A Baby, A Stranger, And Starbucks

Hi Readers! Want to know what happened?  Read on!

Dear  Free-Range Kids: It’s so inspiring to hear that there are others out there who refuse to freak out at every little thing.  I am a first time mom to a now 4-month-old and I don’t sterilize his pacifiers when he drops them on the ground, I refuse to ever use a shopping cart cover, and a month ago, I did the unthinkable.  I left my baby with a stranger while I used the bathroom at Starbucks.

My son and I were about three hours into a road trip heading back home, and I needed to use the bathroom, and he REALLY needed to get out of his car seat. Hence,  a Starbucks stop. I looked around and found an older, grandmotherly lady sitting with a mom-like lady.  I approached them and said, “Excuse me, I really have to use the restroom. Would you like to hold a cute baby for a moment?”  (Thankfully he wasn’t screaming any more since he was out of his car seat. And he IS pretty cute, if I do say so myself.)

They were surprised and delighted.  I used the restroom, and 30 seconds later, reappeared, my baby none the worse for wear.

I sat with the ladies who were thrilled to have a cuddle with a boy  who is very smiley and social.  It turned out the older lady IS a grandmother, and the other lady was her daughter.  We had a lovely chat for  about 20 minutes, and the grandma even insisted I take a picture of her and my son on her cellphone.  The whole experience made their day and I found myself marveling at the fact that such a little thing, approaching some perfectly sweet-looking strangers for help was something most parents today would absolutely freak out over.

I haven’t told many of my friends for fear they will think  I am an irresponsible parent, but in reality, I think it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and I’m determined to not live my life in fear thinking that child molesters lurk in every corner (of Starbucks!), just waiting to snatch my babe away.  Thank you for your book and your blog and a return to sanity.

You’re welcome! Thanks for a charming tale that shouldn’t be so surprising, but to many folks probably is!

97 Responses

  1. Not sure if anyone else has seen these seats in public rest rooms. I’ve seen them in the larger handicap stalls.

    “Safe-Sitter Child Protection Seat
    Provide your patrons with a safe and secure place for their child while using your washroom/fitting room. This compact unit fits inside the stall or fitting room without compromising space.”
    http://diaperdepot.com/safe-sitterchildprotectionseat.aspx

    Personally I would rather hand off my baby to someone else then strap a child into this.

  2. We met a couple who became wonderful friends exactly that way! We were in a Starbucks with our 2 1/2 year old and our 6 month old, and my husband had to take a cell call for work outside and I really, really had to go to the bathroom. I saw this couple about our age with their 4 year old daughter and I asked them if they would mind hanging out with my boys for a minute while I went to the bathroom. They were delighted, and when I came back we got to talking and found we had a ton in common and common friends, and they remain some of our closest friends to this day (the boys are now 11 and9)!

  3. I have done that exact same thing! My 11 month old son is terrified of the sound of the flush of public toilets so I can’t bring him in without a melt down to follow. 99.99% of people do not want to steal your child. Its absurd. Hey, when my son was even smaller I once had the pizza delivery guy hold him while I got my wallet. Surpirse, surprise, he didn’t drop all his pizzas and run off with him.

  4. re: the seats in restrooms: My almost 3 year old loves to play with the one at a rest stop about half way between our house and my grandma’s. I dont necessarily think they are necessary, but she thinks they’re fun.🙂

  5. I LOVE it!!! I see nothing wrong with this…. I’m just your regular mom of 2 who would have done the same thing, and I’d also be glad to hold someone elses baby while they went to the bathroom.

  6. The same is true of letting my son go into the men’s room all by himself. At some age they decide they don’t want to come into the women’s room with you. if you’re at the mall what are you supposed to do? 99.99% will smile at him and hopefully remind him to wash his hands!

  7. re: seats in restrooms The first time I ever saw those I was in a Florida water park. And my thought was “What a great idea” Mind you in a water park you have a real danger to your toddler if they wonder off unsupervised (ie the water). And going to the bathroom with a wet bathing suit on, takes a little more doing then on average. I have since seen them in other public washrooms and thought they were a little unnecessary.

  8. Good for her!

    Btw Lenore, I just finished the book and have decided that it will make a perfect baby shower gift from now on. I’m going to send a copy to my best friend who just had her first child. If there’s anything new parents can use it’s a refreshing dose of sanity. This shall be my go-to gift for new moms and dads!

    Thanks, Melissa

  9. I’ve done that too. Usually standing in line in the grocery store, and remembering I needed something vital. The people I have asked have obviously taken the responsibility very seriously, often giving me reports “he was fine, just fine” when I get back. lol

  10. 1st, i think it’s fabulous that this new mom had the courage to go to the bathroom alone, give her baby a break from his seat, and make the day better for a couple of sweet ladies. i do find it interesting that she made it clear she picked out a grandmother-type and a mom-type. what if only grandfatherly types had been available? casually dressed, clean-looking younger men, with or without wedding rings? i know my dad would willingly hold a stranger’s baby (and the baby would probably love him). my husband, who isn’t fond of infants in general (loved ours, that’s about it), would have been less willing. he’d have done it because the woman needed help and he’s a gentleman, but he would have been a little anxious because he’d have been worried someone else might have seen her hand over the baby and called the police (not because he looks dangerous, but he is a man). definitely, kudos to the mom and these two friendly strangers. they completely rock for being dears about helping and not calling the police (they could have seen her actions as negligent and careless). i just wonder, what if only men had been available?

  11. Raises hand to confess. Not a baby, but I’ve picked an adult to watch my two older boys at the beach while I took the little one across the road to potty.

  12. Good for you. I am having a flashback to the time I actually tried to use the restroom a Home Depot while holding my one-year old on my lap. She is kid number 1. Number 4 is two-months old. I became free range out of necessity. 🙂

  13. Gosh, I need to grow a pair. I have always wanted to do that but have always been afraid that someone would be like “what are you crazy?? I could be a MURDERER!!” and then call CPS on me. Of course, I’m exaggerating but I do have that general fear when it comes to parenting.
    The Starbucks in our downtown is in and old building and the lay out is near impossible for a double stroller – I have 11 month old twins. People are always kind and help me with the door but it would be SO much easier to ask someone at the tables outside (for Starbucks customers, in front of their windows) to watch them and talk to them while I quickly get my coffee and a little snack for them. Maybe I’ll work up the courage this weekend…

  14. God I always hated the baby and public bathroom delimma. She did great. Probably much safer in lady’s lap than on the floor of germy bathroom.

    I got yelled at one time because I left my 9 month old in the stroller OUTSIDE my stall. Uh hello? What exactly should I do? Pee with the door open? The handicap stall was taken.

  15. Yeah for common sense and community! My daughter has been told that if she ever needs help, gets lost, gets scared, whatever – to approach a woman for assistance! (Not really fair to guys, I know – ’cause almost all of you would help too!) But anyway, the odds of her randomly picking a woman who would do her harm are tiny.

    How nice would it be if we could offer to help when we see a parent in need of practical assistance – and not be given the old stink-eye because the assumption these days that anyone showing an interest in children not related to them must be a predator – what a sad, sad assumption to carry around day-to-day.

  16. @Nicole, does it occur to you that there has to be something seriously wrong with us (or, more specifically, our society) when the fear of having CPS called is greater than the fear of all those dangers we keep hearing about? I have done the baby/child handoff in public but I’ve also had the same thought as you. Not “what if this is the one crazy person who’s been just looking for a cute baby to take home and do awful things to?” but “what if this is one of those insane people who will take a perfectly reasonable and safe action, blow it up into some awful thing and then get me into serious trouble over it?”

  17. I’m pretty much past the point where I would be in a position where I’d need to do this, at least until grandchildren come along, as my youngest is 8 and could just be told to stay and wait in one place and be trusted to do so. I’m not sure I’d have the “guts” to do it anyway, for the reasons Gail mentions, but I thoroughly support the idea and encourage people to use their judgment and not be afraid. I hope by the time my kids are raising their own kids, they will feel free to do so when appropriate.

  18. What a lovely story.

    I too do not tell everyone the things I do for fear of their reactions. How sad.

  19. As a single parent of 4 boys, I’ve often been faced with the options of herding 4 boys into the bathroom (& expecting them to not play with the soap/water/towel dispenser) or seeking out a stranger. After bringing them with me once, the choice was obvious. Most people are perfectly willing to keep an eye on a table of children for the time it takes to use the bathroom.

  20. That’s a sweet story! I’ve had to do the same thing myself, just once or twice in 13 years. Most older ladies of grandmother age are happy to hold a sweet baby for a couple of minutes. And if they were really looking to kidnap a baby, they’d be hanging out at a hospital maternity ward, not Starbucks.

  21. @Alana I have been known to pee with the door open, not because I worry about a stranger snatching my child from the ladies room but because my son is old enough to care if he can/cannot see me (also old enough that he’d object strongly to being handed over to a strange-to-him adult in a strange place — not that I’m inherently opposed to the idea; I’m not.

    Then again, I have the (apparently odd) idea that if someone were to walk in and inadvertently see me, they would avert their eyes and we would all survive.

  22. When I was in London a few months ago, I had my daughter in her stroller and we were in a Waterstones (think Borders). I had to pee. There was one handicapped stall and the person had set up camp in there. I let the line keep passing me by to use the two non-handicapped rooms and began fidgeting in the “I have to pee” dance.

    A woman behind me finally took pity on me and offered to keep an eye on Elanor for the 30 seconds I needed to pee. Elanor made a British friend, I got to pee, the universe remained intact. My child was not abducted.

    Next time I think I’ll take a page from this woman’s book and just ask someone for help…

  23. Two stories

    1. My mom’s best friend was at the Pediatrician’s office waiting for an appointment for her daughter. A woman comes in with a baby in each arm, plunks them down on the ground looks at my mom’s friend and say’s “Please keep an eye on them, I’ll be right back” and promptly leaves the office. Mom’s friend starts thinking huffy “How could a mother just leave her adorable twins with someone she doesn’t know?” thoughts, when Mom returns with two MORE babies. Quad Mom says “Thanks I have to do this all the time to get them anywhere”

    2. when I became a mom to twins I kept this in mind. I constantly plunked a baby into nice looking strangers arms while dealing with the other out in public. Most people are very helpful when you’ve got a happy baby and a screaming baby. Or in my case, two happy babies and a toddler who’s run off!

  24. I was recently at Powell’s bookstore in Portland. This place is a city block big. (Seriously) My girl had to go to the bathroom. My seven year old son was happily reading books, my husband was in the sci-fi section three rooms away from the children’s section.

    I looked around. Parents with their children everywhere. I told my seven year old, I’m taking your sister to the bathroom. You do not leave this area by yourself or with anyone that is not daddy, do you understand?” Yep, came the 7 year olds reply.

    I took the girl to the bathroom which is one floor up from the children’s section. We got back to a smiling 7 year old sitting exactly where we left him.

    I told my sister and she reprimanded me. (I’m 43 years old by the way) “It only takes a second to snatch a child.” Well yeah, but I expect him to yell and scream if he is “snatched” and the place was full of PARENTS! Her repsonse? “I can’t believe you!”

    AAAARRRGH!

  25. I was in Toy R Us a few months back with my wife and 2 year old, who was playing with another 2 year old who was there with his mom, who was carrying a bunch of things but had no cart and was trying to herd her son to the checkout.

    She asked me to watch her son while she got a cart. I would have been happy to, but suggested I could also just get her a cart. I hope that suggesting an alternative to us watching her son suggested we didn’t think it was a good idea. I was just trying to reduce her need to walk while holding a bunch of things in her hands.

  26. Bravo all round!

    I never did that when my daughter was a baby, but only because she was one of those kids who would start HOWLING if I went out of her sight, which seemed like a mean thing to do to her and to the other person — and I was usually wearing her in a sling anyway, so peeing wasn’t as much of an issue as if she’d been in a stroller or travelling in a car. I have no qualms now about (a) sending her to the washroom on her own if I don’t have to go or (b) leaving her at a restaurant table or in the kids’ section of a bookstore or library while I use the washroom if she doesn’t have to go. I’m sure someone gives me the hairy eyeball every so often, but oh well.

    I’ve often minded other people’s babies for a few minutes while they used the washroom or looked after their older kids or whatever. Usually it’s been someone I knew at least slightly, but not always. (People will often leave their baby with you if you clearly have a similarly aged child, figuring I guess that if you’ve already got one, the last thing you’re going to want is to acquire another😉.) I’m always happy to do it, and I’m hoping that by the time DD is my age, it will once again be normal and unremarkable for people to help each other out in this way.

  27. Sadly, some people don’t have any sense when it comes to who they request to keep an eye out. I was at the bank once when a man left his two kids on the waiting bench to use the restroom. No harm, they were perfectly content to just sit there and wait. But then he turned to the bank teller who was helping me and asked her to watch his kids for him. We all just stared at him – hello! she’s trying to do her job – and then he muttered “bitch” and walked off.

    Me, I have always preferred to let my child run around inside the restroom while I use it. We are sure to wash up afterward, so why deprive him of a little fun? (Because at that age, everything that “big people” get to do is fun.)

  28. I did this at a theatre once. There was a mom and her daughter and I asked if she could keep an eye on my two. She did and my daughter and her dughter became the best of friends. We used to do alot as families until she moved out of town.

  29. I did something similar to this a couple weeks ago. My 1 month old and I were in line outside @ the DMV, which wrapped around the building when I realized that I left my cell phone in the car. I ask the couple if they would watch my daughter while I ran to my car which was about 20 feet away. They were more than happy to watch her and keep my place in line.

  30. You are my new hero! I thought I was un-paranoid as a new mom, but you rock.

  31. i once got reprimanded for using the handicapped stall with my two kids (one in a stroller). maybe i should have just handed the person the baby, instead.

  32. You are a hero! I truly hope I am asked to hold a baby soon for a parent. Good job, and just how cool is it for that kind of interaction to be a part of your day and your “babysitters”‘?

  33. Yep; I once asked the guy gathering carts inside a Target during a hideous rainstorm if he would watch my kid in the cart while I went and got my car; didn’t want my boy to get soaked! He grinned and did so, we were fine. Of course I also figured I could chase him down in my car if he went anywhere🙂

  34. I love it!😀 People are horrified that I let strangers talk and touch my baby when I’m at the shops.. don’t they understand that they’re not going to get aids or leprosy, they’re going to get the beginnings of feeling community and compassion.. and the person who wanted to talk and touch will have a smile and will tell her friends of the ‘cute little baby’ they just met.. or that was the same age as their grand son, or whatever?

  35. Hooray for common sense. Statistically, a stranger in a public place who you get a good vibe from is no more likely to be a freak/pedophile/kidnapper than any random aunt/uncle/in-law in your own family.

  36. Not sterilizing pacifiers is smart. I heard a talk by behavioral ecologist Marlene Zuk at the Human Behavior & Evolution Society conference at Penn a few years back, and she talks about how the healthiest kids are kids who grow up on farms, go barefoot in the dirt, have pets. Seems to build a strong immune system. She makes the point that we co-evolved with parasites – also, people who lack them in their diet (like Jews and Muslims who don’t eat pork) are more prone to diseases like Crohn’s. Interestingly, a researcher named JV Weinstock saw remission in, I believe, about 75 percent of Crohn’s patients by giving them a solution of pig whipworm in Gatorade. Yum! It doesn’t generally infest in humans (although an epidemiologist I know told me there are those very unlucky very few — who have to get cured from the cure with chemotherapy).

  37. Haha! That’s great! I love reading all the stories in the comments. I’ve always thought it was so odd when people were afraid of people that THEY are approaching. Like creeps just sit around waiting for someone to offer them the opportunity to be creepy.
    Another good read is The Gift of Fear, by Gavin DeBecker – he talks about trusting intuition and logic rather than irrational fear.

  38. I was just reading another discussion forum and a omwna posted about a stranger asking her to watch her baby for a minute while she went to get her older child out of some sort of bouncy thing. The repsonses were unbelieveable. One woman said the would have said if a stranger asked her to watch her child, she’d probably stammer “yes” and then call 911 to have the police come pick up the baby!

  39. I was in the Los Angeles Airport for a morning flight and noticed a woman with three children having a breakfast picnic. Since I had three similar aged children at home, I offered to help if she needed it. I guess I look trusting because she had me hold the baby while she took the other two to the bathroom and to refill drink bottles. They were gone about ten minutes. I did not hop the next flight to Egypt. I also held the cutey for a while on the plane so that she could get the other two settled and have some peace. He slept on me for over an hour. I definitely think moms need to help each other out, and if you can safely ask for help at LAX, I think the rest of the world is safe too.

  40. Just a few weeks ago, I was at Lowe’s and discovered at checkout had left my wallet in the car. I bolted to my car and back while the kids happily chattered with the cashier. Furthermore, a certain Mr .Harold, an employee at Costco has helped me plenty of times with my kids while I have ran out in the pouring rain to get my car. My kids know Mr. Harold by name and get excited every time they see him. In fact, we know the names of many employees in many different business around our city. I never force my kids to talk to people, but I do encourage them to say thank you and be polite. I am proud that I am teaching my kids to trust their INSTINCTS.

  41. @Amy – I know this is way off topic. The worm therapy thing is real, BUT they use worm larvae that cannot reproduce. So they end up living in your gut for several years regulating your immune system (and thus reducing auto-immune diseases like Chrone’s).

    If they need to be removed (very unlikely, but possible) a simple anti worm medicine is very effective. The bigger danger is that you’ll inadvertently remove them by taking a medication that has deworming as a side effect (many antibiotics, Nitrous Oxide, et al).

  42. Jacquelyn, thank you for mentioning that book. I read it a few years ago and I’ve been wracking my brain lately trying to remember the author and/or title of it.

  43. Mrs Evans, on November 14th, 2009 at 5:09 am Said:

    I was just reading another discussion forum and a omwna posted about a stranger asking her to watch her baby for a minute while she went to get her older child out of some sort of bouncy thing. The repsonses were unbelieveable. One woman said the would have said if a stranger asked her to watch her child, she’d probably stammer “yes” and then call 911 to have the police come pick up the baby!

    can you put the link for that forum here?
    thank you

  44. I was recently asked to hold a woman’s baby while she went and found a clerk at a department store. I was actually honored! And my daughter loved getting to play with the little baby until his mom came back. I love that some people are actually willing to trust each other and help each other out.

  45. I have to be honest, I don’t think I could do this.If only because of every one else’s reactions.

    I also freak out when my younger child drops her bottle on the floor, and I always at least rinse it. I also think the shopping cart covers are cute, though I would never pay the ridiculous prices they ask for them.

    I try to be free ranch but somethings are still hard for me, ha ha.

  46. I’ve done something like this twice, my husband only knows about one and freaked out. As a mom with a hubby who travels a lot, I HAVE to believe other people are just good people. I really would never be able to function without their help.

  47. p.s. just got the book! can’t wait to get into it!

  48. I did something similar when I was single mama in the airport bathroom a couple weeks ago! Found a pleasant looking “grandma type” (who was – “you must have known!” she said proudly) who was very pleased to watch my 16 month old girl in her stroller as I quickly attended to business. It inspired me to be less afraid of reaching out and asking for help when my hands are just far too full. It was a great encounter – and a very pleasant surprise.🙂

  49. Erin Lee,

    You said 99.99% of people do not want to steal a baby. The mathematician in me won’t let that slide; it implies that 1 in 1000 DO want to steal a baby. If the number of child stealers is one in 100 million (which is probably also too high), the percentage of safe people is 99.99999999%.

    Common sense says real child stealers don’t sit around random coffee shops hoping a baby is dropped in their lap. Too bad common sense is uncommon.

  50. I was traveling alone with a toddler and an infant. I had to pee, and went to the rest area. The baby was no longer in one of the carry-able baby seats so I had to carry him and walk with the toddler.
    Fortunately for me, it was a holiday weekend with an “operation care” tent set up outside. These are manned with drinks and cookies for tired travelers in Michigan. Usually churches volunteer to man them and use the donations for mission work.
    I had many helping hands to hold my kids while I did what I had to do.🙂

  51. Here is an interesting cultural note: we are currently living in Korea with 2 blonde kids (1 and 3) and even if I wanted to be a germophobe, isolationistic, dont touch or handle my baby person, I couldn’t. Here, in a city with 15 million people, my kids are touched, fed candy, doted upon, and have pictures taken of them almost daily. Part of that is because they are different, but part of that is because the culture here actually likes (or rather loves and holds precious) what Americans seem to say they like, but only when it’s convenient – old age and children. People here think that a baby is wonderful and the joy of their life should be shared by all. It’s kind of like “it takes a village”, but since this city is enormous it’s different. There are no cold stares when my baby starts wailing on the subway, everyone helps to open doors, people rush rush to help me buckle my ergobaby carrier (with it’s shoulder contorting straps), and if any of my girls trips on the playground elderly gentlemen (or bums sometimes-yes we play at playgrounds where it looks like some might have slept there) jump up from their tiny cups of instant coffee to help pick up the fallen child and offers candy to remedy the situation (not great for dental health for sure, but the intention is sweet). It’s strange that Americans are so prodigious in child-making compared to other industrialized nations, but we certainly lack tolerance for how they should act (messy, loud, creative, rumpus-making) and how to share in their joy. How many adults whom are bored to tears with work and cleaning house and traffic could have their day brightened by someone else’s child’s joy?

  52. On any number of occasions, I have left 2 of my 3 at a table to take one to the restroom. Last time, at McD’s, “Mr. Ken”, an employee, gave me the report on my obnoxious 4yo son! Basically, just that he had to remind him to be good (he has a tendency to roar loudly). Ken is my favorite McD’s employee ever, and the best part – he has Down’s. I would trust this man with my kids no question. I do have to admit that I always think asking another mom (or grandma) is my first choice, simply because we’ve all been there & can understand the need more than, say, a young singleton.

  53. This is how I met one of my very best friends….she had several kids at a playground, including tiny infant, and the older kids had to use the bathroom. I, a total stranger, offered to hold the little babe and it was the beginning of a treasured friendship. That baby is now 13. Seek out those who choose to “be not afraid”

  54. Hi freerangers, this is my letter that you’re reading and I absolutely have to say how encouraged I am to hear so many other people feeling the same way that I did! I was glad my husband didn’t freak out, but I had several friends who did, and so I stopped telling the story. Also, yes, if anything I was more worried that someone would call the cops on me for (gasp) leaving my baby with respectable looking strangers. Yes, I chose a grandmotherly looking lady and a motherly looking lady because profiling, while some people think is horrible, actually works better than anything else. I would have left him with a man if that’s all there had been in the starbucks, but it was easier to find mother/grandmother types because I figured they’d totally understand the situation.

  55. YES!!!!!!

  56. I once let a bike mechanic ride off (to diagnose a problem) with my pre-walking son still attached in the bike trailer – it was a huge ordeal to unhook him and the test ride was probably three minutes.

    I also once had a great conversation with a stranger in which he told me that he wouldn’t discourage his children from talking with strangers. Instead, he taught them to pay attention to their instincts. Excellent advice, I think.

  57. I absolutely think doing things like this is necessary to create the atmosphere we’re trying to promote in our society – one of togetherness and the “it takes a village” mentality, rather than the “don’t trust anyone” mentality. I haven’t had the opportunity to capitalize on this particular free-range scenario, but I will not hesitate should the need arises.
    Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your story with us. It is so nice to hear about people making connections and helping each other. So uplifting!

  58. Well, fine. I’ll be the lone dissenter.

    It’s not like I haven’t been flamed before elsewhere on the ‘Net.
    🙂

    Totally agree about the pacifiers and need for dirt (except for H1N1, so I might suspend my usual “ah, it’s fine” reaction for a couple of months and see how many of us live… yes, that’s a joke). There are members of my family who are flat-out religious about dirt on BOTH sides of this argument; one tells the kids where a fresh tar pit is for their dump trucks, the other takes OTC meds everytime anyone sneezes. And of course — guess who gets sick the most often? You got it; the paranoid ones.

    I completely, 100%, very strongly disagree with handing your kid off to a stranger to pee. Never. Wouldn’t do it, under any circumstances ever ever ever. (And yes, I have three kids, so I know of what I speak. Been there, zillions of times.)

    This bit from the comment trail:

    “i once got reprimanded for using the handicapped stall with my two kids (one in a stroller)”

    makes me sick.

    That’s what I’d have done (and have) — pop them into the restroom with me, maybe not the stall, but in the same room where I could hear them.

    At least until 6 or 7 or so…

    But yelling at this poster for having a stroller in the bathroom?

    Good grief. Some people need a life.

  59. It’s weird, now that I think of it…I let my 5 year old go to the bathroom herslef in public, but I don’t leave her alone in a restaurant or other public place if just I have to go to the bathroom–I bring her with me. I guess if I trust her to go to the batrhoom on her own, I should trust her to remain seated at the table without pouring out all the salt shakers…

  60. That is similar to the advice we have given our children since they were toddlers! We always taught them to search out a white haired grandmother if they were ever separated from us. Our 3 years old son volunteered, “Or someone in red!”. It took me until my next visit to Target that I realized he meant a Target employee!

  61. It only proves that there are some amazing people out there!

  62. Last night it was cold an rainy where I live. My husband was working late and I decided at the last minute to get take-out Japanese food for myself and my two kids for dinner. As I said, it was cold and rainy and my kids are 4 1/2 years old and 20 months old. The idea of trekking them in and out of the car wasn’t appealing. So I drove to the restaurant and (here’s the horror!) I left them in the car while I ran in to get the food and to pay.

    The restaurant has a enormous clear plate glass window that covers nearly the whole front of the store front. I locked the doors. Gave my 4 1/2 year old strict instructions not to open the doors or windows and to keep her brother entertained. I had my eyes on them the whole time I was in there.

    When I was leaving (after about 3-5 minutes maximum) a mother and her two children were going into the restaurant. Those kids looked to be about 10-13 years old. The older child had just said something to his mother that I didn’t hear but I heard the mom’s reply. She looked back at my car and said “Oh, like I didn’t do that with you two!” Then she smiled as she walked passed me.

    The funny thing is that what I was nervous about while I was in the restaurant wasn’t that some harm would come to them, but that some “good Samaritan” would THINK they were in danger and accuse me of being negligent. In the end the only one who noticed was another mom who completely understood.

    I’m thinking that people are saner than we think if we only give them credit.

  63. Way to go! Let common sense rule!

  64. Great story. Let’s continue you tobuild community rather then perpetute fear of each other.

  65. Once I was trying to get off an airplane with a baby and a toddler. I was unsuccessfully struggling with baby, toddler, carry-on bags, etc and the flight attendent was standing there watching me with a big, dopey smile on her face. (Not slamming all flight attenedents. Most are great, this one wasn’t). Anyway, it was a man in a business suit who offered carry the baby down the aisle so I could manage. He didn’t try to make a break for it and take the baby to whatever corporate gathering he was headed to. Go figure.

  66. Tracy Lucas said “I completely, 100%, very strongly disagree with handing your kid off to a stranger to pee. Never. Wouldn’t do it, under any circumstances ever ever ever.”

    Tracy – why is this? What do you fear (I assume you fear something will go wrong) and how likely do you think it is to happen?

  67. I confess, I’ve left my boy in a cab to grab grocery carts, lol. Never told my hubby, because he would freak, but come on, what’s gonna happen? I made the cabbie park next to the carts, left the door open and farthest I’d be would be less than 3 feet, plus his I.D. with his name and pic was in plain view. only did it once, and it’s the kind where you put in coins to get the cart, not like you can just pull it with one hand.

  68. I don’t think handicapped stalls in public restrooms are akin to handicapped parking. There’s no sign saying they are reserved for the handicapped only. It’s not like you are going to ‘park’ there for hours (hopefully).

    I use them frequently.

  69. I love how there’s always one person on every comment stream here who, in the midst of all of this reason and common sense, responds to some completely safe scenario involving free range parenting with, “OMG, I, like, so disagree! And I should know, because my three little angels never even walked to the mailbox when they were in my custody, and they turned out fine! Well, I mean, the oldest is 25 and still lives at home, and the middle one has vaccine-related autism, but, I mean, like, other than that!”

    Why do they wander over here from Mothering.com, I wonder?

  70. What are you talking about Shannon?

  71. Generally, Starbucks customers are a pretty safe bunch (especially if they have their latte in hand). The question I would ask myself is would I leave my purse and car keys with this stranger? If I answer yes, then I pretty much assume they are good people.

  72. I don’t know what you’re talking about, Shannon, but I’ll tell you what. I wouldn’t have left my kids with strangers for any reason when they were babies. It’s just not something I’m comfortable with and I value my own judgement above that of a bunch of people on message boards. I don’t even think this is a free range issue, to be frank. I don’t think an awful lot of the scenarios posted on here have any thing to do with actual free range parenting, so I usually just skim them and move on without commenting. The fact of the matter is, that babies and very young children need constant supervision from a responsible result in order to keep them safe. You wouldn’t walk in to Starbucks and pick a random stranger to come babysit in your home, would you? At any rate, I fail to see what these posts that involve leaving young children under less than ideal (or no) supervison have to do with whether or not I let my 9 year old ride his bike around the neighborhood ot whether I let my 12 year old skateboard over to the local park. I believe that the motivation behind free range ought to be empowering children to evolve in to brave, sensible, and independent adults, not about making it easier for adults to pee or pick up dinner. Those things are about making life easier for grownups. They have nothing to do with empowering the kids. Yes, they can be fun to debate, but not when people with an alternate view aren’t treated with any respect. I’m just sayin’.

  73. I believe that the motivation behind free range ought to be empowering children to evolve in to brave, sensible, and independent adults, not about making it easier for adults to pee or pick up dinner.

    No reason it can’t be both!

  74. Wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing it… it’s really nice to hear something non-negative for a change. 😀

  75. Vaccine-related-autism? That can’t be fact-ignoring paranoia poking through into free range kids, can it?

  76. I think its great that you felt safe doing this. I would be fine doing this, too, but I used a sling and would just take my kids with me while I pee’d. However, I don’t have time to read all the comments so someone else may have asked, would you have handed your four month old over to a man? A man of color? A young man? ANY MAN? Or would you have thought twice about it? You specifically chose these two women based on how safe you thought they looked, so, I ask, if the only two people who were available were men would you felt as safe? If not, why? If so, what visual qualities would a man have to possess for you to feel safe, if any?

  77. whoever mentioned it, it wasn’t the stroller that was the problem exactly. it was that I used the handicapped stall – which I did because I had a stroller with me. and i peed really fast, i promise : )

  78. […] A Baby, A Stranger, And Starbucks Hi Readers! Want to know what happened?  Read on! Dear  Free-Range Kids: It’s so inspiring to hear that there […] […]

  79. Yes, free-range is about empowering children, no doubt. But it’s also about not living in fear and realizing that other human beings can be sources of help, supports, and understanding. Sometimes, taking a deep breath and realizing that the reality is that it is infinitely more likely that nothing bad will happen than that it will does make parents’ lives easier in the moment and it also makes kids proud to be trusted.

    My 4 1/2 year old is smart, confident, capable, and understands more about what’s going on around her than many adults I’ve known. Leaving her in a locked, turned off car for three minutes to go pick up dinner isn’t about me being lazy, it’s about me not being paranoid about the nearly impossible.

    Remember, supervision (which I am generally in favor of) doesn’t mean being attached at the hip, it’s about being AWARE and paying attention. And, yes, that can happen from 15 feet away!

    We need to remember that while there are some bad people who do bad things in the world the vast majority of people are good and decent and enjoy helping one another.

  80. I think that’s great!, but I can remember something, somewhat the reverse, when my daughter was a newborn and my son was 2. I was at the Grocery store, struggling with juggling them and unloading my groceries onto the checkout and an older gentleman offered to hold my daughter while I unloaded things. At the time, I was offended, this stranger wanted to hold my child, and I got very very upset, I politely told him no, but I remember seething inside, that someone would dare offer that, some stranger, some man? Later I realised that he was probably trying to be nice, but at the time, I remember being severely creeped out.

    I am curious why I reacted that way, however, I have asked strangers to keep an eye on my kids when I had to run to go to the restroom, or I forgot something in an isle, and that was “okay” to me, but the other was clearly not. I am curious how I would react now, when they are not so helpless.

  81. I take my son, who is 3, in with me, but that’s mostly b/c I want him to use the potty, too. One time, when he was 2, he crawled under the door and ran out of the bathroom! I don’t remember where we were. I was completely indisposed if you get my drift and couldn’t just jump up and get him, and he wasn’t listening to me telling him to come back.
    After about 5 minutes, I was able to finish my business and left the restroom. My son was standing right outside with a nice young gentleman waiting for me. The guy said, “I found him running down the aisle laughing and asked him where he was supposed to be.” Apparently, my son led him back to the bathroom and this guy stayed with him, so he wouldn’t run off again. How nice is that?

  82. Kimberly,

    I had the same reaction when my son was a newborn in a very similar situation. I think it’s called either ‘new mom syndrome’ or ‘hormones’. We are all very protective of our children by nature, esepcially newborns!

  83. I think the story is great, but I would hesitate to do the same because I would think it an imposition on the other person. Sure, many, maybe most grandmotherly types would enjoy a cuddle with a baby, but who’s to say that this one didn’t, but felt imposed upon (but too polite to refuse)? That could just be my little neurosis, though: I’m always afraid of people just being polite to me rather than actually being kind.

    I used a sling when my daughter was younger, and now that she’s two I just bring her in the bathroom with me, either in a stroller or (nowadays) without. (Of course, being a man makes peeing a bit easier.🙂 In fact, my daughter has recently become obsessed with washing her hands, and so will occasionally wander towards the bathroom in the local restaurant whether I need to go or not.

  84. I do this quite often! I usually start by saying, “It takes a village, right? So may I ask you to…” whatever it may be. I feel good about this because 1) it helps me immensely, but also 2) I think the other person is probably feels great about being selected as trustworthy in our world of overblown fears. This is a great small thing we can all do that could have far-reaching consequences.

  85. @Helen,
    Tracy – why is this? What do you fear (I assume you fear something will go wrong) and how likely do you think it is to happen?

    I’m not one of the nutzoids; I’m fairly free-range.

    Just not on this.🙂

    Partially, I mean, only maybe like 10% or something fear that someone would actually make off with the kids, probably 25% that it would get me reported to CPS (and we’ve got custody arrangements with an ex at my house, so that part may even rate higher), and a good rest of the chunk accounted to the fact that my kids (at that age) would find it fun to hide, rearrange the shelves, and/or terrorize the other grocery store in a game of tag.

    It seems to me like it’d be a rude presumption to toss the kiddos off to someone else and run, even for a good reason, leaving the kid there with the awkardness.

    If the kid’s old enough AND trustworthy enough (and yeah, you get there by free-ranging), then why need the stranger to babysit at all?

    If I’m going to leave my kid alone, it’s going to be alone. If they’re too young for self-control and being relied on to have good behavior, then they’re coming with me.

    I know Lenore and some of the other regulars here like to blast the concept of stranger-danger, and I get that, too. But telling a kid, “It’s okay to talk to other people, don’t be rude if a stranger starts a conversation,” and “Here, you stay with this random person (who they KNOW I don’t know), and they’re in charge so do everything they say” is a whooooole ‘nother ball of wax. That opens a logical fallacy to a door I wouldn’t want to shut. Not an example I’d want them to base future decisions and actions on.

    Like I said, I wouldn’t blast any mother for doing it.

    But it’s never even occurred to me before as an option, and it’s one I would never use myself.

    That said…
    _____________________________________

    @Shannon:
    I hope you weren’t talking about me or my comments. If so, you missed, and didn’t hear a thing I said.

    Your comments were pretty rude and unnecessary, regardless of who they were aimed at.

  86. I did something similar twice when my son was an infant. One time even involved a Starbucks, albeit where I met another mom from a parenting website. I walked in, said “Hi! Nice to meet you. Can I leave him here while use the restroom?” lol I figured the odds of her running off with my 2 month old son, and her 3 month old twins, all in bucket seats, while I ducked in to pee were practically non-existent.

    I also let a grandmother in a restaurant hold my 4 month old while stopped for dinner on a x-country road-trip. She was the mom of one of the owners, and can I say how incredibly fabulous it was to eat a full meal while sitting, sans interruption, at that point in my life? Yes, I was a little nervous, and I had actual Post Partum OCD at the time which is a form of PPD where your imagination & mama bear instincts kick into a cruel kind of over-drive. The only calamities that befell us? My son scratched Granny’s face and filled his diaper.

  87. Great Article.

    I’m sure to come back and check more quality content in this site.

  88. funny
    i liked your style

  89. […] attempt to maneuver using a toilet with a baby in her arms. This mom choose the first option, and shared her story on FreeRangeKids. I am a first time mom to a now 4-month-old and I don’t sterilize his pacifiers when he drops […]

  90. aww that is so sweet- i bet you made their day!

  91. @LindaLou, Tracy, other Paranoid Mommy types, etc.: Uly covered it. Free Range is all about evaluating risk, and if you can’t properly evaluate the risk of leaving your baby with a grandmother in a Starbucks for 30 seconds, what are the chances that you’ll be able to properly evaluate the risk of letting your nine-year-old ride a bike to his friend’s house? Covering it up with irrational blanket statements like “My choice, my feelings,” etc. only gives you license to ramble on incoherently about your paranoia. It doesn’t help you *think* rationally about the actual risks involved, as we see with Tracy’s comically high “There’s a 10 percent chance that the grandmother is going to run off with my kid!” figure. No, there’s about a .000000000000000001 percent chance, but if you’re going off your feelings alone, you won’t be able to determine this. For that, you need math, statistics, and a rational faculty.

    Personally, I think it’s rude to come on here and imply–with a snide little “Well, I would never do that”–that the mother in this situation did anything at all risky. Rude, and bizarre. There are special websites for people who want to panic over low-level risks, and this isn’t one of them.

  92. This website is an much-needed, ongoing discussion of when to listen to the statistics, and when to draw a line. There are opinions on both sides, whether you like it or not. If it wasn’t a little controversial, Lenore would be out of a career.

    Sorry, public forum. Too bad.

    You wrote: “as we see with Tracy’s comically high “There’s a 10 percent chance that the grandmother is going to run off with my kid!” figure. No, there’s about a .000000000000000001 percent chance”

    Like facts? Then read what I actually said.

    I said about 10% of MY FEAR was of abduction, and the rest of my reasoning was based on other issues. (A breakdown that I only added as a second comment because another poster specifically asked, BTW.)

    I said nothing of the LIKELIHOOD of a grandma making off with the baby.

    I also didn’t criticize, snidley or otherwise, the mothers that would do this. The blog posed a “hey, would you do this?” question, and I simply answered it, “no, I wouldn’t.” That’s as far it went. Knowing how regular readers here (which I am, too) like to dissect things, I added why I chose that answer. That’s it. I said nothing derogatory about anyone else. (Unlike your comment — “paranoid mommy types”? “you need rational faculty”? — very nice and non-judgmental, yourself, there.)

    And as far as going by feelings instead of pure statistical information…

    A large chunk of motherhood is about respecting your instincts. I’m not going to apologize for that.

  93. Just ignore her, Tracy. She’s incapable of having a civil or honest discussion. I’m sure 99% (Oooooo, a statistic!) of the people who post and read understood your point, even if they disagree.

  94. Just a little tip that only applies to 1% of posters: If you want other people to believe that the world is safe place full of wonderful people, try to refrain from posting like asses.

  95. @LindaLou —

    Aw, no worries.🙂

    Debate works; the adrenaline cleaned my whole house in an hour, LOL.

    Oh, and fabulous end point. That should be a bumper sticker.

  96. I’m coming late to this party, but couldn’t help but comment.

    I would NEVER leave a baby THAT YOUNG with a stranger. Not for fear of kidnapping, of course. But because I really don’t know what that person knows about looking after babies. Especially a “grandmother type”, who (if she had any) raised her babies in an entirely different world.

    For instance, in those days, babies were routinely fed cereal in their bottles then by spoon from like 3 weeks old. We now know that anything other than mother’s milk before about 6mo can be seriously harmful to their digestive health.

    I would not be able to trust a stranger, however well-meaning, to NOT give a 3mo baby some of her coffee, or her cinnamon roll, or her whatever, just because it would be ‘so cute’ or whatever.

    This is not some unfounded crazy fear, either. It happens all.the.time… not just from strangers, but from grandparents and other relatives and friends… all time time saying “oh, don’t be silly, it won’t hurt them”, while giving newborn babies ice cream or Pepsi or whatever.

    I know the free-range attitude would also generally be “it won’t hurt them”, but the facts speak otherwise in this case. The risk is real — both in terms of the potential damage from the foods, and in terms of the likelihood of a stranger doing that. People seem to have a weird obsession with giving tiny babies food!

    Not just food, either, but there’s the stress to the baby, who could very well freak out — maybe I’d only be in there for 30 seconds, but you know you sometimes get surprised and stuck in the loo for longer than you planned. And maybe it’s an older lady who thinks that crying is “good for the lungs” and does nothing to try to soothe. I know these are all unlikely ‘what-ifs’, but personally, my risk analysis of this situation would be that it’s too risky to be worth it. Free-ranging is allowing your kids the freedom to explore, that’s not what’s happening here.

    Anyway. My other point to make would be… Slings, people, slings! The lady with the quads would be able to get all four babies in one trip if she put one on her back, one on her front, carry the other two, or use a stroller for 2, or some other configuration.

    And for public restrooms… I *never* had to even *consider* imposing on a stranger with my baby, because I could always put her in a sling (if she wasn’t there already). I mean, what would you do if it wasn’t a busy Starbucks but some empty, lonely place where there’s nobody there who can take the baby? I never had to worry about getting the handicapped stall, or parking the stroller outside, or any of that stuff.

    Carting tiny, portable babies around in strollers and carseats is just making your life more difficult… this being just one example of why. Heck, even if I were on an outing where a stroller did make more sense (happened to me all of twice in DD’s first three years), I’d still bring along a sling — precisely in case of something like this!

  97. Oh and to clarify my first point — I do mean that I wouldn’t even consider it with a baby THAT YOUNG… meaning I would consider it with an older baby. Once my baby is eating regular food and getting more into her independent self and not just a helpless infant… then yeah, I’d consider it.

    I would totally leave a baby that young with a person I knew, and could trust to not do something to/with my baby that I would not allow, without asking me first. And I would leave an older baby with a stranger, if needed. Just wanted to make that clear.

    Of course, with the sling that would rarely ever even be an issue anyway…😉

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