Travel (with Kids) Advisory

Hi Readers! I am on board with this (even though I am guilty of some of the “don’ts” myself!). The list-maker, Darreby Ambler, is a writer and mother of 3 from Bath, Maine. – L. 

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Dear Free-Range Kids: Thought you might like  this old list I found in a drawer yesterday.  When I read the first sentence, I thought immediately of Free-Range! These were the travel rules we used with our kids when they were smaller.  They are now 15, 19, and 21, and travel independently and joyfully around the world. (You can tell from the rules that it wasn’t always this way!  Hang in there, parents!)  — Darreby, in Maine
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Ambler Family Travel Rules and Responsibilities
  1. It’s good to talk to strangers.  The outside world is full of them.  The place you don’t have to deal with them is at home, which is where people who can’t cope with strangers will stay next time.
  2. Each traveler is responsible for finding things to be excited about, and sharing that enthusiasm.
  3. If the enthusiasm of others embarrasses you, pretend otherwise.  Being cool is dull, except in a sports car.
  4. Unusual foods are part of the point.
  5. Staying home is usually more comfortable than traveling, but traveling is more interesting.  Prioritize well.
  6. Travel disruptions are normal and a good way to show your readiness for more challenging adventures.
  7. Remember that your dislikes do not make interesting conversation.
  8. Wash your hands.  You have no immunity to foreign germs.  Throwing up is not interesting.
  9. You have travel in your future that you can not even imagine.  Adhering to these guidelines makes you eligible for such travel.

    Kids: If you travel nicely, you get to see things like THIS. (From one of my favorite countries: Turkey!)

The Highlander Takes the Low Road

Hi Readers! I know these Toyota ads have been running for a while, but I still cannot believe that some ad agency thinks the best way to sell parents on a car is to tell them their kids despise everything they believe in and enjoy — possibly including THEM. And that the best way to show our love for our children is to chauffeur them in a TV-equipped bubble, where they can drown out anything that does not amuse them. And, of course, that driving (individual!!) kids to school is the natural order of things.

This is what I mean when I talk about the many ways pop culture molds us as parents. If we turn on the TV and it really looks like EVERYONE is driving their kids to school, that becomes the norm and, in turn, everyone starts driving their kids to school.

I know this is a car commercial, so it’s not going to say: For God’s sake, why don’t those able-bodied boys WALK to school? Or ride their BIKES? If they’re such good friends, obviously going the same direction, wouldn’t it make sense for them to amble off to school TOGETHER and talk on the WAY, instead of communicating through CAR WINDOWS? (Or if they live really far, even — hey — carpool?) When we don’t see any of those questions on TV, the only question becomes WHAT we drive, rather than WHY.

Yes, all of that is what this ad (infuriatingly cute nonetheless) got rumbling inside of me.

Meantime, the ad BELOW just reinforces the idea that cool kids get driven to and from school, losers take the bus. (Cool, RICH kids apparently also get the blonde chicks.)

I guess it’s a little much to expect a car company to embrace public transit, but still — let US at least remember that more kids are killed in car crashes than on school buses. So if you’re a parent who REALLY cares…which would you choose?

Bumper Car Craziness

Hi Readers! A question for you:

Q: When is a bumper car NOT a bumper car?

A: When you are no longer allowed to bump it.

Such is the case in England right now, where three amusement parks have banned bumper car bumping, and insist that patrons who climb into the cars drive them slowly and use them only for “dodging” each other.

I’m sure you can (LAWYERS LAWYERS LAWYERS) guess why. And as this Telegraph article says: It is probably only a matter of time before the cars come equipped with airbags too. Or maybe a lawyer just rides alongside you. — Lenore

An amusement park (Coney Island) from back when amusing was not a crime.

What Can Happen if You DO Take Your Kids Out of the Car for Every Errand

Hi Readers! Just yesterday I was being interviewed by a reporter who admitted she had let her kids, ages 5 and 2, wait in the car while she ran into UPS to drop off a package. This took all of a minute or two, but when she told her husband about it, he said, “That was so dangerous! Promise me you’ll never do that again!”
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Why was it “so dangerous”? Answer: It wasn’t. It was only dangerous if some very strange, unpredictable thing happened, like a predator passing by UPS at just that instant who was eagle-eyed, lightening quick, and desperate for two kids at once. Need I remind anyone here how rare — nay, almost unheard of that scenario is? (60,000,000 children age 15 and under in America, about 115 kidnapped by strangers/year.)  
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As unlikely as that scenario is, it plays out in a lot of folks’ heads. So maybe  we should try to get them playing the FOLLOWING scenario instead. After all: Unpredictable is unpredicatble. — L.
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Dear Free-Range Kids: Here in Auckland, NZ we had a tornado this week — nothing on the devastating scale in the US, but a very unusual thing here, and with no warning.  Tragically one man was killed, but this article is about the narrow escape of three small kids whose mum left them in the car for a moment while she popped into a shop…only to have a practically unheard of tornado strike that carpark at that moment, throw the car in the air and dump it on its roof!!  NOT in the realm of predictable risks  I would say!
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Great thing — the kids, being secure in their carseats, were only scratched and shocked. Because of the way the car fell, if mum had been in the car with them she probably would have been killed. Second great thing – NO criticism of the mum in the article, just praise for her great use of secure carseats.  And it occurred to me, that given the extra time it would have taken for her to get all three out of the car, they would probably all have been standing by the car when the twister struck, and…probably not such a great outcome. — A Kiwi Mum
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Let’s all try to remember that we can never predict an unpredictable occurrence. It’s pretty much up to fate, not “good parenting” what happens.  — L

We would be a less blame-obsessed society if we remembered the role of fate.

Quit Ragging on the Car-jack Parents!

Hi Readers: Here’s one of many incensed folks who is slamming the parents who had left their baby in the car for a few seconds when along came a carjacker. (Video below.) The parents — right nearby — valiantly broke the window, climbed in and stopped the guy. But many commenters are saying SHAME ON THEM. They were “irresponsible” for being out of the car (which was left with its keys in the ignition, heat on) even a few feet away, for even a few seconds.  Here’s one comment:

The whole situation could have been avoided if they acted like rational adults.

Leaving a car with the keys in the ignition is akin to screaming, “Hey, come steal my vehicle!” And the Richmans left their 6-month-old, who can’t defend herself, right where a criminal could find her.

They claim a good reason — it was cold in Kansas City — but somehow the rest of us living in cold climes manage to deal with that one.

I’ve taken my child out of the car many a time despite the freezing cold simply because I wanted her to be safe. I picked my locations carefully: if I was at a gas station in my hometown, I’d ask someone I knew to watch her. Better yet, I’ve opted out on situations where I knew it was impossible to both accomplish a task and keep her warm.

So now GOOD parents are expected to avoid ALL situations when they can’t have their children literally in their arms or held by the hand every single second?

I can already see this one rare, disturbing incident  being used as the next, all-trumping, “What If?” query: “What if you are returning a shopping cart to the cart return for 10 seconds and your kids are carjacked? Don’t risk it! It happened in Kansas!” etc., etc.

They say hard cases make bad law. Weird, scary, extremely unusual incidents make bad prototypes for parental behavior. — Lenore

P.S. Readers — This just in. A police captain telling parents that kids left alone in cars for any length of time face carbon monoxide poisoning, carjacking and predators who are on the constant lookout for prey. “In this day and age,” says someone else on the report, you can NEVER leave your kids alone, even for the blink of an eye. Parents who do face jail time.

Progress. And a Carjacking

Hey Readers: Here’s an odd story of a Texas mom who took her 2-year-old son fishing, early in the morn, with her boyfriend. The mom decided it was too cold, and put the boy back in the car while she went to retrieve the gear. In that window of time, a guy came, stole the car, drove off with it, ran a red light and turned around — after realizing there was  a kid in the back seat!

The mom yelled at him. He yelled at the mom: “Why’d you leave a kid in there?” He fled, cops came and — here’s the progress — the mom was NOT cited for depraved indifference to a child, or endangerment or anything!

Because she WASN’T indifferent. She was sensitive to her boy (it’s cold!) and not being irresponsible (going to get the gear and return to the car) and once in a while, weird things happen.

That is not negligence and kudos to the Galveston police for realizing that!  — Lenore

A Boy, A Dad, A Tragedy and A Big Question

Readers — I just read this story and am sick to my heart. A dad brought his 5 year old son to the park then crossed the street to talk to some friends. The boy ran after him. He got struck by a car and died. Now the father is in jail and the charge has just been upgraded from “felony cruelty to children, reckless conduct and simple battery” to involuntary manslaughter.

I cannot imagine how that father would feel even if he weren’t in jail. It’s boggling. This is a tragedy pure and simple. But the issues are not so simple at all.

We live in a society that does not believe in accidents any more, or bad luck, or fate, or even, when it comes to children’s safety, “God’s will.” That’s good, in the sense that it makes us strap our kids into car seats, and take some basic precautions. But it’s corrosive in that when anything bad does happen to a child, we almost always blame the parents. The media does it, the DA does it (perhaps for political gain), and the neighbors may well do it, too. Sometimes we do it almost reflexively, as if to protect ourselves. “Well I would never do that so nothing bad will ever happen to my family.”

As if none of us has ever lost track of our kids for a sec.

Now, certainly, it makes sense to keep watch over a young child at the park. But if we slip up for a minute, if we do something human and not  intended to hurt anyone, especially our beloved child,   should that count as “cruelty”? What if it’s something that normally is NOT particularly dangerous? What if we go to the basement to put in a load of laundry and our child follows us and falls down the stairs? What if throw a ball to our child and, trying to catch it, he runs into a tree? What if we go across the street to say hi to a neighbor and unbeknownst to us our child follows and is hit, like this boy, by a car?

Is there no split-second that a parent is legally allowed to not be physically protecting his kindergartener from every possible danger? That’s a tough precedent to set. Think about even a child on a swing. Can we watch him there, knowing he COULD fall off? Or must we sit on the swing and hold him on our lap?

And didn’t a lot of us walk to school on our OWN, starting in kindergarten? I did. My husband and his siblings did. If we’d been hit by a car, no one would have arrested our parents. They would have grieved with them.

Right now, I am grieving for that boy and his family. And I am grieving for a society that is so convinced nothing bad ever happens to the children of GOOD parents that it is willing to put this man on trial.  A man who is already in hell. — Lenore

 

It's hard to think of any kid dying.