A New Controlled Substance?

Howdy, Readers. This just in:

Hi all! Thought you might get a laugh out of the latest rule that’s been enacted at the daycare where my children go.
Whenever a child has medicine they need to take during the day, a parent has to fill out an authorization form that lists the medicine, amount needed, and the time the child is supposed to take it. That makes sense, making it easier for the daycare staff to keep straight who gets what when.

But yesterday, one of the teachers in the infant room told me that from now on I’ll have to fill out the medication form for diaper cream! She knows it’s ridiculous, but it’s policy. This daycare is part of a chain, so I’m guessing the rule came down from the head office.

That’s a head office stuck where the diaper cream might help. — Lenore 

Outrage of the Weekend Update (Re: Moms Punished for Helping Each Other)

Remember the Outrage of the Weekend? Two moms sharing a job were trading off taking care of each other’s kids. Or at least they were until this was declared illegal because they are not licensed day care workers. Well it looks like the authorities over there in jolly ol’ England are realizing this may actually be one of mankind’s stupider ideas. Take heart! Here’s the piece — a lovely essay in The Guardian.

Note at the end: “Unsurprisingly, given the debate this case has generated, the children’s minister has now ordered a review of the ‘babysitting ban.'” Huzzah huzzah! — Lenore

How Your Kid Could End Up on the Sex Offender Registry

What’s the difference between a 17-year-old who touches a 13-year-old’s breast and a 34 year old creep who likes little girls?

Nothing. At least, not on the Sex Offender Registry.

The other night I was a guest on the blog radio show, “American’s Reality Check,”a show mostly devoted to sex offender registry issues. A guy called in who is on the list for fondling a 13-year-old when he was 17. Now he’s 34 but next to his name and current age it states his offense: “Indecency with a child.”

As if that’s still what he’s doing today.

So to the casual observer – or freaked out parent — it looks as if there is a middle-aged guy down the street who molests young girls.

Now, obviously: No one is in favor of grown-ups having sex with kids. But right now there are more than 600,000 people on the sex offender registries, many there for the sex they had as teens with other teens!

TO MAKE A PREDATOR

Say it again: People are  on the registry for the sex they had as teens with teens.  So rather than making our kids safe from predators, the registry is turning them into “predators.” It’s labeling them that! It could label your own sweet kid that, if he or she goes and has sex with someone a few years younger. Kids as young as 14 can find themselves on the registry for years – decades — and our rationale? It’s “for the sake of the children.”

But is it? The vast majority of abused children are molested by people they know (relatives, family friends). The need to protect kids from strangers is far less than the need to protect them from those they know and love.

A study just released by David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, found that adding more names to the sex offender list isn’t the best way to keep children safe from abuse. A much better way, his research determined, is to teach them how to identify dangerous situations and summon help.

 Meantime, the chance of a young life being ruined by getting on that registry keeps growing.

CALLING KAFKA

Check out the website freestudents.blogspot.com. You’ll see pimply face after pimply face – all young men now branded as sex offenders for crimes like, well, Ricky’s. Ricky is a kid who was 16 when he had sex twice with a girl he thought was 15. Turns out she was 13. When this came to light, the cops arrested Ricky.

Now he’s on the sex offender registry for life, because he got labeled a “Tier 3 offender” – the most dangerous. His offense was classified as “aggravated and violent” because of the three year difference between him and the girl, not because of any actual violence.

Once you’re a registered sex offender, you can’t live near a school, a park or a day care center. You can’t work with kids. If you have a younger sibling at home, most states will make you move out. Finish your high school? Ha! Usually you’re not even allowed in the building. Get a job? Just try. (And we’re not even talking about the jail time many young “offenders” have to serve.)

THE ALTERNATIVE

So what is the alternative to a registry that’s like a great big dump filled with lots of once-horny teens gone grey and, among them, the occasional rapist?

How about a registry with JUST the rapists? Folks like Phillip Garrido, who allegedly abducted Jaycee Dugard. Maybe if cops didn’t have to keep checking on every guy who had sex as a high school senior with a freshman girlfriend, they could concentrate on the actual criminals out there. That way, all our kids would be safer.

Including the ones who have sex in their teens. — Lenore

For more info, check out this site, the Sex Offender Solutions and Education Network.

Great Note from a Paranoid Mom

Hey Folks! Grab some confetti, stand up and throw it in the air. We are getting somewhere! Read on!

Dear Lenore — I watched Penn & Teller’s “Bullsh*t” episode featuring you and your son, Izzy, which led me to your web site and, subsequently, the recent purchase of your book, “Free-Range Kids.” I’m loving the book. I am the over-protective mother at whom you are aiming.

I keep a blog about what I’m reading — flabbybrain.com — and I wanted to share with you my post about the Free-Range baby step I took on Friday. Here it is:

I’ve been one of those hyper-paranoid mothers who cringes when letting her seven-year-old son use a public restroom unattended by a parent because there is sure to be a serial molester lurking within, just waiting for a kid to pounce on. But The Boy is nearly eight, and mommy can’t drag him into the Ladies’ Room anymore, so I let him go off on his own with warnings not to talk to anyone and, for the love of Pete, wash your hands!

Then I use hand sanitizer on him anyway when he gets back because he probably touched the door handle.

I am ridiculously paranoid. In other words, I’m an American suburban mother in 2009. Everyone in my social set is exactly the same way.

But there’s been a part of me that hates this. I don’t enjoy tailing The Boy in every activity he pursues as though he might light himself on fire or get snatched up in a windowless van if my back were turned for 15 seconds. He’s a pretty responsible kid, especially for his age. My mom friends and I lament to each other about how we wish we could let our kids run around outside in little gangs, unsupervised, the way we used to run around when we were kids.

And then I stumbled across Lenore Skenazy. You may remember Lenore’s being in the news recently when she let her nine-year-old son, Izzy, ride the New York subway by himself. He took the train from Bloomingdale’s to their apartment and came home not only unscathed but with a newfound sense of self-reliance. Lenore wrote a column about the experience in the New York Post, and that was the beginning of an international firestorm that ended with her being proclaimed “World’s Worst Mother.”

I started reading the Free-Range Kids blog and felt a growing sense that it was onto something. It’s not that I’m suddenly convinced to let my kids ride solo on my city’s sketchy public transportation, but rather that I’m beginning to see my paranoia for the nuttiness it is.

I picked up a copy of Free-Range Kids (the book) and was immediately assured that it would be worth reading when I saw the title of the first chapter: “Play Dates and Axe Murderers: How to Tell the Difference.”

Don’t be fooled into thinking that Ms. Skenazy is flip. She’s hysterically hilarious, but she backs up her assertions with cold, hard facts, and that appeals to the logical part of me.

So I decided after reading a bit to try an experiment. I would let The Boy get the mail by himself.

I know I just heard you snort.

Our mailbox is neither on our front porch nor in our front yard. Instead, it’s about a 1/3-mile round-trip around a curvy street. I cannot see the mailbox without walking roughly 200 yards away from our house. The Boy would have to cross one cul-de-sac and walk about 10 minutes by himself (at least half of it out of my sight) to get the mail.

Allow me to set the scene: it’s a warm, sunny afternoon in suburbia, about 3 o’clock. The lawns have greened up with recent rains, and a mild breeze blows the scent of lantana and fresh-cut St. Augustine. Nary a car rolls by on our quiet street. The Boy sets off with an extra spring in his springy seven-year-old step, and I watch calmly out of the kitchen window until he is out of sight around the bend. Then I calmly pick up a book and calmly step out onto the front porch, where I sit down to await his return. Calmly.

And then the murder car drives by.

It’s not a windowless van, but it is something almost equally alarming. It’s a blue SUV with a girl who’s roughly 10 years old standing up with the top half of her body sticking out of the sunroof. And it’s heading straight for the mailbox.

I am not joking. This actually happened.

In 35 years of life, I have seen only the occasional drunken idiot somewhere between the ages of 18 and 28 sticking out of a moving vehicle’s sunroof, usually at night, downtown, and while making the “woo!” noise. So when I saw this preteen practicing for her very own Girls Gone Wild video on my street at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I was distressed.

My mind leaped to the only logical conclusion: any driver who would let a child hang out of the sunroof of a moving vehicle would also swoop up my seven-year-old boy and sell him into child slavery somewhere in Asia. No doubt letting him hang out of the sunroof all the way to the docks.

I prepared myself to sprint to the mailbox. (The Boy had my car keys, conveniently attached to the same key ring as my mailbox key.)

But then I didn’t.

Instead I took a deep breath and sat back down. And I waited, straining my ears for the sounds of screaming and squealing tires. Three minutes later, The Boy reappeared around the bend, holding a piece of mail and grinning.

He came home unscathed and with a newfound sense of self-reliance. And I took a baby step toward moving him toward adulthood.

Thanks for what you’re doing, Free-Rangers! — Lynn

Thanks for what you’re doing too, Lynn! And for letting us know. (Confetti swirling through the air.) — Lenore  

A Nice Moment

A Reader writes:

Lenore,
 
I am a free range parent.  My kids are (almost) 15 and 12.  I don’t own a cell phone.  I was leaving them home alone to attend our high school’s pto meeting while my husband was out of town.  As I was heading out the door I told them I’d be at the school.  My daughter, the 12 year old, asked what the phone number was.  In my best serious voice I said, “9-1-1.”  They both laughed and I went (guilt-free) out the door.

Robin in New Jersey   

 

See readers? Sometimes, you can make a parenting decision that’s fun, easy, sane and even legal!

Outrage of the Weekend: Authorities Threaten Mom for Helping Other Mom

Hi Readers! Glad a few of you sent this one in. I’m not sure it has to do with Free-Ranging exactly — it sounds more like regulations gone wild. Moreover, I bet it’ll be rectified soon. But in the meantime, let’s hear it for neighbors helping neighbors (rather than neighbors turning IN neighbors). Here is the article in its entirety from WZZM, the ABC TV station in West Michigan:

MIDDLEVILLE WOMAN THREATENED WITH FINES FOR WATCHING NEIGHBORS’ KIDS 

A West Michigan woman says the state is threatening her with fines and possibly jail time for babysitting her neighbors’ children.

Lisa Snyder of Middleville says her neighborhood school bus stop is right in front of her home. It arrives after her neighbors need to be at work, so she watches three of their children for 15-40 minutes until the bus comes.

The Department of Human Services received a complaint that Snyder was operating an illegal child care home. DHS contacted Snyder and told her to get licensed, stop watching her neighbors’ kids, or face the consequences.

“It’s ridiculous.” says Snyder. “We are friends helping friends!” She added that she accepts no money for babysitting.

Mindy Rose, who leaves her 5-year-old with Snyder, agrees. “She’s a friend… I trust her.”

State Representative Brian Calley is drafting legislation that would exempt people who agree to care for non-dependent children from daycare rules as long as they’re not engaged in a business.

“We have babysitting police running around this state violating people, threatening to put them in jail or fine them $1,000 for helping their neighbor (that) is truly outrageous” says Rep. Calley.

A DHS spokesperson would not comment on the specifics of the case but says they have no choice but to comply with state law, which is designed to protect Michigan children.

By all means, let’s protect them from being part of a helpful, friendly community! Phew! — Lenore

P.S. THIS JUST IN! A strikingly similar situation in England! Two women with girls the same age share a job. When one is at work, the other watches both kids. Now the government is saying this is illegal unless both women register as child care providers and undergo inspections! Best quote, by an onlooker opposed to this bizarre policy? “Something akin to a kind of anxiety-driven psychosis seems to have engulfed government policymaking in the realms of children and family life.”  

Warning! Man on Street Near School!

Hi Readers! Here’s an interesting little note that just came in from Jennifer in Canada, the gal behind the blog highlyirritable:

Good morning, Free-Range Kids! This article appeared in the local paper,  The Milton Canadian Champion, and I found it and I found it both fascinating and scary. (Note: I have removed the school name and identifying street names, because, well, YOU KNOW…)

Shortly before 7:30 a. m., an 11-year-old boy left for XXXX School. When he reached XXXX Avenue and XXXX Drive, he noticed a man walking behind him and became suspicious. The man continued following the boy along XXXX Street.

The boy met up with friends on XXXX Avenue. When he arrived at school, he saw the suspect leaning on a fence, looking toward the school.

A teacher notified police.

The suspect is described as Asian, 30 to 40 years old and five-foot-six. He wore an orange hooded sweatshirt and grey sweatpants with a white stripe down the leg.

 Seriously?  Have we finally reached the point where walking behind a child who may just happen to be going in the same direction as we are, and then (gasp) leaning on a fence and looking in his direction is now grounds for teacher intervention and police action? Unless there was more information omitted from this article, I think we can put this one in the “grossly reactionary” file.

I guess the only thing in this article that doesn’t make me want to go to bed and never get up is that at least the boy was walking to school.

But I don’t think he will be anymore.

If they even keep the school open!  — Lenore