Needed from YOU: Worst-First Thinking

Hi Readers! Well, it’s not that I want to see MORE Worst-First thinking out there. I’m just looking for examples of it — examples of incidents when people, confronted by normal behavior (like the kindergarteners in the post below this one) AUTOMATICALLY interpret it in the WORST way FIRST. E.g, “This is perverted!” rather than, “This is probably quite normal.”

The most salient example I have of this I may have already told you about.  A young man at a grocery store passed a mom and a kid in an aisle and waved at the child. Nice.

He happened upon them in another aisle and waved again. When he got to the third aisle, the manager came up and asked him to leave.

WHAT could the young man have been doing that was bad? “Grooming” the child for a later assignation? Grooming the mom so she’d trust him and let him, a total stranger, come over and babysit? Seducing the toddler in his shopping cart seat? But “Worst First” thinking means imagining the most repulsive possibility, no matter how outlandish, and acting as if it were already happening.

I’ve you’ve witnessed this, or experienced it — or FOUGHT it — I’d love to hear your story as I gather ammo for more my (hopefully) next book, or at least an article on this topic.

Many thanks! I’m thinking the BEST of you! — Lenore

142 Responses

  1. I sent you a news clipping – I don’t know – months ago – about a man who talked like donald duck to a child in a shopping cart, with her mother standing right there – and the mother dialed 911. He was arrested, went to court, and the judge threw it out. Here’s that one …

    http://www.freerangekids.com/wordpress/outrage-of-the-weekend-man-arrested-for-duck-impersonation/

  2. The literal “girl next door” to us became a lovely fashion model in her teens. Her mother called us one day and said, ‘Shannon is on the cover of a magazine” and also inside for some zit cream ad ( as if she needed that product.) We were at the mall later and I went to the newsstand and bought the magazine and the woman behind the counter looked at me as if I were wearing a trench coat and nothing else. She made a remark to a coworker as I, embarrassed, made my exit. She said something about “dirty old man.” It was only one of those magazines for teenage girls, with makeup tips and how-to columns, but the woman made me feel as if I were buying kiddie porn.

  3. After Halloween, a horrified mother on my list-serv notified everyone that a neighborhood couple had taken a picture of her daughter in costume. She said she was too startled to do anything at the time but she started FREAKING out and talking about the violation and suggesting that something incredibly nefarious was going on. She identified the male member of the couple by name and block on our many-thousand-subscriber list-serv for parents in the hood. She tried to demand that he delete the picture from his camera. He explained that his wife wasn’t home and she had the camera.

    I had just taken my daughters trick-or-treating in a different state we were visiting and a couple of people had taken pictures of cute costumes and such. It never occurred to me to freak out.

    Also, for the life of me I still can’t figure out what harm was caused by this. Did she think they’d share the frog princess (or whatever) photo on the web? And what would happen even if they did? That people would deduce who the child was and where she lived somehow? I still can’t figure out what the harm is.

  4. A local radio DJ was expressing this morning that he’d really like to go see the movie “Megamind”, but no one else in his family doesn’t want to go. He doesn’t feel comfortable going to an animated movie aimed at kids by himself because he’s worried he’ll be thought of as creepy for daring to go to what looks to be an extremely cute movie without a child or a date in tow.

  5. I was asked out on a date once and the guy happened to do the asking in front of my mother. I made some extremely noncommittal remark to him, neither accepting nor declining, and later that day got several earsful from my mom about how the guy OBVIOUSLY only wanted to date me so he could molest my children, because other wise why in the world would he be asking a single mom with kids out on a date.

  6. Mark, I can only imagine what would have happened if you’d also been buying tampons. Do men never purchase anything for their wives, or girlfriends, or (as is most likely in this case) daughters?

  7. It seems that worst-first thinking is the order of the day. In the words of Donald Rumsfeld echoing the president of the APA (American Psychological Association) back in 1972, “If you promote fear, you control the population”.

    That has evolved to “boys being boys” and girls being girls” as a crime. The “treatment” for these kindergarden “sex offenders” as with other sexoffenders is dangerous amounts of psychiatric drugs. It has alredy been reported that children between 2 and 10 years of age chargd with sex offences are instantly put on lengthy courses of drugs that have not be passed by the FDA.

    In 2005, 55 children aged between 2 and 4 were given shock treatment in the space of one month, “In case they developed a mental illness during their lives”.

    In the last month laws in 8 states have been passed to use psychotropic drugs on children as vaccinations against mental ilness. The law states that any parent refusing to allow their child to be drugged will be incarcerated in a jail or mental health facility.

    If that’s not worst first-thinking, I don’t know what is.

  8. I was walking through a hospital with a another lady who commented on the number of children allowed to “roam” away from their parents (the kids were maybe 3 feet away). Her statement, “There are so many people that could take them in just a second.”

    Um, we were in a hospital. Where exactly are people and children safe now-a-days?

  9. Deb, about that Donald Duck thing: I am from that area – are you?

    Brenda, about the hospital thing: A couple of years ago my son was very sick and in the hospital for a while. Towards the end of his stay when he was feeling better, we’d go for walks around the hospital, step outside to get some air, etc. We had to sign him out of the unit, if we didn’t alarms would go off all over the place, and we only had an hour. If we weren’t back in an hour people would come looking for us. This was a kid who was walking around attached to all sorts of tubes, pushing his IV along with him. Like we were going to go very far!

    Had I thought worst first, I never would have met my husband. My husband and I met through a mutual friend. The mutual friend and I had met a few years earlier at a dumpster. Seriously. I was working at a mall and went out the back door after closing to dump the garbage. It was dark, there were no lights, no cameras, no other people. The dumpster was at the end of a long, dark hallway. As I was throwing away the garbage, this guy who I had never seen before came out the door to throw away the garbage from where he worked. He saw me, grabbed for the name tag on my shirt, and said ‘what’s your name?’. I didn’t panic. I thought he was a bit nutty, but harmless. So, there I was, with this total stranger, grabbing for my shirt, at a dumpster in a lonely area of a mall. We are friends to this day, and my husband and I have been together for 20 years, all because of the nutty guy at the dumpster.

  10. Mike, which states are those, and under what circumstances? I haven’t heard this, and would really like to know more.

    Oh, Brenda, that reminds me of *two* different incidents in my life.

    Once, I was sitting with my young nieces in the SI Ferry Terminal, and I told them they could play on the pay phones so long as they didn’t call 911 or the operator and so long as they didn’t keep anybody from using the phones. Doesn’t happen often anymore, what with cell phones, so I didn’t mind them doing it.

    One woman went near them to use the phone, and she said something to them, so I called them back so as to keep them from bothering her. Cue a huge rant about how ANYbody could have TAKEN them and it’s not SAFE because they could TALK to STRANGERS (Like her? Strangest woman I’ve ever met!) and on and on…

    To which I could only say, “Ma’am, they were no more than 10 feet away from me, we’re a good 100 feet or more from any exit, and I could *see* them at all times.”

    The other has to do with the last time I flew. Let me tell you, flying with two small children who aren’t yours (!) when you don’t have an ID (!!) is no fun. AT ALL. (Especially when the children refuse to identify you as their aunt, but luckily that’s not what happened this time. Once was enough for that!)

    The nieces, in an effort to streamline our pre-flight process, had gone directly from bed to the car. Because they were just wearing their dresses (they slept in their clothes overnight – this was all futile as they woke up as soon as they were buckled in anyway, and had I known what would happen I would’ve done something different) I threw shorts on them in the morning to cover their privates. No underwear – I’m not sure now if I simply didn’t realize we’d overlooked that or if we’d accidentally packed it all up the night before. But that’s what the shorts were for. I thought they were snug enough that it didn’t matter.

    I was wrong, and when the younger niece flopped on the ground in a fit of pique, well, you could see it. Whoops. This is NOT what I want, and if I’d had any access to a. underwear and b. a bathroom while waiting on line, I would’ve fixed it in a jiffy!

    But I didn’t, and there wasn’t much to do once the TSA agent pointed it out to me other than to tell the kid to stand up and not do that again.

    Oh. My. God. Apparently, according to our friendly TSA agent, there are pedophiles “everywhere” and “anything could happen!!!”

    After the third iteration of this warning (seriously, I have no idea WHAT this woman expected me to do THEN) I finally snapped (slightly) and went “Wait – there are pedophiles IN THIS AIRPORT? RIGHT NOW?”

    “Oh… well… not here obviously, but….”

    Ugh. Even if the place was crawling with pedos, guess what? We were going straight from the heavily monitored screening line to the waiting room (with the girls holding my hands, I get lost easily enough without risking losing THEM too!), from the waiting room to the plane (where they’d sit right next to me for several hours), and from the plane into their mother’s waiting arms. And from JFK to a friend’s car (with us) to home. What, exactly, was going to happen on the god damn plane trip? (And it really wasn’t that visible unless the kid sat *just so* while you were staring at her crotch. Why the heck are you staring at a kid’s crotch, guys? If I see somebody staring at my niece’s crotch, whether she’s wearing panties or not, I’m gonna avoid you! Like, what, pedophiles only target poorly dressed children?)

  11. Love this entry! Wow, where to begin…My neighbors, a childless couple, ran my son and his friends out of the small patch of woods adjoining our yards. They said the kids pushed some trees down, were worried about kids in their yard…At least the young boys won’t be carrying a neighbor’s cat around dead in their mouth the way same neighbor’s dog was…I believe the kids made their woods look good. I believe in free play in the woods; I’m so sick of hearing “play dates” I could spit. So they were technically trespassing, but shoot! They might be a good candidate to getting their yard rolled, as in toilet paper rolled, I’m thinking, one dark and stormy night. I’ll be posting an essay about it soon on http://www.4gaby.com, an online magazine by mothers over 40. I like to think we have some sense, and I know my son is way ahead of his perfect peers because he knows something about the natural world…

  12. On Thursday night, my son’s teacher told us the “we” (apparently all the teachers at the school) were very concerned to see my Grade 2/ 7 yo son carrying his house keys on a lanyard around his neck and cautioned that he should keep them inside his shirt because someone could see the keys, assume noone was home and then do unspeakable things. She didn’t elaborate.

    Would this be a good example?

    My son wears the keys in case his brother is napping so he doesn’t ring the doorbell and wake the baby.

  13. I have 12 year old twin daughters who routinely walk two blocks to their friends’ house. When they are done, the friend’s mom walks them back. Whatever, I’ve never made a big deal about it and neither has she. The girls told me recently that on one of these walks they tried to walk a little ahead of her and she wouldn’t let them because “from just 10 feet away, someone could snatch you.” HONESTLY.

  14. I had a sort of amusing conversation with a friend from Virginia who had just moved to the area. She and her husband went on a tour of the local elementary school (because of the weather in California, it’s very common that the “public” areas of the school are mostly outside, with classrooms and other buildings opening directly into open air. I think this is fantastic, personally!) and this normally sane and intelligent woman told me in scandalized tones that the bathroom doors were OUTSIDE and there was NO GATE around the school.

    It actually took me a minute to realize that she was concerned about predators slipping past the office with its giant block of windows and into one of the school bathrooms. At first, I thought she was worried about vagrants or other people using the bathrooms and told her reassuringly that there was very little foot traffic near the school. But no, the concern, of course, was the invisible specter of the molester/abductor.

  15. On another board, a mom started a thread. Her son had come to her to say a “strange man” was taking photos of people on the nearby bike path, but mainly children, apparently. And what should she do about it?

    The first 9 out 10 responses were “call the police”. So I posted and pointed out the extreme reaction that is and maybe talk to the guy first or get more information or ignore it. That didn’t go over very well.

  16. O and a real life entry. I went up to San Francisco with my two boys (then 8 and 5) on the train. We got the train station and they needed to use the bathroom. I stood outside the men’s room while they went in. I got chewed out by A MAN (not a mother) about how unsafe it was to let my boys in there alone. I calmly pointed out that I am not going to drag two grown boys and four suitcases into the ladies room. He scowled a bit and walked away.

  17. The local children’s librarian, who is very well-loved, was talking to me about how excited she was to have received a bin full of Legos from a man. She was describing how she had to go through them all and pull out miniature figures, dog hair, etc. (indicating that the Legos were very well-loved in their old home, their time had just passed). She then continued to say that she thanked the man profusely for donating the Legos, but then he said (as he was finally letting go of his beloved Lego collection) that he would be happy to volunteer during Lego club time to help the kids build things with the Legos. The librarian said that although she was thrilled with the donation, she wasn’t sure how she was going to discourage him from from volunteering, because that just wasn’t safe for the children and it was just creepy for a guy to insist on being allowed to volunteer. You know, Lego-loving parent whose children have grown offers to volunteer with the Legos he played with his children for years.

    That being said, I love the librarian dearly, and think it is more the parents pushing her than her directly, and I didn’t actually meet the guy – but I asked her why it was so odd for him to volunteer and she just said “I have to keep the safety of the children in mind”

  18. In the Chicago Public Libraries adults are not allowed to sit at a table near the children’s section if you do not have a child with them.

  19. Lenore,

    I have a story, but I’d rather send it to you via email than post it in the comments. However, I couldn’t find your email anywhere on the blog (perhaps I’m blind?) If you want to hear it, let me know…

    Thanks,
    Jennifer

  20. I’m sure that i see this a lot…the sad thing is I am so used to it, nothing stands out!! We live in southern California and it seems like most moms just parent up-close. I co-own a children’s theater and we rehearse at a church facility in a so-so neighborhood…..to let the younger ones even go to the bathroom alone isn’t acceptable. There is even a parent of a teenager in our older group that actually asked if she would ever be alone….?????

    Anyway, I am going to be on high alert for these types of things….it bothers me that I don’t really notice them.

    Sorry I’m not contributing to the main point!!!

  21. After my son’s birthday party, I decided to make thank you notes with a cute picture of him from the party. It was a small party with only a few close friends. I delivered the notes and was surprised to get a call from one of the moms almost immediately. She asked me if I noticed that one of the little girls in the background of the picture was half-naked. I looked at the original picture (I hadn’t even noticed the little girl in the background, I just thought it was a cute picture of my son) and could clearly see she was wearing a bathing suit with a long shirt over the top. I could see how it might look like she wasn’t wearing anything on the bottom, but nothing was visible, either. My first thoughts were that all the moms would think I was a pervert for putting a half-naked kid on my thank you notes. Then I got really irritated. The mom who called me wasn’t even the mom of the kid, and she new the notes were only going to friends. She made me feel really uncomfortable and like a bad person, for doing something completely innocent and, I thought, sweet. These were 3 and 4 year old kids.

  22. I have a Facebook friend who became a mother last month. She has made at least three separate status message updates reminding all her friends to NEVER EVER EVER put any pictures of her baby anywhere on the internet, EVER.

  23. About 1½ years ago I was at the lake photographing the ducks there–I’m a hobbyist photographer, not a professional, it’s just a hobby. Anyway I was there photographing the ducks on the lake, and even got a good photograph out of it (shown):

    (Not sure if it appeared but anyway.)

    This was at a small town lake, a small town of barely 6,000–a public city lake. While there photographing the ducks, a parent yelled out “don’t take pictures of my kid you pervert!” To which I replied–“don’t worry, I only take photos of things which look good.”

    Ha ha–nothing like telling someone they have an ugly brat to really make them mad.

    That said, actually, legally, I can photograph her child in public if I wish, and it actually can be in the pursuit of a legitimate form of art which is NOT perverted (Wikipedia the name Henri Cartier-Bresson to find out more). But besides that, I wasn’t even photographing anyone’s children to start with, and to presume the worst was an insult to the beautiful picture shown.

    It hasn’t stopped me from continuing to photograph. I’ve been a hobbyist photographer since the early 80s as a 14 year old, but couldn’t do much with it for so long due to film-processing costs; now that, after 25 years, this restraint has been lifted and I’m now unleashed, people’s paranoia will not stand in my way.

    LRH

  24. I volunteer in a 2nd grade classroom. Last week I put stick-on “job titles” on some of the kids for an activity. After the second one I was overcome with paranoia: would someone consider this an act of inappropriate touching?

  25. My favorite personal experience continues to be the woman who “rescued” my 3-year-old, who was dawdling and pouting down a sidewalk. The sidewalk was in the middle of the park and no less than a half mile from any road or parking lot. And I was ahead of her on the path, in the midst of a group of other parents (youth baseball games were going on nearby).

    Once I claimed my kid, the woman kept insisting “she wasn’t with a parent.” But I was right here watching out for her, and I’m her parent. “She wasn’t with a parent. She wasn’t with a parent.” Finally I got so angry that I took my kids and left, and then she came running after me begging me to stay, because she was “worried about” my kid, i.e., certain I was going to go home and beat my child to death.

    That led to me thinking the worst – that she might call the cops or something.

    Ugh.

    My kid is still alive (and just as feisty as ever).

  26. Oh, and remember the story about the little preschooler who walked to the fire station to get help for her dad, who would have died otherwise? And how the majority of commenters were horrified that she had thought it OK to walk down the sidewalk due to “what could have happened.” Little girl could have lost her daddy, but apparently there are millions of worse dangers along the sidewalk. It still blows me away to recall reading “she should not have done that.”

  27. On another board a mom posted this link:

    http://www1.whdh.com/features/articles/hank/BO144489/

    It’s to a video of a news cast in which the news lady has the receiving end of a baby monitor propped on the news van’s dashboard. As they drive past houses, they can see the babies inside the houses. The nice news lady then goes up to the door and shows the poor unsuspecting mothers the video of their babies. These parents are shocked as anyone would be, but the commentator goes on to describe this as putting the babies and families at terrible risk. Scary background music plays and everything. They even describe a couple of scenarios in which “bad guys” (they seriously say “bad guys”) could see that you have a nice TV and come steal it. Well anyway, the mom’s on the board in which this was posted were horrified and claimed it was “scary as hell” I tried to talk some sense into the to no avail. I explained that it was very unlikely anything like this would happen and that there are more efficient/less risky ways for “bad guys” to make their mark, but no one seemed to agree. They insist that it is a real risk and someone is going to overhear their vacation plans and rob their house. Sigh…. At least they weren’t talking about child abductors.

  28. How come there isn’t much worst-first talk about kids having to be “patted down” in airline security? I am wondering, how would I explain to my kid that this stranger might need to feel her privates? Do I tell my kid someone might wear a bomb onto the plane, or make up some other reason why her privates are fair game to the TSA agent? This is just all kinds of wrong.

    Hey, just think – this generation of kids doesn’t need to play “Doctor” any more – they can play “TSA agent” instead! Brilliant!

  29. Of course, SKL, they do *not* need to feel your privates. The planes are already pretty darn safe… and they won’t get safer by making big targets out of the long lines at the airports. (Might get safer by scanning the baggage, though.)

  30. Moms in my mom’s club started to pass around a warning of a strange man taking photos of kids at our local parks. Then someone sent around a photo of the so-called man and to be on the watch for him. Turned out that the man in the photo was at a soccer game taking photos of his grandson.

  31. A couple years back I was briefly into posting on a site called True Mom Confessions, where you would anonymously post short snippets, or “confessions,” from your life. I posted something about how I enjoyed those 30 seconds or so after placing my screaming toddler in the car, returning my cart in peace, and walking back to get into my car. I believe I may have said something about how I wish it was a longer walk (seriously, that kid and his anti-shopping issues…).
    I later found this same post being referenced on their forum, where a mom posted the question “wait… does that mean she actually LEAVES HER CHILD IN THE CAR UNATTENDED???”
    What followed was a load of responses, half in the category of “I would NEVER place my child in the car then walk away for any reason!” and half in the “I would do it but only under certain conditions.” All the moms in the latter categories posted things like “windows slightly opened, doors locked, no more than two spots away,” or “One window ajar, keys with me, always in line of sight, no more than fifteen feet away.” I mean, seriously, did they use measuring tape? Did they actually go through the ritual of lowering all or one or two or whatever windows and making sure all doors were locked before returning the cart “in less than 10 seconds” then rushing back to unlock and get in? How the hell did they make it through the day when suffering from such paranoia???

    Seriously, I do try to park close to a cart return, but mostly for convenience. And 99% of the time I put my kid in his car seat before returning a cart because, really, it’s easier.
    The weirdest thing to me, though, is that no one on this forum seems to understand that their children are at a much, MUCH greater risk of injury by walking beside them in a parking lot (someone could come around a corner quickly, someone could pull out without looking, a child could bolt off, etc) than they are of being kidnapped from their car seat.

  32. @rhodykat: Gever Tulley can run a Tinkering School for kids. I don’t see how a guy can’t volunteer. He’d need a background check anyway, right?

  33. Although my husband and I don’t have kids, we love being around them and interacting with them. We both teach Sunday School (I teach the toddler class and he teaches 1st grade). It just so happens that his class is mostly girls and I would hate it if someone thought that he intentions were anything but upstanding. I hate that we even have to be worried that someone might be concerned that a childless man wants to teach Bible stories to 6 year old girls!

  34. When my oldest child was about a year old I was thrilled to discover that the 14 year old boy several houses down did babysitting. His very sweet younger sister relayed my interest and he came over the next day while I was outside with my daughter. He introduced himself and shook my hand and asked me to consider him when we needed a sitter. Soon after that, his mom came over to assure me that the boy was mature and responsible and that she was usually home evenings in the unlikely event that he needed her in an emergency.

    I was a new-ish mom and very impressed with the articulate young man, his lovely little sister and the family in general. I was also very glad that we wouldn’t have to drive to pick up and drop off a sitter anymore.

    I was with a group of moms soon after this, bragging about my great fortune, when one mother said, quite scandalized, “I would *never* have a boy babysitter for a toddler girl!” I was speechless. Over the couple years he babysat for us, I asked other moms how they felt, and about half agreed–they wouldn’t trust a baby or toddler girl to a male teenage sitter.

    Talk about worst/first thinking. This poor kid thought his biggest problem was Geometry when really his biggest problem was that women he didn’t even know considered him to be a molestation threat.

  35. I’m starting to wonder if the only way to fight the fearmongering is with more fear.

    “You mean you DRIVE your child to school? Do you know how much more dangerous that is than walking?”

  36. Last winter during a very cold day( -20C), I put my then 6 month old and 2 year old in the car before returning the cart. I thought I was being kind, if not a little overprotective. I then had to listen to some older gentleman give me heck for leaving the kids in the car, telling me I was lucky he didn’t call the police!
    My car was parked across from the cart hut. They were never out of my sight, just out of the cold. I was mortified. Some people are just so rude!

  37. Ok. I admit it. I thought this. It was only for a second, or two, but either way, I am the one who thought it.

    A few years ago my husband I were looking at houses. One of the houses backed up to a local highway. The yard was huge and you could not hear traffic noise inside the house, so what was the problem? I had a sudden and overwhelming fear that someone could stop their car, jump over the 6ft. wall, grab my son; who would be playing in the back yard, and escape without my ever knowing it.

    Irrational, I know. To this day I can not fathom how my brain came up with that scenario.

  38. I volunteer at my 5 year old’s school, most of the time with my 3 year old in tow. Last week, I was really busy trying to get something finished that a teacher needed by the end of the day, so when my son needed to go potty, I sent him across the hall (where he’s been going since the beginning of the school year!) to go alone. Its a one person bathroom (in the “parenting” room) and he knows to close and lock the door (mostly bc he doesn’t like to have an audience of the other volunteers’ kids!), so I knew he’d be fine. A couple minutes later, I walked into the hall to meet him from the bathroom to take him on an errand with me and there were a couple of staff members in the hall with him looking nervous. He had stopped to look out the window at the kids on the playground before coming back to where I was, and the staff members expressed how happy they were that I’d FINALLY come to “find” him because he shouldn’t be all alone in the halls. They were sure he was lost and were “just trying to figure out what to do” when I came up. I thanked them for their concern but assured them that he’d just gotten side-tracked on his way back from the potty, and that he actually knows his way around the school pretty well and if he gets lost (somehow) he knows how to ask for help. If they’d spoken to him, I’m sure he’d have told them where I was but they just assumed he was lost and helpless.

  39. So a friend posted on a popular social network site about how she had sent her nine year old to a birthday party AND THEN checked the sex offender registry. Turns out, the dad of the birthday boy is on the registry so she sent her husband to the party THAT MOMENT to take her child home. I thought she was overreacting a little when she told me that the offender’s case or listing or whatever isn’t active because “it” happened over 20 years ago when he was 21. Nothing since, I guess. But she’s a “Momma Bear and isn’t going to let anyone hurt her kids.” To each his own, right? Well then she proceeded to post that she had called the cops (there was nothing for them to do since the guy wasn’t DOING anything – except never getting off the registry) and she was wondering if she should call the parents of the other children at the party to let them know of the “situation.”

    I have no insight into the guy’s story, but I kind of feel a little badly for him…and especially for his family/kid who did nothing wrong but gets friends pulled out in the middle of his birthday party.

  40. Regardless of the real dangers around from our so-called Authorities. (You may remember the 5 year old handcuffed at her school, then jailled by police officers).

    Actual research has found that the world is much safer than it was 10 years ago, and infinately safer than it was 30 years ago. The “Stranger Danger” is a very rare occurrence, but the news services focus on it with a microscope bigger than the Hubble telescope, so the world seems more dangerous.

  41. OT, but this person at slate thinks your book is advice on how to raise perfect children and asks why nobody can use a more relaxed attitude.
    In other words, she apparently didn’t even read the title of your book.
    So crazy.
    http://www.slate.com/id/2275596/

  42. For all those people (not you lovely folks, but the people referenced in your examples) who think the world is full of invisible predators — I have seen an actual predator. And it was SUPER easy to spot the difference between him and the average guy who donates Legos or photographs Halloween costumes.

    I worked crowd control at a busy National Park. One day, a guy with a lengthy criminal past slipped into the women’s bathroom, crawled under a locked door and started to pull down his pants in front of a 10 year old. We caught him before he got the pants down. We caught him because we had been following him all over the park.

    The guy’s dress, walk and general demeanor were not normal. He might as well have been wearing an “I am a threat to your children” t-shirt. Seriously.

    I spotted him at the dock. My supervisor spotted him at the same time. Every single dock hand on the ferry ride to the park spotted him — and pointed him out the moment the boat landed.

    It was not a good thing that he managed to slip into the bathroom before the ranger following could run in after and tackle him to the ground — which happened within a few seconds. But, sorry to say, the threat was visible well before anything happened. As REAL threats tend to be.

  43. lol to the donald duck voice. OUr family doctor is an older man and he uses the donald duck voice everytime I take one of my daughters…. to get her attention and to take her mind off that she is a little scared of doctors…. maybe he’s grooming her… lol

  44. Here is my story.

    My son was in his second year of a snooty, 10K per year, private school. He had spent pre-k there, and now was in kindergarten (Keep this in mind, he in only five years old).

    His kinder teacher stops me in the hallway and says that my son had his hands in his pockets and was touching himself, and “it is very sexual”.

    I calmly replied, “Uh-Huh.” Then marched myself over to the headmaster’s office, withdrew him from that school, and enrolled him in the public school system.

    Seriously, I would be more worried about a five year old boy who DIDN”T put his hands in his pockets to make sure that most important piece of equipment was still there. Every child does this, they eventually learn not to do it in public.

    Eghads, teachers who know nothing about child development shouldn’t be teaching.

  45. I live near a park with a large neighborhood lake. It is large enough that a rowing team uses it for practice. One of my friends, who was a college student at the time, needed a picture of the team for a class paper. They new I do good photography and asked me if I would take the picture since I live nearby. It was one of the nice early spring days, it hadn’t been nice out for a while, so I decided to make a day of it at the park. Packed myself a small bag with a sandwich and some fruit and packed up my camera.
    I found a low stone wall on th path leading down to the beach, with a nice wide clear view of the lake, I could get some nice shots of the rowing team.
    Of course, this is a beach, I wasn’t the only one who decided to make it a day at the beach.
    Soon as I had my camera out, this boy, about 12 saw me and struck up several poses. I admit, I thought it was cute, I took a couple pictures of him, but my picture taking was focused on the rowing team except for those 2 or 3 I took of him posing in front of me. I never spoke to him, never asked him to pose, nothing. But, about an hour later, I was trying to get a few more shots of the row team, and the beach was getting more crowded, this morbidly obese teen stops in front of me and she says quite loudly, “Look at the pervert taking pictures of kids at the lake…. Pedo!!” To say the least I was mortified, but I said nothing and just went about my business, but from that point on, the looks I was getting form people, I just couldn’t stay, and finally packed up and left. If anyone had watched my picture taking, they would have seen my lowering the camera every time someone stepped in front of my view of the rowing team. I wondered though, while I was there, I had 3 different women walk up to that stone wall, and change their kids right there in the open beside me, and they seemed to think nothing of it, and these were not little kids, 7 and 8 yo boys. One of the boys looked sooo embarrassed that his mommy was changing him outside in public, yet no one said a thing about that, except one dirty look I got from another women when I turned my head to see that one boy was literally standing naked inches from my head, yes I moved slightly away. But this fear that the general public has today,I have to say, as a single man, it is frightening.

  46. One of the best examples of worst-first thinking is that male employees of child care/day care centers (and even male church nursery volunteers) are not allowed to change diapers. I have no first hand experience with this, only what I’ve read on these pages, but every time I read about it it makes me a little sick.

    And then my mind takes off in further worst-case extensions! What about male nurses, LPNs, or CNAs in hospital pediatrics units…are they allowed to change diapers? What happens when the childless male child care provider has his own child, because a pedophile is always a pedophile, right? Or do we somehow prevent him from reproducing, because a … well, you know. What if he already HAS his own child, in diapers??

    There is a horrible thing happening to the perception of men in our society, and I think it bears further research.

  47. Near where I live there is an amazing recycling center where people can go and pick up used items that have been donated for free. It is run by volunteers and offers a wonderful resource to local crafters, teachers and general collectors.

    Well, being a kindergarten teacher I have been going once a week for a little over a year. It is a small building but there are a lot of people who attend and there are multiple rooms so it can sometimes be chaotic. Well about a month ago I was looking through childrens book when i over heard one of the volunteers saying to a little girl (maybe 4 or 5) “Go find your mommy.” I looked up to see a small child who looked lost and frightened. She began to tear up and the woman speaking to her simply repeated the directions to find her mom. The girl was clearly unsure of how to do that. So I simply walked over and said to her, “Come on, lets go find your mom” and I took her hand. I’m not a mom, but if this was my kid it is exactly what I would like someone to do.

    Well, we wandered around and I reassured her that we would find mom and of course we did. What struck me about the whole situation was that when the mother saw her daughter she simply said get over here and hurried away with her. And while I guess it could have been a lot worse it was such a cold and judging reaction that it has stuck with me ever since.

    I just feel like the potential emotional damage of wandering around lost and afraid is a lot more than the likelihood that I was going to abduct her.

  48. I want to take one of my hobby horses out for a trot here and talk about not one single incident but a whole class of activity: educational research with kids.

    The default position is that all research, even that conducted by small furry grad students who just want to ask kids about how much they like or don’t like math is RISKY, POTENTIALLY HARMFUL, INTRUSIVE, DISRESPECTFUL OF THE KIDS’ WELFARE AND RIGHTS etc etc.

    As a result researchers find their activities subjected to tight control, oversight and regulation.

    When you ask why must we have this huge, cumbersome apparatus people don’t mention any research they personally have experienced that resulted in harm, they bring up the Nazi death doctors, the CIA giving people LSD and the Tuskergee syphilis experiments, all many decades old and none perpetrated by a professor or grad student.

    Nonetheless, worst first: some awful harm will come of children participating in any research. By these means kids are silenced and we don’t get to hear what t hey have to say about their own experience, in the name of ‘protecting’ them.

  49. @annamcbean….my cousin didn’t put her son into the car first and some CRAZY lady hit the carriage. It’s safer to put them in the car. :o)

  50. All right, so I’ll also leave my own most loathed worst first thinking, the one that has left a permanent bad taste in my mouth.

    I was visiting friends with my 7 year old daughter, that’s right my SEVEN year old daughter. She was playing in a kiddie tent in the back yard with my friends’ 3 year old son. The father came to me agitated and worried: could she be sexually molesting his boy in there?.

    Didn’t do much for the relationship with my friends. Oh. Apart from end it.

    Seems kids are never too young to be up to sexual misbehaviour of some ill defined sort.

    I told another friend about how now the weather was warming up, my four year daughter liked to drop her clothes and hop into the horse trough to cool off (yes, we were living on a farm).

    He said ‘Well, that’s okay as long she’s not UP TO SOMETHING’.

    I was too bamboozled to ask what exactly a four year old might get up to in a horse trough except splashing some water about.

  51. @MZH
    I’m going to put on my psychologist hat about the issue of photographing kids. I have a theory.

    We are all encouraged to be handing out positive reinforcement in great shovel loads, to foster ‘self esteem’.

    Trouble is when people are routinely praised for not actually having done anything praiseworthy the risk is that they’ll not grow healthy self esteem so much as what is called ‘compensatory narcissism’. (You can google that,) I think we have done a fine job of raising a generation of people afflicted with this problem, via unrelenting focus on self esteem and telling everyone that they are ‘special’.

    This is characterised by a wildly over-inflated opinion of oneself and one’s significance combined with a whole lot of insecurity because at bottom lurks the realisation that the grandiose self value has no real basis.

    One of the characteristics of this disorder is regarding every tiny thing, including teensy bits of information, about oneself as of the highest value. Divulging any piece of information about a person with this disorder is equivalent in his/her eyes, to giving state secrets to the enemy.

    (A friend of mine is married to man with a very pronounced case of compensatory narcissism and he once beat her up for telling a friend at a party that he didn’t like tomatoes. How dare she share such highly significant information with anyone!)

    Anyway, I suspect anyone who makes a great big noise about taking an ordinary old routine photo of their child as displaying symptom of this disorder.

    Of course their kid is the most significant person ever born and of course people everywhere are just slathering to get some tiny tit-bit of this marvelous child for themselves, like crazy fans of some movie star longing for any news of their idol.

    Just a theory, as I said.

  52. Yesterday I was browsing though a store with my 6 month old daughter over my shoulder. Two staff members suddenly went from smiling at me and my cute baby to looking repulsed and angry. I turned around to find a young man poking his tongue out and making faces at my daughter. As soon as we made eye contact he stopped and looked a bit worried about what would happen next. Taken aback by how uncomfortable this whole situation was becoming, I started joining in on the face pulling and saying to my daughter “Look at the nice man. Can you poke your tongue out at the nice man?” etc. We had a little play and a chat and he went on his way. The two women who had originally spotted him shook thier heads at me as I walked past them on my way out.

  53. It’s not really about free range kids, but I recently overheard people defending the airport security that made a women remove her prosthetic breast in case she was a terrorist hiding a bomb….

  54. I was a t-ball coach last spring and the coordinator (of just t-ball) suggested we put the names of the kids on the backs of the uniform t-shirts. This way we could learn the kids’ names faster and also because we thought the kids would think it was cool. Well, the little league president (or committee) decided against it because they didn’t want 5-7 year olds walking around with the names on the backs of their shirts. The reason? It would be too easy for a pedophile or kidnapper to call the kid by his or her first name and then drag them away from the little league field. But I thought it was ironic that at the coach’s meeting one of the “coaching tips” was to learn the kids’ names on your team and use it when praising them, such as, “Way to go, Jon!” Well, if we’re yelling the kids’ names out can’t the myriad of molesters and kidnappers hanging in out in our village (population 4000) little league field learn their names that way?

  55. Last school year, my sister-in-law was waiting in her van at the curb to pick up my 11 year old niece from school. She had a direct line of sight from her van to the doors that my niece came out of, so she could see her coming down the walk. School let out for the day, and my niece eventually made her way down the walk and to the van. At that moment, another parent decided to berate my SIL for “allowing” my niece to walk, unattended, to the van. She insisted that “anything could happen” to my niece and that my SIL should wait at the doors and walk with her to the van. My poor SIL was too dumbfounded to think of a response before the paranoid mom stomped off.

    1. My niece was 11 years old, not a toddler.
    2. She was surrounded by other kids and teachers, on the school grounds.
    3. My SIL could see her walking to the van.
    4. It was cold, and my SIL had a sleeping baby with her.

    Really, how insane was that woman? I only wish I could’ve been there to jump to SIL’s defense. Sigh….some people are just too ignorant for words.🙂

  56. A side note about my SIL: she was once a helicopter mom, but I introduced her to this blog, and she has become more of a Free-Range mama!🙂

  57. Mid 70’s a man came up called me by name and said come with him. I said No. He told me to come with him, I said no and went running to my Mom. Man followed told my Mom he was a cop and I shouldn’t wear that shirt because strangers could fool me into go with him. Her response “I think you just disproved your own hypothesis.”

    More times than I care to count. I have kids either students or nieces/Nephew/cousins taking pictures. Some “Well intentioned” adult takes the camera from them returns it to me – telling Here s/he was going to break this. HELLO. I’ve had digital cameras 12 – 15 years and I’ve let kids use them the whole time. I have NEVER had a kid break one. They follow the rules and keep the strap on.

    Now adults are another story – they don’t follow the rules and toss my camera across a museum gallery. It smashes against the wall narrowly missing a $10,000 ceramic piece and get ticked when I demand the camera be replaced either by the coworker or the museum (our employer)

    Houston Zoo’s Children’s Zoo – I’m alone with my niece (4) and nephew (2). They want to go in the petting area. I’m very allergic and can’t stand being in there. I ask them are you comfortable going in by yourselves. I tell niece to they need to stay together and not to let brother put anything in his mouth.

    Concerned adult 1- kept trying to bring them back to me even after I said they are fine. Finally niece said Are you trying to make my aunt sick. the animals will make her skin blister and bleed.

    Concerned adult 2 – tried to stop them going with me when they came out. Asked them were their mommy and daddy were and looking for them inside the petting area. Niece who has a mouth said, “They have to work. Aunt is a teacher she gets to go to the zoo.” *hey she was 4

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  59. Hi Lenore! I think I told you this one before, but not in quite so many words.

    So I was sitting in the library reading a book, minding my own business, when a group of three ladies came in and sat down in the adjacent children’s section, with two young kids and a baby. The children were obviously having a wonderful time on the colourful, patterned mat and were giggling to themselves adorably. I couldn’t help but look over and grin. The ladies noticed me looking at their kids, and slowly their happy, chatting faces turned into cold, sullen, wary stares in my direction. I had less than a minute to enjoy the fun their kids were having, before my attention turned to the eyeballs that were nigh on popping out of their sockets in my direction. It wasn’t long before they hurried their endangered, fragile little kids away from me and out of the entire building.

    Now don’t let me pay out on the unfortunate people who do look “creepy” (as the victims of mass media would envisage), but I’m a blonde 19 year old with jeans, a black shirt and a scarf. Of course, the only thing this part of the story proves is that these women had a much broader idea of who is a child-killing paedophile Satanist (as David Icke recently put it).

    So anyway I packed away my copy of “Pedo Periodical #21: Guide to Grooming” – oh wait, actually I think it was “Free-Range Kids” – and went elsewhere to buff the virgin blood off my silver dagger.

    All this dramatic imagery seems a bit drastic, I hear you say. But these womens’ faces almost warrant it. It looked as though they were staring at a smelly old man dressed in a cheap Santa suit (complete with concealed silver daggers, chalices and black candles) with candy in one hand, a puppy leash in the other, and crusty stains on this trouser fronts! Forgive the grotesque imagery, but that was honestly how they made me feel.

    Is it so unusual that a male can enjoy children and not be afraid to show it on his face? Is it required of him to shield his eyes from the purest form of beauty, lest he be accused of planning forced sodomy, humiliation and desecration thereof?

    The simple, pragmatic fact of the matter was that these women made an innocent person feel extremely uncomfortable with no good reason. Who’s the bad guy.

  60. @eam I too have seen actual predators (I’d guess most of us have). They looked just like ordinary people. The shy tuba-playing guy working at the children’s camp. One of my friend’s granddads. I’m glad in the situation where you found yourself, the predator who was present was easily identified, but of everything I might count on in this world, I wouldn’t count on that. That someone who doesn’t know my child is very, very unlikely to assault or otherwise engage in inappropriate sexual behavior in his presence? That I do believe. But that I’ll know a predator when I see one? Not for an instant.

    @Catherine I’ve known some nutty IRBs and perhaps you work with one, but there are (good IMO) reasons to think seriously and systematically about whether kids can consent to be research subjects or not, and what that means. And no one’s silencing the kids, though they may be depriving us of studying their views in a systematic way …

  61. Jo, when men play with my daughter’s like that, I say, “Are you making a friend?!” The guys eat it up. I know my dad LOVES little kids, and is so hurt when he plays with them at the grocery store and the moms give him dirty looks, I go out of my way to make sure no one feels dirty for thinking my girls are cute.

  62. My wife was translating the cosmetology exam for a friend. The test is hours long, so I was sitting in the car reading a book, waiting for them to finish. Some jerk walked up.

    Jerk: What are you doing?
    Me: Reading a book.
    Jerk: There’s a child care center over there (few hundred yards away), so you have to leave!

    I then explained why I was there, waiting for the exam to finish. Jerk kept insisting that I leave right away, because there was a CC center nearby. Jerk never did explain WHY I had to leave, just insisted that I do.

  63. I remember when i was in school around grade 5 or so one of my friends dad would drive her to my place in the morning (she lived in the country and was attending the school for the french program) and we would than walk to school. at the end of the day he would pick us up and i would go to her place till my mom was done work.

    well one day i get called to the office and my mom was there along with my friends dad. the school had called her because the secretary had recorded on numerous occasions me hitching rides with older students and was worried about what was going on. since she has seen me hanging out downtown regularly. Even after my mom explained that the rides where an arrangement and that we lived downtown so that yes that would be where you would see me, the school would call almost every other week to “check in”.
    we went to a new school the next year.

  64. As I was leaving my daughter’s new daycare, a mother with two young girls stopped me and asked my opinion on the place. She was new to the city and researching daycares. I said:

    “We just started, but the place is great so far. One of my friend is a social worker and said that this is the daycare *all* the social workers send their kids to. They ever drive across town if they need to, the place is that good”.

    (When my friend told me that, I didn’t even bother checking out any others. Add to the fact that the day care is in my neighbourhood *and* miraculously had space once I needed it? SCORE.)

    The lady was happy to hear that, but was hesitant:

    “Well, there’s the man….”

    Me: “Oh yeah, he’s in the room one age group up from mine. Everyone raves about him. Even just today, my ladies were raving about how all the kids love him.”

    Lady: “I don’t know… it’s your *kids*, you know? You just want to protect them…”

    At this point I am speechless because there is obviously nothing more I can say to sell this woman (seriously. social workers drive across town to drop there kids off at this place!) I am also profoundly sad for the men in this world who just want to be great, engaged dads/uncles/trek leaders/daycare workers/lego builders/story readers and have to endure this nasty, suspicious atmosphere.

  65. What I want to know is how on earth ore children going to form adult relationships with future husbands and wifes if all adults especially men are considered pedophiles?

  66. Once me and my 2 girls were along a highway looking for fossils. A policeman stopped and asked “What are you doing?” I held up a rock and said looking for fossils. He went on to lecture me that they have rockslides in the area and that I was being reckless.

    Of course, there are rockslides in the area, hence the fossil hunting, and yes, I was taking a calculated risk for the adventure. After all, I drive by there daily and have never seen any giant rocks falling down the hill.

  67. @Uly: You should have told the TSA agent your neice was just trying to make their job easier🙂

  68. Let me think… There’s this mum at my kids’ school who’s convinced that someone (anyone) is intent on kidnapping her son. He’s her only son, and she had him when she just about gave up on having children of her own, so everyone just bears with her and tries to assure her he’s safe at school.
    But really, I think we all have paranoias of our own, only where I live we are more diverse about them. For example, when I was little I would spend my summers with my siblings and cousins at my granny’s countryhouse (18 children vs. six adults). Whenever someone went “missing”, my granny would be sure we would have fallen down the well. Just to humour her, it was the first place we checked.
    My husband’s fear is having a kid drowning, so the last time we “lost” our 3 yo at the beach, he couldn’t thank the guy who found him enough. He was a foreign, tatooed man who looked like an ex-con. We had no problem with him carrying our brawling brat in his arms.
    But I digress…
    As Spanish society is a very “touching” one in manners and tradition, there is absolutely nothing strange about children kissing their teachers (male or female) goodbye for the day. Or fathers helping children (theirs or others) climb onto playing structures pushing their bottoms up. I often have to stop on my way when a stranger chats with my toddler. They have sometimes asked her for a goodbye kiss (which she is always pleased to give), and really, there is nothing wrong or perverted about it. In fact, acting paranoid in this way is considered waaaaay too rude.

  69. Oh, Jules, there were a lot of things I wanted to say, but at the time I felt it’d be a *really* bad idea. I just kept my mouth shut – and some of you may guess how difficult that is for me! – until I was away from the area. (Seriously, I deserved a sticker. I didn’t get a sticker.)

  70. I don’t know if this would be appropriate for the topic, but its interesting twists on a health scares that don’t exist or are quite rare. My grandmother used to go into hysterics whenever I would tattoo myself with one of those temporary tattoos out of cereal boxes as “You never know if someone at the company sprayed it with LSD.” I wasn’t allowed to wear skin glitter as she worried that it would embed itself into my skin and form cancerous tumors. Never the mind that skin glitter is mostly made up of fish scales and cosmetic grade coloring and probably wouldn’t harm you unless you’re very allergic to fish and/or dyes.

  71. OK, here’s an oldie but goodie…

    When my oldest was about 9 months, I was in the checkout line at the grocery store with him. He was sitting in the basket in the front of the cart, and all of a sudden got very excited and was looking past me. I turned around and there was a woman behind me, probably in her 70’s. I said to my son “Are you saying ‘Hi’ to that lady behind us? Say ‘hi!’.”
    Well, the woman just blew up: “He shouldn’t be saying ‘Hi’ to me!! He doesn’t know me! I’m a stranger!”

    Yes, lady, you definitely are strange. Strange enough to not understand the difference between allowing an infant to smile and wave at someone or handing him over and let him leave with some crazy lady at the checkout.

  72. “How come there isn’t much worst-first talk about kids having to be “patted down” in airline security? ”

    You haven’t been paying attention! I have never seen such a broad spectrum of people so angry about a single government action. I don’t think this will last.

  73. Sorry for triple-posting! All these things keep coming to me as I read the posts and I want to put them down while they are fresh!

    @FM: Our Christmas card this year has a picutre of my four children that was taken over the summer. All four of them are wearing their swimsuits (we had been at theme park with a water park) with t-shirts over them. My three oldest are boys, so their trunks look like shorts, but my daughter just has a tank suit and her legs are bare. Fifty people will be getting this card, and know what? If they don’t like it, they don’t need to me on my Christmas list anymore. She’s three and was having the time of her life that day.

  74. I have a good one from just a few days ago. My friend commented on Facebook the her 5-year-old son was concerned that Santa wouldn’t be able to get in their house because there was no chimney. The 5-year-old suggested they leave a window open that night so Santa could get in (we live in Tucson, not too cold at night).

    Well, one of her friends was horrified that she would consider that option. After all, Elizabeth Smart’s parents left a window open, and look what happened to her!

    Needless to say, I was incredulous that someone would think of such a far-fetched reason why windows could not be left open at night. I called him on it, but nothing convince him, since it’s “better to be safe than sorry.” Ugh.

  75. One thing that really worrys me, at the moment WDW in Florida is very friendly to solo travellers. Will parent paranoia make single people unwelcome there?

  76. I remember on one of the mighty mom sites (which I no longer visit), someone wrote an article about a photo of a dad giving his 8-year-old daughter a peck on the lips. The article argued that that was way too sexual and nobody should ever kiss a child on the lips.

    And another article that said Obama might be a perv (or at least a bad dad) for making some comment about his daughters growing older and more attractive, and him not being to thrilled to think of them dating. (I’m no fan of Obama, but please!!)

  77. Lauren, we actually leave our upstairs windows open during nice weather but if we’re sleeping or not home we close the downstairs windows. We have a lot of break-ins in our neighborhood, so we have reason to be nervous. I’m not worried about kidnappings, but we have been broken into before and had $3,500 worth of damage and stuff stolen. Therefore, downstairs windows are closed! Depending on where your friend lives, keeping the downstairs windows closed might be a good idea. Upstairs, though, I wouldn’t be all that nervous about.

  78. Oh, and…about Santa. We also have no chimney, but we do have a key! We got it for a dollar or so and it’s just a little cheap piece of plastic that looks like metal. It has a picture of Santa on it and a red string tired around it. We hang it on the front door on Christmas Eve so Santa can get in. It’s a magic key and only works for Santa.

  79. And yet, Lauren, he’s not at *all* concerned about the bad precedent of telling his daughter that men who come into your house while you’re sleeping are just there to give you gifts? LOL.

    (Not that I think Santa = enabling predators, I’m just saying.)

  80. When my daughter was about 6 months old, and I was a full time student, after I picked her up from daycare I stopped at the grocery store. After gathering all of our groceries, I realized my wallet was in my backpack in the car. My first instinct was to take my daughter to the car with me to get the wallet. It was November, snowy here in Minneapolis, so I didn’t really want to go through the trouble of lugging a fussy baby to the car. Then I saw an older woman browsing in the magazine section (next to baby products). I figured she wouldn’t panic if I asked her to keep an eye on the baby for a few minutes while I ran out to the car. She agreed, the two of them were fine, and nobody else in the store freaked out either.

  81. What amazes me is that my “Free Range” mother has turned into a helicoptor grandparent. We grew up on a farm and were gone for hours at a time, in the woods, by the creek, with the cows, etc. Wonderful childhood for me, and my mom could actually get something accomplished without 3 kids in the house. Now that I have my own 3 kids, she is constantly on the lookout. “Should the kids be allowed to play in the yard by themselves? Don’t let her wear that! I wouldn’t let them spend time with those kids if I were you.” I refuse to live my life as if my kids are in constant danger or that they are too perfect to be ‘soiled’ by the neighborhood kids.

  82. Jeneet, I can understand where your mom is coming from. The country is a different universe to the city. In the country they get city newspapers so get the idea the city is a dangerous place.

    I was raised in the country, too. But my mom kept Free Range in the suburbs. Our neighbors were helicopter parents, but after she gave them ‘a good talking to” she soon converted the whole street.

    Just remind your mom it’s actually safer in the city than the country… you’re not going to be chased and gored by a bull or bitten by snakes.

  83. With all these stories that make the U.S. sound like a war-torn country in which no one is safe at any time or in any situation… it would be great to have some comments from people who have lived in war-torn countries to compare the similarities.

  84. I’m the director of a child care center and I’ve always been fortunate to have talented men working in my programs. I have frequently come across parents who say “I don’t want a man changing my daughter’s diapers”. (and I always wonder if that applies to the child’s father). I reassure them that ALL employees have extensive criminal background and personal reference checks, ALL employees are highly qualified for their positions and NO employees work unsupervised. I hire the best candidates for the position, period. Most parents eventually accept this, and come to love and trust the male teachers. A few have chosen not to enroll in the program however. I’m disappointed to lose a potential customer, but won’t bow to irrational fear and change my practices

    It’s a rare enough thing to have men interested in working with young children, in a job with low wages and low societal respect. When we are lucky enough to find talented, caring educators we need to not drive them away with our paranoia and worst-first thinking.

  85. A few years back the PTA at my kids’ school decided to stop publishing a school directory each year. Cause perverts could use it to look up kids’ addresses and stalk them.

    So now all the community building that comes with school families being able to call, or email each other, or see which families live near you to arrange carpools–all much more difficult.
    The school also prohibits the passing out of birthday party invites at school. So you can’t pass out the invites at school and have no directory in which to look up the addresses or phone numbers of your kid’s classmates to deliver the invites via phone, snail or e-mail.

  86. My story isn’t about kids, but it’s the same sort of worst-first thinking.

    I was the photographer/photo editor at my university’s newspaper when I attended school. One day, I was shooting a student-run concert/talent show which featured multiple performers. I was standing up front with my camera (a very large “professional” rig which makes it clear that I’m not just an amateur photographer) shooting the show, and people who knew me had been periodically coming up to say hi to me.

    A young lady came up to do a solo guitar set, but she had an unusual name and I didn’t catch it when the MC announced her. After she was finished, the MC went up to introduce the next act, and she (the MC) came back and sat down next to me where she had been the entire time I was there. I leaned over to her and said “Excuse me – I didn’t catch that last performer’s name. Could you tell me what it was?” She looked at me and hesitated before saying “Umm…is there any way you could ask her yourself? I’m not sure if I should be giving you that information…”
    I made the -_- face at her and said “I’m a photographer for [newspaper name], I just didn’t catch the spelling of her name.”
    After that, she said “Oh! Ok” and was more than happy to give me her name and thanked me for being there on the newspaper’s behalf.

    That sort of put me in a sour mood for the rest of the night. What did she think I was going to do? Take her name, find out which dorm she lived in, then kidnap/stalk her? While it’s true I didn’t introduce myself as a newspaper photographer before asking the question, I didn’t see the need to – I had been up there for the entire show, my camera said “here on business”, and people had been coming up to talk to me, which indicated that I wasn’t just a random creeper. I didn’t understand her paranoia, and I felt upset and insulted that she thought I was up to no good simply by asking for a female’s name.

  87. Hmmm…this post is making me wonder if friends of mine have been concerned about my husband playing with their children. We suffered infertility for years before finally having our son, which meant we attended many friends’ children’s parties on our own. I preferred to catch up with friends but my husband is kind of socially awkward and shy, so he always went and hung out with the kids. Now I wonder if everyone was concerned that my childless husband shunned the beer drinking, football watching men and played in the bounce house instead.

    My 18 month old son was playing with my keys while in a shopping cart the other day when an older man approached, clearly very concerned and informed me “He’s chewing on your keys!” I told him, “Yeah, they’re pretty much his favorite toy.” His face went even more pale: “You cannot let him chew on keys – he could get a terrible infection. He could die!” From chewing on keys. Something tells me he wouldn’t have approved when minutes earlier my son dropped some Goldfish crackers and I picked them up, checked there were no giant pieces of dirt and ::gasp:: gave them back to my kid to eat!

  88. @MHarrison, not only what you said..but hadn’t the MC just annouced her name to the whole audience? How would repeating it a second time have been “giving you that information”?

  89. @Beth, exactly. The paranoia is mind-boggling.

  90. I recently had the opportunity, so to speak, to TEACH worst-first thinking to my kiddos. In our most recent book order from Scholastic, we received a extra book called “Never EVER talk to strangers!” In the story, the kid kicks his soccer ball into the neighbor’s yard, and when he goes to retrieve it, the neighbor approaches to hand him the ball. He shouts, “You’re a stranger!” and runs back his own house without his ball, slams and locks the door and goes panicking to his mother. The neighbor has to return the ball by knocking on the front door, and everyone congratulates the kid for being “safe.”

    Gag. How about reprimanding the kid for being RUDE?

    Just the title had me annoyed – if you don’t talk to strangers, how do you meet new people and make new friends? DUH! We moved to a new state last year and initially met many of our neighbors because our 4-year-old says hello to everyone she sees. She made the first contact, not the adults.

    Then I actually read the story and the book went straight into our recycle bin. There is a balance to strike to teach children about safety – that is not it.

  91. I had taken my sister and my nephew out for brunch at a local restaurant a couple of weeks ago. On the way out, my sister went to the washroom, my nephew was happily sitting on a bench coloring in his book, I was talking to the hostess (I knew her). My nephew was no more than 8 feet from where I was standing and in plain view. There wasn’t anything that he would have done that I didn’t notice. I’ve learned over the years doing security to listen while still keeping any eye out. Then I noticed a women (I’m guessing in her late 40s early 50s), approaching my nephew. Holding out her hand as if to lead him somewhere. Not being that paranoid person, and trusting my nephew to do what he has been taught, I watch to see how this unfolded. Within a few seconds my nephew called out to me, I walked over and politely asked if I can help her. She asked if he was my boy, I said he’s my nephew. Then she proceeded to give me the paranoia speech, “you should keep a closer eye on him”. “someone can just snatch him up”. I then replied, well, I noticed you approaching him, I’ve been keeping an eye. And he did what he was suppose to do when a stranger tries to get him to go with them. I have no fears, as I know nothing will happen to him. Then to my surprise, she started to lecture me that I can be arrested for leaving my nephew unattended, or child services can come take him (deep down I’ve been waiting for someone to pull that crap on me). I said, really? Well, why don’t I call them and let them now that you came out of nowhere, trying to get my nephew to leave with you. My friend here (pointing at the hostess) saw it too. We just didn’t say or do anything because we like to give people the benefit of the doubt. So instead of approaching a staff member, you took it upon yourself to lead him away, to god knows where. That can easily be considered attempted kidnapping. At this point she had this fear in her eyes. I then started to tell her, see how it feels when you suddenly just get accused of something because that’s what I thought. NOT what it is. Then I told her, this world isn’t as bad as you think, and people aren’t as perverted as fearful people like see them as, and just because a parent lets their kid sit on a bench happily doing his own thing, while standing a few feet away doing their own thing, doesn’t mean the child is neglected. After ending with the “do unto others” speech, I told her she should remember this incident. As there are people out there who don’t take kindly to strangers trying to “make off” with their child. Even if it is of best intent. That she could have been dealing with another paranoid individual that WILL call the police on her.

    I don’t know if it got through to her, but it certainly did put the fear of god into her when I suggested calling the cops and she can explain why she tried to get my nephew to go with her, instead informing the restaurant, if she was so concerned for the child sitting by himself. My sister came out of the washroom early enough to see me giving this woman a stern talking to. I did ask my nephew what the woman said to him as she was trying to get him to take her hand. All he said was that “she wasn’t very nice”. My nephew is a smart kid, and he likes everyone, or at least tries to get along with others. So when he says that someone isn’t “very nice”, it raises a flag for me.

  92. When we lived in military housing many years ago, there was a story passed around base that a mom got brought up on child-endangerment charges because she left her SLEEPING baby alone in the house while she shoveled the sidewalk out front. Her husband was deployed at the time, and on base you get written up if you DON’T shovel! Would the baby have been better off being brought outside into North Dakota winter?

  93. My son is seventeen years old. We live in a housing complex, roughly sixty units, and most of them have children, of all ages. Everyday this past summer, at least one child aged between seven and ten, would come knocking asking if my son can come outside and play. Why? Because even though he’s seventeen years old, he still likes to run around the park, play tag, manhunt, and sometimes just swing the kids around when they jump on his back, or sit on his feet. I think they think he’s like an overgrown kid that they can be physical with without worrying about pulling their punches or hurting him. For his part, he treats them like children, still breakable but strong in their own way.
    Unfortunately, some parents have called the onsite housing office worrying about why a teenage boy would want to play in a park with little children. They didn’t talk with him. They didn’t come to me, his mother. They went to the office, hoping the office person would do… something. I was hurt and angered when the office person told me this. I wanted to hide my son from these people who would hurt him like this, with their assumptions about his reasons.
    I look at my son playing with the kids in the playground (the park is completely viewable from my bedroom window) and I feel good. I feel proud. Here is a seventeen year old boy (man?) who doesn’t feel shame in interacting with, and having fun with, a bunch of kids. I think he would make a wonderful, fun-loving father.

  94. I am not sure if this counts.

    High School teachers in Qld, Australia have been banned from becoming Facebook friends with students, due to the potential for grooming them.

  95. My friends Melanie and Donna went out to eat with their young children. The restaurant was very busy and the wait was longer than the kids could stand. So they decided to go to another restaurant and left. As they were walking across the parking lot Donna’s son (age 4) started choking.

    Melanie, who is a social worker, realized it was a near complete blockage. So she grabbed him and started 1st aid. When she didn’t clear the blockage the first time – she yelled for someone to call 911.

    She continued to try and clear the blockage. Just as the EMT truck pulled into the lot, she got the mint to pop out. The boy had snagged one of those peppermints from the hostess stand.

    The EMT’s started reading Donna the riot act about how she was a neglectful Mom and they were going to have to report her to CPS.

    Melanie pulled out her ID and asked in what universe did they think that Social Workers had the time to investigate and obvious accident. That reports like that could cost a truly abused child their life, because time was taken away from helping them. She then got their badge numbers and filed a complaint with the FD against the EMT’s for their unprofessional behavior.

    She was later contacted and told that the EMT’s had to undergo refresher training about what child abuse is and is not.

  96. Honestly I agree that teachers should not friend students. Not because of potential sexual behavior, but because I’m not my students’ friend. I am their teacher.

    I deserve to have my privacy and the kids deserve their privacy.

    I don’t want some parent giving my principal a hard time because of something my cousins posted. (Behaviors that are illegal here are not illegal where they live).

  97. Kherbert, good for your friend!

  98. I use a mobility scooter. When I was first getting it, I got told “OMG Don’t let your preschooler ride with you – what if something happens?” I asked what the something might be and the only things they could come up with was either tip over and bail or get hit by a car. Um… How am I supposed to go out with my kid then if she’s not on the scooter with me? Push a stroller with the scooter? Use a trailer that would make the scooter too big for buses or for going into most stores? Rinse, repeat late last month. OMG I’ve got a preschooler riding on my mobility scooter – something might happen! So what am I supposed to do? Let a preschooler have free reign to run and possibly run out into the street and get hit by a car? Yah, she rides with me. My kids actually fight over who gets to ride. And yes, there are idiots who have come close to hitting me on that scooter – all were drivers who were not paying attention. So much simpler and easier to just let her ride with me.

    The only bad thing is that we’ve had a few spills. I’ve always been worse injured that my child has been – mother’s instinct to protect the child.

  99. Today in my kids’ child care cubby, I found papers to sign up for a security ID service. They will fingerprint my kid, enter him in their computer, and give me a photo ID. This is “strongly recommended” as I can then pass around the kids’ pictures “in case of an emergency.” I threw the forms into the trash before I left the classroom.

  100. What about the pediatrician who assured me that my tots could DIE if I didn’t have them vaccinated for chicken pox? What kind of rotten mother wpuld allow her kid to get chicken pox??

  101. When I was pregnant with my first kid, and thought I knew everything and would be the perfect mother, I often succumbed to worst-first thinking. One particular incident, my husband and I were at a restaurant and could see through the window into the parking lot. A car came and quickly parked in the handicapped, and a heavily pregnant woman got out, car still running, door still open, and ran to the bathroom inside the restaurant. First, I sympathized with a pregnant woman’s need to pee. Then I noticed that there were two sleeping kids, an infant and a toddler, in the back seat, and I was outraged. How dare she leave those two kids in her car when any pedo driving by could come snatch them up easy as pie. I can’t believe how angry I was at this lady.

    Man, I was a douche.

  102. I already contributed a “worst-first thinking” situation. Is it okay that I contribute a “best-first thinking” example that’s almost the exact opposite of the worst-first thinking situation?

    I already emailed it to Lenore (I write a lot) and feel inclined to post it here.

    The “worst-first” thinking example I already posted was about someone yelling out “don’t take photos of my kids you pervert” while I, a hobbyist photographer, was in fact photographing the ducks on the lake.

    Here’s the relieving “best-case” thinking example that’s the total opposite.

    Today, while at the in-law’s place (yes, the same place where I’ve often encountered helicopter parenting), a neighbor’s little girl was playing in our yard (they’re next door) and I was taking photos of my own two. She started “hamming it up” to have photographs taken of HER by me, and I naturally obliged–both because I’m free-range as a parent AND as a photographer.

    She was loving it, kept going “let me see” after I had taken one. We both enjoyed it.

    Here is the best one (I took about 20): http://www.pbase.com/image/130591384.jpg

    What’s more, the mother, upon seeing the events taking place, didn’t throw a fit, came over & made remarks “that’s a nice camera” (I have 2 Nikon d-SLRs) and I even consented to our 1½ year-old playing in her yard and even put him in a little plastic car.

    I’m going to make prints and a CD of the shots–and give it to the child’s mother as a Christmas present; heck, if it was July, I’d give her a “thank you for not thinking I’m a pedophile because your daughter wanted me to take photographs of her & I obliged” present of the exact same thing.

    LRH

  103. When I was a member of the MOMS Club, the club higher-ups for our region wouldn’t let us announce the location of MOMS Club events on our Yahoo group, even if they were just meet-ups at events hosted by someone else, such as storytime at the library. They said that it was because somebody might hack into the group, read the messages, travel to our island (or put on a disguise if they were local), show up at the venue, and successfully kidnap a child.

    For this and other reasons, there is no longer a MOMS Club chapter in our town.

  104. I was discussing this particular conversation with my husband last night. I asked him about situations where he, alone, without our four kids in tow, was made to feel like a creep.
    He was able to give me one from just the other day. He stopped off at the store to pick up a couple things after work. There was a little girl, blonde hair, blue eyes, about three, sitting in the cart with her mother, acting cute as most girls that age do to get attention. My husband commented to the mother “Aw, she’s adorable!”
    Mind you, he did not even go over and start talking directly to the child. He paid this compliment to the mother.
    And got the look of death from her.
    “Um, yeah, I was going to say she reminds me of my OWN daughter?!?! Whatever!” And he huffed off.
    I guarantee you I make contact with children like this at least once every time I’m shopping. And I waitress on the weekend, so I play peekaboo, sing to, and have conversations with strangers’ kids. Yet no one seems to think anything of it, in fact, they find it charming. Because I’m female. It really pisses me off.
    I wish that had happened when I was right around the corner with my kids in tow, so I could give her a good lecture on what’s up.

  105. Jenny Islander- apparently those are the national MOMS club rules. We had to take down our Facebook page just last month because ‘somebody could see it’. We are military member in Okinawa. I seriously doubt people are going to take a 15 hour plane ride to get to our kids, and everyone here is pretty obviously either military or Japanese.

  106. @EricS : Well, I must say, you’ve lived the dream — not only to tell one of those busy-bodies where to get off, but to put the fear of God into HER! Brilliant!

    It would also be nice to think she’s learned her lesson but probably all she’s thinking is — People who don’t have their children physically attached to them, or tied down into a stroller they’re pushing, are bad and mean and would call the cops on a someone who CARES about children!

    My story is along similar lines. Went to one of those big box stores with my sister and daughter, who must have been around 3 y.o., or maybe a little younger, at the time.

    Had my daughter in a stroller. Sister wants to find a new coat. And I’m there to help her by looking at her in different coats and giving my opinion.(Daughter is there because that’s how it works for kids of that age — get stuck shopping with adults even though it’s not fun for them).

    We’re towards the back of the store. Now ya’ll know how big those box stores are. 1 1/2 football fields long perhaps? Let’s just say lots and lots of footage from entrance to back of the store, and leave it there.

    Sister starts trying on coats, daughter sitting patiently in stroller, spots a toy display about 15 feet away, sweetly asks: Mommy, can I go look at the toys? Of course. Let the poor kid move around a little, right? Stretch the legs and have a little thrill looking at the colorful toys rather than sitting in a stroller for hours on end, right?

    She goes off to look at toys. I stay near sister — who needs to be near coats — but daughter is in my direct line of vision. I keep my body facing in daughter’s direction, and turn my head to the side as needed to view sister in various coats.

    After only a minute or so, an older women, obviously on her way to something else, is stopped dead in her tracks: Such a sight is rarely seen and her disgust and disquiet is apparent — A child quietly looking at toys!! Not in a stroller, without an adult hunkered down next to her. I see the woman whipping her head around to find who is responsible for this atrocity. Of course her eyes meet mine when the head whips in my direction, since I’m already looking at HER (been watching anyway the whole time). I know what’s coming — (you couldn’t have missed the message of her body-language even if you were body-language dyslexic) so I’ve already been mustering up the snottiest facial expression I can manage. “Is this YOUR child?? (cue indignation) She could be taken at any time! You’d better take better care of her!”

    Couldn’t think of anything to say, so just worked on making snotty expression even snottier. And didn’t move a muscle in direction of my child of course — she was fine. Lady moves on — shaken up at what she’s witnessed and (to add insult to injury) the willful ignorance of some parents – but with the air of one who knows they’ve done the right thing, and thereby leave the world a better place.

    Afterwards I had to laugh. If a child snatcher did take my child, he’d have to run about 1/3 a mile to get to the exit. I had a mental image of a child tucked under a man’s arm like a football, his other hand in front of him, hurtling the length of well, yes, a football field, to make off with my child.

    Or maybe she wasn’t thinking of someone having to get my child out through an actual exit — What if an evil gnome popped up from under the floor boards, grabbed her, and brought her back to his underground lair. What if??!! I read about that happening to a child somewhere you know. I did. There it was in black and white. The author’s name was Grime, I think, or was it Grimm?

  107. @Northof49:
    When my kids were young (1 yr, 3yr, 4.5yr) I had a friend who was in an electric wheelchair. When we would walk downtown, ALL my kids would ride with her: baby in a sling on her body, middle child standing on her footrests between her legs, and eldest standing on the battery at the back and holding on to the push-handles. The only time I was ever scared (I would block my eyes!) was when my friend would zoom down the hill with my kids on her! Nothing ever happened, but of course my mind conjured up all sorts of horrific spills. But I put those fears aside in favour of the more logical idea of: nobody’ll die and there’ll be a lesson learned. Only lesson was this: my kids learnt from an early age that people in wheelchairs were perfectly cool.
    The way I see it: the situation of your scooter gives your kids the chance to learn about taking turns. Not to mention that how much fun a scooter can be!

  108. Bethany & Jenny Islander… looks to me someone inside MOMS is working overtime to crash the organization.

    Making sure an organization and its purpose is hidden from the public is the best way to make sure it doesn’t exist for long.

    If the criminal stopping MOMS from being promoted is at head office, you need to get together with other MOMS members and storm the battlements.

  109. I’m an officer at a local club. From the time we open until 9 PM members are encouraged to bring their children and grandchildren. We usually have treats on hand for them and a designated play area with toys. A few months ago I was shopping and I heard my name yelled about the time I got hit around the knees by a 4 year old boy. I looked down and told him “Hello” and called him by name. About that time I looked up and saw a man and woman with a look of horror on their faces. I asked if they were his parents and they said that they were and how did I know their son? It turned out that he was at the club with his Grandparents when I met him. I explained that and everything was fine, except for an employee of the store who was asking them in a loud voice if they wanted the Police called on me?

  110. @SKL, re. chicken pox vaccines… In my country, the National Health System gets every kid vaccined against several “serious” ilnesses. For example polio, certain types of pneumonia, and also chicken pox. At age 5, my eldest was vaccined against it, but caught it nevertheless. I was so flabbergasted I went to her pediatrician and asked just what the vaccine was for, then. She told me that the vaccine did not prevent chicken pox per se, but did cut it before it could cause any complications. Said complications happen when you don’t manage to treat and dry correctly each and every little blister your kid has. And trust me, with three kids going through it, there just aren’t eyes and hands enough for all. If one of those blister gets infected, the virus can get in the blood stream and cause encephalitis, which will result in brain damage, if you’re lucky to catch it on time. If not, your kid will die. Yes, really.
    I don’t know what they pretend to charge you for the vaccine, but if you want to take it easy when your kid/s catch it (and get some sleep during the two weeks they’ll be bugging you), I would recommend you to take it.

  111. @SKL, re. chicken pox vaccines… In my country, the National Health System gets every kid vaccined against several “serious” ilnesses (the ones that can result in death and malformations). For example polio, certain types of pneumonia, also chicken pox… At age 5, my eldest was vaccined against it, but caught it nevertheless. I was so outraged that I went to her pediatrician and asked just what the vaccine was for, then. She told me that the vaccine did not prevent chicken pox per se, but did cut it before it could cause any complications. Said complications happen when you don’t manage to treat and dry correctly each and every little blister your kid has. And trust me, with three kids going through it, there just aren’t eyes and hands enough for all. If one of those blister gets infected, the virus can get in the blood stream and cause encephalitis, which will result in brain damage, if you’re lucky to catch it on time. If not, your kid will die. Yes, really. She actually treated a foreign kid (not vaccined) who caught it at age 9, and almost died on her.
    I don’t know what they pretend to charge you for the vaccine, but if you want to take it easy when your kid/s catch it (and get some sleep during the two weeks they’ll be bugging you), I would recommend you to take it. Less work for you.

  112. @jenny islander: LOL! Karma working at it’s best. Unfortunately, the only ones that really suffer for the loss of MOMS is the children. All because the mothers were so selfishly about themselves. I still don’t by the bit “it’s about the children and keeping them safe”. What it’s mostly about, is the peace of mind of the parent(s).

  113. In light of the new TSA procedures, I’ve been told that if I allow my child to go through the scanner, I’m enabling the pedophile in the back room to get his jollies, and if I allow a TSA agent to touch my child I might as well have handed her over to a molester or a rapist.

    My family goes through the scanner – no problems, and we’ve submitted to several pat downs both from TSA agents doing random screenings and from security guards at sporting events. My kids know the difference between “good touching” and “bad touching” – even when it comes to security – and haven’t ever had a problem with these security clearances.

    The people with the problems is everyone else with the worst-first mentality! Its ridiculous!

  114. O I have another one! Around the same time we were moving into our current house, three men escaped from the county prison. The day we moved in they had been missing for 4-5 days, and the news was reporting that they thought the guys were long gone by now. 2 days after we moved in my husband called me at work to tell me the police had just been there, three carloads of them. Apparently one of our new neighbors had seen my husband walking around our yard during our son’s nap and called to tell the police that the escaped prisoners were living in our house. Luckily nothing dramatic happened. The police played with our son, and welcomed my husband into the neighborhood (somewhat cheekily).🙂 We still haven’t figured out which neighbor it was that thought the worst first, and I don’t think I want to know. I mean really, who jumps to that conclusion over a new family must have moved in?

  115. @ Irrational fears-
    I live just South of Tijuana, and as most Americans know, there is a very bloody drug war going on in certain cities in Mexico. Even though Americans are as safe here as anywhere, just about every one that hears where I live thinks I am nuts! (I think THEY are nuts- I have an Ocean front house for half the cost of a one bedroom apt in So Cal, and a great live in nanny for $100 a week.I’m 11miles from San Diego!)

    Mexico is actually a great place to have kids, everyone LOVES kids and babies and is very protective of families, and Moms with kids. Some TJ neighborhoods ARE very dangerous, so fear is smart, but once you are outside of the city, the rest of Baja is paradise. Some people are very paranoid about drug dealing- for good reason, 99% of the deaths are directly related to drug dealing! Unfortunatley this does manifest itself in some not so helpful ways in my (upscale, mostly expat retiree) neighborhood: if you are under the age of 50 you are suspect, if you have friends over at night, there will be gossip, heaven forbid you give someone something outside your house (a forgotten purse for example) , this makes you a drug dealer! it’s assumed all young people kow each other, so if one gets in trouble, the military/police will go to other young peoples houses, even if they don’t know the offender, but the military is very polite, not scary. The police ARE thieves, and will take you in just to bribe you, and you pay so you don’t sit there for hours (whatever cash you have, like$20).

    That said, the few fears are rational, and based on things that are reasonably related to the killings. But, even with this going on, I prefer to live here because the chance anything happening is minimal if you aren’t a drug dealer/gang member/cop/politician. There IS real worry over kidnapping, but it’s limited to key employees of wealthy Mexicans (very extortable), and people involved in drug and arms trafficking. Your average person has nothing to worry about, especially Americans (fear of US retaliation over harming of innocent Americans is real). And they DONT worry.

    To keep this in perspective, most American cities have higher murder rates than all Mexican cities except for Juarez, which IS a bloodbath right now (and thousands of miles away from where I live). In the last year they have #s for, 24 Americans not in a drug gang, were murdered in the WHOLE country, most in Juarez. There were 4 million over night visitors, several hundred thousand US ex pats living there FT, and 50 million border crossing in TJ alone!

    People here have real fears, of poverty, job loss mostly. The culture is NOT one of fear, kids even work and do things they never would do in the US because they are considered “too young”. At big stores, like Wal Mart, little kids, 5-10 are volunteer baggers, people give them change here and there and thats how they contribute to families. That would NEVER happen here, as kids arent even allowed alone for a minute! I think many are workers kids, but not all.

    Wherever I go, everyone wants to see my baby, hold him and talk about him. its great. This includes MEN!!! They are sweet and affectionate with kids and no one thinks its weird. you are RUDe if you act that way!

    Another thing that would NEVER happen in the USA: I went to visit a friend in the ICU, and I couldn’t bring my baby in, so the hospital social worker offered to hold him while we visited. no problem, she carried him around, showing him off, I picked him up when I was leaving.

    So, overall it is Free Range, like America in the 50s.

  116. 4 years ago, my husband and I lived in a quiet apartment complex in a rural community. We had cleaned out our storage unit, and were throwing out some trash. Because there were some larger items, we loaded them into our van, and backed it up to the dumpster to discard them. While we were tossing items into the trash, a young boy came up and began to visit with my husband. He was an adorable kid, and my husband pointed out which building we lived in, and invited him to come play with our five-year olds sometime.

    Later that night, the police showed up, asking about a man in a van who was talking with a neighbor boy. Apparently, the boy went home and told his mom about the friendly man who ‘owned a van and invited him to play’, and she freaked out and called the cops. Needless to say, the cop said it was no big deal, he would tell the mother it was an understanding, but I gave her the stinkeye any time I saw her for the rest of our lease.

  117. @JIM COLLINS I used to run the children’s art museum in a West Texas city. I regularly was greeted this way by kids around town. I would stick out my hand to the startled parents and Say I’m Kimberly from the Children’s Art Museum, have you used your pass from the field trip (free admission for 1 child/1 adult). They would start laughing.

    I don’t live near where I teach – but sometimes I do some shopping right before or after school. While I currently teach 4th grade I was the Tech teacher for all students until 2 years ago. I’m also 1st level tech support, so all the kids know me. Now it is stick out my hand and say Hi, I’m a teacher at School.

  118. Treen talking about reading the book about not talking to strangers (the guy next door when the ball gets kicked over the fence) reminded me of some of my husbands’ coworkers. We just moved to the area. I was lamenting that in our little rural neighborhood that there weren’t kids that played outside. (We didn’t see kids for months, and the weather was nice.) The coworker said that they didn’t know about kids in their neighborhood either, because it was not that safe for kids to go out. Their kids do private school, so they didn’t get to walk or ride the bus with local kids. All I could think was “how sad – you don’t know your neighbors and you have lived there for years.”

    We did finally find kids in our area – they just didn’t play outside. They seem to a lot more now though since my kids have been out there. We homeschool, so my kids didn’t get to meet the kids on the bus either.

  119. Seems to me, that worst-case thinking is going to continue until the victims strike back with lawsuits.

    I was a victim of worst-case thinking. I lived in an apartment beside a pond with ducks. The snapping turtles ate ducklings but because I had a pet snake, the property manager wrote me on letterhead that I had been suspected and “upon investigation, confirmed” to be catching ducks for my snake and I must cease and desist this. Wow. Confirmed? Did they ever ask me? Nuh-uh. I wrote them and their corporate office a letter threatening a libel lawsuit. They apologized on letterhead, sent flowers, and FIRED the staffer who wrote the letter.

    False and groundless accusations can have nasty consequences, besides hurt feelings and resentment from the wrongfully accused.

  120. Was reading an article in New Scientist (!!!!) about a new device designed in Japan that allows parents to monitor their child while not with him/her, such as when s/he is at preschool.

    And I do mean ‘monitor’, as it continuously reports things like pulse rate, so – the article said – if parents notice their child’s pulse rate go up they can look at the video transmission to see what is going on. Something dreadful, no doubt, as routinely happens in preschools everywhere.

  121. A volunteer at the museum I worked at decided that she should have final on my job. When I stood up to her. She told my boss I was involved with child porn.

    Her reasoning I had pictures of kids on my computer all pictures of kids on computers are porn.

    Most were pics I took at the museum of our activities. I was an early adopter of dig camera at least in that area.

    I also downloaded a picture of my cousin’s newborn baby from the museum web site. Yikes that baby is graduating HS this year.

  122. Lola, re chickenpox, the child you use in your example was 9 years old. Chickenpox causes more complications in older kids, so I have decided to get the vaccine if my kids don’t catch it by about age 9. However, in younger kids it is quite benign. In my generation, everybody (yes, everybody) caught it when we were young kids, and I never knew anyone with long-term or major problems. Moms used to bring their kids over to homes where other kids had chickenpox, to make sure the kids could catch it and be done with it before they got older. (My mom had 4 kids with chickenpox at once – might as well get it over with all at once.) It is unfortunate that nowadays we don’t have much opportunity to expose our young kids to chickenpox and achieve lifelong immunity.

    The whole “could die” comment from a pediatrician was just irresponsible. My healthy tots/preschoolers were not going to “die” from chickenpox. If he wanted to make a meaningful statement, he should have cited a statistic of the actual risk of death from chickenpox in their age range.

  123. @escaped to Mexico aka staceyjw I always thought of Mexico as a dangerous place for kids as my grandmother always feared as I’m a blue eyed blond that I could be kidnapped by guys from the Mexican Mafia and sold into child prostitution. We lived quite frequently in Hispanic neighborhoods so she never allowed me out of her sight because of her fear of me being kidnapped. This was in the 80’s and I’m not sure if what my grandmother said was true, but I get a bit nervous when Hispanic men talk to me despite me being in my 30’s now.

  124. @SKL Re chicken pox,. my father used to say the casualties are never light from the casualties’ perspective.

    Chicken pox can cause brain infections, not often but why take the risk when a simple, very low risk shot can remove it entirely.

    Chicken pox is also much worse in kids with ‘unhealthy skin’, including eczema. All my kids had eczema and the oldest three suffered dreadfully when they had chicken pox (especially the one who also had plaster on his broken arm at the time he caught them).

    The vaccine wasn’t around for the older three but was for number four, so as soon as it was available I had her vaccinated, to save her the miserable discomfort of two itchy scratchy skin diseases at once.

  125. Saw this one, and had to comment. I love reading this blog!

    My story involves Mr. Serrano and I on a trip Up North (nah, we’re not from MI at all).

    Since we had to share a towel, and Mr. Serrano didn’t feel like waiting back at the camp for me, we waited outside for eachother at the showers. He, being the awesomely chivalrous man he is, allowed me to shower first, and stayed outside gazing at the neat pictures of animals they have tacked up everywhere. You know, wolves, deer, racoons, etc..

    So suddenly this woman (honest to goodness she looked like the GAWD Warrior off from that wifeswap show) comes over to him, glares, and says something to him, the only word of which he understands being “pedophile”. (He’s still learning English.)

    Mr. Serrano is completely confused, wonders why the hell he is being called a pedophile, (maybe its the whole Mexicans=perverts stereotype?) and I come out and hear the story.

    Later on, we see the huge fat footed woman in the dark, and I jokingly laugh and say “Hey, you! Yes, you, the pedophile in a shirt” or something equally ridiculous. As we get back to our tent and are sitting around the fire, Fat Foot comes stomping out, swinging a lantern.

    Apparently she was on a Pedo Hunt or something, because she circled the entire campground *twice*. I’m surprised she didn’t die from the strain- we could hear her wheezing as her feet slapped the ground.

    All that for an innocent young man staring at photos of Michigan wildlife. Hubba-hubba.

  126. Once I was driving from my home in eastern CT to NY City with my three boys in the back seat of our car. It was February, in the early evening.
    About an hour into the drive, I stopped to pee. Because it was cold and two of the three were sleeping, I left them in the car. I locked the door and the third one, who is 9, was ‘in charge’.
    I returned to the car after no more than 5 minutes, handed the 9 y.o. a snack and got ready to back out, when I was blocked by a state trooper.
    Evidently, a woman had called the police on me for leaving them in the car. She was animatedly talking to the trooper and seemed quite hysterical.
    I stayed in the car until the trooper came and asked me for my ID and other info. When I rolled down the window, I could hear my children’s benefactor shrilly shouting that I should be arrested.
    He then told the woman that she could go, which she seemed to do reluctantly.
    He went back to his car to run my info, but waited until the woman had driven away. He also talked a bit on his cell phone. He then returned my info to me and told me that he had four kids of his own and he had just talked to his wife who told him to let me go!
    However, he did inform me that it is illegal in CT to leave any child under 14! alone in a car for any length of time. I was shocked to learn this, but grateful for the intervention of the troopers wife.

  127. I hate this, but here is my “Worst First”:
    I had just changed my 3mo’s diaper, and decided to let him lounge in his bassinet nude for a little while. He loved it, and was giggling and cooing up a storm, it was so cute!

    I use my Blackberry to take pics and text/email them asap to my family, all of which are thousands of miles away. I started to take a cute “naked butt baby” pic, and the most HORRIBLE thought crossed my mind-

    “What if they show it to someone and I get accused of sending child porn?” and “OMG, will it then be a federal offense for sending across state lines and internationally?”, “People have gotten busted for less, and it ruined their, and their whole families, lives!”

    Then I remembered all the naked pics of me and my brother in our family albums, from 1976 and 80. I’m talking about total nudity, genitals and all, no editing, taken in the sweetest, most innocent way; snapped by parents who never had such a thought and thus did not censor their behavior. Even though they had to take it to be processed at a photo lab, where many strangers could see it, and copy it a million times if they wanted too (or turn them in for indecency!)!

    I took the pic, and sent it anyway. BUT when I started to take a few more, I made sure NONE of his genitals were in it, not even a hint, just in case. We’re talking about MY THREE MONTHS OLD, in general pics not close ups or anything abnormal or lascivious (to normal people!) Self censorship is very real.

    I was so disgusted that I would even have to worry about such things, and that it effected my actions. I was even more disgusted with the type of people that could LOOK at a innocent baby pic and call it “dirty”, and who assumes everyone else that sees it would have a pedo-reaction! That’s a paranoid, and sick minded person!

    I hate to be influenced by the news, and I know its not common thing to get in trouble for, but the consequences are SO serious I couldn’t help worrying. If the sexting and other related stories hadn’t been so scary, plus the mania over “pedo/ strangers” on every street corner, I never would have had this thought!

    To me THIS is “worst first thinking” and I am ashamed I participated in it.

    Indeed, it is a depressing, frightening, day when the consequences for the INNOCENT parents and teens (who took the pics) are WORSE than what a pedo would actually DO with the pics! (That is, if they ever figured out I have a kid, knew I had a few nude pics, and hacked my email or phone to look for them.) I know that sounds callous, but as thoroughly grossed out, and angry, it makes me to think about a pedo (or 10) “getting off” to my kids PIC, I do think it’s SO MUCH WORSE to prosecute innocents for “lurid pics” that are nothing of the sort. After all, as sick as it is, if no one knows the pervert has the pic, no one involved is actually hurt.

    And, if they DO know, is the disgust really worse than losing time to jail, getting branded a sex offender for life, and likely losing your job, friends and reputation, for a long, long time, if not forever? Not to mention the poor kid who loses a parent, and has to live with the fallout of the legal action and offender status, over a pic of their body! The damage and guilt this causes can be devastating to whole families for. no. reason.

    No good can come of the misplaced, detrimental, hyper focus and terror over pedophiles. YES, they exist. YES, they DO horrible things to kids. However, NOT every person is a sicko, lurking 24/7, just waiting to get to your kid. By expanding the definition of pedophile to anyone who has NORMAL contact, affection, or interaction with a kid, you change how people act and think. When you criminalize normal behavior, you make healthy people into suspects, and helps to HIDE the true perverts.

  128. @AB-
    “White Slavery” in America is a urban legend, based on racism, often used to scare kids into behaving! I am sorry your grandma made you scared of Hispanics. The hispanic culture is very protective of kids and families, in general, and Hispanic men are no worse than whites when it comes to assaulting women. Your grandma should have met some of her neighbors, she may have been less fearful had she realized they are just average people too!

    However, Sexual slavery IS very real all over the world, with wealthy Western nations being the consumers, and poor countries being the providers. It is not as common for a kid to be kidnapped outright, and sold, because then someone is always looking for them, and the family may take revenge. What happens more often is a family sells a kid due to poverty/drugs/debts, believing they will end up adopted by a wealthy family. Kids also get sent away because parents are tricked into thinking they are going to be brought to the US and educated, taken to work, or sent to a distant relative to live. Parents don’t realize they are being taken to a pedo or brothel, and don’t worry or start looking until it’s too late, if at all. Poor kids, from impoverished, powerless families or widows, are the victims.

    Other kidnappers include immigrant smugglers, who will take a kid as collateral/payment/revenge if the kids family doesn’t/can’t pay for their passage, or to blackmail them for more cash. Rich kids may also be snatched for ransom or political reasons (not rape), by cartel members or cops, but they aren’t targeted for sale.

    It’s RARE for Americans of any age to be targeted at all (esp inMexico) unless they are heavily involved with drug or arms trafficking. It just causes too much trouble for all involved. If a pedo/brothel is going to buy a blonde, blue eyed kid, they will look to Eastern Europe or Russia, not America!

    American kids get kidnapped by strangers very rarely, and are more likely to be put into the sex trade by their own family members.

  129. Here’s mine. OK, so it’s from the Daily Mail, but I heard it on the radio this morning. Photos of children in a school yearbook have been covered with black stripes across the eyes to prevent the children from being recognisable. The headmistress said it’s because ‘anything could happen’.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333454/Nativity-blackout-Parents-banned-taking-photos-pupils-eyes-covered–child-protection.html

    My husband was listening to the article with me and said ‘Like what? A paedophile looks at the photo and decides that of all the children in the world he wants to rape that one, and goes to the school and walks into the classroom and points out the child, and the teacher says “Well, you’ve seen the photo so I guess I can’t stop you”?’

  130. @escaped to Mexico aka staceyjw I’m still anxious about a lot of paranoid things my family told me, but I know now that this anxiety and being a homebody is detrimental to my health more than going outside and experiencing the world. In the past years I’ve walked home from work and school at night, and also put on skin glitter every so often ( if you saw my first post in this thread you would understand what I mean). When I have kids I WILL NEVER raise them in such a paranoid manner that its detrimental to their health and well being like my family did.

    BTW I also had an aunt, who grew up in the WW2 era, who refused to take me to a German themed tourist attraction as she worried that “Nazis” or the KKK would abduct me for sex slavery– because I’m a blue eyed blond!

  131. The chickenpox discussion is interesting – here we have the idea even among free-range parents that if there’s any risk at all, everyone needs to take significant precautions. The risk of an average small child being significantly harmed by chickenpox is so tiny. Stack that up against the risk of a whole population of kids having the vaccine. Vaccines are not risk-free nor trouble-free nor cost-free nor pain-free. If one of 100 kids gets a significant reaction from the vaccine, that is still worse than 1 in 50,000,000 having a significant problem from the disease itself.

    Now if a parent wants to get the vaccine for other logical reasons, that’s great. Some may feel it’s better than taking a week off work with a sick child. Some, like Catherine Scott above, may feel their individual child is likely to suffer more than most from the disease. But when the vaccine is guilt-marketed to tens of millions of parents because we can’t accept the risk of a few kids getting more than a little sick, that’s worst-first thinking.

    Also, when people say vaccines are low risk, most of the time this statistic is not quantified. When I’ve dug deeper, I’ve often found that the aggregate risk of vaccinating a whole population is more than the aggregate risk of not vaccinating. Depending, of course, on how risk is defined and prioritized. Personally I don’t want my kids to be lily-livered in any sense of the word, and hence value a strong immune system over avoiding a week of scratching. (Aside from the medical and ethical concerns over the chickenpox vaccine.)

  132. And here’s a good essay (PDF) on the damage that worst-first attitudes can do to children, by preventing them from having any decent sort of relationship with supportive adults:

    http://www.manifestoclub.com/files/GeorgeHoare01.pdf

  133. Oh, and having poked around a little further on that site, I’ve found a blog with lots of good examples of worst-first thinking:

    http://www.manifestoclub.com/blog/

  134. We went to the childrens emergency room for an eye infection late at night(which I would have rather just wait until morning and call my sons doctor, but daddy was insistent), there is a a bathroom by the waiting area, my son tried to go in and I said to him “No, stay out of the potty”. A woman(who was there with her own) asked how old my son was and we really really really short 3 sentence chat about our kids before my sons name was called. Once in the doctors office my husband immediately asked “What was that all about with the skanky lady asking about my son?” in a demanding tone. I just said we had a chat about our kids. But really? A woman can’t chat in the emergency room?

    I think the whole paranoia about our kids is really just about control in general, not the actual fear of pedophiles or kidnapper. It’s just used as an excuse to justify themselves. Those who bring their kids to play dates only control what friends they have. Instilling the fear of strangers prevents them from talking to anyone parents don’t want them too. You get the picture. More than likely the same mom who freaks out when her kid talks to a stranger also gets angry when her man talks with another woman.

    Actually, that’s another one against men: men don’t want to talk with a woman unless he wants to bone her. Actually(again) that one is pretty equal with both men and women. Once you are in a romantic relationship you can’t have a friendship with a member of the opposite sex.

  135. AB- Your Aunt from WW2at least had a fear attached to reality! The Nazis DID have an Aryan “breeding program” to increase the population of “superior specimens”. This program did not rely entirely on volunteers, (there were some) so many women were raped and held captive. This ended with WW2 though, so Im pretty sure you were safe!

    The KKK doesn’t have the wherewithal or intelligence needed to organize such a thing. They may admire Nazis, but they have none of their organizational ability, and zero skill with mass propaganda. Good thing!!!

  136. @escaped to Mexico aka staceyjw I went to the German themed shopping center last year for Oktoberfest and everyone there were either tourists, or elderly folks wanting to buy cute little nick knacks. Only one suspicious guy in sight, and he was holding onto his sweet looking mother’s arm ( perhaps a helicopter parent?). I guess my relatives have some hang ups, but I was wondering about if their anxieties about certain countries were true or not. A few years ago I even asked my grandmother how anyone could have smuggled me into another country as a kid because I would look so much different than my smugglers and would have no passport. Also I had eczema so bad I wouldn’t even be deemed fit by anyone kidnapping kids for a crime ring.

  137. Some women on a pregnancy forum I frequent were discussing how they avoid going out alone, and try to wear bulky clothes, for fear that someone would see their pregnant bellies and stalk them to either a) steal the baby after its born, or b) to cut the baby out of them. I was flabbergasted, I had no idea anyone could be so paranoid.

  138. Well, it has happened, Anna. I can think of one or two cases.

    Of course, I can *only* think of one or two cases. It’s not exactly common. Most people don’t have that much trouble getting pregnant, and those who do are usually not crazy stalkers.

  139. wow …original post …..bravoo…keep it this way..

  140. First off, I love this blog! Having read some of the comments regarding children and their parents consenting to participating in research, I feel I must add a comment. I am a childless, married 30-year-old. I essentially grew up in Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, which is a teaching hospital. I had many auto-immune diseases and nearly died several times. Throughout my many lengthy hospital stays, teams of students would often come in and discuss my case. I remember feeling slightly uncomfortable about it, and at times I was tired or sleeping and they’d wake me up with their talking, but I think that the greater good is more important than my temporary discomfort. I hope other children with autoimmune disorders were helped by that research.

  141. Could you possibly make an announcement when you are finished with these worst first posts, so that I can start reading your blog again? I love the free range concept but I don’t even watch the news any more because there is so much coverage of the stupid crap people do. It makes me angry and I don’t have time to do anything about it. Hope you get back to child raising how-to’s soon.

  142. Delurking, I’m the doughter of an “helicopter” mom, 30 years ago she was as paranoid as most modern moms, lucky me.
    This paranoia applied to vaccination too, so unless they were strictly compulsory (as some are in my country) I did not get them.
    “Thanks” to that I had the dubious pleasure of gettig rubella, mumps and whooping cough instead of getting a tiny jab on my arm, 2 of them when I was already an adult.
    I’m a single child and did not go to preschool, so I “missed” them when I was small.
    Then I got chickenpox aged 35, to great sniggering of my doctor, it is not funny, it’s a major pain in the, well, wherever you get lesions.
    If I had a child I would not want he/she to go through the itchy misery it has been. And getting scars, even as an adult and knowing you should not scratch it is almost impossible to avoid.

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