Can We Vote for This Guy? (Even Though He’s 9?)

Hey Readers — You want inspiration? You got it: A 9 year old Detroit boy was dismayed by the fact his local park was totally overgrown — the city could afford to mow it just twice a year. So did he stay inside playing videogames?

He set up a lemonade stand and made $3000 over the course of five days. Donated it to Parks & Rec. This video is from when he was just getting started. You’ll love it!

FREE-RANGE VICTORY! Charges Dropped Against Dad Who Let His Kids Play in the Park — THANKS TO US!

Readers — This is so incredible! Remember  this post from a few months ago?

As we approach our third annual, “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day” (Saturday, May 19), this story is outrageous. Apparently a dad let his two kids, ages 6 and 9, play in a local suburban Pittsburgh park on Saturday morning for not quite two hours while he did some shopping and took a shower. That is, while he went about the tasks of everyday life.

Meantime, a woman noticed this unusual thing: Kids playing without an adult around! That this fact was “disturbing” to an onlooker is what is so disturbing about our culture. For millennia, kids kept themselves occupied while their parents were otherwise engaged. A 9-year-old watching a 6-year-old was NORMAL, not a REASON TO CALL THE COPS.

But call the cops she did. And when they got there, they charged the dad with two counts of child endangerment.

Okay, here’s the first comment (of 168) made to that post, which apparently set the template for action:

First time I’ve created an account on one of these random sites you link to and posted a comment. Stuff like this just really irks me. The busybody who freaked out is the real problem in this scenario. I’m guessing all real crime in that city has been solved and there’s no real child endangerment going on so the cops need to invent some?

And now? The authorities have DROPPED the charges again the dad (after he took some parenting classes). HOW COME? Well, according to the Chartiers Valley Patch:

The child endangerment charges created a firestorm on the Chartiers Valley Patch message boardafter a group called Free Range Kids linked to the story and several members criticized the police officer’s decision to file charges.

I’m so proud of everyone who took the time to write a message over there and explain that while people may THINK kids are in constant danger when they’re unsupervised, that’s a misperception, and no one should be considered negligent for not buying into it. Too bad about the parenting classes they guy had to take, but otherwise: WOW WOW WOW! — Lenore

Maybe this kind of fun is to be encouraged, not prosecuted!

You Think Your 9 & 6 Year Olds are Too Young to Ride Their Bikes to Their Friends?

Hi Readers! Laura Alves is a mom of 4 who has made a change in her  world — and beyond. As can we all! – L

Dear Free Range Kids: I’d like to share my little story (actually three) of Free-Range happiness in our small central Wisconsin town.

I have four kids, ages 9, 6, 4, 2. I generally allow and encourage (and sometimes require) my older two to ride their bikes. My philosophy is that if it is safe and reasonable for them to propel themselves somewhere, than they should. I have little kids at home who don’t want to spend their summer days in a minivan while I chauffeur the older two around. A neighbor, whose daughter is 10, asked me if I let my kids ride their bikes alone to the park, which is one and a half miles away with one busy County Highway to cross. I told him that yes, they’re allowed to ride there together. They know the safety rules of biking and of crossing busy roads. The neighbor said he’d been hesitant to let his daughter do this, but if she went with my kids, he’d feel better about it. So, they all went together and had a blast! He lets his daughter regularly bike to the park now.

My oldest daughter’s friend lives about a half mile away, across the same busy County Highway. The friend called one day and asked if my daughter could come over. I sent Charlie on her bike, and when she arrived, the other mother called me to see if I knew my girl had ridden alone there. I told her of course I knew! We talked about it and she agreed that even though it made her nervous, IT MADE SENSE to allow the girls to ride alone at this age. They are now BOTH coming to and from each others’ houses solo!

We are very good friends with a family whose oldest two kids are best friends with our oldest two kids. We were all talking one night about letting them do more stuff alone. Our friends said that they had been on the fence about letting their kids bike/walk to our house, the park, the school, etc. We shared our feelings about how it’s good and healthy for them to do things on their own. They agreed and now ALL the kids are riding their bikes around in a big pack, exploring, and having a blast. They’ve managed to stay safe, stay out of trouble, and have a ton of fun all summer long!!

I’m realizing that there are a lot of parents out there that WANT to give their kids more freedom. They just need a little push from someone letting them know it’s okay. The “safety” movement has created sort of a mob mentality with parents, but a lot of people don’t necessarily want to subscribe to it. They just think making a lot of rules and restrictions is what good parents do. I’m grateful that Free-Range-Kids has inspired me to break free of this delusion, and that I in turn have inspired these other parents to give their kids some much needed freedom. Perhaps these parents will inspire more. Perhaps by next summer our playgrounds and streets will be filled with kids having a safe, and happy-go-lucky summer with their friends. Could this be possible? Here’s to hoping!! – Laura Alves

No, there is actually no mention of wombats in this post. But kids on bikes, yes.

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!

First “Kid-Dropped-Off-At-Wrong-Bus-Stop” Story of the School Year

Hey Readers! Here’s a lovely little bite of sanity, deceny and normal-ness (before I bring you today’s run-in-with-the-cops story that’s driving me to despair). Over at Lisa Belkin’s blog on The Huffington Post, she reports that a 5-year-old with autism was let off at the wrong stop, thanks to a little mix-up.

Rather than this making front page news — remember this story? “Parents Worst Nightmare!” — it was resolved the usual way: With kindness and concern. Two teens found the boy, brought him to an adult who got in touch with  his mom, who came and got him. As Belkin asks:

So what is the lesson we take from this first-day-of-school tale (in addition to the obvious changes needed in the school’s bus procedure)?

Is it that the world is not a safe place for children?

Or that a little boy who needed help got it?

“I called her and told her, ‘I have your son. He’s safe. He’s at my house and I’ll keep him safe until you arrive,'” his rescuer says she told his mom.

Isn’t that the lesson — that the world is basically safe, and that people are generally good — the one that we most need to learn?

It sure is! Right on, Lisa! — L.

Getting off at the wrong spot is not the same as getting off at Armageddon.

We Interrupt This Blog to Bring You…My Summer Vacation? Yep

Hi Folks! The place where we spend our summers is a cool, old-fashioned, very Free-Range bungalow colony, about an hour and 15 mins from New York City. We’ve been renting a cottage here for the past 11 summers and we love it. In fact, we love it so much I’m helping to spread the word: Cottages are still available for August and, of course, there’s next summer, too! Here’s a little video my husband and I made about the place. Here’s even more info. And here’s its Facebook page. If you want to visit — come up this Saturday, Aug. 4. We’re having a party and you are invited, from 1:30 p.m. on. Just RSVP below. Bring a bathing suit, stay for a bbq and we show movies outside after dark! Happy summer to you wherever you may be. (And happy winter, Australia!) – L 

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 – 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 ‘safeguarding’ has been imposed on them. The result has been that they feel spied-on, and end up doubting their colleagues’ motives, and even their own – 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 ‘Inspired to Greatness’ campaign aims to collect and provide them. Take a look and join-in. Thank a coach for what they did for you. We can’t take coaches for granted. We CAN give them the thanks they deserve. Share your videos! – H.P.

Cheers, coach!