Would You Leave $1 Million Alone? No? Then Why Leave Your Kid??

Hi Readers — Two things: First, this being Memorial Day Weekend, I am taking a three-day break! I’ll be back in the saddle on Tuesday, but until then, talk amongst yourselves.

Second, here’s a little thought-provoking note I got the other day that should provide plenty of discussion around the picnic table.  (And if you’re reading this in Australia: Sorry! Brrrrr!)

It’s been a great and wild ride since announcing “Take Our Children to the Park…” Day. If you’re near a TV tonight, I’m on CNN at around 8:45 Eastern Time, discussing it. Here are my opeds about it in The Times (of London) and The Guardian. Meantime, I wish everyone, young and old, a wonderful Free-Range weekend! — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: 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 googly 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 playbook 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 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.

Finally, the implication in the axiom of “Don’t leave your child any place you wouldn’t leave a million dollars” is insidious.  The reason WHY just recently bubbled to the surface of my mind as a coherent thought: It is the worst kind of  justification for helicopter parenting.  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 chained to my side and never spent, is a fortune that has been wasted.

69 Responses

  1. I wouldn’t leave a million dollars in my living room. Should I not leave my kid there either?

  2. I suppose keeping your child indoors all day could be like keeping a million bucks in the bank. Growth is going to be a lot slower caged up in a bank (or house) than if I take some risks with that money and invest it.

    Same with kids. If I take a risk and invest in letting them take chances, they’ll probably have better lives. I could lose money by investing, just as kids can get hurt, but if you’re sensible about it there’s a great future ahead.

    Can I have my million bucks now?

  3. What an incredibly dumb comparison. I wouldn’t walk ANYwhere with a million bucks in cash. Does that mean I should never go anywhere with my kid?

    Among many differences, is simple liquidity. Kids are hard fence.

  4. I happen to believe that ALL children are worth a million bucks each. Since that’s the case, I’ll look out for yours in public if you aren’t around and I am. If I’m not around and my 11 year-old is, she’ll look out for your kid.

    It’s not like any sane person is going to not at least look if they hear a child screaming for any reason, and come running to assist if said child is in danger.

    Now, if you leave your million in cash lying around, I won’t steal that either. But I’ll consider it.

  5. Any suggestion of equating monetary value to children, to human life in general, is appalling to me.

  6. Two things. First, our apartment door is at the top of a small flight of stairs that are outside. When I have a lot of groceries I will park my toddler in his stroller at the bottom of the stairs and run the groceries to the door-he is never out of my sight, btw. And then I will bring him and his stroller up. Why? Because it is more likely that someone will quickly run off with my groceries or something out of the bag than my toddler.

    Second, my kids are worth more than a million dollars to me. And I hope someday they are worth more than a million dollars to society. I want to raise responsible and mature kids. The kind that don’t turn into paranoid delusional wackadoos.

  7. If I see a bunch of unclaimed money with no one around I will assume that it is without an owner and that it is available to be claimed as my own. No right-thinking person would assume that a solitary child is available to be claimed in the same manner.

  8. Lenore, I’m not sure it’s relevant, but have you seen this? http://www.alternet.org/vision/147023/would_you_hire_your_own_kids_7_skills_schools_should_be_teaching_them

    Muffin, this sort of thing seeps into my mind, because at your comment the only thing I could think of was the (rare!) infant-snatching case that happened when my mother was a young woman, in NYC. The mother had left her baby outside a store in the stroller, and come back to find the baby gone. And when asked why she didn’t take the stroller inside, she said, reasonably, that she didn’t think of anybody taking the baby, she had been worried somebody might steal the stroller!

    As it happens, baby snatching is as rare today as it was then, and truthfully, whoever took her baby was going to find some way to get SOMEbody’s baby sooner or later, so…. yeah.

  9. If I followed that maxim, my children would spend their lives locked in a bank vault. And I think Social Services would rightly have something to say about that.

  10. Guess I’ll make sure my husband is with me at ALL times, too!🙂

  11. Great essay.

    @somekindofmuffin, who wrote:

    Second, my kids are worth more than a million dollars to me. And I hope someday they are worth more than a million dollars to society. I want to raise responsible and mature kids.

    Well-said.

    I get so grossed out by those who parent with more supervision trying to insinuate those of us who parent differently love our kids LESS. Come on. I don’t make that same claim about them. I truly understand the “helicopter parent” is doing the best according to their worries, fears, values, etc. – and of course they love their kids just like I love mine. I disagree with their assumptions and I don’t use their strategies but that’s a real below-the-belt kind of blow.

  12. I guess I have to be the odd one out. I don’t assume the world is full of people who will take one look at my kid and say “cha-ching!” or “oo la la” or whatever else.

    Well, maybe if it was just one of them all clean and neat and quiet, but not both of them carrying on together, LOL.

  13. What a stupid analogy.

    In addition to the stupidities that everyone else has already pointed out, money is something almost everybody wants, whereas kids — especially someone else’s kids — aren’t. Money is fungible; each kid is unique. Money can be used to buy you food; kids eat your food, plus sometimes they stand in front of the fridge with the door open letting all the cold air out.

    I consider my particular kid priceless — to me, and her dad, and the rest of our family. I don’t delude myself that she has the same value to total strangers that she has to us, but I do think most people value kids, in the abstract, sufficiently to be moved to help out a kid in obvious trouble. I don’t think that many people would put themselves at risk in order to rescue an apparently ownerless sack of cash.

    And I am SO TIRED of being told I don’t value my kid because of the way I parent. OMG.

  14. If I saw $1MM sitting alone in the park, I’d probably take it.

    Might as well lock me up for being a potential kidnapper, eh?

  15. Brilliant deconstruction. I’d like to see this published on ParentDish.

  16. I’d happily take a million dollars that I found lying around the park and mark that down as one of the luckiest days in my life. You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to take a spare child home from the park. I’m guessing that this is the view of 99.9% of the population.

    In other words, that was the stupidest analogy that I’ve ever read. Everyone would love some free money. Even if you’re not remotely materialistic, some extra cash can always come in handy. An extremely small number of people actually want a stranger’s child. A child rarely comes in handy. Heck, there are days that I’m not even sure that I want to take my kid home from the park, let alone steal someone else’s.

  17. Hah. For once I actually had a rejoinder right away. „kids are worth a million? For how do you rent them out?“

    I won’t even go into how absurd the original question is. The person asking it is either morally corrupt or hopelessly naive.

  18. Here’s a thought piece.

    My inclinations as writer/editor tell me this is an unfinished, incomplete, yet worthwhile thought. It frustrates me that I haven’t connected all the dots, but if these wacky words end up helping to connect the dots in some other fashion, I’m OK with that.

    Would you buy a million-dollar property and leave it “alone,” or would you encase it in a vault? Surrounded by an alligator-infested moat? And an electrified 20-foot barbed wire fence?

    Don’t forget that shingles are prone to curling in the sun (after 20 or 30 years) and being ripped off by tornadoes. Paint will chip, siding will warp, foundations will settle, colors will fade. So, the steel-and-lead vault will prevent sun, wind, and weather damage. Oh wait a minute… what? You want some sunlight and access to the weather from your house? And, you’re willing to accept the trade-offs of being exposed to ordinary but manageable risks? Cool… we’ll nix the vault.

    Next, let’s talk home invasions. Since you don’t want to leave your valuable home “alone” and vulnerable, you’re probably aware of violent, armed predators who have blasted their way into a home and wreaked Manson-style devastation. And, more commonly, SUVs and other more massive vehicles in which a driver has been disabled by an aneurysm or heart attack, plunging the vehicle violently through a bedroom (or a basement) wall.

    As a conscientious homeowner, you’re ready to talk about the alligator moat, right? No? Wait… I didn’t mean to be presumptuous… You like your neighbors, and you want them to feel invited and welcomed as they approach your million-dollar home. No matter how much I assure you that the technology embedded in the 20-foot electrified fence will keep the alligators in the moat and never shock a neighbor, you’re willing to pass on that opportunity, accepting the trade-offs and risks? OK, now I’m getting confused.

    I thought you were committed to zero-risk property management. But, you’d rather have sunlight and access to weather than protection from the possible long-term effects of sun and weather. Exasperated sigh…

    And, I thought you wanted to inoculate your million-dollar asset against any possible violent attack. But, you quibble with me about the moat and the electrified fence.

    Fine.

    I give up.

    You, with the “evidence” and “statistics,” believe that more is to be gained by engaging with your neighbors and creating multi-faceted, real-time, face-to-face community between people.

    Don’t be fooled. I will continue selling iron-clad vaults, alligator-infested moats and electrified fences.

  19. Hmm, how do I place a kid into a term deposit so I can have fun with the interest?

    1 kid = $1 million. Average term deposit of 6% for one year = $60,000 a year. That’s a nice amount to live on.
    If I find TWO unsupervised kids I can make $120,000 per year on interest.

    So, where do I sign up?

  20. My kids are worth a hell of a lot more than a million dollars, but who the hell wants them besides me?😛

  21. A funny book that puts all of the media scare tactics into perspective is Fear Less: Real Truth About Risk, Safety, and Security in a Time of Terrorism by Gavin de Becker. I am glad to hear that Take your child to the park and leave them there day went well across the nation. I would have joined it except that my children are 28 and 33, managing very well on their own as they were raised free range. I know if I need it they will be there for me too.

  22. As appalling as the original commentator is for putting a dollar value on their child, they’ve opened that door, so we may as well go through it:

    The biggest problem I have with the argument is that a child, regardless of the quality, is not worth 1 million USD in resale. The author of that particular comment confuses their own sentimental valuation of their offspring with actual market value – and those two things aren’t the same. If you actually wanted to *buy* a child, you most certainly could, and you certainly *wouldn’t* have to pay 1 million for it. If one is going to make an economic argument (even a hysterical and hyperbole saturated one like this) then it helps to compare like with like.

  23. Not sure I agree with that, Stuart. The point is how great a loss something would be TO YOU — if the loss of your child would be (at least as much) as the loss of a million dollars to you, why wouldn’t you treat them the same way? Market value doesn’t come into it at all — kids are worth absolutely NOTHING monetarily to the 99.9999% of people who aren’t child slavers in the neighborhoods most of us live in.

    And the answer is……because completely different things, no matter how you value them, don’t need to be treated the same way. I don’t need to put the same kind of anti-theft device on my house as on my car, for example, even though the house is worth a whole lot more to me than my car, because no one’s going to start it up and drive it away. OTOH, smoke alarms aren’t a big priority in my car because the possibility of it suddenly burning down with people in it isn’t real high. It’s a not matter of how much we value and want to protect our kids, regardless of how that value reflects the “market” for them; it’s that we do it in a completely different way (ensuring they grow up strong and healthy in ALL the ways that matter) than we would value and protect a mil in cash.

  24. This is just plain silly, I would put 1 million in the bank, but can’t think of anywhere I could put my kid where they would be put away and guaranteed.

    Also, if I spent all my time string at my million dollars in the living room, I might be considered socially akward, even if I invited my friends over with their millions and we all stared at them together.

    That said, in my neighborhood here in Sweden, you can walk down my street and see on average 5 strollers parked outside of houses. These strollers are filled with babies. There are no parents in sight. The theory is that babies sleep better outdoors. No baby has ever gone missing. I would not think the record the same if we all left millions….

  25. The point isn’t that the argument is about individual or sentimental value versus market value, the point is that the argument is patently stupid.

    I feel like I need to stand next to a 10 storey tall neon flashing sarcasm sign when I post these days.

  26. The “logic” simply doesn’t hold. I’m usually an honest guy, but if someone left a million bucks lying in the street, I would be seriously tempted to take it. Why? There’s a lot of things I could do with the money. For one, I could stop working and live off the interest.

    If someone would leave a lone kid in the same place, I would first check to see if they are lost. If they are I bring them to the police. Why not snatch them? Simple: it would bring a angry mob of parents and police officers on my case — without any upside for me…

  27. Would you leave a million dollars under your mattress, gaining no interest, never working to make money, never helping anyone, never procuring anything? Or would you send it out in the world, one way or another?

  28. If I had a million dollars, I’d take my kids on a whirlwind tour around the world, keep just enough for my retirement and my kids’ education, and then send my kids to the park. I figure that after making really good use of the $1M, my kids will be even more likely to make good use of their brains and maybe make a difference in the world someday.

    Interesting thing just popped into my head. You have people who do good in the world, and you have do-gooders. Those Hollywood types and those folks who had comfortable childhoods and now want to save the pathetic people with their “compassion.” People who have no idea what it really means to get by on very little. People who truly don’t believe that the vast majority of us have what it takes to succeed inside our skin. I wonder – are free-range kids more likely to grow up to do good in the world, while protected kids grow up to be do-gooders?

  29. I actually laughed at myself about this one day when I realized that I was willing to leave my kids (4,2,0) in the car while I ran into the gas station, but not my purse. Then I realized that it was totally logical. An opportunistic kidnapper is more likely to get caught than an opportunistic purse snatcher, and the consequences of kidnapping are a lot higher. Criminals aren’t ENTIRELY void of common sense (unlike this lady).

  30. ““I would never leave my child alone any place that I wouldn’t leave a million dollars.””

    i.e. 10 feet under ground in the back yard, sealed in plastic with all water & oxygen removed?

  31. Some people are just completely ignorant when trying to justify things they know deep inside is wrong, or completely unwarranted. It’s the FEAR I tell you. These helicopter parents, though I know they lover their children, fear for them even more. Let’s be clear on this, those are two totally different things. The fear makes people irrational, the fear makes people do things even they know is wrong, but can’t help themselves. The fear makes them objectify their children, ie. 1 million dollars. Children with helicopter parents start to become something rather than someone. And yes the fear will have helicopter parents telling themselves, “No,no…that’s not true. You love your children. What your doing is right. It’s the only way your children will be safe. All those other parents are insane, your not.” That’s the reasoning in their heads. But LOVE…when you truly love your children, you teach to them the value of friendship, sharing, caring. Your love teaches them compassion, and to know right from wrong. You teach them to “fish” and not constantly “getting fish” for them. Your love shows them that the positives in life can easily over come the negatives. Your love empowers them, that even when your not around, they remember all the things that you have taught them. Which they use growing up and using everyday to become a better person than they were the day before, and perhaps even be an inspiration to others themselves. THAT is loving your children. And if someone loves money that much, then they have other issues.

  32. Kids aren’t fungible.

  33. @ameriswede said: [I]n my neighborhood here in Sweden, you can walk down my street and see on average 5 strollers parked outside of houses. These strollers are filled with babies. There are no parents in sight. The theory is that babies sleep better outdoors. No baby has ever gone missing…

    Sweet!

  34. @Sky said: Would you leave a million dollars under your mattress, gaining no interest, never working to make money, never helping anyone, never procuring anything? Or would you send it out in the world, one way or another?

    Perfect!

  35. ““I would never leave my child alone any place that I wouldn’t leave a million dollars.””

    Like sitting on the couch in your living room? In the bath tub? On top of the toilet?

    Yes, it’s just irredeemably silly all the way around. “One of these things is not like the other” so that logic does not even begin to work, on so many levels.

  36. I think the point that children aren’t completely helpless is an important one. You now get even older children being treated as ‘helpless tots’ (as the British tabloid media might call them) rather the beings with a capability to act and react. Of course, the more children are treated as such, the more helpless they are.

    If we say ‘My child might go off with a stranger, so I’ll make sure they never get a chance to interact with any’ or ‘My child could be hit by a car, I’ll ensure they never cross a road without me’, not only are we gravely underestimating their ability, but limiting its development, of course.

  37. I would probably divide 1 million dollars up into shares and property investments. Neither of which are suitable places for a child.

    The analogy is stupid and meaningless. Yes, my children are hugely valuable to me, and as the writer of this post has pointed out – their value isn’t measurable, but their lives can only better enhanced by learning how to deal with life.

  38. Yesterday I took my two 3-year-olds to the zoo, along with my sister who was taking her 6mo on her first real outing. I do not hang onto my 3yos as a general rule, and didn’t while at the zoo. As I chatted with my sister and doted on her baby and figured out our next destination, my kids were following along in their customary way, mostly behind, sometimes momentarily out of sight. My “free spirit” youngest frequently got far enough behind that she’d be out of sight if we turned a corner. I checked on them often enough that if anyone got sidetracked, I’d know it soon enough to go find her.

    Amazingly, my kids were still with me (and still intact) when we got back in the car after several hours of this. We had no problems at all.

    As much as my daughters are precious to me, I know all the other parents at the zoo do NOT want to take another kid home! And my kids would definitely let out a yell if someone tried to “steal” them.

    My sister, who’s on her first kid, was a little surprised that I wasn’t more vigilant with my kids. She had a nightmare the night before that someone tried to steal her baby. Someone in the church nursery told her last Sunday about a baby being kidnapped from another nursery, so she took her baby into church with her. I pointed out that while her baby looks to us like the cutest thing ever, to outsiders, she just looks like another kid, and how many people would really want to take someone else’s tired, hungry, incontinent kid home if they didn’t have to? She’ll probably come around eventually. I remember when my kids were infants and I’d dress them the same and they were objectively really cute – turned every head – and the thought of kidnapping crossed my mind too.

    One thing that did bug me. When my kids were walking slowly in the parking lot (it had been a long day), I encouraged them to hurry up and my sister said, “someone’s going to come and steal you.” I know that’s a typical thing to say, but it’s not what I want my kids to be thinking about all the time. On the other hand, I guess it doesn’t hurt if they realize some weirdos might try that. I note that neither of my kids came running after hearing that comment.

  39. To most of us a million dollars is a nice and big round number, but one person that does not want to be on the TV show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is Bill Gates.
    If you never had, did or experienced something, then its hard to know exactly what it is.
    A 10 year old may like watching astronauts and flew a toy rocket but his level of understanding space flight is not advanced enough to get a man on the moon.

  40. Laura has the right idea: my value my daughter greatly, but I value my wife, my parents, my brothers, my friends, etc… as well. Yet I don’t keep them locked up (sounds like something a psychopath would do!); I let them lead their lives.

    Kids have lives too; we don’t own them. We teach them, we support them, we set rules for them (the way a government might) and punish them, but in the end they own themselves.

  41. @SKL
    I remember being mom to a knew baby and having nightmares. I have empathy for your sister. It sounds like she and the church-goer are sort of passing around the “cute kids get snatched” myth (it happens but sooooo rarely) which then becomes organizing principles of some families lives, which has some negative repercussions for our kids. I also think in the final analysis kids’ dependence on us is just scary to some of us (altho’ as been pointed out, they become less dependent if they’re allowed to grow up).

    The idea that if we were all super-vigilant then No One Ever would get kidnapped or victimized etc. It’s an untenable idea but maybe a comforting one to those who want to believe nothing bad could ever happen to THEM.

    @Lihtox
    Yet I don’t keep them locked up (sounds like something a psychopath would do!); I let them lead their lives.
    Exactly.

  42. @Ameriswede: quite a different way of doing things from here — if you recall, there was a case in NYC where a visiting Danish (or Swedish) woman was in a restaurant with her boyfriend, while her young son was peacefully napping outside (in clear view) in his stroller — that caused quite the sh**storm (I don’t remember all the details, but eventually any charges that were being pressed against the mom (who was only doing what she was accustomed to, with no ill intent/negligence intended) were dropped.

    Still, I am amazed at how when you attempt to give your kids more freedoms, you get excoriated by other parents. Case in point: I was shopping yesterday with my 6 1/2 y.o. daughter, who needed to use the restroom, only a stone’s throw from the department in which I was shopping (put it this way, I could easily see the entrance). So I told her to go solo, and I’d see her in a few. I could swear (or maybe I’m paranoid) that someone gave me the fisheye, and the same happened when my daughter was seen entering the restroom sans adult . (The fact that she is small for her age makes everyone think she’s about 5 or so.) Eventually, my guilt got the better of me and I went in, waited for my child to finish up (she also likes to dawdle).

    I also saw one woman, with her two sons — one had to be at least 6, the other 3 or 4, exiting same restroom. Again, don’t you think she could have let the two boys go in solo, in a men’s room, while she waited outside?

  43. When I first read this, I followed Lenore’s analysis, and it made sense; it seemed like the analysis that whoever made the statement meant you to follow (except Lenore’s conclusions are much better). Still, I think we can actually give a better response than just showing that the analogy is absurd… just look at what we ACTUALLY do with a million dollars…

    Other than spending it (let’s assume it’s, you know, an extra million dollars), you don’t actually just hide it and protect it from everything… you put it in a place where it will GROW the most, and, along the line, you’re willing to take some (very remote!) risks with it. You don’t watch it every single moment — you probably check in on it frequently, and are aware of how important it is to you, and what it’s doing, and you certainly want to be involved in any important decisions that truly affect it. Still, most of the work it has to do itself. It will grow with your help or despite it.

    In fact, I’d say we trust our million dollars way more to strangers and have a higher risk of having them, well, abuse it, than any free-ranger does with their own children. How many financial criminals have cost people millions of dollars? But we still trust our bankers and the stock market with our money because we know, statistically, and long term, that’s the best way for it to become more, even with the risks.

    Noone complains because you sold bonds and put them into stocks. Noone complains because you use your company’s retirement plan even though you never really researched the investment company. People WILL tell you it’s stupid to take a million dollars and tuck it away under your mattress, where it’s “safest”.

    So, I think actually a million dollars may be a good analogy for how to measure the risks and rewards of child raising; you just have to do the analysis properly.

    —Chip

  44. Here’s what I wouldn’t do with a million dollars: PUT IT DOWN until I got to the teller at the bank.

    After that, I agree with Chip.

  45. SKL, I had the same conversation with my friend. My five year old brother was off “somewhere”. My friend was worried he wouldnt get to the car, and we had to go to a meeting (so couldnt afford to wait for him).
    Lo and behold he turned up to the car about 5seconds after us.
    Why?
    He had been “hunting” us the whole way, and I had told him we would go without him if he wasnt at the car when we were. So, for 1km he stayed mostly out of my sight (I caught him in the corner of my eye a few times doing army rolls between trees).
    When we finally got home he was telling his mother all about hunting us and how much fun he had. Seems 5yo boys cant get rid of that primal instinct😉

  46. I just remembered, as an addendum to my zoo story – while my kids were moving freely from one monkey cage to the next, a parent came along with two little boys on those backpack animal leashes. The boys looked to be at least 4. I am sorry, but I was kind of embarrassed for that mom. If her kids were so unruly that they need to be tethered in a place where there are no inherent dangers (the zoo is designed for little kids so a serious accident would be extremely unlikely), does she really think someone else would want to snatch the little rugrats? I guess she knows her kids best, so I shouldn’t judge, but seriously. The place was teeming with kids. That alone reduces the chance that anyone will snatch your particular kid – assuming one had such inclination.

  47. I should also add to the church nursery abduction story – I don’t know that it wasn’t a family member who snatched the child. It sounds like something an angry ex-spouse would do after an unsatisfying custody battle. Or if it was a family like mine, with a bunch of older siblings, it could have just been a sibling or aunt who didn’t see anything wrong with picking up the child before the mom mosey’d on down.

  48. Stuart, you’re completely right. It only costs a couple thousand dollars to adopt a kid. It’s free if you foster-adopt. And let’s say you were selling the kid for spare parts: According to http://www.cadaverforsale.com, my daughter is only worth $4,410.😉

    (I caught your sarcasm, but for the average person you should probably add a “Winkie Face” after your comment. It saves having to explain you weren’t serious. Note my above example.)

    Seriously, though, I love my nieces and nephews, almost as much as my own daughter. Do I want them living in my house? HECK NO!!! So why would I take some stranger’s kid, not knowing what kind of weird quirks or annoying habits it had?! All money is the same with no emotional attachment to it. Holy crap, I can’t tell you how quickly I’d pick up a million dollars sitting on a swing!

  49. “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 playbook 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.”

    This part of the post reminded me of an episode of Oprah I saw several years ago. The show “tested” a bunch of latchkey kids who “knew better” than to let strangers in the house. EVERY ONE of those kids got talked into letting the “stranger” (actually a crew member) in the house.

    On a personal note, if someone wanted to kidnap my kid, all they’d have to do is walk a puppy within 50 feet of her.

  50. My problem is as much with the first statement as the million dollars one. How would I feel if something horrible happened to my child? Well, I’d never forgive myself. But the implication is that, if I did absolutely everything “right”, if I kept my child from every possible harm, and then they still got hurt or killed (a distinct possibility) then I would be able to look back and say “Well, that sucked, but at least I was a *good* parent and did let them walk to the park on their own.”

    It doesn’t matter how hard you try and protect your kids, if something happens to them you will feel responsible. The question then becomes whether or not you made sure they had a good and fulfilling life *before* the horrible event occurred. If you kept them caged inside your house and never let them have even a modicum of independence, then the answer is no.

  51. “This part of the post reminded me of an episode of Oprah I saw several years ago. The show “tested” a bunch of latchkey kids who “knew better” than to let strangers in the house. EVERY ONE of those kids got talked into letting the “stranger” (actually a crew member) in the house. ”

    What are the statistics on children being harmed by people who “talk their way” into the home when they’re alone? Maybe this happens and I haven’t heard, but this sounds like another one of those things like the people who sit around dialing random phone numbers looking for kids who admit their parents aren’t home, then drive over to their houses betting someone won’t be there by the time they’ get there, and then harm the kids. I’ve actually NEVER heard of a case where that’s happened. So maybe Oprah’s concerned about kids incapable of protecting themselves from things that don’t happen.

  52. When I was in about the 5th grade, my sister and I were home alone for the evening. Our parents were out with Dad’s immediate superior and the 2 men Dad was training. This is before cell phones.

    We get a phone call demanding to speak to my Father. I give the standard and I thought lame response Mom is out and Dad is in the shower. (My parents thought no decent person is going to demand that young ladies interrupt their father in the shower).

    This guy goes off and demands I get Dad claiming to be from the alarm company. He also rants that one of Dad’s mentorees isn’t answering and the other some girl is claiming they can’t come to the phone. How can all these people not be available on a Friday night. I tell him to call president of the company. He curses. I hang up.

    He calls back and curses. I tell him to call the president. We have old phones that you can’t unplug, so I take the phone off the hook. I look up the phone number for the president of the company and call him. I explain what is going on and that I’ll get in trouble for being on the phone after 8 pm if I leave it off the hook. Mr. F tells me to leave the phone off the hook for 30 min then by then he will have taken care of it.

    Results – The head of the alarm company was called up on the carpet and told point blank his employee was an idiot and to fix procedures yesterday.

    How did I know what to do? My parents raised me to think on my feet. It amazes me when people don’t go beyond the “don’t” and into what can you do idea. My parents had never gone over what to do if crazy guy from alarm company calls and is abusive. They had gone over what happens if Kimberly has an allergic reaction/asthma attack needing ER. Calling our cousins across the street wouldn’t help in the situation -but I applied the principal to the situation and called someone who could help.

  53. […] Would You Leave $1 Million Alone? No? Then Why Leave Your Kid?, by Lenore Skenazy […]

  54. We live in a small Central Ohio community. Our population is around 35,000. We have our fair share of crime, including sadly, crimes against children. However, the majority of the families in our area have and are raising free-range children.

    I sat on my porch a couple of nights ago (around 9 p.m.) and watched as two young girls (10+ yrs. old) made their way up the street talking and laughing, but they weren’t looking over their shoulders in fear of anyone. This afternoon a group of three boys (ages 7-9) came riding up the street, stopped and chatted for a few minutes, and rode off in search of fun at the park. A little while later a couple of older boys (12) sporting swimming trunks and fishing poles, went by on their way to the river. None of these kids had adults hanging over their shoulders. None of them needed adults hanging over their shoulders. They were kids doing what kids should do, watching out for each other and having fun entertaining themselves.

    There’s nothing scary about free-range kids. What’s scary is adults who want to so cripple kids that they never learn the skills they need to survive in our world.

  55. That’s great. I saw the headline and my first thought was, “but most people would be way more interested in a million bucks than in some random kid.” Of course the kid is worth far more than the money. That doesn’t mean he’s more likely to be stolen or harmed.

    Doesn’t anyone read the story “The Ransom of Red Chief” in school anymore? Other people’s kids are trouble. ; ) Sane people–and that’s the overwhelming majority of people–have no interest in stealing one just because he’s there.

  56. As so many people pointed out, there’s something twisted in considering our children as valuable objects rather than real people…

  57. I will never, ever take $1,000,000 and leave it in a college dormitory, although I may pay a quarter of that for the opportunity to leave my child there.

  58. I would not carry $1,000,000 on my person! So, I assume, that means that I should not have any children.

    I would not drive $1,000,000 around in my car. So, I assume, that means I should not be in a car with a child.

    I would not show $1,000,000 to anyone else! So, I assume, that means I should lock my child in a vault?

  59. Wow…I’m flattered and honored. I picked a terrible weekend to go away myself. Thanks, Lenore, for publishing my little essay! *blush*

  60. I love your blog and perspective. I couldn’t agree more with you. I found you through GenX Mom. Thanks for writing.

  61. Once, a long time ago, I was married with no kids, and I had a million bucks, or thereabouts. Really. And I now have kids and no money, and am a lot happier. BUT my point is I would never leave my kids in a place I was happy to leave a million dollars. Bank vault anyone?

  62. Childrens are more precious than money but not leave them in the safe.

  63. We have always happily encouraged our kids to be independent. First forays into the world “alone” were always accomplished as a group first. The girls, now aged 16 and 14, took their brother, now aged 12, to the park down the street with strict rules attached. Someone had a cell phone with them at all time to call if help was needed. Once it was determined that they could handle this, they could range a bit further afield. They are encouraged to walk or bike or skateboard wherever they want to go in town with the understanding that they keep in touch and don’t stay out after dark. They are rarely alone, because they things they do are with friends. They hike in the park along the river, they go to Noodles and Company for lunch or Baskin Robbins for dessert and spend their own money doing so. They don’t always make the best choices, but they are self-sufficient and independent and will be able to function in the real world one day. And I can honestly say I don’t just love my kids–I like them, too. They are interesting people with interesting experiences to share that I know nothing about until they tell me, because they are allowed to live at least part of their lives away from me and my husband.

  64. If one had a million dollars and micromanaged it, fees and poor decisions would erode the value. But locking it away would not work either.

    Sometimes the better thing is to put it someplace a little risky, and let it grow.

  65. This blog is amazing. I am hooked. I tried a “free-range” experiment in the playground the other day. I got weird looks but great results. Here is a post about it:

    http://lastamericanchildhood.blogspot.com/2010/06/free-range-experiment.html

  66. Ok so yes the expression needs some editing. I’m not sure if anyone has seen the news in the past few years but I can think of 10 news stories off the top if my head since my daughter was born 2 years ago about children that have been stolen (some still not found), been attacked, been molested all because they had been left unsupervised. the very week before my daughter was born a baby was stolen from the same hospital i was about to give birth in. Another girl was kidnapped from a shopping centre restroom by a male, the mother was grocery shopping and the girl was 5. Maybe it’s just because my daughter is so young that I wouldn’t leave her on her own, yes she has free rein at home inside and out, and at friends and familys places. She eats dirt and bugs, I don’t keep her wraped in cotton wool so to speak, but my children are Priceless and the thought of letting them do as they please in the wide open world unsupervised where the world is not the same as it used to be just sends shivers down my spine. I wouldn’t even catch a train or walk down the street at night on my own without a phone in my hand so why would I send my child to the park on her own. Sorry if you don’t agree but that’s just me. There are some weird freaky people in this world now days. I’m not scared of my child hurting herself, I’m scared of others hurting my pride and joy, and no-one can say they arnt scared of the same thing, as I said you must have all seen the news in the past few years. Sorry it’s long, and i’m not judging anyones parenting styles I’m voicing my parenting style. Everyone has their own way to raise children and I wouldn’t disagree with how you choose to do it, sorry if it sounds like any of this rant was directed at you.

  67. Kersty, I agree with you entirely.

    While I can agree to some extent the concept of free-range, I do not believe in children being left unattended where help is not immediately available and at hand. In my humble perspective, we as parents have a duty to protect our children. I have too read many instances of young children being snatched (from hotel rooms even) or injured (when I was in Melbourne last year for about 3 weeks, there were 4 instances of children drowning in their backyard pool) I’m not being paranoid, and will resent anyone who tells me I am. I’d rather err in the side of caution. I don’t feel there is a point aiming for an independent child when you might get no child or a dead child in the process.
    We must remember that even if children do “fight back” (and may appear to have monster strength sometimes), they are still children and physically smaller and some may not be able to discern danger.

    And just because a child is “free range” does not mean that they are learning to be effective adults either. I have encountered many “free range” children in department stores who trash the toys in the stores and there are no parents around to check or discipline them . The parents expect other adults (or the unfortunate store assistant) to be the parents instead.

    I do believe in a balance. When I was a child, my mother insisted I held on to her hand (I held on to hers, she didn’t hold on to mine) when we went out to the shops. In other circumstances such as playgrounds she will allow “free range” but will sit at a corner and keep a watchful eye. (And no, she wouldnt handover that responsibility to another parent – because less face it, who would you protect first – your children or someone else’s child? Maybe I’m selfish, but I would protect my children first – it’s my natural mother’s instinct.)
    And really, I’m not any less independent now at 30 than any other person because of her caution.

  68. The pack also offers features that should be considered carefully. Some of them come from a zipper, although some come with snap closure. If you are not familiar with the snap, then you look at the zipper. The characteristics of the material must match your needs. If you do not want pockets on the outside, then you’re looking for bags that come with pockets on the inside only.

  69. As everyone has pointed out: This is a ridiculous comparison. Almost anybody would steal a million dollars if they saw it just lying around (if you claim you wouldn’t, you are only fooling yourself). Yet very very few people are even the slightest bit interested in stealing a child. If I ever had a million dollars you can be sure it would be safely locked up in a bank vault somewhere. Should I keep my kid locked up in a vault too?

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