Defending Free-Range Parenting — in Divorce Court

Hi Readers — Allow me to introduce Rob, a dad headed for divorce court tomorrow. He sent this note asking whether I think what he did “proves” he is a bad dad, as claims his ex.

I have no idea who he is, why he got a divorce, or anything, really, other than the fact the incident he describes below strikes me as a decent parenting decision. Here goes:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I am going to court on Monday morning to request an increase in my child custody from 6 days to 7 days per 2 weeks. Pivotal to my ex wife’s argument to deny me this increase is that,  “The plaintiff [my ex-wife] is concerned that the defendant has in the past made poor choices travelling with children. One one occasion, leaving their son alone at Disney World…” Here are the details from my ex-wife’s Affidavit to the court:

“In August 2009 the Defendant [me] traveled with the children to Disney World. He left [our son] alone when he and [our daughter] went on a ride. [Our son] had a cell phone which I had given to him… It is not appropriate to leave children alone in Disney World.”
She is using this as one of the fundamental reasons to deny an increase in my children’s custody. Personally, I don’t think this was an unsafe act. My son was never lost — he was attending a Jedi training camp inside one of the most safe,  secure and child-friendly places on the planet.
He made four attempts in over four hours to be chosen as part of a mock Jedi training camp. The first three we waited with him. The fourth time, my daughter and I returned about 10 minutes after the event was done and met my son at the agreed place, as arranged.
The children and I had also drilled and practiced extensively prior to leaving for Orlando regarding, “What to do if lost.” Which he never was! Our son is very responsible, intelligent, social 9-year-old. I don’t think that leaving him in Disney World for 30 minutes while attending a Disney-organized event should impact my ability to gain increased custody of my children.
Hi Rob — Neither do I. Disney is a place known not for abductions but for looooooong lines — lines you lingered in for several hours until, like many of us,  you found yourself torn: One child bored to tears. One desperate to become a  Jedi. You dealt with the situation in a safe, sane way — or so it seems to me. And frankly: What a minor “situation” this was! When I think about what 9-year-0lds were expected to do just a few generations ago –run errands, harvest crops, shoot dinner and drag it home — it makes me weep to think even 30 minutes unsupervised is now considered way beyond what they can handle, much less something that deserves the court’s attention!  I wish you luck. — Lenore