A Free-Range Bundle of Joy!

Hi Readers — Here’s a cute letter from a new mom:

Dear Free-Range Kids

I”ve thought of your book often during this first month of parenthood.  Thought you might want to know that I have:

1) Left my baby in his Pack and Play while I…….stepped outside to get the mail!!!!!

2) Put my baby carefully in his bassinet while I…….took a shower!!!!!!!!

3) The big one: We went to Target, and when I approached a crowded aisle, I left him in the shopping cart by the edge of the aisle and stepped about five feet into the aisle to get something……..and left him alone (but within my line of vision) for about 30 seconds!!!!!!!!!!

And he was fine!! Doing my best to raise a free range infant.  🙂

Cheers, Jennifer

62 Responses

  1. woohooo!

    I often leave my infant in his carseat in the car (windows and doors open) in the driveway while I run back in for the bag and a drink and my keys…he appears to be untraumatized (and it’s ten steps from my door to the car)

  2. My daughter isn’t born yet, so who knows what kind of worry I’ll be fighting once she’s no longer safely encased in her convenient original packaging…but all the same, it disturbs me that our society has come to the point where this kind of thing is noteworthy.

  3. Good for you! No Fear! Keep up the great work.

  4. omg, this post is bringing back memories! might I also recommend removing all the darn warning labels on bouncy seats (with straps), infant swings (with straps), etc etc that say “never leave child unattended”?! They just give you an unnecessary guilt trip.

    and, here’s a suggested fun activity for your next trip to Target: When you’re passing that woman who has one of those line-the-cart-seat-to-protect-the-baby-from-contamination thingies, lick your fingers and use your spit to wipe something off your child’s cheek. Freaks ’em out every time. ;-p

  5. Congrats, Jennifer! I’ve done everything you’ve done, because I can’t see a reason not to. (Only difference: my baby is almost three months, but I’ve been doing these things all along.)

    Years ago, I knew a woman who told me (very proudly) that her standard baby gift was a clear shower curtain and a non-skid pad, so that the mother could put the baby’s car seat on the pad on the bathroom floor, and would be able to keep an eye on the baby while she showered. To this day, I wonder the following:

    1) Can’t the mother just shower while her baby is in the crib/bassinet/what-have-you?

    2) Is there really a huge problem with car seats skidding across floors of their own volition?

    Here’s something else I’ve done: last week we went to a block party near our home. One of our neighbors, who I know casually, said, “I’ll watch the baby while you get something to eat.” When I came back a couple of minutes later, she had taken the baby out of her stroller and was holding her as a bunch of other neighborhood moms stood around cooing. And what did I think? “Oh, good, the baby’s being quiet for them.”

  6. My son is 20 months old, and I’ve done everything Jennifer has done. I’ll add that we’ve put him to bed, then taken the baby monitor outside and sat in a neighbor’s driveway hanging out for a couple of hours while the baby was *gasp* sleeping inside our house! And yes, the baby monitor really does reach without a problem to the neighbor’s driveway. I’ll also leave him in the carseat with the door open while I bring stuff inside the house.

  7. Reminds me of when (a few weeks ago) I walked five feet away from my six-month-old at a Trader Joe’s and my mom totally flipped out! (Because people who shop at Trader Joe’s are just one temptation away from being a child molester.)

  8. Bah, hit “submit” too fast. Forgot to add that in the realm of young babysitters, 3 of us with kids in the 20-22 month range during the 4th of July party let the 10 and 11 year olds who wanted to make some extra money, babysit inside the house while the rest of us were out in the cul-de-sac. All 3 kids had a blast playing with them. My neighborhood is honestly pretty free-range with the exception of 1 family (and their kid is pretty messed up at age 3 because they never let her do *anything* – they held her during the entire 4th of July party).

  9. Michelle, I’ve done the same thing with the car seat (hey, the door’s open–she’s not overheating) and plan to do that with the baby monitor. In fact, carrying it outside is the reason I bought a baby monitor. Our house isn’t so big that I can’t hear the baby crying in another room. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that our washer and dryer are outside, I probably wouldn’t have gotten a monitor at all.

  10. Won’t regale you with all the strange stuff around here. My godson’s wife just got a thingy in which to lay the three-month-old baby (her seventh). It is used to carry the child within the house. It has a multipoint seat belt!
    And we have a new door with multiple locks that must be engaged even if taking a single step out to the mailbox…can’t be too safe, you know, the baby might get out.

  11. @Michelle

    That carrying a little kid thing has always puzzled me… I mean it’s a child, not a lap dog! It’s especially bad when I see the kid struggling, like Momma let me down.

    Side note: Do three to five year olds really need strollers? I remember being that age and being told that I was old enough to walk. I see more and more kids in them on the metro.

  12. I have left each of my newborns to nap in the van with the doors open while I weed the garden which is right next to the driveway. In fact, if I let my newborn cry for more than a minute, he usually finds his two fingers and calms himself down. And sometimes, when my first born was inconsolable, I actually, GASP, put him in front of the TV for a few minutes. All of my kids are well-attached to me (seriously, they swarm me like mosquitoes at dusk) and are not couch potatoes. Go figure.

  13. This is turning into Confessions of a Free-Range Parent, I like it!

    About the baby monitors…I didn’t even get one. I felt it was a waste of money. Our place is cozy…not tiny, but not so huge that I can’t hear her from every room in the house.

    I use her naptime to shower and run out for the mail.

    Also, if I can find a parking spot pretty close (and there’s not a line), I’ll open up the windows and leave baby in the car while I run to the ATM.

    And I took the valves out of the sippy cups. Our 9-month old would act like she was thirsty, and then just kind of chew on the cup lid, and still be whiny and reaching for the cup, so I tried drinking from it and it was almost impossible. I understand they’re leak proof to keep spills down, but I figure I learned to drink from a sippy cup without a valve, so can she.

  14. I really never, ever got the “can’t leave the baby alone to take a shower/get the mail” kind of stuff. What do you do AT NIGHT? I realize some people co-sleep and things like that, but this does not sound like that sort of setup. It’s like they have cribs, but somehow they’re not available for things like going ALL THE WAY to the mailbox or even the bathroom. Just. Don’t. Get. It.

    I know someone who took her kids into the bathroom for, um, normal bathroom use as old as age 2 or 3. But she had cribs and gates and all those things. Why not just make sure the kid’s in a safe area, and do what you need to do? If the kid “can’t” be left alone for that amount of time (assuming a healthy, normal child) there’s a control issue going on.

  15. As a single parent from birth, let’s see:

    I never had a baby monitor.

    Frequently left my baby to sleep while I went into the parking lot (of an apartment complex where my apartment was on the 3rd floor) and got the mail, walked around, got things out of the car. And didn’t lock the door.

    Plopped the baby in the swing, crib, exersaucer or in front of the TV while I took a shower every day.

    Left my baby awake in the apartment while I loaded the car whenever we were going somewhere that I needed to bring stuff. And didn’t lock the door.

    Have never taken her out of the car to use an ATM.

    Have always left her in the car to run into the house to get something (not in the apartment complex).

    In the very rare instances that she has fallen asleep in the car, left her in the car while I went into the house or did yard work (again not in the apartment complex).

    Handed my newborn baby to total strangers on a plane to hold while I pottied.

    Stopped using the stroller for all but long walks at 2 and got rid of it altogether by 3 – and my preschooler can hike the 1 mile each way to and fro the playground.

  16. Just remember, new parents, that it’s perfectly normal for kids to have separation anxiety around the age of 8 to 10 months. They are beginning to understand how easily they can crawl away from you and it freaks them out for a while. I think that’s the age that see-through shower curtains are best for because AAAAIEEEE I CAN’T SEE MOMMY THE WORLD IS ENDING AAAAIEEEEE.

  17. I just discovered this blog and have been reading the archives like crazy over the past few days. While I think it’s kind of funny that our society has to label parenting techniques — free range, attachment, etc., I like the reality checks Lenore provides. My kids are just getting to an age where I’m comfortable giving them a little bit more independence. It’s really hard, but I love the smiles of pride they get when they do something on their own. All that being said, I think we should do our best not to judge other parents since we don’t know their stories. What might seem like a parent being crazily over protective could be for a very valid reason. Just a small example — I live in Singapore right now. It’s really hot and most people walk or use public transportation. I see kids all the time riding in strollers who are above the age of 3, but here, it makes sense. It’s not being over protective, it’s just getting through the heat at adult speed, versus kid speed. It’s just about making the choices that work for us and giving our kids the amount of free range thta our family can handle.

  18. I used to leave my youngest asleep in the bassinet while I walked to school to pick up the older ones. She wouldn’t sleep in the pram & I left the baby moniter across the driveway with the neighbour. I left the house open so the neighbour could come straight in. About half the time I would come home & she would be happy at the neighbour’s house, the rest of the time she was still asleep.

  19. Great stories everyone. We had a baby monitor when my older 3 were born only because our room was upstairs and the kids were downstairs and we all sleep with the doors shut (for fire safety reasons) and with air conditioners running in the summer…you can’t hear what’s going on.
    But we only had 1 monitor between 2 rooms (and 3 kids) and stopped using that when #3 was like 6 or 7 months old. Actually it broke.
    But I used to put the kids down for naps or to bed and then go hang out at the neighbor’s house 2 houses down (on the porch). The houses are so close together here that with the bedroom window open I could hear as soon as the baby woke up and started crying and would go home. I never even thought twice about it.

    We didn’t even have a monitor with kid #4 since we were in a small apt. I would put her down for a nap and take the older kids out to the yard and sit on the steps of the house behind us (we shared a small grassy area). Then I would send the kids up to our apt every 15-20 minutes to see if she was awake. Usually they would hear her crying from the open door anyway.

    I never had a problem leaving them in their beds or whatever to do something in another room and once they got mobile…still left them in their room or living room to do stuff in other rooms and I NEVER brought them in the bathroom with me. That’s my sanctuary, lol. I’d hide in there when it got to be too much (I had 3 kids under 3).

    Our last baby is due in 6 days and I don’t plan to have a monitor. That’s why I have older kids, lol. There’s always someone around to hear the baby.

  20. My brother and his wife have come up with a great baby monitor system: They use their cell phones (unlimited minutes). Connect the call, then leave one phone in the room with the baby and put the other phone on mute and use an earpiece. With this system they were able to come with me to the end of my road to watch the Fourth of July fireworks last week while their 18 month old slept in my house.

  21. Lynn – your comment was hilarious. Babies are like toys – so much better out of the original packaging.

    Can everyone please not make others feel like they are less free range because they use x or y? I feel no need to apologize for having a baby monitor. I have that and a whole host of other baby safety items. I buy what I think is necessary to make my life easier.

    But I don’t think twice about putting my baby in the crib to take a shower. I don’t like that he sometimes cries. But I need a shower. He can cry for a couple of minutes. Is that really considered “free range”? How sad. Are all the other mothers just dirty?

    As for spitting on your kid to clean him up – I breastfeed, so he’s got all my germs anyway.

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  23. I am an adoptive mother of twins. I decided early on that I was not going to sacrifice the daily shower. The boys have spent a good 10 minutes or so in bouncy saucers within earshot of the bathroom as I luxuriated in hot water. No harm, no foul. I also had a long-distance monitor so that I could prune roses and weed the garden while the boys slept (they do a lot of that those first few months). If I have any recommendation, it would be to find other moms who do not judge, but support you in your choices. I decided early on that the moms who told me what I “should” do were more invested in themselves than in supporting their fellow moms. Me, I believe that we should do our best to help each other do the best we can in this grand experiment called “parenting”. New moms need love and support. Anything else is shennanigans.

  24. “Can everyone please not make others feel like they are less free range because they use x or y?”

    Sorry if you personally feel that way but I don’t believe that it was anyone’s intent. I didn’t have a baby monitor because my house is small, one-level and I could hear any cries anywhere in the house or yard (the kid is not quiet). There is nothing helicopter about baby monitors per se. Some very free range people find them necessary and some don’t. Much of that depends on the set up of your house and what you want to do when the baby is sleeping. However, if you have a baby monitor because, while you can hear cries fine without it, you absolutely need to hear every single breathe Precious ever takes in her life because SIDS is so prevalent that if you tune out for even one single second she WILL DIE then maybe you need to tone it down a little.

  25. Gee, very good point. What I don’t understand is the stroller-hate, not just on this site but others, and among people I know. Yes, kids age 3-5 can walk, but sometimes you just need to “roll” and get somewhere at an adult’s pace. We took a short famly trip to Washington DC when my son was 3, and I am so thankful that we had an umbrella stroller with us.

    For younger kids, I’ve been told that a stroller reduces bonding and a baby should be attached to mom at all times. I took my kids on so many walks when they were babies and toddlers in strollers, and those were nice times for all of us. I find it hard to believe that I didn’t adequately bond with my kids because I used a stroller and not a sling.

  26. “I think we should do our best not to judge other parents since we don’t know their stories. What might seem like a parent being crazily over protective could be for a very valid reason.”

    I agree Loris. I’ve had strangers saying to me that my then three-year-old should be walking and not in a stroller. How on earth can you make that judgment in the absence of knowing how far I am walking? I used to spend two hours a day doing the school and nursery runs on foot and without the stroller it would have been three hours a day.

    What’s the difference between pushing them in strollers and driving anyway? People don’t usually comment on people driving children places instead of walking unless they know they are only going short distances.

  27. I still use the stroller for my almost 3 year olds because I do not feel like chasing after both of them when it’s just me. They tend to go in opposite directions.

    I use the leashes for that reason too. But they seem to think that crawling on the ground barking while wearing the leashes is hilarious, so I only use those on days I feel like laughing at them.

  28. I have been wondering about early free-range parenting myself.

    I have a daughter who is two… I guess one small example of FRing is that I allow her to roam around the children’s area of the library out of sight for a few moments while I check some books in or out (I can see way in and out of the library from the librarian’s desk). The sad thing is that I do feel this slight sheepishness, after some of the negative comments that I’ve seen about free-range parenting, lest any other parent in the children’s area feels in some put upon by my not being there for a minute (the ‘Oh so if something happens *I* have to look after your child!’ attitude). This is sad because it should be totally natural for parents to look out for one another’s kid – not seen as some irresponsible imposition.

    I wonder, for the future, whether one could set up something like a ‘neighbourhood watch’ for free range kids (in the UK this is a long-established system whereby people pledge to keep an eye for crime in their neighbourhood).

    Some kind of network where parents sign up and make it crystal clear they’re happy to keep an approving eye on local children being independent, perhaps a partnership with local authorities and police to educate both them and local people about the myths and realities of the law around accompanying children (ie ‘No, there isn’t a law that says you’re not allowed to leave children below the age of 12 alone’), and agreements from the police that they will not investigate parents of children for negligence on merely a ‘complaint’ that children are doing something totally normal independently with no apparent danger, like walking to a shop, playing in a park, cycling around, or walking to school. Playing chicken in a busy road when they should be in school or at 11pm at night is another matter.

    It’s crazy, we shouldn’t even need to do this, but there you go.

  29. When my son was an infant, I once – gasp! – left him in the car for 30 seconds while I ran in the gas station. I was getting gas, the credit card reader stopped working, and I wanted to make sure the station got my payment. My son was sleeping and it seemed silly to wake him for something that would take less than a minute.

    Even today, if we go somewhere that interferes with his nap time, I’ll let him sleep in the car, in our garage, with a window rolled down. I do not do this on hot days though.

    I also just remembered an incident that happened when he was a few months old. We went to the grocery store. The cart corral was a few car lengths away so I left my son in the car while I went to get a car. When I turned around with the cart, there was a woman circling my car, staring at my son. She didn’t say anything to me but gave me a dirty look when I came back.

    As for strollers, etc….I still use a baby monitor, and my son is 2 1/2. We live in a large house and when he’s taking a nap I often use the computer but can’t hear him when he wakes up. I still use the stroller for him too, particularly for trips to the zoo. It’s also handy for putting my handbag, etc in so I don’t have to schlep it around. I also confess that I a) Had a Buggy Bag (the thing that lines cart baskets) and b) A leash. The Buggy Bag got a lot of use not because I was worried about contamination but mostly because it had pockets that I could put some toys in. The leash, however, never got used.

  30. I think now that I’m a mom with two kids (I have a 5-year-old and a one-year-old), I’m a lot more relaxed about some things. I don’t feel the need to hover over my children every second…because I can’t! They’re both very active, and it’d be physically impossible to helicopter over both of them all the time.

    I think the fatigue of raising two small children was an eye-opener for me. I love to play with them, and I don’t let them go out and play in traffic or anything, but I now have a new perspective on this whole thing that I didn’t have when I only had one child. They DON’T need me to constantly intervene and hover. And they’re doing just fine!

    Looking forward to exploring more free-range ideas!

  31. I put an Elmo DVD in so I can take a shower. In a completely different room. Gasp. I also leave her in her car seat in the car with the doors open to nap when it’s nice out. I have left her with strangers at the quilt shop (the owners of the store) while I used the potty. We do still use the Bob stroller – but only for my hour long morning walks when I want to get exercise on. Otherwise, it’s either the shopping cart (without the silly fabric thing) or walking on her own.

    The one thing we are a bit worried about is the poisonous snakes in our area… so we are still working on clearing the yard of all of the fallen trees and detritus (it is a fixer upper house and hasn’t been loved on in a decade or more)… As we’ve seen 3 poisonous snakes in our yard in the past year and a half, this is a real worry. Once she learns the difference between critters that are safe to touch and not, then we won’t be so worried. But she’s 2 so…

    I can’t wait to let her camp in our back 2 acres with little friends, alone, in a few years! Sadly, our neighborhood doesn’t have many kids, but maybe she’ll be up for biking to our friends house alone when she’s 6 or 7… Just like I did as a kid. (Oh, and later finding out that my mom watched the entire time with binoculars… )

  32. I like to think that I’m pretty free-range as I was raised that way. I am still trying to think of ways to give my 2 year old daughter freedom. That said, I do take her to the bathroom with me when I have to go. I don’t do this because I have to watch her every minute of every day. I do this to teach her about what the toilet is, what the washer/dryer is and so on. Also she just really has fun flushing the toilet when I’m done. I actually hope this will help her when we start potty training her.

  33. I didn’t get a monitor until my son was almost 3 months old. It was the most liberating piece of equipment I ever bought! suddently i could sit outside at our bonfire at night without keeping one ear cocked for the sound of his cry. Now he’s almost 3, and I still use it during naptime so i can go out and garden…I like that I can hear him as he starts to toss and turn before waking up — that’s my 10 minute warning to put away whatever dangerous tools are out.

    As for stollers… My son just refused to be strapped into anything from the very beginning, so I’ve always been jealous of the moms I see rolling along. The only way we can move at adult pace is if I carry him.

  34. Oh, and to whomever it was above that mentioned the cell phones as extended distance monitor idea… that’s awesome! I may just get a second phone so I can take an actual walk during nap

  35. @Myriam I think the stroller is a problem when the child is not allowed to walk at all. I stopped taking my niece to the zoo with one friend because she wouldn’t let her daughter out of the stroller. She would get mad because I didn’t bring a stroller for niece.

    Her daughter would get mad because niece could move around and actually see the animals, while she was trapped in the stroller. Niece was 3, she knew the boundaries of how far she would walk in front of me (I swear she walked 3x as far as I did because of running ahead coming back running ahead). Niece also knows if we get separated to go to the Merry-go-round and tell Mr. Melvin or another attendant that she needed help.

    (Merry-Go-Round is outside the children’s area and that area has more staff than any other area)

  36. On the judging other parents front, I have an ongoing argument with my husband about reins, which we’ve not needed with our daughter and I hope never to need, but he just uses the foulest language to describe parents to use them. I’ve tried explaining to him there are many reasons – having to deal safely with more than one small child, adult suffers back pain, child has ADHD/learning disability, it’s fine for you to say that having never had a toddler who’s very small hand easily slips out of yours and really likes to run into roads/towards railway tracks etc. All to no avail!

    I’ve never heard any vitriol against buggies – except maybe when people say a kid must be too old for it. But I’m careful about that one… my brother-in-law one year had friends at his birthday party with a 3-year-old who was so big he looked about six. They must have got such funny looks from people assuming he was twice his age.

    I understand about the need to keep up to adult speed… I walk my daughter in her pushchair to nursery about a mile. At some point, she’ll have to come out of the buggy, but then it could take twice the time. I think some kind of little scooter or trike may be in order in the next year.

    Maybe another credo of freerange parenting should be ‘think before you judge others’. If we don’t want people coming up to us going ‘You shouldn’t let your child out of sight like that!’, then neither should we be rolling our eyes at people whose parenting may appear over-paranoid at first – because we don’t know their mind and situation any better than they know ours.

  37. @Claudia Conway Thanks for defending those who use harnesses. I was babysitting my niece one summer (I’m a teacher so was off). I couldn’t hold her hand because of an allergic reaction that left my hand raw*. With Sis’s permission I got one of those backpacks with the long tail. We ended up not using the tail.

    In crowded situations, crossing the street, or other times I wanted niece right next to me, I would grab the backpack instead of her hand. She understood it was because my hand was injured

    *Also a reason not to berate people using sanitizer. The allergic reaction was like a chemical burn. Niece had gotten some liquid public bathroom soap on her hand and grabbed me. I washed it off, but got in on both hands to get it off. It took of the top layer of skin, because I’m allergic to it.

    I actually had zoo staff and a woman who was a nurse stop me that day to offer first aid. This is why I carry sanitizer in my purse. I haven’t found a liquid soap that works in small containers and I’m not allergic to.

  38. interesting thoughts on the kiddy leashes…. actually, i’ve always seen them as BEING free range in many environments. In a very crowded scenario (say, Rockefellar Center at xmas time), they allow a small child to wonder w/o getting separated and lost (lost, mind you, not stolen). At a backyard party, or grocery store on the other hand…. (trust me, I know someone who uses it that way)

  39. I used to take my son in the shower with me in his tub, even as an infant. Out of 7 grandkids, he’s the only one who could care less about water in his face at the park, pool, or in the sprinkler.

    We went to Disney when my son ws 3 1/2. He walked an average of 10 hours a day, no stroller. I wanted one though. :o)

  40. I guess I should also say I showered by myself and my son used the stroller at other times, of course. I think whatever works should be what’s right, not what other people think.

  41. Huh…guess I’m not as free-range as I thought, based on some of the comments here!!

    We do have a monitor, and I like to have it handy even if it is off or the sound is turned down because I can see if the little guy is awake or just snuffling around…so I know how about how much more time I have to finish up with stuff I don’t want him getting into. Sometimes he wakes up and just plays in his crib and with the monitor I can kinda keep an eye out for when he starts getting fidgety. I have been known to plop him in his crib with a pile of toys so that I could go get a shower, though…so it’s not like I’m hovering over the little prince!!😛

    I also have a shopping cart cover (bought on CL for $8 and run through the washer). I don’t think I’m a paranoid mom at all, and I have used my spit to clean my baby with a few times. I just know that grocery carts are about the filthiest things around and I’d rather my little guy have at least a little bit of protection from SOME of those germs.

    And the stroller thing? Yeah, once my little guy is a little steadier on his feet I have no problem if he wants to toddle along if we aren’t in any hurry…I just like to have the stroller as a purse and diaper bag repository, a place to change a diaper in a pinch, and a place to corral my kid when I’m tired of chasing him down. It also makes for a nice place to set my cold drink when I do need to chase my kiddo down before he jumps in the monkey cage at the zoo!!

    Having been a nanny for several years before, as well as working in a baby orphanage and with orphan ministries in Romania (and so had plenty of childcare experience)…I hope that I have approached parenthood with some levelheadedness. I definitely want to be free-range without being careless. I think there definitely needs to be a balance…and I do hope that the few cautions I take are not scoffed at by the free-range crowd the same way that my free-range ways are scoffed at by the helicopter crowd!!

  42. I have young kids (not quite 3) and we do some FR stuff, but other times I guess we fall back into old habits. I was pretty anxious when they were little -being preemie and having docs telling me about what RSV can do to premmie lungs can really stress you out.

    *I did look for parking near the cart corral so I wouldn’t have to leave them
    *I did have the cart cover
    *I didn’t leave them to shower -but I was working, so I showered when I got up and they and DH were still sleeping.
    *We did use the stroller to get them from room to room for changes etc to have them both there -it just seemed easier.
    *I did have those breathing alarm thingys

    However: we had to load them up one at a time and so I’ve frequently left one or both in the car while I ran back in the house or into daycare.

    We never did any mommy and me classes and we only watched one Baby Einstein that was about farms that was given as a gift by the grandparents who live on a farm.

    Since then:
    *We have gotten rid of the cart covers
    *We have the kids do chores -they help with laundry and clear their plates from meals
    *We let them play in the backyard alone while I cook or whatever.
    *We do still have the monitor -but now it is our nightly entertainment more than anything else.
    *We rarely use the stroller anymore – we have much more fun with our wagon if we are on outings -and they can get in and out much easier.
    *We ride in grocery carts -one in the kid seat and one in the cart.
    *We have used backpack leashes for air travel -airports are just too much and if you have to stand there and check in etc it is nice to have both hands free
    *We walk around the neighborhood without mom holding their hands
    *We go to the park and I sit on a bench and chill while they play

    For me those early months were hard and stressful and my mantra became “whatever works” I knew some of the stuff I was doing was over the top and helicoptery, but if it took some stress off at a time when you are beyond stressed -then whatever works.

  43. this is fun, we have a monitor and I love it, but we live in a 3 story house. i have been known to put it in the car when he is sleeping there or I can tidy the house or do something and let him sleep.

    i love to let my 18 month old roam around our condo complex, we got to know all our neighbors, their dogs and cats, understand how the mailboxes work, and know every inch of landscaping, driveways, etc, I just follow him around, since he is known to eat things he shouldnt and there are cars everywhere. I lot of times, I am trailing him reading trashy websites on my phone or talking. Its relaxing for both of us and we know everyone who lives here. They love it when we come sniffing around. Most special is all the board kids who come out and play with us of all ages. For the record, I love our stroller but was 27 lbs at 12 months (and still is 6 months later).

  44. “I know someone who took her kids into the bathroom for, um, normal bathroom use as old as age 2 or 3.”

    I didn’t take them in. Alas, they just CAME in. I needed some kind of special baby proof lock to keep them OUT of the bathroom. Even if I locked it, it didn’t work well. They just threw a shoulder into the door. (We have those push in the knob and turn locks which are pretty much useless.) It’s not that they could never stand to be in a room without me, it’s just that they could apparently never stand to be in a room without me when I was in the bathroom.

    We used to have a baby monitor, but the baby wasn’t sleeping through the night even at a good 9 month age, so we decided to turn it off. Lo and behold, the baby slept through the night! Or, at least…we did.

    As for strollers…I stopped using them at 1.5 with my daughter because she would not stay in it. I WISH she would have. Could have gotten places faster. Maybe done some shopping without her running off. I stopped at three with my boy because he was just too big/heavy and then suddenly the older one who never stayed in a stroller would wine she didn’t get to use it…

    Kiddie leashes – I probably needed one with my daughter, but I couldn’t bring myself to use one. I couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of my kid on a leash (or, more accurately, the idea of others looking at me funny because my kid was on a leash). So I did a lot of chasing and reprimanding instead. Second kid didn’t need one. First kid could outrun me.

  45. @Sky, mine too. Unfortunately I don’t have a lock on the door, so he just comes in. I really don’t mind as we are in the beginning stages of potty training and it’s good for him to see that this what “big people” do.

    Now, if he still wants to come in the bathroom with me when he’s five, then I’ll worry.🙂

    As for showering, I have no problem showering when he’s loose in the house. In fact, I’d rather not have him come in as he takes that opportunity to dig through my bathroom drawers and throw full rolls of toilet paper down the toilet.

  46. Ah the memories. My first exposure to the joys of helicopter parenting came from conversations with my sister-in-law.

    My father-in-law bought us a baby monitor. We learned very quickly not to keep it in our bedroom at night. The static was so loud we could barely sleep and then once we did sleep we’d both get scared out of our wits when the crying blared through and then it would take me a good minute of fumbling with the d@mn thing to turn it down so my husband could go back to sleep. The bedrooms are close together; anything we couldn’t hear at that distance we didn’t need to know. OTOH we did need to keep the monitor in the basement – bedrooms are on the second floor – as I learned the hard way one day. So, at some point, we had my in-laws over to visit and the baby was upstairs sleeping while we sat in the dining room. I thought I heard him crying so I went to the bottom of the stairs to listen a bit closer and my SIL was shocked. “Dont you use the monitor dad bought you?” “Um, no, not when I can hear him without it. ”

    Upon entering my house once we’d gotten to the playpen stage, using a playpen she’d handed down to us: “Oh that brings back such memories. It makes me think of all the times I moved it into the bathroom while I took a shower. ” I was afraid to ask why she did that.

  47. I’m wondering why I’m not reading about anyone who made the decision to take the baby into the bathroom while they showered, or decided to bring the baby into the ATM booth instead of leaving them in the car,
    because the baby would scream bloody murder as soon as mom was out of sight? I could NEVER have left my daughter in the arms of a new acquaintance at the neighborhood BBQ, because half a minute later (and me now with a drink in one hand and a chicken leg in the other) I’d be having to attend to a bawling baby and a bunch of annoyed people wondering who was the irresponsible lush who left their baby with a stranger. You think I’m exaggerating? L-Oh-freaking-L. I don’t know where you got your babies, but mine came from the LOUD department.

  48. I’m for using the baby moniter responsibly. I love to garden and since babies have a hard time regulating their body heat (so I’ve been told) leaving them indoors while I’m outside and able to hear if there’s a problem makes sense. Now walking outside to get the mail, they can probably survive on their own for the ~30 seconds it would take. It always bugs me when parents bundle their children up in longsleave clothes and uncovered strollers with no sunscreen, and believe me you can tell when they do, and drag them all over because they can’t leave them home with an older sibling or with a neighbor/babysitter for a few hours.

  49. It is so sad that these things are so far from the norm they are noteworthy. My baby is due in a few weeks, and I will be officially joining the FRK movement : ) . Though here in Mexico, it is just NORMAL!

  50. @ Jean, fortunately I never had that problem; however, I completely believe you because I know there are babies like that. Heck, there are toddlers like that too. There was a child in my son’s last daycare room who would scream bloody murder if he wasn’t being held. (He was 18 months old.)

    On a somewhat similar note, I spent the first 2 1/2 months co-sleeping with my son in an armchair because he REFUSED to sleep in the bassinet or crib. Yes, I know it wasn’t the safest solution, but my husband and I didn’t really know what else to do. (What can I say? We were new parents.)

  51. Good job, and keep going. I’ve got 5 kids, 4 still at home, and all of mine are free range, especially since we moved to a rural area. As I’m typing, my three youngest (10yrs, 7yrs & 5yrs) are out to play. They’re around here somewhere and will come home when they’re hungry, or when they smell the bread their Dad just made. At present, they’ll be off getting muddy and dirty and climbing stuff and falling over. Exactly the childhood I had, and the one I wished for them🙂

    (Just heard yelling and looked out the window. Our neighbour over the road (*gasp*, single man!) is being mobbed by my kids and a coupla toddlers, two of whom have a death grip on his legs!)

  52. @ Jean – I had one of those babies. I let her scream. Mine screamed for most of the day anyway. If she wouldn’t sit quietly while I took a shower (sometimes she would and sometimes she wouldn’t), I let her scream for a few minutes. It wasn’t the most relaxing shower but at least I felt better because I was clean. Not showering was not an option to me and there was nobody else that was going to come home at some point and relieve me so I could take one. My child also didn’t nap as a young infant (hence all the screaming) so there was no possibility of a naptime shower. I was too exhausted by the time she went to bed to even think about showering then – I didn’t even eat dinner for 6 months. And forget the ATM. My child screamed from the second she was placed in the car until the second she was taken out without a break. Going to the ATM alone was a few minutes of peace and I was sure that nobody was going to steal her. I could however hand her off as she just wanted to be held, not necessarily by me.

  53. Oooh My Turn!

    I let my 9 month old play in our yard….alone….without sunscreen.

  54. I too, am in the first months of babyhood with my second daughter – 4 months old. FRK was a liberating book for me, and I am now happily justified in my relaxed mothering. However, the attitudes of the larger culture definitely still need some changing!

    Last week, I carried my sleeping baby into the library in the bucket car seat and put her down while I checked out the audio books. I was literally 5 feet away from the car seat when a woman came up to me and asked, “Is that your baby?” After I said yes, she proceeded to scold me for putting her down because, “someone could have come in here and just walked off with her!” I expressed my doubt at that and she tried to shame me. I said, “I choose not to live my life in paranoia, thank you.” and walked away.

  55. I am very FRK in many respects and yes my child (3.5) knows how walk etc. But we still use a stroller for walking shopping trips and umbrella stroller for transit adventures that involve being out all day and climb the Seattle hills at the end (which is a bit much for me).

    However, I was a leash connesour. From about 14 mo on, the child would BOLT. Fast! I distinctly recall her twisting away from me while getting into the car and giggling manaically while making a looping circut around the car into an often busy but at the time mercifully empty street.
    In stores she loved bolting and hiding from me, never responding to my calls until I spotted her. Hence the leashes. She finally grew out of it mostly sometime after 3 and now she can reliably follow instructions when riding her bike with me through busy intersections (on the sidewalk). She knows that in certain circumstances cooperation = freedom. Interestingly I get the same are you crazy looks for letting her do this that I got when I had her leashed constantly.

    So I guess I would say that FRK depends on knowing your kid and a reasonable assessment of risk. I fear trafic.. not strangers. I have no problem when others act to protect.. engage with.. or politely and apropriately reprimand my daughter. She has tremendous freedom in our house and incresing freedom outside as her behavior warants

    It is not for nothing that recently, at a playground that used to give me nightmares regarding her bolting, I was about 30 feet ahead of any other adults (including both parents) when a happily wandering 2 year old acceerated into the usually busy intersection. Her behavior had been ringing alarm bells in my head that had been installed by my daughter. I was seated and farther away than her parents when she moved. Funny how they didn’t yell at me for intervening that time.

  56. I’m due in December and threads like this really give me confidence to do things like not put a baby monitor on the baby registry. We live in a tiny house and the two rooms closest to the nursery are the ones we spend the most time in anyway. Though I am indulging in the SIDS paranoia by requesting a device that detects if the baby stops moving for more than a certain amount of time.

  57. I wondered the same thing as Gee and Becky. How does monitor and stroller usage make us less free range?

    I used a monitor and stroller for all four of my kids with no apologies. I live in a 2 story 3500 square foot home with a finished basement. Our bedroom is on the first floor. Kids’ rooms on the second. If they cry from their cribs and need me, I cannot hear them. Period. Once they were old enough to get out of bed themselves, the monitor went away.

    And the stroller thing…It’s for my convenience. I exercise outdoors daily. I plan to stick my kids in a stroller until I can’t make ’em fit any longer or they learn to keep up on their bike.

    Oh…and the baby sling thing…I adopted two of my children. One of them was 13 mos and 23 pounds at the time of her adoption. My Ergo baby carrier was a God-send. It helped her attach to me, while I remained mobile and hands-free. And you get a KILLER work out with a 23 pound baby attached to your back.

    I say, part of being “free range” is learning to filter the mountains of unsolicited opinions out there and parent your own children with the courage and wisdom God gave you. Even if it means another parent may roll her eyes at you. Big deal. Resist the peer pressure, parents. We’re not in middle school anymore. It doesn’t matter if the “cool” moms don’t let you into their anti-stroller club.

    Do what works for you. And enjoy your free-range kids.

    Blessings,
    Sandy

  58. I take my 22-month (by the way, I hate referring to her age in months) daughter to the park in her stroller because I’m too impatient to walk her speed. I also use it at the mall, because she grabs things off the shelves or hides in the clothing racks if she’s not in one.
    I used the baby monitor only one night for about 30 minutes before I realized I’d never get any sleep and shut it off. I kept it for use during nap time when I was outside weeding my crappy yard.
    We’ve done the cell phone monitor thing some evenings when she’s asleep and we want to go for a walk.
    I leave her in the car while I run back in the house for whatever I forgot, or while I unload groceries if she’s asleep.
    She plays in the yard by herself every day and has done so since she could walk.
    I leave her alone in the living room while I shower.
    My husband and I pulled the car into the garage and left her there to sleep while we took care of some business…
    I encourage her to say “Hi” to strangers. And then I give the stranger a great big smile to show it’s ok for them to say “Hi” back. The other day she would NOT stick with me at the store because there was an old man who looked like Santa on summer vacation who kept playing peek-a-boo with her.
    As for having her in the bathroom with me… I’m not shy. So I just don’t close the door. Haven’t in my whole marriage unless someone is visiting. So she wanders in and out as she pleases and sometimes if I’m going to be in there a while, she’ll come sit on my lap and I’ll read her a book. Heck, it helps pass the time!

    My big “thing” is that she needs to ride in the cart at the store (The whole running off thing), but she HATES it. She’d scream and I’d give in and carry her, or let her out and then she’d run away. I finally had to start telling her, “I won’t pick you up. Do you want a hug instead?” And I’d spend half my shopping trip hunched over the hand rail thing, giving her a hug so she wouldn’t cry. But she finally quit and now I can shop in peace! This is also the case for dropping her off at the church nursery. “No, I won’t pick you up. Do you want a hug?” Because the more I picked her up, the more she’d scream when I finally put her down.

    One thing I look forward to doing is having her order her own food at restaurants. I have a friend who was always scared to talk to adults growing up. So to keep her kids from being scared, she’d have them order their own Happy Meal as soon as they could. She said she gets lots of annoyed looks from people waiting in line (Apparently kids take 35 seconds to order, while an adult takes 20) but it’s important to her.

    I’m pregnant with #2 and due in 3 months. My husband is SO ANXIOUS about what we’re going to do when the new baby is ready to sleep in her crib. What if she cries and wakes up her sister?! He’s having trouble believing me when I tell him they’ll learn to sleep through each others noises.

  59. @jean — I had one of those babies as well. Not only did he not want to be put down, but you had to be MOVING too — the minute you sat down, he’d start crying again. My baby bjorn carrier was my best friend! Always took him into ATM etc, because I just didn’t want to deal w/ the meltdown. If he was awake when I needed to shower, I’d put his bouncy seat in the bathroom and sing to him while I showered (no see-thru curtain, though). Usually, I’d wait for him to fall asleep for morning nap before showering.

    Happy to say, at 2.5yrs, he now amuses himself doing whatever somewhere in the house while I’m back to my lovely 30 minute showers.

  60. Oh, I hope you used one of those “Don’t touch my hands until you have washed yours!” signs when you did #3. You know, just in case some little old lady came by and wanted to touch him!

    J/K!!

  61. I think stroller use has more to do with a child than anything to do with free-range parenting. My son has refused to sit in a stroller since he could walk. We had no choice in a few situations but to use it, but once his walking was steady and he had stamina, we just abandoned the stroller. Other children we know the same age still use the stroller without any objections.

    Monitor use depends on home situations. I am 15 feet away from my son’s room, but with his door closed and ours closed, we can’t hear him if he wakes in the night.

    I got inspired by a mom I talked to early on when my son was only about 6 weeks old. She said she lived in a house where the staircase was an odd measurement and they couldn’t buy baby gates for her sons – who are now healthy, happy adults.She taught her boys to sit and wait for her to help them down the stairs until they were old enough to navigate them alone.

    We actually put a single gate at the top of our stairs so that my son could go wherever he wanted on the top floor, but not until he was about 9 months old. A little over a year later, we removed the gate completely and now he has the run of the house. He knows how to get up and down the stairs safely and 95% of the time we’re with him – the other 5%, we’re not far behind.

    The thing about kids is that we get too caught up in what we think they should be doing without allowing them to show us what they are truly capable of. I have to constantly remind myself of this as I work to help my son grow more independent each day. By giving him the freedom (free-range) to make some decisions for himself, I believe he’ll be better equipped for school and work (heck, life in general) as whatever happens happens down the road.

  62. A friend has very active boys. Early on I said that well, you’ll spend an evening or two in the ER to get to the cuts and knicks.
    Despite child safetying everything one child got a finger caught in a door. Needed attending. Next child climbed onto the couch because the favourite toy was there, fell off and his head, causing a minor cut that needed some “glueing”.
    Myself, I fell out of trees breaking my arm, tripped on my shoe laces breaking my nose, etc. Each experience taught me something. I am happy – actually – that the somewhat poor motor skills that I have wasn’t diagnosed back then.
    Of course, I’m over 30 now and I don’t lvie in the US either.

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