Forget World Peace — Miss America Longs for Free-Range Future!

In the interview portion of  Saturday Night’s Miss America pageant, Caressa Cameron (Miss Virginia), was asked to talk about childhood obesity. To which she responded, “We need to get our kids back outside, playing with sticks in the street like I did when I was little…Expand your mind, go outside and get to see what this world is like.”

She won! For this, we unofficially crown Caressa Miss Free-Range America 2010. If and when we ever meet, we will gift unto her: a stick.

Miss America's vision for a better future. Photo credit: Mads Boedker

Wield it with pride, Caressa. But be careful not to poke somebody’s eye out. — Lenore

38 Responses

  1. Wood that it come to pass 😉

  2. Wow, this is a nice change from all the bad news we hear… Thanks for spreading the message, Caressa!

  3. Isn’t that lovely? The tide is turning… I hope she takes her message everywhere she goes. 🙂

  4. Does an oversized cardboard box come with the stick? My kid still goes nuts for boxes and sticks and he is 8 years old!

    Come to think of it, I’m still rather giddy at the thought of them and I won’t see 40 again. I remember the thrill of finding the ‘perfect’ stick. Good times….good times.

  5. More than once, a stick was the only thing that got my stubborn 2 yo going when we were in a hurry. I picked one up, and scraped it against the walls, fences and such as I kept walking. He hurried to get a stick too, and imitated me.
    It must have been a strange sight, seen from the outside…

  6. Boxes are the best. My dad ordered something last year and it came in 2 long (like 8 feet long) boxes which I gave to the kids. They had so much fun turning them into boats, cars, tents, houses, whatever by combining them in different configurations. My dad had wanted to save them in case he ever needed to pack whatever it was he bought up but I think it was a better choice to give them to the kids who enjoyed them for 3 days until it rained and they were ruined.
    Almost as fun as when my gramma bought a new dryer when I was a kid and me and my brother got the box (which was huge). We played with it for a week until it was so smashed the only thing we could do was get in it and roll around the yard. Good times.
    I’m a little iffy on the sticks. Every time one of my kids starts playing with a stick someone gets hurt so I usually tell them to leave the sticks alone but there are other things to play with outside.
    My dad has a bunch of old wood stored out in our yard. For awhile the kids were taking it and using it to build forts in the back yard and my dad got all mad because of the mess. I thought it was a great use of junk that was going to waste (the wood was from a fence he built about 17 years ago and has been sitting there ever since) but my dad nixed it. I figured as long as they cleaned it up what’s the harm. Instead they build forts out of the lawn furniture which irritates my dad, too. I guess he worked too much when we were kids because he doesn’t remember the things me and my brother did when playing outside.

  7. Very cute. Now I want a stick – a pointy one.

  8. Sorry to rain on the parade, but what’s the likelihood that if someone brings up abduction, she’d turn right around and say, “Parents need to keep their kids safe! Watch them at all times! One missing child is too many!”

    The problem isn’t that anyone thinks that kids SHOULD be stuck inside all day playing video games instead of stick ball, the problem is that most everyone believes that’s the only responsible thing to do “in this scary world we live in today.”

  9. I had a great friend in the Pac NW who, every few months, would head to a large appliance store to gather boxes. She would then, armed with duct tape, create amazing playscapes in her carport, with the help and input of her own two boys, and whatever other kids happened to be cavorting about at the moment. They constructed giant cardboard slides, mazes, towers… really amazing stuff. They also had a long zipline in the backyard. Cool folks… My kids liked it there better than almost anywhere else.

  10. Hooray for her! After all, this is something possible (I believe) – world peace might happen in the next life . . . .

  11. There was an editorial in the Boston Globe about the declining overall health of children in the US. My comment about this and other articles is that we need a new and wider definition of ‘normal’. The only thing that is ‘normal’ nowadays is oversheltering, overscheduling, and shepherding your children everywhere, and filling up any remaining time with media.

    I am just completely sick of being considered a freak because I don’t own a TV. (And before the usual comments start – I don’t care what you own ok? I just don’t have one. I don’t advocate the TV free lifestyle for the whole world. I just. don’t. own. one.) I am tired of people looking at me like a borderline child abuser because I don’t give my kids cell phones at age 9. We don’t need you to look pityingly on us because (gasp) we don’t own an iAnything. I am not gambling with my children’s lives because I don’t drive an SUV the size of Rhode Island. Normal has become whatever you see on Desperate Housewives or TLC or whatever, and God forbid you don’t conform.

    But then, I am preaching to the choir. Sigh. Maybe Miss America will do some good. Me, I am doubtful.

  12. If it were up to me I wouldn’t own a TV either, but my husband is a screen-aholic. Whether it be the computer screen or the TV screen…you’ll find him in front of it. What I hate about TV these days is what they show on the “kid channels,” like Nickolodeon and Disney. You think they are safe until you see what the kids are watching. They’re full of pre-teen soap operas. I think my six-year old daughter thinks that life is all about getting the cute boy to like you. I keep having to tell her that TV is not real life and that no matter whether she sees it on TV or not, it is not right for kids that young to be dressing/acting that way and that “boyfriend/girlfriend” shouldn’t happen until much later. And people wonder why the teenage birth rate is going up again. People argue about what kind of sex ed to teach in high school. That isn’t the issue. By then it’s too late….TV has already taught them all about it!

  13. BMS, I hear you. It’s hard when you get into a conversation about some TV show or something, and you say, “I don’t know, I never watch that,” and you get looked at like 1) you have two heads and 2) you’re judging them for watching it. And we’re not even TV-free around here, just very TV limited. We watch a lot of pretty carefully chosen DVDs, and a very little bit of broadcast TV. But we don’t know much about what “everyone else” watches. Though I try really hard not to come across as pushing other people on the subject or acting as though I’m special (because of course I’m not, I just don’t watch much TV), it’s a pretty common occurrence that when you can’t help but say something about it, you get a negative reaction. It’s not just TV, but any “mainstream” thing that you do significantly differently from “everyone else.” (And it’s really not “everyone” of course.)

    Homeschooling’s another one — most people are really good about it these days, but every once in a while, when you mention that you homeschool in some way that is appropriate or necessary in the context, you get an argument about why there’s something wrong with that. And I always think, “What the heck? What if I started an argument with every public or private school parent I knew without knowing their circumstances? Would they think THAT was decent behavior?”

    So yeah, as much as we need Free Range, and we do, we need more respect for others’ choices that are not illegal and definitely harmful. Feel free to have a friendly discussion with me about why I should or shouldn’t do something differently (f you actually know me and don’t just dislike some particular thing that you just found out I do), but don’t consider people “fair game” for attack just because they’re out of the mainstream.

  14. My favorite box activity was when we got some appliance and a kitten at about the same time. We built an elaborate kitty palace with doors small enough the adult cat couldn’t chase the kitten inside. There were balconies and ramps and toys stapled inside. Great fun.

    I once got in a small fight with a neighbor over a really awesome stick we found at the same time. I smuggled it away and hid it. Some time later I found a rotten stick under a bush.

    The playground across the from my front door is covered in ice and snow… and no kid footprints! A real shame. I would have been jumping off the swings face-first intending to make a snow angel.

  15. Ha ha, Pentamom, I have the same thoughts about confronting people with kids in school about their choices just like they confront me about mine to homeschool. I love when people say, “I never would have known your kids were homeschooled!” Subtext being that they act “normal”. I always want to respond, Really, because I can/can’t tell that your child attends public school.” The answer would depend on the child and I always wonder at the looks or comments I would receive :p

    I think what Caressa said was great and I don’t care about follow up questions. The point is what she DID say on national TV with (I’m sure) a fair amount of mothers watching. I hope she will take this topic with her everywhere for the next year.

  16. True Mae Mae, what she said was great as far as it went. I just think we have to be careful about thinking someone really is Free-Range because they say it’s good for kids to run around outside, when really, almost everyone SAYS that. It’s what they have in the other half of their minds that separates the moms from the pilots, as it were. 😉

  17. To you who are discussing TV – I know you didn’t ask but – I know what you mean. People are shocked that my kids don’t know who most of the cartoon characters and superheroes are. It’s like TV knowledge is the common denominator. “Oh, poor little retarded girl, doesn’t know Mickey Mouse.” I know it’s helpful to have some common thing to talk about, but it’s sad that it has to be TV.

  18. Ah, but sticks can be dangerous! Somebody could put your eye out with a stick!

    Of course – somebody could also put your eye out with a pencil, or pen, or tooth pick, or finger.

    Author Dean Koontz decided it was time to leave school teaching and write full time after one of his students – a creative juvenile delinquent – told him what “tool” he used to put a person’s eye out. If you want to know what it was, you’ll have to do some digging. I won’t mention it here. But this example is a testament to creativity and one more proof that “INTENTION” is what harms, not the object.

    Millions of people every day manage somehow to eat their food at tables set with knives and forks and spoons without killing or harming anyone.

  19. Wow, we’re not the only TV freaks in the world. Let me savor that for a moment…ahhh… 🙂

    When my kids were 5 and 4, they got interested in the Titanic, having seen a book in the children’s section of the library about it. This lead to a long interest in disasters, sunken ships, underwater archaeology, various historical topics, submarines, etc. We watched a few documentary DVD’s about how they found it (no, they didn’t see the James Cameron movie), went to the Woods Hole Oceanigraphic Institute to learn about the subs that found it, built models, and sunk them in the tub. Some folks thought this was horrible – why would I want my kids to know about a tragedy like that? But these same folks would think nothing about letting their similarly aged kids plop down in front of Hannah Montana for days, or watch Revenge of the Sith or Pirates of the Carribean (great flicks, but not for 4 year olds). So wait, letting the kids pursue their own interests in history and science is going to warp them for life, but exposing them to excessive movie violence and oversexualized pre-teens is ok? Excuse me? Knowing about the Titanic and the Hindenburg is going to make them pariahs, but knowing about Spongebob and Pokemon is ok. They know the story of Pompeii, but they’ll never have friends if they don’t know who Spiderman is. That’s just nuts.

    Fortunately, I have found over and over that the naysayers are wrong. My kids do not lack for friends, even though they don’t follow the herd. They aren’t sitting alone in their rooms because they don’t watch TV. I just wish more parents would have the guts to go against the tide. Maybe the tide wouldn’t be so overpowering then.

  20. That is awesome, of course she played with sticks! We should all be playing with sticks.

  21. I have to say something in defense of being careful about sticks. It’s true a pen or pencil or whatever else can BECOME a weapon. But come on — the way kids play with sticks, at least a lot of the time, is to wave them around, fence with them, and stuff like that. That’s MAKING them potentially dangerous. That’s different from saying that an object normally used not to poke people with can be used to poke people with.

    I’m not saying “all good parents keep their kids from playing with sticks,” I’m just saying there’s a difference between something that is commonly used in a much more risky way, and something that normally is used in a completely different way unless someone definitely intends to do harm with it.

    Oh, and I do have to say, that my kids do sometimes get the space alien treatment if they don’t know about the in cartoons and popular kid characters. I have an eight year old boy who is a medieval history buff, and yeah, it’s pretty weird when his friends want to talk X Men and he’s going off about Charles Martel and janissaries. It’s not that often, though, and kids find things to be insensitive to each other about regardless, so I just think of it as the cost of raising them in a way that I think is overall better. Real medieval warriors are what he LIKES — why SHOULD he put down the library book and watch cartoons?

  22. My 5 year old daughter was on the opposite end of a projectile stick thrown at school. She required several stitches above the lip. I have no hard feelings against sticks, the teacher – or the child that threw it (and neither does she after a day or two – now she wants to marry him). I hope they all go on happily playing with sticks having learned a valuable lesson about how not to use them. Yes, it could have been worse. But that’s life.

    Lots of great and creative ways to use sticks that aren’t dangerous. And my daughter has managed to wrack up a few other scars on her face all by herself without sticks.

  23. You could probably get a larger TV audience for Miss Free-Range America than they do for Miss America.

  24. My kids are huge fans of cardboard boxes. A few years ago they had a double thickness box my husband got from the blinds department at Home Depot. He made it into a playhouse, and it withstood everything they did to it, including climbing on top of it for about two years. Great fun and we really need another one now.

  25. No one has mentioned refrigerator boxes. In my neighborhood, we considered them the Holy Grail of cardboard boxes. By eight years old, we would wield the utility knives ourselves (gasp) to cut out the windows.

  26. @ pentamom, positive reinforcement yields results! Let’s keep hearing it for getting kids outside!

  27. My only problem with cardboard boxes is that they tend to build with them in the middle of the living room. Which is fine, but they do tend to block movement through the house…

    But it can keep them occupied for going on a week, so it works for me.

  28. I like it. I love some uplifting good news.

  29. BMS: Glad to know my house isn’t the only one that looks like Beirut after the bombings…

  30. Rock on, Caressa! Hats off to Miss America and thank you Lenore for sharing this. Would have never known otherwise. Bravo, bravo!

  31. Most days, if I can get to two exits in case of fire, the house is clean.

    I wonder how much free rangeness gets stomped in the interest of order and perfection in housekeeping?

  32. Playing in the street with or without a stick is an insane thing to tell any child. The woman is a moron. And yet another crappy role model for today’s children. Sheesh.

  33. A great Bill Cosby quote: “The essence of childhood, of course, is play, which my friends and I did endlessly on streets that we reluctantly shared with traffic.”

    I’m sure no parent would encourage or condone children literally playing on a highway. Come on Janet, common sense should reign.

    Miss America’s statement makes me think she is probably a far superior role model for our kids than the likes of Miley Cyrus, Sponge Bob, or the Bratz dolls. Just to name a few.

  34. I’m afraid I totally disagree with the person posting above. As much as I encourage my children to go out and play, I do not certainly think anyone in any ”beauty” pageant is good role model to a young girl! Why do role models have to be showbiz celebrities anyway? Can’t we just teach them to look up to scientists, authors, doctors and so many other people that work hard to give us a better life, even if anonymously.

  35. I don’t think she actually meant “in” the “street.” Most likely she meant up and down the street, i.e., out in the neighborhood.

  36. You mean, I shouldn’t tell my kids to go play in traffic when they are being pains in the rear? 😉

  37. BMS – my kids, ages 12 and 15 were raised without TV. They are both very active and social and lovely human beings. Keep up the good work.

  38. I’m unusual –in that TV was in our house, but my tastes for the shows were not necessarily mainstream. What I mean is this: in spite of TV’s presence in the house and my childhood, by adolescence I was not in tune to the popular culture as others. That included such things as mainstream pop and rock (other than a few big names) and many TV shows.

    I was more into news & current events and history. I had hobbies for comic books and road maps, and to this day, I still live half my life in my imagination.

    Many would (politely) label me “eccentric.” Unto them I say (and it is true), “Eccentrics live longer, happier lives.”

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