Who’s Crazy?

Dear Readers: There will be a quiz at the end of this post — a letter just in from a reader. (I actually read it on the subway!)

Dear Free-Range Kids: It’s 70 degrees here in sunny Florida, so I opened all my windows and blinds. My 8-year-old  daughter and 6-year-old son came home from school and wanted to play in the front yard on the tree swing. OF COURSE I obliged because it was so beautiful out, how could I say no?!? My 18-month-old cried because brother and sissy were home and she wanted to play. So I let the kids push her on the swing. I was inside watching out the front window while I folded laundry in the living room.

A friend of a neighbor came over to tell me how dangerous that was and compared me to that “crazy subway mom.” I told her that I took that as a compliment. This is a sleepy beach community so I told her since she didn’t live on “this side of the bridge” (we live on an island) she just didn’t get it. Needless to say she was not happy to hear that. I gave her this website and I hope she see’s this, then maybe she’ll get it.

Thanks for all the insights and stories. I love seeing how “normal” I am 🙂

So, readers, here’s the quiz:  WHO’S CRAZY? A “subway mom”-type who looks at three siblings sharing a blissful afternoon, and smiles? Or a lady  who looks at the same three siblings and sees a  gothic horror story unfolding?A horror she feels absolutely compelled to warn the mom about?

They call us crazy but we’re not!  — Lenore

37 Responses

  1. This is very dangerous Lenore, this crazy Mom can now be traced online by the woman. She directed her to this site, and she knows she comes here. That woman is obviously a deranged stalker!!! 😆

  2. I’ve learned to take “crazy” as a compliment. 😀

  3. I agree, I’m learning to take crazy as a compliment too. Its so nice to have a “community” where others feel the same as me because all the time I’m surrounded by people who think I’m crazy, so at least I feel normal somewhere.

    I absolutely hate the fact that playing in our own front yards is now apparently tantamount to child abuse (since its so gosh darn neglectful). Seriously? Yikes.

  4. Just found this website (from someone on Twitter) and realized that I’ve been raising “free range” children for 13 years now! Truly, on my block, most of the kids are outside and zooming through the yards. I hope our new next-door neighbor has kids/doesn’t mind the scenery – Luke Skywalker and Spaceman Spiff frequent the neighborhood. 😉

  5. Oh goodness. I let my 6 year old watch the 2 year old outside all the time! We don’t even live on an island. I guess us crazies just can’t stand the crying of a child stuck inside while mom cooks dinner.

  6. I feel fortunate to live in a neighborhood where it is considered normal for kids to play outside on their own. We do have one neighbor who keeps hinting that I am crazy and she refuses to allow her 7!-year-old granddaughter outside unsupervised.

    Of course I think she’s crazy for letting this same child sit inside on a nice day and watch TV. To each his own…

    Nice to meet you! I haven’t read your book yet, although I’ve heard enough about it to know that we are kindred spirits. Children simply don’t play “normally” if there are adults watching. We need to let them be.

  7. There’s a missing girl in my (small, FL) town right now. She was walking home from school yesterday, ran off from her friends, and hasn’t been seen since. It’s really sad, and I really pray they find her. Of course.

    But, what’s also sad, (am I bad to even write this while the child is still missing???), is that there are TONS of comments on the article saying that they “can’t believe that mother would let her 7 year old walk home from school alone” and “there’s no excuse for that in this day and age, you MUST make picking your child up your top priority”. And I know my friends will be saying the same things. But, I don’t want to say anything until the girl is safely found. (Although, I do have to add, the article says this is the longest a child has been missing in our county in 22 years.)

    Anyway, pray for this little girl and her family.

  8. You know, what struck me while reading through the comments were all of the “please bring this baby home safe”. I realize that every child is their mother’s baby now and always in her heart, but for the commenters to continually call her a baby? She’s 7 years old! In some cultures, she’s halfway to being a wife and mother herself. She’s most certainly NOT a baby.

    Isn’t that just indicative, though, of how it seems most people think of children? They’re babies until they’re 18, at the very least, which taps into that deep-seated need/desire to protect and provide and ultimately makes adults crazy and children unable to care for themselves at their majority.

  9. I once had a friendly stranger stop and knock on my door to alert me to the fact that my boys (ages 6 and 4) were playing outside. Surely they must have sneaked outside without permission or I would have been out there supervising them. We live in an upscale suburb with big lawns and grassy medians separating the sidewalks from the wide residential street, and I could hear and see them through the windows. How sad that the once-mundane sight of kids playing in their front yard now sparks alarm. We need more kids playing outside!

  10. @Joette: Right you are. That’s what I tell my friends when I describe FRK. Look, in my country you can be married and working to support your family at 16. This means that by 8, your job as a parent must be half finished. By nature, kids at age 8 (especially boys) start to reject their mothers’ protective arms and search for an outer authority on which to rely (a grandparent, a teacher, a priest, whatever). By then, they must know how to conduct themselves in their surroundings. If he’s a farm kid, he must know the basic rules about farm tools, how to care for animals and crops… if he’s a city kid, he must know how to navigate the public transport, how to make a reverse-charge call, what streets to avoid…
    And then, slowly, progressively, you start to let him go, and check that he learned his lessons well. And pray. And try not to have a heart attack every time the phone calls. And hope your insurance covers his misbehaviours. And so on and so on.

    You know, reading back this post I wonder… Why did I ever thought motherhood was so great???

  11. a little off but they said that the girl was walking with her twin brother and some friends and there was a little disagreement and she ran ahead. But at the same time there was an attempt it the same area about 10 days ago so maybe a little extra precautions could have been taken.

  12. I don’t take anyone’s view seriously if they consider me crazy.

    A psychiatrist wanted to prescribe antidepressants instead of testing for what turned out to be a major health issue.
    If psychiatrists are not capable of correctly determining my sanity, then what makes anyone else qualified to know who is normal? And whose definition of normal do we use?

  13. This kind of interfering makes me so mad! When my youngest first learned to ride a 2 wheel bike, I let my kids ride their bikes in the street by themselves. The younger one, 6, wanted to spend all day out there. I wouldn’t have gotten anything done. I gave the kids strict boundries. They could go as far as Mrs. D. house at one end of the street and Mrs. S. house at the other end and the oldest child was in charge of listening for cars. Our street is very quiet with few cars. After they were outside about 10 minutes, a neighbor showed up at my door and yelled “do you know your kids are playing on the lawn 3 houses down?” After I said yes, he proceeded to tell me how irresponsible I was and how dangerous it was. When anyone claims this area is dangerous, my response is always the same, “if this neighborhood is so dangerous, why are you living here?”.

  14. I don’t expect most people to use up the time or energy to do this, and I’m too non-confrontational to do it, but it’s fun to imagine pursuing this conversation:

    Nosy Neighbor: You’re crazy!

    Free Range Mom: Why, what do you think could happen?

    NN: She could fall!

    FRM: Would she defy gravity if I was watching? Besides, the swing is three feet off the ground and the ground is soft below. Even if she fell, she wouldn’t be badly hurt and she’d learn to hang on tight.

    NN: Someone could grab her!

    FRM: When was the last time a child was grabbed out of her own front yard in this town with other people watching?

    NN: She could wander off!

    FRM: How could she do that, since I told the 8 year old to watch her and she always keeps a close eye on her, and I’m watching through the window?

    Sometimes I wonder whether some of this comes not from people really fearing specific things, but from believing that there are “rules for being a good parent” and if you break those rules you’re just wrong and being a danger to your kids — even if they can’t actually name a real danger. Fear may have been the initial source of the rules, but after a while, the rules just take over.

  15. I have to weigh in about calling anyone who is not an infant “baby”. It is pretty pervasive in my area. I am a 911 dispatcher and get calls all the time from people saying that their “baby” is sick, or they’re home with the “babies” and ex-husband is causing problems, etc. and most often the babies are well beyond the age of 2.

    Recently, an 18-year-old girl died from a heroin overdose – very sad situation. However, many of the commenters on the news story (friends and relatives) said “goodbye baby girl, we love you”. While I don’t know all the details, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe she wouldn’t have needed to turn to heroin if anyone in her life had treated her like a grown woman, as opposed to a “baby girl”.

    I think when we call kids “baby”, and treat them like babies that need constant hovering, attention, and protection, we do them a great disservice.

  16. @andreahg, thank you for saying that, it is the perfect response. I’m going to use it next time someone tells me how dangerous a certain park or neighborhood is!

  17. An 18 month old toddler is a baby in my book. Most of mine were still nursing at that age.(I’m sure nosy neighbor lady would be appalled at that too)

    There have always been these interfering older women since the beginning of time, btw. Either the baby is not dressed warmly enough, is over dressed, the mother is too lenient or she’s too strict. The child should be off the breast, bottle, or pacifier. The little one should be potty trained by now, or else the mother is pushing the child too hard to potty train.

    You can’t win for losing with these types. They know it all…

  18. Jan, I think the “not a baby” discussion was about the separate story about the missing seven year old. I don’t think too many people object to calling an 18 month old a baby.

  19. I have two boys 6 and 5. They are both off training wheels and LOVE to ride up and down the street from sunrise to sunset. I too have taught them the rules and the boundaries. Not one incident in 5 1/2 months other then neighbors telling me that they are out there.

    We do have a rule when friends come over, they stay in the backyard because most of their friends have not been given free range.

  20. I really hope you’re not calling me an “interfering older woman”! I was referring to the story of the missing Florida girl, and the commenter who mentioned the statements like “bring this baby home safe” (a 7-year-old).

  21. They call us crazy but we’re not! — Lenore

    I resent that! I am so crazy! 🙂

  22. I thought this particular story was about an 18 month old playing outside with older siblings? Are we now discussing the 7 yr old in FL?

  23. I helped contribute to a thread hijack concerning the missing 7 yr old. My bad! *slaps wrist*

    Now that the weather in FL has cooled from the heatstroke levels it was at last week, I’ve been shoving my 7 yr old son outside. He keeps looking at me with bewilderment, wondering what he’s supposed to do now. I need to go rescue his bike from his grandparents’ house.

  24. At a birthday party last week the child’s mom mentioned that, to her horror, her 6 year old son had opened the front door all by himself and played in the front yard!

    I mentioned that my 5 year old is in and out dozens of times a day, playing in the yard and going over the neighbor’s house. She didn’t call me crazy, but I could see from the look in her eyes that she was thinking it!

  25. One of the parents commenting on the 7 year old in FL story says she won’t let her 10 year old cross the street or ride their bike in it and believes all kids should be dropped off and picked from school, never be allowed to walk on a main road, etc

    It’s nothing new of course, but it really bugs me.

  26. OMG this neighbor is the crazy one!

    If she had kids, theyd be growing up calling their mommy because a guy got his job at the interveiw first

    And w/ the babies- theyre too hot, too cold, too spoiled

    heck, maybe the NOSY NEIBORS would like 2 give mothering a try!

  27. My daughters are 5 and 3, and they play outside by themselves daily. I even let them wander three houses down to play with the little girls that live there. I must be a horrible mom…..my kids know how to get home on their own, they’re happy and confident, and know where their boundaries are. Yep, I’m a terrible mom.

  28. Oh yeah…and my kindergartner got a Student of Character award at school today! All those critics of free-range parenting are right, our kids turn out to be nothing but hooligans…..

  29. Jeez…fresh air is good for kids!

  30. I admit to being the concerned neighbor once – but in my defense the older by was dragging the younger one by the leg. The younger one was kicking, fighting, and screaming help. So I stopped and asked the kid “are you playing or do you really need help”

    They looked very sheepish and admitted they were playing war.

    Their father heard me (how he didn’t hear the screaming I don’t know). He came over and thanked me for checking on the kids and told them to not yell help unless they needed it.

    I grew up with a bully that did me serious harm. That scene was to close to what I experienced. I couldn’t take the chance the smaller boy was actually in danger and just drive away.

  31. Hey everyone, it’s me Jen the “crazy Florida drama momma” who lets her 8 yr old watch the 18 mo. old. ON THE FRONT LAWN! I appreciate you Lanore, for giving us our soapbox to stand on, and everyon else that posts, for giving everyone else the encouragement to be themselves and go with their momma or poppa instincts. It’s a no brainer, you either know your enviornment and your kids and trust that instinct, or you choose to hover and not trust anyone.
    Thats my 2 cents. I won’t even go into the passer by that said something to my 8 yr old about taking her 1 1/2 yr old baby sister for a walk around OUR block today in her stroller….UGHHHHHHHH!

    I appreciate

  32. Poor Jen! The worst thing about nosy neighbours is that you have to restrain your kids from being rude to grown-ups, because a good “please mind your own business, kind stranger” would be the appropiate answer.
    Someone here said she actually had to hand a permission note to her kids when they went to the park by themselves. It read something like “To whom it may concern, my son XXX has permission to play in the park by himself. Signed, his mother XXX”. She said this note has saved her and her kids quite a bit of trouble. Just a thought…

  33. “Crazy subway mom”. So flattering that people are remembering you in such a way, though I myself prefer to be called “non-traditionally intelligent” as opposed to “crazy”.

    And kudos to this mom for standing up for her own way of parenting.

  34. Not only do I insist that my 4 kids (4 year old twins, 6 & 8) play outside in the front yard without me hovering, as soon as you can ride your bike without training wheels, you get to ride around the block without an adult, and my 8 year old gets free run of the neighborhood. Do we really want them to reach adulthood having never experienced a moment out of our sight?

  35. What age do you suggest letting kids do free range activities and where do we start? Honest question looking for helping letting go a little.

  36. I’d say birth, Nicole. It’s just that you have to define “free-range” differently at different ages.

  37. I send my 5 yr old outside in the backyard all the time with only the dog to watch him 😉

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