Guest Post: She’s Breaking Up with “The Today Show”

Hi Readers! This post origianlly ran on Brain Twinkles, a  blog by Layne Aingell. Some of us may join Layne in her break up!  — L.

I have watched The Today Show for over thirty years. I remember when it was hosted by Jane Pauley, her pony tail, and Tom Brokaw. I started watching it as I’d get ready for school during junior high, through high school, college and beyond. I watch it with my girls as we get ready for school and work. It always has interesting stories and does it really get any cuter than Matt Laurer. Plus, I’m waiting for the day that NBC actually does kill Ann Curry.

But I feel it may be time to move on.

After the two lead stories were about the man who allegedly killed Natalie Holloway who is now a suspect in another murder and about a boy who disappeared while walking to his classroom in his school, it occurred to me that almost every morning, the lead story is about a child who has disappeared or been murdered.

According to the CDC, the number one cause of death in children is motor vehicle accidents. In the United States during 2005, 1,335 children ages 14 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and approximately 184,000 were injured. That’s an average of 4 deaths and 504 injuries each day.

Yet those 4 deaths per day are NOT the lead story on The Today Show.

Obviously, the reason is that it is not newsworthy and would not attract ratings.

The Little One performed in her dance school’s recital last night. The school has a policy, that if you want to take your child home early after he or she has performed, you must have a note, signed by your child’s teacher, that you are doing so. I am aware of this policy, and have complied with it every year I knew I would take my kids home early. This year, both The Big One, The Little One and I participated in the recital (more on my appearance later, if I can get video) and they were scheduled for the end of the program, so I stayed for all the performances. I went backstage to pick up my kids while the awards were being announced. As I was leaving with my girls and The Big Ones two BFFs, who stayed backstage with her during the entire show and are NOT students in this dance school, BTW, the Neo-Nazi stopped me at the door: “Where’s your note?”

“I don’t have one, because the recital is over.”

“NO, they are still onstage, handing out awards and making announcements, you have to have your note.”

“The recital is OVER.”

“You cannot take them without a NOTE”

It took me a good 2-3 minutes for it to sink in how ridiculous this was. Seriously? She wasn’t going to let me take my children, of whom I have LEGAL custody, home from a DANCE recital? Hmmm…wouldn’t her preventing me taking them constitute kidnapping and false imprisonment?

By the time I figured this out, and was about to tell her how unreasonable she was being, several other parents came backstage to pick up their children, WITHOUT A NOTE, and were told they couldn’t. So the Nazi left to see if it was OK for the parents to take their own children home, and we all left.

Without a note.

We are rabblerousers.

My point is, I really do appreciate the fact that the dance school is concerned for my children’s well being. However, I seriously doubt if someone wanted to snatch one of mine or someone else’s child, lack of a signed note would not be a deterrent. I know their argument would be “You watch the news, children get snatched every day.”

Yes, children do get snatched every day. The majority being snatched by a parent or family member. Eighty-two percent, in fact, according to the Department of Justice.

The Today Show, and other news sources, are to the point where these [non-family] cases are getting glorified. It feeds the misinformation of what is really dangerous to American children:

Their own parents and riding in cars.

So, I’m breaking up with The Today Show. It may not be forever, because I do love Matt and am concerned about Ann.

But I need a dose of reality, not sensationalism. — Layne Aingell

63 Responses

  1. I don’t even understand how a note from the teacher is supposed to make things safer for the kids. Couldn’t they just be whisked off by a kidnapper after the recital instead?

    I can see they might want to limit disruption due to pickups in the middle of the recital, but how does it make the kids safer?

    Yeah on the boycott – anything to put more pressure on media news to rebalance their perspective. it’s totally out of whack.

  2. the number one cause of death in children is motor vehicle accidents.

    The linked article doesn’t have the word ‘accident’ anywhere.

    Today we hear that Nelson Mandela’s great-granddaughter was killed in a motor vehicle ‘accident’ (AP Headline) (by a drunk driver).

    Until a motor vehicle collision is known to be an accident (not reasonably preventable) it’s not an accident. ‘Accidents’ are unforeseen and unplanned. While I’m sure that other than insurance fraud and movie sets and demolition derby, no car collisions are ‘planned’, ones involving alcohol, cell phones, or speeding certainly can be foreseen.

  3. Just as a warning, I haven’t decided yet if this post is sarcastic or not. Read it with whatever tone suits you most.

    The dance school may have a point. Presumably family members often are invited to recitals. Additionally, those family members may not always get along. After all, Daddy’s attendance of the recital may be just as important to the dancer as Mommy’s (or vice versa). I can see many times where divorced or estranged parents might both be at a recital and just choose to sit as far away from each other as possible and hold their noses. Since, statistically, the child would be more likely to be abducted by a non-custodial parent who may well be in attendance, it makes some sense for the dance school to require the custodial parent to chat with the teacher and get an early release note.

    In fact, this makes as much sense to me as my day care requiring me to tell them who was authorized to pick up my child. If you’re not on the list (or the custodial parent hasn’t told the teacher it’s OK), you don’t go.

  4. My sister’s MIL runs a dance school. She has never had a child snatched by a stranger during a recital. She did have a father without custudy try to snatch a child. The Mom had been smart to give Sis’s MIL the paper work.

    This thin wirey woman stood up to an irate father and a security guard posing as a cop. They were both arrested on several charges.

    She has some pretty strict procedures in place to make sure the kids get to where they are supposed to be. The most important 2 rules.

    1. No parents in the dressing rooms after drop off. She has people who know all the kids, the script, how the costumes are supposed to be, and when they need to be on stage. Parents interfere when they helocopter. The parents should be in the audience showing appreciation for all the performances.

    2. No picking up kids before the recital is over. It is bad audience manners to leave partway and part of her philosophy is that she is teaching kids to be good audience members not just performers.

    Note her recitals have a story line and all the kids are on stage at the end of the performance. When the students are dismissed, the PK – 2nd kids are picked up on stage.

    3rd – Driving self home meet their parents in the lobby.

  5. I understand what Layne means by the media sensation surrounding child abduction stories. I read the same stories, and frankly, they scare the crap out of me. But, while my heart holds fear, I try to let reason prevail.

    I belong to a consumer forum, where people write letters to companies regarding complaints, etc they have. One woman wrote a letter to a bookstore last year complaining that her son was not allowed to browse the books by himself; he had to have a parent with him at all times. The resulting comments on that letter were not about whether the store’s policy was right but rather on how WRONG it is to let an eight-year-old child browse the children’s section in a bookstore by himself for 10 minutes. What if he got snatched? Doesn’t the letter writer read the stories? One commenter even said someone should call CPS on the letter writer.

    Despite a few people trying to provide facts and reason, the hysterical masses were just too strong. I wondered if I was the only one who thought the whole mania was ridiculous. Since that letter, I’ve asked several parents (friends, family, co-workers) if they would let their eight-year-old child browse a children’s bookstore by himself. I was heartened by the answers: most didn’t see a problem with it. One friend even said she – gasp! – lets her nine-year-old stay home by himself while she goes grocery shopping for 45 minutes. She said he’s proven he’s responsible for his age, and he knows not to open the door, answer the phone, etc.

    And it’s that media sensation which only contributes to the belief that predators are EVERYWHERE. And I believe they are. But (big BUT here) I know my child getting snatched by one is quite low compared to him dying in a car accident.

    Unfortunately breaking up with the Today Show is only a small part of the solution. These stories are everywhere, and as long as they provide ratings, they will continue to make headlines.

  6. Congrats to you for dumping the Today Show! I broke up with them back in the Katie years, several months post-9/11 because I could not stand waking up to sobbing 9/11 survivors day after day after day. Not that I don’t sympathize with their grief, but that’s not morning news. That show is focused on misery, sensationalism and celebrities – real ratings grabbers!Might be nice if they showed real news from time to time!

  7. These shows including 60 Minutes and anything on Fox are intended to control people. People who are afraid are easier to lead and easier to sell stuff to.

    Think about how much less stuff you would buy, how much less oil you would consume, how many less prisons and cops you would need if kids were raised to be confident adults.

  8. @Joette, I am fluent in sarcasm.

    There are no rules in place on who can go in and out of the “holding area” (School cafeteria) before and during the show. I think that would be more of a concern.

  9. DMT’s post crystallized it for me. A useful answer to someone who berates you for leaving your kid home alone is: “My biggest concern is my child’s safety. S/he is much more safe at home than riding in my car. Please stop suggestion that I endanger my child unnecessarily.” I like it.🙂

  10. No…not Ann Curry! Nooooooooooo.
    I’ve met her -she’s so nice!!

    But I digress – the problem I am afraid that Layne will have is that there is not much of a substitute on TV. All the morning shows -Good Morning America, The Early show are all like that -so the choices may be Morning Joe which has a whole other set of issues or my favorite -NPR’s morning edition -nice stories this morning on cognitive surplus and since it is Friday -story corps.

    NPR/Morning Edition also had a piece on the 16-year old sailing around the world and that she’s OK – pretty matter-of-fact story without commentary. (Of course the facebook posting of the page has lots of people wanting to throw the parents overboard, but happily MOST of the posters are impressed with the 16 year old and happy that she is safe.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127746582&ps=cprs

  11. PS “And besides, the grocery store is as dangerous as a meat-packing plant. What if she were hit by a run-away grocery cart? What if a stack of Duraflame logs toppled onto her? What if she touched a surface onto which a stranger had sneezed a deadly virus? What if an earthquake caused the roof to collapse? What if a can of tomato sauce exploded next to her? What if the blade came off the deli meat slicer and flew over the counter? What if they gave her a balloon and the string got tangled around her neck? What if she turns out to harbor an unrecognized allergy to artichoke fumes? You’d have to be nuts to take a child to the supermarket!”

    Hee….

  12. Mika,

    The obvious answer is to turn of the TV. For a few months when I was out of work I’d leave the TV on after the local news and found myself getting angry at what the Today shows of the world would put on as news. It was either fear mongering or fluff pieces and in the event it was something interesting the interviews were so bad I never learned anything. So I wouldn’t say I broke up with the Today show (et al.) I had a cup of coffee with then and realized they were a waste of my time so we never had a second date.

  13. I don’t really get the point of the note … and of course the notion that someone tells you you cannot take your child is insane. But what does make sense would be the need to sign a child out. In a situation like a dance recital, there are tons of kids and adults everywhere. And oftentimes, really really little kids. And so I could see, if you were taking a child home before the normal end of things, the need to sign that child out so that whoever on the dance studio end was in charge of her would know she had left and not be frantically trying to figure out where she might be. Frankly, perhaps even more than “protection” this is about simple courtesy. My daughter is at a camp this week where I sign her in and out each day – so that the counselors know when she is there and when she is not. My son is at a different camp, and when he bounds off the bus each day at pickup, I remind him to go let his counselor know that I’m here. I appreciate these people looking out for them during their camp hours, and I want to make sure they know they’re off the clock, so to speak, in regards to my kids!

  14. I guess I should clarify – NPR’s Morning Edition is on the radio -so yes -I have found that the best solution is to turn off the TV.

  15. Oh man. On a slightly similar and silly note. For my dd’s dance recital, in order for her to leave backstage to come sit with us for the rest of the performance, she needs a signed note from us. Which makes sense except the recital is 8 days before her 18th birthday. But since she will be a minor, she still needs a note. Probably the last under age thing I’ll ever sign for her. At least I don’t have to go back and personally escort her to ours seats.

  16. A lot of people have lost the ability to use common sense, and rely heavily on the media to provide them with “information” on what they should do, or how they should be. Like automatons. Which they in turn pass on to their children.

    Free-range kids vs helicoptered kids reminds me of the Simpson’s episode where all the kids were glued to their TVs watching Itchy and Scratchy (with all it’s violence), and at the end of the episode, all the TVs were shut off and they all start trickling out of their house’s. Squinting and rubbing their eyes (like they haven’t seen the sun in a quite some time). Then you see them all playing in the park, skipping rope, riding bikes, marbles, even the stick and hoola-hoop. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0701140/

    Sorry veered a tad off topic. But it does all relate to the “common sense” part. I’m sure that Neo-Nazi isn’t a complete biatch, she just didn’t want to get in trouble for breaking protocol. I’m also pretty sure that part of her common sense finally kicked in, which forced her to seek authorization to let the parents take their kids home. I keep saying fear and paranoia messes with common sense and reason. And the media plays a big part in that.

  17. The first thing that came to mind – as someone up-thread pointed out – is that this is the perfect scenario for a family-type abduction. Divorced, angry parents both attending; the one without custody wants the child. The volunteer parent trying to keep order back-stage sees little Suzy run to hug her Dad at the door. Oh look he brought her flowers, how cute. She has no idea of the custody battle: she does not think anything of Suzy leaving with her dad – until mom shows up and all heck breaks loose!!

    So in this case, while inconvenient, I can understand the whole signing in/out with notes procedure.

    I support the free-range idea 110%. I live it with my kids by giving them opportunities to be responsible for themselves, to make their own decisions and mistakes – all with in a range I think they are ready to handle.
    However, while doing this and coming up against nay-sayers and alarmist, I try not to complain without thinking through the situation and other persons point of view. It just does not serve my stance to bluster back at people with my only thought being I’m right and they are wrong.

    The dance recital scenario illuminates this to me because, as I said before, while the policy may be inconvenient to this particular parent, it may be the safety net other parents need in place to protect their child. Unfortunately, I feel the writer of this post was being a bit selfish and short-sighted – a trap free-rangers should try not to fall into.

  18. Oh, and I am on board with the whole fear and paranoia thing. It’s why my news of choice is NPR:)

  19. A bit off-topic but I have to protest against calling people who are merely being obtuse ‘Nazis’. That is one word which should NOT be watered down to an insult equating ‘stiff-necked pain in the ass’. You might as well call the woman a ‘rapist’ for violating your freedom.

    Please don’t use that word lightly, folks. Every time you do you’re helping the next generations forget about something which should never be forgotten.

  20. (MDZ: I have to agree with you about the Nazi comment. It’s come to mean different things since Seinfeld had their Soup-Nazi character (who was very funny) and I find that a shame. Ok, setting that aside…)

    The only reason the notes are in effect in this situation is so that the dance school is not held responsible for any snatchings of children. My children’s school makes us sign a one-liner document whenever we take our kids out early. Clearly they know who I am and that I have custody, but the document is there to protect them.

  21. With the number of ridiculous lawsuits that are brought into our legal system today, I can understand why adults can be so unreasonable when it comes to things like this. Does it make it right? No. But no one also wants to end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit or get fired for negligence. Until we get rid of lawsuit-happy people, then the need hyper-sensitive school employees is going to be the norm.

  22. ” fear and paranoia messes with common sense and reason.”

    I agree, Eric. (And I know that Simpsons episode you’re referring to. There’s also a very funny one on helicoptering.)

    I believe in common sense in parenting, but I also understand that tendency to overreact and let panic take over. Like I said, I read the same stories others do; there is one child abduction story from England that has haunted me for years. These stories scare the daylights out of me because while my head knows the probability of it happening to my son is rather low, my heart says “but it could still happen….”

    But I’m also trying to let reason and common sense prevail. While I want my son to be safe, I also want him to have the independence and self-sufficiency he will need to make his own decisions and survive in this world. At 2 1/2, he is still too young to completely free range, but I’m trying to let him have little bits of freedom here and there. For example, when we’re at the park, I try not to follow him everywhere and hover, instead keeping him in my sights and knowing where he is. But then I see the looks other mothers give me, and I wonder if they think I don’t care simply because I’m letting him go down the big slide by himself.

    Sorry…I’m rambling. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s a balancing act between my head and my heart and in the end I just try to do what I think is best and will work well for both of us. (I don’t always succeed though…ha ha….)

  23. I like the remark about “fear and paranoia messes with common sense and reason” because I was unclear that I too, performed in the recital and was still in costume which included a cowboy hat when I left. I mistakely thought that the “security guard” (who BTW was a retired sorority member) would acertain that I was affiliated with the school based on my appearance, but perhaps she thought I was just eccentric. Also, I was not the only parent who was wanting to leave with their child.

    I think I just miss the days when The Today Show and other programming had entertaining, informational stories, but in today’s competitive market, that is not practical. I know he’s hokey, but I really enjoy John Tesh’s radio program because he always has some tidbit of practical information for his audience.

  24. I would also hope that the people on this blog would understand that when you are dealing with 150 – 200 students (my sister’s MIL’s Dance school) or 650 – 700 you need to have iron clad procedures to keep track of the kids and who they are with.

    At my school we have a porch full of kids that are picked up. Most live across a high-speed 4 lane highway. There are two teachers in charge of us that work pick up line.

    We have 6 stars on the sidewalk. One of the in charge teacher stands at back about 6 car lengths from star 6. As people pull in she uses a walkie to communicate to other in charge teacher. She calls names sometimes grade levels and star numbers. 2nd teacher then calls the names and numbers. The kids jump up and head to those numbers.Cars pull up to the number they were given. Kids jump in, and 6 cars pull out.

    Usually there is one set of kids being loaded, one set waiting for next set of cars, and 3rd set heading to their stars.

    It is fast and smooth. Still when the 1st teacher has to ask which child someone is picking up. (Rare after the first 2 weeks), she is yelled at and cussed at. My child knows my car you don’t need to check my identity. I’ve even seen it here. She isn’t checking identities. She is just trying to get the kids lined up.

    Now both these teachers have our endangered* children list memorized. If someone out of the usual comes to pick up those kids – we hustle them in the building back to the principal’s office area, and that car has to park, and come in and be identified.

    *These are kids we mostly have court orders on. Most of them have a bioparent or both who have had their rights terminated. A couple have other family members who are unstable or abusive that the parents have notified us about.

    We have a list of kids with the people not allowed to contact them with photographs if possible. There is also an alert if we enter their name in the computer or run their id to make a tag. If that happens not only is the campus alerted but the cops get a message also. We have a fairly large foster child population because our district works with the CPS and we try to keep foster kids in the same school even if they have to switch homes for some reason.They need something stable in their lives.

  25. Murrieta children threatened in ‘manifesto’ by man claiming to be sex offender
    6-11-2010 California:

    Police were posted outside a Murrieta elementary school and nearby streets Thursday after numerous residents were mailed anonymous, ranting eight-page letters that included death threats against their children.

    The letters, which began arriving Wednesday and apparently also were sent to registered sex offenders, urge sex offenders to terrorize Murrieta’s Hillsboro Circle neighborhood and Tovashal Elementary School, and suggest specific ways to murder local children.

    The letter writer claims to be a registered sex offender disgruntled over the profusion of laws restricting the lives of “ex-sex offenders” and the “harassment” they receive. He writes that he is targeting Hillsboro Circle and the school a couple of blocks away because a group of residents launched a strident effort earlier this year to run a registered sex offender out of the neighborhood.

    Murrieta police Lt. Dennis Vrooman referred to the letter as a “terrorist manifesto.”

    “We’re taking this very seriously based upon the specifics in the letter,” Vrooman said.

    A copy of the letter was provided to The Press-Enterprise by one of the neighbors who received it.

    “They seem to think that antagonizing us to the breaking point is somehow making children safer,” the letter states. “It’s time we show them they’re not safer … we should kill as many children as we can. You don’t need a gun either. Just walk up to a group of small children on their way to or from school and stab as many as you can.”

    It also suggests planting razor blades in sandboxes, firebombing residents’ homes and other violent acts.

    In addition to the neighborhood residents, the writer claims to have sent the letter to all of the registered sex offenders in the Murrieta area and some others. And he lists what he claims are the home addresses and other personal details about the radio talk show personalities John Kobylt and Kenneth Chiampou, of KFI’s “The John and Ken Show,” who frequently use their program as a platform to rail against sex offenders.

    A message left with the radio station Thursday was not returned.

    After a registered sex offender moved into a home on Hillsboro Circle earlier this year, some neighbors staged angry protests in the street and posted signs with the sex offender’s name and photograph. They also raised their concerns at a City Council meeting and called the Police Department. Robert Bean, a protest organizer specifically named in the anonymous letter, went on “The John and Ken Show” to talk about the effort.

    Bean did not return a phone message Thursday.

    Vrooman said that extra officers will be deployed at the school today — the last day of the school year — and in the coming days on Hillsboro Circle.

    Police also have enlisted the help of regional and federal law enforcement agencies to assist with the investigation.

    Officers went door to door Thursday afternoon on Hillsboro Circle — a quiet cul-de-sac with about 30 newer tract homes — collecting the letters from residents and confiscating them as evidence in individual brown paper bags. The letters arrived in white legal-sized envelopes and were written, single-spaced, on white computer paper.

    Children rode bicycles and skateboards in the street while parents gathered in their driveways talking about the unfolding investigation.

    Brian Brase, the 29-year-old registered sex offender whose presence touched off the protests, moved out of the neighborhood weeks ago.

    Brase declined to comment for this story. But Roger Wallace, a friend and the owner of the home where Brase had been staying, said he now lives in San Bernardino County.

    Brase left not because of the protests but to be closer to his new job as a chef, Wallace said.

    Wallace said Brase, too, received a copy of the letter and was very upset by it.

    “This guy is a psycho,” Wallace said of the letter writer. “I hope they catch the guy, because this guy is trying to incite terrorism in the neighborhood.”

    Some parents who live on the cul-de-sac said they disapproved of the protests outside Brase’s home. Now, they said, they are beside themselves with worry over their children’s safety and angry at the neighbors who spoke out against the sex offender.

    Retrieving a small package from her mailbox Thursday, Christine Morphew scrutinized the address before cautiously lifting the lid.

    “This is how paranoid I am,” she said with a nervous laugh. “It’s just dog shampoo!”

    “This has just been a nightmare,” said Starla Church, another parent.

    Church said she was so embarrassed by the mob mentality of some of her neighbors that she apologized to Brase in person.

    “He was doing his own thing. He wasn’t bothering anybody,” Church said.

    Church said her 10-year-old son couldn’t sleep after they received the letter Wednesday, and Thursday he was afraid to go to school.

    “It’s a good neighborhood. I loved it when I moved in,” Church said. “Now we don’t know when we’ll breathe easy again.” ..Source.. Sarah Burge

    Read More of Article…

    Article Summary only…

  26. I actually got involved in the discussion/argument with the one 1-star reviewer of FRK on amazon about the real danger to kids being passengers in cars, but she seemed to believe that car seat use seemed to somehow make it less of a risk than kidnapping no matter what anyone said or what statistics were cited.

    A friend of mine recently did some research on brain structure (and he didn’t include the title/author/source of his info, but I’ll be sure to ask) and gave me this interesting tidbit: The structures in the brain that process reactions to threats and fear is adjacent to the area that controls rational decision making, and information has to actually pass through the fear area before its able to be processed by the rational area. Therefore, when we’re afraid, it can be nearly physically impossible to make a rational decision. Hence, paranoid or otherwise afraid people are easy to control emotionally because their ability to make rational decisions, even with ample information, is all but eliminated.

    So I think a counter-movement against paranoia in all forms, but especially with children, is vital to our culture, lest we really go so far down the sheeple path that we get to the point of no return.

  27. Apparently the book was “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor – a neurophysiologist who had a stroke and wrote about what happened when the left hemisphere of her brain shut down.

  28. I completely agree! Thank you for stating it so perfectly… Sensationalism is exactly what these news stations thrive on & I am sick of seeing the same thing over & over & over….. Where is the REAL news???

  29. @Zie
    Jill Bolte Taylor also gave a very powerful TED talk:

    Highly recommended.

  30. off-topic – Just got back from a bar, there was a poster on the wall advertising an upcoming performance from “The Izzi Skinazzi Experience”. (thier spelling)

  31. I totally fail to see the point of a note that allows the teacher to release a student to a custodial parent’s custody. I can only guess it some legality to protect teh teacher.

  32. While I agree your breaking up with the Today Show, I disagree with your take on the Recital Show Note.

    My first instinct while reading was, “Yeah, why do they need a note??” But then I thought, hang on, why is she going backstage when people are still ON stage?

    Even if it is just handing out awards and making announcement, why can’t she just stay until the fat lady has sung? Yes, her child may have been finished but how would she feel if said child were getting an award and half the audience was busy packing up and walking out? Probably not very happy.

  33. I stopped watching almost all morning TV a few years back — a big timesuck, to be sure, but the stories were all fluff/scare stories, regardless of what channel they were on. Just watch the weather/traffic and I’m fine. (Should I be home and have a few spare minutes, “Morning Joe” is the only thing worth watching at that time.) This is also the same reason I stopped watching local news stories — too much of the “if it bleeds, it leads” sentiment, missing kids, poison scares, etc.

    I also echo the sentiments of the other posters who suggested listening to NPR’s “Morning Edition”. You won’t be disappointed.

  34. I stopped watching television almost 15 years ago now. The catalyst for this change was my then beloved “Today Show.” Day after day they were covering the death and murder investigation of Jon Benet Ramsey, the little “beauty queen” from Colorado whose parents were the primary suspects.

    The relentless coverage of this event woke me up to the fact that the “Today Show” was putting thoughts and ideas in my head and basically telling me what to think about every day.

    Cutting out the TV has changed my life. I have my mind back, I am very choosy about my news sources, I have a free range 4 year old, and I am not full of fear.

    The funny thing is, that I thought I’d miss it all. It felt such a part of my daily ritual. The truth is? It’s a bad habit and an addiction and if you find something real and engaging to do, you won’t miss it at all. I am NEVER bored.

  35. Why must people assume anti-free range or lawsuit paranoa just because do not react in the way we expect them to?

    ” It feeds the misinformation of what is really dangerous to American children: Their own parents and riding in cars”

    Layne, if you really believe this, than you shouldn’t complain about the dance recital, because that is who they are protecting the kids from. The note ensures that the kid goes home with the correct parent/family member and not just dad, who may not have custodial rights.

    Also, free range is not an excuse for being rude or self centered. The teacher is keeping track of a lot of kids and needs some way to know who she can expect to be on stage at the awards etc.; if her system is to request notes from parents, it’s really not much of sacrafice for you.

    It’s also probably a way to dissuade people from leaving early. As 4broomes mentioned, it’s not very nice to have the audience walk away while you are getting an award.

    It wasn’t like you had to leave an hour early for some important appointment. Next year, instead of arguing with the person at the door, wait the 10 minutes for the awards to be over and give some respect to the kids who have earned them.

  36. Thanks for the insight on the word Nazi, MDZ. Excellent point! Sometimes the side comments are the most enlightening.

    The note policy for pick up is quite reasonable. If you’ve ever been a back stage volunteer, you’d understand. A better policy is to not allow early pickups unless someone is bleeding or puking. It’s just plain rude to leave a performance before curtain call. That’s not a free range issue, it’s common courtesy.

  37. I would have to agree with several of the people bringing up family abductions.

    My kids’ school recently installed a computer where you have to check your kids out and go through this whole rigmarole to get them out of school. Initially I was furious. Then I realized, this IS the one place that should be put in because family members know where kids go to school and it’s probably pretty simple to stop in and pick up your son and take him away. Most of the stories I’ve heard about with family abductions of older kids happen through school.

    I think with this particular instance, manners would mean sitting until the thing is over. Sure, the school could print that in a flyer about the play, “We request that you stay until the completion of the ceremony in order to help teach our students proper theater etiquette,” but should they HAVE to tell adults how to behave? Emergency, sure… but part of being a person in this society is learning how to be patient and respectful to others.

    In short – I agree with the “Neo-Nazi” because she was protecting the children from the people that WOULD kidnap them – their own families. If “Neo-Nazi” were at the park trying to pull my kid out of a tree, then I’d have a major issue.

    Secondly, it’s just plain rude when before the end of a performance (ceremony) people up and leave to get to their cars or their lives faster. The whole point is that you make the time for that event from start to finish. Can you imagine if your kid was graduating high school and after you see them walk the stage, you get up and just go wait in the car? I’m sure some people wouldn’t have a problem with that, but for me, it’s sure nice to know that everyone there is not just supporting you, but the entire group you’re a part of. We need to be teaching this to our children, not educating them in lack of time-management skills and selfish behaviors. Just my opinion, anyway.

  38. Nicola,
    I’m afraid that manners, patience, and respectfulness are things that are not valued highly in the US anymore. It is more about entitlement, getting ahead, and selfishness.

  39. I don’t know how big the dance school is—the note thing might make a little sense if it’s a huge school. However, I really like the system that they have in place at our elementary school. Basically, children who don’t have notes permitting them to be picked up on a particular day have to be picked up in their bus lines, and the parent has to talk to the para-educators on bus duty. This lets them screen for any non-custodial parents attempting to pick up children from the “endangered children” list. This prevents parents with court orders terminating their parental rights after abuse or neglect cases from picking up the children.

  40. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the still relatively rare situation of those who fear abduction by non-custodial parents, if they contacted the school and requested that THEIR CHILD not be allowed to leave with someone else?

    When I say relatively rare, I know it happens every day, several times a day, somewhere. But it is rare enough that any given dance is school has a less then even chance of having a student in that situation, so policy for everyone should not be structured around exceptional, knowable situations.

  41. I love the tone of this article and I’m glad to see another parent speaking out against these “rules” and our media’s cheerful desire to continue stoking fears and insecurities. Thank you Layne!

  42. Nicola — you said it much better than I.

    As for the beginning of the blog, I do agree that there is too much focus on these horrible things. Apparently, one of the news stations has been showing footage from the camera at the hotel where the poor girl was staying. Why does the public need to see that?

    As for the poor boy who is missing, I have mixed feelings about that. It’s been 9 days and the odds are not in his favor. The reports are sensationalized, but I can’t totally dismiss anything with a hair of a chance that might make someone who saw something report it.

  43. The dance recital note story would be laughable if it weren’t real.

    Often, my daughters (ages 6 and 9) are the ones in the audience. I play in a couple of orchestras, and I take the girls to my concerts whenever they want to come. They sit in the audience by themselves (unless they happen to meet another kid their own age). During intermission, I find them and buy them a snack. After the concert, I find them again to take them home. The other musicians and audience members are used to the idea that my girls do this, and nobody questions it. In fact, everyone appreciates the fact that they’re being exposed to classical music and are learning to be concertgoers at a young age.

    I’m also a morris dancer (as is my older daughter–the younger one isn’t old enough for the kids’ teams yet), and I take them both with me to morris dance festivals. We dance mostly outdoors in urban areas–cities like Boston and Toronto–in public places. When I’m dancing or playing music for my group, the girls are either watching or playing in or near the park or street corner where we’re dancing. When it’s time to move on, I gather the girls and their stuff and we walk with the rest of the group to the next location. Again, nobody–other dancers or audience–questions this.

    I think the difference between the dance recital story and these experiences I’ve just shared is that both of my examples are of bringing free-range kids into adult settings. The expectation in both settings is that if there are kids present, they have been taught how to live up to reasonable expectations of behavior, keeping themselves safe, etc., in public places in an adult world. The other adults help keep an eye on the kids, but there’s no fear-mongering over how I could let them wander around the park (usually within 100 feet of me) while I’m otherwise occupied.

    However, when the setting is a kids’ activity, suddenly every stranger on the street becomes a potential predator. I think this may be partly from the media sensationalism others have mentioned, but I think a larger contributing factor may be that other parents simply haven’t exposed their kids to situations in which the kids can learn reasonable boundaries and precautions in public settings. If the parents haven’t taught their kids to handle a situation, they expect the organizers to take every possible precaution to prevent the situation from occurring.

    These parents don’t get that free-range parenting isn’t simply a matter of taking away boundaries and letting kids roam free. Kids have to be taught to manage freedom, and much of this teaching needs to come from the parents. Helicopter parenting is as much about parents unwillingness or inability to teach their children to be independent as it is about their fear of letting their children be independent.

  44. Pentamom,
    This isn’t snarky, have you ever been the person with final responsibility for a large (40 or more) group of kids, especially if they span several age groups? You HAVE to have procedures about how kids move about and leave. It honestly is NOT about stranger abduction or custodial inference.

    It is about know where the kids are getting them to the next activity or performance on time, it is having all their stuff ready to go, it is not leaving the quiet one behind or the loud one getting the whole group kicked out, it is about keep track of the bullies and keeping the budding sociopath next to you at all times.

    Take my pod (4 classes of 4th graders) last year just under 80 kids
    1 – budding sociopath
    2 kids who were peanut allergic one had a handle on it the other just diagnosed
    4 endangered kids
    5 Mean girl bullies that loved to play the race card
    1 visually impaired child
    1 with sensory integration problems
    1 kid that had accidents that always resulted in him punching someone in the face
    1 MR
    7 boys that decided making accident boy miserable was their goal for the year (I don’t blame them)
    1 one courageous boy who called the cops when Mom and her BF endangered his sisters by being as high as kites. In foster home, mom got clean fell off the wagon and landed in jail he blames himself. Now having violent outbursts.

    We needed to keep track of all these and the normal kids. So yes when three moms decided to leave with their kids from the field trip they had to sign them out from me, and I had to call the attendance clerk who marked them picked up early. That took them off the school insurance.

    Dollars to donuts most large groups are going to have a similar combination. You just don’t know because the teachers/scout leader/other adult in charge respect privacy.

  45. Kimberly, I’ve never been “in charge” of such a group, but I’ve been among those responsible for parts of it, and my daughters have participated in ballet performances with mostly-child casts upwards of 100, many as young as 3. And such procedures were never deemed necessary. There WERE procedures limiting who could be backstage, and where the kids were supposed to be at a given time, and which adults were responsible for which groups of kids, and so forth, but nothing preventing parents form picking up their own kids without hassle.

    And without being snarky myself, one doesn’t usually find borderline sociopaths and kids with significant neurological disorders in private school ballet performances, which is what we are talking about — not schools charged with serving all regardless. Not everybody’s “perfect” in such a situation, but those unable to cope are usually self (or parent) selected out. Of course such procedures are probably necessary in situations where there are more problematic kids, but the reality is that the parents of those kids probably aren’t paying hundreds of dollars a year for them to dysfunction in large groups for “extra” type activities. (That sounded snarky, but I honestly don’t mean to be — I’m just trying to be straightforward about the distinctions between a public school or a community activity that serves a wide range of children, and something that is usually reserved for kids with a certain degree of privilege and ability to benefit from it.)

    I’m not saying such procedures the worst thing in the world, but I’m not convinced they’re really necessary (as in NECESSARY), having seen such situations managed without them.

  46. BTW, I do agree that leaving early because your child is “done,” unless the child is very young (maybe under 5) is bad form. Unfortunately, public manners of all sorts are in a deplorable state in these United States.

  47. “one doesn’t usually find borderline sociopaths and kids with significant neurological disorders in private school ballet performances, ”

    At the risk of being snarky myself, this comment is completely ridiculous, elitist and incorrect. Sociopaths are found at every socioeconomic level of society. Richer parents may be able to cover up for their troubled offspring a little better but there are no fewer coming from that group. As a matter of fact, give me a bunch of underprivileged hoodlums any day over a bunch of spoiled, overindulged rich kids who look down their noses at everyone. The first group has an excuse for their bad decision-making and an ability to change under the right circumstances. The second group is just unpleasant.

    “something that is usually reserved for kids with a certain degree of privilege and ability to benefit from it.)”

    So underprivileged kids have no ability to benefit from a dance class? I’m speechless.

  48. Donna, I’m pretty sure pentamom wasn’t saying that less privileged kids don’t benefit.

    She was making the point that private groups are not required to allow the edge cases to participate let alone cater to them and so they often don’t. Private groups are more able to tell parents “If little xxxxx doesn’t stop ABC we won’t be able to find a place for him next year.”; “your daughter doesn’t seem to be enjoying this, have you considered signing her up for swimming instead?” (with a certain tone of voice); or even, “if your ex-husband is a risk you’ll have to provide a chaperone while xxxxx is with us.”

    In contrast a public school has much less leeway to filter its participants.

    So you are less likely to see those edge cases (or at least the manifestations that increase risk for the group leadership) in private settings that don’t have service to the whole community as a part of their mission.

    And some of those edge cases don’t benefit. Though I would say that for others it’s the best thing that happens to them.

  49. Just read this at another site but thought it deserved mention here. “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. ” -Helen Keller

  50. “She was making the point that private groups are not required to allow the edge cases to participate let alone cater to them and so they often don’t. Private groups are more able to tell parents “If little xxxxx doesn’t stop ABC we won’t be able to find a place for him next year.”; “your daughter doesn’t seem to be enjoying this, have you considered signing her up for swimming instead?” (with a certain tone of voice); or even, “if your ex-husband is a risk you’ll have to provide a chaperone while xxxxx is with us.”

    In my experience, it’s the total opposite. Private groups (dance or otherwise) exist for one purpose and one purpose only: to make money. Usually if the parents of the mean girls (who are usually the most popular kids), sociopaths, trouble makers, etc. are willing to pay, the dance class lets them stay in. Unless it is an exclusive group with waiting lists to get in, at which point they can be more selective, they’re going to do what they need to do to pay the bills. On the other hand, dance groups for inner city kids (usually not for profit) are very quick to kick out the troublemakers because they DO have a waiting list a mile long to get in and are keeping their very limited resources for kids who want it.

  51. Yes! Thank you! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who stopped watching Today! It’s bad enough that my mom watches it every morning, and the first thing I kept hearing when I came downstairs every morning is a story about a child getting abducted or murdered, So I started demanding that the TV goes off when I come down because I was getting so tired of hearing the same thing every morning, and to explain that no one was really missing much anyway.

  52. Donna – I used slightly different claims and distinctions that are not quite applicable to your counter examples. I’d probably make similar mistakes with your post in trying to point out the differences, and it’s not really the essence of what I wanted to say. So I’ll try and restate.

    I’m not trying to defend an idea that there are “easy” kids/families who should get “the good life” and who cares about the “difficult” kids/families should have to put up with hassle.

    I thought pentamom’s point was merely that where there isn’t a significant risk of kidnap (or other harm), it would be good to revert to the way many groups used to let families manage pick up – by expecting the kids to know who they can and can’t go with. With one or two exceptions handled as exceptions, not as a reason to require bureaucracy for everyone. And that – despite Kimberly’s example of (I presume) the issues in her public school class – there are plenty of groups where there isn’t a significant risk.

    (All of the above not-with-standing the fact that at the above performance the school might reasonably expect everyone to stay until after the awards for other reasons).

  53. helenquine — you got me exactly right, both times. I am NOT saying that rich kids can’t have issues, or that kids with difficulties don’t deserve to have privileges, or any of the other things Donna accused me of. I’m simply saying that you don’t find kids in private situations that the schools can’t handle because they’re so difficult that all kinds of special arrangements have to be made for them, because they’re not set up to do that, they don’t make money doing that, and the time and attention required to help those kids detracts from the other paying kids getting with their parents are paying for. As helenquine suggests, if they cause more disruption than the school can handle without disrupting other things, they’ll be told that it’s just not the place for their child, money or no money. It’s not a matter of what’s fair or nice or anything like that, it’s just how things work.

    And helenquine finishes with — “And that – despite Kimberly’s example of (I presume) the issues in her public school class – there are plenty of groups where there isn’t a significant risk.”

    That’s EXACTLY what I meant, and all I meant. Sorry if my way of describing it made for misunderstanding.

  54. “So underprivileged kids have no ability to benefit from a dance class?”

    No. I didn’t say, that, you reacted to something I didn’t say. What I meant was, kids with significant neurological disorders don’t benefit from classes where orderly behavior, paying attention in a certain way, being able to function in groups without constant one-on-one attention, and all the things that kids without significant disorders can learn to do, are absolute requirements for benefiting from it in any real way. IOW, all I was saying is, that kids who aren’t able to benefit form a situation because they can’t fully participate, don’t benefit from it, and aren’t encouraged to participate in it, and their parents aren’t likely to waste the time and money on it, regardless of how rich or poor they are. And the REALITY is that expensive things ARE reserved for privileged kids. That’s not right, fair, wrong, or unfair — it’s a tautology.

  55. Especially since even a scholarship to a dance school, which my kids have benefited from, is a kind of “privilege” as well. “Privilege” doesn’t just mean “rich.”

  56. “I didn’t say, that, you reacted to something I didn’t say. What I meant was, kids with significant neurological disorders don’t benefit from classes where orderly behavior, paying attention in a certain way, being able to function in groups without constant one-on-one attention, and all the things that kids without significant disorders can learn to do, are absolute requirements for benefiting from it in any real way.”

    And I agree with that if you are talking about kids with serious neurological disorders. However, not a single example that Kimberly gave was a neurological disorder that you are talking about, well possibly the sensory integration and MR kids. The remainder – the mean girls, the allergic, the endangered, the bullies and the kid who called the cops on his drug addict parents – all can be found at any rung on the socioeconomic ladder. As a matter of fact the higher you go, the more the mean girls and bullies you find. None of them are neurologically impaired (the sociopath is but you would not be able to identify a true sociopath in a dance class).

  57. Donna — not any of them, except the ones you mentioned? That’s like “none, except some.”

    Well, those are the ones I WAS addressing. And kids who don’t behave properly to the point that they create serious difficulties for the teachers or other students, whether or not they have definite disorders (such as mean girls, the bullies, the ones whose parents aren’t safe around the other kids, etc.) also don’t get to participate in situations where the institution in question is free to say, “We’re sorry, but your child just isn’t functioning well in our teaching situation.” Is that really a controversial thing for me to say? At least, that’s been my experience in various different situations. Are you saying that it’s exceptional for a private teaching business to exclude students who have (or whose parents have) demonstrated a pattern of behavior that indicates that they pose a serious and evident possibility of driving away other students or otherwise putting the school in a very awkward or liable position?

    Again, this isn’t about what either of us think is right or wrong, it’s about the way they actually DO operate. Find me a private school for enrichment activities that is filled with threatening parents, kids who consistently fail to (or are unable to) follow the instructions necessary to participate in the instructional experience, and kids who *evidently* pose a physical or significant emotional danger to others, and tolerates all those people merrily, and maybe I’ll agree. (And if it’s not evident, then how could they deal with it anyway?)

  58. I’m not saying that I didn’t think that this particular situation sounded idiotic. I do think that having specific procedures for releasing kids from a dance recital is not over the top. Nor do I think that it necessarily has anything whatsoever to do with kidnapping or non-custodial abductions. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that EVERYTHING is for that purpose but who knows what purpose this rule was for. Maybe the school has had situations where some parents believed their offspring were done but actually had more to do in the show – hence the requirement that the teacher must say that it is okay for the child to leave but ONLY during the show.

    I’m also assuming that this dance recital was not limited to elementary school age kids, but also included middle and high school. Kids of that age, regardless of level of privilege, have been known to put one over on adults a time or two. The rule could be nothing more than some attempt to keep teens from sneaking about after their performance is over and sneaking back in before the end of the show to hook back up with their parents. If they know that nobody can leave without a note, they may be less inclined to try.

    The fact of the matter is that we have no idea WHY this particular dance school put this particular rule into place. Saying that the situation was idiotic is one thing. Saying that a rule, the purpose for which is unknown, is idiotic is different.

  59. Ah so you are just talking about the ONE neurologically impaired kid – the sociopath? You really think that you are going to be able to identify a sociopath in a dance class? That’s probably the pet student. Remember what a sociopath is – a sweet, charming, manipulator. She will be as sweet as silk to the teacher. The teacher will have no idea that she’s torturing small animals in her spare time – or torturing the other students while the teacher’s back is turned. And the other students know better than to say anything.

    You show me a single private school enrichment activity that doesn’t have mean girls and bullies. They are, again, generally the most popular kids in the class. That’s how they get to be the mean girls (more them than bullies but probably more the issue in a dance class). The teachers think they are so promising. The other kids want to be them. The victims know better than to say anything.

  60. Let’s back up and start over. I did get a bit tied up in knots.

    I don’t at all mean that there are no mean girls, or bullies, or other kids who cause problems at ballet schools (or whatever, I’ll just use ballet schools as shorthand from now on.)

    Here’s what I mean: due to the fact that ballet schools 1) cost money (therefore MOSTLY dissuading people whose children are such a problem that they won’t benefit, for whatever reason) and 2) are able to ask seriously disruptive people to leave, it is highly unlikely that all the teachers and parents in charge of a performance situation would be SO wrapped up in controlling SO MANY difficult children in difficult situations of WHATEVER kind (similar to Kim’s public school classroom example) SO MUCH OF THE TIME that they could not deal with the statistically small number of cases of children who might be susceptible to non-custodial parent abduction without requiring that all children have a signed note to be picked up by their parents. If nothing else, the reality is that most schools probably don’t do it that way, and if there was a real, frequent problem with kids being taken away by the wrong people, and this was the best (or only) solution, they would.

    I’m sorry if I came across implying that kids who go to ballet schools have no such problems. I know they exist — I’ve seen it as well. I merely meant that it is entirely reasonable to assume that it would be a much SMALLER problem in such a situation in such a school, because there are factors that select out many people who would present such problems, so that therefore highly restrictive measures would not be the best, or only, way to keep 99% of the kids safe 99% of the time.

    Particularly with the mean girls example, just as an example, there is nothing about having mean girls around that means that a school staffed by competent teachers and responsible volunteers can’t be prevented form having kids snatched by any other means than requiring people to have permission to pick up their OWN kids. The level of classroom chaos such as Kim describes that would require such broad-brush, extreme, and restrictive measures GENERALLY doesn’t exist in tuition-based, specialized enrichment activities. And after all, most public schools, where such difficulties are SOMEWHAT more common, don’t require people to have special permission and daily approval by a designated person, to pick up their OWN kids.

    Clearer now?

  61. I should say “potential classroom chaos.” The measures that Kim describes seem to be effective in controlling the potential chaos. No slam intended at her classroom.

  62. And BTW, I said “filled with” those kinds of people, not “having” them. If it’s “filled” with disruptive people, you need to treat it like a lock-down situation. If there are “some” around, you still don’t.

  63. The other reason kids often need notes that they are going to be picked up by someone different or at a different time is practical . Kids lie. “my mom said I’m supposed to go to jennys house today”. Child goes home with Jenny. Parent calls school “why didn’t Jenny get off the bus?”. Plus the whole do not release to this parent issue. And as far as dance recitals. It is rude to the kids who perform last if everyone leaves when their kid is finished. We actually had a nine year old ask our principal if she could speak on a mike to the audience at a school concert in order to ask them to stay until the end.

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