Do you ever...let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk to school? Make dinner? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free-Range Kid! Free-Rangers believe in helmets, car seats, seat belts safety! We just do NOT believe that every time school age kids go outside, they need a security detail. Share your stories, tell your tips and maybe I'll use them in a new book. Here's to common sense parenting in uncommonly overprotective times!
Praise the almighty for this person helping, comforting the child along the way, opening up her time and heart, and most of all–for properly NOT chastizing the father as if he had been an irresponsible father for him & his daughter becoming separated.
Maybe there IS still hope for others to have some common sense & not be crippled by paranoia. Maybe there still ARE persons out there who aren’t “parenting Pharisees.”
It’s a great story, but I couldn’t help thinking the whole time that if a lone male biker had stopped to help this little girl he probably would have been accused of trying to kidnap her.
Which is wrong I know because it is a great story.
Beautiful story, and beautifully written. The “mystery of happiness” indeed…
I don’t care if people look at me like I’m a perv or a freak. I don’t care if people have a look of distaste. But if I see a child in distress, I WILL help out. Whether it was me or these people with perverted thoughts, we would all be strangers to a lost child. But better me than these people who think strange men are dangerous. For these people with this mentality would probably do more harm trying to help a lost child out, than someone who actually is ONLY thinking about helping. Good for this woman who stopped thinking about others and her own problems, and concentrated ONLY in helping the little girl out. If only more people were like that, I’m pretty sure there would be less stories of tragedies against children.
That was awesome! I had been lost a few times when I was little and people always stopped to help me. I knew not to get into a car with anyone I didn’t know, but it was ok for them to help me look for my parents or to get a police officer/security for me.
The part that got me was:
” Abbie confessed to me, ‘I thought I’d never see my home again. Nobody stopped to help me but you.’ She said she’d been lost over an hour.”
An hour? And nobody helped?
A testament to our disengaged society. And yet, the person who DID help happened to be a good writer who could share the episode with the world and perhaps change a few attitudes and actions in the future.
If a child is lost or in trouble, the best thing they can do is ask a stranger for help.
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Mike, I agree, but how many of those kid’s parents have told them never ever to talk to strangers or else they’ll be kidnapped?
How scary for the little girl and her dad, but what a wonderful ending to the story. This is why I tell my kids that there are absolutely times to talk to a stranger. Told that to my neighbor the other day when she was freaking out over a guy who came to her door asking about her daughter and other children in the neighborhood. Turns out he was just selling children’s books door to door. She had seen my kids outside and wanted me to know that there was a stranger asking about kids. She was so relieved when he came to my house later, as I went to her place after he left and told her what he was up to.
My neighbor is pretty big into stranger danger, but when I pointed out that there are times a child should talk to strangers, it looked like she might be thinking a little about it. Her daughter is young, just 4, so there’s a while yet before she’ll be doing much unsupervised outside her own backyard, which I’m happy to say she does play in without her mother hovering.
Thank you! This is a terrific story! Just yesterday I took my kids to Target for a practice run of what they should do if we were to get separated in a store. I went to the Customer Service desk and gave the lady a heads up that when two little girls come to her they are practicing what to do. She told me “You need to clear that with security. I’m not going to be part of that.” I did clear it with security, and when my girls went to the desk to have me paged, another lady was there.
What a great story! This shows that we need to teach our children common sense about strangers. Kids need to know that most strangers are good people who will help a child. My son learned from an early age that when he’s out without parental supervision and needs help with something, to find the nearest adult. He has learned from experience that most adults are good people who will go out of their way to help a child.
@ LRH, You made a good point about the woman who found young Abbie not scolding the father for getting separated from his daughter. It’s nice to see that people still realize that kids can get separated from their parents and that nobody is at fault. The father also didn’t overreact about a stranger finding his daughter.
@Janet Hughes, That was a great idea teaching your kids what to do, and practicing it, if you get separated in a store. If that situation ever occurs, your kids will know exactly what they should do and where to go for help.
I had something similar happen on Memorial Day. My husband, daughter and I were sitting in the backyard reading, when a little boy scootered into our yard. “Have you seen my Mommy?” he asked. Now, we live in a pretty close-knit suburb, and none of us recognized the kid. We asked him if he was from the area, and he said that no, he and his brothers and Mommy were visiting his Tia (Aunt) for the day. He gave the Tia’s name, but none of us recognized that either. So we asked him where he last saw them. Turns out he had wandered away from the school playground just a couple blocks away. We offered to walk him there, but he clearly didn’t want to trust us. So we waved him in the right direction and off he went.
At the end of the street, he turned the wrong way. So my husband took off after him and I grabbed my phone. We caught him three blocks further on — the kid was FAST on that scooter — and talked to him a bit more. At this point he started to get very upset. I offered to let him call his Mom or Tia, but he didn’t know the numbers. My daughter and I switched over and spoke to him in our broken Spanish, which seemed to comfort him a bit. We offered again to walk him back to the park, but he just wasn’t buying it — and we realized the poor kid was so thoroughly lost, he thought we were trying to take him in the wrong direction!
In the end we convinced him to come with us because our daughter went to the “escuela grande” he kept talking about. We walked him over there and reunited him with his teenage brothers, who were pretty frantic by this time. I was glad we were able to help, but also REALLY glad the kid wasn’t afraid to ask for our help. Our neighborhood is very free-range, so seeing a kid alone on Memorial Day wouldn’t have given anyone pause at all. The fact that he asked probably kept him from wandering even further away from the park he’d left.
Could have been a nasty incident – but the girl coped. I like the ‘expectation of resilience’ in the adults, and the sensible moderate response and advice from the school about walking. No-one suggesting the kids in that area should stop walking to school. A good level of balance I think (and hopefully they find the guy, because he obviously needs help).
Marie: Be careful about those people that come door to door to sell children’s books. We had some string of robberies in our area last year and it was people using the selling children’s books as a way to get invited in to see if your house was worth robbing and getting info on you. It was a scam. They went the children’s route because people are more willing to want to buy stuff for their kids or see you as innocent if you are selling children’s products. I actually invited the person in and they asked some weird questions of me and I thought it seemed questionable. They asked about our neighbors and if they had kids and when they are home and not home and other stuff. We did not get robbed but other neighborhoods did and it was by the same people.
I personally even as an adult, don’t open the door to strangers. There are home invasions that occur when you open the door to strangers who then kick the door in once you open it. I talk through the door if I don’t know the person. That is how we always do it. I believe at least once it might have saved my life. Long story. Anyway, it is not stupid to be aware and cautious about random strangers around your house. My mom lives out in the country. It would take the law an hour to get to her if she was in trouble. She carries a gun when she goes around the property and she has confronted strangers on the property while holding her gun to let them know she is packing. Strangers wander up on their mile long driveway all the time and it is smart to be cautious about it. No one would hear her scream if someone attacked her. You have to be your own law out there.
Since reading Lenore’s book, I’ve gone more free-range with my kids. My 9-year-old couldn’t find me after a “mission” at Meijer (I’d sent her to choose cereal while I got the soup), and she went up to the front. I got paged by name, but by then I was headed up to there to look for her anyway. She didn’t cry until I hugged her. I pointed out she’d never really been in trouble and had done exactly the right thing.
The 6-year-old got help when she couldn’t find the dried peas (right in front of her, of course). A total stranger noticed her confusion and asked if she could help, and then handed her the bag of peas.Never a bit of frear in getting help from a stranger. I looked with my daughter for her helper, so I could thank her, but we didn’t see her.
A couple of women overheard me and the 6-year-old in the parking lot discussing what she should do if she can’t find me, and they told me how wonderful they thought it was. Better to teach them what to do (ask someone in a nametag for help, go to the front of the store to have me paged) than have them terrified of strangers.
To touch on Dolly‘s comment about strangers at the door, I understand some of that, but I think the extent to which others take it gets sort of ridiculous sometimes. One example: a year ago I was unemployed & was desperately looking a job. When I got one, it was actually a pretty good one, and I was delighted. I happened to be nearby a friend’s house who knew of the ordeal, and stopped in to share the good news.
This person, a woman near my age, was delighted somewhat, but was MUCH more tentative about letting me in, even though my wife & I as a family had been in her house numerous times before, just because I was alone as a man & she was alone as a woman. Heck we knew each other at church, for Pete’s sake. I guess she was worried neighbors would gossip about her being alone with a man her age, but since when should our actions be dictated by other’s malicious gossip?
Neither I nor my wife have seen her even once since, because of that very thing.
LRH-If I’m unwilling to let someone in it usually means I’m embarrassed by my housekeeping. I know it should be that way with friends but it’s something I’m still working on. I’m sure there were other clues that let you know it was the man along with a woman reason but I could definitely think of some alternate possibilities.
Dolly, I only answered the door when my husband was home, and only because I wanted to calm my neighbor. I don’t talk to solicitors. I’m not going to buy from them, so talking to them is a waste of my time and theirs. That and I do know that while an invasion is unlikely, it’s not entirely impossible.
I’ve let my 6-year old “off leash” many times in the past year. And each is a learning experience for both of us. Last time, I took my 4YO to the bathroom at the library while she looked for books. Of course, it took longer than expected, and she wandered around in tears before a mom who we’d seen together earlier helped calm her down and wait for me.
Today, I walked 100′ from my 4YO at the beach for a few minutes (my eyes on him the whole time- it is a beach), and he looked around in obvious confusion when he couldn’t find me. A very nice man set up next to us pointed me out and made him smile. Our kids spent the next hour building castles.
Several times my 6YO bikes ahead on loop bike trail while we run behind. Half the time, people going the opposite direction ask me if the little girl with the pink helmet is mine. At first I was appalled, and thought people were judging me for letting my 6YO out of my sight for 15 minutes. Then I realized that these were the people that I rely on to be the kind strangers to help my kids out if they need help. I’ve found that there are tons more people willing to help my kids than there there are people that will hurt them. Or judge me as a bad mom.
Every time i take my daughter to New York City (we live in the burbs). I always giver he my business card with my cell phone to put in her pocket. I tell her if she gets lost to look for a police officer or a mommy with kids to ask them to call me. I have been doing this since she was 3< now she is almost 6 and knows the number but asks me for the card when we go to the city.
Larry: You have no idea why she did not want to let you into her home when you showed up unannounced and unplanned. What you did was rude to just show up and expect to be let in and entertained. She was more than polite to open the door to you and speak to you. That was all she was obligated to do in terms of politeness. She was under no obligation to invite you into her home out of the blue. Maybe her house was messy and she was embarrassed? Maybe her kids were napping? Maybe she was busy in the middle of something? Maybe her husband gets jealous easily? Maybe her husband come home for lunch and they were in the middle of an afternoon delight when you showed up? Maybe she was sick and was afraid of making you sick? Maybe she had not showered yet and was afraid she was stinky?
There are a hundred reasons someone would not invite a person they know into their house when they show up out of the blue. It may not have had anything to do with her feeling safe with you and may have had something to do with just not liking uninvited visitors. I would not have let you in either. There are only a few people I let into my house unannounced. My best friends, my mother, my father and that is honestly about it. You would not make that list.
Good for that man for helping the girl! I liked how he let her use his cell phone to contact the dad. I usually tell my kids that if they get separated from me to ask a mom with kids for help. Is that sexist or what???
@Tara, no you’re not being sexist. I used to tell my son to find an adult if we got separated or if he was out by himself and needed help. I told him to first look for a woman with kids. If there were none around, then simply ask the nearest adult. I don’t believe that women with kids are necessarily “safer” than a single adult. But I would assume that they would be more sympathetic toward a child since they had kids themselves.
I was driving through a store parking lot the other day and saw a 2 year-old girl running through it by herself. My sister jumped out of my car before I was even to a full stop and tried to guide her back to the apartment complex she was running from without touching her, but when my sister turned to head back to my car, the girl started running back the other way. Which is when I got out and just grabbed her wrist and dragged her back to the apartments, where we found her babysitter running toward us with a newborn in her arms.
@Dolly -your first post is quite contradictory. You first say, “I actually invited the person in” but then follow up with “I personally even as an adult, don’t open the door to strangers”. So what is it? Do you invite strangers in or do you never open the door to them? Or perhaps you invite them in without opening the door?
Also, you allowed these strangers who were `selling books’ in, then answer questions and feel relieved that you weren’t robbed but your neighbours were. Um, perhaps they didn’t rob you because you either fed them the info they needed to rob the neighbour, or they saw you were home when they first called and realized that you could be home and skipped your place.
Jenn or maybe you are just being obtuse. I don’t open the door to strangers 99% of the time but since it was a woman and she looked nice and she had children’s books that one time I did. I did not answer the questions about my neighbors that she asked. I gave her brush off answers. No one in my neighborhood was robbed. Other people in the city were robbed by them and it was on the news. Der.
Lovely story, not just about a lost boy but about the author finding herself. We briefly lost my son and his friend at Disney at it was a frantic 5 minutes, which felt like an hour. Fortunately, Disney is the best place to lose a child. Within 30 seconds, everyone was looking for him.
I’m just glad that the STRANGER happened to be FEMALE or else we wouldn’t have heard about this until after the STRANGER was released from prison and registered as a SEX OFFENDER.