WALKING TO SCHOOL…WITHOUT YOU

Now that school’s back in session – which, by the way, is how absolutely every parenting article that runs in September must begin, by law – but anyway, now that school’s back in session, you may be wondering: Dare my children walk there? Without me holding their hands and screaming at cars making left turns, I mean?

And the answer is probably yes. With some caveats.

The biggest caveat is that you first have to teach your children how to walk anyplace safely. That means teaching them about looking both ways, about walking “defensively,” and about the fact that they are (this may come as a shock to them) small. My kids are sick of my harping on this, but transportation geeks assure me I must make them keenly aware that they cannot trust cars to see THEM. THEY must look out for cars. It’s also good if they can walk with a friend.

Here in my burg, New York, New York, the city actually sends pedestrian safety instructors out to all the public schools in grades two or three.  That means 3rd grade must be a pretty reasonable age for kids to start walking on their own, right?

It probably is. But, in truth, I didn’t let my younger  son start walking solo till 4th grade (and his brother didn’t go it alone till 5th or 6th, because he was always with his baby brother and me). Third grade didn’t seem right. So you could say it’s just another one of those “go with your gut” issues.

But not totally. Because our guts are a little too timid these days.

In 1969, 42% of kids walked or biked to school. Today only 16% do. Some of that is because suburbs have spread out so much, the distance is too far, or the sidewalks don’t exist. But plenty is because what we once considered safe and normal we now consider risky and terrifying. Scroll down far enough in this blog and you’ll find a letter from a woman who can SEE HER SON’S SCHOOL OUT HER WINDOW and yet her neighbors yelled at her for not personally walking him over. And so many moms pick their kids up from the bus stop these days, it’s like they’re raising kobe beef.

Bottom line: If your child is 8 or so, he or she probably can walk to school without you, unless the route is far more treacherous than the one you trod so long ago. Remember? I’m talking about back when your mom, who loved you just as much as you love your kids, waved goodbye and was willing to let you go.

 

52 Responses

  1. In 1950 I walked the 5 blocks to kindergarten by myself in suburban Long Island. In 1983 my five year old walked the two blocks to school by herself in a similar neighborhood.

  2. Yup – agree with you. We live in inner London and my nearly 11 yr old has been walking on her own from time to time since she was about 8. My younger is a young 8 and the current system is that I give them a choice every day that I’ll either walk them to or from school.

    There was one famous occasion when I was running early after school and decided to walk the route to meet them. Only to discover them standing having the most MASSIVE row in the street. Younger one had decided to take an alternative route. Older didn’t like it and instructed her not to, so younger ran off anyway. Older in her 10 yr old wisdom knew she’d be back so decided to give her a fright by hiding. Gave her the biggest fright and the row of all time followed! Both ok though and they learned their lesson.

  3. My son started kindergarten this week. I find it interesting that his school expects him to walk the ~8 blocks — and specifically ask parents to NOT drive them to school. At 5 years old he’s really not old enough to handle that on his own. In a year or\ two, perhaps and on his better days he could handle it now, but only on his better days. For now, he’s walking with his mother, but the school does little to encourage this; for instance, they don’t provide a place for parents to wait when picking up walking kindergarteners nor do they make sure a parent is there to meet them.

    A better solution might be if the bigger kids from the block walked with some of the smaller — but since kindergarten is on a different schedule than other grades, this doesn’t quite work.

  4. In 6th grade I was a crossing guard — I got out of school 5 min. early,
    and got to tell the little kids when they could cross. (The power
    didn’t corrupt me as far as I can tell.)

  5. I started walking to school, alone, in kindergarten (age 5, which was 1977).

    I do specifically remember the first day of school when my mom walked me there (to show me how), and I insisted that I could walk home on my own and that she didn’t have to pick me up. When I left school that day, I started walking the wrong way. Luckily, my mom knew better and showed up immediately to turn me around.🙂 But after that, I was on my own.

    And like Don, I was a crossing guard (in 5th grade).

  6. The sad thing is that even walking to the bus stop requires parental supervision around here. Parents actually get in their cars and take GROUPS of kids to the bus stop 2 blocks away in beautiful weather in a nice suburban neighborhood.!

  7. My kids both walk to school one mile away. My youngest is 7 years old, and in second grade. My oldest is 10 and in 5th grade. They walk together. We live in a gated community and once they are out of the gate it is about a mile of huge sidewalk that goes next to the high school, middle school, jr high, and elementary school. That’s all they see is schools on their walk. It’s a nice area, but it still worries me sometimes. I think it’s good for them and they love it so I let them go.

  8. On the first day of school, we had ridden our bikes to school. My son is in 1st grade, my daughter just starting kinder. We had ridden bikes to and from school a lot last year. The route is 7 blocks long, but to get there we have to cross a very busy street at a light, and another less busy street with no crossing guard. I got my daughter at the kinder’s early out, and then came back with the car to get my son. He was upset that we wouldn’t be able to ride his bike home, so I told him to go ahead and start riding, and stop just on the other side of the park (this is where the first less busy street is, followed by the super busy street). I was thinking my daughter and I could hop back in the car and meet him at the park, and shadow him home (he turns 7 in 2 weeks). Well, we sat in the parking lot for 10 minutes, waiting for the crowd to clear out. By the time we got to the park, my son was gone! GONE!!!! Crap crap crap. We drove back to the school. Not there. So we drove home. And there he was. No problems. He remembered all the lessons we had taught him about how to cross the streets safely. I later heard from a fellow mom that she saw him going on home alone, and that he did fine, no scary parts or anything. Will I let him do this again? Um, maybe. We were going to wait until he was 9 or 10 (I started walking home alone in 4th grade). But it’s nice to know he can do it if he needs to.

  9. I have allowed my 8 year old to ride his bike to school and back on his own, but his sister, starting kindergarten this week, is not ready to go alone, so we will all walk or ride together. They can go by themselves when they both feel ready, but I will continue to accompany them as long as they like me to. Besides, I enjoy the exercise from the walk!

  10. something i drilled into my kids about crossing streets, along with the whole idea of “just because you can see the car doesn’t mean the driver can see you” is to wait to cross until you make eye contact with the driver of the car. even as a (taller) adult, this is a great tip to keep in mind when walking.

  11. I love your blog. I have 5 children ages 17 – 6 and I have gotten more relaxed with my younger children after realizing that children need to be more independent. This morning my 1st grader asked if her and my 4th grade daughter could walk home by themselves after school (it is only their 4th day of school!). I agreed, happy they were confident enough to make the 4 block trek. I then told my middle schooler he should walk home also. He was not as thrilled about his 2 mile journey.

    I believe it is very important to instill this confidence in kids. My 15 year old is working as a political intern this fall and as a condition of his volunteering he has to take the bus from the next town over.

    When I grew up in the 70’s we did not have cell phones, most of my summer days when I was a teenager was spent riding my bicycle around town with my friends. It is not good to smother your kids. L

  12. My elder daughter started walking home with friends last year at the end of 3rd grade. I told her that if for any reason she found herself without a walking buddy, to call me from the school office and then she could start walking on her own and I would walk up to meet her halfway. There is a point in the short walk that is all wooded with no houses and does make me a little nervous for her safety alone, so for now she needs a walking buddy. My 1st grader rides the bus because I don’t trust the two of them not to have a “row in the middle of the street” as the first commenter noted.

  13. Yes! Yes!

    I recently wrote a couple posts on this topic, so (if you don’t mind) I’d like to share:

    http://mareserinitatis.livejournal.com/485922.html

    http://mareserinitatis.livejournal.com/486383.html

  14. “In 1969, 42% of kids walked or biked to school. Today only 16% do. ”

    I am currently a PTA sponsored crossing guard (and parent of two kids still in primary school). I try to encourage walking to school to everyone who might listen and am looking at putting more information in the school paper. The above fact would be perfect if it was sourced. Any chance?

    Traffic + scared parents + obese kids = a bad scene. Help is appreciated.

  15. My 4th grade son (10 yo this month) is now walking and from school on his own this year (we would have done it last year, but he went to a charter school not in walking distance last year). It is a 10-12 minute walk in a suburban neighborhood with sidewalks. He also is walking again twice a week for soccer practice at the school ball fields. I also have him walking to and from his best friend’s house, about 1 mile away on the other side of our suburban development (residential sidewalks and crosswalks all the way, though one intersection two blocks from our house is a 4 way stop with two lanes going each direction with a higher speed limit (4 way stop is within sight of the fire station and paramedics🙂.

    But in some ways I am more nervous about the blocks closest to school and the 4-way stop in front of the school (even with a parent volunteer crossing guard). Lots of cars in that area create lots of “though” traffic, many anxious and hurried because of the unexpected delays and long lines of vehicles (delivery & home repair service trucks, etc.). Rushed parents in cars aren’t always paying enough attention to the walking kids and they spend far too much time trying to park very close to school or driving into the stop n’ drop lane. If would be much better if the parents who are driving would park two blocks from school (and position themselves so they can drive away from the school rather than add to the congestion) and then drop off or walk their kids the rest of the way to school.

    I understand that many parents are off to work or errands and going in the car anyway so it is just as easy to drive the kids, but all the congestion right in front of the schools seems quite unnecessary and adds to the risk of accidents for the kids.

    While walking to school, I have witnessed two identical car accidents a half block from the school (in the rain both times) because a parent turned around her vehicle in the middle of the block after dropping off her children (to avoid going through the school congestion), and another parent wasn’t paying attention while driving down the street hit the turning car. This is avoidable if parents would just think about it and park on a side street a block or two further away so such mid-block turnarounds aren’t tempting (even in bad weather – prepare and dress appropriately or leave earlier to avoid the extra crush of traffic).

  16. […] found a great post – Walking To School…Without You on a great blog called Free Range Kids, written by a parent and all about giving our children the […]

  17. 8 seems way old to me. Once you know where you’re going seems like first grade is more than reasonable for most neighborhoods.

  18. My third grader (8 y/o) announced on the first day of school that he was riding his bike by himself to school about six blocks away, and he’s been doing it ever since.

    The only hiccup is that he’s in aftercare and I have to pick him up from it (where I’m sure he’s perfectly capable of coming home on his own).

    We do have a modestly busy street between home and school, with a stoplight and a crossing guard in the morning.

  19. Well my oldest is 6 and in grade one, so we’re still working on getting the traffic rules. Hopefully by 8 he can go to the bus stop alone. But then his younger brother will be with him so, I might still go with them.

  20. Last spring my husband and I were out walking the dog in our nice, suburban neighborhood one afternoon, and noticed all these cars parked with people in them in front of a house. About 2 minutes later, a school bus pulls up, drops the kids off, and each kid gets in a car. We followed one of the cars (not intentionally, it was going the same way we were going), and the mom literally went less than a block with the kid (looked about 8) before pulling into a driveway/garage. There were no streets to cross (her house was on the same side of the street as the bus stop), no wooded areas, absolutely nothing besides suburban houses between the bus stop and her house.

    We honestly couldn’t believe it.

  21. I’m a teacher the majority of our bus riders are latch key kids. Our drivers drop each child off at their door and waits till they get inside. If they can’t get inside for some reason they are brought back to the school.

    Sometimes this upsets parents – but given the commute many of our parents have from Houston I think it is prudent.

  22. Last year my sons, then 3rd and K, started riding the bus home. The bus stop is about 2 blocks away, in a very quiet neighborhood. Most of the time my youngest and I would walk up to meet them, but after awhile they just came home on their own. I will admit to meeting them at the bus stop on rainy days, so in that sense they are spoiled. I really feel they have gained a lot of confidence in being able to walk home alone and chat with the neighbor kids or drag their feet or whatever.
    The other day my husband had my car, so when the boys got home from the bus, it appeared to them as though no one was home. They knocked on the door, but I was in the back and didn’t hear them. So they sat on the steps and ate the rest of their lunches. When I realized they were about 20 minutes late, I went to look and found them just hanging out, thinking Mom had forgotten them, but not really worried. They said that eventually they would have walked to the neighbors.
    Ok, that was a long aside, but my next step is to give the oldest a house key, just in case I’m delayed in getting home before them or something. He can be a modern day latch-key kid, with a stay at home mother.
    I love this site, because I agree that we are not teaching our kids the skills and common sense that they will need to navigate in the world. I’m slowly giving my 9 year old some freedom to say, go in the gas station and buy milk while we all wait in the car. I would not leave them in the car while I went in, but have many memories of my mom “running” in the grocery store and leaving 5 kids in the car. Of course, I also remember alot of yelling and fighting and even one brother releasing the parking brake. Oops!

  23. My son is 10 this year and in fifth grade. He takes the
    bus and I would never consider letting him walk to
    school. The school is several miles away and also
    he is autistic. I know… I know… mostly this website
    refers to human children. Well, guess what
    Ms. Skenazy and the other free rangers; he is a
    human. The general consensus on this website is
    that kids with disabilities are not people and do not
    count. I can never understand how having healthy
    “typical” children is not enough. So many of the
    parents have to brag and brag about what their kids
    can do. In the same breath then, I am always being
    told that I should have aborted my son since he has
    autism. Ofcourse, those uninformed people think that
    amnio can reveal autism which it does not. I suppose
    I should just put a pillow over his head is that the
    idea, Ms Skenazy? I say raise kids as you see fit.
    Whether they are healthy or otherwise. Parents know
    best for their kids. Not some group of disapproving
    parents who shake their heads and say you let them
    do too much or not enough. Kids’ Moms and Dads;
    they know best. That includes parents of disabled
    kids; they, just like their kids, are people too. Good
    luck to everyone in the new school year. Yes, that
    includes Ms. Skenazy. I wish her and her kids best
    of luck despite the fact she thinks my kids are
    nothing and, apparently, far from human.

  24. To Joe.
    I don’t recall reading anywhere in this post where kids with special needs were segregated from any other children.

    You know your sons skills and needs better than anyone and while he may not be as “free range” as some other child he may be able to be more free than you or his other care-takers think he is.

    The fact is that each family’s situation is unique and non of us are a statistic. We make up the statistics. 🙂 So my daughters may be more or less ready to go to the playground alone to meet up with friends than your son. Or my neighborhood might be more or less safe due to traffic.

    The point here, I think, is that there is a community interested in pushing the boundaries of what we allow our children to do because it is possible, and even likely, that they can do more than we let them.

    “A rising tide lifts all boats” and all that. 🙂

  25. “Finally, if someone wants to push their childrend by all means
    go ahead. Just do me a favor, let me push or pull my son at my pace and his. Give me the benefit of the doubt. I know what’s best for him not you and certainly not Ms. Skenazy.”

    Again, I don’t see anyone forcing you or even asking you to do anything. We must be reading different sites. 🙂 This site is about a viewpoint that you don’t apparently share.

    Why even come to a site like this when you already have your opinions set? 😦

    And sorry you live in a crappy neighborhood filled with mean kids. It’s probably raining there too. 😉

    Having a special needs child must be a huge strain. I can only imagine. I’d only hope that if I were in the same situation it wouldn’t make my outlook as bleak as yours appears to be.

  26. Aaron,

    Actually, it is raining. But anyway, no one is forcing me to do anything but yes I have been asked to change
    some things or even put my son in an institution. I choose not to. I come to this site in the forlorn hope that maybe just maybe someone would see my point
    of view. Which is to raise your kids as you see fit. You
    are the parent. You should know best. Also, I hope that
    perhaps someone would feel just a tad of sympathy or
    empathy for my son. Then, maybe, parents would give
    more consideration to special needs kids and that
    would water down to those person’s kids. Kids do as
    they see their parents do. Plus, remember, I am free
    to go to whatever sites I wish. I do not have to ask your
    or Ms. Skenazy’s permission to come here. If you post
    something, be prepared for someone to respond. You
    might not like it but they have the right to respond. My
    neighborhood is not “crappy” as you say. I would say
    it is a typical suburban area. The treatment we get
    from neighbors is typical. Parents of other special
    needs kids tell me the same thing no matter where
    they live.

    Aaron,

    Honestly, I understand some of people’s trepidation. They see me and my son and they think
    there go I but for the grace of god or genetic bad luck.
    It’s scary and they don’t know what to think. I was there.
    I used to think that way myself. It doesn’t excuse this
    behavior but I do sort of understand it. I suppose I just
    want people to treat my boy like they treat any other
    child. I don’t care how they treat me. My real problem
    with this site is the abundance of nasty emails I have
    received from it’s readers. I don’t need to be told that
    I should have aborted my son or he belongs locked up.
    That is the general consensus of the emails I get from
    readers of this site. That does bother me. Though I
    accept they have a right to their opinion and since I
    posted here, I should know that I won’t always agree
    with the responses. I use my real name here so I am
    opening myself up to unfavorable replies. I really do
    wish you and your family the best. If you are a “free
    range” parent, I have no problem with that. It is the
    cruel and callous approach that “free rangers” seem
    to have for other parents and kids. I have seen this
    first hand if you have not than that’s fine. But don’t act
    like if you haven’t seen them, these behaviors do not
    happen. Now as far as my outlook being bleak: well,
    my son would never know it. I take all the negative on
    myself. He is a happy sweet boy. Yes it is a strain and,
    Aaron, you can’t imagine. I promise you ; you can’t.
    Here is a taste of it: My son will probably never go to college, have a career, get married, fall in love , make
    love or even go on a date. That is my reality. I do think
    it sounds bleak but my son doesn’t know it is. Maybe,
    you could handle it better. But, don’t just assume you
    could. It’s not that easy. It’s very easy to feel bitter and
    angry. There is a deep genuine sadness to this life too.
    But, I love my boy. He’s the best thing about me. He
    might not go as far as your daughters but ,to me , he
    will achieve just as much. He has autism. IT DOESN”T
    HAVE HIM!!!! Best of luck to to you.

  27. My family moved from NYC to Singapore ten years ago. People who have never been to Singapore like to condemn the laws as draconian, but we find that in our everyday lives we have so much MORE freedom here.

    You routinely see five year-olds on public transport by themselves, and groups of children who are about eight or nine out together without their parents on weekends. Even teenage girls have much more freedom here due to the seriousness with which groping or unwanted advances are taken by the authorities. They actually have a law on the book called ‘offending the modesty of a woman’ and it results in a fine and sometimes jail time. A couple of years ago a man got one month in jail for groping a woman’s breast on the bus without her permission. People who expose themselves to children or otherwise sexually abuse them get really stiff sentences which send out a very unambiguous message. When I first moved here I remember a man getting ten years for attempted rape of a sixteen year-old girl.

    We moved here when I had just fifteen years-old and I remember thinking that Singaporeans around my age seemed so carefree and young. My parents had been able to give me freedom in NYC such as going to school on the subway by myself, and going out and about to certain places by myself on the weekends, but by the time I was 14 I had constantly been fending off advances from paedophiles and it had made me angry and cynical. Being given the tools by your parents to be street-smart and free-range are all well and good but I had gotten bitter about the realities.

    The difference between Singapore and the US, is that in Singapore the laws are designed to emphasise the needs of the community over the individual. The prevailing view here is that the city-state needs to be a place where women and children can be safe on their own at all times of day, and that the laws need to be designed to protect that right. I won’t pretend that it is perfect, but having just recently had my first child it make me feel good that they care.

  28. I should have referenced the book, “Bet You Didn’t Know” by Cheryl Russell. That’s where I got my statistic on how many kids are walking to school today, versus when we were kids. It’s also a fascinating read crammed with all sorts of other stats that, put together, give a remarkable view of our society. — Lenore “Free Range” Skenazy

  29. We moved towns when I turned 9, so I started walking to school in fourth grade. I made friends with all the bums and drunks along the way and chatted to them every day. Nothing remotely inappropriate ever happened.

    My nine-year-old nephew lives in NYC and goes to public school. Every Friday, the school lets the kids leave in groups and go out to lunch. Very sensible way of easing into urban living, I think.

  30. i hope you got my comment to your comment on my site. thanks for finding me.
    I so enjoyed meeting you at Dr Phil’s BBQ.😉
    Love what you are doing. I didn’t get to say on the show that I grew up in LA and at 5 walked a mile round trip to school, did my own laundry at 5 and was expected to get some of my dinners together at 8.
    I will look for the book with the stats. I love being armed with those.

  31. wow, your commenters need to get their own blogs if they want to write full posts for G-d sake!

    wait till you witness the helicopter parents during college years. they go online and pic their kid’s classes for them!

  32. My son won’t start at the local elementary school for another 3 years. I sincerely wish that when the time comes, he could have the option of walking or biking to school. But our neighborhood and the one by the school were built without sidewalks and connected by a narrow, busy road without any shoulder. So even kids who live two blocks from the school can’t safely walk there.

    I wish there were some hope that someday we might get sidewalks, but these neighborhoods are populated by a large number of retirees who think everyone should just drive everywhere, and anyone who wants to walk for transportation (i.e. not exercise) is weird.

    I hope that 3 years from now we at least still get the school bus coming to our neighborhood.

  33. The experts recommend that kids not walk or bike alone until they are 10 years old. As a result, I know of some schools around here where students younger than 4th grade are PROHIBITED from riding their bikes to school alone. I don’t know how they enforce the rule, or whether it also applies to walking…

    Anyone else out there know of stuff like this in your community?

  34. What the heck happened to the SCHOOL BUS??

    Why on earth are parents crowding NYC subways and buses with their children??

    It’s ridiculous!

    I used to walk to work. Then I got a new job across town and for the first time in a long time I’m taking the subway or bus from the upper west side to midtown. School kids and their hyper-attentive parents have taken over the transit system. I was appalled.

    The subway is actually rather dangerous for tiny kids lurching around in the middle of extremely crowded cars.

    Can someone explain why on earth the perfectly normal looking school buses that run along Broadway are not “safe” enough for these overprotective parents?

    Seriously! I mean, someone clue me in here.

  35. A very apt post as my two boys are now walking to school alone. Without mommy. Just the two of them (and other rare friends they may find on the way).

    They are 6 and 9 and in 3rd and K. They start and end the day at the same time. It is a 1/3 mile to school. They do have to go one block out their way to avoid a busy intersection where the cars don’t stop in their direction.

    I love!!!! waving goodbye to them at the door in the morning. Memories of my own going to school. When the weather cools down, I will have them walk home alone as well.

  36. I don’t have kids, but will someday def. raise the “free range” variety. Born in ’73, I was in the 3rd grade (8 y.o.) when I started going to school solo (I did have my 5 y.o. brother with me, but that was more a chore than a safety measure). We lived in the Bronx, went to school nearly 5 mi. away in Manhattan and we took the city bus…with a transfer (gasp!). FYI middiewiddie: in NYC, parochial and private schools generally don’t have school buses; kids get public bus/train passes if they live farther than walking distance.

    And we played outside with little to no supervision and had to be in by the time the street lights came on. We cooked, did laundry and ironed our clothes. My mom worked to feed, clothe and shelter us, and these chores of ours were things she didn’t have to worry about after a hard day! Now we’re fully self-sufficient adults and I think that what this child-rearing thing is all about, no?

  37. Sending your kids to school by there self. In my neiborhood thay would be scary. People are rude. They don’t care anymore what happen’s they just want to get where they are going. My kid use to walk to school but now they ride the bus. still walking to the bus stop is scary. When the bus comes car don’t stop. The bus drivier honks but they keep driving I wish I had a invisiable cop there every morning. It’s a scary world out there.

  38. When I was in Kindergarten (before JK), I walked to school every day. The first day, I was “supervised” by my older sister who walked me about a block away and pointed in the direction of the school. “You’ll see it soon. Your class is in the back, ” she said. I walked home alone too. Granted, there were lots of other children and one crossing guard along the root. We looked after each other.

    Now, I’d be arrested on the spot and my child taken away if I didn’t pick him up and drop him off directly. There would also be the obvious problem that older students would no doubt bully any younger children seen walking without a parent.

  39. hey Nicole, thanks for the 411 on why so many kids are on the busses and trains during rush hour.

    On a related topic:

    I’m at the bus stop and 2 early30something moms are there with their prissy looking 6 year olds. Ma #1 is sitting on the bench, her kid standing, but gives up her seat to the other ma’s kid! The child got the adult’s seat! What planet is this? The prissy miss sat smugly and didn’t thank the woman. Prissy’s ma,of course, did not instruct her child to get back up and give the seat back to the grown-up. No, all she did was ask Miss Priss if she thanked the woman for givng her her seat. The little priss lied and said she thanked her.

    So when did parents decide that perfectly ablebodied kids “have” to sit down rather than let an adult sit down??? This is just too much. We are living in a child-centric solar system.

  40. Firstly, I hope the parent with the autistic child is just having a really bad day, because how can anyone say that this blog takes the position that autistic children, or other special needs children, are not human???
    Of course they are! I have never read anything here to indicate that an autistic child’s special needs should be ignored, or that they should be treated the same as any other child, despite their special needs. Obviously, an autistic child has special needs and the same parenting techniques do not apply.

    On the subject raised by middiewiddie, what’s wrong with the idiot mother giving up her own seat for someone else’s child! The sense of entitlement is unbelievable. Some parents are more than willing, in fact insistent, that their kids are treated like little aristocrats at the expense of adults and other children. No wonder they are unpleasant and insufferable.

  41. Dear Joe,

    It is so sad to hear that you’ve received even one nasty email, and awful that you’ve gotten many. I can say for sure that the special needs kids in my life have really taught me more about what it means to be human, and how God cares deeply for each individual. I am so glad that you didn’t have your son aborted! He is a unique creation, and has much to offer the world.

    It’s interesting that when you read people’s comments, you hear a lot of criticism of other parents. I know it’s easy to go from “this is how I want to raise my kids” to “can you believe those other crazy parents!” In my own life, learning to choose the best for my kids yet not judging others is actually very difficult. But I think that it is important for every reader of this blog to ask if our thoughts and comments reflect judgmental attitudes.

    We can push the boundaries of what’s acceptable in our communities, while acknowledging that other people have different circumstances and opinions! It all comes back to Jesus’ words: Judge not, that you be not judged!

    Joe, I pray for you that these harsh words will be easily set aside, and that you will have joy no matter the weather!

  42. K in Kiev,

    Thanks for the kind words. Those nasty reactions are unfortunate but you get used to it. People like you ( and I like to think that’s most people) make things easier. You have empathy and understanding for another person’s problems. Thank you. I agree with you 100% that this ” am I doing the right thing? ” can turn into ” Wow, look at what they are doing wrong” pretty quickly. That is what we should avoid. You never know another parent’s motivation until you have walked in their shoes. As long as each parent is doing the best he/she can, we can’t expect much more. I think people aren’t just free range or not. It’s more of a gray area where each person decides on a case by case basis what they should do for or with their kids. That’s the way it should be. Maybe not being so judgemental and being more understand could take us where we all want to be. All our kids learning, growing, playing and being happy. No matter what their limitations may or may not be. Take care.

  43. When my twins were three I sang at church for our annual Palm Sunday gala… two services with a breakfast in between. I figured just leave the kids in the nursery for the duration (they love it there). Dh decided to bring them home after the breakfast. One of them asked him where I was…. singing at church. Dh proceeded to play on the computer and not really attend to where the boys were.

    Meanwhile, at church, I was chatting away with a friend and decided to go out through the church instead of taking a short cut out the side door. As I walked out of the choir room I encountered an usher with my son. He turned to the man and said, “Thank you! Here’s my mommy!”

    He had walked the three blocks all on his own, and managed not to get run over in the parking lot. Dh hadn’t missed him, but a man who’d seen him walk by his house and come looking for him to make sure he was OK.

  44. I guess it depends on several factors. In 1988, I walked about 7 blocks to school with a neighbor (I was 6). Twenty years later, my husband and I are having trouble letting our daughter walk two blocks to the bus stop (she’s 5). The neighborhoods are equally as safe, so there’s little risk; however, we do have a lot of construction going on, the kids like to run in the road, and there’s the peer pressure from the other moms to helicopter our kiddos. I think once the construction dies down a little and the kids learn to look both ways AND not run in the street, we may let up a little. But that could very easily be at 8 years old.

  45. About school buses: Many districts are cutting routes and drivers to save money. They are expected to run their district with inadequate funding, so when faced with the choice of cutting teachers or cutting buses, transportation usually goes (and rightfully so, in my opinion). Think of how much it costs to fill up your car and imagine how much running a fleet of buses with qualified drivers costs. Bottom line: funding for schools is not what it used to be, even though it seems like we’re paying more property tax than ever. Do some research/go to your school board meeting if you want to know more.

  46. I have four boys the oldest is 11 and then a 7 and an 8 year old. The youngest is 5 months. Each kid is very different. my 11 year old has bee trusted to do such things as go to the football game or the skate park on his own. He has been doing this sence he was 7. It started slowly at age 4 with limits like this street and this street and he did verry well so it just continued from there. The eight year old has developed the same way. Now the 7 year old wants to have that freedom but does not exercise the same level of maturity as the other two so he is still verry limited to go alone. They can all go together as a group. So each child has there own level of maturity and limitations and each child should be seen as an idividual and you know your child better than any one else. It is your call. I think Kids need to learn life skills and the only way the are going to learn these skills is by living life and not having there parents do everything for them. So good for you not letting the rest of the world tell you what is right for your child.

  47. “or the sidewalks don’t exist.”

    Oh noes. They couldn’t possibly walk on the street. I suppose they can only cross at traffic lights or 4-way stops too?

    Heaven help we should teach our kids to talk against the traffic (so they can see what they’ll be hit by), walk on the gravel shoulder, and cross without lights or signs. What do parents do these days exactly? (Yes, I know…you work…a 5 min walk and discussion with your child is WAY too disruptive).

  48. DOH….ya I said “talk” when I meant “walk”….shoulda proof read.

  49. Well it’s about time someone said something about giving our children the ability to grow up learning how to take care of themselves by the time they leave home. My neighbors look horrified that I let my kids walk the 5 blocks to school and how could I let them go in the rain with slickers and umbrellas and not in an armored car or a limo or at least an SUV?
    When I was 12 I had to get myself up and catch the city bus, make a transfer and be to work in downtown Madison by 8am in the summer. I learned what it was to be responsible, to work hard, to earn money and how to get around. I want the same thing for my kids so they can succeed in life. Thanks for sharing everyone!

  50. We are depriving our kids of being able to tell “When I was your age I walked two blocks to school uphill in pleasant weather!” stories. Oh how the times have changed.

  51. I am so glad I stumbled across this site. I’ve been wracked with guilt because I’ve been letting my 5 year old 1st grad pink monster walk to the bus stop by herself. O the freedom, the joy, the easy life. The two little one’s sleep in, and Super O comes home feeling grown up and responsible. Less fights over homework, offers to help with the pets, or her sisters (mixed blessing sure … ). I am so recommending this site to all the mothers I know! ’cause now I know I am not the only one out there who does not want to perpetuate the fear that permeates our society.

  52. Learning independence and the responsiblity that goes along with it is one of the most important lessons in life. Great article.

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