The Boom in Baby Snatching (Hysteria)

Hi Readers! You’ll recall that a few posts back I was ranting about the CNN video clip on how to keep your baby safe from being kidnapped.

Well, I ended up writing a whole column about the issue for my syndicate, Creators. So here’s the CNN article — “How to Guard Against Baby Snatchers.” And here’s mine on how to guard against CNN and its harsh admonitions to new moms.

I guess what really irks me more and more is the idea that “convenience” is a dirty word when it comes to parenting — especially mothering. And that even if it is ALMOST unheard of for a baby to be snatched from a hospital room while the mom is in the bathroom, CNN says that is still NO REASON for a mom to be so LAZY as to not bring the baby into the bathroom with her, just in case.

Why are we supposed to completely ignore our own needs or even preferences to thwart a nearly non-existent danger? What makes a mom “good” just because she is martyring herself for no reason? Where did this impossible and cruel standard come from? (Stay tuned: I’m reading a book that just may answer that question and will write about it soon.) Till then, remember: the only good parent is a parent who is really worried and stressed!  — L.

A Bouncing Bundle of Kidnappable Joy

Hi Readers! Feeling a little sane and optimistic today? Shame on you! It is your DUTY, as an AMERICAN to live in a state of CONSTANT FEAR for your children starting the minute they pop out! To that end,  here CNN explains how to avoid the scourge of baby snatchings.

Well, maybe scourge is not exactly the right word. Eventually the network admits that baby snatchings happened all of once last year, and three times the year before (in a country where about 4 million children are born annually). But, hey! That’s no reason to EVER let down your guard. Because “HALF” of all these snatchings — i.e., I guess, half of the baby last year — occur in the mom’s own room! So please, new mom, for God’s sake never go to the bathroom “EVEN FOR A SECOND” (thanks, CNN!) without bringing your baby with you, or summoning someone to GUARD the little snatchable.  Because your distrust of EVERYONE at ALL TIMES must NEVER LET UP!

What happens when you DON’T pay close enough attention? Well, if it isn’t immediately clear to you, you silly sap, here’s a note from a reader that should open your all-too-trusting eyes:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Speaking of doctor craziness. 3 weeks ago I gave birth to my 3rd child. I thought I had seen it all, until they gave me a card with several blood dots on it. They gave me a sealed sample of my newborns blood “in case he gets taken, you have a DNA sample for identification.” Um… So congratulations on your baby, here’s a DNA sample for the foregone assumption that one day he’ll be kidnapped and killed. WTH? Why are we so freaked out that we’re providing DNA samples at birth now? It wasn’t done 5 years ago when I had my last baby. Culture of fear. — A Reader in Oregon

So, new  moms, here’s the drill: GUARD your baby at all times. SUSPECT EVERYONE of nefarious motives. ASSUME your baby is the focus of the world’s evil intentions. And remember: Your darling could STILL end up in a ditch.

But don’t forget to coo at their tiny little toes! — L.

CNN’s Great Idea to Get Kids Playing Outside!

Hi Readers! Friday night I was on CNN with Rick Sanchez, talking about how Take Our Kids to the Park & Leave Them There Day went. (Just fine, thanks!) The affable anchor then lamented the fact that he and his family live in a lovely suburb of Atlanta, but the playgrounds are always EMPTY. And then — he had a great idea of how to fill them again.


Put a cop in the park! (“Ah, but what if the cop is a kidnapper?” asked my smart aleck 12-year-old who is getting used to the way most Americans think.)

Anyway, the point is: This is an idea that is doable and doesn’t seem to have a downside. Towns have cops and cops are supposed to be outside, on the beat, getting to know the community.  Put a cop at the local playground from, say, 3 to 7 on weekdays (more hours on weekends) and it’s like sprinkling a parched field. Suddenly, it blooms anew! Parents are no longer scared to let their kids go to the park. The kids who go, run into other kids. The kids start to play together, they get exercise, they make up games, they create community and the cop is making the neighborhood family-friendly again.

“It’s just like the old days, when we had parkies!” said Curtis Sliwa, when I mentioned the idea on his radio show  yesterday. Before my time, apparently, the New York City Parks Department used to have an adult or two in each park to watch the kids, lend out equipment, maybe even start a game of this or that.  If parks can’t afford parkies anymore, maybe the police department can afford, well, coppies, since it is in everyone’s interest to make the streets and playgrounds safe, and that’s what a local cop can do.

So: What do you think of this idea? Especially if you happen to be in law enforcement, I’d like to know if it makes as much sense to you as it does to me! And if it does make sense — let’s figure out how to make it happen! — Lenore

Wouldn't it be nice if kids gathered at playgrounds on their own? Rick Sanchez has a way to make that happen!


Hi Readers! I’m writing this today, because by evening tomorrow, I have a feeling I will be in the crosshairs for something that has happened to some child somewhere in this country, or even another country that has heard about Saturday’s “Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day.”

After doing nine TV interviews, a couple dozen radio interviews, and being written about in papers that called me everything from  “crazy” to “moron”  — and one that even ran a political cartoon showing despondent kids abandoned by their drunk parents, who are raising a toast to  “unsupervised play” (because no one except drunks would even consider the notion of taking their eyes off their children, ever) — the media has succeeded in doing to me what it does to most Americans on a daily basis: It is making me think in terms of the worst case scenario. It is making it hard for me to remember that what I am recommending is what children do all over the world — play at the local playground, with each other, without constant parental supervision, once they reach the age of 7 or 8. That is, once they reach the age that most children in other countries start walking, without their parents, to school.

So tomorrow, when, thanks to the odds in a country of about 60 million children, one of them fractures an arm or, God forbid, suffers anything worse, I can see where it could very easily become, “We told you so!” and, “It’s all her fault!” on the part of  the media. Media that will not know who to point to when another child tests positive for diabetes, or learns that he has high blood pressure brought on by a sedentary childhood, or dies in a car crash, as 5 or 6 kids do every day.

No, when it comes to kids venturing outside on their own, the media now has a villain, and it will be very easy for the evening news to ignore the “everyday” tragedies of car accidents and ill health, because, of course, it already does. Sure, those things kill kids. But there’s no drama in them.

Yesterday, on CNN, the anchor quoted some Dept. of Justice statistics about the lower crime rate today and then said “even if these are true,” (even if?)  children are still not safe. Then he provided a quote from the father of murdered 12-year-old Polly Klass,  who said that letting any children ever play outside, unsupervised, is a “knuckledheaded” idea.

Interestingly, Polly was kidnapped from her bedroom.

Naturally, CNN does not interview the parents of children killed in cars when it does a story on road trip vacations, or on a new movie that people will have to drive to the theater to see, because this would not make sense. What could the parent say? “I’m begging you: Never drive your child anywhere! It’s a knuckleheaded idea to put your child in peril that way.  Look what happened to mine!”

And of course, 40 times more children are killed in cars each year than are killed, as Polly was, by a stranger.

So all I can say is: I’m bracing for blame and trying to remember that the whole idea of kids getting out of the house, and meeting each other, and playing on their own, even for just 10 minutes, is a worthy thing.  — Lenore

The more kids outside, the safer and happier the neighborhood.

CNN, Tonight. Me.

Hi Folks! I’ll be on CNN tonight at about 8:30 Eastern Time discussing “overparenting.” I feel a little bad for helicopter parents because overnight they’ve been knocked off their perch, even after it was society that hounded them into doing and buying and fretting in the first place.  That darn pop culture! So hard to pin down.  — L.

Hate to Say I Told You So…

Well, no I don’t. Secretly, I think we all love it. So, here’s a great article from CNN of all places (the network some dub the Child-Napping Network), all about how we have to get kids playing outside more, and schools have to give them more run-around time, too, instead of just more test prep. Otherwise the kids are going to end up with all the things I don’t like to dwell on: Obesity, heart disease, etc. The article dubbed kids’ sit-around lifestyle “A Coronary Time Bomb.”

And get this: One reason so few kids are outside, according to CNN, is…the cable news cycle, scaring parents into keeping their kids cooped up inside.

Hmm. Well, we take our Free-Range promoting stories where we can get ’em. — Lenore

CNN or C.A.N. — Child Abduction Network?

One reason Americans are so extremely terrified about child abductions is that whenever we turn on the TV or computer, there’s another one. As if these horrific crimes are happening 24/7, when actually the media is only too happy to fly across the country — or world — to set up camp wherever a cute, white girl has disappeared. Tight news budgets get thrown out the window  for a story like this. But because that story then shows up on our screen at home,  it feels like it’s happening right around the corner. All the time.

What happens when there is NOT a new story like this for the media to feast upon? Instead of traveling to another state, or country, they’ll travel back in time. The show 20/20 just did an hour-long look at the Etan Patz kidnapping from 30 years ago. And here’s CNN’s Nancy Grace page , from a few days ago: “Third Grader Stepped Off School Bus, Disappeared.”

Start reading it: ” With the weekend arriving and a long day finally over, 8-year-old Cherrie Mahan stepped off her yellow school bus on a chilly Friday around 4 p.m….”

Oh, by the way, CNN finally adds at the end of paragraph three: This was in 1985.

I’m not saying that it doesn’t make sense to sometimes revisit a cold case in hopes of solving it. I do hope someone solves this one. But it begins to  look suspiciously self-serving when networks desperate for viewers keep coming up with the exact same kind of story, served up any which way they can. How about the cold case of an African-American teenager gone missing? Or a schitzophrenic adult? Or someone who isn’t winsome, white and under five feet tall?

A newly Free-Range mom dropped me a little note this morning trying to help all of us (herself included)  put our fears in perspective: The chance of a child being kidnapped and murdered? 1 in 1.5 million. The chance of a child ending up at some point with some form of depression? 1 in 4.

It is extremely depressing, disheartening, lose-your-faith-in-humanity-izing, to keep being presented with the most vile crimes on earth as if that’s what life  is all about. As if that’s just what you can expect if you’re bringing up a kid these days.

So what’s the alternative?

One of the chapters in my book is called, “Turn Off the News.” At the end it has some suggestions for how to get started  going Free-Range, including, “Get up and go out. Spend that hour you were going to watch ‘Law and Order’ on a walk with the kids instead. Look around at all the unspeakable crimes not being committed. This is called the Real World. (Not to be confused with MTV’s version, which is a crime all  its own.)”

When we depend on the media to shape our world view, we’re going to get a world view that looks a whole lot like the view from a harried, ratings-obsessed assignment desk: If it bleeds, it leads. If it’s sad, we’re glad! If it’s an abduction, ramp up production! 

Which they sure do.

But if a network thinks its job is to terrify us, maybe it’s time to turn the tables and terrify them: Let them watch their viewers mysteriously disappear, never to be seen again.

Someday, they may even do a cold case special on us. — Lenore