by a stranger. They wandered off or parents/guardian weren’t keeping track of them. There’s nothing wrong with teaching your child to hold your hand in a store if just for the fact of making sure you know where they are and don’t have to go through the embarrassment of a department stores lost child procedure !!!!! Trust me; the staff in stores don’t want your kids running willy-nilly all through the place as its not the local park. Plus lots of kids get away from there parents and start pulling things off shelves, opening boxes and doing all kinds of things you don’t want them to on occasion…… Also you need to realize that its kind of like being stuck between a rock and hard place also. When the other shoppers hear one of the missing child codes called and the staff going into action (not letting shoppers leave the store as entrances and exits are blocked, bathrooms are checked etc) it does put a certain amount of fear in them that a child may have been “snatched”. And by the way, they usually according to my husband have to do this at least once a week.

    Just my two cents…. So as you can tell I absolutely don’t feed into the “your child will be snatched in public” hysteria and I hope this eases some irrational fears for those “helicopters” who read this.

  22. Denise January 28, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    Today, I managed to get off of work and picked my 4 month old daughter up from daycare early to spend time with her. I got stuck behind the elementry school bus who stopped 3 times in less than a 1/8th of a mile to let kids off. At first, my thought was how nice it is that these moms are at home in our very rural community. Then, I watched as each parent loaded up their kid into the front seat (none of these kids were over 100 pounds) and drove to their house. The subdivision is less than 1/2 a mile from end to end.

    So the mysterious stranger is much more a risk than car ride with the kid in the front seat.

    And what sucks is that I’ll have to model these parents behaviors as my daughter ages and needs playmates, less she get left out of the only playground for 10 miles.

  23. Alexandra January 28, 2012 at 5:33 am #

    Suggestion: Please don’t reinforce the cycle! I notice that this blog selects isolated stories of parents being persecuted to an extreme degree and presents them as trends. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the purpose is to sound the alarm (and sell your AWESOME book that I loved). However, rather than being empowering, I can speak for at least two moms, myself and my best friend, for which this causes fear and promotes following the heard.

    For example, my best friend had CPS called on her by some malicious person just being a jerk for no reason. Now, every time she sees CPS mentioned on your blog she wants to move to the middle of nowhere and never look at another parent again. She’s incredibly isolated and it is just getting worse. I try to talk to her on the phone about how you are selecting stories because they are news and she isn’t going to be jailed by going to library story time, but how do you fight that fear?

    Another example, the story about a mom who got put in jail (briefly) over her four year old getting hit by a drunk driver scared me so bad about the busy road by my house that my husband and I actually moved. We hated that dangerous road for a long time. But if we weren’t able to move, I would definitely not be allowing my kids to walk on that road because of your horror stories. Backwards!

    Please post more empowering things like this story that shows the psychology story, and like POSITIVE calls to action such as the “take your kids to the park and leave them there day.” Otherwise you are just another news source I am going to have to cut from my life. My best friend has done so already. The irony of it is that we do it because we AGREE with you!

  24. Ann In L.A. January 28, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    There was a story making the rounds yesterday about police calling in child-protective services on a family because their son ran two doors down from their house in only boots and snowpants–no jacket–in 25 degree weather. Having grown up in snow country, I remember overheating in winter gear and taking off my jacket all the time, and thinking that 25 degrees is positively balmy. Yet this ended up with the family getting a knock on the door.

    It’s sad when legitimate fear of what the government might do massively outweighs any legitimate fear we have for our kids.

    As a second note, you should also be wary of medical claims being made, and take them with a grain of salt too. For example, I work in a hospital in a marketing department and my boss wanted to make a big deal about the increase in Alzheimer’s cases. I looked up the numbers, and it turns out that most of the increase was do to a change in the categorization of the disease. In other words, there wasn’t really an increase in the level of disease; there was only an increase in what we were calling the same diseases that have been around for decades. I told her that, but she didn’t care. Saying there was a large increase was much more dramatic than explaining that the disease has been redefined.

    Dramatic claims get the headlines, and long explanations don’t.

  25. EricS January 28, 2012 at 6:01 am #

    @Alexandra: That’s the whole point about THIS particular article. Just because it’s presented to people, it doesn’t mean “go run for the hills”. It’s obvious your friend has chosen to let this story affect her in a negative way. Understandable in some ways due to her own ONE time experience. Not to mention, that it was caused by some jerk, and not her parenting. Negative things happen to all of us everyday, small or large. It’s not what happens, but it’s how we deal with it. We can choose to let it control us, or we can chose to absorb it, understand it, and learn to overcome it.

    The “selected isolated stories” presented on this blog are just that…ISOLATED. And far and few. That alone, should raise flags that it’s not an epidemic. A positive thing. And for most of us here, when we read about them, we find them incredibly ridiculous, and illogical. We don’t freak out, we laugh that there are people out there that are really that dumb and paranoid. Some even feel sorry for them, because we can only imagine how their lives are living in constant fear. So you should tell your friend, there is nothing to fear. And that worse case/negative thinking only does harm. Just because it happened to someone, doesn’t mean it will happen to her. If it happened to her ONCE, unless she does it to herself, would probably wouldn’t happen again.

  26. Marie January 28, 2012 at 6:01 am #

    I don’t imitate the other parents in driving my kids to school because it’s ridiculous. We’re plenty close to walk there. I do walk with them because I get too many parents worrying about my kids if I don’t, to the point that they’ll walk my kids home for me.

    These attitudes make finding playmates really difficult because hardly any kids are allowed to play out front. I let them go to other kids’ houses, but we almost never get kids coming to ours, either to play indoors or to see if my kids can come out. It’s sad because my kids get really lonely and frustrated that they can rarely find other kids to play with.

    On the other hand, I’ve had some fun discussions with my kids comparing some of the risks. They know what rules I expect them to obey with strangers, and that cars are a bigger risk than strangers. I’d rather focus on sensible precautions than fear.

  27. Attorney At Large January 28, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    In a previous professional incarnation, I represented victims of childhood sex abuse — and yet I am so tired of to the scare mongering. I *can* pick the pervs out in the downtown parks. Do I stop taking my kid to the parks? No, of course not. I also know most sex abuse is perpetrated by someone known to a child. This is the world we live in, and it’s the world I’m teaching my child to live in. Wrapping kids in bubble wrap can’t change reality and it will only warp their sense of it.

    (And a very minor quibble: it’s Lewis & Clark College.)

  28. Donna January 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    “Other moms responded that it is horribly dangerous to do that because in 1998 a 9 year old boy was killed by a 20 year old man in a bathroom while his aunt waited outside for him.”

    I lived a few miles from where that occurred. The boy was killed by a delusional man who had simply decided that it was time to kill someone, went to a park and waited for “god” to tell him who to kill and then followed him into the bathroom and slit his throat. He intended to continue killing until caught. What the hell do these mothers think that they can do to prevent this type of tragedy? If “god” is telling someone to kill your child, you are unlikely to stop him. Your presence in the bathroom probably just makes 2 victims.

  29. mine January 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    It is what it is people controling people for there on purpose self sustaining there egos.

  30. danan January 28, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    @railmeat and @kiesha
    I totally agree. There have always been violent stories with unlikely monsters on TV. The difference now is that parents blame one another for everything that happens to kids, and they compete with one another.

    I don’t think we need to pick on TV; there are actually fewer realistic cop shows on than in past decades. Reality TV is just cheaper to produce, and TV violence is now over-the-top, almost funny, on shows like Dexter. The main difference between now and 20+ years ago is parents’ and schools’ attitudes.

  31. owen59 January 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Yeh, bad things do happen. We do need to be able to understand our real environment to live in it safely. We also need to live in it. We therefore need to be enquiring and communicative with community (and therefore part of community development, and, occasionally, care for the injury to children and family, or lay someone to rest. We really need to do that caring. Not some fake indignant action that, rather than soothe the pain, increases it, rather than uplifts the community, depresses it. And sometimes that caring does mean to say, “It happened, it happened then, it does not happen all the time, regularly, frequently. It is not happening now.” Sometimes we need to say that to the victim so that they can have a fulfilling life. More often we need to say it to friends, family, observers. Often it seems those second and third removed from the incident are the most indignant.

  32. mollie January 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    I think it’s too much. Too much money, too much resources. And too little. Too little community, too little interdependence.

    So. My guess is that the whole thing will resolve itself if (when) there is an enormous change in our culture. A change in focus from wretched excess to quality of life. But it won’t happen quietly, or without extreme pain. Kind of like getting off of crack.

    I heard Robert Redford interviewed the other day. He was talking about his upbringing in a poorer neighbourhood in Los Angeles during WW II. He had great nostalgia for the experience he had being one of the few Anglos in a Hispanic neighbourhood. He said it was hard times for all, but good times for all, because they found ways to share with each other, to make their own fun, to gather as a community. Then the war ended, and the money came. And then things got bad. Because once the money came in, the community became polarized, and there was no more sharing or interdependence.

    When will we learn that the more we have, the more we have to lose? When will we learn that quality of life is not quantity of stuff? When will we learn that contributing to the well-being of other humans is our greatest satisfaction, and start planning our days around that experience instead of worrying about whether or not little Emma has the perfect décor in her bedroom?

    As I’ve said before on this site, I see major changes ahead in how we live on this planet, and when those changes come, it will seem like the most outrageous folly ever that we tried to keep tabs on kids every minute of the day because of imagined dangers. Hell, those same kids are going to be functioning at their highest capacity, just like kids in wartime or desperate poverty must do.

    It is a fine balance, one that I cannot seem to strike in my own home… the balance between nurturing and illuminating for children what they are truly capable of, even if they are not facing harrowing adversity day to day. Because we are living in a time of unparalleled ease and comfort and well-being, perhaps it seems inexcusable to introduce even the smallest amount of adversity into a child’s life. Without that, though, it would appear that our resourcefulness, decision-making skills, creativity, and competence all atrophy, along with our muscle and bone.

    But nature will take care of it all, and probably pretty soon. The last 200 years of human existence has been so brilliant, our rise so meteoric, that we’ve lost sight of what got us to the plateau we launched from. It was community, interdependence, that’s how we thrived and survived… and now that’s all but gone.

  33. PuffyTMD January 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    I wonder if the same parents who take their male children to a female toilet (and as a woman I do not want a child over seven in there with me, I like my privacy too) drive their kids home without the kids wearing their seatbelts?

    Wearing seatbelts in Australia is compulsory with severe financial penalties paid by the driver if anyone does not. There are also strict laws as to how babies and young children are seated,

    I totally support these laws because roads ARE dangerous places, The statistics on the reduction of death, disablement and injury totally prove seatbelts and correct seats/capsules for tolddlers and babies prove the need for such measures.

    Yet while scare-mongering over boys in males toilets, abductors behind every bush in the park and the perils of cutlery in dining halls abounds, parents get into a high-powered vehicle with their kids sitting unrestrained on the seats while other vehicles including trucks and motorbikes hurtle towards them.

    When the car comes to a halt by hitting another one and their kids go flying past these parents, into the windshield, they can console themselves that at least their permanently damaged kids were safe in the mall toilets.

    All this hunting down parents who take their eyes off their kids for 2 seconds while refusing to pass laws to really protect kids is madness.

    (The statistics on the reduction of death and injury after compulsory seat belt laws were introduced in Australia are readily available, as are the comparisons for death and injury amongst non-wearers and wearers involved in car crashes. The results are conclusive. Seat belts save lives and prevent the severity of injuries.)

  34. Donna January 28, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    The question is always “when do you let your son go into the men’s restroom alone.” What about the girls? Are these same women who want to take their 9 year old son into the women’s restroom okay with their husbands taking their 9 year old daughter into the men’s room? And how do the men who are using the urinals when she walks in feel about that?Because we all know that a man who happens to look at a girl with his hand on his penis must be a pervert (even if he happens to be at the urinal in the men’s room in the middle of peeing at the time she walks into his line of sight). Or are the daughters simply never allowed to go anywhere alone with their fathers lest they happen to need to go to the bathroom because it’s much better to hinder father/daughter bonding than to risk the possibility that their tween girl will have to go in a public bathroom alone?

  35. sexhysteria January 28, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Let’s name names. The infant bottle formula industry has $30 billion in annual sales worldwide. They profit when little girls are mentally castrated and taught to feel ashamed of their breasts, eventually deciding to bottle-feed their babies instead of breastfeeding. The biggest seller of breastmilk substitutes is the multinational conglomerate Nestlé company. http://sexhysteria.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/breast-shame-tradition-deception-and-the-money-trail/

  36. Buffy January 28, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    Could we please, PLEASE not start a breast vs formula flame war?

  37. Claudia Conway January 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Talking of News Horror, I was astounded to find out, through a product I saw advertised online that apparently it is now mandatory in Australia (though if there are sources other than the product blurb to verify this, I’d like to know) to have a strap that you use to attach your buggy to your wrist, lest it roll away and into danger because a total of two, yes, TWO, children had horrible accidents when their buggies rolled away. That merits an entire national policy? Mums can’t be trusted to hold on to their buggies. Jeez. http://www.buggytug.com/?p=115

  38. Nicolas Martin January 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    Much of the broad-based panic has its roots in the irrational fear of intoxicating drugs. The century-old demonization of opioids and other psychoactive drugs has made Americans desperately afraid that their kids will become drug addicts. (It has also made it much more likely that they will come into contact with drug bootleggers from whom they can buy the products.) Until the drug war ends there is not a prayer that the parental panic will subside.

  39. Lollipoplover January 28, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    @Donna- sadly when you’re dealing with someone delusional, I could be a kid or anyone else.

    We had an incident a good 10 years ago where a delusional man shot randomly at some mom unloading her groceries at one of our local strip malls. The man diidn’t know her, felt he needed to kill her, was off his meds and now there’s something else to be fearful of. The news ran specials on “How to Keep Yourself Safe In Parking Lots” and I remember one of the things they mentioned was don’t wear your hear in a ponytail because they can always grab you and pull you down with it. My husband and I couldn’t believe how they were equating a random, violent act with now being paranoid in a parking lot. I DID try though to avoid the dreaded grocery run and pass it to the big guy by pleading I had my hair in a ponytail and it’s simply to dangerous, but it never worked. I loath grocery shopping. But now we have ponytails, your new fear.

  40. Z-girl January 28, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    I think it’s more (less?) than fear or worrying about CPS – I think it’s just people trying to fit in and conform with what they think most other people think.

    BUT….. I have a sneaking suspicion that the majority of parents would be Free-Range if they thought it was socially acceptable. I know that I was just following the norm in raising my kids here in the US (although it was totally different from how I grew up), just because I thought that’s how it’s done here. I didn’t really think about it, apart from some vague “wishing things were different” feelings.

    When I started reading Lenore’s posts, THEN I started really thinking about my choices for my kids. Before that, I (sadly) did not. Which really surprises me, as I’m usually a person who analyzes and challenges things all the time. And if I made this mistake, I’m guessing many other parents are making this mistake too…

    Maybe I am overly optimistic, but I think that if large groups of parents were brought together, and given the TRUE facts and maybe some guidelines and examples, by a figure of trust/authority (I’m not sure who that would be – maybe a policeman? mayor? CPS person? Lenore?), then enough parents would start to buy in to FreeRange and start a snow-ball effect. It’s all a matter of perception and what parents think is “normal”.

    But one parent alone trying to ‘convert’ a couple of other parents just isn’t going to work: you have to have a large group of parents so that there are enough FreeRange parents to show others that this is something that MANY reasonable people believe!

  41. Jp Merzetti January 29, 2012 at 1:45 am #

    In a shrinking economy we can expect a lot of desperate activity designed to “scare” people out of their hard earned cash. Child savers, service providers and civil courts supply more jobs nationally than Walmart – and at much better pay and benefits, with greater job security. One wonders why this boulder is so hard to dislodge?
    But heck – a wholesale return to free-range living? Imagine a stiff Depression with all that easy disposable income drying up (a terrible thought, yes…) but no-one would be able to afford pseudo-child-saving anymore. They’d be far too preoccupied with just feeding their kids. No more money for alarm systems, kiddie-alert monitors, no gas for endless child-chauffeuring…….just for starters.

    Good post, Mollie. I agree…a simpler life, though harder (ironically) is probably better for children – not by design as much as circumstance.

  42. Jenn January 29, 2012 at 3:41 am #

    @Attorney at Large- You can pick out the pervs at the park? Does that superpower apply to the pervs everywhere else in the world? I’m not saying that corrupt individuals are everywhere but that you don’t know who they are. It’s not like it’s tattooed to their foreheads. If it was we could do away with those pesky background checks!

  43. socalledauthor January 29, 2012 at 3:51 am #

    Having just run into my first admitted helicopter mom, there’s that fear of loss that seems to override the ability to make solid risk-assessment determinations. She could admit that riding in the car is more dangerous that her 12 year old daughter riding around the quiet subdivision in a county with a non-existant murder rate (I think our great increase is that we now have 1 murder a year in this area, but that figure may be high.) But she said that she just can’t take any risk losing what is her more dangerous possession. Since I have to work alongside her, I just let it go. Her daughter is losing out because this woman lets her fears of the improbable override any facts or statistics. Because MAYBE, just maybe, something COULD happen. And that’s the hardest part for Free- Rangers when trying to deal with or talk with helicopters, imho, is the inability to get these parents to step back from the fact that just because something COULD happen doesn’t make it remotely likely.

    The fact that I’m fairly young (and look even younger, for better or for worse) and have only one 18 month old son doesn’t help my position as they just spout off with how I’ll understand when I get older.

  44. socalledauthor January 29, 2012 at 3:52 am #

    Edit: her most prize poessions. Gah. WordPress needs an EDIT COMMENT button!

  45. Donna January 29, 2012 at 4:45 am #

    “But she said that she just can’t take any risk losing what is her [most prized] possession.”

    I think this is a big part of the problem – viewing children as “possessions” that belong to you rather than as individual human beings with their own needs that may contradict your wants. Parenting (a word that didn’t even exist in prior generations) has become more about what the parents want and less about the children.

    I think this attitude is at least partially a result of birth control (no, we should not go back to pre-birth control days). Kids used to be something that just happened to people who had sex. Yes, there were ways to prevent their existence but not with high effectiveness. Parenthood was just accepted as a part of adulthood that just about everyone experienced whether they wanted to or not. Today, you get to decide if you want children, when you want them, how many you want, etc. with damn near 100% certainty of you choice. You often must make a conscious decision to have them (i.e. go off whatever birth control has been thus for preventing their existence). Some pay tens of thousands of dollars or more to get them. Many alter their lives in major ways in the run-up to having them. Today’s middle class kids are something that their parents extensively planned for and worked at having before they even existed. They aren’t just an incidental by-product of being a sexually active adult any more. Naturally parents attitude towards these children changes. And I think it changes to view them more as possessions belonging to the parents who extensively planned for them and not as little people who just come as a result of sex and must fit into the parent’s lives. I think you also see it in the infantisizing of children. Parents want these prized possessions to be theirs for as long as possible. This is probably why you see less helicopter parenting in groups where birth control is not prevalent.

  46. Donna January 29, 2012 at 5:05 am #

    We have now run into our issues with helicopter parenting in American Samoa – a place where helicopter parenting is virtually non-existent. The palagi (white) families here are generally fairly adventurous and not particularly helicopter. A couple even hunted us down and invited us over as soon as they heard we hit the island. Helicopter parenting is not a part of the Samoan culture at all.

    But my daughter has made friends with two girls at her new school. Sisters from California (although I believe are Samoan). She really wants to have a playdate with them. Their mother refuses to allow them to schedule playdates if she doesn’t already know the parents. Maya was excluded from one sister’s birthday party last week because her mother doesn’t know me so she was not allowed to invite Maya. Now these children do not live close to us. Communication would need to be had between parents and rides given back and forth so we would meet before any child was left alone with anyone, but mom won’t entertain the thought until she knows me. So instead, I am going to have to talk to the mother in the class that I do know to see if she has been sufficiently vetted to arrange a playdate, although her daughter is not even particularly friends with these girls, so that I can meet the mother so that eventually my child may be able to socialize with hers outside of school. It seems like a lot more work than my mother ever put into my school age friendships.

  47. Roz January 29, 2012 at 6:02 am #

    @Claudia. Had a look for more info re the pram strap and found this. http://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/974064/fromItemId/974044

    Under Tether Strap “Prams and strollers must be supplied with a suitable tether strap that allows the operator of the pram or stroller to be tethered to it while it is in use”

    Ugh I was hoping it wasn’t so.

  48. PuffyTMD January 29, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    We are pretty hot about product safety in Australia and not into charging parents if they take their eyes of their kids.

    The compulsory straps were brought about when it was realized, after the death of two babies, that the free-wheeling ‘joggers’ pram could easily run away from the parent. One death happened here, where a jogging mum stopped to answer her phone and when she looked up the pram was not in sight. She thought the baby had been abducted (too many abduction stories) and everyone was looking for a stolen baby, but the pram was found in the bottom of the river where it had silently rolled. Another was saved when the same thing happened but a Vietnamese refugee who saw was a fisherman in his old country dived into the waters when he saw the pram go in. After a couple of dives he pulled the pram out and the baby was alright.

    Instead of charging the mothers the authorities correctly identified the design problem of the ‘jogging’ pram – that it rolls freely at a small touch. They made the straps on the pram compulsory and recommended (not compulsory) its use.

    As I said, we try to provide the safest products for children in Australia. with strict standards. If a problem with a product is identified it is recalled for modification or replacement at the manufacturers or importers expense. Parents can then make choices in the knowledge that the products meet standards.

    While helicoptering is taking hold in Australia, I think our emphasis on safe products instead of witch-hunting parents helps with free-ranging kids.

  49. PuffyTMD January 29, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    Are you saying that you disagree with safety design rules for children’s products, in the name of free-ranging children? Anyone should be allowed to sell anything as a childrens product? How many deaths should it take before the design of a product is subject to scrutiny and changes to design rules, 10 20, 100?

    So the authorities can say, oh yes, we knew that the pram has free-rolling wheels that move at the slightest touch and a parent has to hold on to stop it running into traffic or the river but we were waiting until 15 kids died before we did anything about it.

    I support free-ranging but I do not support perfectly sensible responses to real dangers to children being denigrated. I am confident that our modern approach to regulation of children’s products as opposed to persecuting parents over childhood accidents has prevented many deaths and injuries while allowing parents to leave their kids alone in a cot, pram or with toy without worrying that it will harm them,

    Another example is the design rules for retail of childrens’ clothing. Labelling and designs are controlled and parents can make choices based on information and clothes meeting standards.

    It is about insisting on a safe product range from which parents can exercise their own free judgement, Parents do not have the resources or the time to test every product or the power to control the retail sector. Without design rules, kids would still be able to play with toys coated in lead-based paint.

  50. Betsy Maloney January 29, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    My mother smoked during her pregnancies and while we were growing up.
    I remember my dad having an open beer bottle between his legs while driving.
    My mother drove us kids from the Midwest to Florida for vacation and back again by herself without a cell phone or even long distance! Imagine that!
    I rode my bike for hours and hours, my mother never knew where I was.
    What the hell is a play-date?
    We stayed out until three in the morning as teenagers. My parents locked the house up and went to bed. It was a fun challenge to break in!
    All this was considered normal. Everyone minded their own business.
    No one knew anything about anyone or wanted to know anything except they
    were nice folks whose kids attended the same school as theirs.
    I ate three things as a kid: Hot chocolate, pop-tarts, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on toast.
    e-gads! How did we survive it????

  51. hineata January 29, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    On the original thing – I’m sure it’s TV that does it, at least it is for me. Last night we were all at the wharf fishing, and my 10 year old wanted to go for a walk down the surrounding streets to stretch her legs. I had no problem with this (it was dusk actually, so still plenty of light), but as she disappeared down the street I noticed, horror of horrors, a (black!) SUV coming slowly down the street, about where she would be passing. Now, in the area where we live, in fact in the whole island I believe, no child has ever been pulled into an SUV and murdered, but they sure have on the cop shows I love watching :-). I forced myself to remain seated, but sure enough I couldn’t stop myself watching to make sure the SUV kept right on moving, didn’t open its doors to any squealing preadolescent girls etc.

    I really need to chuck that TV out the nearest window!

  52. Uly January 29, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    Oh, god. In one of the links on the side, about leaving your kids at the library? There’s a comment there from some woman who would NEVER leave her kids alone (again) because… wait, I’ll quote her exactly:

    “You just never really know when or where bad things may occur.I only recently allowed my 13yr old son to go surfing with his mates with out myself or his dad, my thoughts being he is starting high school , excellent swimmer ect ect and low and behold a man was taken by a shark not 50 meters from where he was, what are the odds of that ! Needless to say he was and still is quiet traumatised.Kids unsupervised is a accident just waiting to happen no matter how you try and dress it up.”

    Upsetting as I’m sure this was (assuming it actually *happened* – I’ve noticed that when it comes to using fear to control others, some people are positively shameless and will just wildly make up whatever “facts” suit them), it’s important to note that a. the kid was physically unharmed and b. parents can’t prevent shark attacks.

    (But you know, if she’d been there she could have kept him from being traumatized, because “parents are comforting”. Excuse me while I laugh hysterically into my pillow.)

  53. Uly January 29, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    PuffyTMD, do baby carriages in Australia not come equipped with simple foot brakes?

    When it comes to safety measures, you have to ask not “what number of people were harmed by this” but also “how many people were totally not harmed in any way”. Two children in two years (when there are about 250,000 children born yearly in Australia) is tragic, but it’s not really a public health crisis, is it? If it were two children a DAY dying because of this product, I’d be more concerned.

  54. Donna January 29, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Uly – Wow, you discovered Aquaman!! I always thought it was just a Saturday morning cartoon character but apparently Aquaman really exists and it’s a woman. She has the ability to repel shark attacks by her mere presence a half a football field away. Whatever her kid thinks about his sole outing alone until he goes to college (when mom apparently thinks it’s okay if he gets eaten by a shark), I bet the guy who got eaten by the shark really wishes she had been on the beach that day.

  55. Mari January 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    We are really trying to become more free range with our daughters but don’t get a lot of support. Today, our 13 year old daughter wanted to shop with a friend. We dropped them off at the mall and figured they could walk back to our house from there when they were done. We live 2 blocks from the mall so our 13 year old is allowed to walk there and back by herself but her friend’s parents insisted that they couldn’t walk home by themselves as, and I quote, “There was a girl who walked out of a mall and was kidnapped in broad daylight and then raped and killed.” We’ve lived in our city for over 15 years and never heard that story so I’m thinking it didn’t happen anywhere near us, and even if it did, I really think the likelihood of someone grabbing 2 girls at once is quite low. We found it rather sad as both my husband and I remember walking, bike riding and taking the city bus by ourselves at that age. We are trying to introduce those freedoms to our daughters but we get resistance from everyone we know who apparently think it is normal to drive teenagers everywhere.

  56. Gina January 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Regarding safety products and recalls: One of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard is that infant seats were recalled because several babies fell out of them when the adults holding the seats allowed them to tip. Now, I know that infant safety seats have three-point harnesses. Did it occur to these parents to BUCKLE THE BELT? We need a recall for this?

  57. mollie January 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Mari, you just nod enthusiastically and say, “I know! I know! And it’s SO DANGEROUS to drive them! There was a 13-year-old girl whose mum took her to the mall in their car and even though they had seatbelts on, they were T-boned at an intersection not TWO BLOCKS FROM THEIR OWN HOME and the girl died instantly, didn’t even make it to hospital! That’s why I just won’t drive my child two blocks, because those things happen! In fact, I think we should keep them at home, and not take them anywhere. But then again, there was a 13-year-old girl who was home with her family, they were all wrapping presents on Christmas Eve, and there was a wiring malfunction in the house and it BURNED TO THE GROUND. The girl was overcome by smoke and didn’t get out of the house, poor innocent thing! No, it’s just too risky, I won’t let my children into our house, since it could BURN DOWN ANY SECOND. These things happen!”

    Perhaps she’ll get the idea that you are aware that dangers lurk in every moment of our lives, and yet we still LIVE. Or else she’ll go straight down the tub drain of hysterical anxiety and say, “Nowhere is safe! Nowhere is safe! There’s nowhere I can put my baby that is safe! Help! Help! Help!!! SAAAAAAVE UUUUUUUUSSSSSS!!!!!!!”

  58. Uly January 29, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    No, Donna, her reasoning is that when traumatic things happen she’ll be able to somehow magically be able to shield her child from the trauma because “Having your mother near is comforting”.

    I tried to explain that that only applies when your mother is sane, but I’m not sure if I succeeded.

  59. Christy January 29, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Very interesting post, started a very long conversation this afternoon at playgroup!

  60. Lollipoplover January 29, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    @Uly- I have a feeling if this mother was nearby during a shark attack, she would be anything but comforting.
    Speaking of random shark attacks, I watched “Soul Surfer” the other night with my daughters. It is the true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton who has her arm ripped off in a shark attack, but gets back out in the water to surf again and compete. She could have stayed out of the water forever fearing sharks but she didn’t.

  61. LRH January 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    I loved the article, & it sounds like the 2010 book is a good one to buy, and to recommend to friends of mine who subscribe to this fear.


  62. Donna January 30, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    Uly – That makes as much sense as my Aquaman theory. Knowing a few 13 year old boys, it is as likely that said boy is not traumatized at all, simply told mom about it as something “cool” (13 year old boys have a weird definition of “cool”) that happened at the beach and mom is now traumatized.

  63. RWsMom January 30, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    Thank you so much for pointing out in this article, what I have believed for so long……laws are made by those with power and money; The companies and lobbyist that are wanting to make a profit.
    It’s unfortunate that thousands of children, men and women are being accused of sex crimes so that lobbyist and companies can make a buck!
    Examples of some of the companies and not for profit groups are: GPS monitoring companies, Privatized prison systems, Behavioral and therapy groups, Criminal Alert programs such as Crime Watch, law enforcement agencies, prison vendors such as Aramark and Sodexo, media production companies, and yes, even our own elected officials.
    The problem we face now is, how do we stop this? How do we stop them from prosecuting and criminalizing our children and young adults, our husbands, fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters?
    We must take a stand America! With over 750,000 registered sex offenders (1/3 being under the age of 25), it won’t be long before everyone in this country will have a loved one that is on the registry!! This HAS TO STOP!
    I know! I’m a mother of a young man who was charged with sexual crimes at the age of 17, he is still incarcerated and is now 24 years old. GOD help our country!

  64. Uly January 30, 2012 at 4:24 am #

    He MAY have been traumatized, I don’t know. Still don’t know what the heck his mom thinks she’d be able to do by being there.

  65. Reluctant Grownup January 30, 2012 at 4:54 am #

    I never leave my sleeping kids in the car (in moderate weather) and run in the gas station to pay, for example. But it’s because I’m afraid of somebody reporting me. I’m afraid of getting in trouble.

    I wonder if that fear is also overblown?

  66. hineata January 30, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    Some poor mum not far from here left her kids in the van ‘asleep’ while she ran in to go to the toilet at 11.30pm, on her way home from vacation. She carried on another 110km to home before realising that the ‘sleeping’ kids, aged 6 and 10, had in fact followed her out of the van and were outside the toilet block when she drove off! A couple of teenage girls (13) had snuck out of home and gone on a midnight jaunt through the park, found the kids watching Mum driving off and took them to the local police station.

    Kids were fine, teenagers were proud of having been there to help, in spite of the telling-off they no doubt got, but Mum – Mum was so traumatised that she required counselling. We live in such a blame-ridden culture that even though everything worked out fine, she was still stricken by a disproportionate amount of guilt. Thirty years ago, that sort of feeling would only strike parents whose children had been hurt or worse by the encounter….

  67. Andrea | Elimination Communication January 30, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    We have been so bombarded with messages spreading fear and your post is absolutely right about being critical as to the source. More often than not, there is a hidden agenda (read: $$$) to be served and it would serve *us* best to keep this in mind and take news/advice with a grain of salt. While there are real dangers out there (yes, I completely agree), but there are scores of imagined dangers as well. Then, there is also the other side to consider: could it be that these imagined dangers are holding our children back from reaching the peak of their potential? What a scary thought.

  68. LRH January 30, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    I tell Reluctant Grownup I don’t know if that fear is overblown, but I will tell you this–where I live, the “leave kids in the car while I go inside to pay for gas” scenario is legal (less than 5 minutes being one of the stipulation), and I do so.

    In other words, I’m one that has the attitude thusly: I am NOT going to let the risk of someone reporting me cause me to edit my parenting, because the minute I do so, I am not really the parent anymore and I might as well just give them up for adoption. Also, it’s a fight worth fighting: the right to parent responsibly as the PARENT sees fit. The minute one lets the fear you mention interfere with how they parent, you’re letting the enemy win, and you can’t do that.

    That’s my thought on the matter anyway.


  69. Sarah January 30, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    It’s amazing how the culture of fear has changed even the older generation. My mother called me the other day to share the story (blanketed all over the news) about a 6-year-old who set his apartment on fire (and killed 2 siblings) by warming up pizza – in the box – on top of the stove. She then tried to guilt me – again – into taking the knobs off of my gas stove.

    I reminded her that on my 7th birthday I made pancakes for everyone – BY MYSELF and before anyone else was awake – which means that she had been teaching me proper kitchen usage for some time before that. I told her it was a tragedy, but it could have actually been averted by being LESS afraid and teaching said 6-year-old how to use a kitchen properly instead of trying to wrap him in bubbles. What we are actually shielding our children from is competency!

    My mother has actually re-remembered my childhood to make that day my 10th birthday, and she now thinks that 8 or 9 is the proper age to start learning how to cook. Luckily, I have photographic proof 🙂 which I am going to show her this weekend. Kids haven’t changed, but our fears for them have. I am so glad that I don’t surround myself with fear-mongering media. It makes it a lot easier to be freerange!

  70. LRH January 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Sarah Amen, amen, amen.

    I swear my mother has done the same thing. She used to tell me about how when I was an infant I cried a lot & she would have occasion to put me in my room and shut the door and let me “cry it out” by myself. I think I was maybe just a couple of months old. (She didn’t leave me in there all day, but in spurts, yes, she say she would do that.)

    When our last child was born, she was going on & on about how we needed to move him from the room we had him in, as the children’s room and our room are on opposite sides of the house and we can’t hear them sometimes. As I told her, that’s exactly how we WANT it. If need be, we can turn on the monitor, but otherwise, that’s how we WANT it to be. They did fine as infants, and with them now (almost) 3 & 5, they are fully capable of playing in their room area for awhile independently while my wife & I have some quiet time in our space on occasion.

    Besides thinking we needed to hear them every single time they cry, she also was freaking out along the lines of “someone could come in here in the middle of the night and steal them.”

    We live on about 80 acres of woods and have 2 houses about 120 yards away, same neighbors the whole time we’ve been here–otherwise, we have the entire 80 acres of woods to ourselves, on a private dirt path to boot.

    And we have to worry about child abductions? Oh come on.


  71. mollie January 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    When I was a small child, I used to ask my dad about things that were worrying me. “Daddy,” I’d say, “what if you die?” And my dad would say, “Well, that’s not very likely, but it could happen, yes, and then other people who love you would take care of you.” “But what if you and Mom both die?” “That’s even less likely, but it could happen, and then there would still be people who love you who would take care of you.” Well, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. “I want you to tell me that you won’t die!!!” I wailed. My dad would hug me and say, “I can’t tell you that, because it *is* possible. It’s possible, but it’s not probable.”

    Possible, but not probable. That was the mantra of my childhood. I hold it in my heart still. Sure, it’s possible that my kids could develop a rare nerve disease, get mauled by a crazy dog, catch a stray bullet meant for someone else, get yanked into a van with no windows some day while they’re walking down the street and never be seen alive again, be in the way of an airplane that makes an emergency landing at their school playground, etc. etc.

    Once, when my “was”band and I decided to take a little stroll in the moonlight around the block while our infant and 3-year-old slept in the house, I pulled it out again. Was it possible the house would burn down while we were gone? Yes. Was it possible some crazy person would go in the house and harm or take the children? Yes. Was it possible that our three-year-old might wake up, go into the kitchen, and microwave himself somehow? I guess so. In the end, we decided that the odds were with us, and we took that walk, because just because you can dream it up, and yes, it’s possible, that just doesn’t mean it’s likely to happen in that moment.

    Would hearing the whole “possible but not probable” speech from my dad allay some of the hysteria parents seem so identified with these days? My recollection is that it was indeed uncomfortable for me to accept the remote possibility that my parents could perish while I was a child, that my stomach tensed up, that I wanted reassurance in the form of promises and platitudes that my dad couldn’t, in his integrity, give me. And yet, that discomfort was my first baby step toward acceptance as a way of life, and believe me, it’s a hell of a lot more relaxing than thinking you’re supposed to get control over every variable.

  72. JennM January 30, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    http://www.thinkgeek.com/geek-kids/3-7-years/e65f/ Found this just now… it is a temporary tattoo for children with contact information in case they get lost….

  73. Uly January 30, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    I don’t know, Jenn. In SOME situations when your child is under the age of 7, it’s a good idea to be prepared that your kid might get lost. This way you don’t panic when it happens 🙂

    How many times have I been at a crowded playground, or beach, or street fair and then blinked and realized I don’t know where the toddler is? (Not very often any more, the nieces aren’t toddlers now, but back when they were little they couldn’t consistently give a phone number, and at two and three one of them couldn’t consistently be understood by strangers.)

    Of course, I’m more likely to just scribble information with a sharpie on their arm, or pin their contact number inside their jacket (just like my parents did with me when I was young), but that’s beside the point. Being prepared that your children MIGHT get lost is a heck of a lot better than chaining them to your side and refusing to blink so they can NOT get lost.

    It’s no different, really, than reminding your children what to do should it happen – stand still and wait to be fetched, and if you’ve waited too long ask a store clerk to call your parents or ask a passerby to bring over a cop.

    I don’t have a problem with taking reasonable precautions for common situations. Most children are lost at least once before they grow up, aren’t they? (They are if they’re being raised properly!) Does a temporary tattoo with contact information on it, when you visit the crowded amusement park or museum, impede your life significantly? Nah, it’s 30 seconds of wetting and pressing onto the skin. Does it cause you or your kid to worry more? Nope – in fact, the whole point of this is that you DO trust strangers to call you rather than cackling madly and running off with your child. Does it keep you from teaching your child what to do an emergency? Maybe – it might cause you to wait longer to teach your child your phone number. However, in these days where every member of the family has a different cell phone number, that’s a harder task to accomplish than it was when we were kids! I had to remember one or two of them as a kid, my nieces are expected to know five or six (me, their mom and dad’s cells, their mom’s work, my mom’s cell and work (they’re at the same office, so it makes sense if they can’t get their mom on the phone to call MY mom and have her carry the message) in case one of us is on the train or has a dead phone or something).

  74. Donna January 31, 2012 at 1:07 am #

    @JennM – I’m not going to go out and buy one but I kinda like the tattoo. First, it’s marketed to parents of kids 3-7, an age that is very likely to wander off and may not remember a phone number. At that age, even if they know their phone number when sitting at home reciting it for you, you can’t always count on them to remember it when scared because they can’t find you.

    Second, it assumes that (a) you are not harnessing your child to you, (b) you are not a horrible parent who should have her child taken away because he got lost, and (c) people will help, rather than rape and murder, a lost child. And lost children do happen.

  75. EricS January 31, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    @Z-girl: that sad part, and alarming IMO, is that many authoritative people (police, teachers, CPS, etc…) are part of the problem. They are just like the rest of us…humans. And many of those people, have a “I know best because I’ve seen it”. So they enforce the “worse-case thinking” mentality. And with many people already paranoid, hearing from actual Authority, it MUST be true. What they fail to think about is, these people are parents too, and they are just giving their opinions based on how they raise THEIR children. And the reasoning of “seeing everything” doesn’t stack up either. Of course they see, the negatives. That’s what their job entails. Cops will never be called into a situation where kids are safe and having fun. CPS will never be called to homes where the children aren’t abused. It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s all about your mentality towards the issues. I know police officers who have Free-Range thinking and raise their kids as such. I also know teachers like that too. I also know that these people tend to have to deal with others who have a helicoptering method. It’s a tough battle, but as long as we can keep our heads on straight, and stand our ground, it will be better for our CHILDREN in the long run, not US in the short term.

  76. Storm March 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    hi Lenore,

    Thought you might enjoy this; it’s from one of my favorite opolitical commentators, Rick Mercer. It’s entitled “Fear”


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