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 — a fireman — 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  ‘‘sexist and suggests all men are potential pedophiles.”

They sound like Free-Rangers!  – L

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