Blame

Hi Readers! I’m writing this today, because by evening tomorrow, I have a feeling I will be in the crosshairs for something that has happened to some child somewhere in this country, or even another country that has heard about Saturday’s “Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day.”

After doing nine TV interviews, a couple dozen radio interviews, and being written about in papers that called me everything from  “crazy” to “moron”  — and one that even ran a political cartoon showing despondent kids abandoned by their drunk parents, who are raising a toast to  “unsupervised play” (because no one except drunks would even consider the notion of taking their eyes off their children, ever) — the media has succeeded in doing to me what it does to most Americans on a daily basis: It is making me think in terms of the worst case scenario. It is making it hard for me to remember that what I am recommending is what children do all over the world — play at the local playground, with each other, without constant parental supervision, once they reach the age of 7 or 8. That is, once they reach the age that most children in other countries start walking, without their parents, to school.

So tomorrow, when, thanks to the odds in a country of about 60 million children, one of them fractures an arm or, God forbid, suffers anything worse, I can see where it could very easily become, “We told you so!” and, “It’s all her fault!” on the part of  the media. Media that will not know who to point to when another child tests positive for diabetes, or learns that he has high blood pressure brought on by a sedentary childhood, or dies in a car crash, as 5 or 6 kids do every day.

No, when it comes to kids venturing outside on their own, the media now has a villain, and it will be very easy for the evening news to ignore the “everyday” tragedies of car accidents and ill health, because, of course, it already does. Sure, those things kill kids. But there’s no drama in them.

Yesterday, on CNN, the anchor quoted some Dept. of Justice statistics about the lower crime rate today and then said “even if these are true,” (even if?)  children are still not safe. Then he provided a quote from the father of murdered 12-year-old Polly Klass,  who said that letting any children ever play outside, unsupervised, is a “knuckledheaded” idea.

Interestingly, Polly was kidnapped from her bedroom.

Naturally, CNN does not interview the parents of children killed in cars when it does a story on road trip vacations, or on a new movie that people will have to drive to the theater to see, because this would not make sense. What could the parent say? “I’m begging you: Never drive your child anywhere! It’s a knuckleheaded idea to put your child in peril that way.  Look what happened to mine!”

And of course, 40 times more children are killed in cars each year than are killed, as Polly was, by a stranger.

So all I can say is: I’m bracing for blame and trying to remember that the whole idea of kids getting out of the house, and meeting each other, and playing on their own, even for just 10 minutes, is a worthy thing.  — Lenore

The more kids outside, the safer and happier the neighborhood.

107 Responses

  1. good luck for tomorrow !

    servus

    markus

  2. Hang in there, Lenore! You may be a villian to some, but you’re a hero to many others! The brave do what they do not because they have no fear, but because it’s the right thing to do, in spite of their fear.

    They’ll see frustration and anger as a chink in your armor, and dive right in, so perhaps if you imagine these idiots that continue to buy into their own media hype as simply playing Devil’s Advocate, that will give you the emotional distance to help you keep the calm and decorum necessary for getting a truly long-lived message out there…

    It’s way too early in the morning, and I’ve not had enough coffee yet to come up with allegorical examples, or anything more inspiring than that, so it’ll have to do.

    I don’t have kids, but I really hope to in the next year or so, and will be taking part in annual “Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day” as soon as possible!

  3. Buck up, Lenore. We’re all behind you and cheering you as you pronounce the uncomfortable truths. You’re speaking truth to power in the most literal definition of the word (power of the media and power of fear). Since the media first began to attack you after the Subway Incident, you have been incredibly brave. I don’t know that I could or would have persevered after a beating like the one you took, but I’m very grateful that you have. Thank you.

  4. Yep, keep hanging in there! I read your blog everyday and it reminds me that there are other parents out there with the same views as me.

    My kids will be out and about in the neighborhood and park on Saturday!!

    And I’ll be reading on the porch.🙂

  5. You are doing the right thing, Lenore–and I am grateful that you are the public face for all of us sensible, realistic, but-not-on-TV parents who refuse to live in fear. There’s an analogy to be made here for all kinds of issues in American life, not just child rearing, and I appreciate you taking the hit for us.

  6. You win some, you lose some. If it were easy to speak the truth every time, then everyone would do it and we probably wouldn’t have half the problems we do in our society. Stand strong, my friend. Someone has to topple the first domino!

  7. I myself am looking forward to hearing, maybe from people on this very site (!), how many pedophiles were spotted hanging around the various parks. Since this has been purported to be an advertised free-for-all day for them……

  8. You are a very strong woman Lenore, and you have the strength of thousands of supporters behind you! For all the fearful parents out there, there are many with common sense parenting skills, thanks to you! I love your blog and it gives me the courage to be the type of parent I want to be, despite what others say, and gives my kids the independence they need to grow to be leaders.

  9. We’re all standing there with you, rocks and all🙂

  10. Sorry that you have to take the heat for being a proponent of something that should not be controversial at all! Thank you for articulating the cause of independent children and for assuring me I am not endangering my own children when I tell them to bike down the street to their friend’s house and ask them to ‘come out and play’. Here’s hoping that some day soon you will be universally hailed as a champion of a worthy cause!

  11. Lenore, you are sooo right.
    I grew up in Europe, I wandered the streets of a major European capital, used public transportation, walked to school, to the library, to the pool, to my friends’ homes, run errands for my mom…from a very early age.
    Now, it brakes my heart to see that my American children cannot do this, not out of my fears for their safety, but out of my fears for being turned on to Social Services, out of public hysteria.
    If Americans are so afraid of their cities, of their streets…if it’s so unsafe to let children enjoy them..why don’t they take charge of them, why don’t they try to control their own streets as they try to control other countries?
    Maybe everybody could enjoy these beautiful cities, because US cities are beautiful, but nobody seems to enjoy them out of their cars

  12. Never forget that those who are the loudest are usually those who have the least logical or least well-thought out (wow, does that even make any sense?) arguements. While my daughter is too young to take to a park and leave there (she’s 2.5), I will probably stick her in raincoat and boots and send her outside to frolic in the mud and wet grass in our backyard. And I do routinely allow her to go more than 3.5 feet away from me to go play on big play structures like the one at our zoo–reminiscent of the “hamster tubes ‘n tunnels” style play places of my childhood (in the 90’s…does that make me really young?)–where when she’s at the top, there’s no way I’m going to be able to get to her if she needs me. I frequently see parents of children larger/older than my daughter telling the poor kids that they can’t play on the big playground because they’re too little–as my daughter shimmies up the climbing things, working out for herself how to haul her body up something she’s an inch or two too short to do easily. Hey look! Problem solving! Working hard to get what you want! Perseverance! Determination! Creativity! What a wonderful set of lessons to learn, all from climbing up a silly play structure…while the other kids are learning what? Helplessness, not to take risks, not to challenge themselves, stick to the sure thing, fear, victimization, take the easy road.

    I’ll take my way, thanks. It’s nicer here. And quieter, since my daughter is allowed to play out of my sight even when we’re at home, or while I”m in the shower, or even, sometimes, while I take a nap.

  13. As someone who lived in Petaluma during the horror of Polly Klaas, I cannot believe they are throwing that out there! That is insane. It was a totally bizarre, horrific case that has achieved so much limelight because of it’s awful uniqueness. She was kidnapped in her bedroom while her mother was sleeping in the room next door. She was 12 years old and having a slumber party with two other girls. Are they now going to tell us we can’t sleep in seperate bedrooms, ever?! And what the heck does that have to do with “Take your child to the park…” day?! Wow. Crazy.

    Anyway, just wanted to show my support and tell you that I love what you’re doing. I recommend this blog to anyone who will listen and I sincerely hope people do. It is so sad what is happening to kids in the form of “protectiveness”. My child is only 2, so I obviously can’t participate in the “leaving them” part, but I hope by the time she is 8 people will be a little more relaxed thanks to you!

  14. I have been quietly reading your accounts of your press tour on this weekend’s festivities, and honestly wondering why you don’t just give up.

    Except I know why. You’re doing it for moms like me, who shoved her kids out the door to the playground across the street for all of their little lives.

    I applaud your tenacity and its motivation.

    And I will resist the urge to send my older boys to the park alone on Saturday, lest any passing mom think the earrings and punk haircuts undermine the safety of the kids left alone (though I swear they’re harmless).

  15. We just had an incident here in Colorado where a 12 year old was walking to a party by herself and got kidnapped and murdered (Kayleah Wilson). Interestingly enough, I actually haven’t seen one comment on either of the 2 news sources I read about locking up your kids indoors and watching them nonstop. I feel absolutely horrific for the parents and can’t imagine the pain they’re feeling, but everybody seems to be keeping their head on their shoulders.

    If anything, this just reinforces my decision to teach my kid martial arts as soon as he is old enough (I’m a karate instructor myself, so teach other kids).

  16. “it will be very easy for the evening news to ignore the “everyday” tragedies of car accidents and ill health, because, of course, it already does. Sure, those things kill kids. But there’s no drama in them.”

    And more to the point, car companies spend lots of money on advertising, so telling people how dangerous cars are to children will reduce your revenue.

    Hang in there. I know I keep saying this, but what you are suggesting is normal here and we don’t have thousands of children kidnapped every day.

    You’re just being different, and it makes sense. Unfortunately the bullies don’t like someone standing up to them.

    Keep going.

  17. At least you can take comfort in the knowledge that you are right and they are wrong! I posted something on my facebook page reminding my friends to let their kids go to the park by themselves Saturday and the responses were all that I was crazy, and there are sickos out there! One person actually thought that I was just joking and couldn’t imagine that it was a real day. I just take comfort in the fact that what I am doing is RIGHT!

  18. I know this will be hard for you. But please link to every negative story and discussion you see about the day or yourself. Your supporters will want to take a stand in defense of Free Range.

  19. I prefer to think positively. Those kids who will have accidents at the park while there alone? They have parents who are not hysterical about childhood mishaps. Stuff happens.

    But, let’s all pray for the most awesome day at the park ever, both in terms of weather and in terms of a low “incident” rate.

    I’m really glad that this has gotten so much attention.

  20. You may feel you’re in the crosshairs, but you’re also a voice of reason and have given many, many parents the extra little push they needed to allow their children to take a little risk.

    If younger children can’t learn to manage small challenges and judge their own capacity to cope with a situation, please tell me what will happen when they’re 16 and in a car alone for the first time. Or given the opportunity to say yes — or no — to the many, many choices about substances and friendships that face adolescents. Or try to manage a full courseload AND a part-time job AND roommates AND money AND all the aforementioned risks, once they get to college.

    All of these baby steps we let our children take prepare them for those final steps out the door. And we are not doing our job as parents if we don’t let them start taking some steps on their own way, way before they’re out that door.

    Keep it up.

  21. Fear sells, and the media lives on advertising sales. This morning I caught (again) the Broadview-which-used-to-be-Brinks ad where a nefarious stranger (darn those Nefarians, anyway, they should all be deported!) is peeping through a privacy fence in broad daylight in an upscale neighborhood ogling a Stepford mom and a little Stepford girl playing in the back yard. When they go in for lunch, the mom sets the Broadview alarm as soon as she shuts the door. Before they get to the kitchen the unshaven guy in the hoodie (wait, that sounds like me in the cooler months!) smashes in the door. Fortunately the alarm goes off and the Airborne Ranger Delta Force-trained dispatcher calls the house right away and the nogoodnik runs in fear from the alarm. Whew, that was a close one!

    Utter BS, of course. Anybody that scruffy peeping though back fences in a neighborhood as upscale as that (or as downscale as mine) would last about 30 seconds before the cops arrived, even in wimpy places like New York or Massachusets. Down here in Texas, of course, someone would just shoot him.

    Already made arrangements for my favorite 7 year old to be kidnapped around 8:30 tommorow by a scruffy-looking unshaven guy (it’s too warm for a hoodie) and taken to a nearby community garden (which includes a play set made from scrap lumber and a jungle gym made from an old ladder) where she will play unsupervised with other kids whenever she gets tired of gardening. She’ll certainly get dirty and might get a splinter or a scraped knee, but her mom is cool with that.

  22. You are a Messiah carrying the good news to all media-hyped hystrical parents everywhere…but you do know what happened to the last guy they called Messiah don’t ya? 🙂 Love Ya – Go Get ‘Em Girl!!

  23. Look on the bright side – as a villian you might get to wear a cool costume! Hang in there and keep spreading your gospel!

  24. Thanks! I was (am) one of those parents. I was absolutely against letting my daughter play outdoors without any supervision. After reading through some of your posts I am realizing how ridiculus I have been. I have a friend that refuses to go to a play in NYC because of the recent threat in Times Square which I thought was crazy but, I am JUST as crazy. Nothing insane has happened in my neighborhood, town, or even county. But here I am not allowing my child to be a child because of a teeny tiny risk. You’re right, the risk does not outway the reward.

    Through all the criticism, name calling, and worse that you will endure, please know that you have reached an audience that already agreed with you, and you have converted at least 1 (me!) that did not. So thank you, again, and keep up the good work.

  25. You’re doing the right thing, and there are a growing number of like-minded parents who will stand-up for what you’re advocating. Fear is the mindkiller. Let’s, all of us, not allow fear of the media or the fear the media propagates deter us from living life the way we know best.

  26. […] the media does not care about the truth, only about which narrative will […]

  27. So we were cruising the children’s section of our local library yesterday evening, and notice that Free Range Kids has the display spot of prominence in the “new parents” section. Blissfully, What to Expect was nowhere to be seen. So there you go. Change may be slow, but IT’S COMING!!!!! At least to Bedford.

  28. please don’t give up, we need you. what you are doing is extremely important, and IS having a direct impact. my son thanks you. i bumped into this site by accident, and have been reading every day since. you’ve made me aware of all the stupid fears i was being fed and the potential damage i would be doing to my son if i fell for it. (do you know that the ‘what to expect in the first year” book actually says to never leave your infant unattended — even just to run outside to the mailbox?? i threw it away when i read that) my son is only 2.5, so won’t be at the park but he will be trying to climb on the boulders in our yard and even jumping off the smaller ones.

    my coworker has a 13 year old daughter who just this year has been allowed to go home alone after school for the 2 hours before her dad picks her up. I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is to hear her mom on the phone w/ her every day… “you’re home? ok. i know it’s a beautiful day but no, you can’t go outside”. she lives in a perfectly safe suburban neighborhood. I’m working on her….

  29. I appreciate you! You changed mine and my kids lives.

  30. I’m hoping for the best tomorrow. I’d hate to see a positive message like this ruined by flawed bias and misinterpretation of statistics and probabilities. How many kids will be injured on playgrounds today (Friday) while being supervised by parents and teachers? What will really be different on Saturday?

    For the record, most all of my kids’ outside injuries on swingsets, skateboards, climbing trees, etc. all happened while we were outside with them. Our presence (or lack thereof) had nothing to do with it. In fact, the worst fall my daughter experienced was was off of a slide THAT I WAS HELPING HER CLIMB. It was too big for her and she would never have got on it by herself.

    It has a bit nerve wracking the first time they rode their bikes around the corner and out of sight, but that passed quickly. It paled in comparison to how I feel now when they drive out of the driveway because I know that is significantly more dangerous than a sidewalk bike ride, a swingset, or a jungle gym. But you have to loosen up sometime.

  31. Hang in there, Lenore! I’m sure this day will be a heads-up lesson for many parents who have just forgotten what to advise kids in free-play circumstances. Hopefully, they will experience just how much sedentarism hurts their kids. You know, finding out your 8 yo son is totally incapable of having fun in a park in good weather… or that your 7 yo is anguished at having to go to the bathroom on his own…or the embarrasment when your 10 yo cries over a scratch… or the frustration when your 9 yo’s ball is snatched by a horde of 6 yos, and your voluminous kid doesn’t know what to do…

  32. Stay strong! We are here to support you and your movement, and defend you against such attacks. You are leading the way for us, and I thank you for that!

  33. I wonder how much of this isn’t driven by actual beliefs about danger (though I don’t question that they do believe it) but by blame-shifting and self-reassurance.

    If I don’t do Free-Range, then nothing bad can happen to me. If someone else does Free-Range, then if something happens to their kid, it’s THEIR FAULT and I don’t have to worry about that particular risk. And I don’t just mean the ultimately horrific stuff like Polly Klaas, but something as simply as a bone fracture at a playground.

    And you hear people say that about things. “I did everything right, why should this happen to me?” IOW, I followed the magic formula, It’s Not Fair. But for everyone who it doesn’t happen to, it’s really comforting to believe that there’s a magic formula. These people simply don’t want to believe that Stuff Happens.

  34. Strangely, I woke up this morning with this exact topic on my mind. “I wonder what sort of blame the “Free Range Gal” will get for everything that happens in the world on Saturday”. Said a little prayer for your heart and shook my head at it all.

    Truth is – there are 20-30 kids in each park on each Saturday in our old Central Oregon town. Each mom is drinking coffee, txting, cruising the net on their phone or laptop, reading a book, snoozing in the car. The thing I hear most from moms at the park is – GO PLAY – I’m talking to my friend right now.

    Seems like any day at the beach or park is a good buffet for the lurking unstable child molester/kidnapper.

    Know that you have supporters – and so many more moms need to hear this press than the pedophiles. I don’t think the peds need press to get the idea to harm someone . . But young moms need the press to hear a different voice that rings higher than the call of fear.

    You Go Girl.

  35. A girl in my neighborhood broke her arm crossing the monkey bars Monday. She had 3 adults there, and she fell anyway. It was in an unfamiliar neighborhood (at grandma’s) and her uncle ran to a neighbor’s house (they had walked to the park) and asked them to give him and the niece a ride home. BTW, he’s big and scruffy and scary looking with lots of tattoos. The neighbor looked confused for a second, said, “OK” and brought them to grandma’s. That’s what it SHOULD be like, and I hope I can talk more parents into letting their kids out of site.

    You’ve literally changed my life with your blog and book. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt knowing my daughter isn’t going to get kidnapped. Please know that for every negative thing said about you, you have a whole group of people defending you and cheering you on.

    @ the Mother: I think an important lesson for people to learn is don’t judge others by their appearance. My older brother has had blue hair since he was 16 (which caused quite the hullabaloo at church, let me tell you), until people realized he’s the same nice kid, with toilet water colored hair. I think you SHOULD send your kids, and then tell them to be extra nice and see if any little kids need help so their moms can see how wrong they are to judge.

  36. As a friend who works in computer security always reminds me, “Human beings suck at accurate risk analysis” Even the ones who are professionally trained have to struggle with it.

    But the thing that really worries me about the “Watch your kids every second of the day” types, is the implication that if something tragic does happen to your child, then some how you weren’t watching them closely enough. When terrible tragedy does strike, whether its a girl kidnapped from her bedroom or walking to a party, I can not believe that the grief the parents feel is helped one little bit but the suggestion that they could have done something to prevent it. Even if it makes other parents feel better about their children’s safety.

  37. Wow….lay the blame…never take the blame…thats the old standby now adays😦

    I have a son who got hit in the head w/a baseball at baseball practice suffering a level 2 concussion and was taken off the field in an ambulance. He was 9 at the time. Not only was my husband there – but 4 coaches, lots of parents and team-mates……

    He also was at a friends house the same summer and tripped and fell head first into a wooden toybox…split his head wide open requiring 19 stitches. The Mom was in the kitchen cooking pancakes….should I blame her for not being in the livingroom?? NO! I had people recommend I sue their house insurance ~ WHAT? My kid tripped and fell.

    My point being….kids fall, they get hurt, things happen supervised or not.

    Oddly I have a neighbor who is horrified that I let my 10 year old son outside to play….unsupervised (ok I do peek out occassionally lol)….he runs, rides his bike, shoots hoops, hits a ball w/a bat, digs in the dirt – basically acts like a 10yo boy……but I’m *wrong* to let him out ~*~Shrug~*~ and I’m sure it will be all my fault if anything happens to him

    I’m so sorry that people are going to look at you to lay blame if anything happens. While my kids won’t be at the park (crazy busy family day) I give kudos to all the kids/parents who participate.

    And like a previous poster mentioned Thank YOU for giving me the strength to do what I always thought was right! Letting kids be kids🙂

  38. applause! applause for you and your efforts🙂

  39. Lenore –

    no kids here, and I fully support what you do. I was a fairly free range kid (although i didn’t take advantage of it because I was shy and bookish by nature, and wanted to read inside) but I grew up in NYC, and while there were restrictions, by 13 I could pretty much go where I wanted (I just never wanted to go).

    I think though, I may have a different take on why we have become so risk intolerant, especially in the last twenty years. I agree CNN and 24 hour news bears a big responsibility, but I think a part of it actually has to do with dual income households.

    Having a child break their arm or need stitches means that a parent may have to leave work or take time off to deal with the results of an accident, especially if it’s a bad break, and the kid needs to be off school for a couple of days. You see parents demanding prescriptions because the kids can’t be sick because they would have to leave work, and then you also have people whose kids are sick so often, they’ve already used up any sick time or supervisor good will. So an accident is a big deal. I think people themselves feel so overscheduled and stressed themselves, they think if one bad thing happens (more than the usual bad things/family emergencies happens), they’re going to snap or not be able to handle it.

    Anyway – I was a shy kid, and as someone who desperately resisted any kind of social situation, I suffered for it. I never really learned to stand up to the bully until I was an adult, and I still have problems doing it. These kids will be better off for it.

    You can arrange pre-set pick up times, you can give them quarters for the phone and tell them to call you if they’re bleeding and it doesn’t stop, or if an adult tries something really bad (abuse, taking them out of the park, exposing themselves). But you can’t give them a childhood back once it’s gone.

  40. Hang in there Lenore! You ARE doing the right thing. I hope the media interviews a bunch of happy, unsupervised children playing that day! OK, I realize that is unlikely, but a free-range mom can dream can’t she?

  41. Stay strong, Lenore. You know you’re doing the right thing.

  42. We’re with you, Lenore! I only wish my son was old enough to participate – he’s four. By the time I was 8, in 1989, I lived in a rural area and the only rule was, “don’t cross the highway or tresspass!”. Plenty of times, my mom did leave me with my brother to play at a park or even in the parking lot of the grocery store, and always trusted us to do look after ourselves. At ten, I lived in Sacramento, and rode my bike anywhere I could pedal, with nothing but a quarter in my pocket for the pay phone. I rode through the seediest parts of town at times. My parents had taught me all along to be aware of my surroundings, confident, and careful.

    Thanks for fighting the good fight!

  43. In an attempt to help promote Take Your Child To The Park….And Leave Them There Day I’ve been posting on assorted parenting forums and other bulletin boards where moms congregate. I’ve seen everything from the typical blame the victim–”How would you feel if something terrible happened?”–to the pious–”I would never leave my child alone any place that I wouldn’t leave a million dollars.” It’s that last statement I want to address.

    It certainly sounds like a wonderful rule of thumb, but dig a little deeper and it becomes clear how flawed that logic is. For starters, and this may seem to be an astoundingly obvious statement, money isn’t a child. Money doesn’t need to learn how to share, resolve conflict, solve problems, or any of the thousands of other skills children must learn in order to be successful adults. Even if you smack some googley eyes on it a la the Geico commercial, it’s still just a stack of money and has no needs whatsoever.

    Money can’t fight back. If we have done our jobs as parents, our children should know that it’s not safe to go off with strangers. They should have a play book of what to do if someone threatens them or makes them uncomfortable. Money doesn’t have legs. It can’t run from a threat. It doesn’t have arms with which to defend itself, nor a voice with which to cry for help.

    The second problem with this seemingly innocuous statement is a problem of scale. There are, presumably, way more people who would be interested in molesting or stealing a stack of money than in doing the same to a child. As Lenore has often pointed out, in this day and age of 24/7 cable news, CSI, Law & Order and other programs in which children are regularly depicted as the victims, it can be hard to remember that every moment is NOT an accident waiting to happen, every stranger is not an immediate threat to our children, and every second a child spends out of our sight is not the moment that they’ll decide to take a long walk off a short pier or decide while standing at the top of a cliff that they can fly.

    Finally, the implication in the axiom of “don’t leave your child any place you wouldn’t leave a million dollars” is insidious. In fact, I ran across this statement weeks ago and the reason this axiom is so egregious has just recently bubbled to the surface of my mind as a coherent thought. It is the worst kind of blame the victim justification for helicopter parenting that I think I’ve run across. The underlying meaning is that any parent who could leave their child alone for even a second in what the writer considered to be an unsafe environment doesn’t value their children. The writer let herself off the hook by making it clear that she considers her children to be worth a million bucks while at the same time implying that I didn’t.

    In fact, I think exactly the opposite is true. Not only do I think my child is worth a million bucks, I think other people who interact with him will see his potential. I think those people, if my son is threatened or hurt, will react to protect his potential if I’m not present to do so. I believe that the vast majority of people are inherently good. And I believe that a million bucks, whether stored in the mattress or kept chained to my side and never spent, is a fortune that has been wasted.

  44. I understand your anxiety, and can only join the chorus of those saying please, please don’t give up. Your book has SIGNIFICANTLY changed our family for the better, and we were already what I called “half-range” to begin with!

    My daughter (10) has been riding her bike to school for a month now, with buddies, but no adult. It started out with just her wanting to and me saying yes, which traveled through the grapevine and triggered a flood of calls from the other moms. “Are you REALLY allowing this? Are you nuts? What if this/that? But but but…” And many conversations and several holes bitten through my tongue later, we have 4 regular riders and many more that, although they aren’t allowed on the school ride, are allowed a wider radius of the neighborhood for riding.

    The whole pack of them roam the neighborhood after school and on the weekends, with no adults around. They’re all still alive and well, some of the moms have relaxed and seen the light, and the kids have met many neighbors they didn’t know at all before. One elderly neighbor has been given the nickname “Candy Man” because when he sees the pack of them go by, he goes out to the street with a big bag of candy and lets them each choose one. (Needless to say, they looooove the Candy Man!) Another one has a dachshund they just adore, so they’ll go up and ask if they can “borrow” her dog to pet for a while. Sometimes they’ll show up en masse at another kids house, grab the family dog, and take it for a walk (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen 8 kids walking 1 dog).

    Without your book and this site, I don’t know that I would have allowed the school ride. And look what it started! I won’t be taking my daughter to the park and leaving her there on Saturday. I’ll be telling her to get on her bike and GO to the park and hang out with her buddies, and be home when the street lights come on! (Meanwhile, I’ll be leisurely reading on the couch!)

  45. We learn from trying.
    This started with your son seeking the challenge and adventure of navigating the subway by himself. This is becoming a challenge and adventure for you navigating the information highway, and broadcast airwaves, by yourself.

  46. You are a hero to most of us. We got your back! Let’s hope the media will also pick up some great stories too about how much fun the kids had.

  47. Go, Lenore! I sincerely hope you do not become a martyr for the cause, but it wouldn’t surprise me — because the cause is a good and worthy one, and the enemies of freedom and independence are great.

    Oops, sorry if I sound like some right-wing conspiracy theorist there. In fact, many of the causes dear to my heart — e.g. homeschooling; homebirthing; small, sustainable, independent farming; family businesses; and yes, bringing up independent, responsible, capable children — have three things in common: a joyous affirmation of life, communities, families, nature, and freedom; a strong appeal to both the “right” and the “left” (albeit to a minority on both sides); and a fanatical opposition quite out of proportion to the “threat.”

    John Holt said it best: “One of the saddest things I’ve learned in my life, one of the things I least wanted to believe and resisted believing for as long as I could, was that people in chains don’t want to get them off, but want to get them on everyone else. ‘Where are your chains?’ they want to know. ‘How come you’re not wearing chains? Do you think you are too good to wear them? What makes you think you’re so special?’”

    Good causes attract opposition; great causes attract great opposition. Hang in there!

  48. Of COURSE everyone will blame you if anything goes wrong tomorrow. I mean, why should any parent blame THEMSELVES for not equipping their child with the appropriate social and physical tools for living in society when there’s a PERFECTLY good scapegoat right in front of them. I mean, really! Who would bother to teach their children such things as stay in a group, scrapes and bruises happen, or family code words when they can just point the finger at you instead?
    ============================================
    I still don’t understand how the definintion of “parenting” went from “teaching your dependent child to be a responsible adult” to “keeping your child dependent on you for life.”

  49. There IS a risk that something will happen to mar this event in the media. But as you have pointed out many times, risk is part of life. More importantly, even if something negative does happen, that doesn’t negate the not-so-obvious benefits of this event.

    Thanks for putting yourself in the crosshairs on behalf of the rest of us. Thousands of kids will benefit for the price you’re paying.

  50. Do hang in there, Lenore. If I were not a regular reader, I would never believe that this country was so insane in their attitudes about kids and safety. I thank God that my kids have it so good. Every day for the last 2 months, they have been going out to play – my biggest struggles have been in making them eat dinner and do their homework! If they didn’t have friends who were allowed to go out to play, I guarantee that I would not be able to get them to go out, and they would be in front of the TV all day.

  51. It makes me sad to see mothers attacking mothers about absolutely EVERY aspect of child-rearing – even before you decide to get pregnant! Some of it stems from the human need to know WHY something happens. And some of it is the Blame Game. If, as a mother you are told constantly by other mothers, by safety products and books, and by media and ‘common knowledge’ that YOU CAN keep your child safe at all times and if you don’t it is solely your fault then you are going to start to believe it. If you buy all the products, and invest in all the background checks and research then CLEARLY you have done everything you can. That way, if a tragedy happens – it is someone else’s fault.

  52. Please, Lenore, don’t give in to the “bad”. Those thoughts will haunt your mind and destroy everything you’re hoping to accomplish here. You have a lot of support from all of your friends.
    All I’ll say is I had a similar incident a few weeks ago where some overprotective, missinformed parents and park employees made me feel like some sort of monster for doing nothing more than showing up at a ballfield – alone – to watch some kids play baseball.
    The incident still angers me so much I still haven’t found polite enough words to talk about it.
    Don’t let them do this to you Lenore.
    Please – everyone – don’t let them do this.

  53. wow… reading these comments… Lenore, do you realize how many kids’ lives you’ve improved already? don’t know about you, but Neener’s post above brought an actual tear of joy to my eye!

  54. What a bunch of brain washed morons. They are the “knuckleheads”. It’s because of these parents that I fear for our future. Imagine a world where all the paranoia, fearful, insecure, uneducated (in terms of social awareness or better known as street smarts) raised children grow up and lead the world.

    I can see it now, laws where you have to be home at a certain time. No more toys…period. They are all potentially dangerous. You know…the “what if” factor. The Boogeyman bill will be passed. In which, because you never know where the predator will come from, or when he/she will appear, so anyone that remotely fits that profile will be jailed and executed. Don’t ever want to take that chance. You know…the “what if” factor. Economy will be crippled because companies like the ones who promote travel and tourism will be to dangerous, there’s been enough plane crashes over the years with many people dying. It’s not safe to fly in planes. Or ride in cars for that matter. No more sports, because that’s dangerous too. No skates, no bicycles, no skateboards, not even marbles. It will also be manditory to always wear protective gear when stepping foot out of your house. ie. helmet, knee and elbow pads. And inside the homes, everything must be padded down. Fines and jail time will be implemented for those that don’t comply. After all a child can trip at any given time. All parents MUST have a license to have children. Wherein they must take an extensive course in how to constantly protect your child at every given moment. After all, anything can happen. You know…the “what if” factor.

    Maybe even in the distant future, people will fear so much for children that they will ban births all together, and create virtual children you can raise on your computer screen. In an environment where no harm will ever come to them. Or perhaps, once they are born, somewhere, somehow, a paranoid child all grown up will create a cryogenic box where parents can put their child into for all time to protect them under lock and key. You know…there’s always that “what if” factor.

    OR… we can raise our kids with love, understanding, patience, and equality. Teach them that the world isn’t as bad as a lot of people make it out to be. Teach them to be self reliant, confident, and be able to deal with any situation that is set in front of them. Sure…”what if”. IF. When it should be “what is”. On that note…here’s a free-range kid if I ever saw one. Happy. http://www.parentdish.com/2010/05/14/little-girls-daily-affirmation-makes-us-happy/?ncid=webmaildl3

  55. Why wait.

    Last evening, since we are expecting rain this weekend, I took my kids to the “park.” It was actually our local botanical garden, which had a special collection of tree houses built around the grounds. I walked the kids from tree house to tree house and sat in the nearby picnic tables and studiously ignored them.

    Because of your idea here, my 5 year old daughter got stuck on top of three tree houses, too scared to climb back down by herself. I still ignored her until her cries were just too much. I then “helped” her back down the ladders of those three places by making her do all the work and me just being behind her, talking her through the process. The last several tree houses had similar ladders, and by the fourth one, she didn’t cry and didn’t need my help anymore.

    So I blame YOU for my daughter overcoming her fear of climbing down a ladder.

    My 6 year old son got into quite a few arguements with his 5 year old sister, who wanted to shadow him around the entire time. In the process he stepped on her fingers twice, pushed her down once, and generally ran away from her at top speed more times than could be counted. But when another boy pushed her down, my son told him to cut it out and leave little girls alone.

    So I blame YOU for my son protecting his sister in my “absence.”

    We eventually made our way to the Butterfly House, where they wouldn’t leave my side as I showed them various flowers (daughter LOVED the colors), turtles, fish, honey bees, box turtles, snakes, lizards and the butterflies. I watched as a butterfly landed on my daughters face, the look of sheer terror in her eyes as a BUG crawled on her cheek, and her self control as she did NOT swat at it. I asked her why, and she said I’d told them not to hurt the butterflies.

    So I blame YOU on for my children listening to me and learning to overcome fear for something kind.

    I then turned them loose in the “playground” which was a collection of rocks in a gravel yard. Some of the rocks had water bubbling out of them. I walked away, sat under a beautiful tree, and read a book. I have no IDEA what they did, but they played with about a half dozen kids who’s parents were helicoptering all over them. When it was time to go and I came back to the play area, collected my kids and started walking off. Every one of those kids came over to tell my children goodbye. And the most helicopter parent there came over to talk to me.

    So I blame you for being cornered by a helicopter parent after showing off Free Range Parenting.

    She asked me why I left my children alone like that. I told her that I trusted them. She asked wasn’t I worried they’d misbehave, I said no. That they’d get hurt? I said no. I thought that she was hinting at something and I asked if they did misbehave in some reason.

    She told me flat out, No they didn’t. In fact, they were the best behaved kids there. They always shared, offered to help the little ones climb on the rocks to play in the water, and helped parents pick up toys as they got ready to leave. She said at first she was worried because they also both ran around like banshees, but exceedingly polite ones. And she said she’d never seen her child have that much fun. How’d I do it?

    I told her that I walked away. Then I explained the idea of free range parenting, letting them explore, letting them make mistakes. I gave her your website and told her to look into it. She looked EXCEEDINGLY skeptical, like I’d just told her to cut her child’s hand off, but she couldn’t stop watching my kids having a ball. And my little girl? She rushed over to this young mother’s daughter and hugged her goodbye… then hugged the mother and told her thanks for letting her play.

    I don’t think I converted this mother to Free Range, but I think I gave her something to think about.

    I blame you for that too.

    So before anyone else blames you for something that happens to their children this weekend, let me say thanks for all that you do for mine.

  56. Lenore gets tons and tons of blame from me for my kids making friends and being able to run the neighborhood. I was never exactly a “helicopter.” I never believed in solving all of a kid’s problems, I’ve always been adamantly opposed to helping with homework and deeply resented when the school one of my kids went to worked things so that either we hand-held him through it every night, or he failed — but it had never occurred to me not to believe the truisms about how dangerous the outside world was. I was never paranoid, but I just hadn’t thought it through. My husband was something of a corrective, but when it came down to asking Mom’s permission I was always somewhat more gun shy.

    Running across Lenore’s philosophy made me realize I could let them go physically free to a much greater extent. And besides the fun of having more friends (being homeschooled, this can sometimes be tricky) and the freedom, they really have learned to deal with conflict and all those things that being out and about on their own more, promotes.

  57. @Eric: Actually, my experience with helicopter-kids is that they have no understanding of risk at all, because they’ve never been exposed to it, so rather than avoiding all situations because they “might” be “dangerous”, they get themselves into stupid situations that *are* potentially dangerous (eg. getting drunk every night and driving, cocktailing drugs that are dangerous enough on there own, going home with people they just met at clubs, etc).

    If every possible danger in the world is infinitely scary, there can’t be a difference between walking home on your own and meeting a person you met online in a secluded area. Not saying that one-night stands and meeting people from the internet are always going to end in trouble, but there are fairly obvious precautions you can take, and these overparented new-adults have been prevented from learning them or figuring them out.

  58. Lenore is right in that if anything happens to any child at a park this weekend, probably even a child that the parent is holding on to as they go down the slide – will be blamed on Lenore. So I encourage all of you who comment on this site to both email your successful day to this site, and also to your local newspapers. Flood the newspapers Saturday night with what a wonderful day your child had at the park playing with all of the children in their neighborhoods who they had never met before. And if on Sunday, they only write about the handful of bad things that happen, flood the newspapers, Letters to the Editor again. And if there is anything on talk radio, flood that with your calls too. Fear is a louder voice so we must overwhelm it with numbers.

  59. @spacefall: that’s true too. Always extremes. But the one common thing is that what they know, is only what there parents show them. If parents don’t educate, kids don’t learn. If parents consistently say no, and don’t give good reason, children grow up rebelling (which end up doing those stupid things you mentioned). If parents are always in constant worry and fear, and explain to their kids the reason, those same kids learn to worry and fear about the same things. Much like physical abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism, these are inherent traits passed on by parents, a vicious cycle. It’s NEVER a good thing for a children to learn the negatives of life. Especially from the ones they are suppose to trust the most. That’s why I always say, it’s very selfish and in considerate of parents to put their children through a life of fear.

  60. Bravo to you that you are getting their panties in a bunch! I’ll be sending my out and will encourage my friends to do the same. It’s better than locking them in the trunk of the car while we go out drinking…sarcasm, sarcasm, sarcasm. I can never resist it. Keep up the good fight. We’ve got your back…unless we’re drunk,of course. ; )

  61. Lenore,
    Thanks for all you do. The media’s reaction reminds me of a story that we did in our (now defunct) satirical newspaper, Takoma Pork. Our parenting issue featured a story on “Detachment Parenting.” Perhaps this is what the public sees as your parenting philosophy. See “How to Succeed in Parenting Without Really Trying.” http://bit.ly/bpKnTW
    Hope you like it.

  62. Lenore, even though you would not normally need this kind of backing, I am happy to give it to you today.
    You are completely right in what you are proposing here. It is not crazy and you are not crazy. Please always remember that even when you get second thoughts right now with all the (unfortunately mainly disagreeing) coverage. Way to go, Lenore!

  63. i don’t know why people would blame you when they could blame george bush instead.

  64. “i don’t know why people would blame you when they could blame george bush instead.”

    Hahaha….love it.

  65. We got your back, Lenore!

    Interestingly, I received a notice today from our local PD about an attempted case of “child annoying” (yes, that’s what they called it):

    http://www.torranceca.gov/TPD/Documents/100028482childannoying.pdf

    The lines that really caught my attention were “The victim intelligently went to several apartments acting as if she was getting help” and “Due to her quick thinking, she was able to keep from getting victimized.” The child is 12-years old and was walking home late from school BY HERSELF. Seems to me that her parents are just the kind of free-rangers Lenore is talking about, and THAT is the kind of child WE should all be trying to raise. This is the kid I’d want my children playing with at the local park tomorrow, so I can go get a cup of coffee or read a book without my worry-o-meter going off.

  66. Lenore,
    Hello again from Israel.
    I understand the heat is building up.
    You are promoting a very worthy and important agenda. The uproar demonstrates that you have a true point, even if hard for some to accept.
    I once again add my small support from overseas. As most European responders wrote, things here are not as far gone as in the U.S., but it’s heading in the same direction.
    Until a more worthy local advocate is found, I am proud to announce the Israeli branch of “Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day” on my modest blog- in Hebrew: http://www.hor-ack.co.il/blog/?p=497 .
    Enjoy whatever it is you do while your kids are in the park tomorrow!

  67. Media that will not know who to point to when another child tests positive for diabetes, or learns that he has high blood pressure brought on by a sedentary childhood, or dies in a car crash, as 5 or 6 kids do every day.

    Conversely, media doesn’t know who to point to in the cases of children who grow up with a strong sense of responsibility and freedom, who avoid the perils of depression and substance abuse at a young age because they have been given freedoms and not routinely trampled upon; the kids who speak up and speak out when they see bullies and wrongdoing – because their parents raised them with respect, autonomy, freedom and trust.

    I echo here that you may be a villain (or scapegoat is more like it) to some, but you are a hero to many more. Already children owe some very happy memories to your influence; the ripple effect is wonderful to think on.

  68. My children ( the middle two) aged 6 and 12 took their scooters out of our close and onto the adjoining roads this evening. They have not done it before and I must admit when I caught the younger one I hesitated to tell them both to come back in and, instead, I left them to it.

    I am grateful that Lenore reminds me what it was like when we were kids.

  69. Hey, just adding another voice to the “hang in there”s. I think you’re very brave to put yourself in the public eye in this way, and further I think it’s sad and ridiculous that someone should be so pilloried for something so trivial. We have your back, Lenore.

  70. Hang in there, I’m rooting for everyone tomorrow! You’ve helped me relax about letting my amost 8-yr old out of my sight for more than a few minutes out in front of our house….yesterday I let him go a *whole 3 blocks* by himself on his bike! (Yeah, I know, progress is slow, but it is progress!)–and you know, he stopped at corners, didnt dart into traffic, and made it home just fine.

    So, no matter the nay-sayers, the straight out neigh!ers (aka donkey’s rears), etc, this is a good trend.

  71. Reading all this reminded me of an article I read in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago, about young employees who were the first generation of college graduates who were raised with the self-esteem-fostering, helicopter-parenting philosophy. Turns out, they’re a bunch of young adults that expect special rewards just for showing up on time every day. That are risk-averse followers who never think outside the box, and never confront any kind of authority. That have no resources for dealing with failure. That cannot accept even the mildest criticism with any kind of equanimity. Oh, boy. I am really glad I didn’t raise my kids like that! Because they are, all five of them, self-sufficent, hard-working adults who can take care of themselves. Lenore, keep up the good work!

  72. You’re doing the right thing Lenore. You have our support. We’ll be getting the word out for sure, letting everyone know the great things that are going to happen tomorrow.

  73. Here’s to hopes for a great tomorrow! Don’t let the paranoid parents get you down.

    My kids will be at a karate tournament all day, but they go out and play on their own for a couple hours a day most days anyhow. Riding bikes, knocking on the doors of friends’ homes to see who can play, that kind of stuff. Wish I could send them to the park tomorrow too, but the day doesn’t look to be working out that way.

  74. Even seven or eight is being conservative. [shrug] I remember playing outside, out front, either by myself or with a friend or two, before my divorced mother remarried, which means I was four at most. I’m pretty sure I was three for at least part of that memory block. I was probably around seven or eight before I could go to the nearby park (a thirty-second walk away, but across a fairly busy street) by myself, but I could play in the fenced yard, and leave the yard with friends, or leave the yard by myself if I told where I was going, which was usually to a friend’s house withing a few houses in a couple of directions. This was before I was in kindergarten.

    I got the usual range of bruises and skinned knees and one or two sprained ankles, but getting minor injuries taught me what I could and couldn’t do, and reminded me to be careful. Until next time, when I usually got another reminder. None of them killed me, nor was I permanently maimed, so I count the lessons worth it, and also the freedom to play by myself or with my friends without an adult constantly hovering.

    I’m 46, as a data point.

    I’m sure one or two kids will get hurt this weekend, if only to the level of those sprained ankles I got when I was little and didn’t watch where I was putting my feet while walking along the top of a low wall. And yeah, I’m sure there’ll be various ratings whores in the media who’ll try to fan a fire of outrage in your direction. :/ Those of us who know you’re doing right can tell them where to go and what to do when they get there, on your behalf. {{}}

    Angie

  75. thank you! Keep shouting the message. Your following is growing.

    If at some point you want to really open things up and convert this blog into a community site that allows for additional contributors, arranges meet-ups, etc, count me in! I’m guessing that several of the other frequent contributors (Uly, grammonster, et al – I’m talking about you!) would also contribute. It could become the Huffington Post of parenthood.

  76. @Angie
    Even seven or eight is being conservative. [shrug]

    Yeah, I always wonder about this as I’ve let my kids outside since the oldest was 6 and the youngest 4. It definitely depends on the child, but the ironic thing is the parents who never let their kids out often do have kids that can’t handle the things my free-rangers can. Which is fine, I just hate to think some people look at certain 8 year olds and project that child’s inabilities onto mine (and maybe even go on to “bad parent”-label my arse). You know?

  77. Kelly — right, it depends on the individual kid. [nod] My parents and other custodial adults thought I was good to run around outside without adult supervision before kindergarten; someone else’s kid might not be up for that at the same age. But it can go the other way just as easily. Saying, “I wouldn’t let my kid play alone in the park at age nine, so nobody else should let their kid go to the park alone at age nine — or younger godforbid!! — or they’re Awful Parents!” is just as asinine.

    It just seems to me that a healthy, neurotypical kid even a bit younger than seven should probably be able to handle being outside away from adult supervision, in a reasonably safe neighborhood or park, for at least a little while. If not, then that says more about how the kid was raised than it does about the abilities of kids in general.

    Angie

  78. Lenore, even if everyone in the world turns against you, making you a lone voice crying in the wilderness, you are still doing the right thing by speaking the truth. There need to be a handful of righteous sensible people out there saying sensible simple truths. Don’t worry about the madness targeted at you by the establishment, they are simply trying to drive you insane through “mobbing”. It is they who are insane.

  79. Lenore you are in our thoughts and in our prayersM. There are a lot of people and the numbers are growing who stand with you. You are changing the face of America for the better. “Et the few point the fingers. Truth will win out. Ringht now my grndson is somewher in the playground teaching his friend to ride a bike. Me and his mom are watching a movie in the park.

  80. Unfortunately, Lenore, you’ll probably get the blame for ANYTHING that happens to a child tomorrow. A kid gets kidnapped from his bed, that’ll be your fault. A kid falls at the park WITH his mother present, that’ll be your fault to. Because in this country SOMEONE is always at fault. And the thought process behind blame seems very disconnected from the facts of the situation – like Polly Klaus’ father saying kids shouldn’t play outside alone because his daughter was kidnapped from her bedroom (and the fact that the media even went to Polly Klaus’ father for a comment on this).

  81. No matter what happens on Park Day,
    it would be nice to compare the stats with other weekend stats… other weekends in parks where parents are/were present, in cars, on bicycles, accidents at and inside homes – all the many categories where accidents and tragedies happen.

    There are bound to be categories you can point to that are clearly more perilous.

  82. Spent a bunch of today reading comments on the various print pieces about the planned ‘event’ tomorrow. Really, some lame-ass comments, but I think that the responses overall weighted in Lenore’s favor. Yay!!

    Kudos, Lenore. You got yourself a set of brass ones there lady. Keep it up! As I’ve stated previously, I used to be one of those overprotective moms… When we moved to the Midwest, my wonderful free-rangy neighbors showed me a different way. We’ll probably take Connor to the park tomorrow, and though, as he’s just barely 4, we’ll not be leaving him, we will surely leave. him. alone.

    And @ Brian… TOTALLY DOWN!!! Love that idea! Love love love… And yeah. I bet Uly’d be in too.

  83. Oh yeah… and the Polly Klaus thing… Good grief! That was so long ago! I lived about 20 miles from Petalums when that happened, and on that very night my own then-12-year-old sister was also having a sleepover. My mom got a wee bit freaked out (valid, as she’s had a kid in her care non-custodial-parental abducted, and my youngest brother got stranger abducted from the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park at 5… we did get him back after about 10 hours…) and all the girls slept downstairs in the living room with both brothers parked in front of the doors. Don’t know if anybody remembers this, but the Sonoma Co. sheriffs, I think it was, or the Petaluma cops, or maybe Healdsburg… whatev… actually stopped the guy while he had he in his car. They let him go. She was alive at that point. No interdepartmental communication. Absolutely NO relevance to this AT ALL. Jeezuhs, Mark… really?

  84. Maybe, Lenore, maybe some kid somewhere will have an incident and you will be blamed. Chance is probably one in a million. Much, much more likely, the day goes on without incident except maybe a minor skirmish or skinned knee and .. bam… you have really, really started your movement.

    Thank you for doing this.

  85. Lenore,

    No matter what happens your drive to get people to let their children be children is important. That means playing outside, running in packs, and taking chances. No one wants a child to be hurt, kidnapped or killed or a number of other horrible things and it is always terribly sad when it does happen. Yet I think the chance of the horrible happening is small is worth what is going to happen when they turn 18, or even 21 and have NO idea how to function without someone telling them what to do.

  86. You’re a brave, brave woman, Lenore. I have much admiration for your thick skin. Good luck tomorrow!

  87. Oh, I don’t have anything special to add but THANK YOU, and good luck.

  88. THANK YOU for having the courage to do this, you have all of us behind you!

    The car is a great parallel: we all willingly and knowingly put our kids in cars, because we think the benefits of a car-based life outweigh the risks/disadvantages. As a society, we therefore agree it is OK to put our kids at risk for things that suit us. It would be incredibly hypocritical for someone to turn around tomorrow and say, “but a child was hurt at the park…!”

    Let he or she with no-kids-in-cars cast the first stone!

    PS. It’s the 22nd already here in Sydney, Australia so we did our Play in the Park today. We lived to tell the tale! Had a ball and I’m so super proud of my 6 yo’s initiative, self-reliance and common-sense! Can’t wait for next year!

  89. I had a woman insult me once because I had the audacity to read at the park while my 2 year old was in the sandbox 3 feet away.

    Bless you.

  90. Jerseygirl, I always read at the park while my kids were playing. It was the best way to keep myself from interfering when they climbed — not only on the jungle gyms (which were more exciting in those days) but also along the top bars of the swing sets and other such places designed to raise the parental heart rate. They were older than two, but not by all that much. They did great; they knew their limitations. But if I’d acted nervous or told them to be careful or they might fall, they would have fallen for sure, having allowed me by my interference to take the responsibility for their own safety away from them.

    It comes down to knowing your kids, which no person can do for another. The pity is so few of us really know our own children and their capabilities.

  91. We’re with ya, Lenore! My children are out and about right now, making plans to go to the park…or whatever–oh, off to the coffee shop for an icecream cone! 🙂 And other than being glad to have your blog and readers on my side, letting them range free is my decision. I’m the parent, after all.

    Be strong; you have done the entire country a favor by bringing the free-range kid issue to light. Thank you!

    PS I’m not sure about that quote from Polly Klaas’s dad. In Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, Klaas is quoted as saying he thinks children SHOULD have freedom to roam alone, albeit with a cell phone.

  92. This is obviously a hot topic! Thank you so much for bringing out these issues which I never thought were much of an issue. Every parent has a different child and every parent can make their own choices.

  93. Thank you, Lenore. From a reformed helicopter parent and her strong, competent children. We’re taking a common sense approach, and thanks to you we’re cutting our children slack, teaching them about personal safety, and in reasonable doses, unwinding the apron strings.

    Our job as parents is to raise strong, resilient children with common sense….you can’t teach children about the world when you raise them in a bubble. Of course, you can’t throw someone who’s never been in a pool into an ocean and ask them to swim. As our parents did in the 70’s, we’re slowly giving our 5 and 8 year old lessons in personal safety then ….creating safe exploration activities continuously widening the area around our neighborhood that they play in…. We’ve started by sending our children on errands around the neighborhood..building their confidence and deepening their experience with the world.

    Our culture has underestimated children for far too long. We’re raising a nation of fearful children with co-dependency issues that I dare say, we will complain about from our nursing home wheelchairs without relent.

  94. Renewing my driver’s license by mail today, I read the stern statement ” If you are a male over aged 18 you will automatically be signed up for selective service”.

    We are a country that reports our neighbors to CPS for allowing children to play outside alone at the same time we expect our neighbors to send their sons into a war zone to protect our ‘freedom’.

    God help those “selected” young men raised as hot house flowers who may one day find themselves in a true life or death situation.

    We live in an era where celebrity victim parents promote laws in the name of their children that do nothing to protect children.

    Not one law passed in the name of a child victim would have ‘saved’ the child it is named for.

    Polly Klaas was kidnapped from her own bed, as was Elizabeth Smart, as was Jessica Lunsford.

    Our children’s lives are more in danger from the Twinkies and Ring Dings being stuffed in their faces as they ‘safely’ watch TV, or the Happy Meal in the back seat while being shuttled to and from ‘playdate’.

  95. Nobody’s saying leave your kids in front of the TV and stuff Twinkies and Ring Dings in their faces. And to say “not one law passed in the name of a child victim would have ‘saved’ the child it is named for,” is just totally uncalled for. Ever hear of an “Amber Alert?” Plenty of kids have benefited by this law and Since she was alive for 2 days before being killed by her kidnapper, I’m pretty sure Amber Hagerman would have had a good chance of being alive today if an Amber Alert had gone into effect at that time. By the way, Amber was 9 at the time of her kidnapping. She and her 5 yr. old brother went for a quick bike ride “just go once around the block,” which turned out to be the parking lot of a local grocery store that had been closed for some time. The neighborhood kids liked to ride down a ramp there. They rode down the ramp and the 5 yr. old rode back home while the 9 yr. old Amber stayed to take one more ride down the ramp. They never saw Amber again, even though a neighbor heard screaming, saw a man hauling little Amber away in a pickup truck and called 911 right away. It took 8 minutes from the time the kids had left for a quick “once around the block” until that 911 call. Here is a quote from Amber’s Grandmother. “That was it,” she said. “Eight minutes—eight minutes from the time she rode away on her bicycle until that man called 911. People have to know that this is how fast these things can happen.” http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/famous/amber_hagerman/1_index.html.
    I truly hope nothing happens to any of these kids because of this “leave your kids (7 or 8 yrs. old) at the park alone” day. And I don’t think that taking your kids to the park and sitting nearby is “helicoptering” over them. You’re there while they are playing to keep them safe so if they fall off the jungle gym and do hurt themselves, or if something else happens they are safe. What’s wrong with that? And by the way, Amber’s mom used to ride on the same streets when she was little too. Sorry people, kids ARE in a more dangerous world today that when we were young. And SgtMom – there is a great chance Amber would be alive today if the law in her name had been enacted at the time. Other kids would be here too if the laws they were named for had been enacted at the time.
    Also, I was careful of my kids when they were young. I went to the park with them, they went to the corner store with their older brother, not by themselves until they got older. I was careful. The three of them are grown, independent, responsible adults. They show up for work on time every day and don’t expect any special rewards (beckys) and can think outside the box and take care of themselves. They’ve all traveled out of the country, together and by themselves (2 girls – 1 boy) And one of them, that’s what she loves to do – travel by herself. A lot. Scares me when she does, but I’m used to it now. I’m very proud of all of them. Lenore, I still think your’re crazy. I hope these parents don’t think “WOW, nothing happened to my kid on the 22nd, so I’ll let them run around all day every day @ 7 or 8 or even 9. Cause then, something eventually will happen that didn’t need to.

  96. You know, Katie, there IS such a thing as the paragraph break. It makes your posts much easier to read. You can’t indent easily on the internet because extra spaces automatically collapse (well, you can put in a non-breaking space, but let’s not get into that), so just hit enter TWICE instead of once. It’s that easy.

    Ever hear of an “Amber Alert?” Plenty of kids have benefited by this law and Since she was alive for 2 days before being killed by her kidnapper, I’m pretty sure Amber Hagerman would have had a good chance of being alive today if an Amber Alert had gone into effect at that time.

    Amber Alerts are actually a big problem. IF they were used ONLY in the circumstances for which they were intended – a KNOWN child abduction, where the child is KNOWN to be in danger and the abductor or his/her vehicle CAN be identified – we’d have less than 115 of them a year, nationwide. (That’s about the number of stranger abductions there are yearly.) Instead, they’re often used for just about every missing child case out there, even when it’s probably a runaway or a familial abduction, and this means that they’re less effective in those cases where there IS a risk. Plus, of course, this constant harping of Amber Alerts convinces people that there IS something to be scared of, even when there’s probably not.

    Here is a quote from Amber’s Grandmother. “That was it,” she said. “Eight minutes—eight minutes from the time she rode away on her bicycle until that man called 911. People have to know that this is how fast these things can happen.”

    And that’s terrible. You know, grown-ups occasionally (very rarely, but it does happen) get abducted and killed by strangers as well. But we don’t suggest that grown-ups travel in pairs or stay inside their homes. Why is that? It’s not really any safer for adults than for children, especially if the adults never had a chance to learn to take care of themselves.

    And I don’t think that taking your kids to the park and sitting nearby is “helicoptering” over them. You’re there while they are playing to keep them safe so if they fall off the jungle gym and do hurt themselves, or if something else happens they are safe. What’s wrong with that?

    What’s wrong is that you can’t give up so much of your time every day, so your kids don’t get to the park very often because you’re worried about what might happen.

    What’s wrong is that your very presence keeps kids from working out small problems on their own.

    If your kid falls off the jungle gym, guess what? Either you would not have been able to help to begin with, or somebody else there – a grown-up with a younger child, or an older kid – will be able to call for help, especially now that everybody has cell phones! Stick your phone number in the kid’s pocket and call it a day.

    Sorry people, kids ARE in a more dangerous world today that when we were young.

    No. They’re not.

    The crime rate has dropped all over the country. It’s significantly lower than when I was a child (when it was actually at its peak!) How is this more dangerous? The violent crime rate has dropped as well, of course, which is what matters. Playgrounds are built with padding under where you can fall. So long as you’re not there with the sun shining on it (in which case you can get a second degree burn, so that’s kinda a wash) it’s safer than when I was a child. We have vaccines for diseases we didn’t have vaccines for when I was a kid. How is that more dangerous? We have safer car seats and bike helmets, for crying out loud! In every single respect you can think of, life is safer for kids today than it was only 20 years ago!

    You can keep saying “oh, it’s more dangerous, it’s more dangerous”, but saying it doesn’t make it true. You haven’t looked this up. You haven’t read the facts. You’re just saying what you want to believe. Why you want to believe that, I don’t know, but if you didn’t you’d do some research and learn something.

    Cause then, something eventually will happen that didn’t need to.

    You’re right. Eventually, some children will get hurt. *shrugs* That’s life. Kids get hurt.

    Every choice we make comes with a cost. When you let your kid go to the park by himself, the cost is that things will happen that you don’t know about. And there’s a potential cost that your kid will get hurt.

    But the converse is also true: NOT letting your kid go to the park by himself ALSO comes with a cost. The cost is that your kid doesn’t get to go to the park that often, because you have things to do. The cost is that therefore he gets less exercise and sees his friends less. The cost is that your kid grows up just a bit more scared than he has to be. The cost is that your kid has to wait until he’s older to get practice doing things without you. The cost is that when he DOES go to the park, you have to give up your time to make that happen. The cost is that there’s less of a sense of community because the kids aren’t outside making community happen. The cost is that there aren’t as many kids at the park to play with because they all have to wait on their parents to go.

    This is true for everything. Should you drive to the store, or should you walk?

    Well, if you walk, there’s a cost: It might take you longer to get there (hilariously, this isn’t always true, as some of my friends who drive have learned to their chagrin!). You might get rained or snowed on. You might need to start a movement to make your community more walkable, or move to one that is.

    But if you drive, there’s still a cost: There’s a surprisingly large risk of death. Car accidents are THE leading cause of death for children 15 and under. (If you want to keep your child safe, stop worrying about the park, worry about your damn car!) You have to pay for gas…which pollutes the air and contributes to asthma. You have to pay your various fees just for owning the car, the insurance and all that. You don’t get as much exercise. You’re more cut off from your community.

    Everything has a cost. The potential cost of sending your kid to the park alone (they might get hurt or harmed in a way you could’ve prevented) is so unlikely that it hardly bears mention. 100, 200 kids a year, for the whole nation (and most of them teenagers, let’s just point out) is tragic for their families, but not actually a risk. You literally have a better chance of being struck by lightning. The potential cost of driving your kid to the park? Very high – kids die in car accidents every single day.

  97. Katie – may I point out to you that the Amber Alert is not a ‘law’. It is a emergency response system that, just as is the case of sex offences, are crimes comitted mostly by family or aquaintences.

    Megan’s law, the Adam Walsh Act, Jessica’s law, Chelsea’s law Somer’s law Jacob Wetterling Act Dru’s law have not verifiably saved one single child or made things even slightly safer. We are all scareder than ever!

    These laws have verifiably lead to the murders of those on registries, family members of those on registries, and innocent people mistaken for those on registries. We are cutting school budgets drastically while pouring money into enforcing laws that -according to the numbers- have not altered these crimes at all.

    I was utterly terrified to leave my children in daycare because of the McMartin preschool brou haha back in the day. It’s embarassing now to admit how manipulated and foolish I was to believe such a story – and all the other day care hoaxes that exploded in that era.

    Maybe your children weren’t maimed of killed in a car accident because of your protectiveness – or maybe it simply wasn’t their fate. My husband wasn’t killed while serving in Viet Nam – but 54,000 others were. He gives credit to God, not his over-protective mother.

    Bad things happen to good people all the time, Katie. No matter how careful or protective you are. I think you may be taking more credit than is your due.

  98. I agree with SgtMom. Bad things happen. We can’t always STOP it. We do our best to protect our children – part of protecting them is letting them learn how do handle things on their own.

    As for injuries….if Katie read my post from a few days ago it is obvious that my sons 2 most serious injuries (and I do mean serious – level 2 concussion and a split open forehead that required 19 stitches) required with adults *RIGHT* there. There was the boy in our city – 17 years old…playing organized baseball…got hit in the chest – it stopped his heart. He died. His parents were there….his coaches…..other adults. He should have been “safe” by all standards…..accidents happen. sometimes we just can’t stop them.

    Saddly, I do know several people who had been molested as children…*all* were by people they knew and trusted. 😦 Not one had been abducted or forced by a STRANGER.

    Abductions can be terrifying….but you keep you kid locked in the house and what? I’ve been told by a neighbor that is absolutely unsafe for my 10 year old son to play in the yard unsupervised. Why? I have a friend who makes me nervous that I want to let my son ride thru our neighborhood by himself. Gives me self doubt where I had none before.

    *NO-ONE* is 100% safe. But we need to teach our kids to handle themselves as best we can.

    Oh and for the phone # thing….my kids had to memorize my home and cell number when they started school (I felt better with that)….we used to sing our phone number lol…..but it worked they learned both numbers before they started kindergarten. And I do put them on a slip of paper in their pocket before they go off anywhere *just in case*

  99. ~ my sons 2 most serious injuries (and I do mean serious – level 2 concussion and a split open forehead that required 19 stitches) required with adults *RIGHT* there.~

    Oops that should have read – my sons 2 most serious injuries (and I do mean serious – level 2 concussion and a split open forehead that required 19 stitches) happened with adults *RIGHT* there.

  100. I don’t understand why people on here object to amber alerts for non-custodial kidnappings. When my cousins were kidnapped they were in physical danger from their mentally ill mother. Why would that not rate an alert.

    We have a missing child and adult in our area right now. So both an Amber alert and a Missing Elderly Alert. They are asking people along their probable route to be on the look out for any signs of a car going off the road into a hidden area. No accusations of abduction – a fear something happened and they went off the road into a bayou or creek.

    If a toddler/preschooler wanders off and isn’t found in the first search. An alert goes out for people to be on the look out. We are using highway signs, texts, and news broadcasts instead of school/church bells to alert neighbors to be on the look out.

    I’ve also been involved in a reverse amber alert where a child that couldn’t/wouldn’t speak was found wandering on our school playground. Turns out Mom was asleep, toddler was asleep. Toddler got up and got out. Once they found the Mom – the cops forced the landlord to fix the dead bolt some thing the mother had requested multiple time. (she had done the door handle lock but child could reach.

  101. Nobody is objecting to Amber Alerts. And in fact, working as I do at the place that issues the Amber Alerts for our state, I can tell you that Amber Alerts are NOT to be used for family abductions unless the child is in danger from that family member. There are specific criteria that must be applied before an Amber Alert is issued and if the situation doesn’t meet the criteria, no alert.

    This is specifically so that the urgency of an Amber Alert is not diluted. If other areas disregard the criteria, or find a way to tweak the facts to make it seem like the child is in danger, it is diluted. Law enforcement and citizens should not have to be brought into family disputes where no one is in danger, and every time they are, an Amber Alert means that much less.

  102. Repeat, Amber Alert is an alert system with verifiable results, NOT a redundant, punititive law that costs millions and cannot verify even one result.

    In California, Chelsea’s law is set to be signed, costing $45 million dollars – to start. Anyone one of you Mad Mothers in California ready to say yet another law that would not save the victim it is named for ” is worth it”? Your state is bankrupt and your children’s educational system the disgrace of the nation.

    Of course it’s worth it. The kids can always get an education ‘later’ after they’re adults and finally beginning to learn how to navigate the big bad world without your hovering.

    You just have to keep them SAFE until the day arrives they are no longer in any danger, should such a time exist.

    You might as well eat their vegetables for them, too, so they grow up big and strong.

  103. Hi there,

    I just found your blog and have to say we are two birds of a feather, just with different target audiences. I’m a Canadian living in South Africa and I am blogging about the destructive fear of crime that is wracking this country. I have had insane responses to some of the articles about fear and crime – I could not post many of the comments as they were abusive and racist. Anyhow, I love what you do and am putting you on my blogroll. Come have a peek when you have some time!

    Cheers,

    Di

  104. Great site😉

  105. Because my granddaughter was over this past weekend, we were watching an episode of “Little Bill” on Nick Jr., in which Little Bill and his siblings went to the park with their great-grandmother, played on swings, a jungle gym, and on the basketball court, all while great-grandma sat on a bench reading a book. All she said was, “stay where I can see you.” Little Bill climbed the jungle gym, got scared, and was rescued by his older brother, with the great-grandma nowhere in the scene, just occasionally calling “is everything OK?” only to be reassured that it was. Which it was. It made me kind of nostalgic, because now, in the real, paranoid world we in which we live, some nosey-parker mom would call the cops, and great-grandma would be hauled away in handcuffs and the kids would be taken to the police station to call their parents!

  106. Beckys, let’s not start our own urban legends and scares. If you can point to more than one of these incidents where a kid, in sight of grandma, was taken away by CPS because grandma wasn’t actively holding on to him, that’s one thing and indicates a scary trend.

    But I don’t think you can.

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