“You’re a Horrible Mother” — PART II

Hi Readers! Here’s a follow-up to You’re a Horrible Mother, Part I. Get ready to seethe — and cheer! (And by the way, I am off for a week’s vacation with my family, so the postings may be sparse for the next few days.) — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Almost exactly a year ago – when Lenore published a piece over at ParentDish about a 5 year-old who’d been (purposely, after a discussion with her mother and the children’s librarian) left to play alone in the children’s section of the library for a couple of minutes while the mom went to a different section to get a book – more than 1,000 comments were left in under 24 hours. (She also linked to the piece from this website, and the discussion here, too.)  The great majority of the ParentDish comments were exceedingly negative and condemning, with many calling the mother horrible names. Some even went so far as to declare – like the lovely letter writer who just wrote to Lenore – that CPS should take the child away, that the child deserved to be molested (so the mother could see how awful her actions were), or even that the mother herself be KILLED so that the child could be raised by someone else.

😐

I remember it very well because *I* was the mother who left my 5 year-old daughter in the library!  I’d told Lenore the story when she’d come to my city to do a book reading/talk.  It was absolutely incredible to me to see the viciousness of the comments, to almost literally *feel* the outright hatred aimed at the mom – at ME! – despite the fact that NONE of these complete strangers knew ANYTHING about me as a person or a parent.  Even though I was entirely anonymous, it stung.

So, albeit in a very small way, I can relate to Lenore’s experience and I can say that it sucks!

But also?  It made me think.  It made me re-assess how I DO parent, and made me look more carefully at WHY I parent as I do.  And the outcome?  I’ve become even more Free-Range!  If  THAT’S the mentality of others out there – paranoid, terrified, helicopter-ish to the max – then I know I *HAVE* to continue with Free-Range thinking and parenting more than ever, to ensure that my daughters grow up to be confident, strong, and capable, and to look at the world knowing that dangers do NOT lurk around every corner, that most people ARE good, and that they, themselves, are competent.

Were it not for Lenore and this site, I never would have attended that book reading,  and my story never would have been published on ParentDish, and I never would have been called a terrible mother by thousands of strangers, and I never would have re-examined my parenting beliefs — and my wonderfully smart, confident, trusting, capable, beautiful, HAPPY children might not have the childhood filled with kid-made sandwiches, scraped knees, hours of unsupervised outdoor play, time “alone” at the library while I look for a book, and more laughs than we can count – that they do.

So Free-Rangers: Keep on keeping on. 🙂 — Emily in Rochester, NY

114 Responses

  1. Yeah!!🙂

    If these same people knew what I let my kids do, I’d be right there with you as a “horrible mom”.

    But guess what? People are always telling me how they can’t believe how self-sufficient, confident and independent my kids are……so, guess how they got that way! It’s SO important that we keep doing what we are doing. Thanks, Emily!!

  2. Although I was not able to read all the comments, I did manage to make it through two self back patting pages. My favorite comment, by far, was the one where the mom of the six foot 230 pound 19 year old son still worried when leaving him in a running car to pay for gas…..

  3. Awesome post! pfffft to those that say nasty things when in “the real world” your raising a child to be confident and self-sufficient . Kudos to you!

  4. Bravo!!

  5. Rock on, Emily!

  6. Yes I am learning I am horrible because I let my seven year old independent as hell child cross the street and walk 5 houses into a cul de sac…wait for it….alone! One year later we are still ok.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story! You are awesome. I leave my children alone in the library all the time so I am right with you! (and mine are younger!)
    It makes me sad that people are so afraid of the world around them. I can not live in fear although it creeps in every now and then because of the fear of others.
    How do you deal with parents who are so afraid, constantly telling you horror stories and trying to persuade their grandchildren that they should be afraid? My mother tried to call the state police when we camping once because we had not called that day! (Married adults with children)
    Anyway just wondering…..
    Thanks for voicing all of your stories. They help combat the negatives!

  8. People are so quick to judge. I wonder how they would feel if they knew I was at work right now while my 14, 9 & 5 year olds are at home. The oldest is doing her chores, which involves the use of household chemicals which I do not have locked up! and the two younger ones called me here to tell me they will be heading outside to enjoy the wonderful weather we are having once they are done with their daily chores. (If that’s okay Mom?)

    They are home for all of one hour until I get home from work. They walk the dog, they phone me here (sometimes I have to tell them to STOP calling me unless one of them actually ARE BLEEDING!), they know many of our neighbours – they are completely safe taking care of each other. I have yet to hear of a child abduction that involved taking the whole lot of siblings! (Now that would be really crazy wouldn’t it?)

  9. Srsly? I’ve been leaving my kid alone in the children’s section since she was 4–and not usually discussing it with the librarian first! I had no idea I was such a bad mother…

  10. Yeah Emily!

  11. According to childhelp.org: 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way; 68% are abused by family members.

    So basically what some of the Haters were getting at is that they’d rather Emily have left her child alone with someone she knew, rather than a few feet away in a public library with other adults and witness around? Granted the child could have been out of sight of everyone, but one good scream and there could have been lots of adults around.

    And if we are going to worry about abductions? Good grief. According to kidsfightingchance.com (after I muddled through the fear, I found) 87% of child abductions are by family members.

    So it seems to me, leaving my child with someone I know is more dangerous than alone.

    It’s crazy talk. Emily you made the choice I would have made. Besides, who goes to the library these days but moms with young kids anyway?😉

  12. I have a good story that involves police…..

    I was at the local clerk of courts office at the city court house getting copies of paperwork from my divorce. My kids, age 8 and 12, had asked me to play at a park a block away while I was there. I dropped them off and went to get my paperwork.

    COC office has a cell phone ban so I had to turn my cell phone off while I was in there. kids were told where I would be.

    Seems my kids got into a disagreement at the park, walked back to the courthouse and into the police station (side of building facing the park) to call mom. Mom didn’t answer her phone so an officer left me a message and drove them home.

    When I got out of the coc office I turned my phone on, listened to 4 messages and called the officer back. I told him where I had been, what the kids were supposed to have done and apologized. He laughed, said his kids would have done the same thing, made sure I was on the way home and let me know he had left my kids at our house and that they were fine.

    No harm no foul, and the OFFICER left my kids alone at their house. I was terrified I would get the “talking to” about leaving them alone and all but i didn’t. The officer acted like a community member and took care of a couple of upset (with each other) kids.

    This was years ago. Kids are 13 and 16 now and every time I hear about a cop threatening parents for leaving kids unattended I am glad i live where I do and that the police here are human beings not tyrants.

  13. Thanks for the sanity check, Emily. Just today I left my four-year-old in the children’s section happily playing educational computer games so I could sneak off and pick up a novel. This is standard practice for us, and the children’s librarian couldn’t care less. I, too, am a horrible mother.

  14. Other adults and parents in particular are the most condemning. Problem with people is their big mouths. MYOB!

  15. I am awful yesterday I took my children (1 and 2) to the zoo in the rain, I let them walk up and interact with a group of senior citizens they spent about 20 minutes talking and walking up and down length of the cafe with them looking at the meerkats and worse I even let them give my children a chocolate frog each. All this time I was sitting at our table having my coffee and let me tell you I was getting a few looks ( I’m guessing they were those when we have children I’d never let them do that) -people I was actually in the same room as my children. I don’t want my kids to think every person they meet is scary as they won’t develop the skills to determine what behaviour is appropriate and I believe they will be more likely to become a victim of something even if it’s just the inability to live a full and joyful life. I also will wander off in the library and leave my kids in the children’s area once again in the same room and in hearing range. I let them play outside by themselves in our backyard. I don’t think people get that it’s not about being irresponsible it’s about promoting independence and teaching kids how to cope in a world that is ever changing and not always predictable…what would happen to some of these kids if something did go wrong and they have no life skills….. I think of it this way give them wings and the can fly away from danger, clip them and they can’t do anything except sit back passivley and wait for someone to tell them what to do.

  16. Another horrible mom right here. Last week, I left my 4-year-old reading in the children’s section while I took the 3-year-old to the restroom at the other end of the building. (I wish I could have sent her by herself but she’s not tall enough to get on the toilet without help. Also, a moron laid out the building – who puts the children’s section as far away from the restrooms as you can get?) Anyway, I doubt anyone even noticed.

  17. you should see the looks I get when I tell people we unschool…

  18. What I can’t believe about those comments is that they all believed that this child was ‘left in the care’ of the librarian…At 5 years old, a well-behaved child is capable of watching themselves. It sounded to me as though Emily was simply notifying the librarian that she would be right back, not asking her to guard her child.

    Do these same people who were leaving horrid comments realize that the same dangers are present for adults, too? Grown adults are abducted (every minute, according to the news), women are date raped, adults get flashed by pervs, and bad stuff happens.

    Being a child is not a risk factor for these things, being human is…and as such, it is our job to equip our kids to deal with it when bad stuff happens.

    Part of that is allowing them to go out in the world, and to experience what it is like to be capable, so God forbid, when or if something bad happens, they are able to deal with the experience, and move forward, knowing the world itself is not a bad place, that one person who hurt/frightened/conned them was bad.

  19. It’s all about staying true to yourself. The day we give in to fear, is a very sad day for everyone. I’m glad that there are those that still cling to the “old” ways. Don’t try and fix what ain’t broke. That saying still holds true. The more we implement or push rules on others because of fearful nature, the more we become less of what we used to be. And what we used to be is so much better than what most people are today. Less stress, less fear, more happiness and peace of mind. Keep it at it.

  20. Anybody remember that episode of Psych where Henry locks Shawn in a trunk to teach him how to get out? That’s the kind of parent I want to be🙂 How are our children supposed to learn what to do on their own if they’re never on their own?

  21. I left my ten yr old in charge of her brothers ages 6 and 3 in the park yesterday while I went to pick up my 12 yr old. I did get a strange look from one mother but they were having such a good time and didn’t want to leave.
    In our library you are not allowed to live a child under 8 alone in the children’s section. Not even to go to the other side of the building to pick out something from the adult sections. Its a pretty big library and I probably wouldn’t hear my kids from the other end of the building but OTOH, its not that big and its not like there are so many different places to be.

  22. Bravissima, Emily! (I missed the first Terrible Mother post, but Lenore, of course you’re not one!)
    I work in education, and I see these helicopter people EVERY DAY. They make me think of Marlin from “Finding Nemo,” the way they hover and tell their children that they CAN’T do things that children have been doing since the dawn of time. The end result is that the children don’t know how to do anything.
    My own nephew (23) is a child of a helicopter mom, and he is still living at home, only got his driver’s license last year, has no friends, no social life, and can’t even make himself a box of macaroni and cheese!

  23. What really appalls me about both Part I and Part II is the language people are using in their interactions with each other. Clearly neither Lenore or Emily are thoughtless — but wow, the vitriol! Stepping aside from the damage helicoptering does, what about the damage from modelling this kind of behaviour? If kids grow up thinking that it’s ok to call people names and make threats just because we don’t agree with them, that spells the end of civil discourse. Yikes.

    Quite frankly if I lived in a culture where I was exposed to this kind of talk all the time, I’d probably be much more fearful than I am. I thought it was only on American daytime TV and I discounted it as the usual media hyperbole, but I’m beginning to think I’m wrong.

    Do people really report each other to the authorities as much as it appears from these posts?

  24. This weekend I encountered an almost 14 year old at a dance competition who was scared to leave a meeting room, go into an adjacent conference hall to the concession stand and get water, and find her way back. She had been at the competition for 24 hours, and had walked back and forth more than once. The rooms were literally adjacent to each other. She said she was scared she would get lost going by herself.

    I sent my seven year old instead.

    Free Range it is. Good choice, Emily…..and I hear you about the comments. I got a scathing reply to mine saying that she hoped my kids were molested.

    -Mother of three library roamers – ages 7, 5, and 2.

  25. Robynheude, I was just watching an episode of Psych where the guys try to find a nanny at the park to hire for the police chief. Gus keeps asking inappropriate questions, like, “Is that your nanny? Is she always this distracted? I bet you could disappear, and she’d never notice, huh? Want some candy?” And I thought of this site.

    Psych is fantastic.

  26. It’s not just moms you know😉

    As a Dad, it’s kind of weird, but some people I guess expect it from us? As some sort of ‘oh, he’s just the dad and doesn’t know any better’ . That attitude really pisses me off.

    I allow my almost 4 year old son to do all sorts of stuff: from getting books at the library, to returning the “little” shopping cart at certain stores, using a knife, opening the door and playing by himself in the backyard, to *hark* picking out his own clothes and dressing himself🙂

    We’re expecting him to cook us a full breakfast before he’s 6😀

    The neighbor across the street is a bit of a helicopter and she asked me several months ago “can I just have X live with you for a few weeks and you can teach him some manners/discipline?” her son is 3 months older than ours. Oh and here’s a shocker, she cooks her kids completely separate meals, and she’s a trained chef…

  27. Good for you! Don’t let the naysayers get you down. These are the people that years down the road have slothful 20 somethings living at home and mom is still doing their wash.

  28. Good for you. For heaven’s sake, you were in the same building and the librarian knew about it! That’s better than what I usually do.

    Here’s a link to the story about my free ranging little reader: http://minnesotamamma.blogspot.com/2011/01/lenghtening-leash.html

  29. I leave my children in the kids zone too. They are 2 1/2 and 1. They are babies really. But you know what? its a small library… I would hear them if anything went wrong…. but i do fret at what OTHERS think of that.. but then i remind myself.. I know my kids better than they do. The end. Kudos. And yes we Free Rangers do need to support each other… I *gasp* let my 2.5 year old outside in the not quite completely fenced back yard.. alone.. until he got cold, the door was sort of open so he could come in whenever, i had the upstairs kitchen window open so i could hear if any cry’s started up.. and i happily did some chores whilst checking out the window. He was so happy and glowing when he came inside! Independence makes the soul grow!

  30. I think we all need pins or bumper stickers that say “I’m proud to be a bad mom”.!

    Not only do I leave my kids at the library alone but I send them there alone. Hopefully my oldest make sure the younger ones aren’t taking too many books off the shelf- that’s my only real concern! They go on their bikes, watch for traffic and come back refreshed and confident!

  31. This weekend I let our two kids (11 and 9) and their 10 year old friend walk to an art store 3 blocks away (and across a busy, but controlled street,) and also to corner store to buy junk food. My biggest fears were that they would misbehave at the store, that the three of them would be so distracted by each other that they would be reckless at street crossings, or that they would spend too much on junk food. They did misbehave slightly at the store, but nothing major (went to an off-limits area to see the “vampire” that they like to pretend is there,) and they bought plenty of junk food. They were gone about 50 minutes, but arrived home safe and happy.

  32. You know what would be awesome? A free range kids (parents) forum… for parents that aren’t into fear mongering and media-hype. For all us ‘bad parents.’

  33. One of the things that always encourages me as a free-range parent is that my son is confident, fearless and mature. It makes me smile when I see kids out and about without an adult around because I know that the Boy has peers.

    Good for you Emily, for raising interesting people, instead of just raising kids.

  34. I love this!!! A million thanks. I often let my 3 y/o trail behind me or walk way in front (away from cars) and people are always giving me outraged looks — “Is he with you? Who is taking care of that child? What’s going on here?” I hardly ever seem to meet people here in NY who share our mentality (tho I know Lenore lives here, too). It’s so great to have this website and read these vignettes. I so agree w/ Samantha that ” Independence makes the soul grow!”. The free-range kids I do see are always by far the happiest.

  35. ShadowL – that is awesome, it’s so nice to hear a good story about cops.

    Frances – Sadly that is the internet. Anonymity + audience = right to be a complete asshat. You know what they say opinions are like.

    In other news, kudos to both moms! I continue to be amazed by how people responded to you, Lenore. I guess if you aren’t from the city it must seem incredibly daring, but kids on the subway alone isn’t even that uncommon. A lot of kids get to school that way!

    Honestly there are a lot of pervs at our library (someone is always using the computers to look at porn, weird right??) but even with all of that I don’t know what people think was going to happen to these kids. If a stranger tried to take the child from the library, wouldn’t the child start screaming? And then wouldn’t somebody, I don’t know… help?

  36. Thank you Emily! I to have a story and canr seem to share it quit yet. I’m gald you decided to become more free range. Please e-mail me and keep in touch would love to talk with you.

  37. Not only is it National Library week but it must be National Leave Your Child Unattended in Library Children’s Room Week. Tonight my 7-year-old son and I went to the library. At the doors he went right into the Children’s Room and I went to the front desk to return books and pay fines (as usual…’m a terrible mother and an even worse book borrower). When I was done, I stuck my head into the CR, said, “I’ll be looking for a book in” (point) “that room over there.” And he said, “Thanks for telling me, have fun.”

    Why did he say that? Because I like him to tell me before he goes outside to play, or if he’s outside with me and wants to head indoors. Just tell me where you’re going, that’s really all I ask. And when he does, I say, “thanks for telling me, have fun.”

    Gee, I suck.

  38. I attended a presentation by Lenore last week (wonderful! Inspiring!) and afterwards was talking with the head children’s librarian for our town who said as a result she will be reconsidering the current policy that allows only children 10 and over to be left unattended in the children’s room.

    Good for you for giving your girls these experiences and for taking such positives away from what must have been a lousy online experience.

  39. I am seriously confused and perpetually shocked at what some people consider dangerous. Would you believe that my library will not even allow a child under the age of 10 to be left alone in the chidren’s section. I recently received a rather vicious scolding from the librarian when I left my 6 year old quietly reading while I walked across the hall (with my daughter still in my line of sight) less than 20 paces and for less than 60 seconds to grab a book off a shelf. I guess the rules are the rules, but come on, that doesn’t even make sense.

  40. It’s nice to see everyone helping their kids to be independent! Believe me, it pays off big time. My teens travel on their own and last summer my two boys – then ages 18 and 14, were in charge of their 6 and 3 yr old sisters for 5 days while I took a trip with our 12 yr old (my husband is an over the road trucker and is gone much of the time). You’re all on a great path!

  41. I meant to add I was pleased to see the library in my hometown (Acton, MA) had a sign at their playground “Children under 7 should be accompanied by adults.” I thought that was reasonable, or at least encouraging compared to most of these stories.

  42. A week before my daughter’s seventh birthday, I sent her to get the umbrellas we had left at the place we had just been at. She had to walk along the sidewalk all by herself, cross two parking lot entrances , then (gulp) cross a two-lane road by observing traffic–all by herself, well out of sight and earshot.

    I had been preparing her for this for months, thanks to FreeRangeKids.

  43. Um, I do that all the time. At the library, at stores. Why do my children & I have to be miserable “just in case”? I wanna look at clothes & he wants to look at books. A friend and I got dirty looks for sending our 3 year olds into the fish building while we stood outside the large window outside. We could see the entire small building! Thanks all for keeping me motivated!!

  44. Colleen, i was just about to post the same thing. do this all the time. i guess i’m a bad mom. oh well. the kids are happy enough.

  45. i cant even go back and read those comments, they will give me apoplexy.

  46. HEY! I wanted to e-mail you but I’m still not good at the internets. In any case, check *this* story out- it shows not only kids that can handle themselves well, but also that kids look out for each other in courageous ways.

    http://www.creativeminorityreport.com/2011/04/7-year-old-shields-younger-boys-from.html

    What I like: It shows how danger can pop up anywhere, at any time…and that is no reason to suddenly be scared of everything.

  47. My son is 22, and just announced he is leaving to go backpacking in Europe. Alone. Thursday. No plans, no previous experience, he’ll be home in two weeks. See ya.

    So Free-Range went out the window, the helicopter sputtered to life. I called my sister who’d just returned from Europe to gauge how risky this was. She was VERY negative. Older son’s girlfriend – VERY negative. My husband – VERY negative.

    “At least he’s adventuresome…I would never do something like that”.

    …so wait a minute. I remembered being “adventuresome” once myself…I joined the military at age 18. I hitch hiked to New Orleans alone. Had a ball. Had the time of my life. Nothing bad happened. Nothing…

    …it wasn’t so dangerous back then….? I wouldn’t tell my parents I did something like that to this day. They’d STILL kill me.

    So I looked online. “Hundreds, no THOUSANDS of young people are doing this every day.

    I called him today and offered to buy him a money belt. He said he already had one…

    …so we’ll see how I do, since I’m sure he’ll do just fine.

  48. Right on! Today while I was at the store picking out greeting cards for her preschool teachers, my five year old let me know that she’d be in the sticker aisle when I was done. And guess what, when I went to find her, she was where she said she’d be, picking out stickers for herself and her cousins. I was overjoyed to see my shy and reserved kid strike out on her own, even if it was only for a few minutes. If I lived in your neighborhood, Emily, I’d send my five-year-old over to play in the yard with your six-year-old.

  49. Count me in as being a Bad Mother. I have let my son be alone in the children’s section of the base library since he was 5. He has always liked to pick out his own books. While I was looking for books in the grownup section, he would sit quietly at a table in the children’s area and read the books that he picked. Even now, when we go to the German library in town, he goes upstairs to the children/teen section while I wait downstairs with the librarians. It’s different here because the librarians are used to kids going upstairs and choosing books on their own.

    Helicopter parents would have a field day in my little city. They’d be deluging the police with calls about kids walking to school, walking around town, or riding their bikes, the train, or the bus by themselves. Kids are taught at an early age about good strangers and bad ones. Good strangers are: store workers, policemen, the postman, restaurant workers, and the people who work at the local ski areas (I live in a ski resort). Even the nice old lady who gives kids candy on the train is a good stranger. My son and I have always taught our son that if he was out on his own and needed assistance, to find the nearest adult. He has been in situations where he has had to ask for help, and every adult that he asked happily rendered assistance. Kids here are also taught about common sense things, like only accepting rides from people they know and making a big fuss if someone tries to grab them or touch them inappropriately. All of the talk in the States about stranger danger and every person being a potential pervert or kidnapper robs kids of the ability to judge a good from a bad stranger. The child who grows up constantly hearing that every stranger is bad will never realize that most people really are good and willing to help.

  50. Three cheers for Emily! And it’s so true, the haters just make one MORE sure one is doing the right thing goin’ free-range. Those people are paranoid and, quite frankly, sad. Not to mention, have a very strong tendency toward bullying. Not for me, I want to hang with the crowd that walks in the sun! Hurrah free rangers!

  51. @SgtMom — Europe is sooo safe, do not worry about it at all. The infrastructure is fabulous, you can always get there from here, so there’s no being stranded in the middle of nowhere, not knowing how to get home again. Are there pickpockets looking out for tourists? Of course, but, like you already mentioned, a money-belt is just the thing. What an adventure! I’m sure he’s going to have a great time.

  52. Excellent! I am so relieved to know I am not alone in my “free-range-ness”. Keep up the good work!

  53. Emily, not sure if you’ll read this far down…but thanks for the post and, for lack of a better phrase, I’m completely with you. Our job as parents is to raise self-confident, independent, problem-solving adults and we start that process when they are little. Like letting them take out books on their own at the library… It’s somewhat difficult to be “free-range” in this day and age, at least for me, because I’m often the “only one”. I’m the only one who isn’t in constant communication with my children via the cell phone; I’m the only one who leaves our 11 & 12 year olds home alone reminding them to leave the door unlocked and to be sure to run to any of our neighbors if there is a problem; the only one who doesn’t check the schools internet homework/gradebook site each day. I could go on, but this comment should really be about you. And the bottom line is that you are clearly a phenomenal parent. Keep up the good work!

  54. Uh-oh. My kiddo is 3 1/2, and I leave her in the children’s section of our (small) library all the time. She is never out of earshot, and would much rather play with the toys and look at books in the children’s section than follow me around. So far no one has given me any grief, but I live in a pretty progressive community – believe it or not, kids walk to school, go to the park, etc. alone every day.

  55. Emily, you are not the only one in town who believes in free-ranging. I live in Rochester, too, and know of a handful of other moms who are fans of this site. Keep on doing what you’re doing and if I see a 5ish year old hanging parentless in the kid’s room at our library, I’ll send my son in to keep ’em company!

  56. Another terrible mom here. I let my kids walk about 50-100 feet in front of me at a minor league baseball game Monday night. People looked at me like I was out of my mind or shook their heads. I don’t care. The place was nearly empty and they felt like they owned the ballpark! Grins from ear to ear. That makes it worth the disdain from the other adults!

  57. Srgt Mom, way to go! I have a friend with 3 boys, two are over 20. A couple of times the older two had said they wanted to go to Europe (and do it now, before they had kids and jobs to tie them down.) The mom called me and said “Can you BELIEVE what he wants to do????” I told her to tell him to have fun, and maybe get some travel videos from the library so they don’t miss some really cool stuff. But, moms fears bled through and they ended up going. But, now that both are out of the house, hopefully they will get to do those travels that they want to do.

    For everyone else, count me in as bad. I know my kids and what they are capable of handling. When capable, I let them go, like in the library, grocery store and such. They know the rules – no leaving the building until mom is there, and they know where to meet when we are in bigger places. As they get older, those rules will change too.

  58. It seems there are two issues to this story: a) should a librarian be expected to watch a kid and b) is it alright to leave a young kid alone for a few minutes. I can understand the librarians who commented on the other website–that they’re not babysitters and they could be called away, etc. Though it does make me wonder if one asks a librarian, “Can you help my daughter find a book she’d like? She can tell you her favorites and would love recommendations on similar ones” is it OK, while the librarian is helping the daughter, to then slip away for a few minutes (while saying you’ll be right back)? The librarians often commented that they could be called away to help someone else. So, maybe ask the librarian for real help in the first place. And of course, don’t abuse that, by being gone for more than the 2-3 minutes it takes to run to the other section of the library.

  59. There must be something wrong with me because I never saw the comment to the librarian as a, hey will you watch my kid. I took it as hey I am not leaving her here forever I just need to step away or a minute, a courtsey type thing so the librarian would not worry about where the mom was and why the child was alone.

  60. My times have changed in 20 years. I worked in a library (in Rochester, NY no less) in the early 90’s. It was pretty much standard procedure for children to run upstairs to the children’s room w/o their parents and look for books while the parents were downstairs. We did not always have staff in the children’s room, but did usually send someone up there if kids came in, not because they needed baby-sitters, but because the kids were patrons too and might need assistance finding books. I never thought I was baby-sitting. Good grief what happened to customer service.

  61. So, have you seen this article yet?

    I’ve read the comments, so I know how this will go. Anybody wishing to blame Obama should bear in mind that this policy goes back six years, and he’s only been in office two years and a bit.

    Anybody wishing to blame the vast liberal conspiracy should question why the vast liberal conspiracy only affects one school in one city. (Also, I, for one, would like to know why nobody clued me into the conspiracy!)

  62. @Uly — Lenore had the lunch ban story in her Twitter column (was it yesterday?).

  63. Oh, did she? Darn it! Well, I’m seeing it everywhere lately.

  64. I used to walk a mile to the library (alongside two-lane highway) and hang out there all afternoon, by myself, and even buy a Slurpee at the 7-11 next door. I was probably around 7 or 8 when I started doing this. You know what happened to me? I developed a lifelong love of books (I’m taking classes now in how to teach reading to English language learners and other children who struggle in school), and I know that librarians are some of the friendliest people on the planet! I support my library financially and through volunteer hours and I STILL spend hours there for fun. Never would have happened if my mother hadn’t let me walk to the library. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. You’re a great mother!

  65. Following the link to the original article, what amazed me was the ferocity of many of the comments. Again and again, the accusation was levelled that parents who Free Range are just lazy and irresponsible. It seems they were not able to even think that Free rangers might be well intentioned even if they considered them wrong, no they had to be evil.

    I couldn’t help feeling there were a lot of raw nerves jangling there. I suspect many of those commentators actually feel rather guilty about their own parenting choices and were lashing out in defence of them

  66. Go Emily!

    It’s all been said, but I figure you deserve as many positive comments as you got negative before.

    I’ve left my 3-year-old playing in the toy aisle of the drugstore more than once while I hunted down aspirin or a humidifier or whatever. I resent all the hysterics who make me feel a little weird about it. But I’m never going to stop trusting my kids and giving them as much rope as I think they can handle.

  67. Have people lost their minds anymore? My 5 and 6yr old wander freely throughout the library (of course mainly staying in the children’s section by their own choice). I go look at my own selection of books and they are completely fine! And yes I do have child molesters in my neighborhood too but do I think they are going to grab my child and run from the library to molest them (esp

  68. ****Continued…… especially without any one of the other adults in library noticing? Um no I do not! I’m not even someone I would call 100% free range because I still get scared about certain things but I’m also not a complete child sheltering fool either. Geeze oh man, people are just crazy anymore.

  69. I am the director of a small town library. We don’t have any rules about whether kids can be alone in the children’s room….my only “rule” is to use common sense. If the kid is misbehaving or being destructive, I’d like the parent to intervene, not me…. but in the two years I’ve been there, not once has there been a problem! I was a free range parent when my kid was younger (teenager now, still free range), and I admire those parents who have raised their little ones to be independent in the library!

  70. Tuppence and Cheryl – thank you. Years ago I watched “Hostel” for about 15 minutes. I swear it took about 10 years off my life from the stress.

    It’s embarassing to be “caught” helicoptering.

    This is when the rubber meets the road, when the kids actually IS out on his own. I have to hope I didn’t “protect” him from having good instincts and the confidence to find his own way in this big bad world.

    As far a libraries go, your child has a better chance to grow up to be President of the United States than to be harmed in a library.

    Pandering politicians trying to look tuff on crime are continually calling for bans on libraries for those convicted of sex offences, which feeds the fear that “something” must be going on with sex offenders and libraries.

    Parents develop a fear of leaving their children alone in libraries rather than fearing political oppression or instilling a “if they can do that to others, they can do that to YOU” sense of justice in their children.

    …which is where the REAL fear should lie.

  71. I’m aware that the world may not be as safe as it once was but I think those parents who think that children are unable to fend for themselves are not giving them enough credit. I remember that as a 12 year old I was completely capable of taking my 3 year old brother out alone to get sushi or walk 10 blocks to play at the school playground then take him to eat Pho in chinatown. And this was in Oakland, CA (not all areas have gangs with guns).

  72. I’m aware that the world may not be as safe as it once was

    On the contrary, all the evidence suggests that in America, we’re pretty much as safe as we’ve ever been, and safer than we were.

    Do you know that the crime rate is down to 1960s levels?

  73. Good for you. Shame on them.

  74. Another library incident: For probably the third time since December, I sent my 4.5-year-old inside the library to walk the 20 feet to the elevator and make it to the children’s department (third floor) without me… and like the last few times, I was twenty seconds behind him. This time… I was accosted by the librarian at the check out desk (“Was that YOUR little boy?! He MUST be ACCOMPANIED!”). I replied as calmly as I could, “Thank you for your concern, but it builds his confidence to navigate a bit by himself.” She looked angry and then pounded the desk with both hands (I’m not kidding!) while announcing, “Under 13 must be ACCOMPANIED. It is POLICY.” Now, I didn’t drop him off and go to the grocery store… I let him out, parked the car in a very close parking spot, and walked directly inside. It’s also not like she’s never seen us before… we’ve been at that library several times a month since my son could look at the books without chewing them.

    Then, I got upstairs, where my son had been detained by a police officer and told to sit and wait for me. Again, not kidding.

    Now, these are my questions the folks here… First, while I understand that it is policy that under 13 be accompanied, was my son really unaccompanied? Does being twenty to thirty seconds behind him count?! Second, what do I do with that pit-of-the-stomach feeling that I had been caught doing something naughty and was going to the principal’s office? I know intellectually that teaching my son to navigate in simple situations (like a familiar library) is a good thing… but it took me several hours to get over that feeling. Also, my son was clearly confused by the situation and thought I had instructed him to do something wrong. How do I handle THAT?

    I need some clarity as this is the first time I’ve had my FRP challenged.

  75. Lenore, you were in Rochester? How did I not know that?

  76. WOW! I read this and thought it was a joke. If you can’t leave kids alone in the children’s room in a library……….. I am right there with you in the Horrible mother category. This world is so silly.

  77. Was just laughing the other day about how I think I make other parents nervous with the way I parent my kids – sandbox sand pouring out of their mouths, dog poo from the yard clutched in their hands (tried to avoid that one.) Anyway, there’s pressure here to live and let live so I’m glad for that. So if the east coast ever gets to be too much, move to Portland, Oregon. You’ll be applauded for helping your kiddos let their “freak flags fly” much less leaving them alone in a library. Reading about some people’s rampant judgments reminded me why I love living here. Keep ranging on!

  78. You tell the cop the truth: You were accompanying your child until some busybody stopped you to talk about something totally irrelevant. And you’re very glad the library is so safe, and the town is so safe they can even afford to send extra police to help out at the library!

  79. Left my 4-year-olds in the car today while I went back into the rec center to retrieve glasses we’d forgotten. There were several other moms around and the rec center is right next to the police station. Yet / hence, I was worried the whole time – not for my kids’ safety – but because of busybodies and overzealous cops. Still, the alternative was too idiotic – to drag my tired, short-legged, wet-haired kids thru the cold, dark parking lot, keeping them up still further past their bedtime, and delaying my 2nd shift of work, just to avoid busybodies. I am a rebel, after all.

  80. Oh, but also at the rec center, I did get a couple of “looks.” My daughters wanted to go get a drink from the water fountain while I was still gathering up our belongings in the locker room. I said, “go ahead, I’ll meet you out there.” You’d think I’d told them to walk the plank. Sigh!

    It’s only a matter of time before my kids are big enough to look somewhat self-sufficient by other moms’ standards. I am biding my time meanwhile.

  81. Landres, I had a similar situation where a busybody mom kept insisting that my kid “wasn’t with an adult” because she was walking a bit behind me. I repeatedly stated that she was with me, her mother, as we were both in the park and each of us knew where the other was and where each was headed. I am sorry to say that the only thing that shut her up was when I angrily decided to take my kids and leave. Then she started accusing me of planning to go home and beat the crap out of them.

    I was so upset. Afterwards I thought of a few things I should have said. Such as, “I’m teaching my children how to be independent in safe places such as this. Have you heard of Free Range Kids?” Or how about, “could you point me toward the law that covers this situation? Because if there’s a law against my child being a half-minute ahead of or behind me in a safe place like this, I want to make sure I read it so I can follow it.” (Of course it might be wise to actually look up the local laws before you find yourself in this situation again.)

  82. My favorite “rotten mom” experiences are the ones I have at the grocery store. I give my 7 yr old a list of things and send her with her hand basket to go get them. She wanders off by herself and picks up what I put on the list, and finds me when she’s got them all or when the basket is too heavy. It works for both of us, because she feels grown up and responsible, and I don’t have to listen to her complain about how bored she is.

    I do get some horrible looks and few comments about how DANGEROUS it is to let her walk around the store, and how she could be taken by a stranger. I respond that if anyone ever tried, I would feel very sorry for that person. She knows what to do if a stranger tries to take her- kick, scream, bite, and generally make a scene.

    I think, aside from living in a paranoid society, people are judgemental of my care free parenting because it helps them justify their own parenting style. When you’re scared all the time, it can be awful to be confronted with someone who’s not. I don’t get angry at them, I feel sad for them. How much do they miss out on?

    On a side note, my little shopper actually found me a sale I wasn’t aware of at the store the last time we went shopping. What a smart litte cookie!

  83. This is one of the stupidest things I have EVER heard of. I hate all the hype about “stranger danger”. It’s become epidemic. All people need is some common sense when it comes to stranger danger—“don’t leave the store/public place with anyone”, “don’t stand too close to the exit, etc”. I think all the stranger abduction hype (which, as we know, is about as common as being struck by lightning), as damaged kids in this country. It’s not just that they are infantilized, but we are stealing from them the right and opportunities to learn how to be independent! Why can’t people differentiate between real danger (ie, 5-year-olds swimming alone), and totally imaginary danger (a 5-year-old left in a safe public place, with many people around)!!!!!
    I have left my 5-year-old in the children’s area many, many times while I quickly go get a book (5-10 min, tops). She is mature and trust-worthy and I know she can take care of herself in a library, for heaven’s sake!

  84. Then she started accusing me of planning to go home and beat the crap out of them.

    You know what, SKL? I doubt there was any phrase that would’ve worked with this woman. You might have done better to hit her – after all, I can tell you’re oh-so-violent, right?😛

  85. A lot of those commenters seem to be up in arms about the idea of the mother leaving the child under the supervision of the librarian – i.e. pushing the responsibility onto the librarian. I must say that I agree to this sentiment (but in a more delicate manner).

    If you feel that it’s ok to leave your child unattended in the library for a certain length of time – that’s fine. If the kid can take care of himself for however long it takes you to get a book or whatever, and you feel that there are no threatening conditions, then you’ve used your judgement as a parent and other adults should respect your decision unless it is actually proved unwise (e.g. if the kid freaks out).

    Leaving your child under the care of a stranger is not on. Not because of any sort of safety issue, not because of predators or weirdos or whatever, but simply because it is NOT anybody’s responsibility to look after a stranger-child and you’re more than likely to make them very uncomfortable by asking, especially if the stranger doesn’t feel that they can say no. Your kid might be calm and perfectly well behaved, and you not the least litigious, but the stranger doesn’t know that.. The stranger has no idea whether you’re kid’s going to freak out, have an accident, run off, accidentally hurt themselves, damage books, etc… and whatever goes wrong, whether or not they’ll get the blame for it… or whether or not other adults witnessing the event will point fingers at them.

    Self sufficiency and independence, yes. Coralling the village into raising your child, no. Society no longer works like that in this day and age.

  86. Yeah Uly, that’s funny in retrospect. Is it normal for people to assume that other parents (whom they don’t know) are about to beat up their kids? Kids who are not apparently bruised or malnourished? Ugh. Actually this was a case of “that’s not how I would parent, therefore it should not be allowed.” We need a standard comeback for those kinds of attacks.

    But it is kinda funny to picture how she’d react if I reached out and slapped her. It would never happen though – I’m the one who wouldn’t even hit back while being pummelled by a bigger classmate in 8th grade.

  87. I’m not lazy, it just looks that way. I mean, every time my kid walks away from me and I’m not actively supervising them, it looks like I have slacked off and am not pulling my weight. This is how my ex viewed my decision to allow my then-7-year-old son to walk to school alone.

    Ah, it was a moment of triumph for us both. I stood in my socks on the front porch and waved at him, he said he loved me and blew kisses and happily marched down the street. After all, I’d done it as a 5-year-old, and he’s a hell of a lot more savvy than I ever was, and maybe still am.

    After school, he told me what it had been like: how he’d seen a hawk overhead, and gazed at it flying in the sky. He’d found a box marked “free stuff” and found a little doo-dad for his little sis. So proud he was. So inspired. And I notice that immediately, some of the power struggles we’d been dealing with at home sort of vanished… he didn’t have to say no to me all the time to prove he was separate from me.

    The next day, he went to his dad’s house (we have a 50-50 custody arrangement). Dad lives one block from the school, I live a mile from the school, but Dad wasn’t allowing my son to get himself to school at that point. When my son triumphantly exclaimed to Dad about his getting himself to school, Dad said, “Your mother has made a terrible mistake. That’s not safe at all. I don’t ever want to hear that you’ve done that again. She’s not taking care of you properly,” etc.

    Ah, my poor boy. I had to wait another year and a half before he was able to taste that freedom again, not because he wasn’t capable, but because Dad threatened to call CPS and rather than debate the legality of it, I knew my son would suffer being caught in the cross-fire of duelling paradigms so I said to Dad, “Hey, sounds like you’re really wanting safety and well-being for our son, is that right?” He agreed, said, “If anything ever happened to that kid, I would kill myself.” I saw then how huge the burden was on my child, how much my ex was making the child responsible for Dad’s well-being.

    I then told Dad, “Well, let me tell you that I share that same desire for our son’s health, well-being and safety. These things are so important, in fact, that I want him to be given some chances to experience independence in some small but important ways as a young child so that when he becomes an age when he is starting to make decisions without us, like 12 or 13, he doesn’t feel such an urgent need to prove he’s a ‘big kid’ that he becomes self-destructive or destructive of others and their property. I want him to be accustomed to getting himself from place to place under his own power so he has some momentum to do that all his life, instead of becoming obese, depressed, or isolated.”

    “So you see, we share that desire for well-being for our son. I am not abdicating my responsibility to him but instead carefully considering how best to serve his well-being not just in the short but in the long term.”

    I then asked Dad, “So what age would you say is one that you will be comfortable allowing our son to make his own way to school?” He didn’t know. He had to acknowledge, then, that our son was certainly capable, but that Dad himself just wasn’t ready. True enough. And in the end, if the surrounding adults are so deeply conflicted about things like this, the kid is torn apart. So I relented. One of the hardest things I had to do as a parent so far, to wait, to withhold what I knew was healthy for my child.

    Thankfully, I am now married to a man who is 100% free range right along with me, and we have four kids ages 4 – 10 now. Just last night we let the 8 and 10 year old boys go to the ball park down the road with a loonie ($1) to buy a freezie at the concession stand and split it. We told them to be home by 7, and at 7:30, they were still gone.

    Did I panic? Think they’d come to harm? Hell NO. I huffed a sigh about keeping agreements and sent my husband to the park to retrieve them. They each had a story about how the other one wanted to stay longer, the other had the watch, etc… but I used it as a teachable moment about agreements and that if they are really not committed to returning when we asked, then the time to dispute it is before leaving the house, not to just flake out on getting home on time.

    This is important stuff! I’m delighted to have so many opportunities to work with my kids this way, and to have a loving, supportive spouse who hasn’t bought into the “paranoia = love” equation.

    Again, thanks goes to Lenore for standing on the mountaintop and shouting this message to the world. I am so grateful to you.

  88. mollie- this is my big concern with free range parenting. I am divorced from a high conflict ex who is a helicopter parent. We have had many issues regarding my desire to free parent and his “safety” concerns. I would be very interested from other people regarding how do you free range in a divorce situation. When I had my child custody evaluation, my evaluator was floored that my then 4 year old had a Jamba juice card so she could go inside and buy herself something while I waited outside. My ex has called my style of parenting “lazy” and that I “just don’t want to take the effort to parent” . Any thoughts everyone/Lenore?

  89. I think my favorite comment came from someone named Cindy. She writes:
    “A 5 year old child still depends upon a parent to guard and protect them to the fullest capabilities. We can’t depend on “our community”, nor trust them, when we live in a time where children are being abducted or molested by people we know. Teachers, family, neighbors. No one is exempt. Not that everyone can’t be trusted, and many children are left daily without harm coming to them. I was never willing to take that chance and live to regret it. A 5 year old is not “self-reliant”. My 21 year old is hardly even!!”

    Exactly, Cindy. Your 21 year old can barely care for him or herself. I, for one, hope to have a fully grown adult by the time my child is 21 and that is why I will continue to do things the way I do them. Thank you for the example.

  90. Hello, I must be a terrible Mom, my boys play hockey and use public transportation to go to the mall or to our near by beaches they also take the train into Boston( I have taken them in for many sporting events and museums on said trains) so they know the drill. My oldest at the time was 15 and my middle was 13. They know how to follow the directions and guess what they are fine. My youngest started walking home with a friend at 8 and walks to and from school @ 10 I always laugh @ how babyish the kids that are hovered over Like the 12 year olds that need mommy to walk them 1/4 mile to school just incase they get picked on on the playground. I love the fact that my boys can be self sufficiant and I can live a paranoid free life.

  91. Today we were at a restaurant and, as often happens, my 4yo said in the middle of our meal, “I have to go to the restroom.” But this time she added, “may I go by my own self?” (This is a restaurant we go to once every few months, so she’s been to their restroom before.)

    Usually when my kid asks to go in a public place, I send her off (sometimes with her sister), but I follow within a few minutes to make sure she’s handling everything OK.

    Well today, I wasn’t about to squelch her drive to be independent, even though that restaurant doesn’t have the cleanest restroom. So I sent her off to handle things “by her own self.” I waited quite a while (eating my dinner) before going to see if she needed any help. She was valiantly pulling the heavy door open, and once she noticed I had arrived, she said, “Mommy, I can’t reach the sink.” Oh well! She is well on her way.

    The interesting thing is that a few months ago, every other adult at the table would have been unhappy with my choice to send my kid to the restroom alone. They would have threatened to go after her themselves if I didn’t follow her into the restroom promptly. Today, everyone just continued eating. Either they have figured out that my kids aren’t going to fall into the toilet and flush themselves down, or they too felt that it’s right to respect a child’s stated desire to be independent.

    It is nice to be finally accepted and respected for choices that are unpopular at first.

  92. Is it normal for people to assume that other parents (whom they don’t know) are about to beat up their kids? Kids who are not apparently bruised or malnourished?

    Sadly, it seems to be. Just two weeks ago I had some biddy get on my case because my younger niece (the five year old) dared throw one of the quietest tantrums in history. “MY child never acted like THAT!” Well, bully for you, that doesn’t mean, as she thought, that MY niece or I needed psychiatric help!

    Ugh. Actually this was a case of “that’s not how I would parent, therefore it should not be allowed.” We need a standard comeback for those kinds of attacks.

    I have one, but I never get a chance to say it as the nieces are always nearby and I don’t want them overhearing me using that language. *sigh*

  93. My youngest used to do the “silent tantrum” thing too. Just a pout. Which I always thought was a blessing, except that yeah, it could make people wonder if she was scared to make a noise. And when you “just ignore” that kind of protest, they assume you are not “responding to her needs.” Whatever. How about people let moms parnent their kids, and save the drama for when someone actually gets hurt?

  94. I dunno….some species of hatred spawn holocausts, now, don’t they?
    But this particular kinda hatred – I wouldn’t trust it to be fair and just concern from the heart, anymore than I’d expect aliens to land on the White House lawn.
    I believe it comes from a different place, something far different than what’s posed.
    What might that be? Who knows.
    There’s a lot of people out there who really hate their lives, and I suspect this number is growing, and that the degree of vitriol is, too.

    Weird. When I was a kid, kids just didn’t inspire this kind of freakout emotional over the top hysteria, the way they do now. Why is that?
    I wonder if it isn’t because that was a time when most adults were fairly confident they could raise all their juniors and juniorettes without crashing the American dream, blowing up disney, or otherwise dissolving into jello pudding. There wasn’t the same brand of social decrepitude.

    You have to wonder, what buttons are pushed when the whole concept of a child’s freedom to simply exist in the world for 5 minutes without being examined, fixated upon, worried over, haunted, flaunted, micro-managed or otherwise completely controlled…….(reminds me of too many alien abduction stories) – bring out this sorta rattlesnake nectar in (supposedly) rational people?

    And to the respondent who wished that your daughter would wind up ravaged or you wind up dead?
    All I have to say about that is………..go ask her kids.
    They might have some um, “interesting” answers.
    (babes can speak some truth.)

  95. And when you “just ignore” that kind of protest, they assume you are not “responding to her needs.”

    That’s what she said! OMG! And “there must be something wrong”. Yeah, her outfit didn’t fit. Big deal, she still has to wear SOMEthing!

    It wasn’t really a silent tantrum, it was whining (because last time she had a tantrum there somebody came in to tell us they could hear her outside – whoops! – and she was upsetting the other children. This embarrassed her heartily, and she stopped screaming), but, as I didn’t bother to explain to Ms. Busybody, I’m kinda happy she’s throwing tantrums now. She didn’t at two, or at three, or even at four. Instead she went along with what anybody said, or occasionally outright and blatantly tried to manipulate people. (As in, crying to the person who responds to that, then turning around and giving a big grin and a hug about the SAME SUBJECT to the person who caves for grins and hugs.) Standing up for herself in an upfront manner is MUCH better, though we hope she outgrows the screaming part of that soon.

    Not that you need to know all this, but it really upset me at the time. And the outright lies of “my kid never acted like that”. I did not and do not, for one minute, believe she’s never seen a five year old child throw a tantrum.

  96. When my kids do the drama thing in front of others, I usually just provide a one-word explanation – “drama” – and most people seem to understand. But you do get that occasional person who thinks our fragile little darlings should never have to experience disappointment. Usually I assume they either don’t have kids or aren’t playing with a full deck.

    I forge ahead with the firm belief that anyone with a working brain would be HAPPY to see a parent challenging a child to improve her behavior/attitude for the benefit of all.

  97. One of my favorite scenes from TV is from Desperate Housewives. The kids were at a children’s party when the monkey goes wild. All the other kids start running around screaming and Gabby’s little girl drops and plays dead in the bouncer. Gaby’s line was classic. “because of my inept parenting, my child was able to think of a rational solution to the situation and not panic like the rest of the kids.”

    I love free range parenting.

  98. Usually I assume they either don’t have kids or aren’t playing with a full deck.

    Definitely the latter in this case. She actually went to try to tattle to me to Evangeline’s TKD instructor! I have no idea what she said, I just passed her after Evangeline calmed down to fetch the girl’s shoes and caught her saying to him “I don’t know, she was one of those women who looks like – oh, there she is now!”

    I don’t even know what I look like!

  99. Those women who say such horrible things must have psychological problems so severe that I am amazed that they are able to cope in society.

    No offense to all parents out there who trouble and toil to raise their kids as best as possible…but it’s not brain surgery. Human beings have evolved for thousands of years, often in extreme duress and horrible conditions. Children have often had to overcome tremendous peril in their young lives. Wars, famine, child labor, horrible diseases, crushing poverty…and yet we go on. I am sure little Johnny or Little Suzie can survive a few minutes alone in the library.

  100. I liked this comment from “trainer” on the link:

    >>>Although there is no way to be perfectly 100% safe in the world (for children or adults) I do believe it is my responsibility as a parent to TRAIN my children to navigate the world as safely as possible. One of the things they must learn is that the world IS basically a safe place. (I know this will freak some of you out, but it’s the truth, statistically speaking.) It’s important for kids to feel safe. At the same time, kids have to learn that there ARE real dangers, and really dangerous people in the world. Imagine the way you might send a child out to play in a neighbor’s backyard… It’s basically safe, but there IS the possibility of an ant pile over by the flower garden, so don’t play there, or check first. I am not advocating dropping young children off in public places or foisting them onto unsuspecting library employees. I am saying that at least one part of parenting is training your children how to be safe without you there; and this mom seemed to be doing a pretty good job of it. She spoke directly to the librarian, ensuring an adult (whom she had supposedly interacted with regularly in the past) was aware of, and willing to oversee her daughter. She planned a very brief, age appropriate “departure” from her daughter. She made sure her daughter was comfortable and aware of where she was going and who was going to be the adult in charge in her absence.
    How can we raise children who are self-reliant with SOME support from our communities? We really can’t, and that’s all there is to it. If our litigious society can’t tolerate anyone taking any personal responsibility we might as well throw in the towel now. The world really isn’t safe if that’s the case.<<<

    and Selby, I like your post above. Always good to know where your child – and parents – is/are, whether that person is 3 or 83.

  101. Also, a lot of parents on the other site thought it was odd that Emily asked her daughter about whether she wanted to be left. This makes perfect sense to me – first, presumably, Emily thought to herself, “Is my daughter safe here? Do I think she’ll feel safe?” then she figured she’d ask to be sure. If the little girl had said, “No, Mommy, don’t leave me, I’m scared!” as I’ve heard from some over-protected, paranoid kids, then Emily would have kept her with her. Since she knew her daughter felt safe and had the comon sense to stay where she was looking at a book, she felt comfortable leaving her for a few minutes.

  102. I have been wanting to comment on here for a while now, but I never have until now.

    I am a nanny of a 6 and 8 year old. The parents have pretty much allowed the kids a free-range lifestyle when it comes to outdoors. You have to know your kids to know where the limits are! Simple as that. Example: the 8 year old can ride ahead after school and wait for me at home (the neighbor is a friend and she is home anyway), but the 6 year old rides ahead part of the way but has to wait for me at certain points because she still forgets to look both ways. They both get free range of their cul-de-sac and the older one gets to go across the street (the younger one has to ask because of the looking both way things…she just gets excited and forgets) Maybe some parents think it’s easier to stand over them all the time than to really get to know them and teach them how to make decisions for themselves. Sometimes I do sit outside and watch them while they play but only because I like to talk with them, plus they do some funny stuff.

    On their way home, I am never worried about them getting abducted because there are so many other kids and parents around. I think the greatest danger to them is other parents. Speeding, on their cell phone, texting, and distracted by their kids endless activities all at the same time even though they know school just let out.

    Back to the library, I did the exact same thing Emily did while I was helping the older kid look for his book. I know these kids are confident and they are not going to leave with stranger.

  103. Thanks, everyone, for the support and great stories!
    (Yes, I’m the Emily whose daughter was left in the library…) After the wild and over-the-top comments at AOL last year, I can definitely say I prefer these.🙂

    One brief thing (to clarify for those of you who were curious): Nope, I didn’t ask the librarian to watch after my daughter. In fact, I didn’t even tell her I was leaving (because I didn’t want her to *feel* responsible for her, as silly as that might sound) – I simply asked her what the library policy was (and learned there wasn’t one; if the policy had stated that children could not be unattended, I wouldn’t have left). Then I checked with my daughter to see if she was comfortable playing alone for a moment, confirmed with her that she understood she had to stay where she was, not wander off, etc., let her know I’d be back momentarily… and then I left.

    Now, I did walk past the children’s librarian to go to the other section, so she likely knew what I was doing (after all, I’d just confirmed the policy with her)… but I did not ask her to look after my child. It’s not her job to babysit my daughter! If my kid actually *needed* to be watched – because she wasn’t responsible enough to be trusted to be alone for 2 minutes without running off, destroying the place, screaming at the top of her lungs, being rude and obnoxious, etc. – then I have left her there in the first place! But I knew my daughter well enough to know she could be trusted to do as I’d asked her, to not make trouble, and to be polite and respectful of others.

    In any case… I loved the other stories of “bad” parenting. And thanks for having my back, so to speak. 🙂

  104. Call CPS my kid was in the children’s section for a full half hour the other day while I was upstairs!!!!!! Guess what horrible things happened???? She read books! It was awful. She barely survived. I thank my lucky stars that I live in the town that I do and that she can read books without being bothered.

  105. I agree, you have to know your kid. My younger kid would destroy the place in seconds, I know that. That is why she is by my side most of the time, the other one, I can trust. I would have done the same thing as you, Emily.

  106. I used to think like that, trust everyone and believe that everyone had good intentions, until my mother was kidnapped and murdered by the house nurse who lived in our house, took care of my kids, and cooked for us all. (only to get money)
    now how does one deal with that and try to have freerange kids?

  107. I have been certified as a horrible mother by my sister-in-law. This woman recently had my 12-year-old daughter over for her birthday. I was not invited – to my own daughter’s birthday celebration! When my daughter asked why I was not invited, my sister-in-law told her that she was very “angry” with me. Then this woman started a highly inappropriate conversation wherein she told my daughter why she was angry with me.

    My crimes? I had allowed my daughter to walk alone from 86th St. and Columbus to my sister-in-law’s home at 86th St. and Riverside a few months prior. For those non-New Yorkers, it is 5 blocks. My daughter got lost on the way, called me, and I walked her through it. My sister-in-law was furious, and insisted that I should have immediately left my apartment and walked my daughter over. I felt there was a more important lesson to be learned there.

    Then, I compounded my poor behavior by allowing my daughter to go to Central Park by herself to play on the swings! The park is one block from our home, and this is one of my daughter’s great pleasures. My sister-in-law was apoplectic! She couldn’t believe I was letting my “tiny” daughter go to the park. My daughter is nearly a teenager!

    I will tell you this – since the day that my daughter got lost, she has had a lot more confidence. She discovered that she can get lost and get un-lost, too. I count that as a parental achievement – I taught my daughter something important that day. Something she has to learn, in order to get around the city where she lives. But as far as my sister-in-law is concerned, I proved my unfitness as a parent on that day.

  108. Claudia: The key is to realize that when horrible things happen, it’s not always under our control. And also to distinguish between behavior that truly does make your kids safer and behavior that merely makes you feel better without actually making your kids safer, and that can actually hurt them in the long run.

  109. I am a ” horrible” mom too then. I let my child play in the yard by himself, I also leave him in the childrens section of the library even sometimes at the bookstore. He will run right there without me! I know him being more then an arms length away is just asking for trouble. I also let him go up to the counter at McD’s if they forgot to give him his honey. And the kicker I let him get his own breakfast on the weekend so I can sleep in. I know I am so selfish!

  110. Susan, when I was a kid I was living in a “big city” too. Once (probably around age 10) I was really angry at my mom and decided to run away. Because my mom was strict about being home for dinner, I knew I would wimp out and return if possible by dinnertime. So I determined to get myself lost.

    I walked and walked and walked, and every time I saw something vaguely familiar, I turned the opposite way and walked some more.

    Finally when I was a few miles away, I was feeling pretty good and wondering what exactly one does for food and shelter after one has run away.

    When to my dismay, I turned a corner and saw a shopping center I recognized. And I knew exactly how to get home from there. Since I could no longer claim to be “lost,” I hightailed it home so as not to be too late for dinner. I worked on my “story” along the way (for why my lateness should be excused). Turns out my mom had company that evening and wasn’t the least concerned about my tardiness. I was not even asked where I’d been.

    Hmph.

    How times have changed.

  111. My husband thought I was nuts because I let my nine year and a eight year old go to a store on my condo property and buy there own snacks. They navigated the parking lots, bought the snacks and returned within 20 minutes.

    My husband was convinced my 9 year old would be taken by a stranger. Her eight year old friend is much bigger and stronger. I said I don’t want her to be scared and she knew that she misbehaved in the store one of our neighbors would tell me.

  112. I read all this and just think how pathetic it is, all the ruckus about leaving your child in the children’s section for a couple of minutes while you went to a different department. Man, if we can’t start in the library, where do we start? Emily, I also imagined that you told the librarian you were leaving just so she wouldn’t get all worked up about a child left alone. And of course you would ask your child if they felt okay about it, you wouldn’t do it if she truly felt scared. But this is the way things used to be, my how things have changed.

    Just recently had my 6 year old read this Golden Book I picked up at a garage sale, “I Can Do It By Myself” by June Goldsborough. This child is still young enough to be riding a tricycle but yet goes to her friend’s house next door, trikes to the end of the block, and chooses her own library book by herself. I noticed the library picture all had children about the same age with one librarian behind the desk and no parents lurking. The book’s copyright is 1981. Today’s version would be “Mommy watches me while I….” I don’t know, maybe it’s the school library but it doesn’t say.

    Landres, you should be commended for letting your child build confidence in a safe way. I know it’s hard because I find myself just going through the motions just to prevent others from giving me dirty looks. Personally, just to appease, yet stand your ground, I would make it 10 seconds behind your son next time. But what a ridiculous policy- under 13? Really?! I think it must be a liability thing, too. I think this is not only a result of living in fear but also a litigious society that ruins it for everyone. It’s so easy to crumple under the pressure, especially with a police officer, but if you exude complete confidence in what you’re doing and explain matter-of-factly, they might back down and see how reasonable it really is.

    Here’s another example. I had recently inquired the school office about my 9 year old coming home for lunch on occasion. We live within a short walking distance and I remember kids doing this when I was in school. Not only was the secretary surprised by this question but she said I’d have to come in and sign him out of the office because of “the way things are today”. I didn’t say anything to refute it, but didn’t want to debate another issue having also talked with the principal a couple months prior about their homework policy. I told her that I had in mind meeting him on the corner, but I ended up having to sign him out myself. It must be a liability thing because the school couldn’t care less that my son walks to school by himself and releases his 6 year old brother to him for them both to walk home by themselves.

  113. Wow, I regularly leave my 8, 6, and 4 year old together in the kids section of the library to go to my section, which is pretty far away. They know that if they don’t behave, we won’t go there again. And if anybody ever tried to take them, I am sure they would scream like mad all the way past the checkout counter.

    Parents these days….

  114. I live on a farm and my 2 girls 9, 7 were tired of driving into town to go to the sitters at 6am so I decided that if they agreed to follow the rules and no disasters occurred they could watch each other. They made breakfast and lunch for themselves. I had a 2 way radio if they needed me and we live on a farm where I could be up to 5miles away.
    They were fine. They road their bikes, played with the dogs, cooked and stayed out of trouble. For 6 months of the year!!! They even got on the school bus by themselves!!
    Now 15 and 13 they do laundry and chores without asking. Travel on week long school trips with no cell phone!! and I trust them to make good decisions. Not like their cousins who at the same age don’t know how to do dishes.
    Keep on doing Free Rangers!
    Remember when you had to come home when the street lights came on????

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