How Do You Tell A Total Helicopter to Back Off?

Okay, Readers. Let’s help this mom out!

Dear Free-Range Kids:  Finding this blog several years ago validated my desire to back off and let my kids be kids. At that time, I was mostly associating with “helicopter parents” and feeling inadequate for not wanting to micromanage my children’s every waking moment. And yet, one helicopter parent I continue to associate with is really starting to get on my nerves, to the point where I don’t know how to respond any more.

My 9-year-old son is good friends with a boy in our neighborhood, who lives only a couple of blocks away in our quiet suburban town.  The mom and I are friendly, but not friends. Today the kids played at her house after school.  And today was the second time she flat-out refused to allow my son to walk home from her house by himself.  Even after I told her that’s what I wanted him to do — and in spite of the fact that that’s what he enjoys doing.  So she had another woman who was visiting her drive him home!  TWO BLOCKS.

I am flabbergasted and what I really want to say is,  “How dare you completely disregard MY wishes for MY child?”  But alienating her would not be a good thing!

A bit of back story for this specific instance:  In recent weeks there have been several break-ins in the neighborhood, but all at night, when no one is home.  And, unfortunately, someone was robbed at gunpoint in front of their house on the next block over.  But again, this was late at night, well after dark.  All of these incidents are extremely unusual for our quiet town.  And really: Who the hell is going to hold up at 9-year-old?  Even ignorant thieves know the kid won’t have a watch or money.  And the “bad guys” are not abducting children in broad daylight.  They’re committing crimes of opportunity under cover of darkness.  Moreover, the last time this mom refused to allow my son to walk home alone was at 11 in the morning on a beautiful, sunny Saturday in May, when there hadn’t been any crime in our neighborhood for at least a dozen years.

So here’s the question:  what do I say to her NEXT time? I need to formulate a rational, civilized response to keep the peace.  Otherwise, I’m going to go crazy on her ass!!!  Yeah, I’m kidding.

Sort of.

Outrage of the Week: 14 y.o. Arrested for “Abduction” Of Toddler He Helped

Readers — Once again, I’m just at a loss for words. Here’s the story of a 14-year-old boy named Edwin who was shopping with his mom at a Burlington Coat Factory in Florida. When he saw a 3-year-old  girl looking lost he took her around to try to find her mom. His own mom saw him go looking and said she would try to help, too.

Then Edwin saw a group of women leaving the store and thought the girl’s mom might be among them. So he went out of the store and finally took the little girl’s hand. When he realized the mom wasn’t among this group, he returned to the store. He met up with his mom and the girl’s mom. He handed the little girl over and proceeded to shop for shoes with his own mom.

And then he was arrested for “attempted abduction.”  The press arrived as he was lead out of the store in handcuffs. This wonderful column by Mike Thomas in the Orlando Sentinel says it best:

Edwin is quite the kidnapper. He brings his mom along. He hangs out in front of the store until the victim’s mother shows up. And then he returns to the store and starts shopping for shoes.

That’s one cool customer.

Detectives arrived and investigated. They then slapped the cuffs on Edwin and paraded him out in front of television cameras by now waiting outside.

“We tried to be sensitive to the fact he was 14,” said Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jeff Williamson. “We made an effort to keep direct questions out of his face.”

Hardly. Two reporters shoved microphones in Edwin’s face without any objection from the detectives escorting him. One of the investigators probably could have bitten one of the reporters on the arm.

“Can you tell us why you’re in handcuffs?” a reporter shouted out. “Did you try to kidnap someone?”

Despite his young age, one television station identified Edwin and put the video of his arrest on its website…. But look at the evidence.

We have the little girl’s mother losing track of her daughter.

We have Edwin’s mother not taking the girl from Edwin and turning her over to a store employee.

And we have Edwin in handcuffs.

I’m not sure the problem here is with the 14-year-old.

Interestingly enough, the girl’s mother never did press charges. But the Sheriff’s Office decided it would, ultimately settling on a charge of false imprisonment.

“He was in custody of the child and had no authority to be so,” said Capt. Angelo Nieves. “The thing is to make clear we have not charged him with an offense that did not occur.”


Let’s recall, meantime, what happens when it becomes the norm to suspect any Good Samaritan, of any age, under any circumstances, of the most disgusting of motives. Recall the story of the man in England who also saw a lost toddler, this one on the side of the road he was driving by. He thought of stopping the car, scooping her up and driving her around till he could find where she’d wandered off from. But then he thought, “What will it look like if I’ve got a little girl who’s not mine in my car?” He knew exactly what it would look like.  So he didn’t pick her up.

And then she drowned.

I hate that story (but can’t find it on Google — can you, readers? Please provide a link!) And I hate the one above it. When we react to our fellow human beings with the very worst, most vile assumptions first, we are less and less apt to reach out and help each other.  That’s not a safer world.  It’s the opposite. — Lenore

P.S. A reader named Fred did find a link to the English tragedy.

Moral of story: Avoid forlorn children!

A Normal Day at the Park (It Can Be Done!)

Hi Readers! Here’s a nice note about a normal day — so normal it deserves comment. THIS is the kind of thing I’m talking about with,  “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day.” Fun, sociability, community. NO BIG DEAL! Read on!

Dear Free-Range Kids: The past few times I’ve written to you, I’ve shared stories about anti-Free-Range experiences that I’ve had: the background checks now being done on visitors to the school my daughter will eventually attend, the mom at Target who seemed to want her daughter superglued to her side, instead of being three feet away from her with me standing between them…you know, the typical depressing stuff that makes Free-Range Kids sound so appealing to those of us who want to raise normal human beings, rather than “teacups.”

Fortunately, this is not going to be one of those stories. :o)

I took my two-and-a-half year old daughter to the park today. We sat at a dirty, splintery and very uncomfortable picnic table to eat our lunch, and didn’t care too much that there was really nowhere to wash our hands. I let her climb the curved metal ladder on the back of the slide–something I would have been too scared to do, even when I was much older than she is–and the jungle gym. I let her check out the creek up close, to see if she could spot the frog we spooked when we first arrived.  We talked to a dad and his two young sons, who were also playing there, even though they were all complete strangers.

But the best part–speaking in terms of Free-Range Kids, at least–was when I saw three UNATTENDED children (I’d guess their ages might have ranged from about 8 to 11 years old) come riding down the big hill on their bikes. The oldest one wiped out on the gravel path and scraped up her elbow, but she barely even batted an eye about it. No screaming as though she was about to die from her very minor injury. When she decided a little while later that ignoring it probably wasn’t the best thing to do, she walked right up to me and asked me if I had a Band-Aid. Ridiculously excited that she wasn’t afraid to approach me–a stranger!–I told her yes, I had a first aid kit in my car, if she wanted to follow us over so I could get it. She did, and I cleaned up her wound, stuck a bandage over it and then told her to wash it more thoroughly when she got home, before sending her back to her brother and sister.

And no one even reported me for “luring” a young girl back to my vehicle. Score one for the Free-Rangers! :o) — Kim

This is NOT Recommended by Free-Range Kids

Hi Readers! I know — some folks out there probably think this is how we Free-Rangers spend our weekends. But it ain’t. Watch and cringe:

Spork Boy Free To Go Back to Dumb School!

Hi Readers! Remember the boy who was suspended for 45 days for bringing his Cub Scout fork/knife/spoon to school to eat his lunch with? Of course you do. Please. We were talking about it yesterday. And the day before. Anyway, here is some great, STRANGE news: After mere worldwide media exposure, including a front page story in the New York Times,  the school has reversed its decision and decided NOT to send the 6-year-old to reform school. It’s almost as if they have come to believe that just because a kid brings what he considers a beloved new eating utensil to school, he is not necessarily a violent felon with murder or at least student-eye-gouging  in his very near future.

Here’s  music to any Free-Ranger’s ears, from the story at

The need for common sense to prevail over the letter of the law was a recurring theme among the boy’s supporters and school safety experts.

“When that common sense is missing, it sends a message of inconsistency to students, which actually creates a less safe environment,” said Kenneth S. Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, a consulting firm. “People have to understand that assessing on a case-by-case basis doesn’t automatically equate to being soft or unsafe.”

Hear that? A bona fide SAFETY EXPERT is recommending that we use our brains and maturity and common sense rather than rigid REGULATIONS to decide what makes sense in terms of school safety.

Wow. A return to making actual, grown-up judgments rather than relying on brainless bureuacracy when it comes to how to run our society? This could be the start of something big.

Zacahary, we raise a fork/knife/spoon in your honor. Your mom’s too. Now go forth and eat lunch. — Lenore

Mom Forced Off Bus for Crying Toddler

Hi Readers — This is not spot-on a Free-Range issue, as far as I can tell, but it sure struck a nerve with me and, it seems, a lot of Canada. A woman and her 20-month-old daughter were riding a bus in Vancouver. The kid kept crying, “No! No! No!”  and when the mom couldn’t calm her down, the bus driver ordered them to get out.

The mom protested. She had three bags, a screaming kid and no stroller!

Tough, said the driver. And that was that. Mom and kid were on the curb.

The mom wrote a note to the bus company. The bus company apologized and sent along 4 free tickets — woo hoo. (I imagine if this were in the States they would have sent along a lawyer, too, even as the reality TV producers circled ’round.) Anyway, that might have been the end of it except for the firestorm the indicent ignited. Canadians are now up in arms about the incident and most, I’m sorry to say, side with the bus driver.

I side with the mom not because I enjoy screaming children on my bus ride (or plane ride, or even elevator ride), but because I know that none of us — toddlers, mothers, fathers — are perfect. We break down. We can’t do everything as quickly or quietly as we’d like. We have rotten days and rotten trips and, sometimes just because that’s the way life is, rotten kids. (Okay, not “rotten.” Let’s say…high-maintenance? Rambunctious? LOUD?)

To demand a world where all children are perfectly well behaved — and to assume that we, as parents, can create that world — is enough to make me scream. And keep screaming, “No! No! No! That is not possible!” Then I’d maybe bite somebody’s ankle.

At least till you gave me a cookie. — Lenore