Get Real!

Hi Readers! This just in from the middle of the country, where delusional do-gooders dwell:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Greetings! I live in Lincoln NE, which is a fairly level headed community for the most part. I was reminded of this yet again recently with an incident involving my wife…

Parking is nuts at our school (a good reason to walk), so one day my wife didn’t get there in time to get a good parking spot. She had to park somewhere else besides “the usual,” which ended up being in a drive up lane right in front of a play ground area. So, when my 2nd grader couldn’t find where she parked, my wife left the younger four in the car to go find her. After all, what could possibly go wrong for our kids, who were buckled in a car parked in front of a school patrolled by dozens of grade school teachers, parents, and other kids — right? Well, something did go wrong.

My wife returns about five minutes later to find three very worried teachers standing in front of our van. They each proceed to lecture my wife on the dangers of leaving children unattended in a car, citing two unknown individuals sitting on a bench at the school playground. They told her they were going to report her.

The next day, the principal of the school calls. This is why I like our level-headed community. He informed my wife that he wasn’t going to do anything about this, and acknowledged that we live in a “very paranoid world,” and that people often “over react” to things like this. Here’s the kicker that I hadn’t really thought of before. He also expressed the concern with leaving kids unattended in a public setting such as that, not because something might happen to the kids, but because the parent might get in trouble.

Hi — Lenore here: Great principal! While I love the idea of an involved community, I wish those teachers stopped to GET REAL! Who wants FOUR kids? What could POSSIBLY happen to them in such a public area? What makes two people sitting outside immediately SUSPICIOUS? And weren’t they — the teachers — actually looking out for the kids, as a nice community does? So why all the haranguing? Sheesh! — L

46 Responses

  1. There needs to be more educators like that principal. I would feel safer for the kids I take care of. Those would be REAL teachers. Not these paranoid and delusional people who think they know more than anyone else. Whom my fear would be their irrational, fearful thinking getting my kids into more trouble.

    It’s really as simple as, who do you want taking care of your kids? Someone who doesn’t use common sense, and is in constant fear. Or someone who’s level headed and can assess a situation with clear thought and emotion? Hmmmm. Pretty obvious to me. lol

  2. If the two people sitting outside (Goodness!) were so SUSPICIOUS, how come the teachers weren’t yelling at them, rather than this lady?

    I got a good laugh from your question, “Who wants FOUR kids?” Lol!

  3. Probably the two people sitting there weren’t suspicious in any real way, it’s just that “unknown person” automatically equals danger.

  4. Honestly, there are times that I read these things and I think: I just wish they would try to do this to me. I know I should be careful about what I wish for. But sometimes I just want the opportunity to speak out!!

  5. Glad the principal had more sense than the teachers. It’s scary how much trouble well meaning people can cause over things that aren’t really a problem.

  6. I think we should start turning this around on the busy bodies and tell them something like- “I’m more suspicious of you than the other people. You actually approached the van!”

  7. I am much more afraid of child protective services than I am of casual strangers. The difference is that if a stranger takes my child, the government forces will try to help me get the child back. If CPS takes my child, they have almost unlimited power to keep my child, to give my child into the care of STRANGERS and to punish me if I try to get my child back.

  8. I love the part at the end where you write, “Who wants FOUR kids?” LOL! SO TRUE! I almost woke up my two children laughing.

  9. I think I finally got. Based on the earlier comment about turning this around on the teachers who did approach the van. Let’s go crazy and say well teacher I just don’t trust you, so we are going to now put some cameras in your classroom and hook them up to the internet, so I can check in on my child to make sure they are safe from anywhere even via my phone.

    How do you think they would like that. But I mean really I have to know where my child is at every minute of the day so I can make sure she is safe. Plus I would not mind watching some of the BS they pass off as teaching these days.

  10. G2: That would be something. lol “What were yo doing creeping up to my van with my kids inside? What were you planning on doing? Your a stranger, you could be planning to kidnap my children!”. Pull their own psychology on them, and see what they say.

    Please, if anyone ever gets the opportunity to do this, post it. lol

    Rebecca: It’s like an oxymoron on steriods isn’t it. I’ve never looked at it like that. CPS takes child, only to put them in home full of strangers. I’ve heard of cases of abuse (of different kinds) in foster homes. It’s like they are handing the kids over to the very people they are trying to protect them from. All this because some holier than thou, know it all parent rats on you, because THEY think your endangering your child. They don’t stop to think the ramifications of their own actions. ie. how it affects the family after they have been reported. Sad. In fairness though, CPS does good when they remove a child from a home that is really detrimental to his/her well-being.

  11. We have nothing to fear…but the judgement of other parents.

  12. How infuriating!! What the #%&* did they expect her to do – try to find her kid while herding four others through the playground? I assume at least a couple of them must have been TINY kids! Doesn’t anyone have any compassion? I for one cannot even comprehend what it must be like to have five kids all under the age of 8!

  13. “Let’s go crazy and say well teacher I just don’t trust you, so we are going to now put some cameras in your classroom and hook them up to the internet, so I can check in on my child to make sure they are safe from anywhere even via my phone.”

    There is at least one day care around here that offers that very service.

  14. Hey Lenore–you back from the land of “G’day Mate!” yet?

    I also laughed at Lenore’s comment “who wants four kids,” ha ha. I think sometimes I fail to appreciate how Lenore, besides having so much common sense, also has an outstanding sense of humor dripping (in a GOOD way) with brutal sarcasm.

    I myself sometimes leave kids in the car, and I just DARE someone to confront me about it. I like what the one person said “I’m more suspicious of you than the other people. You actually approached the van!” Loved that.

    Yes, and what @Jules said–we have nothing to fear..but the judgment of other parents.

    That is true, but my reply–they (the judgmental parents) have nothing to fear, but me if they dare judge me. I can verbally tear one to shreds, & likely would in such a scenario.


  15. I agree, let’s get real! The other day I took my girls to Panera. One of them had dropped a candy and I needed to find it before it melted in my car. So I told the girls to wait on the sidewalk while I looked for the candy (which took less than 1 minute). They are going on 4 years old and quite capable of staying on a sidewalk. One of them rounded the corner of the building (still on the sidewalk, not causing any problems). By the time I caught up with her, two separate adults were standing by their cars watching her nervously and discussing what to do about this poor, unclaimed ragamuffin. Get real, people. My kid sister was riding her bike to school when she was that size, and nobody thought twice about it.

    I was a mom of two wee infants once, and yes, it’s completely unreasonable to give this mom a hard time for not dragging 4 wee kids out of her car in the case described. If they were younger than a 2nd grader, they must have been locked in car/booster seats, unable to do anything foolish. The children would have been less safe out of the car, where those who could walk could have darted into traffic while Mom’s hands were full with the youngest. Then what would these busybodies be saying?

  16. I have a bit of a different perspective, probably because I’m going to be a teacher soon. Now I for one would not worry at all about those kids in the van being kidnapped or anything, but if I saw a van with 4 kids alone in front of the school, I would let my boss know because I would not want to get in trouble with my boss or the school board for not saying anything and place my job at risk, especially as a new teacher. Call me selfish if you want.

  17. Maybe I should add that I would NOT stand around lecturing the mother and I wouldn’t get involved if there was already 1 teacher involved. There are so many paranoid rules now that teachers have to follow, I would be too afraid not to let someone know about the kids in the car.

  18. @Annarose. Allow me to say, and I hope I’m saying this with a proper attitude–from what you’re saying, yes I WOULD consider that selfish.

    Obviously anyone who has a job that they have worked really hard to advance to, and especially is new at it & wanted to cement their place, it’s natural that you want to do whatever is asked of you. You don’t want to be insubordinate. You don’t want to wind up working at a dead-end job because of such matters. That is all totally understandable.

    However, as a parent, I can tell you I get tired of hearing “we’re just doing our job” when, in the process of “just doing our job,” my parental authority & freedom are interfered with. Principles are what matter. As a person who has been in the trenches with you looking for jobs, I understand your position. I sincerely do.

    As a parent, though–and that’s the position that takes priority–I resent any interference into my parenting authority & meddling in my private business. I realize all these “mandated reporter” policies & so forth make it tough, but to be blunt–I don’t care about what someone else’s position is. I care ONLY about me being able to parent my children without other people meddling in it and then having the nerve to hide behind policies & procedures in doing it.

    Moreover, it is this very environment which has been created which many of us parents are decrying, and rightly so. I understand that it’s a good thing that we don’t look the other way with abuse & we instead try to be vigilant to prevent it, but it has gone way too far.

    Again, as a person who has been employed in the workforce & been in sticky situations at times, I fully respect that one is “just trying to do their job.” As a parent, though, I could give a rat’s hind-end what someone else’s position is. I’m trying to parent a child here, not placate someone’s job sensitivities and career advancement.


  19. I’d like to say the principal is good, cool and level headed and kudos to him for seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and on the side of reality and reason. And kudos to the husband (not only for seeing reality and reason) that the real concern for “stranger danger” is not just keeping children safe everyone else (in a psychotic way), but keeping parents and any other adult safe from kids (because of any wrong doing).

  20. I love that comment:

    “Who wants FOUR kids!”

    Great sense of humor, thank you for this!

    So long,

  21. Sounds like this principal is ripe for reading Free Range Kids. If you gave him a copy, he just might start making a few changes in his school and use the book to back up his decisions. You never know.

    Lenore… this story deserves a spot in your next book:
    “Free Range Kids – Revisited”

    or …

    “Free Range Kids – Volume 2 : Wild Stories From Free Range Parents and More Zero Tolerance Insanity in Our Schools ( With a foreword by psychiatrist, Peter Breggin, on the psychological profiles of Helicopter versus Free Range Parents — with special chapters by Gever Tulley and Warwick Cairns)

  22. Sorry, but I’m gonna siding with the teachers on this one, but not because of any irrational fears of child abduction.

    Sadly, the real danger is hypothermia and the facts are that dozens of kids die each year due to heatstroke when they are either left inside, or enter on their own accord, an unattended vehicle.

    Temperatures can reach unsafe levels remarkably fast, especially here in Texas and elsewhere in the South.

    The ASPCA has been doing a great job about educating folks not to leave their dogs in an unattended car – I would expect that we should at least treat our kids with the same attention.

    Sorry, but the risk is not worth the relative inconvenience of taking the tots along with you when you leave the vehicle.

  23. I have to say, I disagree with @Jules – I find single folks almost as paranoid as other parents.

    When we are out walking, the older one likes to run ahead. He stops at street corners and waits for me and the little one, but I keep being told it’s not safe for him to be several feet away.

    I seem to have an easier time explaining to other parents why it’s not practical to keep two little boys within hands’ reach at all times, and it’s the singletons who accuse me of neglect.

  24. It used to be that you would stand by and keep an eye on the car, then smile at the returning parent, then perhaps comment on the weather….

  25. “If they were younger than a 2nd grader, they must have been locked in car/booster seats, unable to do anything foolish.”

    While I agree wholeheartedly with Lenore that this mother and kids should have been left alone, I do take issue with this statement. My child has been able to put herself in and take herself out of her carseat/booster seat for a couple years and she hasn’t hit kindergarten yet. While parents should be able to leave their kids alone in a car if they feel it’s safe, don’t feel it’s safe because you don’t think that your preschooler can’t get out of whatever safety contraption you have them in.

  26. My only worry in this situation would be the kids breaking out of the car to go play on the playground solo.

  27. She can just be glad that nobody called the police. In certain areas in MI that is what would have happened. I just read in a local newspaper how glad the community is that finally parents can be punished with prison when they leave their kids unattended in the car. Up to 90 days… how that helps a child, no idea.

    This “Big Brother” state that we are developing is scary. Just because too few have the guts to stand up to these ridiculous policies and ideas.

    Last week I arrived late to pick up my daughter (traffic was just bad, so many construction zones, it took me 90min instead of 45min)… I would have paid the overtime, however, got a lecture on sensible parenting instead…And how much easier it would be for me if I picked a different day care closer to my work. All I could say was how inconvenient that would be for my husband to drop off the kids. “We are sharing responsibilities.” And the woman looked at me like I was talking about some bad illness spreading around and said “I had no idea… you two?” She must have misunderstood and thought I was talking about divorce.

    However, there is one thing I learned. No matter what you do, there will be judgment. And errors are just not acceptable or tolerated when it comes to children.

  28. Why not let the 2nd grader walk to school? It would be better for all – some physical activity, a sense of responsibility, less pollution! If the school is not a neighborhood school, park a couple of blocks away, so she can walk those two blocks independently and away from the other cars. Then she would always know right where you are.

  29. The whole thing is so oxymoronic, though. The sane, calm response to give to the teachers (not that I would expect anyone, myself included, to be calm in the situation) would “Well, then thank you for watching them so that none of that could possibly have happened!”

    People standing by your car complaining that your kids are at risk because no one’s watching them is totally illogical. And to think these people are teachers! As C.S. Lewis said, “What do they teach them in schools these days?” 😉

  30. Scratch oxymoronic, make that paradoxical. Okay, I’m a nerd, I just don’t want to contribute to a frequent language abuse.

  31. @Susan. That is absolutely right. The problem, to me, is people not wanting to stand up for the insanity. Lenore is a very major exception to this, a very blessed and wonderful exception.

    But others–they don’t take a stand. They’re too worried about keeping their job, or not being accused of wrong-doing, or being looked at as odd and “not with it.” To heck with all of that. Principles are what matter.

    It is helpful to know what states are making it 100% illegal to leave children in the car at all. In Texas, where I currently live, as I understand it, you’re fine if they’re in the car fewer than 5 minutes–which, most of the time, is as long as I would leave them in the car anyway.

    And we do just that, too. If we’re garage-sale shopping, for instance, I sure don’t feel like taking them out every time, especially since we’re usually at any given sale for only 3 minutes or so anyway. If it’s hot, all bets are off–out they come, unless we leave the car running with the air conditioner on–and no, we don’t freak out worrying that someone will steal the car.

    As for “running ahead,” we do that too. Others around us, if we’re in a group, may say something, we always say “no they’re okay, they’ll be fine,” and usually that’s acceptable–if not, we stop associating with that group, and we make sure to say why too.

    Your last statement, Susan, was the most dead-on–there will always be judgment. Funny thing is, I find that liberating–e.g., you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t–so there’s not really a penalty for free-ranging anyway if you think about it that way.

    And yes–when it comes to mistakes or accidents, they are most certainly not tolerated. If & when someone gets on us, I just give them the standard line–“mistakes most certainly do happen. I mean, how else does one explain your being born?” Ha ha, gets them everytime. (Yes, I seriously have said that to certain people.) Either that, or “I guarantee you that your parents made mistakes when parenting you as a child–would you have wanted them judged like you’re doing to me now?”


  32. OK, locked in or not, one should assume a parent knows if her kids are likely to stay put and safe in the car, unless there is evidence otherwise. I mean, even if your kid can get out of his car seat, surely you’ve taught him not to do it without permission, because how else can you drive them somewhere? And if he wasn’t reliable about it, you wouldn’t leave him in the car, would you?

    But the dad said the kids were buckled in, and I’m sure the teachers saw that. So what was the danger? It’s not like she went shopping at the mall on a sunny day.

  33. A question for the “mandatory reporters.” What if you were not at the school (or your place of work), not on the clock, and you saw this sort of thing happening? Would you still be required to report it, even if you believed the children were in fact not in danger?

  34. Annarose, the assumption that your job would be at risk depends on the assumption that the kids were actually at risk, and something bad could have happened, in which case you would have been responsible for not reporting the situation.

    But back up a step — what if you looked at the situation and saw it not as any kind of danger, but as a perfectly safe situation in which some kids were safely strapped in a car in a place where many responsible adults were there to see what was happening?

    (BTW, how is it possible that those kids were in danger when the hundreds of kids pouring out the school doors without their parents were not? Inquiring minds want to know.)

    A lot of this “I’m responsible if anything happens” depends on the assumption that a rational assessment of the situation raises a danger flag. But what if a reasonable person looks at the situation and says, “That’s not dangerous — there are six teachers standing around (including me) and those kids are no farther from their parents than all the kids walking from the doors of the school to their cars are?”

  35. Pentamom, I agree, and why wasn’t the mom reported for not knowing exactly where her oldest was? Or, why wasn’t his teacher reported?? Do they not lead each child by the hand to his parent? Oh right, that policy isn’t going to be added until next year.

    So since all these teachers think they were right to act like busybodies, maybe we need to come up with a penalty for overreacting, so they will actually weigh the pros and cons like responsible parents do.

  36. I have six children under the age of 8 and I seriously want to know what these would-be do-gooders would suggest in this type of situation where you have to find one of your children who is meeting you somewhere or has wandered off, while you have the rest in tow.

    Why is it worse to put the four somewhere safe and secure and STATIONERY while one looks for the fifth, than to let the poor alone 2nd grader wander around and — oh, to quote the fearful, POSSIBLY be KIDNAPPED by a STALKER!

    Seriously, what would their suggestion be in a situation where time is of the essence?

    Even if they suggested flagging one of the teachers to look after the kids in the car – how do they know SHE isn’t a kidnapper/carjacker?

    Even Jesus left behind the 99 and went to look for the one.

  37. Whoops, can you tell I just ordered stickers from current catalog? I meant STATIONARY. *blush*

  38. Sarah Faith — 🙂 At least your minor gaffe wasn’t as bad as what I saw at B&N — a permanent display sign labeled “stationary.” In a bookstore. Headdesk.

  39. Not one, not two, but THREE competent, concerned adults noticed the children and were looking out for their welfare. Sounds like a safe place to me.

  40. I think I agee, it is not safe to leave the kids in the car, but there’s no need to report the incident

  41. @SKL I’m required to report any child I think is in danger. I’m not required to report a child not in danger.

    If I see children under 7 unattended in a car (Standard under Texas Law)
    1) I tell the manager
    2) If they don’t do something I call 911

    I never leave a child alone in the car. I considered it a form of torture when I was a kid, I won’t do it to a kid. I don’t leave my car idling with the ac going, it is a waste of gas, and I can’t afford it.

    If the child is responsible enough, s/he can take a book, hand held game, or just their imagination to the benches in front of most stores here and wait if they don’t want to shop.

  42. So relieved to see this – got harangued and threatened by a “Mum Nazi” today in a very similar situation, even though I was in eye contact with child in car at all times. I like pentamom’s comments re the reasonable person test – the basis in common law (in Australia in any case) for accusations of negligence, etc.
    I do wonder what these self appointed guardians would do in the face of real abuse or neglect – or are they too busy creating problems where there are none to notice?

  43. kherbert, please tell us how you define “in danger”. And remember, the key word is “in”. Not “could be” in danger if this, this, and this happened (the old standbys of snatching, choking on vomit, putting the car into gear, etc), but how a child, sitting in a car, with mom close by but not actually in the car, is “in” danger.

    And as a 911 dispatcher, I’d also ask that unless the child is actually “in” danger – not just sitting in the car – don’t tie up a 911 line. If you absolutely positively have to get the police involved, call the non-emergency line.

  44. Also kherbert, not to be picky, but how do you know the child in the car is under 7?

    If you have time to bother the cops, you have time to hang out to see if the parent returns promptly. The child is not in danger if the parent is nearby and the environment in the car is not unsafe (e.g., hot). Just because you wouldn’t leave your kids in the car to, say, run into a storefront to drop something off / return a shopping cart, doesn’t mean it’s patently wrong for anyone else to do so.

    My kids’ bedroom is down the hall, down the stairs, and down another hall from mine. They are not buckled into their beds and their door is not locked. Yet I leave them alone in their for many hours every night, and I’m pretty sure it’s not illegal. So when I leave them buckled in their car seats while I do something nearby for a few minutes, I think they are pretty safe, and that ought to be legal. Except for the concern that some busybody could call the cops on me, I would feel quite relaxed about it.

  45. Nothing burns me up more than busy-bodies that stick their noses in at every opportunity. Like the idiot that called the police while we were eating at a reataurant and my daughter swatted my grandson to get him to sit down in the booth. The police actually came out and questioned her but saw nothing wrong.

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