A Very Heartening Note!

Hi Readers! Remember this story — about the mom whose neighbors called the police because they saw her three children playing outside, unattended? That sort of epitomized my fears for our country: Busybodies AND the authorities meddling in normal  childhood, as if it’s too dangerous. This new note from the mom gives me great heart. Let’s hope it bodes well for 2011! — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: All week I have been wanting to write to you. Fortunately, this time, with good news!

It has been a year since you posted my story regarding the police telling me my kids are too young to play outside. Because of  this movement, my life has changed for the better! I am not longer scared letting my kids go out because so many people around the US wrote letters of support. It feels really nice to know there are people who are on my side!

In February, my husband lost his job. For economic reasons, we moved to Oregon — which turned out to be a blessing. To make a long story short, my husband found a job, we bought our first house AND our neighborhood is wonderful. Most of the kids here are Free-Range Kids, so my family finally fits in! It is nice seeing normal kids ride bikes, play basketball on the street, and play with each other.

Two months ago, the most awesome thing happened. My kids were playing outside with the neighbor kids, and my 7-year-old, Muhammad, came home. He was wearing a police badge sticker. He said, “Mom, a police officer gave this to me.” Of course I had a flashback. Then Muhammad continued, “He was really nice. He asked us what our names are and he gave us these stickers.”

I can’t tell you how happy I was. What a nice and smart police officer. Instead of him questioning my kids about why they were outside, he was having a nice conversation with them. Therefore, he was doing his job. I am guessing he was making friends with the neighborhood kids, so they know that if there is any danger, they’ll be comfortable talking to him. Isn’t that what a police officer is supposed to do?

Meantime, at school I have told a couple of teachers about Free-Range Kids and they agreed with some of the ideas! My son’s teacher said the school doesn’t do apple bobbing anymore because of “germs.” But she agreed the odds of someone getting sick is unlikely. Another teacher agreed with me that the media scares people thinking their kids are in danger, etc.

I look back at the last year, and I feel a sense of relief. My life is so much easier. Because I feel more comfortable being a “Free Range Mom,” my kids have matured so much. They have learned more social politics, and because they are outside more, they drive me less crazy. The whole family is happier!

Let’s hear it for defending Free-Range Parents! — Shaylene Haswarey

Outrage of the Week: Mom Who Let Kids Play Outside Threatened by Cops

Hi Readers! Let’s give this woman some good ideas. She needs them — as do we all!

Dear Free-Range Kids: My name is Shaylene Haswarey, and I want to share a story with you today.

This morning, my doorbell rang, and two police officers were present.  They asked me if I am the mother of my children, and I said yes.  They said someone called them because my three oldest kids (ages 9, 7, and 6) were walking around our GATED town-house complex, unattended. I said, “They found a cat, and I let them go out and feed it.”

The officer said that he’d been called by a concerned neighbor who’d added that yesterday he’d seen my oldest child  outside in his pajamas in the rain. (My son was wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt.)

I told the officer I am from Idaho, and kids play outside like this all the time.  He said my kids are too young to be out,  because we do not have a yard, and this is a complex.  He also told me there are predators around here.  He finally told me if I let my kids out again he will have to call social services because I am endangering my children! What is wrong with this picture???

1.  Is it against the law to go out in the rain in your pajamas?
2.  My kids know how to watch for cars.  They were following the cat and feeding it.
3.  There are NO predators in my neighborhood. I looked on Megan’s Law, and there are only 6 in our whole city, and none are in my neighborhood.  I live in Aliso Viejo, CA.  Aliso Viejo is a small city in between Irvine and Mission Viejo.  These cities rank #1 by the FBI for the safest cities in America with a pop. of 100,000+.  Therefore, Aliso Viejo is safer than the city I grew up in in Idaho!

After the police officer asked for me and my husband’s name and birthdates, I freaked out!  I am NOT going to let my kids go outside without me again!  I don’t want social services knocking on my door.  What do you think I should do if anything, about this?  My husband’s family is from India.  They have a big house there.  I am thinking of going to their village this September and staying there for a few months, so my kids can be normal kids. — Shaylene

Dear Shaylene: Isn’t it incredible that you are living the “American Dream” — a house, four kids, nice town — and longing for the kind of childhood a kid can get in a much less affluent country? Meantime, I put this question to readers: What can this mom do to prove to the cop that she’s not off base? How can we she convince him (and other cops and other neighbors) that being outside is normal and healthy for kids? Should we all call the police department there? Start a petition? Any ideas? — Lenore