Yup, That’s Me. The “Bizarre” Mom on the Cover of the NY Daily News

Hi Folks — Well, yes, the cover of the NY Daily News. That’s good and bad. Good — it certainly gets the word out. Bad, maybe this headline:  “Leave Your Kids in the Park: Mom’s Bizarre Campaign.”

Put that way it does sound a little bizarre. But what’s way more bizarre to me is the doctor that the article found to interview:

Dr. Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, says a 7-year-old shouldn’t be left alone in a backyard, much less a park.

Really? What is happening in his backyard? The proverbial alligator up from New York’s sewers? And here’s a quote from a “typical” parent:

“Never in a million years would I do something that stupid,” said Carmen Javier, a Park Slope mother of 8-year-old Juan. “When the kid turns 18 – fine. Until then you watch them.”

As you readers know, I believe in involved parenting — teaching our kids the skills they need to be safe and self-reliant. But there’s not a whole lot of chance for a child to put any of that into practice and get good at it,  if mom is by his side for a full 18 years.

Anyway, the rest of the article is fine. Alas, the sidebar by Joanna Molloy (usually very funny and wise!) says:

Come on, the world is a way scarier place than it was when we were kids.

In the ’20s, moms let kids play in the street while they cleaned. In the ’60s, kids went out in the morning and bounced around all day playing Ringolevio.

These days, kids get snatched off the street and people try to bomb  Times Square and the Herald Square subway station.

She’s absolutely right about the bombers. It sickens me that they’re out there. Then again, I’m not sure how parental supervision prevents terrorism. As for the oft-repeated notion that more kids are getting snatched today than ever, well, here’s a nice little article from the Huffington Post on how the 2009 murder rate in New York City hit an ALL TIME LOW. Like, “the fewest since comparable records were kept in the 1960s.”  And murder rates fell 10% across the whole country.

But, hey, The Daily News is a tabloid. Gotta sell fear. And I should know. I worked there for 14 years.

Meantime — remember what Dr. C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general, said (in the blog below this one!):

Let your children go out and play! It's worth it!

“If you want to say how can we step into childhood and make it better for
them, I would start at the activity level.  I’d like to say let your kids go
out and play.  Then I’d say you’re not going to do that are you? Make your
kids go out and play.  Kids ought to grow up the way you and I grew up and
we grew up fifty years apart or maybe more.  But we did the same things.
Now who’s out playing in the afternoon?  Nobody.  Risks I think are the
thing that make life important and everything that you and I do is risk vs.
benefit.  Is there a risk to sending your kid out?  Absolutely.  Is there a
benefit?  It exceeds the risk.”

85 Responses

  1. I . . . I am, as usual, left speechless by the accepted opinions out there. I truly appreciate the work you do, bring the public face of common-sense parenting.

  2. Ah yes, people aren’t happy until they have something to fear. Love your point about parental protection against terrorists. Going around facebook right now- do not friend anyone you don’t know, they may be a pedophile!! Really? Except that 90% of pedophiles’ victims are people they don’t know. And I am an adult, “friend-ing” other adults. Craziness. Thanks again for standing up for sane parenting!

  3. This is getting ridiculous. The rest of the world is laughing of these paranoid clowns whose idea of a proper upbringing is sitting on top of their kids until they turn 18. I can’t imagine what kind of psychological damage this overprotection leads to. Poor kids.

  4. Really? The world is a more dangerous place today than it was in the 20s? Look on the front page of the New York Times for July 8th 1947. Below the headline article about the Flying Disk crash in Roswell is a story about the “wilders” of Central Park. Gangs of teenage thugs wandering the park raping and pillaging and basically taking over the park at night. While I’ve no doubt gangs still exist, violently, in New York City, I haven’t heard anything like that from the park in quite a while.

    Know when the worst school massacre happened? 1927, when a crazy janitor BLEW UP a school. Back then there was no exotic mixture of chemicals required to build a bomb, just go to the general store and buy some TNT. Even so, part of his bomb failed, or even more would have been killed.

    The world is, if anything, safer. But apparently crazier.

  5. It’s good to know that if parents are with their children, terrorists will be too frightened to attack. Maybe the president and the joint chiefs of staff should travel with their moms.

  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusion_of_control

    Human psychology- the cognitive bias called “illusion of control”. We’re all subject to it, but if you accept that, MAYBE you can SOMETIMES overcome it.

  7. I have been following your blog with interest for a couple of weeks and I am so with you on the mad overprotective society that kids are been raised in – before you know it they will all be wrapped in cotton wool till they are eighteen and then they will be expected to come out of the cupboard and be wildly creative, spontaneous and adventurous adults. The question I have to ask and it has probably been answered about a million times – but I am a newbie so forgive me, but what is the hidden agenda… many things are said in the name of safety… but actually why would anyone want a completely “mono-whatever” culture with no free thinkers and no folk ready to take risks or stand out… I just can’t understand where the leaders are going to come from?… Or are “they” not really wanting a generation of leaders?

  8. Just found your blog and I want to say it’s probably the most worthwhile thing I’ve found on the internet in a long time. My daughter is only a year old and I’ve never really had a name for the parenting style I want to follow…until now. I really want my kid to be a free range kid 🙂

    Anyway, this article is ridiculous. A mother honestly wants their child attached to their hip until the kid is 18!? Have these people even stopped to think what kind of harm that is doing to their children? The point of parenting is to raise functional, independent adults…how can we expect children to grow up this way if we never let them take risks, make their own decisions, or stand on their own two feet? But I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir. If my kid wasn’t only a year old, I’d definitely be participating in “Take Your Kid To The Park…” day.

    One last thing (b/c I wrote a novel): I live on a military base, and it seems that the concept of FreeRange kids is, there at least, alive and well. Whenever I take my dog for a walk, little kids are always coming up to ask me to pet her…little five year olds talking politely to strangers! Alone! In their front yards, with no parents hovering! It’s a miracle. And when it’s nice out, the streets, playgrounds, and yards are always filled with kids. I guess the culture of the military has made it more easy for this to happen, but I wonder why people who are trained to be first-responders to all the horrible things that we worry about these days are the ones more likely to let their kids wander through the big scary world alone. Hmm.

  9. @Peter Orvetti: LOL!!! Good one!

    @se7en: The hidden agenda is quite prosaic, but sooo probable… Haven’t you noticed how many expensive and completely useless stuff people buy just to give their paranoid minds some peace? Electric socket covers, locks for the food cabinet, toilet-seat locks, knee pads, you name it. And those are just for babies/toddlers. For older kids, you have GPS locators (conveniently hidden inside their sneakers), severe restrictions at school (such as playing in the playground; no joke), which also constitute a waste of teachers’ time and capacity, “educational” hobbies they can practice in the safety of their own homes (believe me, the Wii is more expensive than a nice public park), or extracurricular activities where we know they are “safe”…
    And so on and so forth. Fear is just another way marketing experts have found for creating “necessities”.

  10. Lenore, you are a force of nature!!! I admire your resilience in the face of criticism.

    And to the mom who won’t let her kid out of her sight until he’s 18: Guess what? When you’re ready for him to leave home, he’s not going to want to leave! You’ll be kicking yourself when your 25-year old is still living at home. But by then it will be too late…

  11. Carmen Javier is speaking out of monumental ignorance and inexperience. I give it about three years before she gives in about letting a child out of her sight before age 18. Maybe if she’s a super-helicopter with an especially compliant child, five years. But only someone who has NO IDEA WHAT THE HECK SHE’S TALKING ABOUT could possibly suggest not leaving your kid out of your sight until age 18. What does she think is going to happen when little Juan turns 16? “No, dear, you can’t have your license, because you might go to the park without Mommy.”

  12. Funny, I just wrote a short blog about this….its really hard these days to let go of our kids and send them out to the wolves. Please be informed and be careful. http://lauracostarella.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/innocence-gone-bad/

  13. I guess the good doctor wouldn’t be pleased that I let my 2- and 5-year-olds play alone in the back yard. What? It’s fenced in! It’s like their playing in another room, only that room doesn’t have a roof!

  14. Oh Lenore, I simply love your line about seeing the world through a Law & Order lens. It’s why I stopped watching Law & Order the second I had kids.

    I subscribe to the idea that parents know whats best for their own kids. You know if you have a 10 year-old who can be alone in the park, and Carmen knows if she has a 17 year-old who wants her to be by his side every minute of the day. (Or, she thinks she knows. She might be in for a bit of a surprise in 11 years.)

  15. My partner is addicted to murder shows. Her brain can understand that it is fiction. My brain doesn’t work that way so I have to head upstairs to read when she watches Law & Order, NCIS, and the like. Sounds like some other people need to stop watching murder shows too.

  16. There were terrorists in the 60s. There were bombings in the 20s. (Of course, back in the 60s you didn’t let your kid go to Times Square, did you? It wasn’t as nice and neat as it is today, I’m told.)

    In the 20s we had a massive pedophile scare in the US, and we had polio scares already, and we had just finished a huge war followed by a flu epidemic that killed millions. We had no penicillin. If you got sick, if you got a cut on your foot that got infected, you could DIE. You could lose the foot. That’s scarier than anything comparable today.

    In the 60s we had riots. We had the cold war and the threat of imminent nuclear attack that left everybody dead. We had an actually high crime rate! THAT is scary.

    In the 70s and 80s, when all these people grew up (like me!) we had dangerous inner cities and drugs, and AIDS was a new thing, more terrifying than it is today. And all these people now are reacting to the fears they had when they were young, when it really wasn’t safe.

    It’s a pity for them that they’re wrong. If they were right, at least they could stand and feel vindicated.

  17. David Brooks wrote a column in the NY Times yesterday about children of the 70s. He had an idea in there that today’s parents are so worried about safety more as a memory of the more unsecure and higher crime time they grew up in rather than today’s reality. I think he has something there.

  18. That’s what I was thinking about too, Christine, but then again he also said some stuff I thought was well off the mark, so I didn’t want to quote him directly myself 🙂

  19. […] abductions in the Park Cities seem to back that up. So are you comfortable with her latest idea: Take Your Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day? Share and […]

  20. I’d like to second what Lindsay said about people who are exposed to real risk better understand it. My husband is a paramedic and an ER nurse (and a veteran), and he is always quite willing to kick out sons out to play in the park. The other day they both (12 and 9) came home covered in pine pitch from some tree they were climbing there. With no one watching them! Except for some strangers having a picnic who offered them some canned soda! Which they gratefully drank, and returned unharmed. Before dark! On a school night! But is that scary in any way? I guess not. And what if they had fallen out of the tree? They both know their address and phone number, so whoever called 911 for them could also contact us.

  21. The thing that really gets me about the “not letting him out of my sight until he’s 18” crowd, besides what everyone has mentioned already about molding children to be adults who can take care of themselves, is that 18 year olds are probably a lot less safe than 8 year olds are. I would imagine there are far more 18 year olds mudered than 8 year olds, not to mention all the ones who die in car accidents or commit suicide.

    Do these moms really believe their children will magically be invinceable once they turn 18? Do they think it will hurt any less to lose an 18 year old (or a 20 year old or a 30 year old) child? Or do they know that no one will be blaming the mom if something happens to their children once they are adults?

  22. Backpage of Newsweek this week has some comparative stats on what we should fear. Relevant one is more than twice as many children drowning is swimming pools than being abducted by strangers – and both numbers relatively low.

  23. @Peter Orvetti, Maybe the president and the joint chiefs of staff should travel with their moms.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha It would save us a whole lot of money!

    I just keep shaking my head at the fear that is out there.

  24. Lenore,

    I wrote to you privately that my children encountered potty mouth teenagers at the park. I was initially upset. Still am but in proper perspective. My child and her friend did the right thing and left.

    Now that may scare people, but know your own park and if there is a problem take it back. Because children don’t use parks, then teenagers will use it to loiter. In one suburb of ours, a gazeebo in the names a child that passed away 20 years ago, is now used by teens for drugs and recreational sex.

    How did it get that way?
    Ultimately because we stopped letting children use our public playgrounds.

    I have nothing against teenagers. I don’t think teenagers should be locked up either. But if teenagers realize they live in a real world and not their own, where there are children and elderly in their neighborhood that maybe they wouldn’t resort to jerky behavior knowing that people are all around them.

    So in some places baby steps are OK, even necessary, which may be sitting in the car reading a book or on a bench outside the play area.


  25. Oh, btw:


    That’s the editorial the pp mentioned earlier. Not all of it, I think, fits together logically, but some of it does and is very relevant.

  26. My four year old definitely gets to play in the back yard alone. I keep an ear out for her and check on her periodically by looking out the window, but PLEASE. She is old enough to know what she can and cannot play with back there, and we’ve done our best to make a safe space. Before my daughter was born I read the book _Mindful Parenting_. It’s a little bit woo-woo but one concept that really stuck with me is the idea of giving children sovereignty. That is, rather than following them around constantly whisking dangerous things out of their grasp, make their space appropriately safe so they can have autonomy within it. The boundaries of “their space” expand as they get older, and I think it’s entirely appropriate for a four year old’s space to include the yard, let alone a seven year old!

  27. Lenore Skenazy will be a guest on The Bob Rivers Show today, May 19 at 9:05am PT. Tune in to KZOK 102.5 Seattle or log on to http://bobrivers.com for live streaming audio and video from the interview!

  28. Tabloid… yep. And if you worked for them, Lenore, that should have been part of your argument. “I know you guys are going to make me out to be crazy because I left and you’re disgruntled but…” >:D

    Poor Carmen… it must suck to have to live in fear like that, then think through some skewed logic that her child is going to be a self-sufficient adult as soon as the clock strikes 12 on the 18th birthday. I’m just wondering if, as soon as she shoves him out the door, he gets hit by a car because no one is holding his hand to cross the street…

  29. I put up a comment on the article, Lenore could use some support! There are some majorly paranoid (and self-righteous, for that matter) people in NY. And there is a poll, right now it’s only 15% to let your kids have some freedom!

  30. Reading the replies to that article makes me sad. I had to keep reminding myself that the article was about letting elementary aged (and older) kids play at a public park. You would think it was about sending your kids to war.

  31. Just wanted to say a note of “thanks” for continuing to draw attention to the lack of freedom kids have these days. There are so many nasty comments from delusional moms who believe that “protection at all costs” somehow raises independent children. The frothing at the mouth attitude and self righteousness is unattractive and does nothing to serve their own children. Thank you for helping to turn the tide in favor of kids being allowed to be kids.

  32. I agree that “you know your own kids” is probably the most important principle, but I have to disagree that “knowing your own kids” might mean that it’s legitimate for Juan to have Mommy by his side 24/7 when he’s 17. If Carmen knows that’s what Juan wants, Carmen needs to teach Juan to be more independent, not cater to it (assuming, as always, developmental/neurological normality.)

  33. Perhaps Carmen (and others) do not realize that there are countries where 7 year olds ARE sent into war.

    Perhaps we could all step back and be grateful that our kids get to play with super soakers in the park, instead of shooting real people with real AKs and being killed by real bullets.

    Perhaps if those kids were on the cover of our news, we wouldn’t be so worried about silly things that don’t exist

    Perhaps if we were working to help those children, we wouldn’t have time to make up new dangers

    Perhaps if we were afraid of the real dangers, we would take the time to help those kids

    When I was little, we got 2 allowances: one for us, and one for charity. We got to pick the charity – sometimes it was a humanitarian cause, sometimes environmental, etc. It taught us to see a bigger picture, to think about the REALLY bad things in the world. I encourage everyone to do the same – it will help you AND your kids keep perspective.

  34. I have a theory about how it got this way. It started with a few high-profile child abduction cases and those parents going off the deep end…

    But it has been expanded by the fact that many of the people speaking out about child safety are people that were abused themselves, often to the point that they categorize other people (often males) as either dangerous or dead. I’ve run into many people who take statistics and studies of repeat violent adult-on-adult rape and blythely apply the data to their worldview, up to and including 18 year olds dating 16 year olds.

    Add that to the fact that missing blonde girls make ratings in the news industry, so a single abduction or murder on the other side of the country can be covered in the news for literally years and linger in the tabloids for decades, and worry about/backlash from the two-working-parent trend… and there you have it.

  35. Ayyyyyyy por Dios! What’s most offensive is the wacky, crazy, out of her tree portrayal of you, but then it is a tabloid…

  36. My daughter is 20 months and has been playing outside by herself since she could walk. (I didn’t want her accidentally crawling through dog poop.) I leave the door open so she can come and go as she pleases, and I leave the window of whatever room I’m in open so I can hear her. But that’s the only way I get the house clean!! Plus, I just plain don’t want to be outside as much as she does! Should she have to sit on the couch watching movies all day because her mom is too lazy to go outside?! Heck no!

    People are ridiculous.

  37. The mention that we had terrorists in the past reminds me that in the mid 1960s there was toy based on the game passing the hot potato with a wind up time bomb. It was cartoon like round ball with a fuse and a ticking timer.
    A series of explosives were planted by The Mad Bomber in NYC up until the late 1950s. Most people were cautious but knew it was the work just 1 person. This toy was as politically correct as if you sold kids suicide vests today.

  38. Off topic…but…

    If you’re new to Lenore’s blog, perhaps you haven’t seen her great videos on youtube. Here’s one to get you started:

  39. The Mad Bomber is why my mother won’t sit or stand anywhere near the garbage cans when waiting for the train.

    I always thought it was just, you know, because it was garbage, but apparently no, it’s one of the few cautious moments of her own mother’s life and she was raised to consider there might be a bomb in there.

    (Her own mother was very overprotected as a child due to her brother’s death at the age of three, and according to my mom was a fairly lax parent regarding supervision even by 1950s standards. Not necessarily lax in other ways, mind, but over supervision? Yes.)

  40. Okay, I was going to go to the article and read the comments, but I couldn’t get past the first one. Since she’s been a nanny in Westchester since October, and there have been two ATTEMPTS to lure people into cars, this proves that Lenore is wrong that most abductions and molestations come from family members.

    This poor, sweet, naive lady would probably be horrified if she found out from the Westchester police how many intra-familial abduction and abuse incidents there have been in a city of that size in the last seven months. At least we know she’s a conscientious nanny.

  41. Interesting that the one woman is afraid of bombings in NYC, and acts as if they’re a new phenomenon. Everyone conveniently leaves out the 1920 bombing of Wall Street. It was the most destructive bombing in the US until the 1927 school bombing that an earlier post refers to.

    The point is that the dangers are not new, but our irrational fear of them seems to be at an all time high.

  42. From Joanna Molloy’s sidebar:

    “Come on, the world is a way scarier place than it was when we were kids.”

    No, the world is just a scared-er place than it was when we were kids.

    Leave your kids at the park? I bought my house *because* there was a park down the street. And a small woods where my 12 y.o. came back excitedly after poking a dead deer with a stick. And railroad tracks. And a little creek (pronounced ‘crick’). And kids, and neighbors who say hello, and a prevailing attitude of sanity.

  43. I was offended by the 1010 WINS coverage of the event. They called it “Dump you kids in the park day” and had a hysterical mother, who said there are “pedophiles, child molesters, and gangs” out there. Worse, they then played a clip of her son, who said, “I’m a little kid. I’m afraid.” I almost cried hearing how the mother is raising her child to be a powerless victim.

  44. This past weekend I was with my 3 yr old daughter at a birthday party in a park. On a couple of occasions my daughter wandered, oh about 20 feet away from me, and one of the other moms in attendance felt the need to yell to me, “Katie’s over there!”

    Of course this was the mother who followed her daughter all around the park, with food on a fork, obsessed with what she was or wasn’t eating.

  45. How on earth does that dingbat think a 17-year-old who has never been unsupervised magically becomes overnight an 18-year-old adult? I know well some 18-year-olds who have had that sort of upbringing; they are NOT adults.

    Recently when my husband was regaling us with tales of sneaking away from Boy Scout camp and hitchhiking into the nearest town to play pool, his mother said “The older I get, the more things I hear about that I’m grateful I didn’t know about at the time.” That seems just right to me — if your parents know everything you’re doing every moment of childhood, something is wrong!!!

  46. P.S. In defense of toilet seat locks, because I’ve seen them cited a couple times as excessive parental caution: I locked my toilet seat NOT to save the child from drowning, but to prevent her fascination with flushing from causing me to call Roto-Rooter ($185 just for them to walk in the door!!!)

    She can drink the bleach if she wants; that’s only $0.99 a gallon.

  47. As usual you nailed it Lenore. These “grown babies” that pass for parents now days just cannot believe the facts that are right in front of them.

    The 24/7 “infotainment” media’s have filled everyone’s heads with shock and awe to sell Breakfast cereal and a dumbed down nation sucks it down hook line and sinker.

  48. Its interesting how some people jump to extremes. The comment about kids roaming like savages…i mean seriously? You’re not talking about leaving them to become like Lord of the Flies…just a couple hours in the park for kids old/mature enough to handle it. And the psychologist saying kids shouldn’t even be allowed to play in the backyard until they’re 13?!? This is why we’re turning into a nation of fat fucks. Kids aren’t allowed to burn calories without parental supervision. Geez.

    I’m telling everyone I know with kids old enough to let them go play. Let the kids play!

  49. Not allowed to play alone in the BACKYARD at 7 because they’re too impulsive? Where the heck is this guy’s backyard? Gaza? Even with her 4 year old impulsiveness, there is nothing in our backyard that would cause me to fear for my daughter’s safety.

  50. Just a few ideas about leaving your children. I grew up in the Inwood section of Manhattan. My parents also grew up there. My sister and I practically grew up in Inwood Hill Park and we would often go there alone (of course the Indian Rd. playground was always filled w/kids and parents we knew). We also rode the subway, bus and express bus alone and probably around 10 years old. We were allowed to walk ourselves to school (ok it was Catholic school up the block). We went to the store alone. We would leave the front door our apt. open.

    Then in 1991 when I was 17 and my sister was 12, our parents went out for dinner and left us home alone like they did so many other times. My sister’s friend was coming over so we left the front door open, as we did so many other times. She was followed by 2 illegal criminals who pushed her into our apt. We were tied up and then each of us raped at gunpoint. My sister’s friend had also brougth along her 6 year old sister and 8 year old brother (neither were touched but to this day both have emotional issues due to this event).

    Needless to say, our lives were never the same. For years my sister and I were given the freedom of riding the subway, of living in a typical urban setting. Although at the time, Inwood wasn’t the greatest area to live in (during that time, the 34th precinct had one of the highest murder rates in the City).

    I realize that NYC is much safer than it was 19 years ago. However, there is no way on this planet I would just let my kid play in the park ALONE. And while I do not feel that children should be coddled, and I feel they often are (and due to good reason), I feel it is the responsibility of the parent(s) to protect their children to the best of their ability. And leaving your child in a park is NOT the right way to go.

    Yes, there were always perverts. And there always will be. I understand that children shouldn’t be sheltered, especially when one decides to raise their children in NYC but as adults let’s try to protect children instead of putting them into harms way.

  51. Theresa – I’m so sorry to hear of that tragedy. What was done to you, your sister and your friends was unspeakably horrible.

    But just as I would not stop driving because someone was killed by a drunk (or otherwise negligent driver), I cannot accept the advice to stop letting my children go to the park or walk to school alone. However, I will agree with you that reasonable precautions that work for your specific environment are prudent.

    Please do not take that last comment as blaming you, your sister or your friends. I do not blame any of you. You were victimized by criminals who knew exactly what they were doing. I’m sorry that happened. I wish we could make a world where things like that never happened to anyone.

  52. And they wonder where the helpless adults come from. Never letting an 18 year old out of your site? What is going to happen to a grown adult that you can protect them from by hovering? I’ve seen this helicopter kids first hand. They can’t write a check. They don’t know how to deal with a difficult college class or prof. so they just quit. And they still live a home at 30.

  53. My seven-year olds play in the back yard by themselves all the time. Asides from the tendency to want to stand on top of the fort their grand-dad built them I have a hard time thinking of anything dangerous likely to happen. The other day I even gave them pruning shears to cut the vines away from the fort.

    Oh, and the neighbour and I just rebuild the fence between our yards with a little gate so the his four year old can get to our yard when she wants to. He’s a fire fighter and didn’t seem overly concerned about his daughter wandering over, although he did raise his eyebrows at the pruning shears.

  54. Theresa, while I don’t wish to make light of your horrific experience, what happened was incredibly unusual.

    Stranger rapes are VERY rare. The vast majority of rapes, of children or of adults, are committed by somebody known to the victim. Going to the park is not an inherently risky activity unless the park is an unusually high-risk area. (This is where local knowledge and common sense will have to prevail.)

    And if your parents had been there? These people had guns. You would’ve been raped anyway. Your parents would not have been able to stop them, would likely not even have discouraged them in the slightest.

    I am sorry this happened to you. I am. But I am *glad* that rapes by strangers are as rare an event as they are. I am *glad* that people are generally safe in public parks, and safe in their own homes, your own situation notwithstanding.

    It’s easy for the rest of us to say “just get over it”. I know, this isn’t the sort of thing one just “gets over”. But the rest of us who haven’t been in your situation should not be made to feel guilty over looking at statistics and facts and deciding, based on the evidence, that our kids are perfectly safe doing what children have been doing forever – being alone for a time and handing their own problems.

  55. Theresa — echoing everyone’s sympathy for your unimaginably horrible experience, but…

    who suggested letting your kids go to the park “alone?” The whole point is for many people to do it. Anyone who would attack a kid in a crowd of 20 wouldn’t have been deterred by the presence of parents, anyway. And in your horrible situation, likely your mom’s presence would only have resulted in her victimization, too.

  56. Theresa – What happened to you was absolutely horrible. Nobody should have to experience that.

    And yet your feelings about leaving kids at parks illustrates the disconnect in thinking about these issues perfectly. You were brutally attacked in your own home. You weren’t bothered while riding the subways, walking to school or going to the store alone – all things that you said that you did regularly for 7 years prior to being attacked. While horrible and life altering, there is nothing in this scenario that says that it’s unsafe for children to be unattended in parks.

    There are horrible people in the world. Always have been, always will be. Whether you are in your home, in a park, at school, at work or any place else on the planet, awfulness can find you. Putting children under lock and key doesn’t change the possibilities; it just changes the location.

    Further, would things have been different if your parents had been home? Possibly. Or possibly your parents would have also been tied up and nothing else changed. Parents can’t protect kids from everything horrible, even if they are present.

  57. To be fair to the NY Daily News commenters, September 11th was a terrible, psyche-altering event for New Yorkers. I think people in the city were far less paranoid about letting their kids out of their sight before 9/11. I was in NYC on 9/11 and moved away shortly afterwards, and I can tell you that the fear in the city is palpable, especially during high alert times such as the week after the Times Square failed bombing (it happened to correspond with my annual visit home). Those of you who don’t live in NYC, don’t be too quick to judge. You really don’t know what it’s like to live with the constant fear of a terrorist threat, especially when that fear is fed by politicians for their own benefit.

  58. Li, many of us DO live in NYC.

    Lenore does, certainly.

    I do. My sister saw the second plane hit from her location on the SI Ferry. My school that I was attending got in waves of students who had been evacuated from Lower Manhattan, from schools literally a block away from the WTC. Some of them slept there. Some of them had seen body parts falling. One, I recall reading later, had been hit with a hand.

    I know where those schools were because they were next door to my mother’s job. If I had not been such a poor student and having various minor breakdowns throughout my high school career, she would’ve been at work. She’d taken to later hours because she often had to stop in at my school for meetings and whatnot. (Hell, if I hadn’t transferred schools I would’ve been at Stuy, right in Lower Manhattan!)

    There’s a level of paranoia that’s not explainable by “Well, 9/11”.

  59. I also can understand that New Yorkers have more palpable feelings about 9/11 than the rest of us.

    What I don’t understand is how being with your child every minute up to age 18 prevents terrorism. And I don’t understand how terrorism equates to “a pedophile on every corner”.

  60. I know that Lenore and a lot of readers here are New Yorkers, but I live in Los Angeles and I’m telling you, 9/11 has absolutely changed the atmosphere of the city. I feel it every time I visit NY. Kudos to those of you who have resisted it, but that doesn’t make it less real.

  61. Serial post: things like parents not wanting to be separated from their children because parents couldn’t get to their kids all day on 9/11 and weren’t reunited until the next day. Or not wanting their kids to ride the subway because of a possible bombing. It’s not that being with your kids prevents terrorism, but if something does happen, you can somehow protect your children (this is the gut-level emotion, not a logical response). My cousin doesn’t want her daughter to live in a college dorm because of a possible Virginia Tech-style shooting, and I do think that kind of fear wasn’t a palpable thing prior to 9/11.

    And yes, the odds of someone being killed in a terrorist attack are very low, but remember, there are a significant percentage of people in NYC who are still coping with PTSD relating to 9/11. And then there are the asshole politicians who whip up the fear to forward their agendas. That stupid “bomb” in Times Square was incapable of exploding, but let’s shut down the subway several times a day for the next week and barricade Wall Street with soldiers patrolling with machine guns. Let’s scare the shit out of everyone so we can convince everyone to sign away our civil liberties. Yeah, let’s do that.

  62. I love it when my 3 year old asks to play in the back yard by himself so that I can go back to the house and watch him from the kitchen window while he roams around exploring our overgrown yard. Hovering over a child 24-7 guarding his every step, not letting him out of your site sounds pretty unhealthy for all involved.

  63. Lenore: Didn’t you used to work at the Daily News? Who’d you piss off?

    From Joanna Molloy’s story:
    “At 8, they continued on a scientific bent. Did you know pink Peeps blow up in the microwave more awesomely than yellow Peeps?”

    I know guys who would do something like that in their teens/college age/early twenties.

  64. Sorry Li but this atmosphere of fear has absolutely nothing to do with living in NYC or 9/11. I don’t live in NYC. However, if this article had been run in my local paper, the same hyper-paranoid comments would have been made. It’s endemic in middle class America, regardless of location. Interestingly it seems to be a middle class issue. The poorer portions of the population tend to be more free range even though they live in the most dangerous neighborhoods (and not just the ones who are awful parents anyway). And, maybe it’s a sense of entitlement or nothing can touch me, but the people I know in the true upper class tend to be less overprotective and fearful as well.

    And this is nothing new. The attitude existed pre-9/11. It was taking shape already as my brother was growing up in the 90’s. 14 years younger than me, he and his friends had less freedom to roam than I did as a child.

    If you need to blame some source outside parents, 9/11 is off the hook. The main thing stirring up the pot is the news media. Since this does seem to be a middle class problem, the decline of middle class America may also be to blame for some of the fearfulness.

  65. I was trying to get traffic info on my commute home this evening and whoa, what a surprise to hear Lenore on 1010WIns and CBS (for those of you outside NYC – those are AM news stations that give a traffic update every 10 minutes). And even more surprising was how out-there the reporters made her seem. I was especially flabbergasted at how they branded Lenore as a “Queens mom” and signed off from Jackson Heights, which I suppose is Lenore’s neighborhood. What’s that code for, you’re not an author and journalist? And what’s more, you live in a borough?

    Lenore, get your publicist to get you (and your “take them to the park and leave them day”) on NPR or WNYC where — one hopes, at least — they’ll do some real reporting on the issues.

  66. PS – Lenore & fellow free-rangers, did you see this from a few weeks ago? http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/nyregion/27bigcity.html – some middle schoolers at a private school voluntarily agreed to have two days free from texting (and IMing, etc.).

    What struck me was how often, without being able to text, kids were calling their parents to give micro-updates on their day. Geez louise, I would shoot myself if that were my kid (or if I were that kid)!

  67. Wow, I must be a terrible mom. My kids start playing alone in the backyard around age 2. That psychologist would really hate my parenting style.

    But I have an adventurous oldest daughter, an intensely shy 5 year old son who is opening up now, I think in large part due to being allowed a good bit of freedom, and a 15 month old who may test all my previous limits. It’s great!

  68. Is there a risk to sending your kid out? Absolutely. Is there a
    benefit? It exceeds the risk.”

    Yes, yes, yes!

  69. My mother married at 19. See what happens when you let them out of your sight? If only her parents had kept her shackled still at least 29 or so.

  70. Dr. Hilfer must have gone to the same Med school as the emergency room doctor who told me last summer not to let the kids play unsupervised in the fenced-in backyard until they are 13. Crazy thing is, the accident that brought us in to the ER in the first place happened while under partial supervision. Stuff happens, accidents happen – as parents, we can’t prevent every bad thing from happening.

    And the people who think it was easier and safer growing up in the 20’s and 30’s need to go read a few history books. It was rough being a kid back then. Our kids have it easy today. But facts don’t seem to matter anymore.

  71. We let our 2.5-year-old play in the backyard by herself, but prop the back door open so we can hear her if she calls or cries, and she can easily come inside if she wants to. So far, the alligators mostly keep to themselves behind the hydrangeas.

    Of course, now that I’ve posted this on the Internet, I realize she is now easy prey for every baby-snatcher in our neighborhood with access to a spy satellite.

    One question: Did the Snooze happen to mention having once employed the “bizarre” mother in question?

  72. Keep up the good work Lenore. It’s not easy being the target of people’s ridiculous comments & opinions.

    Yes, you’ve asked for it. Thank you for that.

  73. “Dr. Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, says a 7-year-old shouldn’t be left alone in a backyard, much less a park. Really? What is happening in his backyard? The proverbial alligator up from New York’s sewers?”

    While I agree this is ridiculous, the county CPS guidelines in my county prohibit a child under 7 from being alone in his own backyards. one county over, a child under NINE is prohibited from being alone in his own backyard. Yep. Written guidelines. Not laws, and not the force of law, but written guidelines used in determining neglect.

  74. What is most sad about the idea of changing our life-styles because of terrorists is, that’s what they WANT! The unfortunate fact is that they are winning. The don’t want to kill people. They don’t get kicks out of damaging things. They want to mess with us. And they are.

    I fight every day against worrying, but I still let my husband go to work. I live in the prairies in Canada. What if a tornado were to hit our town? Would I want to be with my husband and child? Of course! But it is practical to never get a babysitter so my husband and I can enjoy a date? Or would it be bennifitial for my husband to quit his job so we could be together at all times? Not only would it be damaging to our financial situation, but it would be damaging to all of us as individuals. It’s important for EVERYONE to do things independantly and that includes EVERY age. How would my 1 year old be able to entertain herself for half an hour if she hadn’t learned to entertain herself for a few minutes as a baby?

    I’ve learned to only read the comments on FRK because otherwise I get too frustrated. At least here there are many positive comments to combat the crazy!

  75. I let my kids out and it breaks no law but I still got a CPS interaction. As unpleasant as that whole business was it’s still worth it. My kids play outside constantly – they did before the CPS incident and they’re still doing it now.

    It would be nice to see more stories about the neighborhoods where kids are playing outside, because mine is one of them and I know they exist!

  76. Just sent to the editor of the NY Daily News:


    Subject: Skenazy and Molloy – you ought not give fear and rationality equal time


    Re: your May 19 article by Lenore Skenazy “Leave Your Kids in the Park” (which you characterized as a “bizarre campaign”) and Joanna Molloy’s “rebuttal”.

    Molloy offered a glimpse of her worldview, and the space within her four walls – interesting in its way, but hardly worthy of a newspaper (even yours).

    She then cited the worst instance she could find – five years ago – to back up her fears.

    Skenazy, on the other hand, has researched the numerous “might possibly happen” mishaps and crimes, and found out they are so rare, so unusual, that it’s not “brave”, “foolish”, or (your term) “bizarre” to let the run unsupervised once in a while.

    Really, it’s the the world between Molloy’s ears that’s bizarre.

    Jim Susky
    Anchorage, Alaska

  77. Recent results of a “vote” on the Daily News site (one reason why elected representation trumps direct-democracy ):

    The question:

    A Queen’s writer is urging parents to take their kids to the park and leave them there alone. What do you think of the idea?

    The vote:

    It’s great if it helps boost the kids’ confidence and ability to make friends. 16%

    It’s awful — the world is just too scary a place now for that to happen. 79%

    I’m not sure. 5%

  78. I think in our society today, so many parents are just looking for ways to get their kids out of their hair. You’ve provided a seemingly noble way to do that. Send your kids to the park so that they can socialize and be around other kids and the moms can walk around the block together. Really? Where is this happening because all I see at the park are bored kids with cell phones, hanging out on the jungle gym all afternoon, yelling rude things to other kids because their moms aren’t home from work yet or are sitting in front of the TV and don’t want to deal w/ their kids. Kids socialize every day at school. Think THAT’S a hugely successful experiment? I am as much concerned about a pervert approaching my kids as I am about other kids who want to tell dirty jokes or teach my children obscene words or show them porn. There’s sitting on your kids until they turn 18 and then there’s doing your job as a parent and protecting their bodies and minds and souls. The majority of American parents are doing the absolute least amount they can with their children, although they would probably tell you that they work really hard at parenting. The park thing just sounds to me like one more way for parents to get rid of their kids for a few hours. One more way to shirk their duties because it’s hard work raising good kids. It’s hard work doing the very best you can at ANYTHING but even more so for parenting. Sorry. I don’t agree with you. And I know parenting. I’m kind of an expert.

  79. I can’t say that at 5, or 7 I’d be comfortable leaving my kid at the park alone.. although, it’s a long time away for me. What I CAN say is that I can see myself being a lot more comfortable walking WITH her to the park, spreading out a blanket under the trees and reading a book while she plays to her heart’s content and being able to glance up and see that she’s OK. Or for her to come to ME, should she so choose.

  80. I confess, I’m not there yet. I’m not arguing against you, but I’m just not there. I worry. I worry that if I let go too much, something terrible would happen and I’d never be able to forgive myself. My 12-yr-old has some moments where an adults not with her, but not many. I recently graduated to letting my girls stay home one night alone while I went out, but there were strict rules: no one comes in, no one goes out, no oven/stove use.
    I’ve been reading you for a long time now, and didn’t know that you were THAT Lenore! I would love for you to post some advice on how to help those of us who are interested, but still too damned scared to follow through!

  81. […] Yup, That's Me. The ?Bizarre? Mom on the Cover of the NY Daily … […]

  82. One of my favourate quotes ever is a scientist that said “The Universe has no shortage of ways to kill us”

    There is always the possibility that something bad can happen, and you cannot go through life constantly worrying about them.

  83. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I find it amazing that people don’t let their children play unsupervised in their own backyards much less the park. I allowed my kids (who now range in age from mid to late 20’s) free roam of the neighborhood and neighborhood parks – as did the other mothers in the neighborhood – and you know what? We all kind of kept a casual eye out, not so much for danger but for potential mischief! My kids came home every day exhausted. Humans are supposed to be outside in the fresh air not cooped up like animals (ever wonder why the animals in the zoo pace back and forth?). They grew up to be slender, healthy, happy and – yes – outdoorsy people. If I were to do it all over again I would do it the same way. I heard the same old tired stories of “stranger danger” then but nothing ever happened to my siblings and I when we were growing up and so I took a chance…..they survived!

  84. Y’know…I just reread this and re-caught the part about “until they’re 18, you watch them” and I’ve got something to say.

    I didn’t know WTF to do with myself when I turned 18 and my parents stopped telling me what to do (as much). After not being allowed things like playing outside when neither parent was home (because two bored kids are MUCH less likely to kill themselves with household implements and no one else around to call 911, right?), and not being given the responsibilities appropriate to my age for my whole life, suddenly I was supposed to be a mature and responsible adult?

    No, you don’t watch them until they’re 18. You let them grow up. Because if you don’t, they turn 18, you stop watching, and they go make all the bad decisions WITHOUT you that they could have been making WITH your feedback for the last 5-10 years.

  85. ‘Watch them until they’re 18’? That is one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever read,

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