Show Your Support!

Hi Readers — Here’s a nice note from one of you with some great ideas. Read on! And to any New York City dwellers: If you want to join me, I’ll be at the Ancient Playground at 10 tomorrow morning. That’s next to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at 85th and 5th. Maybe see you there! Otherwise, folks, aim for a 10 a.m. meet up at your local playground, to maximize the chance that we all run into each other! — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Lenore is right in that if anything happens to any child at a park this weekend, probably even a child that the parent is holding on to as they go down the slide, it will be blamed on Lenore.  So I encourage all of you who comment on this site to both email your successful day to this site, and also to your local newspapers.

Flood the newspapers Saturday nightwith what a wonderful day your child had at the park playing with all of the children in their neighborhoods who they had never met before.  And if, on Sunday, they only write about the handful of bad things that happen, flood the newspapers, Letters to the Editor again. And if there is anything on talk radio, flood that with your calls too. Fear is a louder voice so we must overwhelm it with numbers.

What Might Happen If You Let Your Kid Play Outside, Alone?

Hi Readers! In response to my downer about dealing with a tsunami of media “What If?”s, here’s one woman’s note answer to: What happens when you, with some slight hesitation, let your child go outside on her own?

Dear Lenore: I understand your anxiety, and can only join the chorus of those saying please, please don’t give up.  Your book has SIGNIFICANTLY changed our family for the better, and we were already what I called “half-range” to begin with!

My daughter (10) has been riding her bike to school for a month now, with buddies, but no adult.  It started out with just her wanting to and me saying yes, which traveled through the grapevine and triggered a flood of calls from the other moms.  “Are you REALLY allowing this?  Are you nuts?  What if this/that?  But but but…”  And many conversations and several holes bitten through my tongue later, we have 4 regular riders and many more that, although they aren’t allowed on the school ride, are allowed a wider radius of the neighborhood for riding.

The whole pack of them roam the neighborhood after school and on the weekends, with no adults around.  They’re all still alive and well, some of the moms have relaxed and seen the light, and the kids have met many neighbors they didn’t know at all before.  One elderly neighbor has been given the nickname “Candy Man” because when he sees the pack of them go by, he goes out to the street with a big bag of candy and lets them each choose one.  (Needless to say, they looooove the Candy Man!)  Another one has a dachshund they just adore, so they’ll go up and ask if they can “borrow” her dog to pet for a while.  Sometimes they’ll show up en masse at another kids house, grab the family dog, and take it for a walk (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen 8 kids walking 1 dog).

Without your book and this site, I don’t know that I would have allowed the school ride.  And look what it started!  I won’t be taking my daughter to the park and leaving her there on Saturday.  I’ll be telling her to get on her bike and GO to the park and hang out with her buddies, and be home when the street lights come on!  (Meanwhile, I’ll be leisurely reading on the couch!) — A Free-Range Mom

Let’s Hear it for Some Positive Press, Part II

Okay, first, here’s the positive piece I showed you folks yesterday. It ran on The Huffington Post.

Now here’s another, from Canada, by Shannon Proudfoot at the Canwest news service. She even found a dad to interview who did  not think the idea was nuts.

As for TV, this interview was fun to do, since the anchor — funny, bright Rosanna Scotto, an anchor on New York’s local Fox channel — was openminded.

And  here’s an earlier post on the topic that ran in SFGate, by Amy Graff, who is going to take her own 7 year old to the park and let her play for a little bit.

And finally, for the moment, voila a nice interview we me in Spiked Online, Britain’s version of Slate. It is currently their top story.

There’s hope!

I’ll be on Laura Ingraham’s radio show at 10:15 this morning and on Brian Lehrer, on New York’s WNYC, at 11:30. — Lenore

Blame

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.

As If TV Didn’t Scare Parents Enough…

Hi Readers — Just watching the Take Our Kids to the Park Day story on WABC, one of my four TV appearances today (WCBS, WABC, WPIX and WNBC) and find it amazing that the famous lawyer interviewed, Ron Kuby, warns parents that letting your kids have some unsupervised time at the park is illegal.

Actually, it is not illegal, according to New York City’s  Administration for Children’s  Services, which says there is no specified age at which a kid can be outside (or inside, for that matter), unsupervised. I think all of us agree that we wouldn’t want to leave any child on his or her own (with or without other kids) before we felt they were ready, and aware, and mature enough to handle themselves well. But Kuby says soon any parent not directly overseeing their school age children at all times will be posting bail. That’s false and yet another reason parents are afraid to let their kids do anything at all, even babysit.

It is hard for me to look at the next three videos, but I will. And tomorrow, check out CNN at 11:30 a.m., Eastern Time. I’m psyched about that one. The anchor actually asked to see some Bureau of Justice crime statistics. These, of course, show crime going down. Let’s hope for the best! – Lenore

Yup, That’s Me. The “Bizarre” Mom on the Cover of the NY Daily News

Hi Folks — Well, yes, the cover of the NY Daily News. That’s good and bad. Good — it certainly gets the word out. Bad, maybe this headline:  “Leave Your Kids in the Park: Mom’s Bizarre Campaign.”

Put that way it does sound a little bizarre. But what’s way more bizarre to me is the doctor that the article found to interview:

Dr. Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, says a 7-year-old shouldn’t be left alone in a backyard, much less a park.

Really? What is happening in his backyard? The proverbial alligator up from New York’s sewers? And here’s a quote from a “typical” parent:

“Never in a million years would I do something that stupid,” said Carmen Javier, a Park Slope mother of 8-year-old Juan. “When the kid turns 18 – fine. Until then you watch them.”

As you readers know, I believe in involved parenting — teaching our kids the skills they need to be safe and self-reliant. But there’s not a whole lot of chance for a child to put any of that into practice and get good at it,  if mom is by his side for a full 18 years.

Anyway, the rest of the article is fine. Alas, the sidebar by Joanna Molloy (usually very funny and wise!) says:

Come on, the world is a way scarier place than it was when we were kids.

In the ’20s, moms let kids play in the street while they cleaned. In the ’60s, kids went out in the morning and bounced around all day playing Ringolevio.

These days, kids get snatched off the street and people try to bomb  Times Square and the Herald Square subway station.

She’s absolutely right about the bombers. It sickens me that they’re out there. Then again, I’m not sure how parental supervision prevents terrorism. As for the oft-repeated notion that more kids are getting snatched today than ever, well, here’s a nice little article from the Huffington Post on how the 2009 murder rate in New York City hit an ALL TIME LOW. Like, “the fewest since comparable records were kept in the 1960s.”  And murder rates fell 10% across the whole country.

But, hey, The Daily News is a tabloid. Gotta sell fear. And I should know. I worked there for 14 years.

Meantime — remember what Dr. C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general, said (in the blog below this one!):

Let your children go out and play! It's worth it!

“If you want to say how can we step into childhood and make it better for
them, I would start at the activity level.  I’d like to say let your kids go
out and play.  Then I’d say you’re not going to do that are you? Make your
kids go out and play.  Kids ought to grow up the way you and I grew up and
we grew up fifty years apart or maybe more.  But we did the same things.
Now who’s out playing in the afternoon?  Nobody.  Risks I think are the
thing that make life important and everything that you and I do is risk vs.
benefit.  Is there a risk to sending your kid out?  Absolutely.  Is there a
benefit?  It exceeds the risk.”

Surgeon General Endorses “Take Our Children to the Park…” Day (Sort Of. Indirectly. And not actually the CURRENT Surgeon General…)

Hi Readers! Getting lots of interest in Take Our Kids to the Park…And Leave Them There Day. Watch for it/me on CNN on Thursday at about 11:30 a.m. EST, and in a whole bunch of radio interviews and newspaper articles over the next few days.  Meantime, here is a GREAT QUOTE from the former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.

He appears along with a lot of other well-known and loved New Yorkers, including Regis Philbin and Ray Romano, on a new DVD called New York Street Games (which also comes with rules for the old-fashioned games, like stickball, and ringoleavio). And here’s what he says in the film:

“If you want to say how can we step into childhood and make it better for
them, I would start at the activity level.  I’d like to say let your kids go
out and play.  Then I’d say you’re not going to do that are you? Make your
kids go out and play.  Kids ought to grow up the way you and I grew up and
we grew up fifty years apart or maybe more.  But we did the same things.
Now who’s out playing in the afternoon?  Nobody.  Risks I think are the
thing that make life important and everything that you and I do is risk vs.
benefit.  Is there a risk to sending your kid out?  Absolutely.  Is there a
benefit?  It exceeds the risk.”

Koop rocks!

Your kids can have fun the way we did! (But with softer ground.)

The New York Times & “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day”

Hey Readers! Great to see this post about “Take Our Children to The Park…And Leave Them There Day” on Lisa Belkin’s New York Times blog, Motherlode. The ball starts rolling! Get set for May 22! Spread the word! — L.

Well, don't leave us here for 68 years. But you get the idea.