Has Anyone Seen My Son?! One Mom’s Story

Hi Readers!
Here’s a story most of us can relate to, from mom of two Kelli Oliver George, whose funny, addictive blog is
Rancid Raves.

I LOST MY SON AT THE FAIR, BUT I FOUND HIM — SUPRISINGLY! NOT

by Kelli Oliver George

I thought about Free-Range Kids long and hard last night when I lost my 3.5-year-old at a huge, dusty county fair with thousands of folks milling around.

 My baby! Lost! The entire time I hunted for him, I kept repeating to myself what this site has been preaching: the statistics are actually LOW and realistically, he was going to be fine, just fine. Here’s what happened:

 I went to the Leavenworth County Fair in Tonganoxie, Kansas with my sister and her kids. It was the typical fair scene — flashing lights worthy of a seizure, cheap stuffed animals hanging by their necks, chaotic bells, buzzers and carnival music blaring, the smell of grease lingering with the heavy scent of livestock. The fair.

It is a fair that was the highlight of my summers for the seven years I lived in Tonganoxie because everyone was there — even that cute boy you spied from a neighboring town at that track meet last spring. You begged your mom to make sure that your new school clothes were bought before the fair. THE FAIR. Ah, yes! This was a place I knew and loved!

And none of that mattered one damned bit when Arun went missing. He was with my sister and headed towards me, but at some point disappeared. He was gone, it was dark, and the population of folks seemed to be multiplying before my very eyes.

I leapt into action. Handing Anjali over to my sister, I told her to stay put. Then, methodically, I marched back and forth looking for my boy.

The entire time, I was fighting back the rising panic: After all, who has posted endlessly about “letting our children go”? Who has been shamelessly taunting child predators everywhere? Was this the universe’s lame attempt at bitch-slapping me?

I  saw some police officers and told them the situation. Meanwhile,I kept reminding myself of all of the sensible statistics that I have been reading on this site and in Lenore’s book for the past year. I grasped those facts and figures tightly as my talisman while I searched.

And then, after the longest 10 (15?) minutes of my life: there he was. As my sister had stood in place, she told everyone she encountered about Arun being lost. Someone brought him back to us.

Arun was not really aware that he was lost — in his mind, he was just hanging out by the super slide. What’s the problem, yo? I explained to him what happened and told him to thank the police officers for helping. We also had a very long talk about it on the way home.

What would I do differently? Last night, I had dressed Arun in a dark green shirt. I will definitely do brighter colors next time. And I will snap a picture of each kid on my cell phone at the beginning of events like this. And maybe I’ll use a good, old-fashioned Sharpie to write our phone number on their forearms. But that is it.

Afterward, my sister told me she was shocked at how calm I was during and after the whole thing. 

I wasn’t calm. But I’ll go to the fair with my kids again. I want my  children to grow up with SPIRIT and a love for discovering. I know that means that sometime, I may have to deal with another situation like this. But I refuse to be afraid. I refuse.

61 Responses

  1. I hope I have the mental fortitude to react without panic when the day comes that I experience this with my child. Well played!

  2. One thing I did with my kids when they were quite young (and I think a bright five year old could handle this) is to agree to a meeting place if we got separated. Come to think of it, I still–even with cells and everyone more than a bit older than five–try to come up with a meeting place when I visit a crowded scene with friends and family.

    Your boy sounds like he handled the situation very well!

  3. Finding a meeting place sounds like a good idea if it’s someplace easy to get to. My parents taught us to just Stand Still so the grown-ups could come back and fetch us. It doesn’t really matter what you do so long as people aren’t looking for each other and passing each other in the crowd!

  4. Well done! Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  5. Uly, the “Stand Still” idea is a great one. I’ll keep it in mind as the small fry gets older! The meeting place is also a good one for older kids.

    And a second on the Rebbetzin’s “Bravo!”

  6. I’m glad to hear that really, you wouldn’t do anything differently; no one did anything wrong! Good job. 3 1/2 is rather young to arrange a meetup place or whatever, so I think you did just the right thing. He would have turned up no matter what because most adults are happy to assist a child who is separated from his family.

    Take a minute and imagine how lame it would be for a kid from the age of infancy to 8 or so being forced to stay RIGHT by his parents’ side all the time – at yes, the Fair, which is SO much fun!

    A brief hijack: I lost my kid at the fair a few days ago too! However, she was older: 7. I let her ride the rides on her own for about a half hour to an hour. When my mom went back to the ride area to find her, she couldn’t – and she got all frustrated and panicky. I just went back and kept my eyes peeled for the blue dress and found my daughter – who’d had the time of her life going on many big kid rides on her own.

  7. I like the idea of snapping a picture of them on your cell phone at a crowded event like that. That’s smart free-ranging….using technology.

  8. Even though my kids are now 13, 11 and 9, we still have the “go to the totem pole if we get separated and you can’t find us within a couple of minutes.” It’s our place. Our son couldn’t find us this year (he’s the 11 yo). He’d had to stay outside with his snowcone instead of coming into the textile building, but we’d told him we’d be in there. He managed to pass us and not see us, so he went to the totem pole. No worries, and my older daughter fetched him from there.

  9. I keep the statistics rolling through my head pretty much every time my kids are out of my sight. It’s a calming mantra.

    The funny thing is that the poster says from her son’s perspective he wasn’t lost, “he was just hanging out by the super slide”. This is very true. How often do we as adults get separated from other adults on outings only to find each other again. We’d never say the other adults were lost!

  10. Our mantra to our kids in situations like this is, “Find a mommy with a baby or a little kid, and tell her you’re lost.”

    Of course, that requires the child to REALIZE he’s lost!😉

  11. “Find a mommy with a baby or a little kid, and tell her you’re lost.”

    WHY a Mama with a baby or a little kid?

    Uly, the “Stand Still” idea is a great one. I’ll keep it in mind as the small fry gets older! The meeting place is also a good one for older kids.

    To be totally clear, these rules were modified very very slightly for public transportation. If you were in the station (or at the bus stop) or just plain lost, you were to stand still. If you were on the bus or train and everybody else wasn’t, THEN you were to get off at the next stop and wait, a sensible rule I’ve since taught to my nieces. What you were NOT to do is try to head back a stop on your own because, of course, you’d pass the train bringing the adults over to you.

    The one time I had a chance to follow this rule, I didn’t. My father freaked and ran after the train pounding on the conductor’s window. I was six or so and couldn’t figure it out! Surely my dad knew I knew the rule, right? LOL.

  12. We were at a very busy museum in Chicago back in January. Upon arriving and seeing the milling crowd waiting to present tickets and get through the turnstiles I realized the potential for one of my older children to get separated from us. I was most worried about my 6yo who has a tendency to forget where she is and what she is doing.

    I took her aside and told her if she ever found she was lost to find a “policeman” (which in this case was a security guard) or a mommy with a stroller. I figured it would be easier for her to grasp the concept of a mommy then a police officer/security guard. I reminded the older kids, too.

    Of course we spent the day without incident and without death grips on the children. The 6yo mostly held my hand because she likes to but they were free to wander around and explore. We even let our then 2 1/2yo out of the stroller to walk without holding our hands. The closest we came to losing a child was my son (7) wandering off and losing sight of him in the crowd. I got agitated rather then panicked. He finally found his way back and funny thing…he could see us the whole time so didn’t consider himself lost.

  13. I lost my younger son when he was, I think about three in a huge toy store. It was crowded with kids and toys, and a mild sense of unease came over me after about ten minutes as I kept trying to find him.

    I’ll tell you though, once he spied the much coveted “robo-raptor” he found us in a big hurry!!!

  14. @TC:

    Yeah, ’cause we all know that dad’s are not to be trusted.

  15. “Find a mommy with a baby or a little kid, and tell her you’re lost.”

    WHY a Mama with a baby or a little kid?

    Yeah, really. The “find a mommy with a stroller” thing bugs me. If we’re all in agreement stranger abduction is a micro-risk, then any competent adult is a great person for our children to ask for assistance. To teach kids not to talk to “strange men” is to teach them that basically at the heart of any and every man lurks a predator.

    Not to mention I don’t like the idea mommies=people who care for other people (as opposed to ALL of us should – yes, men and teenagers and what have ye too, who are capable and willing!).

    My kids talk to ALL SORTS of people, including tattooed biking dudes on the public transportation, and it has only resulted in the most pleasant experiences for us.

    Spread a little love and trust around, folks.

  16. Well, more to the point, I’m figuring that a mama with a baby or a little kid has her hands full. Why not a mama with a ten year old, at least? (My mother says that a ten year old kid is the best gift to any OTHER mother with younger children. They’re energetic, they don’t ask for pay, and they think it’s FUN to play with babies and toddlers!)

  17. The first time we took our kids to a science fiction convention, I wrote my phone number on the back of our two-year-old’s nametag with a sharpie as soon as we pinned it to the back of her shirt.

    Ten minutes later, my phone rang. A helpful stranger on the other side of the crowded lobby had “found” my straying toddler and returned her to us before I even noticed she was missing.

  18. An ex-boyfriend’s divorced father used to buy him a balloon and tie it to his wrist, whenever they went someplace in public when he was young. Then all he had to do was scan for the balloon, which was at head level for adults.

    As a child I was always nervous about my parents getting lost from me.🙂 And as a non-child-having auntie, the times a child disappeared I found myself worrying more about what people would think! I now have a 6 month old who will probably make me more worried that he is causing mayhem if he gets lost.

  19. My son was 4.5 when I lost him at the zoo. One of the parents I was with called the zoo security office while another helped me search. I was worried about him, knowing he’d be scared not to find me. I thought about the nearby gate and how easy it would be for someone to take him out that way, but I quickly discarded that thought as unlikely and unhelpful to my search.

    Within minutes, one of the zoo employees spotted my son and helped him get to me. He is not traumatized but has learned to pay more attention in crowds.

    Most people are helpful, not hurtful.

  20. We have a bevy of Free Rangers here in NE Kansas! First the KC Star article and now this. I plan on taking my 2 yr old to Tongie for the fair and rodeo tomorrow night.

    Fortunately for us, my daughter LOVES one particular hat- white straw with a little bow and flower. I should be able to spot her easily if we should get separated. (That is assuming I stay calm!)

  21. A couple of things my extended family has done over the years

    Meet up at the (Something Tall easy to see like Farris wheel or Big Tex,)

    In places with public transportation (from Houston no public transport to speak of) If you don’t get off for some reason go to the next stop get off and go to the ticket booth.

    Woods – Hug a tree and blow your whistle

    Having all the adults were the same color hat – back fired when my color blind cousins nearly followed a stranger out of the area. But they figured it out. So now they found some Hawaiian shirt patterned hats. Look for Uncle Harvey (my Dad) worked to because he was 6′ 6″ and as thin as a rail.

    Anytime we were staying in a hotel. Take the hotel stationary write the cell phone numbers of everyone with a cell phone on it. Put it in an envelope write if lost on it, and safety pen it in an envelope in a pocket or put it in a money belt under clothes. The important part was it was attached to clothes that would stay on – not backpacks not jackets. If lost we were to give it to someone official (officer, security, employee of store/museum). Once we were considered old enough to take a taxi by ourselves money was added (no set age depended on the kid). Those with their own cell phones could of course call the others.

    I don’t like the find a Mommy rule. 1) I know some Moms of my students you do not want your kid approaching they would probably get backhanded for just asking 2) I’ve tried to help frightened kids, seen security try to help frightened kids that refuse to accept help because your not a mommy. Thankfully I had my school ID and the fact I was a teacher calmed the child enough to get a name out of her.

  22. Oh forgot one – make sure kids know the legal names of adults. Not Aunt Kimbey but First and Last Not Mommy but first and last.

  23. Love the idea of the phone number on the arm. It arms the kids with a tool to use. Although funny enough, that wouldn’t have helped you since your son didn’t realize he was “lost”. And yes, back to the fair you go. Because if we forego all the activities that might hold a danger, even going to bed would have to be skipped. But man oh man, there is nothing like that feeling in your gut when you have those moments of missing a child. It’s scary how quickly the thoughts can fill your head.

  24. In defense of the reader who brought up the “ask a mommy” idea, I too told my son at 2 that he should look for a parent with kids, a “policeman”, or a store clerk if he got lost. I did this not because I thought he was in danger from anyone else, but because I knew he would be nervous about asking just anyone. Having worked in malls when I was younger, I can attest to how scared little kids can get once they realize their parents aren’t in sight. I reasoned my sons best bet for finding someone who could handle a frightened child was either someone with kids or someone who knew what to do with lost children already. My son has often repeated to me the same instructions, unbidden, when we go to crowded places, and he’s almost 8. It’s reassuring to a child to have a “plan”.

    I also thoroughly agree with the “stay put” instructions for slightly older kids. I was taught that when I went camping in the woods, and I’ve never forgotten it.

  25. Ever since I got my iPhone I take pictures of my kids before entering crowded venues like fairs and parks. And I got some of those wrist bands that are waterproof that have my cell phone number on them. I put’em on the kids, even though my son knows my number, he often forgets the area code.

    I’ve only had to uses these measures once. At Holiday World in Indiana, my newly 6 year old son got distracted by something shiny. He realized he couldn’t find us, quite possibly before I realized I couldn’t find him. He went up to one of the workers at the park, told the girl he couldn’t find us, and she took him to “lost parents” to call me.

    When I realized he was missing, I stopped a worker and showed them the picture of my son saying he seems to be missing. From my picture he radioed “Lost Parents” with a description. The worker who had my child heard the call and radioed back that she had him just around the corner from us.

    All in all, maybe 15 minutes went by from separation to reunion, and I surprisingly felt no panic. I’m curious if I’d feel the same if my four year old had been missing. But having a picture taken THAT DAY of what my child was wearing was a great little calming factor.

  26. Applause and props to Kelli for maintaining, and for not letting the (very understandable) fear consume her or dictate her actions against her better judgement.

    Angie

  27. A few weeks ago, while on vacation, my husband and I were sitting on a bench near the boardwalk eating lunch. Two girls about 8 years old came up to us and one of them said to me “Excuse me, have you seen two teenagers? We lost them.”

    Note that she didn’t say “we’re lost”. From her perspective the teenagers were the ones who were lost!

    I asked her where they were when they last saw them and she answered the arcade. I told her to go back to where she had been with them last and to stay put and that the teenagers were probably looking for them.

    Her companion at this point rolled her eyes and said, “Come on, I see them, they’re over there.”

    I laughed and laughed at this when they were gone. The teenagers were lost!

    But these two 8 year olds were not panicking, weren’t scared to talk to us (and we didn’t even have our children with us!). They were articulate and totally able to help themselves.

    Free-range is alive and well.

  28. The debate around the “ask a mom” suggestion is thought-provoking.

    As a teenager and young adult woman traveling alone (often outside the US), I got propositioned (inappropriately and perhaps — had I accepted the invitations — dangerously) more times than I could count. Boringly. Routinely (i.e., yes, it was inappropriate but it was also just part of reality). As a (now) adult woman more matronly in form, I do sometimes ask men for directions or help. But I still mostly prefer to ask women or couples, if possible. And I probably wouldn’t ask a man were I traveling in an unfamiliar culture, if I could avoid it.

    I don’t know. I get that it’s sexist and offensive, but I don’t think I’d want my teenage daughter (if I had one) letting men know she was alone, lost, or in need of assistance. The prospect of younger children asking men for help doesn’t trouble me so much. But I’m not sure exactly how I’d articulate my concerns to children/teenagers or at what stage of their development. As my only child is 2, this hasn’t been an issue yet.

    On a lighter note, Kelli, I’m delighted you found your son fairly quickly and that he was unconcerned — and that you knew he was probably safe all along, though I certainly understand and empathize with the inclination to panic!

  29. @Alexicographer:
    “but I don’t think I’d want my teenage daughter (if I had one) letting men know she was alone, lost, or in need of assistance. ”

    That is no different than:

    “but I don’t think I’d want my teenage daughter letting black guys know she was alone, lost, or in need of assistance. ”

    It’s a pretty bigoted point of view. Additionally, it’s destructive. As a man who has come up against this many times (i.e. women and children reacting in fear when I offer help), I often find that it is easier to simply not offer to help.

    If you want to discourage people who are otherwise in a position to help your child from doing so, go right ahead.

  30. The ask a mommy thing has always gotten me. I am not a mommy but am often in family places with my husband (we are Disney people). And I think about it from this perspective of he and I have more time to help and muster resources without worrying about our own childrens’ agenda.

    Bravo to Kelli for keeping cool – my mom left me at a drugstore once, I had sat down in the book aisle to read and she simply forgot that she had brought me along… she made it to the car and recalled that she was missing something (me), and was a wee bit frantic – I never considered myself lost, I knew where I was the whole time.

  31. As a young woman I was approached by guys and propositioned. Tons. It doesn’t happen as much now. But I have always talked to men, or asked them for help, and I am comfortable with my kids doing the same.

    The best way for me to teach my kids to find and defend their boundaries – boundaries in ANY social setting, not just the “worst case scenario” ones – is multifaceted. It means incorporating my guidance to include helping them learn to honor intuition, think on one’s feet, quickly identify problematic behavior in others, and having the guts to do something about it.

    I believe teaching my kids (or my teenage girls) to “just stay away from MEN if you need help” is not only the lazy way out: it is also a good way to model distrust, paranoia, and fear.

  32. […] Has Anyone Seen My Son?! One Mom’s Story Hi Readers! Here’s a story most of us can relate to, from mom of two Kelli Oliver George, whose funny, addictive […] […]

  33. way to go! very impressed.. probably would have taken longer to find him had you panicked and not had the mind-set to think rationally. well done!

  34. Lenore and Kelli, Thanks for sharing some stories of moms who are trying to be free range. I too find myself questioning my behavior and letting my boys go farther but I’m not always successful. Here’s a story of free range from necessity, but it really did work out (a man actually helped too) and has me thinking even more. My 11 year old made the travel lacrosse team. The first tournament was in Vail, CO (we live in Atlanta). I have two other children and bleak finances. However, he was SOOOO excited to make the team (FINALLY, it wasn’t a trophy for showing up, he actually had to EARN it) that my husband and I felt it would be a good confidence builder going into middle school. We would stretch it for him to go, but he’d have to do it alone. Well not completely. There were 100 other kids, plus coaches and parents. However, with so many, there really wasn’t anyone looking out directly for my child. Needless to say he made it back. On the return trip a Dad I’d never met realized he was alone and stuck to him like glue. The next tournament was closer and the Dad who stuck to him like glue was asked by his 14 year old if he could go alone. He said if my son could go to Vail alone, why couldn’t he travel to VA alone. I told that story to my son and he was visibly standing taller. We originally thought being on the team would give him a confidence boost. I think the trip by himself was what really did it. FYI – I was a nervous wreck the entire time. It didn’t help that he lost the cell phone we got him within 24 hours.

  35. @Clark

    “That is no different than:

    “but I don’t think I’d want my teenage daughter letting black guys know she was alone, lost, or in need of assistance. ”

    It’s a pretty bigoted point of view. Additionally, it’s destructive. As a man who has come up against this many times (i.e. women and children reacting in fear when I offer help), I often find that it is easier to simply not offer to help.”

    Right, right. I get that what I’m saying is problematic. That’s why I phrased my comment as I did. I’m writing about my experiences and my feelings, and not trying to make a policy statement.

    I’ll preface my reply with an extreme example of why I get that it’s problematic: I’m not sure if I posted it in a comment here or not (cannot remember), but I’ve thought several times, in the context of reading this blog (and the comments) of a jogger (female) in my town who was shot and killed in connection with an attempted sexual assault against her. In front of many witnesses. My recollection of the media coverage is that at least one driver (male) on the street where she was jogging stopped and offered her a ride. A (safe!) ride. Away from a place where she was literally being attacked and shot at (and ultimately shot, 5 times, at least once at point-blank range, and killed). And she declined. Presumably because she was afraid of getting in a car with a man she didn’t know. And if she had accepted, presumably she’d be alive and well today. Now, I assume she was in a state we might try to describe (inadequately) as panicky, and I mean no offense to her, the victim, but it’s an obvious example of a situation where not realizing that it was OK to accept help from a (male) stranger had horrible, awful consequences (of course it was also a situation where those consequences were caused by another stranger, also, in this case, male).

    The flip side of this, and this is where I go back to experiences and feelings, is that as a young woman (again, not such an issue now … age has its privileges, apparently, or in other words, the men whose behavior offends me are, apparently, ageist, though in this case to my benefit), I didn’t like having men I didn’t know, men to whom I had not — how quaint! — been properly introduced, proposition me. It made me feel creepy, and in some contexts, it frightened me. Now some of that may be “my” issue, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that no one should ever feel creeped out or afraid, ever, so for the sake of discussion let’s assume that it’s possible my reaction was within the range of reasonable. Can we agree that for one person to propose performing a sexual act on another person they’ve never met and who has simply asked for directions is at best inappropriate?

    And here’s the thing … it was easy for me to reduce (dramatically, as measured by my actual experiences) the probability of having that experience and my resulting feeling of being creeped out, just by not approaching strange men. So, by default, I spoke to strange women.

    It’s sexist. I get that. But it was based on not wanting to hear propositions of a sexual nature, and it worked (conversely, not using it did lead to the opposite effect).

    I was probably also ageist in my application of this principle, though not, I think, racist. But I’m sure I would have been (racist, that is) had I noticed a pattern that varied significantly across racial lines (as it did across the sexes).

    So, yes, as a result I did in fact discriminate mindlessly against hundreds of perfectly decent, upstanding (male) people. But if I did have a daughter and she said, “you know, this is creeping me out,” I would tell her to do what I did (though I imagine she’d probably figure that one out on her own). Whether I’d do so a priori or not (i.e. before she got creeped out the first time) I cannot actually tell you.

    Funnily enough (for the record), I have also … accepted an invitation to spend the night (asleep, solo) in the spare room of the apartment of a young man I’d just met on a train (who was also there, but in his own bedroom) … picked up a man whose car was broken down while I was driving solo (in the days before cell phones, no less) … and certainly accepted help from men when dealing with broken-down cars, myself. So you needn’t actually extend from my specific example of preferring, when possible, to ask women and not men for directions the assumption that I am uniformly afraid of or prone to avoiding (strange) men. I’m not. On the other hand, when (car) camping solo or with children, I try to pick a spot next to other families with children or next to seniors, so you can infer that I do make snap, and perhaps counter-productive, decisions based on little information in ways that clearly reflects a willingness to discriminate based on discernable physical characteristics.

    I don’t know what to do about the pattern I describe concerning men and unwanted (I’m willing to go so far as to say inappropriate, though I suppose we could debate that) sexual propositions. I’m not actually willing to ignore it, and at least when I was younger, it existed. Maybe it doesn’t now (though I doubt that). Yet I also certainly don’t think it’s useful, helpful, or wise to counsel girls/women that they shouldn’t accept help from men. And I don’t hold you (where “you” represents the class of which you are a part of decent, helpful men that I think we both believe far outnumbers the “creeps”) responsible for educating men generally about how to behave, that is, I don’t for a minute imagine I can or should blame men generally for the behavior of a small number of men. But neither am I willing to say that I, as a young woman, was responsible for just “womaning up” and ignoring my feelings lest I discriminate against men in seeking help.

  36. “But neither am I willing to say that I, as a young woman, was responsible for just “womaning up” and ignoring my feelings lest I discriminate against men in seeking help.”

    But that is precisely what it will take. Racists/sexists/ageists/whatever-ists, for example, often have numerous examples of how “that group” makes them feel uncomfortable. Part of living in a healthy society, and dealing with other people is learning to ignore those feelings so as to not apply them to a group when they really need to be directed at individuals.

    And someone who gives the advice to “find a mom”, is setting their children on a path where they too will fear and distrust people who mean them no harm and who can actively help them. And isn’t avoiding that what this site is all about?

    I understand that it is hard not to prejudge, and that is why prejudice exists, because it’s the easy thing to do.

  37. Last year, I took my brood and my brother to the local Renaissance Faire. My then-2-year-old proceeded to get lost not once…not twice…but FOUR TIMES. Almost five, but I snagged the back of his shirt as he was running off that time. We let him walk, and he lagged behind and ran off. We let the kids play on the playground, and he ran off (the “playground” was a mock castle that you couldn’t see through or around!). I put him on the ground to put a cover on the changing table and he ran off. Mind you, this is the same child who can open childproofed doorknobs, rips baby gates out of the wall mountings, pulled the door off a refrigerator, and could unbuckle his carseat buckles…all by the age of 2!!! There’s no restraining him. Every time, though, he was fine. A couple of times he got picked up by security; after the second time, they just promised to keep an eye out for him! Honestly, I was more embarrassed at my inability to keep my hands on the little eel than I was worried about his safety. I knew there was no way out other than the security check at the gate where they would match his stamp to mine, and the faires are full of friendly, helpful people, and that day was also School day so they were looking out for kids anyway. All ended well, and I’m actually considering taking him back again this year!

  38. solinux, I have a similarly able-bodied, precocious, active child. It’s almost like there are some kids who FORCE us to consider being more Free Range – and I think this is a good thing. I’m glad I started sticking up for my son and his abilities and responsibilities, instead of letting Stranger Glare – or the worry of receiving it – dictate my parenting choices.

  39. Kelli-thanks for the great read. I also recently attended our county fair with my 2yo. she is quite determined to “do it self” as much as possible. I hope I can remain as calm as you the day she manages to lose me.

  40. @Clark, I don’t know.

    I get why “find a mom” is problematic. As I said in my original comment, I was finding (am finding) the conversation thought-provoking, and that’s a good thing. So yes, I think I’d now lean more toward, “Find a parent,” though as other aspects of the conversation above have illustrated, that, too, may be problematic (and as someone who struggled for years to have a child, I hate to advocate discriminating against those who don’t. Yet I also understand why teaching children to identify people who can assist them by looking for people who are already “assisting” children — parenting them (though I do realize that people who appear to be parents may or may not in fact be parents, as opposed to say, uncles, nannies, or friends) could be a useful shortcut for a frightened child).

    I don’t actually think the advice “find a mom” necessarily sets “children on a path where they too will fear and distrust people who mean them no harm and who can actively help them.” I do think the advice, “Don’t talk to men” would, but I don’t think the advice “find a mom” necessarily implies that. I’m not saying I think it’s ideal advice, just that I don’t think it necessarily sets one on a path to fear, etc.

    Beyond that, I understand this site to be about accurately assessing risk and making informed choices. Certainly I agree (as I hope my comment above about times I have helped men, or accepted help from men illustrated in terms of practice) that a blanket prohibition on cross-gender assistance would be, um, nuts. But when you write, “Part of living in a healthy society, and dealing with other people is learning to ignore those feelings so as to not apply them to a group when they really need to be directed at individuals.” Eh. I’m a person. I make decisions. I live with their consequences. Sure, deciding not to ask a man for directions because I think he’ll proposition me has consequences not just for me but for society, but … how much of this is my problem to solve? Honestly, I don’t buy it.

    There’s a group of people engaged in inappropriate behavior (propositioning). They can be identified by a physical characteristic (they are men). Many other people share this characteristic but don’t engage in the behavior (many men don’t proposition). The people the propositioners target decide to avoid talking to all people who look like propositioners and now they are the problem because they are discriminating against men, most of whom are innocent? I don’t buy it, because I don’t think anyone has a right to have me speak to them (for no reason other than my own personal motivation) on the street. I think that’s a decision I get to make. I agree that I should make it in an informed way. I can choose to wander, lost, if I prefer that to asking a man for help. If I later think, or would think (if I could pause, and be rational), “Oh, darnit, I gave myself horrible blisters / walked into a horrible part of town / scared the snot out of my mother who couldn’t find me,” then sure, I made a bad choice, and I need help reassessing the risks I face and the consequences of my choices. But simply because it’s discriminatory doesn’t mean I, acting as an individual in a private context, shouldn’t do it.

    Otherwise, where does it stop? If I’d invite a mom with a small child I’d just bumped into in my neighborhood into my home for coffee, does that mean I need to invite a man walking solo on the streets in to my home for coffee as well? If I’d give two dollars to a kid waiting at the bus stop who said, “Oh no! I forgot my lunch money!” do I also have to give money to the adult who tells me he or she has no money to buy lunch?

    I agree that these decisions have consequences. I hated … hated … telling the young man … young black man, as it happened … who asked me yesterday if I had a cell phone that he could borrow that I didn’t. I wanted to run after him and say, “Please! Understand that when I said no it was I don’t have a cell phone! Not because you can’t borrow it!” But I’m not willing to accept the idea that we all have a constant, ongoing responsibility always to avoid discriminating against people in our private interactions.

  41. My daughter got lost at the fair at the age of 6. What will probably horrify some is that the fair in question was the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras fair. I was not worried at all, in fact I remember thinking at the time that if she’s going to get lost at a fair, this is probably the safest crowd to get lost in – a bunch of people who are open and in touch with their sexuality. You’ll probably disagree with me on that.

    In any case, on the day, I held tight to my other daughter, sent my boyfriend to tell the security guards, and stayed put. Eventually she was found ogling the pampered poodles at the dog show. No harm done at all.

  42. “Sure, deciding not to ask a man for directions because I think he’ll proposition me has consequences not just for me but for society, but … how much of this is my problem to solve?”

    Sure, deciding not to ask a black man for directions, because I think he’ll *insert stereotype here* has consequences not just for me but for society, but … how much of this is my problem to solve?

    “There’s a group of people engaged in inappropriate behavior (propositioning). They can be identified by a physical characteristic (they are men). Many other people share this characteristic but don’t engage in the behavior (many men don’t proposition). The people the propositioners target decide to avoid talking to all people who look like propositioners and now they are the problem because they are discriminating against men, most of whom are innocent?”

    Yes. They are not *the* problem, but they are *a* problem:

    There’s a group of people engaged in inappropriate behavior (theft, murder, rape). They can be identified by a physical characteristic (they have dark skin). Many other people share this characteristic but don’t engage in the behavior (many black people don’t commit the above crimes). The people the criminals target decide to avoid talking to all people who look like criminals and now they are the problem because they are discriminating against black people, most of whom are innocent

    “f I’d invite a mom with a small child I’d just bumped into in my neighborhood into my home for coffee, does that mean I need to invite a man walking solo on the streets in to my home for coffee as well? If I’d give two dollars to a kid waiting at the bus stop who said, “Oh no! I forgot my lunch money!” do I also have to give money to the adult who tells me he or she has no money to buy lunch?”

    You don’t *need* to do anything, but if you get along with *that particular man*, and feel safe around him, sure, go ahead, invite him in. If you feel like helping *that particular adult*, sure go ahead.

    But general advice, such as, “find a mom” isn’t dealing with specifics, it’s dealing with entire classes of people. It’s teaching the person receiving that advice, “you will be safer with this kind of person than this other kind of person”.

    This is no different than telling the child to “find a white person”.

    As you suggest, “find a parent” is much better advice, as odds are, a parent has experience dealing with children, and would be better equipped to help.

    And, to be clear, I’m not singling you out, nor am I calling you a bad person; we all have prejudices. My gut instinct would be to avoid men too, but, being a thinking person, I know when to suppress instinct and function on reason instead. It really is our responsibility to not pass our own prejudices on to our children; even (or especially) in the form of innocent-sounding advice.

  43. It’s fine to be afraid, you can have that instant panic over a lost anything: cell phone, car keys, debit card, etc. I, for one, like to know where everything is just because I’m a neurotic neat freak, so I think this situation was totally normal and handled more than appropriately! Good Mom!

  44. I taught my kids to find a mom and I stand by it. When dealing with MY small children who are shy, the least intimidating person in the crowd was going to be a mom or a policeman and how often do you find a policeman just standing around when you need one?

    My children are not frightened of men. They are not frightened of anyone. They have not in any way absorbed a message that mom’s are better, safer, more responsible people than anyone else. They simply had a rule that served a purpose. It was easy to remember. It was doable.

    They are no longer shy. Far from it, and are the ones who approach every and any one for directions or to ask questions. I, on the other hand, hang back and try to figure everything out myself. Yes, we’re often lost when I drive because I will not stop for directions until the boys beg to and then it’s them doing the approaching and asking. My mother insisted when I was a child that if I talked to anyone, they would snatch me. If I was lost, I was to stand still til she found me. Naturaly I barely left her side. I know, now, that that is not so, however, it’s my opinion that with small children, there is nothing wrong with making a rule that is easy enough for them to follow and not worry too much about what you’re projecting. Obviously if someone is going into great detail about why they picked a mom or a black man or a latina grandma as the person of choice they may project some issues onto their children, but otherwise, hell, it’s just an easy rule to use in an emergency.

  45. Concerning the “ask a mommy” discussion:

    I think it is a dangerous idea to ignore instincts about people. Instincts keep people safe, when they are listened to. There is a big difference between prejudice and instinctive/gut feelings. And anyone knows the difference if you give it some thought.

    I also think the whole argument that “ask a mommy” is the equivalent of “ask a White person” is spurious. Telling someone to seek out a woman is not the same as telling them to stay away from men. We tell our kids to look for police officers when they need help, so are we then saying that all other people are not to be trusted to help? I don’t think so. When we need help we should look for people most likely able and willing to give it. And it is a very important for us to consider that a small child might feel more comfortable asking a “mommy” for help than another adult. Is the child sexist or racist because of that?

  46. @Clark

    “And, to be clear, I’m not singling you out, nor am I calling you a bad person; we all have prejudices. My gut instinct would be to avoid men too, but, being a thinking person, I know when to suppress instinct and function on reason instead. It really is our responsibility to not pass our own prejudices on to our children; even (or especially) in the form of innocent-sounding advice.”

    Thanks. I didn’t take myself to be singled out, but I do appreciate your saying it. I think, actually, that we are basically in agreement on many points, though perhaps coming down somewhat differently on the role of sex (gender) in terms of decision-making. I fully grasp that sex is “like” race in the sense that it involves physical characteristics we are born with, cannot (generally) change, and that have absolutely no relevance to many of our important qualities as humans … (dis)honesty, (in)competence, (un)trustworthiness and so forth.

    I like to imagine myself a thinking person too. At the same time, I can think of times when I’ve both suppressed instinct and times I’ve trusted it, each to good and to bad effect.

    I’m not actually willing (and perhaps this is where our perspectives diverge) entirely to abandon sex as a useful criterion in (pre)judging people. I think where we may be diverging on this is in terms of assessing risk. Because let’s be honest: the vast majority of violent sexual crimes in the US are committed by men against women (and girls). Typically men who are known to the victims, so to the extent that we are talking about “stranger danger,” I get that the risk (though real) is very small. But it’s still different across gender lines.

    I personally wouldn’t, actually, point-blank refuse to consider inviting a man I’d just met into my house, anymore than I’d point-blank welcome a woman I’d met into my house. But I can’t say I’d treat two otherwise identical individuals exactly equally in this regard.

    Similarly, if my (non-existent) college-bound daughter asked me if it would be OK, if she went out and had had to much to drink, to accept a ride home from a sober friend-of-a-friend (e.g.), I do think I’d want — want! — her to factor that person’s sex into her decision. Not to think that all men are dangerous, or that all women are not. But nonetheless, to realize that she would be much more vulnerable to some kinds of attacks from a man than from a woman (which isn’t to say that there exists no woman who could and would overpower and sexually assault my hypothetical daughter, nor that most men would. Just that in evaluating risk, I think it’s OK for a person to decide that 1/1,000,000,000,000 is an acceptable level, and 1/1,000,000,000 is not — and obviously those numbers are intended only as illustrative. It’s a personal decision. And sex is not an irrelevant characteristic in evaluating some types of risk (Whereas I’d argue that race is entirely irrelevant). I do grasp that I, and/or my “gut instincts” could be wrong, and I’m open to questioning myself. But I’m not open to absolutely abandoning a “guideline” or “factor to consider” because it risks discriminating against people on the basis of factors entirely beyond their control and quite possibly irrelevant.).

    That said, I entirely agree with you that, “It really is our responsibility to not pass our own prejudices on to our children; even (or especially) in the form of innocent-sounding advice.” Which is one reason why I find this discussion so helpful and important.

  47. Good for you! And good that Arun is safe🙂

  48. @Nicole:

    “I also think the whole argument that “ask a mommy” is the equivalent of “ask a White person” is spurious.”

    It is not spurious. “Ask a parent” is useful for the reasons that you’ve outlined (a parent is likely to be willing and able to help), however, “ask a mommy” adds an arbitrary distinction that doesn’t need to be there.

    If I’m looking for directions in an unfamiliar place, “ask someone” is good advice, “ask someone white” adds that same arbitrary distinction.

    “Telling someone to seek out a woman is not the same as telling them to stay away from men.”

    And telling someone to seek out a white person is not the same as telling them to stay away from black people, but there is a strong implication.

    “We tell our kids to look for police officers when they need help, so are we then saying that all other people are not to be trusted to help? I don’t think so. When we need help we should look for people most likely able and willing to give it.”

    And a dad is just as likely to be willing and able to help.

    @Alexicographer:

    “I think, actually, that we are basically in agreement on many points, though perhaps coming down somewhat differently on the role of sex (gender) in terms of decision-making.”

    Indeed, for the most part we do agree, and it seems that our disagreement is mostly on where to draw the line.

    “It’s a personal decision. And sex is not an irrelevant characteristic in evaluating some types of risk (Whereas I’d argue that race is entirely irrelevant)”

    Gender and race are equally (ir-)relevant. People are afraid of men because they are more likely to commit violent crimes, however minorities are also more likely to commit violent crimes. So it would seem that race is a useful guideline to prejudge someone’s likelihood of committing such a crime. However, we, as a society have recognized that that isn’t fair to the vast majority who have never committed a crime, and who do not deserve to be lumped in with those who have.

    Women are far more likely to leave a job when they have a child than men, so it would seem that it’s perfectly sensible to prefer to hire a man over an otherwise identical woman in her 20’s or 30’s, because she might get pregnant and leave.

    I think that most people would agree that this is wrong, probably even the person involved in making the decision. I’ve known people who would have the attitude of “I know it’s wrong to avoid minorities/not hire women/etc., but I’d rather be safe than sorry, and I’m just not willing to abandon my guideline.”

    Yes, people do bad things, and when they do, we should lay the blame at the feet of the individuals responsible, not the class of people to which those individuals happen to belong.

  49. “Yes, people do bad things, and when they do, we should lay the blame at the feet of the individuals responsible, not the class of people to which those individuals happen to belong.”

    Absolutely. But there is a difference between what “we” as observers experience (I am outraged that a woman jogging in my town was brutally shot and killed, and blame the person who did it for the crime he committed) and what the people who are on the receiving end of the bad thing experience (She — the name of the jogger I mentioned in my comment above was Kristin Lodge-Miller — is dead.). So some of what we’re talking about, too, is risk assessment. I can likely leave my house right now and walk around the block and come back safe and sound, but I might not, so I need to assess whether I am or am not willing to accept the risks involved. You can have opinions about my judgments and concerns about the outcomes I experience, but they’re not going to affect you the way the outcome of my walk affects me. Even though they do, in the aggregate, affect what sort of a society we live in and I do, absolutely, agree that both you and I should care about that.

    “Women are far more likely to leave a job when they have a child than men, so it would seem that it’s perfectly sensible to prefer to hire a man over an otherwise identical woman in her 20’s or 30’s, because she might get pregnant and leave.”

    I’d put that decision in an entirely different category of decisions; one involving business and employment that in my judgment (though not everyone’s) it’s entirely appropriate for us to regulate. A similar distinction closer to the issue we’ve been discussing is between me being a landlord renting out self-contained apartments (with or without shared common areas), which I believe I should be required to rent to everyone who can pay the rent (and follow some basic rules about respecting the property and other residents), and renting out a room in my private home, where I believe the homeowner should be allowed to discriminate on whatever basis he or she chooses, including bases I personally find quite offensive. That is, I don’t embrace the private homeowner’s right to discriminate, but I do accept it.

    To pick up on the point you make that is really central, I think, to the unease both you and I feel about my position — I personally am somewhat dubious about the higher-crime-rate of racial minorities in the US as compared to whites (not the higher charge & conviction rates, which I know exist, but the higher crime rates). I am not dubious about the difference across the sexes. But in a sense, it doesn’t matter (my debating the accuracy of those stats), because if you were going to a society where I knew that there was a group of visually identifiable people, some (but not most) members of whom were disproportionately able and willing to assault and harm you, then, yes, I’d advise you to avoid those people, or at least, situations involving those people that left you vulnerable to attack. I would. And it’s discriminatory. I know it is. Per my own description, most of the people in this group that can be identified by their sex, or race, or height, or all 3 together, are delightful individuals who wish you no harm. But I don’t think it’s useful, or helpful, or right, to call upon the potential victims of violence to ignore the problem (because being violently assaulted is a problem) in ways that put those potential victims at risk. I think we need to solve the problem, not ignore it (or counsel others to do so).

    And that’s in a context of a sliding range of considerations, so it’s grossly oversimplified. How much risk does any given situation really pose? What costs are associated with avoiding the risk? How much (increase in) risk is too much? How well (if at all) does discriminating work to reduce it? What other steps (besides discriminating) can I take to reduce the risk? Those are places where I think that these kinds of conversations can be really helpful, but I do think there is a fundamental place where you and I simply disagree and on which, I agree, my position is fundamentally more problematic, in a general, philosophical way … but it is one by which I am nonetheless willing to stand.

  50. How my daughter came to be NOT lost in a foreign city…

    I never gave much thought to which side of the parenting “line” I came down on. I just parent, and let my daughter show me when she is ready for more responsibility. And then I realized… I’ve been a free-range mom forever. Not as free range as my parents were, but very much more than my friends. So I thought I’d add this recent similar story to the discussion, and maybe stear the conversation back towards our ability to trust our kids – of any age – to make good decisions.

    We live in a suburb of Edmonton, AB, Canada, and since my daughter was 9 years old she has taken Public Transit into Edmonton to go to school. By herself. A 45 minute ride with TWO transfers each way. Including one on the outskirts of downtown. When I tell people this the general reaction is that they think I’m crazy for letting her (or making her!) go to school SO far away and making her get there on her own. But the benefits in our lives have been far reaching. She has learned independence and decision making, and how to take responsibility to get places on time and what to do when you aren’t going to be on time – Call Your Mother!

    So fast forward six years: in June, just after her 15th birthday, we were in Seattle together for a shopping trip. We only had 46 hours in Seattle and then we had to leave, and we each had a “must do list” that was FAR longer than 46 hours, and the lists didn’t exactly overlap. The “teen” stores that she wanted to spend time in held no interest for me, and the stores I wanted to spend time in held no interest for her (surprise! LOL).

    Our first day in Seattle we walked from our downtown hotel into the shopping area of downtown together. We went to all the places where we both had an interest to be, and in the process re-familiarized ourselves with the layout of the city, who to ask for help, areas to avoid, etc. And then with our joint errands out of the way, we agreed to meet up in three hours at a specific location. No problem. This is a common enough occurrence for our family. We travel a lot and know our way around a number of cities well enough to feel comfortable. And as expected, three hours later, there she was. She had a great time, bought some great things for the next school year, and enjoyed herself. And she was back, safe and sound.

    The next day we walked downtown together again and at 10 in the morning, on the corner of 5th and Pike, I said “Ok, have fun, I’ll see you at the hotel at suppertime” and I turned right and she turned left.

    It wasn’t until some hours later that I realized that “suppertime” isn’t an exact time… it could be 4:30, or 5:00, or 7:00… and I started wondering. Playing it safe, I headed for the hotel at about 4:00, and spent the next hour convincing myself that 5:00 is a perfectly reasonable supper time. That she would show up at 5:00 and “everything would be fine”, and if she didn’t I’d call her cell phone and she would head back and that would be that.

    So at 5:00 when I called her cell I got her voice mail. I left a message asking her to call me. And then I spent the next half hour thinking that 5:30 would still be ok, and that she would call me back and “everything would be FINE”.

    And at 5:30 I called again and again got her voice mail. Then I spent the next half hour running through in my mind how I was going to explain this “disappearance” to the Seattle Police:

    “Hi, Yes, I’d like to report my daughter missing, she’s been gone since 10AM”
    “No, I don’t know what she is wearing, she tends to change into the clothing that she buys as she shops”
    “Our home? Oh, well, no she didn’t run away from home… we are staying at a hotel… no, we aren’t from here, we’re from Canada”
    “Yes, I did let my 15 year old wander around a foreign city alone…”
    “Yes, I do understand why you have to involve Child Protective Services…”

    And then I spent seventeen minutes convincing myself that I could wait just one more minute before I made that call.

    And then… she walked through the door. Safe. Happy. Flush with success.

    She apologized for not coming back sooner, and for not realizing her cell phone’s battery had died. She was having such a great time that she lost track of time, and as soon as she realized the time she had almost run all the way back to the hotel so I wouldn’t worry anymore.

    Even though I had spent over 2 hours worried about her, I was so proud of her that day. She finished all the “must do’s” on her list, she was safe, she realized that she had worried me and had apologized for it. All signs to me that she is well on her way to being a grown-up who can handle herself in our world.

    And that is the goal, isn’t it?

    I KNOW I don’t have to worry about what will happen when she is 18 and legally an adult. I already know that she is going to be just fine because I have spent the last 15 years, and will spend the next 3 letting her learn step by step how to be an adult and take care of herself not just on our block, or in our city, but in our world.

  51. Dear Abby chimes in on protecting your children in the restroom, complete with a mother stating “Abby, children have been violated in a matter of seconds in the play areas of fast food restaurants with the parents RIGHT THERE!” I’d love to see the statistics to back that one up, because I’m pretty sure there are none. Apparently, Dear Abby readers, based on this column (posted 13 August 2009 if the Yahoo link isn’t permanent), have any idea about Free-Ranging kids. I’d title this column the “helicopter moms unite”!

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ucda/20090813/lf_ucda/waryparentssuggestwaystokeepkidssafeinpublic

  52. Some of those comments are on the sane and sensible side. I’d like names and references for those kids molested (presumably by strangers) in play areas while their parents watched.

  53. ULY: yeah, no kidding. People trying ot say that some strange guy got that close to some child at a park without any other parent noticing? Or the child yelling or causing a fit? Right. Molestations are probably 95 percent done by a person the child knows, loves and trusts. I don’t get why people don’t get that.

  54. Tam said: “I thought about the nearby gate and how easy it would be for someone to take him out that way, but I quickly discarded that thought as unlikely and unhelpful to my search.”

    You’d think so! When I got separated from my toddler at the zoo several years, he ~freaked out~, and the first impulse his little brain came up with was to run like Carl Lewis ~out~ the entrance gate, down the sidewalk, along the street towards the parking lot! Apparently he thought we were leaving him, and was trying to catch us at the minivan before we got away?!? He was clearly in a very panicked state, and being 2 years old wasn’t really qualified to make a good decision there anyway, but I still shudder when I think “What if he had done something even dumber and ran straight out into the street?”

    I’m sorry. I guess this post isn’t really in the theme of FreeRangeKids! It might sound a bit like I’m saying “Don’t let your kids out of your sight!”, but I don’t mean it that way. Rather, just don’t let your 2 year-olds go flying down the street, if you want to avoid a heart attack.🙂 No, I’m definitely on the same page as you guys. He’s six now, and I’m pushing my wife all the time to accept that he can do stuff like play in the fenced backyard by himself. It’s just that the zoo reference reminded of my scary story and I wanted to share for some reason.

  55. Oh how I know that feeling. My 8-year-old disappeared from me in a grocery store a couple of years ago (I sent him to bananas and he didn’t hear me say I was checking out mangoes, so he got nervous when he didn’t see me); as I was heading to customer service to get help finding him, I looked down an aisle and there he was with a store employee looking for me. He’d gone to a cashier for help. In fact, he’d gone to a cashier with a serious hearing problem and managed to make himself understood. I was so proud of him.

    A couple of weeks ago, my 4-year-old decided to go to the park alone. I told him to wait outside for me while I did a couple of quick things and then we’d play. When I came out a few minutes later he was gone. I was pretty sure he’d gone to the park so I went straight there but there was no sign of him. This park has a large wooded area so my next thought was that he’d gone in for a little hike. We were starting to seriously panic when nobody could find him in there, but then I thought of another park a little further away and sure enough he was happily playing there. There was another family there who had tried to find out who he was or where he lived but he couldn’t tell them anything more than his first name. They told me they wouldn’t have left him alone there, which is a comfort.

    Things I do with my kids to protect them in these situations: I teach them to recognize authority figures (police, security guards, store clerks, etc.) so they can ask for help if they get lost, hurt, or scared. At a crowded event like a fair, I show them the first aid tent (or sometimes there’s a lost kids tent), and show them how to recognize the event supervisors. I’ve also started putting a little label on their backs with my name and cell phone number on them. The little guy may or may not be clear now on not going to the park by himself yet – he was very proud of himself – but he now knows his full name and street so he can help any adults who are trying to help him.

  56. Adding one more comment on the “ask a mommy” debate, which I don’t have the fortitude to read every word of.

    As I stated above, I’ve taught my kids to recognize authority figures. In addition, I teach them that most adults are safe and helpful if they ask for help but to be wary of adults who offer unsolicited help or who ask them for help. My older one is now old enough to start the game of “which person nearby would you ask for help if you needed it?” which I’ve read about and always thought was a good exercise in learning to trust their instincts.

  57. This discussion reminds me of a story one of my babysitters tells. (She is now grown with kids of her own.) When she was in elementary school, she missed the bus to her afterschool program at the local JCC. She thought she knew the way (it’s about a mile), and decided to walk rather than tell the principal. Well, she lost her way, so she asked someone for directions and eventually made it. When the adults asked her how she figured out what to do, she said, “Well, I asked an old lady so if she wasn’t a nice person, I knew I could run faster than her and get away!”

  58. The “ask a mommy” advice has always bothered me too. Not on the recieving end; I’m perfectly happy to be the one other people’s kids ask for help. But I’ve told my daughter that if she’s lost she should look for a store employee, or ask a grownup to help her find one. We’ve also talked a little about WHICH grownup she should ask (IMO, some guidelines are good to prevent kids from looking into a sea of strangers and not knowing where to even start looking for help – some way to pick SOMEONE is helpful, even if ANYONE is likely to be an ok person to ask). We’ve agreed that if she’s lost and nervous, it might be a good idea to ask a grownup with kids, because “moms and dads and babysitters are pretty good at helping kids”, and also because having other kids will distract her and make her less scared. In other words, it’s not really the fact that the person is a parent that makes her more comfortable, it’s the kids themselves. I think, although have not had occasion to find out yet, that it is most likely that she would ask someone with a little girl around her age. Not because anyone else is unsafe, but because that’s who she’s drawn to. And I think that’s ok.

    People, even adults, are funny about who they’re willing to accept help from. If I need directions, I tend to ask someone who looks like they’re not in a hurry. (I never underastand why people stop and ask ME, power-walking to make it to the train on time, clearly moving quickly with a purpose, and often with headphones in and/or on the phone… when there are other people just standing around on the sidewalk smoking a cigarette or talking). I’ve accepted help froma stranger when my car broke down. Yet the one time I stopped to help someone with a flat tire (the guy was clearly struggling, didn’t know what to do, plus he was in a white shirt, nice pants, etc.), he not only didn’t accept the help but acted like I had done something wrong by offering. Heck, a few years prior when someone stopped to change MY flat tire I was very appreciative (and learned how to do it myself soon afterwards).

  59. um, yeah. y’all tree barkers need to stop jumpin’ up at the branch because there’s nothing in the daggone tree. seriously, folks. Instructing a very young child to find “a mommy” with kids or a stroller to help them is most likely de rigeur because the kid who is lost is most likely separated from a “mommy” with or without other children and various identifying accoutrements. Children notice other children. And are very likely to recognize such a familiar familial set-up. What mothers are saying isn’t, “Everyone but ladies with babies are evil!”
    Yegads. All these calls of bigotry and racism are so very misguided and really serve to water down true bigotry and racism where it actually exists.
    Quit looking around for reasons to have your feelings hurt. There are plenty of people willing to give you virtually and real wedgies of their own accord. Don’t waste your time knotting your own knickers. (And that’s advice I give my own children, who aren’t “free range” but whose chickens are.)

  60. Well i can say onething that the art of writing you have is really superb.

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