WHY ARE WE CHAUFFEURING OUR KIDS TO THE BUS STOP?

The old joke — never that funny, actually — is about a rich lady who takes her grown son on a vacation to Florida. When she gets to the hotel, she lavishly tips the bellhop to pull her son out of the limo and carry him upstairs.

“Can’t your son walk?” the bellhop asks.

“Of course he can!” says the mother. “But thank God, he doesn’t have to.”

Now fast forward to the bus stop of a typical American suburb. The time is 3:30 p.m. and a couple of cars sit idling. (Let’s not even get into the Al Gore aspect of this.) At last the school bus arrives, dropping off moppets aged 6 or 8 or even 12. Said moppets dive into the car that’s waiting for them — driven by mom, dad or a nanny — and a couple of blocks later, usually after insisting the radio station be changed to Disney, they are safely back home.

Can’t  these children walk? Of course they can! But thanks to an increasingly warped view of what makes for a good American childhood  – and a good American parent — they don’t have to.

Now, forget all the clamor about how fat our kids are getting, and how out of shape. Let’s talk about what this personal limo service does to their view of the world. When parents pick their kids up from the bus stop, those kids are left to assume it is wrong for them to even consider walking home. It must be too hard, too dangerous, too strenuous – too impossible for someone their age. Message from parents: You’re a wonderful, amazing, precious person!

But you’re not up to a two block walk.

Sift through the emails on this blog and you’ll find tails of parents picking up their kids from the bus stop even when it is on the same side of the street as their home — even when it’s on the same block as their home. Some parents pick up their kids in golf carts, because they live in a gated community — presumably gated to keep the traffic (white slave and otherwise) out. So these are not just parents worried about cars or creeps. These are parents worried about allowing their children to take even one, single, cul-de-sac step without adult supervision.

Obviously, they’re only trying to do what’s best for their kids. But the “what’s best” job description is expanding so much that pretty soon, concerned parents are going to be cutting their teenagers’ food for them. (Oh. You already do?)

When most of us walked to the bus stop as kids, it wasn’t because our parents were negligent or unloving. They simply trusted us and our neighborhoods.

Today, believe it or not, our neighborhoods are no less safe. Nationally, the violent crime rate is back down to what it was in 1970 (and lower than it was in the ’80s). So there’s no reason not to trust our towns.

That leaves our kids. Why don’t we trust THEM? Were we so much stronger, faster and smarter? Are Americans, in fact, de-evolving? This seems unlikely. (Until you watch reality TV.)

October 8th was “International Walk to School Day,” and I’m very sorry I missed it. But maybe it’s time for Walk to School Month. Or at least Walk to the Bus to the School Month.

Can’t your children be chauffeured to and from the bus stop? Of course they can. But thank God, they don’t have to be.

68 Responses

  1. Doesn’t this fall into the WHOLE myriad of things that parents don’t let their kids do for themselves?

    If they can’t walk to bus stop by themselves…then they certainly can’t be expected to clean up after themselves, or do any other chores around the house, or even their own homework?

    We have a neighbor girl who comes to our house and is horrified when we have the kids clear the table and do the dishes.

    Her response?

    “I don’t have to do chores. My parents take care of that for me.”

    ick.

    Or the mom on the field trip who laughing joked about the good grade SHE was getting in her child’s class.

    Seriously.

    Give a kid some responsibility and then give them some freedom, and you will have a wonderfully self confident person capable of anything.

  2. I’ve raised this issue with friends in the past. I’m told it’s not always about the kids. More often it’s about the gossip. A friend of mine has a kid who no longer takes the same bus as they used to but the wife still goes to chat with the other parents.

  3. So, Carl? Your friend can’t walk down to the bus stop to chat? These people can’t walk to socialize?

    And that’s nothing. Driving your kid a block or two – nah. What’s *really* silly is an (off-topic, by the way) comment I saw elsewhere today: A seven year old is not old enough to be trusted with a *butter knife*.

    The mind. It boggles.

  4. I’ve been reading this site for awhile now and am proud to be a free range parent in a medium sized city. Our bus picks the kids up at our driveway – “lucky” for them. However, my 2 daughters and I were selling GS cookies this afternoon (in the neighborhood). I stuck fairly close to the 6 year old since it was her first time going door to door but let the 8 year old go ahead of us within a reasonable range. We set the distance and boundary limits, reviewed the safety rules and she stuck to them. She then requested to walk home alone as she was tired but her little sister was not. It was a bit hard to let her go – I worry when she wants to do something new – but I let her go. She called my cell phone when she got home and boy was she proud of herself.

  5. Another nail solidly hit on the head by this blog.
    I think the root of this goes back to the super-parent idea that drives every ounce of common sense out of so many parents’ heads. It’s not surprising when you note how many products there are to ensure that you have covered every possible threat to your child. The thinking is, “If you could protect your child from [Potentially Deadly Threat 'A'], why wouldn’t you?”
    So, the super-parent scrambles to get every available product and take every precaution when their angel is born until it becomes their reason for being. Their only purpose in life is to shield their child from the big, bad world. Asking them to stop would be like asking them to retire to Florida and take up shuffle board.
    This is combined with the fact that sidewalks, if built at all, are only for dog walkers and salesmen.

  6. One of my pet peeves is the parent who pulls up in the student drop-off area at school – room for about 6 cars to drop off kids – and they’ll stay in the dropoff line until they are at the very front before disgorging their kids. Heaven forbid their little precious have to walk 20 feet farther than necessary. And why are others walking their kids to the classroom? Many times the parents are carrying the kids backpacks for them. Are they too dumb to find the way themselves? Not capable of carrying a 5 pound school bag? Inquiring minds want to know

    We’re going to have a whole generation of helpless adults in another 10-15 years

  7. As someone who walked to school all her life, this angers me. I was out on a walk the other morning, and saw a child standing in front of her home in the area we live in. The school bus came and picked her up, right outside her house. My tax dollars at work! We are raising a crop of feckless, lazy, apathetic children in this country. We have three little ones at our home, and our 3 year old twins already know how to do their laundry, collect the trash and help with outside chores. My husband and I refuse to capitulate to the modern methods of child rearing. Thanks for this site, it is refreshing!!!

  8. The more I read the articles on this site, the more I fall in love with it.

    My wife and I have four kids which means we often just don’t have time to take on such tasks as picking kids up at bus stops or waiting in line at school to drop them off. Even if we did have time, we would never pick them up at the bus stop (ours is about a block away). This time is good for them to gain a sense of responsibility and self-independence, much less the benefits of the physical activity involved.

    Seriously, more parents need to read this blog. It would be an eye-opener for many of them.

  9. My district is one that drops off and picks up children within sight of their house. It is a liability issue. The kids that ride busses tend to have parents that commute into Houston for work. The rule is when they drop of the children the driver must wait till the child enters the house before leaving.

    The district has a legit fear of being sued if a child should be locked out of the house and an accident happen.

  10. Interesting post. I don’t see this as such a major issue. I would go with what I always say on this site that if the parents want to do this then they have every right to do so. They know their kids better than complete strangers. If someone picks their kid up at the bus stop, it might seem a bit extreme. But you really don’t know the reason, unless you know those people. Perhaps like myself, their child has a developmental or behavioral disability ( my son is autistic ). I wouldn’t be so quick to judge unless you know the full story. Still I enjoy the site and the exchange of ideas. Just wish their was a little more inclusion of the fact that some kids have legitimate limitations because of their health and a little less judging of others’ parenting styles. They love their kids just like you do.

    Grace,

    Cudos that your 3 year olds can do their own laundry but I do not think my son is feckless, lazy or apathetic, He is picked up by the bus in front of our house( that’s how they do it in our school district; not my choice). He is autistic not lazy. You never know what issues each parent and child are facing unless you know them personally. As far as your tax dollars, we all find things we wish we didn’t have to pay for. I would love more funding for disabled kids. It’s tough enough with this challenge without the fact that the financial burden is severe. Most treatments and evaluations are expensive and not covered by insurance. But the tax system is what it is. We all pay for things we don’t like and want funding for causes we deem necessary. Good luck to you and your kids!

  11. Growing up in violent, dangerous, crime-ridden South Africa my sister and I took a bus and then walked home from school everyday. Never had any problems. My kids (have a 3 month old daughter now) will be making their own way home from school.

    Walking home from school made for some good memories. One I always remember was a fierce, hot summers day when my shoes stuck to the tarmac and my sister suggested we pick up and eat a bit of the gooey, black road. It was gritty and chewy but otherwise fine. My parents thought it was hilarious.

  12. Oh! I was just ranting about this to my husband. Granted, my kids aren’t in school yet so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. But. I live in a rural area. Buses drop kids off at the top of their driveway. Parents will be there in their idling trucks so their kids don’t have to walk the 1000 feet or whatever to their house. In good weather. Come on people.

  13. My 6 year old usually walks down to the bus stop alone – which is all of 3 houses down on the same side of the street. He’s been doing that since the 2nd week of kindergarten last year which was about a month after he turned 5. I never thought anything about it until halfway through the year when I was talking with other parents and they thought I was crazy for not walking him down. I do walk with him a couple times a week but it’s mostly because I want to chat with some of the other moms. :-)

    He’s been asking to walk to school (1/2 mile away) and we want him to. However, I don’t want him going alone (1/2 mile but crosses a major street with no crossing guard and he is only 6). It’s hard for me to do it because I’d have to take my 2 younger girls with me and besides it being almost impossible for me to get everything up and dressed that early (leave by 7:30), I would be too rushed to get back and get the girls to preschool on time. I want him to walk with some friends but in a our kid-filled neighborhood I haven’t been able to find a single child to walk with him… even the 4th and 5th graders arent’ allowed to go that far on their own. :-(

  14. Why are they DRIVING them, as opposed to WALKING them, if the bus stop is that close ?

  15. I think that what we’re talking about here is not so much a poor analysis of the risk. But a decision that the consequences of that risk are not acceptable to the parent involved.

    The act of “weighing risks” is reals the act of weighing the risks against the consequences.

    Letting your kids walk to and from the bus stop contains some risks.

    If you live on a quiet street, in a safe neighborhood, it’s low risk, but high consequence (injury/death by car accident), but you’ve decided the risk is low enough as to be close to equal with the “everyday” risks of letting your kids outside to play. That is to say, close enough to nil for you to not really worry about it.

    But if you’re like me, and you live on a street with moderate traffic, or if there are child predators stalking kids in the area (yes, identified but having done nothing illegal yet, or having attempted to snatch a kid, foiled, but not yet apprehended, because there are myriad men fitting his description, driving the same color pickup truck in the area) then the risks are much higher, and you might walk your kids to or from the bus stop.

    I’m not talking about people I looked up in the local sherrif’s database. One guy tried to snatch two of my wife’s girl scouts, on different occasions. he was brazen enough to attempt it while my wife, and the girls Mom were chatting on the lawn nearby.
    Another guy, doing home repairs in the neighborhood, was seen following the school bus in his van.

    I’ve read Gavin DeBecker. I understand that the risk of my kids being snatched by a stranger is very, very low. But sometimes the predators are real, and they’re in the area. Then we tighten security – the kids can’t play out front without direct supervision, they can’t walk alone to friends houses unless they can get there by cutting through yards, and they get escorted to the bus stop.

    When the predators are caught, or they move on, we relax security back to what’s apropriate for our kids ages.

  16. At my old place, I lived at the end of a very short, dead end street that was off a moderately busy street. One of the moms raised a stink that the bus was dropping her then 11 and 14 year olds off at the strip mall one street over, not 50 feet away! (I often walked to the corner store there.) It was even on the same SIDE of the street, so they wouldn’t even have had to cross. They were 11 and 14! She must have raised quite a stink after that because suddenly the bus started pulling down our road and dropping her kids off right in front of her house. :(

    Some off topic pet peeves:
    1) Knives. One of my friends wouldn’t let her 11 year old daughter cut her own meat. In another instance, my uncle insisted on cutting his 9 year old son’s food for him in front of all of us, and my poor cousin was QUITE embarrassed!
    Seriously, do you really think they are going to stab themselves to death? And if they get a little cut on their finger, like I did once, no big deal. They get a bandaid and a new-found respect for the knife.

    2) DVD players in cars. Really. Can’t we go 20 minutes without watching tv??? It’s more to keep the kids quiet. It’s lazy and catering to children. Not everything is super-wonderful and “kid-fun”. Sometimes trips to the bank are boring and kids don’t like it. Too bad. Maybe they can exercise a little thing called imagination while they wait for Mom to make that deposit.

  17. Len, obviously, when there is an active threat going on, things are different. Keep complaining about that guy, and do it in numbers and force. At least when the police finally do arrest him (and it will happen, because he sounds pretty careless and possibly mentally ill) they will have a nice, fat log of complaints to throw at him. As the wife of a cop, I know that while they may not be able to arrest him yet, they DO know what he’s up to and they are biding their time until he slips up.

    We’re talking about parents who do not have any active threats going on. The threats are all in their heads, echoes of scary news programs and “what-ifs”. It an ILLOGICAL fear, unlike yours, which is a very rational cautiousness.

  18. I truly hope this site gets the attention it deserves and parents do quit living up their children’s behinds. I have been chastised on countless occasions for the “freedom” I allow my children to have – I don’t consider it freedom, I consider it childhood.

    In a way it’s sad that parents are so paranoid. What a life that must be, constantly looking over their shoulders for something that just isn’t there, constantly looking at the sky for the airplane to crash. I can’t live my life like that, nor will I do such a disservice to my children. Thank GOD we live in a safe world.

  19. When I was in Kindergarten on an army base in Hawaii we walked to school. We went a full day so they older kids would be with us because of course our parents would not go with us, it was only a 10 minute walk (for a 5 year old.)

    The one time my father came to get me they had let school out early because a big storm was coming in, they wanted us home before the trees started coming down! I met him half way home, and was a little upset that he thought I was not a “big kid!”

  20. While my kids were in public elementary school they were most certainly walking to the bus stop, while all of the other parent s drove their kids. My only concern was the moose in the area (one was very close to the bus stop once, but not a threat). I am home schooling my kids now, and thanks to this web site I have decided they need more experiences than I have been giving them-even though my kids are already “free range”. Every Friday I drop the 2 older kids (11 & 9) off in our town (we live in the country) and they walk to the library. They cross streets learn how to make it there on their own. Then they stay at the library for an hour or two doing schoolwork and looking up books. They love this “adventure” and can’t wait for Fridays to come !

  21. I’ve seen people pick up their kids at the bus stop and drive literally 10 houses down. That drives me insane. Like we don’t have enough pollution in the world without you idling your big SUV for 15 minutes, then driving a grand total of 1000 feet. I do walk with my kids to the bus stop – it’s a few blocks from our house, across a very busy street. But then I leave them there and continue on to the commuter rail. They get to feel responsible, I get to the train, everyone is happy.

  22. I’ve never seen idling cars waiting to pick up kids at a bus stop. Not anywhere. The suburb where I live sees kids walking around all the time, or skateboarding or razor-scootering.

    Have you actually confirmed any of this? Have you seen cars waiting for kids at a bus stop with your own eyes, and have you talked to their occupants to find out how many blocks they’re planning to drive? Or did you just hear somewhere about a trend that’s happening somewhere else? Because this sounds bogus.

  23. Evan, I see it every day. I live six houses from an elementary school, and cars are waiting in a long line in front of my house every morning and every afternoon – and most of those people live on the same street as I do, definitely in the same neighborhood. Literally, 10 houses away, they’re being driven. It’s ridiculous.

    FWIW, we live in a suburban middle class neighborhood that the biggest crime ever committed was stealing football flags from neighboring garages, or toilet papering another teenager’s home.

    It’s not by any stretc “bogus”. It’s real. People think there are stalkers waiting in their bushes out front to steal or maim their own children. That’s a FACT. This site is a beautiful thing, opening the eyes of the paranoid. I’m glad my kids are safe and freerange.

  24. LOL – and Jennifer, I agree with what you say about the DVD players – BUT, I have a toddler that gets motion sickness, so the DVD player keeps her from tossing her cookies when we drive anywhere – I have to keep her from looking out the window, so it’s the salvation… just hinting at an exception to the “rules”… :)

  25. Sandra,

    Good point about your toddler and her motion sickness. Ofcourse, it just reiterates my point that each parent knows their child best. These folks driving their kids to the bus stop may seem extreme to other people but you never know their reasoning. The child could have a disability, maybe the parent lost a child before or some other tragic event. Thus, maybe they are more “paranoid” then other parents. Bare in mind; you may not be the only parent with an exception to the “rules.” Which if they are rules, I must say that is quite scary. I am not ready for rules on parenting. My son is disabled and I think he does great. Can he do the things that his same age peers can do? No. But he will some day. Do some parents think I am too overprotective? Probably. My father always told me; ” You never really know a person until you walk around in his shoes.” So, people may have good reason to be more protective than others. Maybe it’s a bad reason but I am sure they have some reason.

    I enjoy this site. It’s a good place for exchange of ideas. I just think some people should ease off on judging other parents. Whether they are free range or helicopter or somewhere in between which I suppose I am, they are parents and they love their kids and have nothing but the best intentions, hopes and dreams for their kids.

  26. Joe, I appreciate your post, as do many others, I’m sure… that being said, I find it very hard to believe that out of the 75 cars picking up their elementary school kids in front of my house, that the majority of them are “exceptions”. I understand disabilities, doctors’ appointments, going on trips, events happening to a family member, and on and on… but I’m still willing to be that the vast majority just think that someone is waiting for their child so they can abduct them.

    Is there really anything wrong with that? Maybe not. But I feel that Lenore brings up good points – we are truly robbing our children of normal childhoods, normal independence. And will the paranoia circle ever be broken? It is true we are very safe. We need our kids to feel secure in that – they have enough to worry about.

    And I agree. It seems this site has more adults than judges, fortunately! :D

    I get lots of hate emails because of my parenting beliefs that I freely blog about, and I get told where I’m “wrong” all the time.. this is one of their pet peeves… lol! I’m sure Lenore’s hate mail numbers far exceed mine, I’m just a little guy… :D

  27. If a parent wants to over-protect that’s their business…they’ll just be stuck with the kid until he/she is 43 years old…

  28. Cars waiting in a line in front of an elementary school–that of course is happening everywhere, and I wholeheartedly agree with you about its utter lack of necessity in most cases.

    But you were speaking of cars waiting to pick up kids who are getting off at a bus stop… and I’ve never seen that. I’d expect the sort of parents who are too panicky to let their kids walk through a suburban neighborhood alone also to be too panicky to let them ride a city bus alone either.

  29. Evan — I hate to say it, but around here, cars waiting at the (school) bus stop to drive kids a block or two home is common. Some of it is laziness or the part of parents (I have heard people say they don’t want to walk or wait in bad weather.) But, some of it is “child snatcher” paranoia, too.

    I wish we had a crossing guard on the Main St. so my kids could walk safely — they have great street-crossing skills, but unpredictable and rule-breaking Boston traffic at rush hour is more than I want to make them face.

  30. I’m with Rachel on this one, Evan – in my suburban middle class town, the SUVs and minivans idle at the entrance to many a cul-de-sac. I mean, streets where you can see the dead end five houses down! When we get stuck behind a bus, we watch the kids jump into those cars, and then all the parents do 3-point-turns to drive back to their driveways. It’s almost painful to watch.
    We have an elementary school about 6 houses down, and when my son attended we were told that a parent had to be at the door of the school to pick him up – even though we could see him being dismissed from our house.
    Thankfully, he’s homeschooled now – and far more free-range because of it!

  31. Sandra,

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I am sure you are right and perhaps alot of those parents are just going overboard. It’s a tough call. Parents know there kids best but even I admit that somethings are puzzling to me. To me, this exchange of ideas is great.
    When I first posted here I was upset at the lack of any reference to special needs kids and their place in this discussion. Honestly, deep down, sometimes I am jealous of the parents of healthy free range kids andhow they can tell such great stories about their kids accomplishments. My son’s successes are just as thrilling for me but wouldn’t really impress the typical parent. I was wrong for that attitude. One visit to the Johns Hopkins Childrens ward has straightened me out. Kids with cancer or leukemia well suddenly autism isn’t so bad. I have vowed to not post angry anymore! Perhaps, I found this site to give the view of austistic kids. Who knows but I refuse to be judgemental anymore. It serves no purpose.

    I too have gotten my share of nasty emails as I voice my opinions. Most just bounce off my back but the ones who tell me that we should have aborted my son are pretty hard to deal with. People seem to think that amnio reveals autism. It does not. Even if it did, I can’t imagine someone advising someone else that they should have done this. But some people are just cruel.
    I won’t be such a person. I will continue to advocate for my son and kids like him. My boy deserves it. He’s a great kid. I will give him independence and self-reliance as he can handle it. He’s a funny kid who wants to be a chef or a cartoonist. We face his challenges together. Just like every parent here, I would do anything for him. I owe it to him. As I said earlier in a post. I owe it to him. He made me a better person. He made me a dad.

    God I love being a parent. We are all so lucky. Take care!

  32. When we lived in the city, my daughter walked to school starting in 4th grade. (Before that, we lived many miles from school.) She had to cross a couple of busy streets and walk maybe 7 blocks or so. She went alone. It just seemed normal. And it was a relatively high-crime area, I suppose, but the people who were involved in buying and selling drugs weren’t very interested in grade school kids.

    She’s 30 now, so that was a while ago, back before our society became obsessed with safety. But she never had a problem with her school walks. She learned to steer clear of urban nuisances.

    One thing I’d like to say, from the viewpoint of a parent of grown kids, is that free-range kids grow up to be confident, adventurous adults:

    Both my daughters travelled alone in Europe when they were fresh out of high school, and they weren’t under the wing of any tour or supervisor. My 22-year-old just biked from Rhode Island to Lousiana with one girlfriend, camping out, couch-surfing, and putting on puppet shows for money on the streets of the larger cities they passed through. She had a splendid time.

  33. Joe, big hugs to you, m’friend!

  34. This summer, my son age 11 was in the Idaho desert for an outdoor wilderness behavioral program. I had dligently studied the program before enrolling him. About five weeks into the program, I was invited out to spend five days in his new environment with him.

    I remember oh so well the morning when I had to leave, sitting in that Idaho airport and sobbing my eyes out. This was worse than having sent him there originally. Now I knew exactly what conditions he was living in…sleeping on the desert floor, hiking over sixty miles with forty pounds of gear on his back, pooping in a hole, working 16 hours a day, seeing and living amongst rattlesnakes and so on. When I got home, I had many conversations with myself about why I should go back and get him. I so wanted to go back and rescue him from this environment that I had no idea how he was surviving. It seemed so cruel.

    And you know what…I continued to let him walk through that desert many more miles. I knew in my heart that if I were to go back and save him from himself the message I would be sending would be “You are not strong enough/good enough/dedicated enough to handle this. Mommy doesn’t believe you can successfully do this.” I am so grateful for my clarity in that situation.

    Oh…and all this happened after already having one child die (brain cancer…nothing of safety issues, etc.).

    Can my child walk to the bus stop? Hell yes! My child could walk the eight miles to school for that matter.

  35. Joe, are you serious?! What a horrible thing to say about your son. I’m not so nice, I would’ve torn those losers a new one. Telling anyone they should have aborted their own child, what nastiness. Next time, tell them they should go kill themselves to spare the human gene pool of any of their nasty DNA. ;)

    Joe and Sandra, I understand there are exceptions. But when you see MOST people doing it, they can’t all be exceptions. I don’t think anyone who has any class would thumb their nose at a parent coping with disabilities or illness. I am not “picking on” individual parental choices here, I am speaking out against a cultural phenomenon. I speak out against the IDEA that kids need to be coddled and protected from anything remotely unpleasant, that they should be spared the the failure and trials that come with building self-esteem (the REAL kind, lol) and becoming independent. I speak out against the paranoia that has NO RATIONAL BASIS in reality ( as opposed to previous poster Len, who has a real reason to be cautious at this time.)

    Re: parent’s waiting at the bus stop, I think it is mostly unnecessary, car or no car. The bus stop can’t be too far from the child’s house; there’s no reason he can’t walk, unless he is still new at it or the type who can’t be trusted. But it all boils down to motivation. If I am waiting for my son, there is a good reason. Maybe he is on the young side, and I want him to show me that he can handle it. Maybe he is being punished by my presence for breaking curfew (nothing more embarrassing for a tween than mom watching him)!
    Unless my motivation is pure fear and refusing to believe he could ever handle it (despite showing me he can), then it’s not “helicoptering”.
    It’s what motivates the action, IMO, that makes it helicoptering or not.

  36. “When the predators are caught, or they move on, we relax security back to what’s appropriate for our kids ages.”

    And that’s sensible!

    Of course you should take more caution when there’s an increased risk – as Joe does with his son all the time. The problem is that a lot of people don’t tone down that caution when the risk goes away.

    THAT’s the problem!

  37. Amen! That’s what I have to say to ALL of your posts! I try to talk with moms abotu this and they think I am some insane person for letting the kids be! (AND for making them do their own chores!)

  38. in reply to Joe, (I just now read the comments after writing my own), I also am so sorry someone EVER had the audacity to say something like that to you! I myself have two autisic step brothers, which is very uncommon. One brother has a very mild case, and the other very severe.

    It sounds like you are a great father to your little guy. Best of luck and blessings and health to you and your family.

  39. Sara,

    Hugs right back at you. I appreciate what you said about the nasty things said to me. I know 99% or more of parents would feel the same. Your family sounds similar to mine. I have 2 boys and both were diagnosed as autistic. Like your brothers one severe ( my oldest) and one very mild. Now they are backing of on my younger boy’s diagnoses. He is considered “developmentally delayed “now. The thinking is some of his repetitive behavior is imitative of his brother. I have learned not to hang either boy’s hat on a label. I used to think it was the “special needs” community and families against everyone else. I know better now. The support of freinds and family in person and online is humbling. I am beyond grateful for the things both big and small that people have done for my son. The kind words and empathy are always there. I just didn’t see it as I was consumed with anger, guilt and fear for him. That’s no way to live. Those who said such things to me certainly are cruel but more so ignorant and misguided. Yes, to Jennifer, I wanted to tear them a new one. Especially, one fateful school board meeting that I attended to advocate for more funds for the special ed program. I was accosted by 2 moms and a dad who told me that I made the decision to bring my son into this world. Therefore, I should just deal with it. The incorrect notion that testing for autism could be done while pregnant was their justification.This is not the case and even if it were true I was still stunned that people would say this to my face. They thought my request might interfere with some intramural sports programs. Caveat here, I love sports. Teamwork and sportsmanship are such great lessons for children. And let’s not forget the FUN! But nonetheless , I will advocate for kids like my son as long as I can. Yes, I wanted to rage at them, I wanted to pummel them but,
    you can’t do that. It’s not the answer. I did give them a bit of an education and I am certain they won’t be saying that again and even better I think they learned something. But honestly, yes, I also suggested they all do something that unless they were gymnasts or contorsionists is probaby physically impossible.

    One other thing, I don’t buy into this molester “boogie man” thing. Certainly, if you know a credible threat is involved, you circle the wagons and do what you have to do . But I don’t think to live with this fear 24/7 365 days a year is the answer. Life is too short. Enjoy your kids. I enjoy mine. The wonderfully supportive comments aside, you don’t have to feel sorry for me. I am the luckiest man in the world. I resist the fear and frustration. Sometimes it wins out. But less and less as time goes by. Thanks to all and best wishes to all the parents and kids.

  40. Okay. The link I’m trying to post simply won’t post. Let’s see if I can make it so you can click on my name and get there….

  41. Mission accomplished. Sorry for the multiple posts :) It’s a good article, is all, and I thought you’d want to read it, all about teams and childhood and why they might not be the best combo.

  42. Evan – I have talked to the parents, in the idling car, while they were waiting at the bus stop for their kid. I have seen some of the parents picking up the kids at school and I know they live a 10 minute walk away. I sent invites to some of their kids – I know exactly where they are at. And yet, they drive. And I don’t know why.

  43. When I was traveling through rural Iowa last week, we pulled into one small town about 3 pm. There were little groups of elementary school children walking home from school, all by themselves.

    My first thought was, “Predator Alert! Get Nancy Grace on speed-dial! These children aren’t being supervised!”

    But here’s the thing…there was a crossing guard. There was some traffic on the main drag, but also stop signs, traffic lights and a slow speed limit. All of the kids were in groups (just like the kids I used to see when I lived in Germany). It was an entirely reasonable activity. Sure, it wasn’t risk-free (getting out of bed in the morning isn’t risk free, either), but it was some excellent free-ranging.

    -EdnaKay

  44. Here is an article from Britain about American parents.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/janice_turner/article4964871.ece

  45. I see this all the time. Our street is a dead-end street (with two or three cul-de-sacs) that leads onto a residential street. The residential street is busy, but not outrageously so, and does not have any commercial traffic. People routinely wait with children at the bus stop in the morning, and wait for them at the bus stop in the afternoon. This is duplicated all over our part of town. And no, these children are not all special needs. For the vast majority, their special need is to be catered to. (I do agree that you shouldn’t judge instantly, just as you shouldn’t conclude someone is “cheating” in a handicapped spot just because they’re not in a wheelchair.) But I know a lot of the kids at my child’s school, and this is just an example of parents, mostly moms, thinking that this is good parenting. For my part, if I’m getting home at the same time as the bus and can stop to pick up a batch of kids from my end of the street, I do — just to be nice. If there’s a thunderstorm or it’s pouring rain, I go wait. Otherwise, I let my child walk home.

  46. Good for you (this blog) for not falling prey to the government’s scare tactics!

  47. The funny thing is…the parents are overprotective about getting their children to and from school…do they even know what is happening at school these days!

  48. Once again, you have hit the nail on the head. I continually get looks and comments for letting my daughter walk to the bust stop ….and I live in one of the safest towns in the US! (i wish i had the stats for it , but it IS documented). For a while there I was meeting her , only because I did not trust a few of the other parents to NOT flip out if I wasn’t there(as mentioned in a previous comment, they already have…twice). BUT since reading your blog and your stats…AND finding that we live in the safest town in the US(yes, I repeated myself) I now get more done and my 6 month old is napping better now that I am not rushing like a crazy person to walk(oh yea, she walks anyway) to meet her only to have to walk back.

    I will say it a million and one times…Thank you!

  49. I got harassed by my kids teachers when I let my 14 year old walk 1.5 miles to school on a road with a sidewalk.
    It was totally insane! These are the same people who send home notices that kids are getting too fat and parents need to make them exercize more. Are they supposed to do laps around the living room?
    I think my kids are the only kids in the 2 neighborhoods in which I have lived, where my kids play outside. I have had neighbors be concerned when they camped in tents in the back yard.
    Where is the traditional childhood?
    Where are the great memories of playing outside and having adventures?
    Thanks for making a place where I don’t feel like the only parent in the world who thinks it is important for my kids to b able to navigate their way in life.

  50. That’s an interesting article, Uly, and I agree mostly, but I am always wary of an article that touts the “developmental” merits of such and such as it pertains to kids. That’s how we got into the mess we’re in, by overthinking childhood and what it means to be a parent to the point that we are paralyzed beyond any common sense.
    How about this: Kids should play without adults become Mom and Dad don’t need to be in every single memory of the child’s. Kids have lives and friends separate from us, and this is okay. The world won’t fall off its axis if a parent is not there.
    Or, how about: Because it’s just plain more fun!

  51. Our school cancelled walk to school day because it was raining. (?!) They held it on Friday.
    The funny part is that my kids walk every day, but didn’t get the sticker because it is handed out where the bus dropped off the kids to walk the 3 blocks to school.

    I think it should be held in February. We live in SW Michigan. :-)

  52. Jessica: I assume the school was hassling you due to fear of lawsuits: there are some precedents that say that for liability purposes, a kid’s considered under the supervision of the school until he either reaches home or meets a parent. Therefore, the school can get sued if anything happens to the kid walking or if he does anything wrong (e.g. shoplifts).

  53. “Sift through the emails on this blog and you’ll find tails of parents picking up their kids from the bus stop ”

    I didn’t see any tails!

    But seriously, excellent. Very true, very enjoyable.

  54. This is a great post — Green Hour posted some facts and figures recently about how few kids walk to school: http://greenhour.org/content/activity/detail/5128#know

  55. I walked to school starting at Kindergarten age (5-6 yrs old) in 1979 and walked up until high school when I took the bus. There was a bus stop a block from our house but they stopped it and thats why I had to walk.

    I had to walk a very strict route to/from school when I was younger which took me along the most traveled streets, which meant more people could see me and ensure I wasnt being bothered. I learned short cuts from friends and eventually made my way home just fine. (I have a feeling that my parents at least checked on me to ensure I knew the route well enough because we did go over it several times together walking it)

    In NC, the bus stopped every 5 ft to pick kids up at their doorstep! Even here on our military post, the kids are often shuttled to their bus stop by their parents when they could walk! HECK the kids that walk to/from school have their parents carry their backpacks for them!

    I dont care what you call them- they’ll be working for me and I will ensure they get parking spaces VERY VERY FAR away from the office buiding :)

  56. Just an FYI – in our state (NY), the bus will not drop a child at the bus stop if a parent is not waiting there…..

  57. Oh man…does this ring true in my neighborhood! Every morning, I see the moms in their cars waiting with their kids for the bus to show up, and then in the evenings, waiting to pick up their kids. And none of these kids have very far to walk! On the other hand, I’ve seen kids walk the 4 miles to and from school everyday, again in my neighborhood. Thank goodness there are some sensible parents around!

  58. I think this is fine to say until something happens to one of your own children. We are charged with the responsibility of caring for our kids and ensuring their safety (within reasonable limits) until they leave our household and go to college or move out on their own. I don’t know about you, but my childhood was not defined by the fact that I walked to school everyday by myself. There are a lot of greater measures of independence besides allowing your child to walk freely along the city/country streets by themselves. I bet the child predators are ever so excited about this decision to allow 5 and 6 year olds to roam on their own because they are oh so qualified to fend off an abductor. You may want to say that crime is lower than ever, but if you read the paper and see the increasing number of children killed by hit and run accidents as they walk to school or children snatched from their own bus stops or on their walk to school in seemingly safe neighborhoods you may want to think again. I know I will not be able to protect my 3 children from every danger, I give them opportunities to exercise independence without leaving them vulnerable to attacks and the wiles of people that are waiting to prey on them. You may want to act like the streets are as safe as when we were kids, but you cannot go back in time. How many of you have thrown out your psps, nintendos, computers and tvs so that your children can spend more time playing outside since we didn’t have all those distractions as children? I feel that there will be many aspects of me and my husband’s parenting that will properly prepare our children for life on their own and outside of this home without throwing them to the wolves.

  59. Catrina, next time you “read the paper” and all those scary stories, tell me: How many are from your hometown? From your state, even? Newspapers gather big news from everywhere, and a lot of times it will look like an epidemic of hit and runs or adbuctions or murders is happening, but when you pay attention, you’ll realize that they are stories from all over the US. Take those instances and compare to the millions living peacefully every day.
    Do what you will, but I think you are being paranoid. Especially because you refer to kids going outside as “throwing them to the wolves”. Bit of a hyperbole?
    And about Nintendos and such, it may boggle minds out there, but not every household is hooked up with the latest in technology, nor are all of our kids clamoring for it. The parents make the decisions as to what types of technology come into the house or whether the family evolves into a bunch of couch potatoes or “mouse” potatoes..

  60. In my district the Bus Driver will not drop off a K or 1st grader unless the parent is within sight… and I live in VT!

  61. In the same boat as betzgirl. My son has a key to the house sewn into his backpack and we live in a neighborhood where everyone knows him and we look out for one another. The bus stop is three blocks away from home. Even though the bus driver, the bus service and the school have all been told that he can walk home by himself, he isn’t allowed off the bus unless an adult is waiting for him. We drop him off at the park halfway between the bus stop and the house and let him use his watch to know when it’s his curfew (ie, dinnertime).

  62. I am so happy i found this site!! I felt like I was alone and feeling frusterated and angry that people were sitting there making me feel like a bad mum. I have a 6 yr old son who I started letting walk to the bus stop this year. It is one block away with about 10 or so other kids. We live in a small sub-division and it a small cul-a-sac and my son has to cross one street. I feel like that by letting him have a little indapendence I am teaching him responsibility. We’ve talked about strangers and he knows all his info and ect.

    However, I am the only mum in the area that does this. I walked him for about the first 2 weeks of school until I felt OK letting him do it himself. There were 5-6 minivans just sitting there waiting for the bus. They only drove down the street! While yes everyone has their own opinions and parenting styles, I dont think I should be looked down upon for trusting my son to walk a half a block??!?!?

    Now my son’s grandmother is all over me about my “poor” decision. She thinks I am the worst person in the world for letting him do this.

    Sorry for all the ranting, im just glad im not alone in feeling like this!!
    :)

  63. I am so glad I found this article! I had to work late and arranged for my 70 year old neighbor to watch my 6 year old for an hour this afternoon. I walked almost a quarter mile to and from a bus stop when I was a kid but because of the stigma that society has placed on what a safe parent should be I was a bit leary about letting her walk the one block down to the neighbors house. I am so happy to know that I am not alone!

  64. Hi Lenore: We have a lot in common. I just started a blog and want to get connected to other like-minded people. I’m new to the blog thing, but want to use it to write and explore new ideas about getting kids outside. I couldn’t agree with you more about letting kids explore outside more. I take kids hiking who normally wouldn’t get to do these things. It’s a lot of fun and totally eye-opening for them. Most sit at home and watch a lot of TV. It’s great to see their faces when they see a frog or bird for the first time. Thanks for blog and hope to hear from you. Diane S.

  65. I forgot to give you my website: http://getkidsoutside.wordpress.com/

  66. I am so frustrated at this page and the judgements passed by ignorant people. I completely agree with the fact that alot of children are not being taught how to grow into independent adults. But that doesn’t mean you start leaving six year olds at home.It crossed my mind that many of you are just too selfish to make sacrifices and prioritize your life. We live on a dirt road with one neighbor we can barely see from our house. I have to drive the kids (8&9) to the stop a half mile away.The stop can not be seen from our home. I’m disabled from a back injury so can’t walk to the stop. I shouldn’t have to. We pay the same taxes as the parents who can see the stop from their home. I refuse to take a chance however small it maybe that may endanger the safety(physically or emotionally) or the life of my children. Get off your high horse and spend some time with your kids!

  67. Glad to come across this article. I’ve always let my children walk down to the end of the street to catch the bus without me. The stop is at the end of our street in a good neighborhood and really I don’t see a problem with it. Recently I was basically told I was a bad parent by another neighbor because I don’t walk my kids to the stop each morning or pick them up. Apparently it’s the talk of the block about my neglectful behavior.

    I don’t know when parents became so paranoid about their kids that they can’t let them out of their site for 15 minutes. As a kid I walked a couple miles to school each morning with other kids. While I agree we should work together to keep the community safe. Teaching out kids to be safe is the right thing to do but holding their hands and keeping them in a protective bubble does nothing for them.

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