I Thought This Was a Parody

Hi Readers! I wish this WAS a joke: A mama’s rant with about 100 “Amen!” comments after it, that basically makes the case for clinical paranoia.

Commendably, the blogging mom believes that her child IS safe an aisle away from her at the grocery store. Stranger danger, especially in a public place, is exceedingly rare, she says. Most abuse is committed by someone the child knows pretty well.

Ah — but that is why this mom has decided not to trust almost all the people her daughter knows. Or at least, their families. The post is titled, “The Safe List & Why You’re Not On It.”

Now please don’t get me wrong. I believe abuse happens. I also believe it usually doesn’t happen, and to act as if every sleepover is a rape fest is a very weird way to look at the world. Ditto, every playdate. Ditto, every outing. And so I believe in teaching kids some basics of self-defense, and the concept of okay touch/not okay touch, and that they can make a ruckus and say no to an adult — all of that. But to never let them out of my sight? That’s not the answer.

To treat all adults as exceedingly, disgustingly, appallingly guilty until somehow (God knows how) proven innocent? That’s not the answer either.

This lady says it is. And the “Amens!” agree. — Lenore

P.S. I love having a lively discussion going on here, but there’s no need to comment over at the lady’s personal blog if you think she’s really off-base, anymore than I’d want her readers coming here just to tell me I’m wrong. So keep ‘em coming — here! And have a great weekend! And I have one last post before closing down for the night! — L

128 Responses

  1. I choose to look at the upside: someday kids of parents like that are going to end up working for kids like mine.

  2. Wow- how sad it must be to live like that- where “close friends” are not trustworthy, where everywhere you go are alcoholic, drug-abusing pedophiles. Holy good god. I quickly scrolled down the comments and didn’t see anyone disagreeing with her guilty-until-proven-innocent-by-impossible-standards perspective, and that is incredibly saddening.

    I don’t know what I’d do without my friends and community- I can’t imagine having a “safe list” of that few folks to turn to. (Or, really, an actual “safe list” for that matter… I just know who of my friends I can call upon when I need help or want to connect.)

  3. @Anthony – you hit the nail right on the head!

  4. “PS- Reading your blog post has made me aware that I should stop offering to watch other people’s children. It’s not something I do often, just when I see a friend in need. I’m sure they’ll tell me when they’re ready.”
    :(

    This is awful. Naturally my heart goes out to those women who suffered abuse as children.

    But this reaction is off the deep end.

  5. Oh, and Anthony… no they’re not. We’re going to be paying for preshus on unemployment or disability (ADD–because living indoors is not stimulating, sensory disorder–because three hours at the park is impossible, paranoid schizophrenia–because it runs in families).

  6. Actually I’m hoping to move to a nation where my tax dollars will pay for such commie pinko things like socialized medicine and a vibrant middle class.

  7. @Elizabeth- I saw that comment and was saddened, too. I’ve been in the situation where a friend has offered to help out, and I probably wouldn’t have asked on my own, because I would have tried to just do it all myself. But, having an offer of assistance made a huge difference and I was grateful. Isn’t that what friends are for??

    What must her children be learning by this ever-present attitude? I want my children to be able to trust people, especially our those closest to us for goodness sake. Why has that suddenly become equaled with putting them in harm’s way?

  8. Anthony, I wish there was a like button on these comments, because I would have clicked it for your last statement! :)

  9. I think everyone’s parenting is informed by their own experiences, and i think we ought to give this mama a break. If you read her blog at all, you’ll find out she’s not a nut job – she’s an awesome free-range mom who has her limits and boundaries, just like all of us. You just never know what someone’s experiences are that inform their decision making. Sorry, but this one is off base to me, I’ve been reading her blog for a number of years now so I feel like this one post does not represent an overall picture of her.

  10. When you dig through some of the comments, it seems clear that she intends to back off once her kids get a bit older, which sort of makes sense. I did respond to the woman who intends to stop offering to watch other people’s children, though.

    Lenore wrote a column once about how excess paranoia makes people feel stupid reaching out and thus makes society less safe, and it’s true. I’ve given that one a lot of thought in my day-to-day life and tried to switch off both the “this person is just pretending to have a busted car so he can rape me” and the “better not try to help that lady or she’ll call the cops” tapes. If everyone thinks worst-first, pretty soon we won’t have a society left at all. We’ll just be a group of isolated, fearful people cowering behind locked doors with our televisions and gaming systems.

  11. OK, I could give this lady the benefit of the doubt and assume she has very small kids (under the age of 4) because that’s the only way her position makes any sense at all. But then, they would be too young to be wandering around a store by themselves, wouldn’t they? So, if her kids are old enough to go to school and this is her attitude toward all of the people they might come in contact with, then she is certifiably nuts. She must homeschool, that’s a given. Plus, her kids must not be involved in scouting, church groups, camping, or any other activities that require her to be away from them. Talk about sad.

    I was a lot more protective this way when my kids were under the age of 5, of course. I didn’t let just anyone watch them and take them places, I tended to go along with them on play dates, and sleepovers were not an option yet. I think that’s pretty normal. Now that they are older, I think that they know their boundaries and will tell me if something bad is going on. They know that I will BELIEVE them no matter what, even if the adult involved is a close family member or friend that I would otherwise trust.

    Oh, and if I was this mom’s friend, I wouldn’t be anymore.

  12. I’m sure there is more to her than that one post, but I agree with Lenore that it’s a completely paranoid post and it’s a very important issues.

    It would be one thing if she posted about her personal abuse experience and why that is something that she, personally, can’t risk, even if she knows the statistics. I always have sympathy for that. But just randomly attaching to this whole paranoia thing? No, I do not accept that because it does lead to a less trusting, and therefore, less kind, society.

    And that is not what we need right now.

  13. Um…uh…just…wow.

    I am terribly sorry the blogger had what apparently was a (or several or one long continuous) totally miserable experience as a child that forced an insane amount of distrust on every situation containing a human being not in her immediate family.

    I take medication every day to keep from feeling like that.

    If children aren’t given the chance to make mistakes they don’t learn. I can tell a kid 50 times my dog will bite or the dog can snap at the kid once. Guess which one will sink in.

  14. I actually know someone who is like this woman. I suspect that there is abuse in the family of the person I know, and that is why she won’t let her kids do much by themselves – they might tell, and to her, abuse only happens to other people’s kids.

  15. Ultimately, or such is my belief, the age in when something is appropriate, when the child is old enough, will inevtibly be pushed forward. What kids were allowed to do in the US 15 years ago is not what they are allowed to do now. This lady might have small children or the pre-conception of when a child IS old enough has been expanded.

    A century ago you were working under the age of ten. 50 years ago you left home at 16. At 20 you most likely had a family of your own. Development is ever present in society. Child labour is certainly nothing to encourage, neither is child marriage, but to be equipped with zero life skills, including a basic concept of trust in others, is not a psitive development.
    As a society grows richer (affluent?) more paranoia seems to set in. A world previously thought of as safe grows unsafe.

  16. Wow, I was expecting that to be signed Jen or SKL.

  17. Mixed feelings here, too. I wonder if she was exaggerating a bit.

    I don’t have a “safe list” but I guess I have some of the mindset. There are some people I don’t hesitate to leave my kids with. They are not perfect (nor am I), but I am convinced that they would never intentionally hurt my kid. If I listed those people, the list would be a lot longer than 5. But, I can think of some people who would not be on it.

    What concerns me more is the idea that a mom taking her kid and another kid to a public place (the American Doll store was the example used) is a scary thought. I mean, yeah, you’d have to know the parent somewhat – because handling multiple young kids is hard for some people (and, some people do drive drunk and stuff) – but really. How often is somebody going to pull something “weird” in a public place with their own kid right there?

  18. enyawface, thanks for that helpful comment.

  19. I have found that when people are really paranoid about something…some experience, some emotion that they totally want their children to never feel — they inadvertently create the very experiences and emotions they are trying to avoid.

    I know people like this, and their children are not better off for all the vigilance. They never learn to grow or to fall down, or to have any of the life experiences that teach them resilience.

    This is just so sad. But what was worse were all the people who commented to say that they never realized that they should feel this same way.

  20. At least its an equal-opportunity distrust?

    I believe in knowing care providers well and knowing how they respond to my kids and vice versa, I don’t know how much more I can find out or what some people are looking for. I have come to understand that nobody does a better job than A) My wife and B) Me of taking care of our kid. Everything else is compromise and hope that the people I trust are indeed trustworthy and my internal compass is right.

    There is something very self-righteous about the post that is off-putting but I think it’s likely due to the fact we wouldn’t be friends anyway – I would have very much expressed that it is a pain in the ass to haul extraneous people to American Girl. Although, it could be handy to send my child off with her without tagging along!

    HEY GUYS I GOT IT > OUR KIDS HANG OUT AT HER HOUSE LET”S ALL GO FOR COCKTAILS!!!!!!! She’d never ask for reciprocation – I so need more people like this around.

  21. that was entirely a joke meant to provoke a chuckle – it’s ok if you didn’t laugh.

  22. Matt L, I agree with you, except that if we all let our kids at her house while we went for cocktails, that would be what her next blog post would be about. “Why your kid is not welcome at my house!”

  23. I wonder if her friends read her blog.

  24. Matt L, are you enyawface?

  25. So let me get this straight. The more close anyone gets to her family, the more likely they are all pedos grooming her kids for evil. So really no one can EVER make the safe list, because all close friends are pervs, the closer the more pervy. I guess that would especially mean all men are suspect too and thus off the list. It’s all too risky! You can never be too safe!

    Which is great. You don’t WANT us to be on the safe list? Well OK then! We will leave the raising of kids to the mothers, and the mothers alone. No babysitters allowed either, who knows where they’ve been. The better we know the sitters, after all, the more suspect they are. So it’s all down to these moms to have the kids chained to them 24/7 for eighteen or so years. Takes a load off our shoulders! No more “involved dads”! That was a pain anyway. We will just run everything and keep all the money. Here honey, here’s a couple bucks for this tracking bracelet to put on the kids’ ankles as a token of our esteem for taking all that on by yourselves.

    If I were among the true male chauvinist pigs I would be cackling with glee that we pulled this one off on all those silly girls who were going on about “choice” and “freedom”.

  26. SKL LOL! I didn’t think we needed to re-tread THAT discussion – agree to disagree on the men as babysitters issue?

  27. Lenore, you knew a bunch of us were going to pop over there and leave comments, didn’t you?
    ;-)

  28. She sounds very unpleasant. Presumably her blog readers have already self-selected themselves which is why you see the total agreement – I suspect there’s not a lot of room for disagreement there or you’re labeled as one of *them*.

  29. I know, but at least we’d get one awesome happy hour out of it! And I’m really good that the catholic guilt “Gracie just loves hanging out with Persephone (or whatever) you’re so good with them!”

  30. I actually took her post a different way. She said, basically, that taking your kids to the store isn’t dangerous and that they were more likely to be victimized by people they know than random strangers. That is an entirely FRK sentiment.

    I think that in some ways, when our children are young, we all have a “safe list” of people and activities. There are people that I like, but would not let my kids hang out with unsupervised. There have been homes that I didn’t want my kids to be in because I thought the dog there was a bit too uncontrolled.

    That said, I tend to follow my gut and the feelings that my kids express. But I do keep any eye out for people that make me nervous. And I ask my kids if anyone that they have met makes them feel a bit off.

    Remember, we are all clear that kids are much more likely to be harmed by family or acquaintance than by random stranger. So if we don’t give at least a cursory look at those acquaintances and family members, how exactly do we protect our kids from danger, especially when they are young?

  31. That post made me sad – in particular, the woman in the comments who isn’t going to offer to watch other people’s children any more. Kids NEED other grown-ups they can trust!

    I’m the Neighborhood Mom in my area. If school is canceled, I can expect 8 – 15 kids to show up to hang out with my kids for the day, because their parents are at work and they don’t want to be home alone. I love knowing that the kids feel safe and comfy here, and they’re a delight to have around.

    I was questioned about this once at a BlockWatch meeting. There was a Paranoid Mom hinting about my house and getting a little hysterical about it being “odd” that all the kids came here and what if. Our BlockWatch leader, a rather old fella, pointed out “She has a pool table, a 360, a big screen TV, and an open refrigerator. Why WOULDN’T they go there?”

  32. Brian J – I get that and agree to some of your points but it was just her tone! (Jesus, hi there dad I’m parroting you) It felt like she was talking down to the whole world – maybe it was the varied assumptions etc that she likely threw in to be controversial. Yes, you have a duty to protect the children and all yes, you go with instincts but it seemed very overblown.

  33. Umm maggie – the hysterical would likely think you have those things to entice vulnerable kids. shudder.

  34. One of the reasons I like this site is because I get to read comments like Maggie’s. Otherwise I would not believe the stuff people can say to each other. If someone came up to me and started “what-iffing” to my face about what’s going on in MY house???! I don’t know what I’d do, but I don’t think it would be pretty.

  35. I had to post a comment over there…I just can’t believe that anyone lives life with that level of paranoia.

  36. my response over there:

    Wow. I am so glad I did not grow up in any of your households. I had a really fun childhood – full of sleepovers, hanging out with friends, imaginary games (we pretended we were teachers, or stowaways on a boat), camping in the backyard.

    When I was a kid, my best friend’s mother was an alcoholic and it resulted in one or two scary situations – there were instances where she threatened to take my friend away (she claimed domestic abuse but it was later proven to be false), she displayed erratic behavior, and once she threatened to jump out of a moving car while I was there. They weren’t good situations to be in. But, because my parents taught me well, I told them about situations that made me uncomfortable. They handled the situation appropriately. They said I could go over there when Dad was home, or I could bring the friend to our house.

    This person remains one of my closest friends and if I had been forbidden from her presence, that wouldn’t be the case. And I learned a lot the dangers of alcohol abuse. I’m sure my parents questioned their decision to let me go over there in the first place, but they did – and I learned what is okay and what is not okay, and to always tell an adult when a situation makes you uncomfortable.

    I’m 22 now. I’m still alive, and I’m responsible and capable of making my own decisions, and I’m grateful my parents were not as crazy paranoid as all of you. You say that the risk is worth ALL trade offs to your child’s well-being, their happiness, their ability to make decisions. Well again…thank God I didn’t grow up in your home.

    PS – when I was growing up, crime rates were higher than they are now.

  37. @Matt – then she’d be terribly unobservant, not noticing my two teenaged sons! But I suppose the paranoid ARE unobservant, aren’t they?

    I’ve known most of the neighborhood kids since they were in kindergarten, and I don’t think it ever occurs to most of the parents to freak out about them coming here. Their kids are off the streets, safe, supervised, and fed a decent lunch! But the n00bs…gods, it’s so sad. They just…cringe and hide when the longtimers come by to say hello and invite the kids out. I feel so bad for the kids!

  38. The Free Range philosophy seems to be well grounded in reality. For instance, you buckle your child up because car accidents are statistically a real threat. On the other hand, you let your child go outside alone because there is no real threat.

    I haven’t read the Free Range Kids book yet, so I don’t know if this is addressed, but shouldn’t we base our discussion of child sexual abuse on reality? Poking around the other day, the statistic I saw on Wikipedia was that “approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children.” That’s significantly more than the 6% of people who will have an injury from a car accident in their childhood. It’s just plain shocking.

    I’m looking forward to reading the book and hopefully seeing the above statistics broken down and the reality explained. I don’t want to become like the Safe List lady, but I want to make my decisions based on reality, not just on an affinity to the Free Range philosophy.

  39. See, my goal isn’t to prevent abuse- my goal is to make sure if abuse happens I find about it the FIRST time it happens. Sexual abuse, especially, tends to be an ongoing process involving grooming. And, if the child is supported and the abuse only happens once, it can be handled well with hopefully no long term trauma.

    Because of this I focus on communication, giving them language for their body parts, knowing that there is NOTHING to be ashamed of and they should never have to keep a secret. Good touch/bad touch and all of that. I’m not going to take away a child’s childhood based on my paranoia (and yes, I do tend to be more paranoid than the average bear- I’m dealing with it). Of course I’m not going to leave them at the dude’s house across the street- he’s clearly dealing drugs given the steady stream of vehicles and his strung out appearance. But the nice lady across the street with two kids? Yeah, I’m not that worried.

  40. Maggie – true, they would likely miss that with their worst-first thinking!

    Sounds like the kind of place I grew up – how awesome for them

  41. I just read some of the comments, especially the ones by the write of the blog. A sample:

    – Stranger Danger is the freak chance encounter that’s awfully hard to predict or prevent. But how many people leave their kid with creepy uncle Murphy because they don’t want to hurt his feelings?

    – Oh, and yes yes — “careful review” is a big part of anyone’s presence on the safe list. If I let my kid spend the night at your house count on my getting every detail of her time with you. I don’t care whether you have laundry on your dining table, but I do want to know if you were texting while driving. I want to know if you polished off three beers during dinner.

    My conclusion: while she is certainly more diligent than I, she is looking for the right (e.g. dangerous)things – the relative that makes you feel *off*, the careless driver. She is not worried about stupid stuff – the parent who will allow your 8 year old to be alone for even a second, the fact that a registered sex offender lives within 100 miles.

  42. They are all scary! I hope I don’t know any of those posters!

  43. Ridiculous.

    Am I the only one who is averse to having her child out of her sight in a store because I just don’t want her running wild and annoying other people? It has nothing to do with worries about her being snatched or touched inappropriately. Stranger danger doesn’t even enter the picture for me.

  44. I too have mixed feelings regarding this particular issue. I agree with others in that it all as a whole seemed over the top paranoia. However, my mother was abused as a child by a trusted family member and it has left a huge impression on me. My mother had big time psychological issues as a result of the abuse inflicted upon her and she went the extra mile to protect me from it. I do feel the resposibility to do the same.

  45. I posted there, too–I actually kept it short. Basically my reply was this–if you’re going to have that attitude, at least have the decency to be honest with your friends as to your point-of-view, rather than making up stuff to dodge being forthright.

    LRH

  46. PS—oops, I’m sorry Lenore, I just now read that you would rather us not post dissenting comments over there, after I had already posted. Even worse(?), I suggested that she read your book!

    But I wasn’t mean about it.

    LRH

  47. I try not to over-use what has become to be my favourite quote since it can be twisted into meaning just what this mother is trying to communicate the benefits of. I am sure she has the best of intentions, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    The problems with stranger danger as a construction becomes even more strange when put into the context of having a safe-list and not allowing anyone that is close to you actually being able to get on it.

    And having the child an aisle over in the supermarket doesn’t teach oyu much of anything. Or the child.

  48. I am disappointed at the level to which this discussion has sunk. Disagreement is great – healthy, respectful discussion is fantastic. But the nasty, mean comments are wrong. Spirited discussion and disagreement is of course fine and often welcome. Bullying someone on their own blog, again WRONG. My 2 cents.

  49. Speaking of “thought this was a parody”:

    “I commend you for being a protective parent as it is my ultimate goal in life to protect my sons from the horrifying realities of this world.”

    Words fail. What are you going to do, live with them until they’re 60 and open all their mail, take all their phone calls, and lie when someone they loves dies?

  50. That’s from a comment on damomma.com, BTW.

  51. Paranoia is the new norm-

  52. The Rebbetzin I disagree a bit. In terms of the mean-spiritedness, I would tend to agree, but if someone (and that includes Lenore, I suppose) posts something out there, especially something that is that inflammatory, it’s wrong to complain that someone posts to disagree. If the only posts you’re seeking are “atta boy” pats on the back, that’s unrealistic. Also, I wouldn’t call even the nasty comments “bullying.” I think that term is overused.

    But yes, no need to be horribly nasty just the same. I posted over there having neglected to read Lenore’s suggestion that we not do so, but I was civil about it, I think.

    LRH

  53. Larry, I did not say “don’t disagree”. I said don’t be mean. Those are two different things. I am all for respectful disagreement. Feel free to go over to dammomma and share your thoughts, agree or disagree. But don’t be nasty and mean. One person called her and her readership douchebags, and other people have called her nasty names and said nasty things about her children. Sorry, but that’s not disagreement, it’s bullying. I use that word because that is what it is, in my opinion. I thought your comments were totally appropriate – you did not agree with her, you said so, made a suggestion. Nothing wrong with that. There is something terribly wrong, however, with people who feel like they have a right to be mean just because they disagree with someone.

  54. As a long-time reader of this woman’s blog, I feel the need to defend her here. Like the Rebbetzin said, this one post does not reflect the whole picture. For example, check out her series about when she let her daughter go to a summer camp, the same one that she had an awful experience at as a child. She was able to overcome her fears of her daughter having the same bad experience and let her go.

    And seriously, what is wrong with not leaving your child with just anyone? Who’s to say that the people on her “safe list” is just a handful of questionable people she has come into contact with? I truly admire her writing and I have learned some valuable parenting skills from her! I went over to her blog to read some of the comments from people who went there from here. Its sad to see all the judgment, when they haven’t even read anything more than that one blog post from her.

  55. I sometimes wonder if this is why we never get kids over at our current house. Old neighborhood, there were a few friends who would come over. This one, only one will, and that one rarely. It gets really frustrating because my kids always have to go to their friends’ houses to find out who can play. I’ve met all the parents, but possibly that’s not enough yet.

    A little diligence on other parents is a good idea. More helpful, however, is teaching your kids what to tell you about. You can misjudge someone you think you know well.

  56. I read the blog post and skimmed the comments. I feel so bad for one woman who hasn’t seen a movie in five years because she is afraid to leave her daughter with a babysitter.

    Spouses deserve our undivided attention just as much as our kids do–I always say my kids will be around for a short while, but hopefully my husband will be around much longer. Sometimes we have to be brave and take off our parent hats for an hour or two. I think it is good for the kids to spend time away from us as well and play with somebody new.

    At 7:00 this morning I got a frantic call from a good friend asking if I could watch her boy as her regular babysitter came down with the flu. I didn’t have to submit a current criminal record check or supply her with a list of the activities we would do and the food I would give him. I answered the door in my PJs and she gratefully left us to hang out and play trains.

    I am fairly certain there is no way I could be friends with that blogger, and there is NO way I would share my coke with her. (Soda!!!! )

  57. I have read the comments on this thread and on the original.

    We really aren’t that different in our approach. I mean really, if you visited the home of your 7 year old daughter’s friend, and that kid had an uncle (or boyfriend, or aunt) that gave you the heebie jeebies, would you let your daughter stay there? Or would you suggest that the girls have their sleep over at your place. If the dad always had a beer in his hand every time you visited, would you think twice about having that dad pick your kids up from a late soccer practice? If they had a nanny who seemed to always be texting, would you think twice about having that nanny drive the car pool? If the friend’s teenage sister smelled like weed, would you be OK with your kid hanging out there after school?

    These are the dangers that our kids face. These are the dangers that the young ones cannot defend themselves from. How do you think about these dangers?

  58. BrianJ, those are real and good considerations, but I think what’s riling people about this is the “all my friends and family are innocent until proven guilty” tone. And the “one mistake, regardless of magnitude or outcome, and they’re done being alone with my kid forever” attitude. If that were the standard, I’d have had to give each of my older kids back to the hospital the first week, and the younger ones (after I had some experience) might have lasted a month.

    There is one thing underlying the article that is good, but it’s being used in the wrong direction: be the parent. If something doesn’t feel or seem right about someone, anyone, even someone close to you in some way, don’t betray your own judgment about whether you want that person fully responsible for your child. That is a good message — I think the problem is that the trigger is set too sensitive, and their is a weird disconnect between claiming to respect people, and thinking they’re not safe to have your snowflake in their care unless they hurdle the very high barrier. Some have already commented about what this teaches your kids about who can be trusted — I think that’s a real problem, here. Yes, you need to teach your kids that not everyone can be trusted, and some tools for telling the difference — knowing those tools aren’t always perfectly calibrated. But teaching them by example to default to untrustworthy is a bad thing.

  59. “guilty until proven innocent” in the first sentence above.

  60. I’m going to jump in here with another defense of DaMomma. I’ve been reading her blog longer than I’ve been reading this one. Her writing style is great, and for the most part, her parenting style is very similar to mine. I definitely categorize her in the FRK realm. I don’t think it’s fair at all to mock her or even question her decisions when it comes to the people she allows to watch her children. Being careful about who you leave your children with is being a GOOD parent. Yes, you need to teach your kids about knowing how to recognize uncomfortable situations and how to react. But better if you don’t put your children in those situations to begin with, and that starts with being careful about who you leave with your children. I’m very relaxed about my 20 mo daughter, but I also have a very short list of people I trust with her alone. My safe list also has varying degrees, which will change as she gets older. Right now, it’s safe to ride in the car with (very few, I know a lot of distracted drivers), safe to leave with for an hour or so (pretty long), safe to leave with for most of the day (pretty short). Most of my concerns come not from a fear of pedophiles and abuse but from the understanding that Pappy likes to spoil her with ice cream for every meal, Uncle John likes to text and drive, and Great-gramma can’t always jump up fast enough to catch a running toddler who has something dangerous. A lot of my safe list decisions also have to do with the level of child-proofing a house has undergone and how closely a person agrees with my philosophies about discipline, etc. As she gets older, there will be play dates, mall trips, sleep-overs, etc. Those will all be covered by my evolving safe lists.

    Gotta say, Lenore, this was a HUGE fail for you in my eyes, and makes me a little less interested in your blog now, since you’re starting to really reach for the sensationalism journalism instead of genuine interest in helping parents become better.

  61. I want to know when sleep overs became the “thing” that all kids “have” to do. Why? Why is it so important to miss sleep and be a tired weepy or mean kid the next day, while also keeping the parents up all night? Maybe I am just a mean parent, but I value my sleep and the kids that we have had sleep over tend to not be on the same sleeping schedule as us. (as in, their parents think and early bedtime is 11 pm for an 8 year old.)

    Ok,I have friends I would be fine with my kids sleeping over with. There are some people I know, (some neighbors who happen to have kids the same age as mine) that I would not, and have not allowed my kids to sleep over. Unfortunately, the ones who want to do the sleepovers with my kids tend to be the ones that I don’t want my kids there because the adults have shown me that they don’t have good judgment.

    If my kids are at someones house, I want to know that the parents are the ones in charge of my kids – not some other college friend whom I have never met because the parent got an invitation to go to a movie at the last second and didn’t tell me. The fact that the parent is friends with a male who is on the sex-with-child list doesn’t help either, as he tends to come over at strange times. Or the other family with the uncle who just got out of jail for I don’t know what, and when I asked the mom as she was on her way out if he would watch the boys when they were down there, she said “No – he lost custody of his kids for a good reason!” and again knowing that all other adults are prone to leave and leave the kids with this guy – no, I will pass.

    But my friends – well, I would trust them. However, I think most of them feel the same way that I do about sleep and they don’t do the sleepovers much either, unless the kids are camping out in a tent so that they are not keeping the adults awake. (Oh, what would the mom in the blog say about camping out of sight in the yard? Anyone might come along and steall them out of the yard!)

  62. I want to know when sleep overs became the “thing” that all kids “have” to do. Why? Why is it so important to miss sleep and be a tired weepy or mean kid the next day, while also keeping the parents up all night?

    It’s been a “thing” since I was a kid half a million years ago. Maybe it’s a regional “thing”? I dunno, I’d never do it for little kids, but pre-teens and teens are a riot! (The Monsters weren’t permitted to do the sleepover thing til they got to double digits.)

    Younger Monster has friends stay the night virtually every weekend. Either Friday or Saturday, I can expect him to ask if [insert friends here] can stay over. The guests eat dinner with the family, then they disappear downstairs with Younger Monster to play video games. Tonight, I have a pair of brothers and another kiddo, they’ve brought their 360 controllers, and they’re online with a bunch of their friends and half of mine playing some “beat up the zombies at the mall” game. At 1AM, I will shoo everyone off to bed. (They will, of course, sneak back downstairs to watch movies, and they know that I won’t kill them as long as they don’t wake me up.) At 10AM, we’ll have a nice breakfast, and everyone will be gone by 11:30AM.

    I don’t imagine it would be much fun with a bunch of 8 year olds, they tend to not do well on little sleep, but for the older set, sleepovers can be great fun.

  63. I haven’t read the rest of this woman’s blog posts- maybe she is normally free range (she’d right about her kid wandering in the store), but the tone of this piece is complete paranoia, and it’s really off-putting. I wouldn’t leave my kids with “just anyone”, but I also don’t want them to grow up seeing me being completely paranoid about everyone- even those “nice people” who I “really like.”

    “Mommy, why can’t I go to Sophie’s house?”

    “Well, honey, I haven’t got her great-uncle Marvin’s background check back yet… maybe then we’ll see.”

    I like to know people pretty well before I leave my kids with them, for sure. I agree that you don’t want to leave them with just anyone for extended periods of time. But this post just irked me. I’d hate to think I was friends with someone and then read that she suspected me and my husband of molesting kids and doing lines of coke off the dog… or whatever. Not that I’d be desperate to have her kids hang out at my place… I just think it’s disgusting to suspect the worst about people unless proven otherwise.

    Oh, wait… her kids can’t come over anyway. My husband’s a cop, and he has a GUN. It’s unloaded, locked, and hidden when he’s not working, but he should really just refuse to carry the damned thing if we want our kids’ friends to come over to play, you know?

  64. Thank you for posting this Lenore! You are right on with posting. An EX-friend like this is the #1 REASON I read your book in the first place. When I suggested she read your book too she stopped talking to me for a very long time and now we are no longer friends. She cannot handle my free-range ways on top of her usual paranoia… Here is what I posted on Damomma’s blog. I think it is a nice as I can be about it. It’s a hot button for me.

    “I once had a friend like you. We are no longer friends. I was sympathetic to her worries but they started to rub off on me and I started to worry too. It got to where I could not talk to her because she would inject her worries into any conversation and I’d hear a comment about not trusting my neighbors, the man who volunteers at preschool, and other Dads. She also did not like our guns and did not trust that we keep them locked up. She thought our kids would find where the code is written down (it’s memorized), she thought our son would see the code over our shoulder (he’s not in the room). It just got to be too much. I think she has very few friends because of this. She has a death grip on her kids’ forearms in public too. She cautions them about getting lost in Joann fabrics (I overheard when I ran into her the other day). Her youngest is afraid of his own shadow. The kids cannot play a fun game of chase without her son developing a fear of the children doing the chasing. Instead of telling him it’s all in fun, she “respects her child’s wishes” and avoids the children who scare him. Mind you this was just chasing at a playdate by kids he knows well –no name calling, no threats, just laughter. Why can’t she teach her child to have a voice? How will kids learn true danger if normal child’s play and other adults are never one the safe list. I hope you’ll reconsider for the sake of your children.”

  65. I’m not familiar with the blog or the blogger and I agree as a first-time reader there that her tone (at least in this post) is a bit off-putting, but clearly, her kids are quite young and actually, I think she raises pretty good points.

    Shall we have a discussion here on FRK of how (e.g.) one raises the issue of whether a household has firearms in it and what steps the adults there follow to make sure those firearms are kept safely away from kids (and anyone else who shouldn’t have access to them)? Of when they last changed or checked the batteries in their smoke alarms? Of whether they do, in fact, have a creepy Uncle Joe?

  66. I enjoy reading your blog, Lenore, and it has helped me shed a fair amount of the baggage that being raised by a decidedly paranoid, non-free range mother saddled me with. My children will surely thank you for this. However, I find a fair amount of self-righteousness here, which I find disturbing. That’s my two cents…

  67. Stephen: while the figures on child sexual abuse are indeed shocking, you have to remember that only a tiny portion of it (less than 5%) is inflicted on kids by the “outside world”. More than half of it is committed by men who are in a sexual relationship with the kid’s mother. It’s actually tween and young-teen girls who are the most vulnerable to non-family abuse, and the biggest risk factor there is hanging out with guys older than them.

    So the biggest risk for child sexual abuse comes from people that the kid cannot realistically avoid. The only solution is to teach kids to recognize early signs of it and make a fuss. Fortunately, the vast majority of perpetrators are scared to death of getting caught and will back off if they meet any signs of resistance; while the ones who get violent are the ones you see on the news, they’re thankfully very rare (in fact, nearly all the news stories about child sexual abuse represent highly atypical cases because in a typical case it would be almost impossible to do a story without revealing the victim’s identity, which would obviously be unethical).

  68. Ebohlman, I was just scrolling down to state exactly what you said!

    As a continuation, most rapes of adults are also committed by people known to the victim. There may be people who lurk in alleyways and behind bushes at 1am waiting for lone women to come along to be raped, but statistically speaking, if you’re going to get raped it’s almost certainly going to be from somebody you’re in a relationship with, or have been in a relationship with in the past… and then followed by other people known to you in a depressingly long list of possibilities. (Probably best not to dwell on it, frankly.)

    Neither adults nor children are typically attacked by strangers.

    This seems unrelated, but of course advice given to women to avoid rape often has the same overall effect as advice given to parents to protect their children – it unnecessarily restricts freedom, and it gives people a reason to judge others if things go wrong and they DO get raped.

  69. ebohlman, yes, but even given those statistics, the risk of kids being molested by someone other than “the person sleeping with mom” is too significant to just blow off.

  70. I couldn’t be friends with the blogger, not only do I need to be able to trust my friends with my children, I need them to trust me. In our house, we have the opposite of a safe list and have a “nuh uh no way” list. And that list is really short, thankfully, but once on, it’s pretty damn hard to get off. I don’t know if it’s because we surround ourselves with friends that we trust implicitly or we’re totally dense, but I’m pretty confident it’s the first.

    We definitely pay attention to our guts when we are leaving our kids with other people or on play dates, without question. If I say “something makes me uncomfortable” or my husband says it, that’s the end of the discussion, we trust our guts and each other. (Up until recently I always went on playdates with my kids because they were more “the parents are friends so the kids are friends” situations, but now with the kids in school they have class mates they want to hang out with and daisy scout trips to go on and I want them to have those experiences, even when I can’t be there.) I do go along when I can because a. I’d really like to get to know the other parents at our new school, not because I don’t TRUST them, but because I want to know them it’s a small school and we’ll be together for the next 8 years and b. I like to volunteer with my children’s activities.

    Next Friday my daughter is going over to a friends house after school with about a gazillion other little girls from her class. There will be 3 parents there. My husband and I will not be there. We ARE relying on other parents not only to look after our daughter, but on the other parents who are not there trusting the parents who will be. They know them better than we do, they have been at the school longer.

    As much as I do wish I could protect my child and they will never be hurt, I can’t…and I SHOULDN’T. And to think I can protect them absolutely is setting myself up for failure. My goal as a parent is to teach my children how to be well functioning grownups. To go off in to the world. In order to do that there will be bumps and bruises, literally and figuratively. I want to teach my children to trust me and their father. That we are their fieriest advocates and we trust them. To teach them what is okay and what is not okay and if something feels NOT OKAY to stand up for themselves. We have started down that road by asking questions about their playdates, interactions with other people, teachers, scout masters, Sunday School teachers. Not in an accusatory/prying way, but in an interested way. While we are interested in what they are doing, we are more interested in how they’re behaving when they talk to us, that actually more than what it is they say. Red flags will go up if THAT changes. Red flags will go up if they suddenly stop telling us about their day.

    I would be terribly sad for my children if my fear of “what if” stopped them from having a day. I’ve found a lot of parenting is biting my damn tongue!

    ~ Laura

  71. I like Alexicographer’s thought- why not have a discussion about how to raise those topics with our kids’ friends’ parents so that we CAN feel confident about letting them go off to play without us? Giving them freedom doesn’t have to mean exposing them to dangers like unlocked guns or dangerous drivers.

    It’s probably obvious to anyone who knows us that there would have to be a gun in the house, and I would have NO problem with someone asking me how it’s kept away from the kids before they let their children play here- it’s just common sense. But what’s a good way to bring these things up with parents when it’s not obvious?

    I know I can’t protect my kids from every danger out there, but I want to avoid putting them in a dangerous situation that I could reasonably have known about, too. I’ll leave them in the car for a few minutes while I pay for gas or run the older guy into the school, but I’d rather not send them to play at a house where there’s an unlocked, loaded gun. I think there’s a big difference between being free-range and being willfully ignorant.

    So how do we bring that up without sounding like paranoid freaks?

  72. Why exactly are people friends with people who are not to be trusted with their children? I can’t think of a single FRIEND (actual friend, not just person I know) who I would not trust alone with my child. If there comes a time when I begin to not trust them around my child, the friendship has probably run it’s course and will end. There are certainly people I’m more likely to ask to babysit. That’s not because I trust them more but because my child knows them better, is closer to them or they are more child-friendly. However, there’s not a single FRIEND who I would say “no” to if they wanted to take my child somewhere or if I needed someone to watch my child in an emergency.

    As for allowing my child to go to her friend’s houses alone, considering her friends are all well-cared for and beloved children of their parents, I think I can trust them to care for mine for a few hours regardless of how well I know them. I’m not going to automatically assume that the parents of the other kids in my kid’s school are going to take wonderful care of their own child while leaving mine to play with the loaded gun in another room. I suppose that is a possible scenario but I’m fairly certain that it’s not the norm. If my daughter makes friends with people whose parenting of their own children I question, then I’ll limit her interaction with those particular kids to only in my presence. I just see absolutely no reason to assume that parents who are good parents to their own children would be negligent of mine while in their care. If anything, they’ll be more cautious with someone else’s child than less cautious.

    I think some of you hear about awful things on the news and fail to distinguish that there are certain segments of the population where these things are predominantly occurring. I live in Georgia so a HUGE gun area but I’ve never once asked anyone about a gun. The reason is that accidental gun injuries where a child gets their hands on an unsecure gun are extremely rare in the middle class, functional families that we tend to interact with. Guns are left carelessly lying around in dysfunctional households with only a casual interest in their children and their safety but kids living in that situation are fairly obvious and I’m not going to let my child into those houses anyway. I feel confident that the parents of the well-cared for children in my daughter’s class have safely secured their guns away from their own children so mine will certainly not be able to get her hands on it (not knowing where it is).

    I think most of this is a control issue. You want to be in control of your child at all times and you think that you are the only person who can care for your child correctly. I don’t care if my child is exposed to different ideas or different ways of doing things and I trust that someone who takes good care of their own children are not going to feed mine to the wolves the first chance that they get.

  73. Anthony Hernandez: you are a man after my own heart! (And I don’t mean that in a creepy way. lol) You hit the nail on the head…those kids will be so freaky-paranoid about everything around them that kids who really are being taught to have some self-confidence will be the “parents” in the work world.

  74. When it comes to supervision, I find that almost everyone I can think of is more “careful” about it than I am. Since I’ve been teaching my kids how to behave with minimal supervision for years, I don’t worry about what they’re going to “get into” at somebody else’s house.

    The gun thing is important, but like another poster said, when you look at a person and overall he appears responsible and caring and his child is doing well, you don’t assume he is stupid about something so important as gun safety. There probably are folks who give their school-age kids more free rein around guns because their kids know about gun safety. Or maybe their kids own a BB gun and have free access to it. But by the time my kids have friends of that age, it’s up to me to teach them safe behavior concerning guns. (Which is a challenge when I get nastygrams if they mention guns in preschool, but whatever.)

    So my concerns really aren’t about stupid or absent-minded parents. Well, you know what my concerns are by now! Stuff that can only happen when a child is alone behind closed doors with someone much older. I really wish it was as rare as some here imply, but it isn’t.

  75. I hope her children don’t feel burdened by and responsible for all that parental anxiety. That’s how I felt growing up with an over-protective and anxious parent. It led me to take some crazy risks when I left home.

  76. “Why exactly are people friends with people who are not to be trusted with their children?”

    And that, my friends, is the $64 question.

    “There probably are folks who give their school-age kids more free rein around guns because their kids know about gun safety. Or maybe their kids own a BB gun and have free access to it. But by the time my kids have friends of that age, it’s up to me to teach them safe behavior concerning guns.”

    Yepper.

  77. BTW, there may be reasons you have relationships with people you wouldn’t trust with your children — but then those people would go on the short “nuh uh no way” list, not the other way around. It’s bizarre to think it’s normal to be actual friends with large numbers of people you couldn’t trust your kids with.

  78. Yeah, there are people who think they are my friends and I tolerate them. One keeps popping into my mind. Every time I see her she offers to babysit my kids. Never remotely considered her offer. However, if I had a real emergency and none of my standbys were available, I believe she’d be “safe” with my kids.

    On the other hand, there is someone very close who spends time with my kids often, but I would not leave them in his care for any extended time period. Sorry, he just gives me those kinds of creeps. Maybe I’m wrong, so sue me, but the answer is NO.

  79. “Actually I’m hoping to move to a nation where my tax dollars will pay for such commie pinko things like socialized medicine and a vibrant middle class”

    PAY for a VIBRANT middle-class?

    I’m trying to wrap my brain around that bit.
    So who exactly is going to be PAYING for the middle-class, since apparently the middle-class will no longer be earning its own keep in this other nation? And, since the middle-class generally pays for the majority of the keep of the nation…yeah, I’m not following you. Not following how any class can possibly be VIBRANT if it’s paid for by someone else, either. Vibrancy is a sort of come-from-within thing.

  80. Hey guys – this lady actually seems quite nice. We’ve been exchanging e-mail and I think we overstepped a bit.

  81. A drawback of pointing out how stranger danger is false, is that taken out of the context of how rare it happens, is that it might be considered grounds to do a background check on someone. This becomes a fishing expedition to find dirt on someone to confirm ones worst fears instead of trusting our long time relationships. It doesn’t matter that there is no family history of having a criminal record.

    Life must be very scary to think that some rare crime is about to happen to your family.

  82. Maybe this lady is nice, but she did say a lot of extreme stuff on her blog which is not private, so I hope she isn’t too shocked that some readers misunderstood and reacted.

    Personally I felt uncomfortable with some of the comments posted yesterday, and I didn’t post there. What someone writes (especially just a snapshot of it) doesn’t clearly reflect what kind of person one is, so without knowing more (or being personally attacked), I would at least try to keep my comments civil.

    But, I think what concerned Lenore was the fact that the blogger’s “following” was so ready to agree with the post. So if the blogger’s intent was to be tongue-in-cheek, the effect was otherwise, and to the extent this affected others’ views and actions, I agree with pushing back. (Politely, of course.)

  83. ]“I want to know when sleep overs became the “thing” that all kids “have” to do”

    They were definitely the “thing” when I was a kid. I probably had my first sleep over when I was five (with an opposite-gender friend, too! Though I’m sure that wouldn’t have been permitted by 10). They seem to be much less the thing now than when I was a kid. In contrast to what Maggie said above, though, they were the thing from about age 5 to age 13. After 13, they didn’t really happen. I think that had to do with the potential of greater trouble in teenage years (drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.) and thus fewer parents being willing to allow sleepovers; although I still had the occasional sleepover at a friend’s house, none were permitted to sleep over at mine.

    ] I can’t think of a single FRIEND (actual friend, not just person I know) who I would not trust alone with my child. If there comes a time when I begin to not trust them around my child, the friendship has probably run its course and will end

    Well said – this was exactly what I was thinking. I really don’t want to be friends with someone who is so irresponsible (or perverted) that I can’t trust them around my child. Now there are friends I might not ASK to watch my child, for all sorts of reasons (mainly that I don’t think they’d want to).

    ] I feel confident that the parents of the well-cared for children in my daughter’s class have safely secured their guns away from their own children so mine will certainly not be able to get her hands on it (not knowing where it is).

    I’m not quite that confident that everyone has their guns locked up (even in the educated, middle-class). I’m just confident that, having watched the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety video approximately 30 times (their choice! I only told them to watch it once!), and having talked about gun safety with my children, they would be responsible if they came into contact with an unsecured gun and wouldn’t start fiddling around with it. We don’t leave all of our guns locked up all of the time, because our kids know better. But if another child is over, we do lock them up, because we don’t know if they know better. I imagine other families are similar, and it’s possible someone may occasionally forget to lock up when another kid comes over (or maybe one spouse doesn’t know where the other spouse left one of the guns). I’d rather teach my kids gun safety than rely on other parents to never make the mistake of leaving a gun unsecured.

  84. For us, the sleepover thing is simple. Since our kids are homeschooled for the elementary years, we pretty much know the families of all the kids they know well enough to be invited to stay over with. The exceptions would be some of the neighborhood kids, where we don’t know the families as well (or know things about them that make us think it’s fine for our kids to play together, but not spend large amounts of time with their families.) In those cases, we just tell the kids, “No, we don’t know the family well enough. We only do sleepovers with people we know well.”

    When the kids are older and going to high school, they’ve shown good judgment in only forming close friendships with the kinds of kids we trust, and therefore by extension their families. Besides, by then, we know the kids are able to fend off most potential dangers. My 16 year old is at a sleepover right now with a family we’ve never laid eyes on, but we know she’s running with a good crowd, and doesn’t do seriously stupid things.

  85. Obviously this writer doesn’t really believe that every one of her friends and acquaintances is an axe-murdering pedophile who keeps unsecured guns in the microwave. And of course she’s absolutely right that children are much more likely to be molested by relatives or friends than by strangers. Deciding how to handle this reality is a challenge for all parents.

    Still, I think it’s pretty sad for her kid that she’s not even allowed to go on a fun shopping trip with just her friend and her friend’s mother but always has to have her mother and siblings tagging along.

  86. Tonight, I have a pair of brothers and another kiddo, they’ve brought their 360 controllers, and they’re online with a bunch of their friends and half of mine playing some “beat up the zombies at the mall” game.

    Based on that very short description that sounds like “Dead Rising”, which has an ESRB rating of ‘M’. I don’t know how old ‘Little Monster’ is, but it does seem more than a little odd that you’d be happy being that ignorant of what they’re playing.

    There’s a bizarre perception amongst a lot of people that video games are all toys for kids. They’re not.

  87. About guns. I think every household in my Dad’s family at least has a 22 (Mom is from Canada, Dad from Texas).

    My 2 best friends saw photographs of my sister, cousins and me shooting. They bugged me to see Dad’s guns. My response was are you kidding Dad would skin me alive and nail my carcass to the wall as a warning. Besides they are under lock and key.

    Dad overheard the conversation and called their parents. He offered to take them to our farm, teach them gun safety, and satisfy their curiosity. Both families took Dad up on his offer.

  88. Amen! Although I consider myself an over-protective freak when it comes to my children, (I’m always looking for “signs” of good parenting with the people I leave my children with), I’m not assuming everyone is snorting coke off their kitchen tables. But then, I also wouldn’t let my kids wander the supermarket unsupervised.

    Although her post seems to contradict itself, one thing’s for sure. I now know why kids don’t come to my house for play dates anymore (they’re too busy safely running through Trader Joe’s cereal aisles… juggling scissors, maybe).

  89. I don’t know, Loretta. Her older child is 7 or 8, the younger one is three years younger, and it’s a small store – four aisles sounds like a large corner store, not a supermarket.

    At that age, when visiting my grandparents in Belgium, my sister (three years older) and I used to walk up and down the aisles playing “spy”, the rules of which aren’t quite clear to me as an adult. We were well-behaved and never caused trouble, but it was just too much to ask us to be so well-behaved tagging along after grown-ups.

    For that matter, by that age we were allowed, when with our parents, to do part of the shopping ourselves, get things from distant aisles. I remember one time there was a great sale on sugar, one bag per customer. My father went through each aisle, and then sent us together to repeat the process. (My father was a little crazy when it came to sales.)

  90. What I don’t get is this. How does she actually move anyone to the Safe list? What exactly do they have to do to prove to her they’re okay? Some of you have joked about background checks, but seriously, how do you ever know? I guess that’s why her list is so small and I see no way for it to get any longer.

  91. I let my preschoolers roam the grocery store (and other stores) on their own, and I don’t feel like I deserve a prize. However, I guess it depends on what kind of parents / websites one hangs out with / at. Like maybe if she’s a regular at The Stir, she deserves a prize for stepping out so far.

  92. “I’m not quite that confident that everyone has their guns locked up (even in the educated, middle-class).”

    My child is barely 5 and all her friends are 4 or 5. I do expect that a responsible gun owner would keep their gun locked up if they had that age child in the house. No matter how much you think you’ve taught your child proper gun safety, at that age curiosity and desire to do everything big kids/adults are doing often trump what has been learned. Knowing the rules is not a problem, but having the self control to always follow them is.

    At some point, I realize that I will have to teach my child about gun safety since guns are a fact of life where we live (although not as much in my school area where she is far, far more likely to visit with PETA members than the hunting set).

  93. What struck me about the post (once I’d gotten over the paranoia it suggested) was its illogic. Why are her children safer an aisle over than they would be at a friend’s house? What if the children encounter someone they know in that aisle? Might they not be snatched away by that exceptionally hazardous non-stranger?

  94. I remember being 5 and wandering around Safeway by myself. And this was only 15 years ago. The rule was I had to let my parents know first if I was going to go wander. Then they gave me an estimate about when we would be leaving. That’s all. And they knew I would probably be in the bakery getting a cookie.
    My parents did have rules about sleep overs. But they made sense. They had to meet the kid, meet the parent(s), and see where the house was.
    Our town is a small town, so everyone is either related or goes to church with one another… or both. The weird parents were the ones who were helicopter types. I remember thinking my friend’s mom was so weird because she wouldn’t let her daughter walk around downtown with me (At 11 years old) after school because, I quote, “A big white van is going to come and steal you away”. I didn’t even get that refernce until I asked my dad.
    And it seems so sad to be so scared of those you know and love. Also, kinda expensive. What about all the free babysitters you’re missing out on? Sad how twisted and paranoid it’s gotten.

  95. So today I’m strolling along JFK drive, which is closed to traffic on Sundays. Logan was a good quarter mile ahead on his RipStick (2-wheeled skateboard). On the sidewalk were some parents and their 5-6 year old kids. A hedge separated the sidewalk from the trees beyond. One could clearly see through the hedge and into the trees beyond.

    So two of the kids go through the hedge to play about TEN FEET from the parents and in full view.

    The dad told them that, “we don’t do that in Golden Gate Park because I’ve already told you that there may be bad people waiting to do stuff to you.”

    My tongue is still sore from my biting it so hard. What a stupid paranoid little cretin of a man… and what worthless spineless little kids he’s raising!!

  96. She’s still taking baby steps. But still neurotic. lol

  97. This has nothing to do with the kids, and everything to do with the narcissistic mother’s need to be viewed as the “perfect” mommy, vigilantly protecting her kids from every imaginable harm, even though the chance of any of her fantasies coming true are slim to none, or maybe a little less…

  98. Am I the only person who thinks my kids are more likely to have unhappy moments if they don’t get away from me enough? I mean, I love ‘em, but maternal patience has its limits! If I only trusted 5 people to care for them without me there, they’d be in my hair way too much (and, they would miss good stuff like dance, karate, swimming lessons, making friends, bonding with extended family, etc., etc.). I just have to believe that that blogger was exaggerating for effect. (And effect she got.)

  99. Speaking of paranoia. OK, that might not be the right word, but erring on the side of safety even when the marginal risk is miniscule.

    Against my better judgment, I wandered over to the Stir and saw yet another article about car seats. This one says they are talking about new guidelines to keep kids rear-facing until age 4 or more. There has been a little push-back in the comments, but most of the commenters are saying “you must not care for your kid if you won’t keep him rear-facing as long as possible.” They also believe a law is needed to force lazy parents to comply.

    So I couldn’t resist. I had done some research and decided to keep my kids rear-facing until after their 3rd winter (they were 2.5). The risk of a severe accident in non-winter weather is pretty low, and they were certainly not bobble-heads at that age. The reason I turned them around was because I felt they needed to be able to see where we were going so we could talk about stuff. Like stopping at the red light and waiting for it to turn green, reading signs, observing farm animals, and a thousand other things. It wasn’t a matter of “convenience” or “laziness” or even “comfort.” It was a matter of weighing the pros and cons and making a PARENTING decision.

    So I demanded to know HOW MANY lives are going to be saved by forcing preschoolers (and maybe even older kids) to ride rear-facing. Of course nobody knows – probably because the numbers are so small, they can’t be worked with. BUT STILL, safety trumps everything else! (Except, that isn’t stopping anyone from driving in the first place!) I’d paraphrase it as, “I’d rather have an ignorant, unhappy, uncomfortable but live child than a smart, happy kid who has a miniscule risk of dying.” (Never mind that being ignorant carries a risk of dying young too!)

  100. I just realized something about these articles and associated ‘worst first’ thinking that really bothers me. Its the complete lack of trust and faith these parents have in their kids.
    Its not hard to arm your children with some simple non-alarming, things to do if they are in trouble; “I’m going to the girl toys for your cousins, holler if you need me.” or “If someone bothers you in the bathroom, shout and get out.” , that don’t terrify them, but just remind them to take control if they are frightened.
    The confidence that they can handle most situations themselves is easy to instill. Even the littlest child can be taught some simple measures.
    Why encourage children to think of themselves as victims? Its so un-necessary and so depressing.

  101. Wow. I wonder if her kids have any friends. If she came to every bday party her kids were ever invited to, I would certainly be striking those kids off the list right away. Why would I want to sit around and listen to her all day? I think I’d rather have a root canal. Without the Novocaine.

  102. SKL, every time I wander over to The Stir, I question my judgement in doing so too!

  103. The other day my kids were getting ready for their cousin’s 1st birthday party. They asked me, “are you going to drop us off or stay with us at the party?” They are 3 and 4 years old. (I think they are old enough to be dropped off, though I didn’t plan on missing Niece’s party.)

  104. Someone left their kid at my kid’s birthday party. The kid kept coming to me and whining – so-and-so wasn’t playing with her, so-and-so was being mean to her, etc. Drove me crazy!!! I hate it when my kid whines so am definitely not thrilled when other people’s children are whining at me. I now want to insist that all parents MUST accompany their children to my child’s birthday parties so that they can listening to the whining their ownselves.

    Truthfully, that is the only birthday party that I’ve been to where the parents left the kids (my kid is 5). I had two drop-offs but one was a friend’s child who I know well and who I knew was going to be dropped off. I’d love to drop my kid off that the party she has on Saturday so I could finish my Christmas shopping but it’s just not done. The way that the other parents looked when I mentioned that the one little whiner was dropped off I can definitely tell that my daughter would get blacklisted from parties if I did it.

  105. Wow. Thank you for posting a link to the blog. I read it and some of the comments. This mentality reminds me of my SILs and may explain why I am not allowed to interact with my niece and nephews. Both of my SILs are extremely overprotective of their children to the point where it is painful for other members of the family.

    It saddens me when any interaction with the kids wherein the children are not treated like porcelain teacups provokes a hypervigilant outburst from one of their moms. If it’s frightening for me, I can’t imagine what the kids are thinking and feeling.

  106. Hmm, I guess it would depend on the kid and you’d want the hostess to know the kid a bit. My kids don’t tend to be whiners or otherwise high-maintenance. Anyhoo, we don’t really do “friend” birthday parties yet (haven’t been invited), though I did tell my kid she could have friends over for her 5th (next fall). I would assume the parents would know whether or not their kid was gonna be OK, but I don’t mind handling a few extra preschoolers for a couple of hours, either way (assuming potty trained, not biters/kickers/incessant screamers, etc.). I don’t know when I’d start expecting “all” the parents to shove off, but probably by age 7 or 8.

    On second thought, I just though of a set of 4.5-year-old twins who I would NOT want their parents to leave at my house, LOL. Not for maybe a decade or two.

  107. ] I don’t know when I’d start expecting “all” the parents to shove off, but probably by age 7 or 8.

    I’d say once the kids are in Kindergarten. (And in practice, this seems to be the case with most birthday parties I have attended.)

  108. …Unless the parents know each other and they are hanging around to socialize with the other parents.

  109. As a guy — and as an eager feminist — I remember in college buying into the line of thinking, All men are perpetual rapists.

    While the idea is true in a criminal sense (aren’t we all potential murderers and, um, shop-lifters), I don’t really know what purpose this had on me but to behave as a tremendously defensive person.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if 20 years from now, the blog writer laughs at her post.

  110. Oh wow I just had on if my pre k students moms ask me if i new of any parents that lived near her that would be willing to drive her kids 3 and 5 home once a week since her husband just had a car accident so they were down to one car. Turns out she lives just one street over from me so i volunteered myself and she was over joyed.

    I also had a friend that worked at different day care that was down the street from mine and she would regularly take her kids (who were enrooled at my school the school was working at was not the best) into work with her and call me to pick them up and take them into work with me or sign them out of school and take them to eat at mcdonalds till she finished up.

    I only knew my best friend less than a year (we met because her kids attended the daycare i was working at at the time) before i used to sign her son 5 at the time out and take him home with me and have my girlfriend take him fishing and stuff. if I was leaving early because he hated having to go there for after care.

    Maybe if they had read that article they would have realized that they were taking a great risk in allowing me to be alone with their kids in a car or in my apartment Yes I’m a preschool teacher and have had all the background screenings but i guess one never knows….

    Meanwhile when i was a kid I was allowed to go to any party sleepover play date or just roam around the neighborhood as long as it didn’t involve my parents picking up dropping off or participating that was in the mid 90s and today my 10 year old sister is allowed the same we just moved to a new neighbor and she was allowed to go trick or treating with the neighbor kids and their mother because nobody wanted to take her and guess what she came back a little wet because it was raining but completely unharmed…

  111. Lenore, with regards to your PS, I have to disagree with it. While I think that trollish behavior is uncalled for in either place, I also feel very strongly that respectful, reasoned disagreement is essential. Otherwise, we’re all just egging each other on. I really like what you have to say a lot of the time; other times, I disagree. A couple times, people who’ve posted here with their disagreements have had really great points.

    So I left a respectful comment explaining my disagreement on her site. As for here, on this issue, I once again have to agree. A week ago, we took my daughter’s friend with us on a 400-mile trip to Disneyland – a whole weekend in a hotel with my daughter, me, and my husband. It’s a good think this girl’s family doesn’t use a short list of trustworthies; I doubt we’d be on it because we haven’t lived in town that long, and while the girls have been friends the whole time we’ve been here, we hardly know her parents. As it was, my daughter had a friend to roam around with, so she didn’t have to spend the whole day with her parents (I don’t do so well on high-speed rides). Naturally, nothing undesirable happened, except my husband came down with the flu halfway through the trip, but nothing that would have called into question our judgment, like inappropriate remarks, drinking, drugs, or what have you. We’re a little more careful around other people’s kids even than our own (and careful enough with her, too). I suspect that’s true of a lot of folks – there’s stuff you don’t do before company, even if they are kids.

  112. SKL- re: car seats… how is it even possible to keep kids rear-facing for that long? We had to turn our kids around ASAP because there wasn’t room in the back seat (of our station wagon!) for rear-facing seats when my tall husband had the seat pushed back. Also, what about the kids’ legs? Isn’t there a danger of then clunking their pweshuss noggins off their own knees in a collision? Those things must be tucked under the kids’ chins. My kids HATED being rear-facing- it’s boring AND uncomfortable.

    Or are we all supposed to drive gas-guzzling monster vehicles so there’s room for the kids to sit facing nothing until they’re twelve? Or have TVs installed in the backs of the seats so they have something to look at? The whole thing is completely ridiculous. I’m glad I didn’t see the original post!

    As to parents staying at kids’ birthday parties, I would HATE if all the parents stayed at a party at my house! People I know, sure- that would be fun. But to have to entertain parents as well as kids and provide food and drinks for them? No thanks. Leave me your phone number and by all means hang around if your kid’s a brat, but otherwise, GO! Have a break! Have fun!

    I was invited to stay at a party my son went to last weekend, and I would have felt bad declining… it was boring. Fun for the kids, but there was no reason for me to stay other than that I thought it was expected.

  113. Reading that mom’s blog post was depressing. If my parents had felt that way, I’d have lost out on some of the most important relationships of my life. Because of my mom’s MS and my dad working constantly, there was a lot my brother and I would have missed out on if my parents hadn’t trusted other adults to step in and help out by taking us to the park, shopping for school clothes/supplies, a day at the amusement park, camping trips, standing in for our parents at school events/pageants, etc.

    From the moments my brother and I were born, we were surrounded by extended family (the majority of whom were people not related to us by blood, by the way) made of up other children, teenagers and adults, all of whom helped make life with a sick mother and an often absent father as painless as possible. This isn’t to say that my parents accepted people willy-nilly, but unlike the mommy blogger, they were willing to err on the side of TRUST and as a result, the circle of family and friends that my brother and I have is much wider and richer by far. I pity this woman’s kids because with an attitude like hers, there is so much they are going to miss out on by not being given the chance to develop deep and meaningful relationships with adults other than their parents. Even if she’s waiting “until they’re old enough” (and when exactly will that be?) that’s still time lost and those bonds are that much stronger when they’re developed while the kids are still young.

    My mother died before I hit 12 and my dad 2 years after. I can’t imagine how my brother and would have been able to cope if we hadn’t had the support and care that came from other adults who had been in our lives for what seemed like forever and who we knew we could trust because of that.

    Plus, what about adults like me, who don’t plan of having kids of our own but still would like to have loving and trusting relationships with the kids of people we do love? I really enjoy being “auntie” and because I won’t have kids of my own, there’s that much more love, attention and energy I can give, but what would a mom like this blogger think of me? Would I be suspect because I don’t want kids of my own?

    So many of us now live so far away from immediate family that our friendships are our best and closest means of support. Cutting that off because of paranoia like that reflected in the mom’s post seems unbelievably stupid and a recipe for isolation-induced pressure to be “the perfect parent who is the ONLY person the child/children can trust.” I understand that parents have concerns, and as someone who doesn’t have kids but would like to have a relationship with the children of my friends because I consider them family, I’d of course ask my friends what the rules were/things they want me to look out for, etc. But there’s a difference between “Here’s a list of things to keep in mind when babysitting our kid” and “OMG I can’t trust you because you’re not ME!!” If I were her friend, I’d find her inability to discuss her concerns with me, someone she’s supposed to trust, to be highly insulting.

  114. MFA Grad, this blog needs a “like” button for comments. Thank you!

  115. MFA’s post reminded me of something I’ve occasionally told younger parents (often homeschooling types, as I am) who were concerned about things their young kids “might pick up” if they spent much time around people other than themselves. (And I’m referring here to this “short list” mentality, not to situations where they had genuine concerns about people, but the “you’ll do it wrong because you’re not me” attitude.) “Do you want them to be wrong about all the same things you’re wrong about?” The point was to show them that since they don’t assume they’re perfect (and these were the sorts of people who were humble enough to assume they weren’t), they should appreciate the fact that there were positive things their kids would learn from others that they *wouldn’t* learn at home or from their own parents.

  116. Mrs. Embers, re car seats, you obviously hate your kids almost as much as I hate mine, LOL! I do believe there is a quiet marketing aspect to the whole car seat debate. When people heard I was adopting two kids, some people declared, “now you have to go buy a minivan!!” Most of the parenting suggestions on for-profit websites involve buying something. Kids are crabby on long car drives? You NEED a DVD player. Snacks, spill-proof water bottles – oh and to hold it all, here is a handy snack holder for their car-seat. (Never mind that your kid could choke on his snack in his rear-facing seat and you’d probably never know it.) Convertible car seats now have a higher rear-facing weight limit – so go buy a new one! Your kid shouldn’t wear a coat in his car seat, but here’s an expensive product you can buy to keep him warm AND safe! Suck it up, or why did you decide to be a parent in the first place?

    They want to make a law for all parents based on a risk they can’t even quantify – the risk that, while driving with your tot/preschooler, you are going to be in a head-on crash so violent that your properly-restrained forward-facing child’s neck would be broken. So what if he breaks his legs in a rear-facing seat. An oft-repeated comment on such threads nowadays: “broken leg – cast it. Broken neck – casket.” So those of us who turned our kids earler than we “absolutely had to” basically didn’t care if our kids broke their necks.

    I wonder if any of these people let their kids play sports?

  117. I turned by kiddo around slightly before 1 year. It was an experiment to see if the non-stop, door-to-door screaming at the top of her lungs would stop. It did and she was never turned back around. The increased risk was outweighed by the decreased risk of me intentionally driving into a tree one day in order to make the horrible screaming stop.

    I can’t imagine trying to force the percentage of the population who gets car sick to ride rear facing that long. I’d have puked every time we got in the car.

  118. Donna, I know, and some people brought that up. They were told, “so what if your child pukes on every trip, at least he’s ALIVE.” Amazing. What kind of quality of life . . . but some people are just full of hot air. I kept my kids rear-facing until 2.5 because I knew it was safer (we drive on icy freeways in the winter), AND they were petite and didn’t mind it (they were side-by-side, so they could look at each other and hold hands and stuff). You always have to weigh the pros and cons, but some people just don’t want to admit that.

    As my kids got more verbal and smart about the world, I felt like they were missing a lot by only being able to look at what we’d already passed (and not much of that). We spend a fair amount of time in the car, so that just seemed like a big vacuum at that age. So I stuck it out until winter was over and then turned them. It was right for us. Lord help them if they make a law that says I have to turn them back around, LOL. My 4yo was 27 lbs at last weigh-in, so theoretically she could fall under a revised rear-facing threshhold. I just feel like at this point, it would be like making her sit in the corner. I might have to rebel (or force-feed my kid a lot of fat for a while).

  119. And also, I agree that it’s safer to have a quiet kid than a screaming kid under almost any circumstance. I don’t do screaming very well.

  120. If they did make a rear-facing-until-whatever law, I’d disobey it and hang the consequences. Redonkulous is redonkulous.

  121. Erika – My oldest had already outgrown his regular car seat and had been just buckled in for a while when NJ passed the booster seat law (80 pounds or 8 years old). I saw no reason for it so I ignored it. Now, I don’t go around ignoring laws, but that one I did. I made jokes about it every time I drove, I guess I was nervous, but I never bought any boosters. Amazingly, they survived.

  122. SKL, Apparently the parents saying that have actually never been carsick!

    I have a super-petite 5 year old who might still fall within these new regulations. Since I already feel bad that she’ll still be wearing toddler clothes in elementary school and be stuck in a carseat for years after her friends, I think that it would be a bit cruel to also make her sit rear-facing. Although it may stop the backseat driving. Hmmm this regulation is sounding much better now ….

  123. I have a back-seat driver too, LOL. Though she’s a heftier 34 lbs, so . . . .

  124. There’s an interesting exchange on the Dear Prudence column of last week (http://www.slate.com/id/2277841/pagenum/1) started by a mother who was frustrated that she couldn’t have a playdate for her son without having to entertain the other mother. I particularly like Prudence response to some of the reactions of other readers;

    “But if after that the other mother then says, “I’d be delighted if you just dropped off Jeremy. Then you can be free to run errands or whatever. I’m fine watching the kids by myself, ” I would not then come to the conclusion she wanted me out of the house so she could perform ritual Satanic abuse.”

  125. I felt sad for that woman when I read her post. While I don’t live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids besides my own, and even fewer Free-Rangers, the notion of not being able to trust my friends, most of whom I’ve known since my kids (3rd & 5th graders) were in Prek to help me, or let me help them, makes me wonder if most people are really capable of friendship in the modern world because they buy into “trust noone” philosophy and the notion that “perfect” is all that is good enough.

    That said, about 20-25% of my close friends were sexually abused as children/teens. Sad to say, easily 3/4 of them suffered at the hands of their fathers or stepfathers; the rest had assorted abusers: cousins, brothers, teachers, pastors. No one was molested at a friend’s house–rather, several of those friends took refuge in my home.

  126. What really got to me were these comments below:

    ” That part is hard sometimes. Really, it means my kids don’t get a lot of play dates. And honestly? I think that’s okay. They go to school. They have activities. Play dates are special treats shared with the closest of friends, whose parents I know extremely well.”

    ssfrigerio
    ” Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm
    Exactly. My kids go to school. They have activities and sports. It’s not a right to have playdates with any or all of your friends. It’s a special treat, at least in our house.”

    Playing at a friend’s house is now a special (and presumably rare) treat? I’m scared.

  127. I just happened on your blog while reading another free range style article. I agree with a lot of things about the movement and not going over board, however I disagree with others. Having known more people- including myself- who have been abused as children it is more common than you make it sound. We need not be fearful of EVERYONE, but when I have had friends, siblings, cousins, myself, mother, etc. who have been abused it is NOT uncommon. And you still have to be careful. Where I live last year a young girl was ‘one isle away’ from her mom at a store and was taken by a perpetrator and raped in the bathroom. Thankfully he was caught when the mom noticed her child gone, heard her yelling from the bathroom and the employees got him. The point is don’t go over board, but don’t act like it can never happen to my child either.

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