Letter: Why Am I Being “Checked Out” by Another Mom Before Her Son Can Play Here?

Hi Folks! As I finish up my last few days of vacation (Mexico!), here’s a letter to chew on. — L.

Dear Free Range Kids: My son started school a few weeks ago and has already made a new friend. The boys want to have a playdate and after discussion with the other child’s mother, we arranged to have the first one here. Then she informed me that on the day of the playdate, she would pick her son up from school and follow me and my son back to our house, so she could “check it out.”

While it’s not something I’m taking personally, I am offended — and confused. Does she think our house would be suitable for my son but not for hers? Doesn’t she realize that if there was anything that would mark our house as unsuitable for a playdate, I’d be sure to cover it up, pack it away or simply hide it before she arrived?   How far is “‘checking it out” likely to go? Just the areas the kids will be playing in or every room in the house?

Is this a typical thing? Am I over reacting or is she? Part of me would dearly love to tell her what she can do with the playdate, but I don’t want to break the hearts of two 5-year-old boys.  Any advice would be dearly appreciated! – Mom with Nothing to Hide

This Is The Playground We Were Discussing the Other Day

Hi Readers! Remember the chat we all had about the playground closed for the winter because of the protective  cushioning frozen to unprotectiveness beneath it? Here it is in all its caution-tape glory! And a note from the mom who first brought the issue to our attention. – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: Is a picture worth a thousand words? Although it’s a gorgeous 40-degree day today in Saratoga, this is what we saw when we dropped kids off at school this morning. Last night caution tape was wrapped all over the playground equipment, presumably to keep kids from playing on the equipment during off-hours. We’re almost certain it is not a decision by the school administration–they’ve been very supportive and sensible–but if this is a district decision, it has nothing to do with conditions on the ground. – Saratoga Mom (and photo by Charlie Samuels.)

Does this look like a playground to be avoided?

Gulp! Is Your Little Athlete Getting Enough Water?!

Hi Folks! In a doctor’s waiting room the other day I happened to pick up one of the parenting mags and, as a sidebar to an article on sports injuries, it ran these tips:

Go Ahead and Gulp

Even slight dehydration decreases a child’s strength and decision-making skills on the field, which can lead to injuries. Use these tips to help your little athlete get enough water:

1 – Your child should drink 16 ounces of water two hours before a practice or game.

2- Then he should drink another 8 ounces for every 15 minutes he’s participating — even during cooler weather.

3 – It cane be hard to keep the fluid inake up during games, so at halftime your child should drink three full cups of water.

4 – Offer three cups post-game to make up for intake missed during the game.

But is this really enough? Some suggestions I might add:

5 – Three weeks before the big game begin a “hydration habituation” routine. Wake your child to give him four ounces of water at 11 p.m. and again at 4 a.m. Gradually increase the amounts to half a gallon.

6 – A week before the game, switch your little athlete to an all-liquid diet. (Jello is a-okay!)

7 – On game day, hook your child up to an intravenous saline solution in the morning. Detach him an hour before game time. Offer him 42 ounces of his favorite drink.

8- At half-time, shove your child’s head in a pail of water and gently hold it down.  

9- If your child shows any of the very earliest signs of dehydration — fatigue, hunger, energy, a loss of appetite –hurry home and place child in tub. He can come out as soon as he’s drunk it dry. Yes, that includes sucking all the moisture out of the washcloth(s).

10 – Remember: Sports is all about fun!

11 – And death by dehydration!

This is a good start.

Does Teacher’s Pet = Pedophile Alert?

Hi Folks — Here’s another little story that reminds us how  Worst-First thinking has become de rigeur when it comes to kids in the company of adults: A young Teach for America teacher took a student out for a hamburger and was immediately reprimanded by the school.

Yes, rules are rules, and he probably should have signed a lot of forms first, but sometimes — weirdly enough — a moment comes up that is not pre-scheduled and pre-approved and pre-notarized. It’s what we used to call “spontaneity.” (Now we call it “actionable.”) So off he and the kid went, got burgers and came right back.

The child’s mom sounds livid. As reported in the Houston Chronicle, she said, “He walked right out the front door with my child…This was not a role model.”

A better role model would NOT take an interest in her son?

I GET that we are terrified of adults grooming our kids into Sandusky  submission. The Miramonte stories shake me, too. But do we really want to treat every teacher-child interaction as prelude to perversion? My mentor, social studies teacher Genevieve MacDougall, took me out of high school for a few days, with my parents’ permission. She wanted me to drive her from Chicago down to Southern Illinois to check out a one-room school house she was thinking of buying. She paid for my meals and my room at a little hotel, and it is still one of the fondest memories of my life. I dedicated my Free-Range Kids book to her!

I doubt she’d be allowed to do that today. As the teacher in the hamburger story was quoted as saying:

“I care for my students and am trying to make a difference in their lives,” he said. “I try to build positive relationships with my students, and in that effort, I bought a student in my class a hamburger for lunch that we ate back at the school with others. I regret this mistake, but I am proud of YES Prep, and the work that I do there. I am glad that Yes Prep investigated the situation and found no reason that I should not continue to teach my students.”

As parents, we must (I say it every time this topic comes up) teach our kids to recognize, resist and report abuse. But we can NOT treat every teacher who dotes on our darlings as dangerous. Let’s bring that pendulum back to the middle, where it belongs. — L.

Help Needed! Zero Tolerance Gets Third Grader & His Cool Knife Expelled

Hi Readers! Here we go again – officials overreacting as if this makes them smart and proactive (rather than…overreacting). L.
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Dear Free-Range Kids: My daughter’s third grade friend brought his pocket knife to school on accident.  It was just in his pants’ pocket from the weekend.  An hour after school was dismissed, he and his friends were still playing on school grounds and he showed his knife to them.
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One of them was a girl and because the blade was pointing her direction, she decided he was “brandishing it” and went to tell her mom, who told the office, who told the district, who told the cops, one of whom said if he saw him with a knife again, he could shoot him.  (That’s right — preserve and protect — bully the eight-year-old.)
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He’s being expelled.  I know you post stories like these, but I was wondering if you had any suggestions of where my friend could go for support.  She’s trying to find a lawyer and figure out what her options are.
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I’d like to take this to the media since it’s been pretty effective in getting other districts to relent on their Zero Tolerance policies.  Anyway, do you have any suggestions of where to start? [LENORE: Yes! Here!]
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The incident was at Cumberland Elementary School in Sunnyvale, CA.  The Sunnyvale School District (between San Jose and San Francisco) is in charge of punishment.  To his credit, our school principal tried to just have him suspended, but once the district got wind of it, under California’s Zero Tolerance policy, they are required to issue a mandatory recommendation of expulsion and contact law enforcement — enter the threatening policeman.
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The boy is terrified.  He’s never been a troublemaker. He has a brother in kindergarten who is baffled.  – A California Mom.
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Lenore here: The writer has set up an email account for any lawyers or press to contact her about the incident:  bringbackdominick@gmail.com

This is NOT the knife the boy showed his friends.

Don’t Know How Many Heartbeats Per Minute Your Baby Is Beating? Shame on You!

Hi Folks! Coming soon: the latest gadget EVERY parent (who is suffering from crippling anxiety that will only get worse if they buy things like this) will need! The “Exmobaby” is a onesie that monitors your baby’s vital signs. As its website says:

Each and every garment in the Exmobaby line includes sensor technology that monitors baby’s vital signs and movement. The fully integrated capabilities built in to the clothing and apparel deliver wireless communication and evaluation of baby’s condition throughout the day as well as during critical night time sleep.

Parents of newborns receive text messages (SMS) and email alerts on their mobile phones, personal computers and other devices. These show up automatically in real time as baby’s movement and vital signs change. No extra or constant monitoring by parents, caregivers or relatives is needed. The Exmobaby product line does all the work.

Because how DARE you sleep through that “critical night time” without monitoring your baby as if he were in the ICU? What are you, some kind of “I Need My Sleep, Too” freak? How incredibly selfish –and, of course, DANGEROUS!!! — L

How did parents relax without 24/7 texts from their sleeping babies?

Voters in the School? That’s Not Safe!

Hi Folks! Love this column, which ran in The Post-Star in Glens Falls, NY. I think you’ll see why. – L.

Reading, Writing and Looming Fears by Ken Tingley

The Warrensburg Central School District is saving its children from the clutches of voters.

Swear to God.

Its board of education voted unanimously against a county proposal to use one of the school’s facilities for the April 24 presidential primary.

The reason? Too dangerous.

You would have thought the new voting machines contained plutonium. Or all Warrensburg voters are packing heat. Or perhaps there is concern over some insidious political agenda that might pollute impressionable minds.

The school board members believe that opening the school to voters will put the student body at risk. Of the seven members on the school board, not one even cleared their throat to say this is all just a bit silly.

Voting at local schools and firehouses is a tradition that goes back generations. I can’t remember the last time I did not vote in a school. And the greatest calamity I can ever recall was complaints over long lines in Lake Luzerne one year.

Oddly, Warren County’s Republican Commissioner Mary Beth Casey said she understood the board’s concern.

Hopefully, she was just being politically correct in hopes they would come to their senses because what she should have said was, “Seriously?”

The culture of fear that has taken root in our communities is epidemic.

We see shadows at high noon and dangers lurking around every swing set. And now, in voting booths.

We are all privy to horrible crimes that happen around the country and it is in everyone’s best interest to be prudent, especially when it comes to young children, but hopefully, without being ridiculous.

In this case in Warrensburg, school officials had previously moved the voting from the gymnasium to a supplemental recreation room away from the student population.

Polling places are generally busy places, crawling with volunteers. And the paranoia regarding school security is at such a heightened state, parents can’t drop off their kid’s lunch without being patted down in the foyer.

Years ago, I took my young son to the school playground during a school day. I was immediately informed that it was against the rules for me to be there during school hours.

My 4-year-old and I were a security risk.

Only time I’ve ever been kicked off the swing set.

Such is the concern in Warrensburg, where danger lurks, and it is no longer safe to invite citizens to the elementary school.

Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at tingley@poststar.com. You can read his blog “The Front Page” daily at www.poststar.com or his updates on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/kentingley.

NOTE: Tingley tells me that now the board has voted to let the election take place at the school. Somehow (maybe thanks to this column?) sanity reigns! – L