A Child Goes Off with Adult —

Hi Readers: This piece below was originally posted at The Rustic Child, a blog about kids who take risks, do chores and entertain themselves (if you can imagine!). It’s by Jilly O’Brien, a New Zealand mom of 2 who’s a teacher studying to be an educational psychologist. I asked her if I could reprint it here, it’s so inspiring, and she said yes! So — voila! L.


There is a school somewhere in the US (as posted on freerangekids blog), which sent a letter home to all parents warning them to be on the lookout for “stranger danger”. Some bloke who goes to the bakery (every day) had spoken to some kids who go there (every day) and this was therefore a matter of utmost concern. Apparently, the letter said “The situation is now in the hands of the police. Fortunately for us today, all of our children are safe.” What from? Doughnut Man – that dastardly kidnapper of children?

In the South Island of New Zealand where I live, at about the same time, our local newspaper – the CO News – ran a story titled “Buddy fills special place in young boys life”.  This Buddy programme is where a child, who needs a bit of extra time with an adult, is paired up with someone who has the same interests as them, and has a lovely time.

The article was about a10 year old lad who had lost his grandfather, and so his single mum said she “had to reassess how she was going to raise her son”.  She did just that, contacted the buddy programme and now her boy spends all his Saturdays on a retired farmer’s farm, helping with the tractors, making stuff in the shed, sorting out the bees, doing up old machinery. Without her.

Have a go at this multiple choice quiz. The article goes on to say that when Jan Bird, the Buddy co-ordinator is approached about big buddies, she is careful to ………………..

A) Make sure big buddies are police vetted?

Probably, but it’s not the point, it’s not the issue, it’s just something that has to be done.

B) To make sure they are not alone with the child? Er, no.

C) To make sure that the parents are always around? Wrong again.

What Jan Bird is careful about is “putting our young buddy with a big buddy who I know is going to be a good match”. Obvious.

I could list all the positives from this for everyone involved, but I’d hope you could already work them out. There are many children on the list who really want a Buddy and the organisation are always advertising for more possible Buddies to come on board. The kids’ parents, the kids, the community and the Buddies themselves all agree to the value of this initiative.

If the buddy programme ever sent out a letter to parents, it might go:  “Fortunately for us today, all of our children are happy, healthy, free, helpful, safe and learning to be decent citizens.”

Perhaps that’s what needs to be mailed out to parents at the silly school with the bakery concerns, instead of the overwhelming horror of someone trying to make conversation whilst eating a custard slice. — Jilly O’Brien

Boys & Strangers in Public Restrooms: Two Stories

Hi Readers! Here are two recent comments, prompted by the Anderson Cooper post below this one. Which bathroom encounter makes YOU feel queasy? – L.
Dear Free-Range Kids; On a long drive, we stopped for gas and for my 8-year-old son to use the restroom.  While in the mens’ room, the lock got stuck on his stall.  He couldn’t get out!  I was wandering a bit in the mini-mart, but a man figured out I was his mom and let me know he was stuck.  Just as I was opening the door a bit to ask my son what he needed, he walked out — a second man had helped him get out of the stall.
So not one but *two* strangers in a gas station bathroom helped my son when he needed it. Just another story demonstrating that most people are actually helpful and nice, not menacing.  — Stephanie Ozenne, in California
Dear Free-Range Kids:  Last weekend we went camping in north central Florida.  I was brushing my teeth in the bath house when in walked a mom with her son.  I looked over to see a boy who was at least 8 years old.  I was floored that she’d bring him into the LADIES’ bath house, and judging by the humiliated look on the kid’s face, he wasn’t real keen on it, either.
It got worse.  She went on to brush her teeth and then tell her son that she would brush HIS teeth for him because she, “doesn’t trust him to do it right.”  I kid you not, she then brushed the boy’s teeth.  It was all I could do to keep my own mouth shut.


And we wonder why boys aren’t growing up to become men? ! — Kelly Down South

Would you let your son go to the gas station bathroom ALONE?