She Looked Up and Her 2-year-old Wasn’t There

Hi Folks! This is a good one to take to heart…and to the playground. — Lenore

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’ve known for a while that Free-Range is a great way to raise confident, independent, capable kids, but I never knew how much this approach would help me as a parent until last night.

I was at a local park with my boys.¬† They are ages 2 and 4.¬† My older son has just recently mastered monkey bars and after his probably 10th or 12th time cruising along them, his hands slipped and he fell down pretty hard.¬† He’s generally a tough guy when it comes to injuries, but he’d gotten the wind knocked out of him as well as a fat lip and was quite upset.¬† I was consoling him for a few seconds when my 2-year-old apparently wandered off.

This park is quite large.¬† It has two separate playground areas, some soccer and baseball fields and a woodsy area with trails to walk through.¬† I had no idea which direction he’d gone and was pretty panicked.¬† He was only missing for about 5 minutes, but it felt like days.¬† Immediately several complete strangers essentially organized a search party and they put one of them in charge of staying with my screaming, injured son so that I could go help look for my younger son without the older in tow.

I found my little one down on the lower playground around the corner out of sight from me.  He was happily talking to a man with a dog.

After I got home last night and was somewhat settled down from what had been an absolutely terrifying ordeal to me, I had this moment of clarity where I was so thankful that I’ve found your blog and have become a proud, self-proclaimed Free-Range mom.¬† During those scary 5 minutes, at NO time did it even occur to me that my missing son had been abducted.¬† I instinctively went with the most logical scenario: ¬†He’s 2.¬† He probably saw something interesting on the other side of the park and had wandered over there (there was a Little League game going on, lots of kids down there and as I mentioned, people with dogs…he LOVES dogs).¬† It was the most likely scenario and it allowed me to find my son much quicker by following my instinct instead of the standard worst-first thinking.¬† It also allowed me to feel perfectly comfortable leaving my older son with strangers while I searched for the other.

Thank God for common sense and the kindness of (perfectly safe) strangers!  And thanks for continuing to spread the word about the benefits of raising Free-Range kids.

Fondly,

Karen Miller

A toddler, a dog and a frantic mom (not pictured).

Clown Teaching Kids to be “Berry Berry Safe”…Except from Berry Berry Creepy Clowns

Hi Folks — Let me state upfront that I agree with this, uh, guy: Teach your kids never to go off with ¬† stranger.

But is there anyone stranger than this blue-haired, baby-tawking clown who keeps showing up out of nowhere?  The lesson he seems intent on teaching kids: Never go anywhere without a possibly imaginary, predator-obsessed prig in a blue wig.

A Conversation with an Older Man

Hi Folks — To be filed under, “What we’ve lost.” Or maybe, “What Free-Range Kids is working ¬†to bring back.” – L.¬†

Dear Free-Range Kids: I had an interesting experience in the Target parking lot today. While
I was unloading my cart, an older man passed and complimented me on my
four kids. I thanked him, and we struck up a conversation.

When my three-year-old shyly turned away from the man, he said,

“That’s right, I forgot you’re not supposed to talk to strangers these
days.” And he turned to leave.

I said, “No sir, I teach my children that it’s okay to talk to
strangers. They need to learn how to speak with adults. I just teach
them never to go anywhere with a stranger.”

The man said, “Yeah, when I was in my 40s and 50s, I always pictured
myself sitting on a park bench one day, giving dollar bills to little
children. But some wackos messed that up for the rest of us. Can’t do
that anymore.”

I told him the world was worse off for it, and I try to teach my
children that most people are good and it’s okay to interact with
people of all ages.

The man started to leave again, but then abruptly turned around,
pulled out his wallet, and gave each of my kids a $1 bill. I wanted to
decline, mainly because I like my kids to earn their money, but I
could see how delighted they were, and how pleased the man was that he
could do that for him. I realized this man probably genuinely enjoys
interacting with children, and we live in a world where he may not
have an opportunity to do so.

I wonder what our children could learn from old men sitting on park benches.

Lauren Richins

A Question About Dad Driving the Babysitter

Dear Readers — This letter got me wondering, too. Eagerly awaiting your answers. – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: ¬†I found your blog recently and have been going through all of your past posts (driving my hubby crazy with “listen to this…..!”). ¬†I have been a Free-Range mom for years now (10 years, 5 kids), and I am glad to now realize that I am not as alone as I had previously thought. ¬†My son is 10 going on 30 and organizes his own lemonade stand, bikes to the library by himself, runs into the grocery store for me so I can sit in the van with the kids…. now my 7-year-old daughter is starting to follow in his footsteps. ¬†It’s amazing the confidence that comes with these freedoms.

Now the reason I write is to ask you this: ¬†In my community it is understood that the father NEVER drives the babysitter (typically a girl) home. ¬†I am convinced that this is a conspiracy concocted by men who do not want to be the designated driver. ¬†But, the mothers all say that this is just for the babysitters’ safety, and for the man’s safety because “misunderstandings” and false accusations do happen. ¬†Plus, it’s awkward for a man to be alone in a car with a teenage girl, they say. ¬†My driver’s license is recently suspended due to a seizure and I cannot drive the babysitter home anymore. ¬†My son can’t take the babysitter course for another year, and I know he isn’t ready for these responsibilities just yet. ¬†Is it really unreasonable to have my husband drive the babysitter home? And is this policy a universal one? Just curious! —¬†Courtenay

Only mom can drive the babysitter home?

4-year-old Girl Sits Next to a Man on a Bus and Then…

Hi Readers — Had to share this response to the posts below this one, about Virgin Air making a man move because he was seated next to two unaccompanied minors. ¬†– L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: This just seems outrageous to me.  I would like to share a story from my childhood which has left a lasting impression on not only myself, but my mother as well.
When I was about 4 my very young single mother was travelling across the country via a Greyhound bus with my 4 year old self and my 1 year old sister.  Mum was given some bad information at the start of the journey and found halfway through the trip that she would have to buy and extra ticket for my toddler ticket and would run out of funds before we would reach our destination.
At some point when we had to change buses the bus driver told my mother that each of the children would have to sit in their own seat.¬† As the bus only had paired seats she had to put either my sister or myself in a seat next to a stranger.¬† As I was the oldest and presumably the more responsible, she seated me a few rows ahead of her in an available seat next to a US military member travelling in uniform.¬† I’m sure I talked the poor guy’s ear off most of the trip but apparently he liked me because he passed me a $100 bill before disembarking the bus and told me to give the money to my mom.
Due to this man’s generosity we were able to make it to our destination and I know I enjoyed the independence and responsibility of sitting with a stranger.¬†This just goes to show you that not every “stranger” is dangerous, and sometimes they can save us when we most need a hand up in the world. – Brandi

Sure you can sit by me, little girl!

A Reader Who Believes Men Should NOT Be Allowed to Sit Next to Kids on Planes

Hi Readers! It takes all kinds…even the kind that thinks men are raping random children on planes, I guess. Here’s a note that came in response to my post below this one, about Virgin Air’s policy of not allowing males to sit next to unaccompanied minors:

I agree with the policy. It is too bad that the airline did not arrange the seating ahead of time to avoid an embarrassing moment but as a mother I would not want my child seating next to a strange man on a plane.

The fact is 99% of paedophiles are male. I’m sure this man is a lovely person but the fact is he is 100 times more likely to rape a child than a woman.

Are we now going to sue the insurance companies who charge men more in insurance because men are 100 times more likely to have an accident?

It’s called statistics. It’s called trying to prevent the most horrifying incidence by calculating and diminishing risks.

Why doesn’t this man put his energy into fighting paedophiles, who are from his sex rather than demonizing a society trying to protect itself from a deadly disease within the male. ¬†– Pastiche

Man on Plane Must Change Seats — He’s Next to 2 Boys. Australians Outraged!

Hey Folks! Encouraging news in our war on predator panic! Over in Australia, on Virgin,¬†a man named Johnny McGirr, 33, was seated next to two unaccompanied boys, aged about 8 and 10. The stewardess made him move because that’s the airline’s policy: Women can sit next to kids, men are apparently just too likely to pounce.

McGirr ‚ÄĒ a fireman ‚ÄĒ was understandably embarrassed. He blogged about it and now he’s¬†everywhere in the Australian media today, saying:¬†“[The attitude of the airline] is ‘we respect you but as soon as you board a Virgin airline you are a potential paedophile’, and that strips away all the good that any male does regardless of his standing in society, his profession or his moral attitudes.”

He also had a new suggestion for Virgin, to keep people safe:

No male should sit next to anyone. A spare seat will be allocated next to any male at any time to ensure the safety of women and children.

Virgin — Jeez what a name for this story — is now reconsidering its policy, the way British Airways did a few years back. (Remember this incident? And its outcome?) But perhaps even better is that the Sydney Morning Herald reports more than 44,000 readers nationwide responded to an online poll about ¬†the policy, and 87 % agreed it’s ¬†‚Äė‚Äėsexist and suggests all men are potential pedophiles.”

They sound like Free-Rangers!  РL

Maybe all children are not in danger from all men at all times?

Cop Suspects Dad Walking with His Kid of Being a Predator & Adds, “You Should THANK Me”

Hi Readers! Here it goes again – a man, a kid, a cop. Read on. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Recently my youngest daughter and I had an experience that really shook me up (both of us, actually), and I wanted to share it with you. We were walking to the library together, and she was holding my hand and trying to pull me into telephone poles and whatnot as we walked, which is a silly game that she enjoys. Suddenly a police car pulled up beside us, lights on and everything. The cop gets out of his car, says “Sir, please step away from the child,” then proceeds to crouch down and ask her if “everything is okay.”

After re-asking a few times, getting a more and more nervous “yes” each time, he stands up and informs me that someone had called 911 reporting what looked like a young girl being abducted. My daughter and I both explained what was really happening, and not only did he not even apologize, he chastised ME for not being, and I quote verbatim here, “More thankful someone was watching out for my daughter.”

We did eventually make it to the library and home, but it has made me slightly more cautious and watchful whenever we walk places. Is this a normal reaction to an event like this? Has anything like this happened to anyone else here?

“My Brush with Predator Mania” – Guest Post

Hi Readers!  Just realized (it IS summer) I posted this story earlier. Sorry! Stay tuned for something new in a little bit! Or re-read and get mad all over again! L.

My Brush with Predator Mania by Nicholas Martin

I took my 9-year-old daughter and two of her friends to swim today at¬†Brookville Lake, an Indiana state park. I was shooting pictures of them from the beach with a telephoto lens when I was approached by two park guides who asked if I was photographing my own kids or other people’s.
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I responded that I had the legal and constitutional right to photograph anyone. I asked if there was a complaint and a female guide responded that one beachgoer had motioned them over to question my picture taking. The guide said that she was just ensuring the safety of the children. I said that it was ridiculous to think that a man shooting with a large camera and lens on an open beach was a potential threat to kids, and pointed out that probably hundreds of people on the beach had cell phone cameras that could take pictures without being noticed. I told the guides that they should tell the complainers that anyone had a right to take pictures at the beach. The guides were unfailingly cordial and respectful and we bid each other a friendly goodbye.
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Minutes later the ladies next to our beach tent pointed out the woman nearby who had made the complaint to the guides. She was with three other women, all apparently in their thirties and with no accompanying kids. Seconds later one of the four women lifted her cell phone and began taking pictures of one of her friends standing in front of the water. Or she could have been taking pictures of the children behind her for all I know!
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I approached the woman who had complained and asked if we should notify the authorities about her friend’s picture-taking. She responded by asking me if I would want a stranger taking pictures of my child at the beach. I said it would be fine with me since it presented no threat.
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Later my kids heard some people in the water complaining about my picture-taking. One of them said, “He better put that camera away.” It is not far-fetched to imagine a mob of people driven by a sufficient frenzy to inflict “justice” on a photographer at that beach. What if I hadn’t had any kids with me and was just shooting some beach scenes, with kids, adults, and lapping waves? The American mania regarding sexual predation is not to be toyed with.
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Perhaps area photographers should show up at the beach for a Photo Freedom Day to publicize and defend the right to do photography. –¬†Nicolas Martin
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Lenore here: I like the idea of a Photo Freedom Day. If anyone organizes one, please let us know how it goes! РL 

What kind of disgusting pervert takes a picture like this?

Reject the Fear That Coach Automatically = Pervert: THANK A COACH! New Viral Video Campaign

Hi Folks! I just LOVE this campaign that just got underway in England. It was started by a gal named¬†Heather Piper who describes herself as a “Professor in the Faculty of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, whose research interests tend to be contrarian and challenge the status quo, and¬†much so called ‘wisdom.'” Go Heather! – L.¬†

THANK A COACH by Heather Piper

When the 2012 Olympics were awarded to London, the UK Government (like other governments before them) made much of the hope that the legacy would be to get children and young people more active and involved in sports ‚Äď part of a happier and healthier nation. Instead, as recent research has shown,there are many coaches who feel anxious and overwhelmed by the way that trust in coaching relationships has been destroyed by the fear-based and mechanical way that child protection and ‚Äėsafeguarding‚Äô has been imposed on them. The result has been that they feel spied-on, and end up doubting their colleagues‚Äô motives, and even their own ‚Äď viewing themselves and others as potential paedophiles!

There is something very wrong when, on attending their first football training session, eager 9-year-olds have to listen to a talk about the team’s child protection measures (implicit message: coaches are likely to be perverts). Whatever this does to children, an adult coach may be terrified when a young player races over to them as part of her goal-scoring celebration (Is she going to hug me? What will everyone think? Will I get suspended like the guy last year?). The problem is not one for the UK alone, the US, Australia and New Zealand, to name a few, share similarly risk-averse societies.

The pattern everywhere is much like that seen earlier in teaching and childcare and, again, the real losers are the children who lose the chance to benefit from strong and trusting inter-generational contact. The deficit extends beyond the issue of coaching kids to become better swimmer or soccer players: a good coach can provide  emotional support for children learning how to get along and grow up, which is particularly important for kids who may have less support at home.

To try, in a small way, to counter the pervasive negative messages about sports coaching and to honour the selfless work of the many thousands of coaches who offer their technical expertise (and often much more than that), a new campaign focuses attention on the positive coaching many of us will have experienced. In a risk-obsessed, fear-based, and mistrustful era we need some good news stories, and the ‚ÄėInspired to Greatness‚Äô campaign¬†aims to collect and provide them. Take a look and join-in. Thank a coach for what they did for you. We can‚Äôt take coaches for granted. We CAN give them the thanks they deserve. Share your videos! – H.P.

Cheers, coach!