My Son Went Outside Barefoot. Is This a Crime?

Readers — This letter means so much to me. It’s from a mom in Massachusetts, reminding us that Free-Range isn’t just an idea. It is real. It can change lives. (And it believes in barefoot kids.) — L.  

Dear Free-Range Kids: Imagine my surprise as I looked out the second story window only to see my 10 year old son walking into our driveway with a police officer’s car creeping along with him!  You see my son was “outside,” “alone,” “without shoes” and this was apparently alarming to law enforcement.

Actually, he was outside, without shoes, waiting for his friend to arrive, and in his great anticipation, had decided to walk a few houses up the street.  (How terribly childlike of him!)  The officer asked him, “WHY ARE YOU OUT ALONE WITHOUT YOUR SHOES?”  And my son (quite nervous and experiencing an anxiety-induced brain freeze) said, “Uhmm, I don’t know.”  The officer took note of his name and address and drove away after he was safely inside.  I am left to wonder if there’s a file at the police station with my child’s name on it with a note about the boy who was “outside,” “alone,” “without shoes.”

This year has been one of fantastic liberation. We’ve taken a great leap of faith and allowed our first-born to roam and ride his bike alone and with friends.  He also has the free will to decide if he wants to wear shoes or a coat (unless we’re going to a public place or it’s 20 degrees. 🙂  Since adopting a “Free-Range” parenting style I have noticed that others view this as somehow neglectful and/or dangerous.  Interestingly, I have also seen a dramatic change in my child’s well being since he’s been “let off leash.”  He’s lost weight, he noticeably smiles and laughs more, and he has had many wonderful experiences to brag about — like catching a giant catfish at a pond down the street (alone) and carrying it through town with its tail flapping around, half hanging out of a lemonade container, and then summoning the help of a “stranger” to get the hook out.  He has stories to tell because he is LIVING and I am so happy to give him one ounce of the joy I was allowed as a child.

Recently, as dusk became dark and he was not yet home, I wondered if I had made a mistake.  Where was my boy?!  My heart began to race as I thought of every horrible thing that might have happened to him.  I jumped in the car and as I started down the street I saw the outline of his human shape chugging up the hill to our house.  He made it, in one piece, with rosy cheeks and the smell of childhood all over him.  Free-Range is the way to go!  There is risk in everything.  Freedom is a risk I am willing to take.  Thank you,  you have changed our lives! — Carla English, mom of two

176 Responses

  1. Oh no, no shoes? No kid ever chooses to go without shoes, obviously there’s trouble.

    Seriously, I don’t get where the officer saw a problem. Kid was easily old enough to be out alone, and lots of kids enjoy going outside barefoot if the weather remotely permits. Mine try to make rain included in that definition sometimes.

  2. Barefoot isn’t so dangerous, but gaining the attention of a cop is a definite health hazard.

  3. There’s even research that it’s better for people’s feet and posture to go barefoot.

  4. When my son was little, he used to run outside barefoot when there was snow on the ground. It always made me cringe, but I figured when he got cold, he’d put something on his feet. Good thing there were no cops watching! (My son is now a perfectly healthy normal adult, in case anyone is wondering.)

  5. I think the most disturbing thing here is that the cop is programmed to assume that a 10-year-old cannot possibly be independent enough to (a) take off his shoes at will and (b) walk along the street. Ugh!

    My kids don’t always want to wear their coats (etc.). Contrary to popular belief, a moderate amount of cold for a short time period is NOT fatal. Nope, it’s not even dangerous. So if it’s cold enough that I want a jacket myself, I make my kids carry theirs (if they don’t want to put them on), and if they get cold, guess what? They can deal with it. I’ve been “neglecting” them in this way since they were about 3 years old (when they started having an attitude about these things).

    I love to let my girls play outside in bare feet when it’s warm. I used to spend most of the summer that way. There’s something so freeing about it. What’s so wonderful about shoes in summer, anyway?

  6. Bob, I remember running outside into the (deep, very cold) snow barefoot once as a kid. Thought it might be refreshing or something. Turns out it was very stupid, but at least I only did that once!

  7. I’m sorry but this is tyranny totalitarianism whatever you want to call it.

    When the cops feel they can harass people for anything they please, regardless of the law, then we are in deep trouble.

    End of the rule of law, start of something dark.

  8. My neighbor’s kid (who lives 6 houses away) came over in socks. I think I was more concerned that he’d ruined a perfectly good pair of socks. Barefoot would have been preferable.

  9. Ummmm….I dunno.

    What if he WAS a homeless kid without shoes, out wandering around, and nobody (including a passing cop) stopped to find out if he was okay? Kids like that do exist. Wouldn’t people be upset if it was found out that homeless kids wander the streets and nobody in an official capacity ever checks to see they’re okay?

    Apparently the cop didn’t even follow the kid into the house, make an inquiry of the parents, or cause any trouble to the kid at all. He ASKED THE KID A QUESTION, and then when he saw the kid had a home to go into, drove away. That there’s some “file” with the kid’s name is a possibility, but at this point it’s also pure speculation. (I am presuming that the letter writer has no way of knowing where the policeman was using all caps when he was talking, or not.)

    Do we really want it so that, in the name of “not being busybodies,” cops NEVER check up on kids to make sure everything’s okay? It sounds like in this case, the cop accepted the kid’s word even though the kid didn’t have a ready answer, and accepted the fact that he knew where he lived and was safe there.

    I don’t think we should start confusing cops asking if there’s a reason a kid is wandering around outside without shoes, with cops somehow making an issue of kids being outside without shoes. They’re not the same thing.

  10. in australia shoesless is a common thing – but I still get many stares. out of my four girls, two of them have always hated to wear shoes. I’ve had people scold me many times because my kids dont wear shoes. Where are her shoes? one lady asked while rubbing her feet.. I replied.. possibly in the car, my handbag, the stroller or perhaps left at home where she takes them off after I put them on her.

    I’m happy to say one has outgrown the stage so just down to one now! I also think you might walk more carefully without shoes? People get a bit funny about it because we live inner city (there is a bit of broken glass around etc) but in years of doing this my kids have cut their foot maybe 3 times???

  11. We had an interesting experience recently when I dropped my 9yo son off about a mile from our house. He was acting up on the bike tag-a-long, so I gave him the option of either pedaling correctly, or getting off and walking. He choose to walk. I left him and continued on home.

    Apparently, two cars slow down and followed him. One stopped briefly, just to ask if he was ok. He said he was and they left – That to me is just nice neighborly checking-in to see if someone is ok. (we homeschool, so he was out walking when other kids were in school) The other car actually trailed him for a while asking him all sorts of questions that really annoyed him. He continued to say he was fine and they finally went away. That was just plain annoying and rude.

    When he got home and explained the story, he was mature about describing the experience and not scared, just annoyed.

  12. I have some fabulous pictures of my 3yo daughter barefoot in about a foot of snow. Of course, due to our crazy weather swings, it was about 50 degrees at the time. And she was standing on the shoveled part. I hope pentamom is right about this situation.

  13. Same thing happened to my kid. She got up one sunday in November about 5 years ago and decided she wanted to make an art project out of acorns. Impulsive as she is wont to be, she went out the backdoor and started picking up acorns from the trees in the back of our townhouse row. Five minutes later, she was back inside, busily gluing things together. About 15 minutes after that, some cop came to my door saying he was looking for a “boy” (my daughter has short hair) who was retarded (She’s actually one of those supersmart kids) who was acting strangely (picking up acorns) and not wearing shoes (she was barefoot). He gave a pretty accurate description of my daughter’s clothing and said a neighbor had called the complaint in. I said I didn’t know any boy that fit that description because I didn’t. I asked what the kid did. He said the boy was acting weird and was running around without shoes. I shrugged and said I couldn’t help him. It didn’t even dawn on me until after he left that he was talking about MY kid. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she was just picking up acorns. Then she became so distressed that she started having a panic attack. What kind of neighbor does that to an innocent kid? And why the hell do the police have to follow up on something so stupid?

  14. I used to get that comment all the time as a kid, along with “you’ll step on a piece of glass!”

    My reply? “Why aren’t you wearing gloves?” and “Do you SEE any glass? Because I don’t.”

    Funnily enough, I once did step on something (a thorn) that went through my foot. It also went through the sole of the shoe I was wearing at the time!

    The comments didn’t stop until I was in high school. I always figured my neighbors got tired of being wrong. (I always say, if you don’t like being corrected you should try not being wrong for a change. My neighbors didn’t like me very much as a kid.)

  15. Incidentally – the health department doesn’t care whether you wear shoes inside a store or not (go ahead and ask them!) and NOBODY cares if you wear shoes while driving. These aren’t laws, they’re merely “laws”, much like the “laws” against jaywalking we found out about earlier this year, which turn out to be far less strict in reality than people think.

  16. My children spent all Saturday barefoot. Better lock me up!

  17. LOL I think a 10 year old is old enough to know to put on their own coat and shoes etc for weather. Now if it was a 4 year old, my answer would be different.

    Heck I walk outside barefoot down our long driveway daily to get the mail. Even in cold weather. I did it yesterday.

  18. I agree with Pentamom. If this had been an autistic child who wandered off or something like that, police attention would be welcome. As it is, the police didn’t confront mom and say she was doing something wrong or kiddo was doing something dangerous. Just checked with the kid, noted that he was home safely, and left him alone.

  19. Now I will say Uly that the glass thing is a big deal. At least for me LOL! I probably shouldn’t go barefoot outside or even in the house because as Hubby calls it my feet are “Glass magnets”. I have had to have glass medically removed from my feet more times than anyone else I know. It stinks. Hurts like heck.

    So normally I do tell my kids to wear shoes outside because I don’t want them to step on glass or a sharp rock or something. I probably should do the same because I am a spaz.

    Anyway, don’t shrug off the glass thing because it does happen a lot, at least to me.

  20. Yes. I don’t think the police overeacted if all they did was check to make sure he was okay.

  21. Ha, this reminds me of a day when I took my 3yo daughters to an outdoor music festival. They had taken off their shoes to dance in the grass and didn’t feel like putting them back on. I figured, what was the harm? We were walking back to the car, when an elderly woman started asking about their shoes. My comment was that in my childhood, we hardly ever wore shoes in the summertime. Then her husband chimed in that during his (and her) childhood, a lot of the kids didn’t even HAVE shoes let alone wear them in the summertime. Mrs. Picky hushed up.

  22. “I agree with Pentamom. If this had been an autistic child who wandered off or something like that, police attention would be welcome. As it is, the police didn’t confront mom and say she was doing something wrong or kiddo was doing something dangerous. Just checked with the kid, noted that he was home safely, and left him alone.”

    But what if this 10yo boy did not WANT to go home? What if he just wanted to play barefoot without being bothered? The point is that there is NOTHING wrong with a 10yo boy going down the street barefoot in reasonable weather. It should not even cause a raised eyebrow. The idea that he had to be “home safely” implies that he was otherwise “away from home unsafely.”

    Now if he were in his underwear or diaper or appeared disoriented, I could see the point.

  23. “I asked what the kid did. He said the boy was acting weird and was running around without shoes.”

    I thought all little children acted weird and ran around without shoes when they could get away with it.

    Your neighbor may be a lunatic. Watch out for her.

  24. Well, I can tell the writer is not from Rock Hall, MD. Women generally wear shoes. But men, (watermen) and kids usually do not, except to school. The stores let in people without shoes because they would lose a lot of business. I have seen men in 25 degree F weather without shoes on, walking over snow.

    My kids don’t want to wear shoes. Our previous house had loads of broken glass, the rule was, wear shoes – if you got cut, you got no sympathy. It happened a few times. Now we are farther north, and still, I have one outside all the time with no shoes, and another who doesn’t want to wear a coat when it is 18 F and the wind blowing at 20 mph. But, they have to take them with when we drive, because you never know if there will be some reason we have to walk home or wait in a cold car for a tow truck or such. I will let them get away with it to some extent, but I also like being like a boy scout and be prepared for anything.

  25. We actually had to institute a serious shoes always on rule when we lived in Chicago. That was a few years ago. Before that I never really thought about it because I grew up barefoot in the city. But the kids were out in the yard one day (doing gymnastics in the grass) and my son suddenly came running up the stares to tell us his sister was hurt. We calmly got up and stood on the porch to watch my son (then 7 or so) and his friend help his 6yo sister up the stairs. She had stepped on a piece of a broken beer bottle someone had thrown from a moving car. It was in our grass despite having thought we picked up all the pieces.

    It cost us $45 to go to urgent care (she didn’t need stitches but limped around for a week). If it had happened just 10 minutes later we wouldn’t have gotten to the urgent care place before it closed and we couldn’t afford the $100 copay to the ER and our insurance wouldn’t have considered it an emergency and wouldn’t have covered it anyway.

    After that we made them wear shoes even in the grass. I was sad but it had all to do with the damn insurance companies and the cost of healthcare in this country.

    Mostly now I yell at them to put shoes on because they’re outside in just their socks. My son is 10 now and has worn holes in ever pair of socks because he runs around with no shoes on. Sigh. They also wear shoes because they spend a lot of time playing in the actual street and when we moved here there was a ton of broken glass all over our garden in the front yard. It was a prudent precaution (and now our ER copay is $150/visit but only if it’s an actual emergency).

  26. It is always hard to make a decision about what freedom to give your child, and what is appropriate when. The police business is outrageous – obviously the most serious problem where you live is that you are wealthy enough to buy shoes but lack the wisdom to wear them!! But seriously, when my eldest (now mother of 3) at age 10 or 11 was allowed to walk her siblings home, or catch a bus it very much upset the other parents.
    I also want to share a story with you, that has some parallels and I think casts doubt on those who scoff at the idea of free range kids. My youngest child has an intellectual disability – what you might in the US refer to as a mental handicap. From whenever she was competent to do so, she caught the bus to the local mall. Initially she did this with her older siblings and by the time she was 12, so did so on her own, should there be a reason for her to do so (we don’t ‘hang out in Malls’ in Australia, and they are not really malls. They are the local social hub, where there are shops and libraries and places for music lessons etc). Her closest friends were, at the time, a group of extremely bright kids. They did her school work and she was the peacekeeper – as she had/has enormous insight into people. The relationships were truly reciprocal. But the other parents coddled their children, and drove them everywhere at the drop of a hat. The summer when they were all 13, the other parents conceded that the bus might not be the work of the devil. So for a number of weeks, my ‘disabled’ daughter taught her friends how to get around without their parents. She was able to be the leader, as she understood ticketing and signalling the driver and the various other complexities of the bus.
    Free range, leads to independence and competence – isn’t that what we all want for our kids.

  27. I never wore shoes if I didn’t have to. Still don’t. Luckily I now live somewhere where no one bats an eyelid if you walk down the main street shoeless. Sadly I work in science so shoes are a must at work so my feet aren’t as tough as they were when I was a kid. We had a long holly hedge to our driveway, so there was plenty of owie stuff lying around to step on too.

    Also sadly, my sister is not of the same opinion and her kids must wear shoes when they go shopping.

  28. Funny how quickly things change, isn’t it? A couple of generations ago lots of kids only wore shoes on Sundays or maybe in wintertime. My grandfather used to warm his bare feet up by stepping in fresh cow pats! And I’m sure other farm kids did similar things…

    And now bare feet are something for cops to ask about?

  29. […] More here: My Son Went Outside Barefoot. Is This a Crim… […]

  30. I vote in MA, may I know if the city is Newton, where I vote? If so I would like to complain.

  31. Well, getting around shoe-less is understand to be either of these three things.

    * Povertry / neglect

    * Mental imbalance

    * non-conformisim

    The last is the worst kind – most people seem to hate it when their views on what’s normal are challenged.

    Disclaimer: I wear shoes all the times, sandals never with socks, never wear short pants or training attire in the public and always wear a had which I take down when indoors.

  32. My daughters and I were fossil hunting along a highway where they had dug through the hill. A policeman drive up and stopped and said, “What are you doing?” I held up a rock and said hunting fossils. He told me we could not be there because they have rock slides, in a tone that said I was the most stupid neglectful dad on earth. He also took our names, so I am probably beside your name about the shoes. And by the way, the rock slide claim was a TINY, TINY chance, but one which I thought so miniscule it worth some good rock hunting.

  33. It is a fair point that it’s OK for police to be checking a child is alright and it sounds like what the police did in this case was relatively unobtrusive and non-accusatory, though still a bit alarming for kids and parents. It gives me an idea of another response for freerange parents when police do get all accusatory and heavy-handed, which is to use it as an opportunity for dialogue. So rather than getting defensive we say could thank them for checking s/he was OK, but as whether it’s really necessary to come in with warnings etc which might cause the child anxiety and distress and undermine their trust in their parents (because if kids see their parents getting ‘told off’ by the police, that’s what might result). Couldn’t they just decide that the parents are present, the child knows where their parents are and where there home is, and reassure the parent and child that they don’t see a problem and were just making sure they were OK?

    Do they have a fixed policy on what to do if they see an unaccompanied child? If they don’t, or if they do and that policy is ‘assume the child is in danger/a victim of neglect’ etc, shouldn’t they be in dialogue with local parents so that they avoid wasting police time and restricting children’s freedom to safely roam, and in fact helping to create a safer community by supporting children’s independence and getting kids outside?

  34. I love that the kids, and parents, go barefoot around my neighborhood. One of the things I love about living in the Sunshine State is that barefoot is only frowned upon in church, stores and restaurants. Then flip flops (or the foldable shoes that are everywhere now) are the norm. Honestly, because of an injury where I almost severed my foot, wearing stiff soled shoes is a problem for me walking.

  35. Bronwyn- I hear you about feet not being as tough when you have to wear shoes to work. After changing jobs it took almost two years to get my feet back to where they were when I was a teen. Now that I stay at home they are back to where I was when I was a kid, but it took a lot of intentional exposure to increasingly owie textures.

  36. Claudia and others, it disturbs me that so many here are accepting the idea that a barefoot 10-year-old boy putzing along a residential street in broad daylight is not a completely normal and healthy phenomenon.

    Why does the idea of a normal 10-year-old with a parent seem “more OK” to so many than a 10-year-old without one? Do you all remember being 10 years old? Why, I was regularly babysitting my baby brother at that age. (And we both went barefoot in the summer!) My parents did not ever accompany me in the neighborhood, except on fine Sunday mornings, from the time I was a preschooler. If a cop would have stopped me for walking down the street, I would have gotten quite the attitude about cops. But needless to say, that never happened.

    What do we have to do to convince people that kids becoming independent of their parents is a GOOD thing?

    Honestly, when stuff like this happens, I start thinking there are too many cops on the road for the amount of crime out there. They ought to be too busy to notice if kids are playing barefoot.

  37. I have fought the shoe battle with my kids and have finally thrown in the towel. Only rule- if you stub your toe after I told you to put shoes on, no crying and apply your own bandages.

    I had to call the police a few weeks ago for my 10 year-old son. He was biking home from school when a car honked and then threw a cup of hot coffee at him (he slammed on the brakes and didn’t get hit). When I reported it, the officer said that sometimes “these kids” take up too much space in the road and the drivers get annoyed driving behind them. My son was on the sidewalk, not the road, and didn’t provoke anything, I told the officer. He suggested I have a conversation with my son and tell him that “people sometimes do stupid things”. Yes, and so do the police when they stop a barefoot child who isn’t doing anything wrong.

  38. I am the Mother who wrote to Free Range kids about my son being stopped by the police officer. I’ll tell you this, he didn’t look homeless; we live in a very nice suburban town on a quiet tree lined street and solidly middle to upper middle class homes. He was on the side walk looking at his iphone as he waited for his friend. It was however, a brisk November day with a whipping wind when 99% of people would not have gone out without shoes. Still, he was not in distress or looking confused or aimless or in need of help.

    Also, we don’t know yet if all the officer did was “check in”. Why did he write down my son’s name and address? If he was satisfied there was nothing amiss, would he need to take notes? I think the very question he asked tells me he thought something was wrong. He didn’t stop and say “hey, how are you? What are you up to?”… he said “why are you alone without your shoes”. AS IF, being a ten year old outside alone without shoes is in and of itself a reason to think something is wrong. It’s not a reason to think something is wrong even if it was chilly outside (low 50’s)

    I’ll let your know if I get a knock on the door from the state. I sincerely HOPE not!!

  39. It does feel heavy-handed that the officer felt the need to write down the child’s name/address, as if expecting more problems in the future or something. And why didn’t he just chat with the boy instead of accusing? Wouldn’t this have been a much more friendly interaction if the officer had been on a bike, or a motorcycle, doing more community interaction, rather than intimidating a boy who wasn’t doing anything wrong? There are enough mixed messages about “police are our friends, they want to keep us safe” and “oh crap, a cop!”. What do our kids absorb about police from us? And do interactions like this make a child feel safe with police, or make them fear that they will be in trouble whenever they see an officer? I don’t think that officer did himself any favors with his heavy-handedness.

  40. Wow, shoeless in the summer gosh our kids play street hockey shirts and skins!!!!! Walk to school and stay out after dark we live in a community that we all watch out for others kids but like you they go fishing and have all kinds of fish tails!! But they stick together. Life is way to short not to live it.

  41. It’s possible the officer thought the kid was locked out by his parents as a punishment (or more likely by a punitive older sibling). That is entirely plausible to me, especially the latter scenario. Keep in mind how cold it is in MA this time of year. The cop had no idea how long the kid had been outside and the question he asked was not really designed to size up the situation — rather it reflected “worst first” thinking.

  42. SKL, I wasn’t saying I have a problem with a barefoot kid or that anyone should, just that if police feel they must check a kid is OK because they’re out alone (which I don’t think they ought to myself as long as the kid doesn’t appear to be distressed) it might not be so bad if they just reassure the parents they’re not in trouble and just wanted to check the kid was alright, and if they don’t do that, parents ought to open a dialogue about why the police (over)react like that.

  43. I’m all for neighborhood policing and don’t think there’s anything wrong with the police checking in with a kid alone to make sure he’s okay. I imagine police are trained to sniff out trouble, which is a good thing. I also imagine they could best gauge this particular situation by simple being friendly and asking what the kid was up to. Depending on his reaction, they could tell if he was distressed. As a kid, I imagine it could feel good for a cop to stop by and check on me to make sure everything was cool.

    To me, its the difference between the police showing an interest in the welfare of the kid and the police looking for trouble and someone to blame.

  44. “Claudia and others, it disturbs me that so many here are accepting the idea that a barefoot 10-year-old boy putzing along a residential street in broad daylight is not a completely normal and healthy phenomenon.”

    It’s the kind of thing that is neither “definitely completely normal and healthy” nor “necessarily abnormal and unhealthy.”

    It’s the kind of thing that COULD be either — that’s the thing. Yes, it’s quite likely that it’s just absolutely fine. The odds are, that it is. I think any of us can accept, and probably the policeman could accept, that a kid being outside with no shoes is just fine under normal circumstances.

    But what about those not-normal circumstances? How was he supposed to judge? If we want people watching out for one another, which is part of the oil that makes a Free-Range society work, then we shouldn’t get all up in arms when someone *simply checks to see if a kid is okay.”

    And the noting down his name and address? It could be just that it’s policy that he has to make note of every interaction he has for record-keeping purposes. Maybe it *is* something more sinister than that, but we have no way of knowing and I don’t think there’s any warrant for assuming.

    “And why didn’t he just chat with the boy instead of accusing? ”

    Accusing? What did he accuse him of? “Why are you out alone without your shoes” is a question, not an accusation.

  45. I went barefoot most of my childhood, and my kids do the same. The only thing that seems to have changed is the number of people who think this is unusual. My kids get questions and comments all the time, whereas when I was a kid all the kids went barefoot whenever they could.

    It’s possible to hurt your feet–they’ve done it a couple times. But the injuries are minor and often I think being barefoot helps prevent other injuries because the kids are more stable and climb and balance better. They hurt their fingers way more often and I don’t see people wearing gloves around all the time for safety reasons. And my kids’ feet are strong and healthy and without any of the problems that some of their shoe-wearing friends have.

    We’ve often joked about the shoe police–meaning people who ask and complain about the kids’ lack of footwear. The idea of REAL shoe police is pretty awful.

  46. What would the cop have done if the boy decided to continue hanging out instead of going home? Sounds like he either sent the boy home or was prepare to watch the kid until he went home. I don’t like it, not one bit.

    When I send my kids out to play, I don’t want anyone (besides me) telling them they need to come back inside. That’s the thing that’s rubbing me the wrong way.

    So the cop didn’t “accuse” the boy of anything, but now that family is going to second-guess its rights to make free-range decisions. Because that’s just what you need in the neighborhood – cop cars frequently in your driveway concerning your kid. Way to foster neighborliness.

  47. @pentamom The difficulty with questions like “Why are you out alone without your shoes?” is that people don’t tend to ask them as if they’re interested in the answer; they ask them as if they’re accusing. Imagine an adult saying to a child “Why don’t you have your coat on?” in very cold weather. The assumption is that the adult really means “You should have a coat on,” not that the adult really wants to hear something like “I’m not cold.” There are probably a few people who ask just because they’re interested, but most of these sorts of questions sound accusatory.

  48. Yeah, “Why are you out alone without your shoes?” asked by a COP is unlikely to be answered with “because I chose to be” by a 10-year-old. Fact is, there is no right answer to that question under the circumstances. Hence it really means “You had better have a good excuse for being outside alone without your shoes, or we have a problem.” Also translated as “find someplace to be – indoors.”

  49. melinda: There’s a story on here from some years ago about an elementary school where, as it turned out, a group of autistic first-graders had lockers across the hall from a group of typically-developing third or fourth graders. Somebody witnessed a bizarre scene where the autistic kids’ teacher, along with an occuptional therapist or some similar professional, was instructing them in how to put on and take off their jackets. Across the hall, you could see the typically-developing 8- or 9-year olds having their jackets put on by their mommies.

    carla: I’m guessing the officer had to take notes simply to document to his superiors that he hadn’t nipped off to the donut shop in the middle of his shift.

  50. As soon as the pavement was warm enough I was shoeless the whole summer, running up and down gravel alley’s, playing in the creek, walking to the pool. Still not really a fan of shoes, one of my jobs that was a mixture of office work and warehouse work I got in trouble a few times for not wearing my shoes, while sitting at my desk (in the office, not the warehouse). I finally made a promise to my boss in writing that I would always put them on when I got up from my desk and he left me alone.

    The ones that get to me now: I didn’t bother putting shoes on my daughter before she could walk, especially when she could take them off. People would stop me and tell me she wasn’t wearing shoes. I would tell people she couldn’t walk and didn’t need them, I still got wierd looks. Now that she is two she put on her own shoes, very often on the wrong feet. People still often stop me to tell me of my mistake. I get dirty looks when I tell them that I let her put her own shoes on, and I don’t bother fixing them because it doesn’t bother her. I like her to feel proud that she can do it herself. If allowing your child to do things for themselves makes you a bad mom, then I am the worst mother ever.

  51. I love this story! When I turned 10, my parents allowed me to begin fishing on a creek near our home. For the next five years, this was my sanctuary. I learned to be alone, to think for myself, to make decisions for myself. To not fall in (unless I wanted to on a hot day). I encountered a few creeps, of course, and learned to disarm them with a laugh or just the ability to show some self-confidence. I worried my mother terribly at times, because if the fishing was good I’ll stay until dark. But she had the wisdom not to prevent me from further adventures, just to urge me to be more responsible…which I learned to do over time. I hate to think of my childhood without these experiences and lessons of independence.

  52. I’m not dissing the shoelessness or really condoning the alarm at such, but do any of you know why shoes were so encouraged during the 1930s? Hookworms. Not puncture wounds (though they do cut down on those too). Basically we’ve broken the cycle of hookworms that could infect via uncovered bare feet so that they’re no longer a problem lurking in the soil. (short stature, slight malnourishment in kids) So several generations of shoe-wearing folks have given our kids license to go shoeless without becoming parasite-ridden (though there are some arguments in favor of a light parasite load too!). This is why all the old ladies are so concerned about shoeless kids.

  53. I am surprised by all the “what if” responses going on here. What if he had been autistic??? Really??? Is there something more delicate about autistic kids feet that they can’t be outside barefoot. ALONE? Egads!

  54. Interesting about the hookworks. But I’m pretty sure there never was a generation where most of the kids wore shoes all summer (at least, until very recently). Shoes may have been considered an ideal, but one not within reach of many in those days. Especially not during the 1930s, I’d venture to say. Maybe there were some pockets where shoe use caught on more.

    I honestly think people forget their childhoods as they get older. I see it happening to me even. I’m pretty sure that when I was in KG, I was more independent in some ways than my kids. For example, I still don’t feel quite ready to send them into the “school” building alone, though they are fully capable of getting through the doors, punching the security code on the keypad, and getting themselves situated in their classrooms. When I was 4/5, I walked with my 6yo brother until we reached the crossing guard and then he took off toward his school in the other direction.

    Let’s not even get into what Grandpa thinks is too much for my kids, LOL.

  55. I meant hookworms, not hookworks.

    And I expect my daughters to learn how to spell . . . .

  56. I grew up in Hawaii where barefoot was a year-round way of life. I am now 44 and live in Los Angeles and still go barefoot around the house, yard and neighborhood (and drive barefoot too!). We are expecting our first child and I suspect there will be very little shoe wearing for her! Now I’m sort of looking forward to people giving me grief about my kids not wearing shoes because it is so silly. Being a barefoot kid is the best!

  57. Yeah, “Why are you out alone without your shoes?” asked by a COP is unlikely to be answered with “because I chose to be” by a 10-year-old.

    I would’ve done so. But I also had very few social skills at that age (aspie) and was raised to resist authority. (My father once got into a fight with a crossing guard because he didn’t want anybody telling him when it was safe to cross the street. “Let it drop” is not a concept he thought applied to him!)

  58. Try even being a barefoot adult in this modern culture. I belong to the Society for Barefoot Living ( and experience the barefoot joy of my youth every day. Yes, I have been spoken to by police officers on the street and get disapproving looks and shocked questions. I worry about the childhood my kids will have now, but even more about the culture they’ll have to face as adults. Push a few boundaries. Go barefoot today!

  59. I’m 45 and I recently got chewed off for not kissing a cop’s butt good enough (while my kids sat in the backseat thinking, “the police are our friends??”).

    Granted, I did not shrink from his loud and obnoxious questions, because I felt that would send the wrong message to my kids. I did have to pay over $200 for my failure to kiss ass.

    Or maybe the cop was right to treat me like a dangerous criminal. After all, I was slowly driving my 4yos into the zoo parking lot on a Saturday afternoon. I should be happy he didn’t frisk me (and my kids).

    Sorry, I seem to be a little jaded.

  60. @Alexandra Chauran-
    Who knew!
    The only other “barefooter” (I never heard this term- you learn something new everday!) I heard of was an artist who lived on one of our favorite walking paths along a creek. I remember conversations my Dad had with her about her dogs (she raised Bernese Mountain dogs) and her hatred of shoes. He always said she must be a confident walker (those dogs make huge poops) and because she was even barefoot in the ice and snow.
    I am not such a confident walker (and also have 2 dogs and 2 cats) so I might have to keep the shoes on today. I’m also in need of a heavy duty pedicure.

  61. History! One of the great successes of the WPA during the Great Depression was increased sanitation and hygiene measures – which meant funding shoes in some cases (and latrines and screens for porches) – in the rural south. This mostly eliminated hookworm, which caused some significant health problems for poor people. Alleviate diseases of poor sanitation and you’ll address poverty itself. Yes, people do forget their childhoods – – but my main point was that we shouldn’t forget history either – and there was a good reason that there was a government funded campaign to get kids to wear shoes.

  62. It’s not just children who don’t enjoy wearing the “foot jails.” I had no idea there was a society for people who don’t like shoes! I’m also pleased to know that there is no actual law against driving barefoot. I break it every day in the summer and have always been slightly worried about getting caught. I can’t imagine its purpose. I feel like I have more control without shoes on.

  63. Why can’t the cop just ask the kid a question, see that everything’s OK and then leave the kid alone? Going barefoot isn’t necessarily a sign of neglect.

  64. My goodness, I’m an adult and I still regularly leave the house without shoes.

  65. “Honestly, because of an injury where I almost severed my foot, wearing stiff soled shoes is a problem for me walking”

    Just a reminder, NOBODY should wear stiff soled shoes. Maybe it’s just a misuse of language and the shoes you are talking about are not really stiff soled but each time I see shoes with really stiff soles in a store, I don’t understand why things like that exist in the first place. I’m sure that going barefoot is healthier than wearing stiff soled shoes even if you count all the things that could happen to your feet (cuts, plantar warts, frostbites, etc.)

    “I honestly think people forget their childhoods as they get older”

    That’s a good point, but what I remember of my childhood is being enable to follow my friends when we were barefoot because I couldn’t walk on gravel (well I could but I was REALLY slow). Now I know that it’s just because I was always wearing shoes and my feet were simply not accustomed to be bare but when I was a kid I didn’t understand why I was not able to do as my friends and I thought I had to accept my fate of having sensitive feet. Silly eh? I don’t necessarily want my kids to be like me on that account.

  66. We go to an outdoor concert in Maryland and a majority of kids take off their shoes and play in the grass. I join them most of the times. I have had people ask me if it dangerous especially because she is 10 and I don’t follow her every move. So far she hasn’t been hurt and I get her to listen to a little classical music.

  67. We had problems with a ninny neighbor to our afterschool care place calling 911 whenever she thought the children SHOULD have coats on – like, if it was under 70F or at all overcast. I was livid about the staff giving into her bullcrap out of fear that “she would report them” because my son rarely wears a coat, and all the kids were old enough to put their coats on or take them off as they felt cold or warm.

    The woman was clearly nuts, and on a power trip. I told my son to take his coat off when he got outside, hide it if he had to, and if she called police, I would call and say that an insane woman was making threats – which she was. That put a stop to it. I spend a lot of time outdoors, and sweating is far worse than no coat for getting chilled.

  68. My son has Asperger’s syndrome. He has an above average intellect. Being on the autism spectrum does not preclude him from having the right (and ability) to learn and grow and explore his world.

  69. For the record, I have lived places where you could fry an egg on the sidewalk in July … my mother did just that to make a point about wearing shoes. Most places aren’t like that. In Massachusetts we get snow and some very cold temps, but, even though we got a weird freako Noreaster just before Halloween, it has been unseasonably warm for October and November.

  70. just a thought…..the actions of police are probably more a reflection of the expectations of our society, than the source. Let’s not get too tough on the cops — they are probably trying to balance the concerns of all. If we can get our society to react more “reasonably” to these situations, the police response will probably reflect that.

  71. @Jennifer — the problem with that approach is that we (including Carla) weren’t there, and didn’t hear the officer’s tone. We’re only ASSUMING it was belligerent or confrontational. It could have been, and then it *just as easily might not have been.*

    I’m not at all saying it’s not possible that the cop was out of line, and unnecessarily bothering a kid who quite obviously was in no need of being checked up on. I’m saying from the information we have, *including the information Carla has,* there is no obvious grounds for outrage, or to think that the cop was giving a child hard time for being out without shoes, or really anything — on the face of it, it could well be that the policeman was asking a question to make sure a kid was all right, knowing it was perfectly likely that he was, but figuring it couldn’t hurt to check.

    There may be grounds from experience to think that it’s quite likely there was more to it than that, but there’s no *evidence* from this situation to think that there was. And so we shouldn’t jump from “cop asks kid about why he’s out alone without shoes” to “cops instinctively harass all kids for being shoeless and/or alone and try to make it a crime.”

    And asking why is kid is doing X is not the same as implying that “he has no right to” do X, or whatever. It could be just checking that nothing hinky is going on. Cops see a LOT of hinky.

  72. …although I am definitely aware that there are some not-so-good cops out there. You always have your bad apples.

  73. Orual: I am with you on the no shoes for non walking babies. I did not have the money to buy those little baby shoes for two babies at once. They outgrow them and they serve no real purpose except looking cute. Plus pediatricians say letting babies be barefoot is best for developing feet. So I would put socks on them and double up on socks if it was cold. People still made comments to me about it. I just corrected them and made them look stupid by saying “Actually my pediatrician said shoes at this stage will hurt their foot development.” That shut them up.

    I don’t know about the shoes on the wrong feet though. If I notice that I point it out to be helpful because sometimes they honestly don’t know. My husband put them wrong on my son once and I didn’t know. I was glad someone pointed it out to me. I would think wearing shoes on the wrong foot could hurt and damage a foot. The thing pediatricians say about children’s foot growth being fragile is true. Since their feet are constantly growing you want a good pair of properly fitting shoes.

  74. I think the officer was just trying to be responsible and make sure the child was safe. He didn’t confront the parents at all, he just made sure the child indeed had a home to go home to and then left him alone. The fact that the child did not have an answer to why he was out there without shoes (such as, “I’m waiting for my friends to come”) would make me, as an adult who works with kids and the homeless, concerned that the child was trying to hide something, such as homelessness, or having run away, etc. I would want to at least know the child had a home to return to, then be on my way. I think the cop did what he is sworn to do – protect and serve.

    That being said, I hate shoes, have hated shoes since I was a child, and to this day I still walk around barefoot 90% of the time. My sister and I used to get sent into the cash-a-check barefoot to cash out our mom’s checks for her, nobody thought anything of it in the small town we grew up in. Being barefoot certainly isn’t a crime, but neither is a police officer making sure a child is safe and housed.

  75. I recall my mother always telling me not to play the kids that didn’t where shoes. They were the bad kids! Thankfully I ignore ed her. I was one of the few that wore shoes.My husband grow up not wearing shoes during the summer.Heck most everyone did.

    Thanks for the reminder I’ll to have to get more son out without his shoes.When it’s a little warmer.

  76. I actually think for boys at least and even for all kids tons of pairs of shoes are so wasteful. Like at any given time my sons have 4 pairs of shoes and that is it. A pair of nice sneakers from Striderite which are their main shoe. Then a pair of crocs for water play and when we need easy slip on shoes. Rainboots and snow boots. That it is. The snow boots are even a luxury for us since we live in the South and they could get by with rainboots and extra socks when it does rarely snow. But they were cheap so we bought some this year. I don’t even do dress shoes. What is the point of fancy shoes for little kids? If I had a little girl I would probably get her one or two pairs of sparkly dress shoes but otherwise that would be it. Kids wear out and grow out of shoes so quickly I just don’t feel like spending tons of money on them.
    Kinda off topic but anyway.


    my children and I actually go an entire day without shoes one day a year on purpose….. see the link above.

  78. It’s funny how this is becoming a thread on how we should rebel against shoe-wearing, LOL. I must say I wear them only when I absolutely have to. Like some of you, I prefer to drive shoeless. And when I used to work daily in an office, I developed a bad reputation for being the crazy lady who kept her shoes off. It reached scandalous proportions when it became known that on the weekends, I actually wore white socks! Who does that!? Can you just imagine being the topic over lunch because you wear white socks on weekends? People can be amazing.

    My kids have to wear their shoes all day at daycare, but they can’t wait to take them off once they get home. As for barefooting outside, I neither push it nor forbid it. We get a lot of deer and other critters who poop in our yard lately. But when the girls were tots, they played barefoot in the back all summer long.

    Re the cops’ intentions, I think they ought to have enough sense to know that they are intimidating, and that any “what are you doing” type of question is not going to be viewed as open-ended.

    If the guy really wanted to only make sure the child had somewhere to go “when” he chose to go there, he could have said, “hi, it’s a nice day for hanging outside, is your house anywhere nearby?” and the kid would point to his house and that would be the end of it. “That’s a nice house. See you around.”

  79. What a grand irony. Here we are debating the “crazy kid” for leaving his shoes behind in the middle of a huge revolution in running… the barefoot running movement. Whether you agree or disagree on running barefoot – there is no question that the dynamics of running barefoot or in minimal shoes is a matter of much research into what may help people avoid running injury.

    Who knew? Our foot dynamics without cushioning, stiffening, and gel/pumps/air/etc. may be best.

    In the interest of helping some knee and heel problems, I am relearning how to run barefoot. Maybe it will even work.

  80. So, I don’t normally post comments on blogs, especially those I’m unfamilar with. However, this needs to be said.
    As the wife of law enforcement officer in a very dangerous city, I understand where the officer was coming from in his assessment of the situation. I, for one, would be more than elated that a responsible LEO took my child’s safety as his primary concern at the moment. If you understand nothing else about how a law enforcement officer sees the world, understand this: The overwhelming majority of people they come into contact with every single day are inherently troubled, sick, dangerous, or evil, and there are many of those that despise the cops. They are called to the scene of, almost always, bad or dangerous situations. They show up when others run the other way and would put themselves between innocent citizens and a bullet, even if that particular citizen hates the police so much he wishes that officer dead. So, when much of the general population that an officer deals with is involved in criminal activity, after many years of service to the badge, he begins to see many (if not most) strangers as suspicious or dangerous. Ask any individual NOT in law enforcement what is the first thing that comes to mind when they hear “Scout leader,” and they will probably respond with something like, “an upstanding adult who leads youth through programs that enrich skills and development.” Ask a cop the same thing, and you’ll get, “Pedophile,” and, per their personal experiences, they won’t be lying. Probably most of the scout leaders they have had encounters with have been pedophiles, especially if that officer is assigned to the sex crimes division. Please just learn to view situations you have with police with less disdain for how they may react to a seemingly innocuous occurance like a 10 year old walking barefoot down the street….The officer may have just been thinking of the abusive, crack-addicted father he just locked up, or the pedophile last spotted in the neighborhood that they’re looking for in connection to a series of child rapes and murders. I am sure he merely had the safety of the child on his mind and I would thank God for concerned officers patrolling your neighborhood….And while you’re at it, thank the police officers as well. Concerned policeman or child predator: Which would YOU rather have approaching YOUR child?

  81. I agree with those who said that the cop asking wasn’t wrong, especially as he appeared satisfied with the kid’s answer and seeing the child safely home.
    Our state had an awful case last winter of an abusive dad who forced his child to stand outside, wet, with no winter clothes, for hours. Rare, but horrific. I also work with folks who had bad/abusive parents. I DO want cops to check up on things like this, as long as they are able to differentiate between non-criminal activity (original poster’s) and criminal/abusive actions.

  82. Fine and dandy for the cop to “check,” but not OK to intimidate the child into going home and into his house.

    I know cops see a lot of bad stuff (although probably somewhat less in an upper-middle neighborhood), but they need to be able to keep in mind that most people are NOT criminals and most kids are NOT in the middle of being abused at any given time. That should be seen as part of the job – an important part at that.

  83. I agree with both sides here. I can see why the mom thought it was ridiculous. But I can also see how the world would be up in arms if a child turned out to be in trouble/locked out/abused/whatever and a cop just drove on by without checking. Maybe he took notes just in case something turned up later and he could remember where the kid lived. I’d bet he didn’t report it or anything.

  84. ” . . . safely home.”

    Continues to bug the crap out of me.

    The boy was safely outside. His going home was not necessary to his being safe.

    Perhaps we would all feel safer if there were a curfew preventing any children under 12 from being outside their homes, enforced by the cops.

  85. The odds are much greater that my child would face a police officer on a power trip then a child molester that is not a family member or teacher. Cops can mess up your life a lot more than most strangers. I plan to teach my children to feel comfortable talking to strangers because most people are good but to be VERY careful talking to cops because they are looking for a reason to justify their salary.

    I was on the fence but Meg you reminded me why it is so wrong for this officer to accost this innocent child as he plays on his street. I actually think stopping to say hi would be ok. its really the making him go home that is over the top.

  86. Thought you guys would enjoy today’s Married to the Sea:

  87. mind the doggy doo on the sidewalk!!

  88. I am a little confused by all of the rationalizations for why the cop stopped and asked the kid anything at all.

    From what the mother has said, in the letter and in comments, there were no signs of a problem. This doesn’t sound like an area where there are homeless kids wandering the street regularly. It was just a kid, standing outside barefoot, keeping to himself.

    The fact that this was apparently odd enough to attract notice is commentary, right there, on why this movement needs to even exist. Exactly because it is rare for a 10 yr old to stand around outside in his own neighborhood.

    When I was ten, the cops probably wouldn’t have noticed any of us doing the same thing (though, we would not have had an iphone… maybe a transistor radio), unless something or someone had actually been on fire. Heh.

    If it had been a simple “Everything okay? Alright then!” thing, *that* would not really be a big deal. It wasn’t; he brought up the specific points of being outside, alone and without shoes. (I can only imagine what it would have been like, had someone asked my daughter that. She is a big stickler for knowing *exactly* what the rules are -often so she can find a loophole – and would have likely asked “Why? Is there a shoe law?” She’s also prone to letting people knowing when she thinks they are asking an obvious – i.e. stupid – question: “What are you kids doing?” got, from her at age 7, “Playing. You know… for fun?” said very slowly.)

    I think the big point and triumph of this story is that this mother, in spite of the fact that the world still acts like there is something odd about a child outside by themselves, has embraced free-ranging and has seen tangible positive results. That even though there is worry and risk in everything, she has *seen* that it is worth it.
    I think that’s awesome and hope-inspiring. With each parent who decides to give their child some room to explore the world, we hopefully get closer to a society where cops don’t automatically become suspicious of a boy being outside without his shoes, and where maybe all that will happen is a friendly smile and a wave or a “How’s it going?”

    Congratulations, Carla, it sounds like your boy is having an awesome childhood. Stories like the one about the catfish are priceless, and those type of things are still some of the most treasured memories about growing up, in my family. I think you are giving him a wonderful gift, and we can only hope that the rest of society catches up with that way of thinking.

  89. Brian:
    Come on a ride along with my husband for 8 hours, and only then can you make conclusions about a “reason to justify their salary.” We don’t have reasons in Detroit for the officers to justify their pay…They earn every red cent they make in what is rated #2 in the murder (per capita) city list, second only to Flint. Things may be peaches and ice cream in your community, but the outlook isn’t so rosy here.
    Your logic is incredibly skewed. You say “people,” then leave police out of that category. They are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, just like any other who wants the best, safest possible community for their families. The only difference is, they are the ones staring evil in the face and making every possible effort (truly what seems a losing battle in the Motor City) to make it a better place. While, like you stated, most people are good, but most officers of the law are EXCEPTIONAL individuals who will place their own needs and lives second to the general public who, like you, hates them. If your neighbor wanted you dead, would you die for him if he was about to be struck by a speeding train? That’s the kind of people they are, because an overwhelming majority of the public calls them “pigs” and many wish them dead. 53 officers have been killed by gunfire this year, those statistics are increased by 8% from last year. There was a rash of murders of our officers earlier this year and those numbers were closer to 20% at that time. They are reviled and hated for simply standing up for all that is good and seeing justice served….(And something tells me your answer to my question would be, “No.”)
    How about this: Next time you find yourself at 2am face to face with a home intruder armed with an AK-47 who is ready to rape and kill your family….Don’t call 911, call anyone else you think “good” enough to help you.

  90. Not sure if anyone else has mentioned this (didn’t read through all the comments today). But you should verse yourself in your rights and the law. And too inform your child of it as well, and how to deal with the police. The police are not be feared, as long as you didn’t do anything wrong, in this case he didn’t. What your child did was not illegal. I’m guessing since the officers, in their “holier than thou” mental attitude, just took your boy’s name down, in case there was a report of a missing boy, or an injured boy. Which is worse case thinking. You should let your son know, that he should ever fear the police if he didn’t or isn’t doing anything wrong. Another regular on this blog (sorry I can’t remember who it was), but he allows his kid to go off oh his own, but he gives him a letter just in case the police stop him. He knows to give the letter the police, let them read it, then he takes it back and goes off on his merry way. That may be a something you might want to try.

    It’s sad to see law enforcement get to this point. The very people who are suppose to protect and serve, are one of the main contributors to “worse case thinking” and paranoia. It’s worse when it comes from them, because “they are the police, so if they say it’s bad, it MUST be”. They are just normal people with families, who have the same fears as the next person. They just happen to wear a badge. On that note though, not all cops are like that. Just today, I was walking back to work from lunch, and I saw this little girl riding her bike on the correct side of the street (where cyclists should be riding), in the heart of downtown Toronto. From my guess, she looked about 10 or 11. She was doing everything right riding. We got to an intersection where a cop was directing traffic because of construction. When it was time for us to move on, the cop smiled at the little girl and waived her through. No look of disapproval, no look of surprise, not even a sense of something was wrong. If anything, he had a look of relief. Like it was refreshing to see children be independent. So just like not all parents are heli parents. Not all cops are smug, no it alls.

  91. Meg, I would have to agree with Brian more so on this one. I have friends and family on the police force, in Canada and the States. And as I said, they are just like the rest of us, except they have a badge…and have more authority when it comes to certain things. I’ve seen first hand how cops take advantage off, and some even abuse their authority. Whether anyone wants to believe it or not, their are “corrupt” officers in every police organization all over the world. It’s unfortunate that these few officers in every precinct or division makes the majority of their colleagues look bad. Most officers won’t turn on their own, and will tend to turn a blind eye. So it’s understandable that some people who’ve had run-ins with “bad” cops, to not trust ALL cops. Or at least be wary of them. That’s just the reality of human psychology. Granted some of these people are also crooks, inciting negative feelings towards law enforcement. But some do have legit reasons.

    In regards to the article on this thread, it sounds like the cops were being more intimidating than welcoming, hence the scared “I don’t know” response from the boy. They could have just asked why he wasn’t wearing his shoes, and to be careful, as there could be broken glass, or sharp rocks on the side walk. That would have been less intimidating, and more thoughtful. But some cops are just like that. They talk and act a particular way as to assume an authoritative stance. With the intention of intimidating, even if it’s a little. You have to in that job. When the wrong people, smell fear, they will take advantage. But there is no reason to be like that with child, and unfortunately, some cops just get used to it (even if it hasn’t gone to their heads), and don’t know how to shut it off while on duty. Or maybe they just don’t want to because it empowers them. Again, cops are people too. Which means their are also insecure cops, who hide behind the badge to garner respect and admiration. Seen them, met them, have been told stories of them from their colleagues.

  92. Eric S.:
    I’m done responding to this thread…I have other things to do.
    However, something to consider, as you’re so astute to point out the “reality of human psychology,” is that there are realities to police psychology as well. If you’re truly interested in learning more, you should read “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin. It may give you a deeper understanding for why they behave the way they do.
    As for my husband, he’s as humble and caring as they get. He’s been on the news for being alert enough on duty to notice a herion addict high behind the wheel, parked on a street with his toddler in the back seat. A couple weeks ago, he witnessed a man 3 times the legal BAC limit blow a stop sign and nearly t-bone someone else while he was working a detail. The drunk’s sister was riding shotgun with a suspended license, his infant nephew was in the back. Just 2 examples of saving a child from a dangerous situation, thanks to the lack of responsibility by their less-than-model parents. The job will harden even the softest of hearts, and break many with years of exposure to these scenarios. There is no question there are bad cops. But there are bad apples in every workforce. As Glenn Beck has said, “Are there bad cops? You bet…Are there bad janitors? You bet.”

    Take a moment to understand why there is a gruff exterior that you may see in many officers and realize that when they go home at night after seeing horrendous things done to women and children, they may have to cry themselves to sleep to try to erase the pain they feel for having seen it first-hand.

  93. I’m so glad we lived out in the Boonies when my kids were little. I can’t imagine what that cop would have thought if he’d seen them outside doing the “Man Test”. I don’t know what all the challenges were in the Man Test (ignorance is bliss, imo), but one of them was to run around the house 5 times barefoot in the snow. They also commonly were too lazy to put on shoes or boots before running to get the mail in the snow as well. Wisconsin winters get pretty darn cold, but not only did I not lose a kid, we didn’t even lose any toes and I had (and still have) incredibly healthy kids

  94. I’m 55 and I still go barefoot.I never out grew it.I think it may bug my neighbors.Our new apt. lease says were not supposed to go out barefoot.

  95. I once had a girlfriend whose son always went barefoot. His feet were so tough that he was able to push pins in the soles without getting hurt. A lot of the kids in that neighborhood went barefoot back then and it didn’t really seem all that “safe” because there was a metalworking business in the next block and often there would be metal bits mixed into the gravel lots that the kids played on. I don’t recall any of the kids getting hurt, though.

    The neighborhood that I live in now is all tree-lined and grass-covered yet I rarely see any children out playing in bare feet. In fact, I rarely see any children out playing period.

  96. I walk around barefoot.
    I wear heavy leather boots for work, so figure my feet need a chance to breathe.
    I live in inner city.

    I look where I am putting my feet. I have cut my feet once – when I was running to the bus station in exitement of seeing my bestfriend for the first time in two years – didn’t look where I was going.

    Yet occasionaly I will be refused to be let on a bus (never for long, I am always “going to buy shoes”)

    IMy younger siblings I babysit I tell them I don’t care what they wear, but they had better put shoes and jacket in their backpack, because we are not going back if they get cold.

  97. Just to clarify, I do not believe the officer was intimidating in his tone. My son did not say he was mean, just that he was questioned. We do not know if someone called the police or if the officer merely noticed my son as he was randomly passing by. The officer may have been obligated to check in because someone called or he may have been instructed in training to check into anything that looks out of the ordinary. KLY is correct that unfortunately his being outside without shoes, without his mother, is out of the ordinary. Thanks for the support KLY!

  98. Besides one or two bad encounters with the police I have always found if you are nice and respectful to them they are nice and respectful back. Just like any other profession.

  99. I’m barefoot right now, and usually am within 10 minutes of coming in the house, if I can stand it that long. I wear sandals to the stores, etc. from pretty much April through October, give or take a few weeks. My first two kids don’t share my delight in barefooted-ness, but happily the youngest does. He’s 8 and was outside barefoot on Sunday. So was I. Not for a long time, but it’s certainly OK for a little while.

    I wonder if the cop would have stopped if the boy had shoes on…

  100. I’m just blown away. In my teens, when admittedly I may have looked younger than that because I’m a little squirt, I was once spoken to by two very nice policemen because I was actually running too fast, with joy, because running is fun. Um, oops?

    Now ten years earlier, when I decided to walk (with my shoes on) from my home to visit Mom at work 25 miles away, only to be picked up by policemen at mile marker 24 and taken all the way back home, well, that just felt kinda wrong somehow. Free range kids were okay back then. Hmm. Excuse me while I scratch my head.

  101. Carla… ENGLISH?!?!?! uh oh… SHE IS ALREADY HERE!!! WE’RE ALL DOOMED!!! (Homestuck reference, not a knock about you)

    In all seriousness though, good for you in recognizing that kids with autism can be free-range just like “normal” kids. Many here have taken issue at that thought, but honestly if a wheelchair-bound kid or a blind kid can be free-range (as they will have to be as adults anyway), then an autistic kid can be free-range as well (and quite paradoxically, may have more of a “need” to be due to their tendency toward exploratory and sensory play… a playground is like heaven [and is quite therapeutic in the literal sense of the word] to an autistic kid, with the exception of those with hypersensitive vestibular systems [which can easily be corrected using therapy… good old fashioned recess also does the trick sometimes too, as many playground-type activities, especially on equipment which was popular in the 70s, condition the child to vestibular input]). I personally do not have Asperger’s (my mom denies that to the point of verbal harassment… seriously, she’s scary when someone mentions the “A-word”), but I am exceptionally gifted (not just “bright”… look up the differences on Google if you need to) with an extreme amount of asynchronous development. Even though I recently turned 18, my “inner child” is still the dominant force whenever I am not thinking intently on mathematical or scientific (particularly computer programming) topics. You could say that I chose to bury the other guy inside who was trying to take the fun and wonder out of my general attitude toward life. 🙂

    As far as shoes, I never wear shoes in the house… always socks though (which puts “be ye holy” into a whole new perspective lol). I do have four pairs of shoes — 1 normal pair of sneakers which I normally wear out places, one pair of dress shoes for college interviews and science fairs and stuff like that, one pair of golf shoes for golf, and a pair of boots for snow.

    P.S. when I said “ALWAYS” socks, I didn’t really mean it… I don’t wear socks when swimming or showering lol.

  102. Meg, the OP does not live on skid row in Detroit. What you describe as your husband’s job is not the average everyday police beat in the USA. As you noted yourself.

    Most of what you say merely confirms what we have been saying. Cops are overgeneralizing and projecting the bad stuff onto perfectly innocent people and situations. If, as you suggest, they can’t help it, then all the more reason why they should stay away from situations that bear no apparent indications of foul play. Why should innocent people, including children, have to change their behavior because a badass cop might be having a bad day?

    I used to live in Smalltown USA, and there, the only person in town who was rumored to be beating his wife was the local cop. And no, it was not because he had seen too many murders; there had only been one murder there in decades, and that was before he joined the force. In short, cops are so human that they can even be criminals.

    Today my kid came home from KG with a coloring paper about “trusted adults.” The people on the page were parents, teachers, crossing guards, and cops. It made me feel uncomfortable, because with the exception of crossing guards, those are statistically the people most likely to hurt or inappropriately harass a kid. Way to tell a kid that his/her discomfort (if any) with one such person is invalid. Oh, and of course the other half of the message is that you must NOT trust anyone else.

  103. My teenage son walks around barefoot or just in socks all the time when we are home and he is out in the neighborhood. I don’t know why but he does, temperature doesn’t matter and I am fine with it. He also shuns coats and wears shorts in Winter, he is 16 I figure if he’s comfortable it’s a non-issue. For my younger kids I have a no shoes in the house or in the yard rule, although I do ask that they wear shoes while in the neighborhood due to us living off of a busy road and people thinking our street is a great place to throw bottles and things. Funny enough, the police don’t have much to say about that although I have seen them stop neighborhood kids (not mine) while they are playing to ask questions about where they live and what they are doing. I have told my four kids that if they are stopped they are to be respectful, but they are also to ask for the policeman’s name or business card and to simply point out where we live (it’s a small neighborhood and we are on a corner) and to answer any other questions as quickly as possible and then say “Thank you for checking on us, Have a nice day”

  104. I’m with pentamom. Ms. English, sorry, but I think you might be over-reacting. You say yourself it was, what, 50 degrees out? So a 10 year old kid, wealthy enough to have an iPhone, outside in brisk weather without shoes, IS out of the ordinary. Most kids, even back in my childhood, would wear shoes at that temperature. I bet he wouldn’t have been questioned on a hot summer day.

    Did the officer tell your son to go home? Or did your son just head there and the officer followed to make sure he really had a place to go, after your son’s somewhat inarticulate response didn’t reassure him there was nothing wrong? Big difference.

    And to all the people who complain about cops and “worst-first” thinking — isn’t that their job?

  105. We allow our children to go barefoot inside and out at the preschool where I teach. We often give tours to other schools and the teachers comment EVERY time about the ‘shoe-lessness.” They ask whether this is OSHA compliant, whether this violates licensing, or whether the children get burnt feet in the summer. No, no and definitely, no! The freedom to run barefoot in the sand and outdoors is a pleasure from which the children should not be deprived. And as for the question about whether the children get burnt feet? Of course not! They know when the ground is hot and they either avoid the pavement or put on shoes! Give credit to children that they will know the limits!

  106. i dont think so

  107. My 3 year-old is not only usually barefoot, she is also usually in nothing but her underwear. I let her out of the car, and she’ll head in the house while I unbuckle the baby. By the time I get inside, she’s naked and running around the house. Every time I go outside, she stands in the doorway and yells, “Can I come outside naked?!”

    I don’t like her being barefoot outside, because we have a thorn problem in our grass, plus a big dog I don’t clean up after.

  108. Um… at 50 degrees? I still don’t bother even thinking about shoes, outside, and I was raised in South Florida.

    Why is the automatic response here to question the mother’s reaction and justify why questioning a child outside might be perfectly fine?

    And no, worse-first thinking is not a cop’s job. Actually, having known a couple of people who worked with the testing/hiring for law enforcement, an automatic tendency to see the worst in everything generally counts *against* applicants on the psych eval.

    I’ve also known, socialized with and even dated some people in law enforcement. In a suburban area, with no obvious reason for concern, the most that should have happened is a concerned “Everything okay?” That is how pretty much any of the people I know would have handled it.

    But yeah… this whole trend of jumping to poke holes in the mother’s interpretation of events and declare just *why* it *might* have *seemed* to be more of a problem than it was? It is exactly the justification and judgement I find on… well… pretty much any other parenting forum. It is also nicely allowing for people to *completely overlook the success of this boy’s foray into independence outside of this incident*.

    Fabulous. Yes. Let’s all concentrate on bickering about whether or not the mother misunderstood how the cop was just being caring and concerned and is only so strident because the world and the job might require it of him… You know, instead of noting that the world would be better if kids-being-outside (with or without shoes) was a common enough thing to not automatically garner notice, or to just celebrate that this boy – this situation not-withstanding – is happier and healthier than before, because of the freedoms he has been allowed to explore.

    That *totally* seems like a healthier way to come together and work on building a better tomorrow for our kids. Absolutely.

    Or… You know… Not.

  109. FrancesfromCanada, it was a high of 45 F today, and about 50 for the weekend. My youngest son (6) only wore shoes when we went someplace in the car. No, he doesn’t have an iPad or such, but he does have his Leapster, although he spent most of the weekend in a tree, a bush or helping me clear out the garden.

    Now, maybe it is in his genes, as his Dad used to live in Rock Hall, MD (see post farther back.) But mostly, I think it is just him being a boy and not wanting to be bothered with finding his socks and shoes. Which is find until it gets to frostbite weather.

    Many kids don’t want to bother with shoes (that I have seen) and only put them on because parents make them. At the parks, most kids seem to come and take their shoes off right away, even if they are wearing coats. At our soccer league, we even had one girl (about 15) who played soccer, including the last day of 35F, barefoot.

    I don’t think it is as uncommon as you think it is, or perhaps you have more rule minded parents where you are. Which still doesn’t meant that the kids wouldn’t be barefoot if you let them.

  110. OF COURSE it’s a crime! What isn’t?

    We had the cops at our door a few weeks ago, thanks to an overzealous neighbor calling CPS on us. What did we do so bad, so scary, that it warranted an emergency call to CPS?

    We let some of the kids (4 of the 7) play out in OUR front yard! On a quiet, low traffic, suburban street. They were all in their own yard, none even left our sidewalk! The oldest is 11, then 10, 7, 4. The oldest watches the youngest. Of course, there were 3- count em- 3- adults home, within earshot. There’s a huge window, so I can always see what’s going on. Not that I need to, as the kids are in and out every 2 minutes anyway.

    But some busy body decided they were “scared for our kids” because there wasn’t “adult supervision”. I know, how scary to see kids that are happy, well fed, well dressed, out playing with siblings in the sun! Oh noes! This neighbor was SO scared that they picked up the phone and called CPS. It would have been too hard to knock on our door and see who was home (both vehicles were in the drive), or talk to the kids. But no, they were so scared they couldn’t be neighborly……..

    I don’t know what about these particular kids bothered them. The neighborhood is FULL of kids, and many are always running around unattended. Maybe because we homeschool? Maybe because the 4yo is African American, in a white family? Maybe they just don’t like us? We are pretty friendly, but since there’s 3 adults and 7 kids (2 families), people get a little judgey. There also seems to be a real dislike for large families here.
    But it could just be a normal helicopter, busy body too. Who knows?

    I don’t, but we were very upset and disappointed. How rude to call CPS with ZERO reason, other than kids outside? They werent even out there 30 minutes before the cop showed up! He was cool, but still, we cant let them play out front, as it’s just not worth the hassle. the house is a temporary rental, while we wait for the new house to be ready. I am happy the new houses are in a rural area, so no overzealous jerks can complain when the kids play outside.

    What’s this world come too?

  111. Hmm, maybe I’ll play devil’s advocate and say maybe the cop thought the kid had locked himself out of the house or as someone upthread referred to someone else locked him out. But he did ask in an accusatory way, he could have started off in a friendly manner, “Hey, aren’t your feet cold?” since it was stated it was low fifties. MY feet would be cold! I don’t blame the cop for finding it odd, but if he was concerned it may not have been this kid’s choice that he didn’t have his shoes on, he should have approached it in a helpful way. Maybe the cop made quick assumptions after all.

    ^Stacey, that’s just awful. Maybe it was on free range where I read the most coddled, overprotected children live in the suburbs. Yeah, I’m generalizing. But just in my own experiences, kids in rural areas or in the inner city run around while kids in the suburbs are inflicted with a bad case of hyperparenting and in your case “concerned” neighbors. I just can’t believe they called the authorities. If the cop didn’t think it was an issue, I’d have them go out front again.

  112. i loved the married to the true. sadly yhe cops are of yhe mind anything they don’t like or approve of is illegal. it is just to condition us to obey
    ‘the authorities”
    without question or hesitation, no free thinking allowed.

  113. I think the cop’s reaction was completely ridiculous. I will say that I am big on making my children wear shoes, but ONLY on account of I have a HUGE dislike of things getting misplaced, and I don’t make it okay for them to ditch their shoes when they feel like it anytime to where the shoes subsequently can’t be found.

    But as for worrying about danger–nah. A child running around barefoot is hardly a precursor to child neglect or the need to have the freaking COPS in on it.

    Let me respond to Megan, on the off-chance she’s here.

    Megan, I think many of us look at cops sort of how we look at fire–great for when you need it, horrible for when it’s somewhere it has no business being. Yes, when you’re cold, you are BEGGING for fire in the fireplace to warm you up. That doesn’t mean you want your bed to be on fire. In like manner, if the electricity goes out, you’re begging for the electricity to be on. Even so, I don’t think many of us are too keen on electricity running through our bath-tub water while we’re sitting in it.

    Do you think someone who works for the electricity company is going to say to someone who doesn’t want electricity in their bath-tub water “well don’t me next time your electricity goes out?” Of course not. But these “cop worshipers” like yourself sure love to say “don’t call the police next time you need one” just because we don’t want cops meddling in our parenting business.

    So yes, when someone shows up at our house with an AK-47–I’m not going to call the local flower dealer, I’m going to call the police. That doesn’t mean I want the police in my bed or telling me how to parent my kids–it’s none of their stinking business.

    As for what “pain” & etc your husband goes through–on our end, that’s irrelevant. That your husband sees the worst in society as part of his job, while he deserves sympathy & understanding for it–at the same time, it’s not our problem and it certainly isn’t reasonable to expect us to edit our parenting style to placate his issues. As a former fast food worker, I had grumpy customers who treated me like dirt. Does that mean it was okay for me to jump down the throat of a customer who wasn’t treating me that way? Does that mean that other customers who are dealing with a fast food worker who isn’t doing their job don’t have a legitimate complaint? Of course not.

    To wit: how else are people supposed to react when a cop comes along & meddles in someone’s parenting business? What else is a person supposed to feel other than outrage when a town, in an obvious attempt to bilk citizens out of their money, has the speed limit drop from 60 mph to 35 mph with NO warning, in an area that obviously doesn’t need it? (Often times even the people who LIVE in the small town, the very ones who you would think would appreciate a slower speed limit in terms of “outsiders speeding through here recklessly,” they themselves criticize these obvious speed traps as being just that.)

    That doesn’t mean that people have the right to be rude to every cop that comes along, but it sure means that when they have a legitimate gripe they have every right to defend themselves and make light of such outrages.

    As for Stacey Jw–quite frankly, neighbors like that? It makes me wish the next time there are wildfires in the region, or a tornado outbreak, they would be on the receiving end of it. People like that deserve nothing less.

  114. “As for what “pain” & etc your husband goes through–on our end, that’s irrelevant. That your husband sees the worst in society as part of his job, while he deserves sympathy & understanding for it–at the same time, it’s not our problem and it certainly isn’t reasonable to expect us to edit our parenting style to placate his issues. ”

    You know, this kind of reaction is what I don’t get. I don’t think anyone’s suggesting we should “edit our parenting style” to keep the cops happy. Nobody suggested the kid shouldn’t have been out, or had shoes on, or anything like that. I think all anyone’s asking for is that we not act like we’ve been invaded by the SS because a cop asks a question that may have been unnecessary *and then drops the matter almost immediately.* Or at least, as far as we know, the matter has been dropped. If Carla gets a call or visit about this, then yes, that *will* be the time to get worked up. The cop stopping and talking to the kid, even if it’s true that 99.999% of kids outside with bare feet are just absolutely, perfectly fine (and I agree that it is) is *not something to get excited about* even if it was not strictly necessary. Save the outrage for the outrages!

    And all the stuff about it being a nice neighborhood and everything — I live in a lovely, quiet neighborhood where the kids Freerange constantly and the houses are in good condition and most of the people are perfectly nice. And three houses down, we had a house shot up a year or so ago in a minor drug dispute, and two houses down, there was a violent family breakup where the cops were called to the house three times in the last year. So yes, there are things for cops to be aware of even in Beaver Cleaver’s neighborhood.

    I am not saying it’s not possible the cop meddled in something he should have left alone. I’m saying on the face of it, based on the testimony we have, and what we know before speculation, this just isn’t one of the incidents we should get excited about. And nobody’s suggesting that the cops or always right — just that they are aware of the things that go on among people, that aren’t always obvious, and sometimes doing things like that actually *does* help a child who needs it. I don’t think we should take the position that “since 99.99% of the time kids out on their own are just fine, then it’s an infringement on our rights for people to watch out for one another, and check up on kids, including those we pay to do so.”

  115. I am with Pentamom. Just a cop asking a boy if he is okay and asking his name is no big deal. Maybe he was making sure the boy wasn’t special needs by seeing if he can answer a question. Because honestly if my special needs son wandered away without shoes on and was walking down the street, I would probably appreciate a cop checking on him.

  116. I think LRH has issues with authority figures in society.. very clear in each post

  117. LRH – I have issues with this
    “To wit: how else are people supposed to react when a cop comes along & meddles in someone’s parenting business?”

    Do you know that cases of domestic abuse is WAY up these days? How in the HELL would you determine if a child wandering up and down the street hasn’t been in some sort of situation? Are you telliing me that this should not be a policeman’s business if he happened to drive by? You come across as a very callous and distrusting person

  118. Well pentamom my main outrage is directed at Megan & her ilk who seem to think it’s NEVER okay to question why a cop needed or didn’t need to be involved, and that we NEVER have a right to–gee, think for ourselves, as opposed to just being okay with a constant police presence. Me: yes, if my house is broken into, I appreciate that we have a police force, but besides that–while I’m not wanted in 10 states or anything & have nothing to hide, I don’t want the police around my house, frankly. I just don’t want it. I’m just living my life, LEGALLY, and want to be left alone on my own property, a wish that, for the most part, has been granted me, as well it should be.

    My other problem, too, is–as others have mentioned–people thinking the police should be in on EVERYTHING seemingly ALL the time (not that such was necessarily being advocated here). I once lived in Tucson AZ & once people called the police simply because it had rained a lot & a few people were goofing around in river washes full of water, washes which were normally dry. No one was drowning, people–grown people, mind you–were just exploring, checking out the washes & how they now were like mini-rivers instead of just being dry, and no the washes aren’t forbidden areas at all. Why in the WORLD should someone have called the police over that?

    Also, because you have neighbors such as the one who was calling CPS simply because their neighbor’s kids were playing alone in THEIR OWN YARD (and again, I would think it great if the next tornado or wildfire outbreak hit their house, it would serve them right), this has created an environment where people are more nervous about police presence than they would be otherwise. Again, they want to just live life without others meddling. Or, if (say) someone is being a bit noisy, why can’t they just tell the person THEMSELVES, unless the neighbors are “seedy” looking? Calling the cops out to be a last resort, but instead people have too itchy of a phone-dialing finger.

    And that’s the thing–it’s a fine line between “looking out for each other” and “meddling.” If people would learn where that line is, and learn how to be helpful but also recognize that at the end of the day you have NO RIGHT to TELL someone how to parent their own kids, it probably wouldn’t be so much this way.


  119. My son is quite capable of walking up the street (2 houses) while waiting anxiously for his friend to arrive. He is very intelligent and independent. At his age, with his skills and maturity and intelligence, I do not NEED to worry. If I were worried or needed someone to check in with him, I would have waited outside with him. Our rule is he needs to tell me when he is going outside and where he wants to go. He yelled to me that morning that he was going out to wait for his friend. We were expecting his friend in 10 minutes. I can tell you with 100% assurance that my child can safely wait outside for a friend or take a walk up the street. He did not “wander off”. He was waiting, in his neighborhood, for a cherished friend. He is allowed to walk up the street. That’s not “wandering off”. The fact that he did not have shoes on is just indicative of his excitement and his tolerance of the cooler temperatures. His answer to the officer’s question was honest. Now had the officer asked him “how are you? What are you up to?” he would have said he was waiting for his friend! His saying he didn’t know why he was barefoot is not indicative of his special needs but of the nature of the officer’s question. I’m sure he’s never contemplated WHY he likes to run into the yard without his shoes when he’s in a hurry. (I believe it is his not wanting to take the time to put them on when he has something he is excited to do.)

  120. To answer you bmax–yes, I DO have issues, and APPROPRIATE ones, with authority figures in particular cases. What my wife & 2 kids do on our land, how we parent, how we relate to each other–so long as REAL abuse and/or molestation/sodomy aren’t going on here–it is NOBODY’S business. I only want the police around if I need them, otherwise–stay away. It’s no different than the electric company–if my lights go out, please come over ASAP, but other than that I have no desire for you to be all up in my private business all the stinking time.

    “Domestic abuse is way up?” So what, even if that’s true–which I doubt it is? (Nowadays simply smashing a dish in the kitchen sink because you burned what you were cooking & became frustrated can be called “domestic abuse,” which is hardly is.) What does that have to do with my family’s RIGHT to be left the HELL ALONE if we’re not bothering someone else or raping/molesting kids etc? How does that make it right for every single last person’s parenting style to be under the microscope because–well, gee, YOU NEVER KNOW?

    That sort of thinking could lead to such radical things as, say, castrating all men at birth because, gee, you never know–that little boy may grow up to be a rapist. You NEVER KNOW, you can’t take any chances.

    Sorry, I don’t want that environment. As long as we’re not brewing a meth lab (we’re not) or molesting/abusing each other (we’re not), what we do on our own property–especially how we parent our kids–is no one’s business, and yes–that includes the police, too–most certainly. As I have often-times said–on my own property, short of abuse, growing marijuana or disturbing the neighborhood with noise–I’m the law.


  121. Carla, I don’t think you’re going to agree, but I’ll say it anyway: one of the reasons you don’t need to worry about your kid being outside by himself is that we live in pretty safe society. And the reason this is true is that people, including the police, keep their eyes open for potential trouble. And one way you keep your eyes open for potential trouble is to pay some amount of attention to whether everything is fine, even if there’s no obvious reason to think it might not be. The fact that cops are checking into things when there’s nothing going on is a *deterrent* to bad things going on.

    No harm came to your child. His freedom was not limited. He was not berated. I agree the question could have been more tactfully worded, but it was not mean or insulting on its face.

    You would not want to live in a world where the cops only paid attention when something was on fire or guns were being fired. That would result in lots more guns being fired. I am not saying it is right for cops to go around interrogating people for no reason at all or that I want to live in a world where the most innocuous thing can subject you to police harassment. I am saying that what happened to your son is not harassment; it is a manifestation of a society where there’s a low level of supervision by members of the community, including but not limited to the police, watching out for one another.

  122. As been pointed out several times upthread, and then ignored, the cop just didn’t stop to check on the boy, he asked an accusatory question and then HE MADE HIM GO HOME. Sorry for the all caps, but that’s a good portion of the point of this story. If you can tell us all why it was vital and necessary for him to go home, when he was outside doing nothing wrong, please do.

  123. The main problem I have with this is that the child was made to feel like he did something wrong, which he did not. I agree with Larry that the “you never know” mentality can eventually lead to a police state for our children.

    I also agree with the above posters that the majority of police, like the majority of the the public, are good and trustworthy and just doing their jobs. Pentamom, we also live in an upper middle, nice place and had a murder-suicide of a family one neighborhood over. It was done with a baseball bat, try explaining that one to your kids during baseball season. There is crime everywhere, but keeping our kids safe shouldn’t involve taking down information of a child doing nothing wrong.

    My worst ever police stop was last year on the 4th day of school. I was biking the kids, and I got pulled over on my bike for not coming to a full stop at a stop sign. The reason I didn’t was that I had some 40 kids behind me, so I did a soft right turn (the school had cut buses and had allowed biking for the first time, so this was all still new.) The cop pursued me at high speed, lights and sirens on. He FLEW past the kids to get to me and scared the living crap out of everyone. He asked for my drivers license, which I did not have, and got furious when I asked him why I needed a drivers license to ride a bike. When I asked him to clarify the biking law I broke, he didn’t know and had to call in to find out the state bike laws. He then came back and accused me of making HIM look bad in front of all the kids(the kids just piled up behind and didn’t proceed, they thought there was some sort of crime scene!) He justified his actions by stating a complaint the department had received for cars going through the intersection. I reminded him that the key word was “cars” and he stated he saw the law in black and white. Uggh. I got a written warning, after about 25 minutes of calling in my info, etc.

    It only takes one encounter with an Officer Ego to taint a child’s impression of law enforcement. I could have grinned and beared it, but he pulled over the mama duck on one of the hottest days of the year. I told the kids that while I broke the bike law, the officer used very poor judgement. Police are there to keep us safe, and pulling over a sweaty mom on a Huffy isn’t keeping anyone safe. And nothing in this world is black and white.

  124. Where does it say the cop made him go home? Not in the original post. It says the kid went home.

    However, it may be that in one of Carla’s later comments it says that the cop made the kid go home.

    It’s also worth considering that if the cop made the kid go home, it’s because the kid couldn’t give an answer to why he was out alone. I understand that the kid may have been flummoxed, but are we judging a cop for not reading his mind? Or was it a reasonable suggestion (if indeed the cop said this) that a kid who didn’t seem to be able to answer a question, should be able to *show* the cop where he lived, and prove it by going in?

    Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying the cop was necessarily 100% right. I’m saying I see a big lack of proportion to how people are responding to *what was actually described by a person who didn’t even see it*, as opposed to some speculation about what the cop may have been thinking, what his tone of voice was, why he did it, what he thinks about kids being outside without shoes, what he should know about how this particular kid couldn’t possibly have been in any trouble, why the cop should know that bad things never, ever happened in that neighborhood to or by kids who look like that kid, and what he might, possibly, have done afterward.

  125. Pentamom, you are correct. I do not believe the officer made my son go home but rather pulled up beside him and crept along as he was on his way home. From my son’s report he was directly in front of our next door neighbors house when the patrol car pulled up. When I looked out the window he was just entering our driveway and the officer’s window was rolled down….I guess it just struck me that a kid walking on his own street, in no distress what so ever (who looks at least 2 years older than he is) who was outside for all of 10 minutes, is somehow seen as “risky”. Risky enough that someone either called the police or the officer felt the need to question him. It’s not that he was out in the snow and ice barefoot. It was a beautiful sunny day and he was fully clothed and relaxed.

  126. Free-range aside (or somehow taken into account with this), Lollipoplover‘s account is the sort of thing that makes one not want the police around unless it’s really necessary, and also makes a lot of people dislike the police in general.

    The whole “rolling stop violation” is a great example of police diligence gone amok. Frankly, it’s petty legalism that does nothing but beat people over the head over petty nonsense–and yes, nit-picking whether someone completely stopped at a stop sign is an example of that. Who cares that they didn’t come to a COMPLETE and DEAD stop, so long as they didn’t blow through the intersection recklessly? And yes, if you reply “because the sign says STOP not ALMOST STOP” (as many, police especially, are want to do), then you are in fact advocating the very sort of petty nonsense people are so sick & tired of.

    This is NOT like someone is a pharmacist and put 2 milligrams of something in a mixture rather than 1.8, and the extra 0.2 milligrams makes it go from being perfect to poisonous. Not everything is like that. Going (say) 2-5 mph and then heading on, versus doing an absolute stop to 0 mph, is NOT something one should be receiving a ticket over and certainly not something a police officer should be acting like a prick about either.

    This reminds me of an illustration my high school history teacher did in terms of other people from other cultures observing differences in 1 country vs their own. As the story goes, a Saudi Arabian man spent some time in the US & was asked to name the 2 main things that were different here vs there. I forget what the 1st one was, but the 2nd one? He observed that US police officers made a huge deal of “rolling stops” whereas in Saudi Arabia so long as you don’t blow through the intersection full-speed and are pretty much stopped anyway, they have the common sense to recognize that as being “effectively a stop” & they don’t make a big deal about it. He expressed disbelief at how big of a deal US cops made over the same sort of thing.

    Think about it: this is a man asked to state what the main differences in 2 entirely different cultures are. With the different food, different customs in dress, work behaviors, holidays, family structures and traditions, prevalence of gadgets & stores which sell them, extra TV shows and advertising, climate/weather–he picks the behavior of the traffic police, from ALL of that to choose from.

    I rest my case.


  127. LRH, check this out:

    The idea is that if you enforce the little things, you create a climate where there is a sense of order and people follow the “bigger” rules more consistently. Not perfectly, but more consistently.

    This is not to be confused with a police state, or with picking on people who are doing absolutely nothing wrong at all, it is an approach to enforcing the laws that are actually written, rather than assuming that “even though it’s against the law, if it didn’t hurt anyone today, we won’t worry about it.” If you create a climate where everyone knows they can get away with rolling stops, the people who push the envelope are not going to stop at all. If you enforce the rolling stops, 90% of people will come to a full stop and look both ways. If you round up the actual vandals, the corner drug dealers will be more nervous about their ability to function. Etc.

    Agree or disagree, I don’t think you can say this idea was developed by people on power trips — it’s been studied and shown to be effective in creating a safer, lower-crime environment.

    (And I’m not saying this applies to the OP, just to what Larry’s saying about how cops should only enforce the “big” infractions of the law that actually worry Larry, instead of all of them, as far as and resources permit.)

  128. Oh, and Larry, do you know what it’s like to drive or be a pedestrian in Saudi Arabia? If it’s like most Middle Eastern countries, this is NOT something we should be holding up as a better way of doing things.

  129. Well, pentamom I appreciate the dialogue. It’s fine. I certainly don’t think the Middle East, in general, is a role model by any means either, be it what you cite or really anything in general. I just thought it was very telling that an individual from there spends time here and of all the cultural differences this person could’ve cited (I mentioned many), they mention this of all things. To me that’s very telling.

    Me, I don’t like people telling me what to do where it regards everyday minutiae of everyday life. I figure I have enough sense to know how to drive & think that as long as I drive in a way to where I don’t get in a lot of car accidents, I should just be left alone (but I am NOT advocating that they would let me, say, drive on the wrong side of the highway or drive 100 mph in a school or highly pedestrian environment). In like manner, if I don’t abuse my kids, then I should be left alone to raise them however I see fit.

    Mostly, I like for context of an environment to be interpreted, and for it to be about the “spirit” of the law, not the “letter.” A good example: when I was in college I lived on-campus. The resident adviser (RA), the on-staff student in charge of rule enforcement, was, I felt, way overboard with noise enforcement where it pertained to loud music. Even a clock radio could get you in trouble. I thought it was ridiculous at the time. (Yes, I know–that’s ironic, given how sensitive I am to many noises these days.) We got along okay otherwise.

    HOWEVER, come fall break, he & I didn’t go anywhere, we remained on campus for those 3-odd days. He actually made a point of coming up to me & saying that he would NOT be enforcing the music-noise as strictly, because it made no sense to do so when there weren’t all those students around, and there were no classes in effect for anyone to have to study for. He told me he knew I was a good guy & that I would have enough sense to not go overboard and play rock-concert level music at 3 a.m., that doing it as I did it before during the daytime was fine now.

    The point: the CONTEXT of the situation was taken into account. It wasn’t just about “rules are rules.” And that’s how I want it, because to be blunt–I believe the rules are to serve me (and the others as a whole), not the other way around. I know anarchy is wrong & I don’t advocate it, but I wasn’t put on this earth just to be a robot marching along like people on an ego-power trip tell me to & not use my own brains to judge a situation & its context for myself.

    So: other people abuse & neglect their kids, that’s wrong & of course there has to be a response, but I’m not doing it, that’s not me, and I don’t have any interest in being made to do things a certain way I disagree with (e.g., no corporal punishment a la Sweden, no leaving the child in the car even for 2 minutes while you pay for gas–thankfully neither of these are illegal) just because other people don’t know how to behave. That’s not my problem. I can’t help it that some people kick their kids outside even when it’s 20’F outside & they only have diapers on, that shouldn’t infringe on my freedom to let my kids play outside & get a little muddy (again, thankfully that right is recognized where I live) nor should I be compelled to explain myself 3011 times when my 4½ year-old leaves her coat at school & has to come home in the cold (albeit on the heated bus) without a coat.


  130. I am a huge fan of your story and the idea of free range kids (and free range chicken). It is difficult to allow my kids to roam free at 1 and 3 years old although there are many who do so. As a stay-at-home Dad, I am quick to laugh at myself of how fragile my kids can appear to me. In most cases I know that if I chose to ignore my instincts to say “Careful!” or “Easy!” they would play with power tools and cinder blocks with only minor injuries.

  131. My 6 year old son had a run-in with the law two weeks ago. He was running around our block by himself. A policeman happened to be driving past (it suddenly occurred to me that someone could have called them-I hope not!). He stopped and asked my son if he lived on the block, my son said yes, and the policeman left.

    I had a long discussion with myself if this was appropriate or not. I finally decided that, since kids being outside by themselves is so unusual in our neighborhood, and since the officer left as soon as my son told him he was fine, that I would not be offended by the actions of the policeman. It is just a sad sign of the times when a boy being outside by himself is unusual.

  132. Meg: You failed to get the point. Your views of police officers are misconstrued by your husband. If he is a cop, you obviously have a bias view of them. You understand that there are bad cops, but you fail to understand that these bad cops are what people react more towards. Not cops like your husband. In they have every right to feel the way they do for those cops. But because you never know which cop your going to run into, and most, even the good ones, tend to come off with an “asshole” look to them. I understand the mentality of cops perfectly well. I don’t need to read that book. Really, it’s no different than people who’ve worked personal security. We’ve seen a lot of crap too over the years. In fact, the same things cops in my community have dealt with and scene, so have I and those in my former position. I can understand why they would have that hard exterior. But in the end, it’s a personal choice in how we let these things affect us. Take for instance, one officer I know who we’ve nicknamed “lone wolf”, because he mostly by himself doing his beat. He was in his early 50s, been a cop for 25 years. He’s seen and dealt with a lot of things, as he tells us. Other cops we know, who know lone wolf confirm his experience. They all respect this guy. He has a stern stature about him, but when he speaks to you, it’s like talking to your grandfather. Firm but fair, never intimidating or scary. I know plenty of other officers too that NEVER come off as assholes, or “my crap don’t stink”. Why, because they’ve made a conscious effort to NOT be one of those people. I could have easily been one of those “no emotions”, tough, brutish person that most people stereotype security, but I never did. I treated everyone how I wanted to be treated. When I sensed that they may be intimidated, I always did something to put them at ease. You get far more cooperation from people who feel comfortable around you, than not. Don’t rely to heavily on books. Don’t get me wrong, they are great for reference, especially when you are starting on on something. But its your own personal experience, and those close to you that help you succeed in fully understanding. Not everyone is the same, and most psychology books only do a number of case studies. You also have to remember, authors are in the business of SELLING books. The more interesting the read, the better for them. What do you think would happen if readers were told that most cases only account for a minute number as a whole. Boooring. I don’t talk out of my ass. Everything I mention here, I’ve experienced. Or close to people, and have been with them when they experience things.

  133. I realize this response is a bit over the top, but Cops like this make me angry.

    Individual Americans (and others nationalities too) are better able to decide what to do with their time, money, property, bodies, and minds than agents of the State are now or will ever be able to.

    Cops are agents of the State. CPS workers are agents of the State. Teachers and administrators at public schools are agents of the State. Letting our children know at the earliest possible age that simply because a person is acting under the color of authority of the State does not mean that person has the right to tell us how to live our lives. Individuals have the right to make decisions on their own. The State should not interfere with those decisions.

    What is so troubling about instances like this is that Cops have shifted from harassing “criminal types” — also not justified, but accepted by most people — to harassing everyone. How is taking this kid’s name and address and following him home just because he is not wearing shoes is anything other than harassment? This Cop may have good intentions, but that is irrelevant. FDR had good intentions when he stuck American citizens in relocation camps during WW II.

    The more we allow our government to chip away at our right to make our own choices and be free from harassment the closer we move toward totalitarianism. Movement in that direction happens in very small steps.

  134. Lolipop lover: Sorry hun but last time I checked it was law that bikers biking on public roads have to obey traffic laws like stop signs, traffic lights, etc. So yes, you were in the wrong and the cop was right to talk to you about it. He could have even ticketed you. They had an article in my local paper recently about cops reminding cyclists to obey stop signs and the like. Maybe he overreacted but you were not innocent.

  135. I agree with the mom here, Ms. English.

    I don’t think the question, “Why are you alone, and without shoes?” is merely a question, with no implications. I think the question contains any number of implications. Some of those implications are that it’s unusual for a ten year old to be in such a condition, or a sign of some sort of problem, or, even, illegal.

    Police forces are created, funded, and trained to enforce the law. In our country, officers are armed, typically male, and attired in uniforms that some see as intimidating. Many, if not most, carry batons in addition to their guns. They wear badges. They drive high-powered squad cars that are equipped often with sophisticated communication devices. They possess, as anyone who has ever been questioned by the police, particularly if alone and young, tremendous power, just in appearance and attire alone.

    As adults, we have far more rights than children, and do indeed, generally, possess the right to walk on public sidewalks without expectation or fear of having to account for what we are doing. This means that, for the MOST part, adults can walk on public ways in this country without having to explain themselves.

    There are many exceptions to this, though, that arise if and when police have a legitimate concern that a law is being broken…The arena of the law that deals with an individual’s obligation to identify him or herself is confusing, complex and, currently, changing.

    Other, non-official, exceptions to this generally accepted liberty that adults possess in this country arise when the person at hand is young, male, and, particularly, non-white. As many non-white young men can attest, they are often “asked” to identify themselves and explain “what they are doing” in situations where someone older and white may well be ignored.

    Children, especially those as young as ten, have markedly fewer rights than adults in our society. This boy’s experience with Officer Friendly was an early introduction into this reality. Asking a youngster “why” he is outside, “alone”, and then following alongside the walking kid with a squad car sounds very intimidating. I know I would experience it that way. Who would not?

    Indeed, I imagine that most of the adults posting on this site would be outraged if this occurred to them.

    I think it’s likely that the clear implications communicated to this young boy were 1) he should not be outside, 2) he should not be outside and ‘alone’, whatever that means (would the officer have not questioned him if he’d been with another ten year old? A five year old? A fifteen year old? Walking purposely in the direction of a school and wearing a backpack? Dribbling a basketball and heading to a park?), 3) by all means, never leave the house without shoes!, and 4) never underestimate the power of police to stop and question…

    It’s tempting to make light of this situation, given all the ever so much more dire issues facing so many kids on a daily basis here, and in other countries, but I think what happened to this kid is actually quite sad: he’s had his first, probably, serious introduction to the power of the police, and to, as well, the cloud of presumed suspicion that hangs over many young men in public in our culture.

  136. Dolly, in SOME cases bike riders don’t have to obey the same laws drivers do. For example, in SOME situations and in SOME areas they are allowed to go the wrong way down a one way street or on a sidewalk, and, of course, they don’t have to meet the stringent age requirements drivers do! And certainly police officers have no business pulling people over when they aren’t sure of the laws in question.

    Pentamom, I thought the broken windows hypothesis was very controversial and far from prove…?

  137. @Dolly- You are right! I did make a mistake making just a soft right turn, lthough I was looking both ways. Apparently, coming to a full stop on a bike is called a “tripod” stop, when you actually put your foot down on the ground.
    Had I done this, I would have caused a bike crash of epic proportions with 40 some kids right behind me, some with questionable biking skills! I made a judgement call, but don’t think it justified a high speed chase, with lights and sirens by Officer Ego. Did he think I could actually out run him, on my rusty Huffy? Also, if he was going to pull me over and make an example of me, he should have at least known the law I broke. He did not. We asked him to clarify the law for riding on the sidewalk, which you DO NOT have to stop for stop signs. That is where most of these kids now ride, and do a great job by themselves now.
    There were some kids on the sidewalk actually crying. They thought if they made a mistake while biking, that they could get pulled over in such a way as well. THAT is what is so wrong about this.

  138. The guy probably overreacted like I said Lollipop lover, Some cops are assholes. Some aren’t. Just like every other profession. I don’t like all the cop bashing going on here. I have had one or two run ins with a less than polite cop but most of them are horribly polite to me and I actually had a cop apologize to me for pulling me over when I was breaking the law! Most are nice and are just doing their job. If I treat them respectfully and nice, they are nice back.

  139. Now here is a story of some asshole cops. My friend, an adult, was walking down the sidewalk in broad daylight in his neighborhood completely dressed (he was wearing shoes). He did not have a car and was walking to the drugstore to buy some things. He was clean and lived in the neighborhood nearby. It was not a bad neighborhood and it was on a main street. Cops stopped and harassed him for no reason and detained him for a long time questioning him. Now that is something to get upset about. He is an adult. He was fully dressed. He was doing nothing wrong. But it didn’t make news or anything. He just told some people and that area is known as a police state and a lot of people try to avoid it.

    So what? Doesn’t make all cops everywhere assholes. Just makes cops in that area assholes which most of them are. But even in that area, I am sure there might be one or two good cops. Big whoop. I don’t hate the police over my friend getting harassed for no good reason.

    As long as CPS does not show up at her door and the cop didn’t say anything negative to her then there is no reason to be outraged here.

  140. While I’m not outraged by this, I get the mother’s point. A person – adult or child – should be able to walk down the street without being asked for their personal information and followed home. I expect to be able to do that. I expect for my child to be able to do that. Most of us would be peeved if a cop stopped us on our own street, took our personal information and then followed us home. Why do we expect less for our children? The scenario isn’t outrageous, but it is annoying and we have a right to not be annoyed by the cops when doing nothing wrong.

    As for the shoes, the child ran outside in excitement!! He wasn’t out playing without shoes. I walk outside quickly without shoes on in all weather. I don’t put on shoes before I take out or bring in the dog. I don’t put on shoes to run to my car. I don’t put on shoes to get the mail. If I need to do those things and don’t already have on shoes, I’m going bare or sock foot. I don’t think there is anything strange about a child outside waiting for a friend without shoes.

  141. Long live Huck Finn.

  142. “Maybe he was making sure the boy wasn’t special needs by seeing if he can answer a question.” Because if you’re “special needs,” you are automatically unsafe outdoors?

  143. “Do you know that cases of domestic abuse is WAY up these days? How in the HELL would you determine if a child wandering up and down the street hasn’t been in some sort of situation?”

    How in the HELL would you determine if ANY kid, with or without shoes on, indoors or outdoors, hasn’t been in some sort of situation? Does abuse happen only to the shoeless and the free-range?

  144. “It’s also worth considering that if the cop made the kid go home, it’s because the kid couldn’t give an answer to why he was out alone. I understand that the kid may have been flummoxed, but are we judging a cop for not reading his mind? Or was it a reasonable suggestion (if indeed the cop said this) that a kid who didn’t seem to be able to answer a question, should be able to *show* the cop where he lived, and prove it by going in?”

    If the cop had driven up and said “why is your skin dark brown and your hair curly,” and the boy was “flummoxed,” would that be a reason for the cops to decide the boy was too stupid to be allowed outside alone?

    The question the cop asked was not a valid question in the first place. There was no valid answer. Sure, with hindsight and life experience, we can say maybe he could have said “I am waiting for my friend and enjoy being out barefoot and my mother is OK with it.” But that is a totally defensive answer. I don’t think we should have to prep kids for this sort of discussion with the cops.

    For those of you who think it’s nice that the cops were so concerned, to me, that means the cops ought to stop all children, barefoot or not, and for that matter, alone or not. Because who’s to say that a kid is OK just because an adult is with him? Maybe they should institute a policy whereunder every child encountered in any public place is questioned and a police record is kept. Then parents can feel completely at ease, thanks to the cops’ concern. Why, based on some of the comments here, the police would probably start receiving cookies and flowers from all the happy parents.

    If I felt that my kids needed protection while outdoors, guess what – I would not send them out alone. I don’t leave it up to the police to decide whether or not my street (or a given clothing choice) is safe for my kid. And once I tell my kids they can go outside, I don’t want someone else telling them otherwise.

  145. Just a perspective on asking the kids name – we do that. It builds rapport. And if a kid remembers you being nice to them at one point before – next time, when they are in a car accident, they might remember – “Hey, those people in the funny green uniforms are nice.”
    That is why I go to the community events and chat with the kids. It is why I wave to the kids from my ambulance. It is why when a kid notices my uniform, I will strike up conversation. It is usually only “Whats your name… What a cool name… My name is baby-paramedic… What year are you in…. Have a good day!”

    Now, the cops where I grew up knew us all. Because occasionally the would pull up, ask us our names, which house we lived in. I do not believe it is because we were doing anything out of the ordinary – just building rapport.

    I may live in inner city, but I work in a country town about an hour outside of the city. It has 15,000 people. And I can assure you, those cops know almost everybody. Which has been helpful to me, in my profession. The drunk 14yo’s parents were called instantly, the lost two year old was reunited promptly.

    I dont like or trust some cops. Some are bad people. Most arent. Same as any profession.
    (I dont like them being insta safe people like in the examples above – begins to negate a childs gut instinct)

  146. SKL: Maybe. You know damn well if a severly mentally handicapped or autistic child got lost and it was known that a cop saw the kid and did nothing that that cop would be hung out to dry by everyone. So the cop was trying to do the smart thing and just make sure the kid was okay and that he was not special needs or lost or hurt.

    Like I said before. I have a 4 year old so a little different, but he is special needs. If a cop drove by and saw him wondering around alone barefoot I would want them to help him. Even if my son is 10 and in the same situation I would not mind the cop checking on him. You can’t tell if a boy is special needs just by looking at him and yes, lots of mentally handicapped kids wander off and get lost all the time. Just like elderly dementia patients wander off and get lost. The cop was probably just wanting to check to make sure everything was okay and her son was in his right mind and not lost and not hurt.

  147. Okay SKL. Way to overreact. But alright then. You are saying no matter what you don’t want a cop to ever talk to your kids or check on them. So I guess if you had a heart attack and your kids go frantically running around in the street to get help barefoot, you would not get mad if a cop doesn’t stop? Because like you said, you don’t want any cop helping your kids or assuming something is wrong because when they are outside you sent them outside and everything is fine? Let’s not go off the deep end here.

  148. baby paramedic makes a good point. Since when is it wrong to try to have a conversation with someone? Maybe the cop was just trying to build rapport or be friendly? Oh nos! The cops that live in my neighborhood wave at me and my kids everytime we are outside!!! Heck one even flashes his lights because my kids like to see that! He must be doing all this because he thinks I am a bad parent and he needs to make sure I am not abusing the kids! That is about the same overreaction that SKL had there.

    I don’t get offended that easily about my parenting skills. I know I am an awesome parent. I don’t think someone is always questioning or trying to put my parenting skills down. So I don’t get all uppity over stuff like this. I think free rangers could benefit from a bit more self confidence in the parenting department. I know I rock and I just naturally assume everyone else thinks so too unless they specifically tell me otherwise. Every little thing is not a slight.

  149. Dolly, the question that cop asked was not a rapport-building question. Come on. It’s like a cop pulling you over and asking you what you’re doing driving in the rain without your husband – and then if your answer isn’t articulate enough, following you home. Bet you invite him in for tea and crumpets after that!

    I have nothing against rapport building. I have lots against intimidation and institutionalized foolishness.

    As for “special needs” – I have to say it rubs me the wrong way to hear you talk that way. First of all, the phrasing “is special needs” (vs. has special needs) implies a different species or something, and you seem to think that species has different rights. (I know you are talking about your own kid, but it still bugs me.) Secondly, most kids with special needs are being educated with a specific focus toward building independence skills. They won’t have their mom at their side forever, so they need to go out and do stuff to the extent they are able. This is all the more important since they can require years of practice to learn skills we take for granted. They of all people need to NOT be intimidated for being alone and outdoors. Again, a check-in is fine, but cops need to understand how to do this without scaring people or pissing them off. There are plenty of better ways to start a conversation than “what are you doing ___ing . . . .” Maybe some cops needs some training in community behavior.

  150. @Susan — being spoken to by a police officer who accepts your answer and leaves you alone is NOT a “run-in with the law”. By that standard I had a run-in with security tonight when they saw me looking around for the stairs…

  151. SKL thanks for that. Without trying to sound like the PC police, I have to say I am often surprised by the way comments are phrased regarding children with special needs. I work with children with a variety of disabilities and special needs. Although I never want to correct parents speaking about their own children, I always use “child first language” (CHILD with Autism, KID with special needs, little GIRL with a disability”)…the child is a child first and has many qualities in addition to their “special needs”….people feel differently, but it does not take much effort to change language to be respectful.

  152. Dolly, rapport building is the cop who used to stop and give my child police badge stickers all the time. Stopping chatting is rapport building. Waving and flashing lights for fun is rapport building. Taking someone’s personal information, making them uncomfortable until they go home and then following them home is not rapport building under any stretch of the imagination.

    It has nothing to do with a lack of confidence about parenting skills. I don’t expect to ever be bothered by child services. It has everything to do with wanting to be free from police interference when we are not doing anything wrong. I don’t want to be stopped on the road, forced to identify myself and then followed home. Why should I be okay with my child being stopped on the road, forced to identify herself and followed home? Further it’s not even LEGAL for the cop to do this. As an adult, I KNOW that I don’t have to identify myself to a police officer and can just walk away. A 10 year old doesn’t know this and feels like he has to follow the cops orders. It’s an abuse of power.

    “So I guess if you had a heart attack and your kids go frantically running around in the street to get help barefoot, you would not get mad if a cop doesn’t stop?”

    There is a HUGE difference between a child running around frantically on the street and a child standing outside calmly waiting for a friend with a cell phone in his hand. If a cop can’t tell the difference, he is in the completely wrong profession and needs to find another job immediately.

  153. Tara, many autistics actually prefer you do NOT use person-first language. I, for one, find its very premise both insulting (you won’t remember I’m a person unless you talk funny?) and flawed (autism isn’t a small part of who I am, it’s a big part of who I am – much bigger than my gender, and you say have to ascertain THAT just to have a conversation about me, unless you want to avoid pronouns!).

    Also, I find its use stigmatizing. After all, nobody speaks of a “person with beauty” or “a child with brightness” or “a woman with left-handed syndrome”, right? Of course not. Good or neutral things are spoken of as an adjective – a beautiful person, a bright child, a left-handed woman. It’s only things we think of as bad that are spoken of in this special way. (It’s not only autistics who eschew person-first language. I believe it’s also a debate in Deaf culture, where BIG D DEAF has to do with the culture and little d deaf means not being able to hear. Something like that.)

    Of course, obviously the correct terminology to use about any particular individual is what they prefer. And if you don’t know, simply being respectful is what matters – if you’re being rude and snide, it doesn’t matter HOW you designate that person or group of people! But it really irks me when people talk about person-first language like it’s God’s gift to human discourse. (Mostly because most of the time they ignore the content of the conversation for that little tangent. Annoying in the extreme.)

  154. Words are words. It is the meaning behind them that matter.

  155. Donna: the point is SKL said that if her kids are outside ever she wants the cops to assume she knows about it and leave them alone and not do anything about it. So if her little toddler snuck out at night and was wandering around the yard at 4 in the morning, she doesn’t want a cop interfereing if you go by HER words. Fair enough. But then don’t complain when they don’t do something about something they probably should have helped with.

    It doesn’t matter that that was not the instance here. SKL spoke in absolutes about it so that means any situation. I try not to speak in absolutes because they are always exceptions.

  156. @ Uly –
    Yes, many people identify as Deaf, capital D, Deaf people. I worked as an interpreter for Deaf kids for a while. Now I work as a pediatric speech and feeding therapist, mostly for kids with significant and severe disabilities.

    As I said, I would not correct a parent speaking about their own child, and never have here. ….I wouldn’t refer to my own son as my “special needs son” or say, “my son is special needs”…My son does have some special needs, they don’t define him…the nature of his disorder is relatively minor (given the kids I am working with on a daily basis, but significant enough to concern his teachers every year and for him to receive therapy a few times a week).

    As for your statement, that, many Autistics actually prefer NOT to use person first language, I would absolutely defer to any person who wanted to be referred to an autistic person, or an autistic, or however, they wanted to be identified. As I said, changing language is not that hard. I agree 100% the correct terminology to use is what they prefer.

    Perhaps it is not my experience because I work with children, most of whom can not specify how they would others to refer to them. I have been doing it long enough that some of the kids I worked with as babies are now teens. I work with a lot of parents, and many parents are in fact hurt by language used in describing their children. I absolutely do NOT ignore the content of conversation for a little tangent or specifically for the purpose of being politically correct.

    I guess it also depends on the disability…usually people do not say cerebral palsy child, muscular dystrophy child, seizure disordered child…I think many people would say, “child with a speech delay”/”my child has a speech delay” and/or “my child with special needs”….You gave examples that did sound weird but, it is not awkward to say, “the child with brown hair and blue eyes” (yes, could be “brown haired child” as well)…

    I am sorry if my statement offended you in any way.

  157. Dolly said: “The point is SKL said that if her kids are outside ever she wants the cops to assume she knows about it and leave them alone and not do anything about it. So if her little toddler snuck out at night and was wandering around the yard at 4 in the morning, she doesn’t want a cop interfereing if you go by HER words. Fair enough. But then don’t complain when they don’t do something about something they probably should have helped with.

    It doesn’t matter that that was not the instance here. SKL spoke in absolutes about it so that means any situation. I try not to speak in absolutes because they are always exceptions.”

    I said IF I LET MY CHILD GO OUTSIDE, I don’t want anyone else telling her she has to go back in. If she is outside at 4am and is a toddler, by all means assume that I probably didn’t give her permission to be outside. And if she’s running around screaming “help, emergency,” WITH OR WITHOUT SHOES, I would hope that anyone nearby (which is more likely to be a neighbor than a cop) would hear what’s coming out of her mouth and act on it. OK? Does that make you feel better?

    I looked back over all my posts (twice) and I conclude that you are totally putting words in my mouth. I said repeatedly that a non-intimidating verbal exchange to merely “check in” and move on would not bother me. Also, I said: “Now if he were in his underwear or diaper or appeared disoriented, I could see the point.”

    I think what’s really bothering you is that I expect the cops to give parents the benefit of the doubt that they make rational judgments of their kid’s competence, absent clear evidence to the contrary. Seeing a boy alone on a sidewalk/lawn in broad daylight should not generate “WTH” in the cops’ head, but rather “here’s a boy whose parents trust him out in the community.”

  158. Interesting.. I always thought the job of the police was to help make the streets safe for law-abiding 10-year-olds to go about their business in peace, NOT ask said 10-year-olds what they are doing out alone.

    I lived through the London riots and I noticed that when the police do not enforce the law properly (which is what happened initially) one of the first things that happens is that you see even fewer children (and women) out on the streets. Instead of being concerned at seeing a 10-year-old out alone, this police officer should be proud that he and his colleagues are obviously doing a good job.

  159. […] described in this blog entry, My Son Went Outside Barefoot. Is This a Crime?. Here’s how it […]

  160. “I used to get that comment all the time as a kid, along with “you’ll step on a piece of glass!”

    My reply? “Why aren’t you wearing gloves?” and “Do you SEE any glass? Because I don’t.””

    Same thing happens to everyone who regularly walks barefoot.
    People just assume bad things will happen.
    Once in a supermarket when I was “warned” about all the stuff that could be on the floor that’s bad for you (by staff…) I replied that if their floors are that filthy I’d best leave my groceries with them and go shop elsewhere. That shut them up 🙂

    “Funnily enough, I once did step on something (a thorn) that went through my foot. It also went through the sole of the shoe I was wearing at the time!”

    Same here. And was wearing those very thick soled spaceboots too (this was a long time ago).
    2″ cactus spine or something like that went right through, ended up about a millimeter from going into my foot.

  161. When I was 12 I jumped onto a hedgehog. It hurt. A lot. I didn’t start wearing shoes more though.

    Contrext: I was coming back from feeding my neighbour’s cat while they were on holiday. I had locked the cat in the garage just after dusk, and jumped back over the fence. leaping so I avoided landing in my mothers garden. The hedgehog was just snuffling along when my hoof landed on it, poor thing. I had a grid-mark on my foot for weeks.

  162. OK. For the people who keep saying “what if it was an autistic child who went missing”…for crying out loud…if it had been an autistic child missing, your phone and every phone in a 50 mile radius would have been ringing with a recorded message about an autistic kid missing and what he looked like and was wearing.

    This kid wasn’t reported missing. This kid was playing in an area just a few houses away from his own. None of you would have seen this and thought it odd. But this cop did.

    tnd The policeman did not just “politely inquire”. He intimidated the kid enough where the kid felt he should go in the house, the policeman followed him in his car, and only after the kid was in the house, did the cop drive off.

    That is creepy.

  163. I was a barefoot kid all summer long…from last frost to first frost, around the whole neighborhood. The only nod to shoes I gave was flip flops for the library or grocery store.

    …all I can say is WTF?!?

  164. We live in an era where all cops do something wrong – all the time. The disrespect of cops by Americans boggles me. I can’t remember the last time somebody in the news or on the internet was appreciative of a cop. Let’s ease up on the cop and give him/her the benefit of the doubt – and not paint them with a broad brush as brainless, uneducated baffoons – because that is how we treat them…now I am ready for the onslaught of responses that are not so pleasant 🙂

  165. Beverly, you are right. We are worst-first and sensationalist about cops. We overgeneralize stuff. There are many cops who act arrogant (I think they are trained to) and make mistakes to which they don’t own up. There are many who overstep their bounds, and it is intimidating, because nobody wants to have to prove a cop wrong in order to get custody of their own kid back. So it’s kind of understandable, but still not realistic.

  166. Beverly: Give credit where credit is due. I have been defending cops on this thread and I was not the only one.

  167. Eh a cute little girl in our neighborhood that my boys play with sometimes always is barefoot. It was warm enough so it was not a neglect thing and she was old enough to take care of her own shoes and all. But I do find it weird she never wears them. So the person who said no one would think anything of it is kinda wrong. It makes me go “Huh?” but I figure you know she is a free spirit and all that. She does not wear shoes on rocks, concrete, grass, when riding bikes, when going way off down the street. She must have some tough soles. I always try to get her to put shoes on when she rides bikes with us because riding bikes barefoot can be dangerous if your foot gets caught in the gears or if the brakes fail you won’t be able to stop with your feet etc. But she is a free spirit. It is not a cause to get freaked out over.

  168. In New Zealand, it is not required that anyone wear shoes–outside, to school, in shops. Talk about free-range!!

  169. Hi Dianna *waves furiously* (and to Hineata too :-D)

    I’ve posted before, but I’m backing up Dianna.

    I’m in Northland, the warmest part of New Zealand. We very rarely get frosts (I’m assured they happen, but after 2 winters I’ve not seen one). Many kids are barefoot year round for pretty much everything.

  170. I concur with the “let’s not hate on the cops” thing. For all the mother knows, the cop did in fact kindly ask the kid why he was out without shoes; a 10 year old boy could easily have INTERPRETED IT AS YELLING! Let’s not assume the cop was trying to harass the child; depending on the neighborhood, like someone else mentioned, it might be quite rare for a child to walk down the street without shoes and therefore the cop could have been concerned that it was a mentally unstable child…who knows? Certainly none of us.

    I would definitely be barefoot more if I didn’t live in an apartment complex where no one picks up their dog’s poop. Thank Vibram for Five Fingers 🙂

  171. I mentioned once to a friend (who is also a licensing inspector for the child care centers in four neighboring counties) that my kids were going barefoot at the child care center. I had no problem with this because the center believed in the benefits of being barefoot for the toddlers learning to walk and same to any other kids who wanted to do it. Anyway my friend tells me that as a “servant of the state” she was obligated to report this to the inspector for my child care center. A screaming match ensued. She sent the inspector (I prayed that I wouldn’t be outed as the mole) and my friend and I had a few frosty months between us. I still think barefoot is good for kids. Don’t get me started on my husband with his paranoid fear of parasites entering the body through bare feet…

  172. Yes, Ann at the daycare I worked at we were required to make any kid that could walk wear shoes at all times. It was a state law and we had to follow it to keep our high rating. That was not the only arbitrary rule that actually hurt the kids rather than benefited them we had to follow.

    This is why I am anti-daycare for the most part. People take that as anti-working mom but its not. I just don’t like the way daycares have so many rules that don’t let kids be kids or does not work in kids having individual needs. If that one little 14 month old boy stayed up late the night before because his parents took him out to eat or for whatever reason, he needs an extra long nap or an earlier nap today. Not going to happen at daycare! We had to give all the kids a nap at the same time daily for the exact amount of time or risk getting our star rating pulled. Kid you not. So we would have to jostle the 14 month old awake and keep him from getting the rest he needed.

    Only infants were allowed to sleep whenever they wanted. Once you got to the 12 to 24 months classroom you had to nap on the schedule only.

  173. To start a little funny off top, I remeber back in 4th or 5th grade being kind of the weird geeky Mr. know it all with glasses i was, every time we had those annoying parent-teacher conference’s i remember when a conference came up my dad would drive me home first to bring my backpack and stuff back then i would head back to school barefoot after being tired from all day and stuff, seeing as it wouldnt last long i walk out of the class room while my teacher and my dad where talking down the ramp and see one of the kids from the same class was walking to the room by himself looked at me and said “hey dude whats up”, and i was all like this guy hardly ever says “hey” to me while were stuck here during the day so we sat on the side of the ramp talking and stuff and he finally brought up the “wheres your shoes man?” question and said as artfully as i could “dorky kids can be lazy and laid back like you guys too” after that we instantly became buds (and we still are) the cool kind of jockey kid in school friends with one of the most dorky kids in school… Life works in many weird ways i guess. Mabey he found out that the weird kids can be just as laid back and comfortable as them or we had the same hatred for those god awfull boring conference’s XD. Now back to the topic i use to be barefoot alot outside with my friends too are parents simply didn’t give a flying hoot if we had shoes on or not, when i was a kid around the same age as your son bank in the late 90s and early 00s and not once did a cop ever stop and ask any of us where we lived and all that, my best guess would be that that “just this particular cop” simply was just overly concerned as some are and just simply wanted to make sure that your son was just fine and safe. Let him outside again, the chances of him being asked or stoped again are very slim to none to happen a second time depending on the kind of neighborhood you live in mine is a mix of family friendly and slight ghetto mostly latino and a few whites very few bad things happen but aside from that all the people living around here have everyones backs regardless and the kids are well looked after and nothing happens to them. Nearing 22 now and im still barefoot as much as i was then, forget about the neigh sayers and let the kids be kids rather in just socks or barefeet is Not a crime at all both are fun as heck IMO 🙂

  174. Interesting. Last summer when I took my 10yo daughter and her best friend to Universal, I guess I was a bad parent for letting them go barefoot. Actually I told my daughter’s friend to go barefoot and my daughter did starting with the first water ride.

    If I stopped there, I am sure you would say something is wrong. Well here is the rest of the story. One of my daughter’s best friend’s slides strap broke, the part that holds it to the foot. She was wearing pink socks and slides. When her slide broke, she took off the other one and started to walk in her pink socks. Instead of her ruining her socks, I asked her to take them off and go barefoot until we could find a place to buy her some shoes.

    She did not like what they had and decided she would rather go barefoot instead. At the first water ride my daughter took her shoes and socks off and both remained barefoot the rest of the day.

    When we arrived back at the car, both girls’ feet were very dirty on the bottoms, it was fortunate my daughter’s friend was sleeping over Sat night, as I would not have wanted to drop her off at home with dirty bare feet. In the past the friend had always worn shoes, usually with socks. Since the day at Universal, she usually takes them off and goes barefoot when she comes to visit. Not sure what she does at home 🙂 I guess she found she prefers to be barefoot (like my daughter).


  175. My 10yo daughter rarely wears shoes (and I require her and her friends to be completely barefoot in the house due to polished hardwood floors which can be a slip hazard if they ran around in socks).

    It can be a crime if it’s a hot day and the child’s feet aren’t used to hot surfaces. My daughter (unintentionally) has walked over broken glass in the street and ran around a parking lot, in her barefeet, without pain or injury, other than the bottoms of her feet are filthy black which easily clean later.

    Her feet have been conditioned since she was born to develop tough. I raised her like a country girl, barefoot from birth to starting school, of course she wears shoes to school, but as soon as she walks in the door, her shoes and socks come off and she is barefoot until the next school day. As a result her feet are tough enough to handle some broken glass or hot pavement (within reason of course). Going barefoot all the time her first five years definitely helped develop tough feet.

    I keep a pair of flip flops in the car for her, but she rarely wears them. The dirt from the parking lot and store floors easily will wash off with a garden hose before going in the house. If she has been to an indoor playground, no shoes to lose. If she’s climbing trees at the park, her toes can grip better. If chasing tadpoles at a lake, no shoes to get wet.

    Whenever she has friends over, I hear her telling them to take off their shoes and socks. Often they come over barefoot and not wearing any.

    If the child’s feet are tough enough, they don’t need shoes or socks.

  176. Since when are children left alone to rear themselves, children need boundaries and structure. Otherwise in dealing with the REAL WORLD they are going to be sadly unprepared. Free Range aren’t cattle it’s just lazy parenting. You’re not doing the kid any favors kids need to know the meaning of NO because they are going to hear it a lot in life.

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