Monday, October 05, 2009

Are Your Children Safe?

What's the scariest thing you've ever let your child do?

A couple months ago Spencer and David asked if they could ride their bikes to the mall and I did a bit of a panic: should I let them ride that far? What would happen if they got lost? Would they get hit by a car in all that traffic?

Well I suppressed my mother worries and let them go. They navigated the traffic, including several construction zones, wandered the mall for an hour or two then came home very pleased with themselves.

They told me that they'd run into someone we know who asked where their mother was. When they told her I'd let them ride by themselves all that way the woman was shocked.

Unfortunately her response is pretty common--things have changed to the point that children are no longer allowed to grow, and are instead stunted by the restrictions of overprotective parents who are so afraid of the dangers speeding toward them they over correct and try to control every aspect of their children's lives.

I see this at my children's elementary school constantly--the kids are corralled on the playground, with a list of about three acceptable activities and more noon-duties than children--because, after all, it's safety first. But it's not entirely the school's fault because parents are just as guilty. School officials repeatedly tell parents to let their children come into the school and find their way to their classes by themselves but many parents still insist on walking their children to the door or even to the classroom (maybe even to their desks, who knows?) as if it's the first day of kindergarten.

I asked a friend of mine why she felt it was necessary and she said that she was worried that if she didn't walk her children to their class that someone might abduct them. I didn't laugh because obviously this was a serious concern for her but instead of finding it funny I actually found it sad, nearly tragic. Do parents now live in such fear that they'll sacrifice their children's growth and development on the alter of urban legends? Has the media worked us into such a frenzy over the shadows of "what ifs?" that we're willing to risk the next generation's ability to cope with the dangers inherent in mortality?

The truth is that children are no more at risk of abduction than they were 50 years ago. The odds of a child being snatched or stalked on the way to school are much less than the odds of them being in a car accident while being driven to school. But few seem to have the facts and we're becoming obsessed with sterilizing our children's lives: we refuse to let them travel anywhere alone, we encase them in pads, booster seats and helmets, we walk around with hand sanitizer, spraying up a fine anti-bacterial mist as we go and we blame anyone within reach--businesses, toxins, pollutants, governments--when something bad manages to get through our defenses.

When I was about 11 or 12 my sister--my younger sister--and I wanted to ride the bus to the mall. We got our quarters and permission from mom, looked up the bus schedule, then walked a quarter mile to the bus stop and hopped the city bus to the mall where we gorged on chili dogs. On the way home we got back on the bus but as it pulled out of the parking lot we realized we were heading in the wrong direction. Panicking as we got farther and farther from home we didn't quite know what to do and had no idea where the bus would ultimately deposit us--we were probably going to die.

Instead of going south to our house the bus took us north to the main terminal downtown. Too afraid to say anything to the driver we quietly got off the bus in the middle of the city and wondered what we should do next. Luckily I had another quarter and we found a pay phone (no cell phones you know) and called home. We told Mom what had happened and she came down and picked us up.

While it was a little scary at the time it was a wonderful experience. We learned how the bus system works, we learned good problem-solving skills, we learned Mom was there to help when we were in a tight spot and we learned it's good to plan ahead with extra quarters. But if I were to put my own 11 year-old on a city bus today I'd be vilified as a negligent parent.

We must stop babying our children. There are laws restricting how old they can be to get a job, how old they can be to be left alone, how they must wear bike helmets and ride in booster seats and when there aren't laws to keep them imprisoned in a cocoon of eternal dependence there's peer pressure from other adults who are convinced that the way to be a good parent is to make sure your child has everything they could possibly want but nothing that might possibly distress.

We've been so effective at protecting our kids that the age of children getting their driver's licenses has crept from 16 to nearly 18--kids are safer inside playing video games than doing anything so dangerous as driving a car, right? We've coddled and cozied them so that they languish in college for six years rather than the typical four trying to find themselves. Instead of leaving home at 18 or 19 to head into the world via education or work now kids live at home with mom and dad until their nearly 26, 27 and no one thinks it's the least bit odd. Who needs a fountain of youth when you have society's permission to be an adolescent forever?

And the irony of it all is that while we've managed to stretch adolescence into an eternity because we're so focused on the physical dangers in our environment we've lost sight of the moral dangers to the point that children are becoming exposed to degrading and inappropriate behavior at younger and younger ages: dressing immodestly, viewing pornography, even participating in sexual activity (though I'm told it's all okay as long as they're wearing helmets--or condoms, same thing).

So what would I suggest? Sigh. Well a bit of education first. Forget urban legends, a child isn't in danger of being abducted by a stranger nearly as much as being compromised in their own home. Random abductions aren't the worry--but mommy's boyfriend, unrestricted internet access or daddy's drug use is a very real concern when you look at the facts of where children really find trouble. Learn about where the real danger lies.

Second, let them run around outside, finding their way in the world within reasonable parameters, rather than staking them in the yard on a leash. Think about what you did as a kid and then relax a bit. Being able to do something that is hard or scary is one of the most important emotions a child can experience, it's what has fueled the greatest achievements of humanity and if you deny your children this they'll be crippled just as surely as if you raised them strapped into a wheelchair.

And finally, spend your energy making sure they're not spending all their time in front of a screen or on the internet. Instead of pulling out the Purell, work to keep the real filth--inappropriate music, television, music and media--from leaking into your home to ruin their minds. It's hard--much harder than making sure they have an allergen-free environment--but it can be done and it's the way to grow happy, productive adults.

There are so many worse things that can happen to a child than falling off their bikes or scraping their knees and the sooner parents acknowledge this the sooner we'll be able to go after the real things that endanger our children and the sooner we can teach them to be brave and to truly live a good life.

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Lucy said...

I could not agree with this post more. Well put.

planetnomad said...

Geez, Michelle, how do you really feel on the issue? ;)

Seriously, you're preaching to the choir here. I TOTALLY agree with you. I will never forget hearing a mother fuss at her child who was about to drink from a drinking fountain--"That's dirty! We have bottled water in the car!" AUGH! I have seen village woman walk 2 km and bring home water in a filthy container, and I have drunk that water and been fine and appreciated the work that went into getting it.
::::making myself stop now so I don't blather on and on and hijack your comments:::::::::

emzeegee & the hungry three said...


I am "one of those" mothers whom other mothers look down on with disapproval. My crime, it seems, is letting my kids walk the dog, in our neighbourhood, all by themselves. I also have every intention of letting them take the tram to school (which involves a short walk to the tram stop).

I don't use antibacterial anything, I've let my kids *gasp!* eat stuff they've dropped on the floor, and really, I don't wrap my kids in cotton wool at all.

As far as I am concerned, the greatest danger to our kids lies not in the potential for germs, abduction, or dirt. It lies in other parents giving them the impression that their Mom is a bad parent because she allows them to be independent, roll in mud and get covered in germs.

Frankly, on this issue, I'm wearing my Bad Mommy badge with pride.

Robin said...

*stands up and applauds*

Add me to the choir too. In fact, when asked what I like best about living in Israel, I often answer "the freedom that children still have here". My 3rd grader walks 10 minutes to and from school with his friends each day. He's thrilled with the independence, and I'm thrilled not to have to do that mad race to school each morning. Right this moment, as I type, he is off at a "happening" somewhere put on by a local youth group (sort of like Scouts). It's by a friend's house over towards the school so when I gave him permission (and the $2.50 for the admission) he was off like a shot to go do things like toss a beanbag at a target, eat cotton candy, all sorts of things that a 9.5 year old can do quite well without his mother hanging around. When it's over he'll come back home, on his own. 3rd grade is the year that sees Israeli kids really gaining their independence and it's a delight to see all these good kids turning into extremely responsible, safe, independent human beings. There are of course limits - a parent will drop off and pick up for tonight's birthday party, but only because it will be dark and there's a major road involved.

We've found that by setting reasonably limits and expecting him to follow them he's repaying our trust in spades, and gaining his freedom in steps, as he shows he is ready for it.

Isn't that what parenting is *supposed* to be all about? Nowhere in the manual did it say anything about keeping children wrapped in bubble wrap, so far removed from harm that they are in fact harmed by their own safe and sheltered experience.

Robin said...

Oh, and he's only 8.5, not 9.5. I'm so caught up in plans for my daughter's upcoming 6th birthday that I inadvertantly raised my son's age by a year too.


Danielle a.k.a Yellie said...

Wow, as I was reading this, I just kept having different kids (my own included) come to mind for the different situations. It's amazing how caught up we can get in all the what ifs and in turn, lose out on good learning experiences. Thank you for this post. Very thought provoking...and I agree that some of the biggest dangers can be found in our own homes. People need to be more aware and concientious about where the true dangers lie.

Stephanie said...

Very well put.

Marie N. said...

Right on! Excellent post.

Ursula said...

* More applause.*

I grew up in NYC in the early
'70s. Yup, good old gritty "French Connection" New York. To be honest, my best friend and I did encounter a man who wanted to bring us to his apartment "to show (us) his puppy." (We didn't budge.) But would I trade that freedom? Crossing the avenues, playing in Central Park? Not a chance. My kids and I don't live in the city now, but sometimes I regret that they enjoy the freedom I enjoyed. I resolve to be better about this.

Mom24 said...

I struggle with this one, and I have to be honest enough to say I disagree with some of your points. We live in an upper-middleclass community. You would think our kids would be free to come and go as they please, but unfortunately, I do think it's a different world. We've had men arrested for exposing themselves in the library, men approaching little boys in the men's restroom of our neighborhood pool, all kinds of perverse things.

We also every couple of years have incidents of someone following kids walking home from school in their cars.

We have a "children's home" nearby. That's a nice euphemism for a place where they send kids who can't make it at home. These are really troubled kids--and sometimes, they act out. It does make me think twice about letting my kids walk our dog around the block by themselves. I regret their lack of freedom, but as someone who was molested as a child, I choose to err on the side of caution. I do give my kids plenty of freedom, they walk to school together, without an adult, for example, but I weigh each choice carefully and try my best to choose the ones least likely to cause them harm.

I wish it were different, but the fact is, it's not a pretty world out there.

Suburban Correspondent said...

I agree - our children are never "safe," and we need to learn to accept that and to let them grow into the adults they need to be. My son was commuting by himself into a major city by the age of 14 or 15, and it was a good experience for him. My 12-year-old is allowed to ride places on his bike, no problem.

That said, I believe you are mixing 2 separate issues here. Helmets and car seats are not the result of misplaced parental anxieties - their necessity stems from the laws of physics. If a human being is traveling at 45 miles per hour, he/she needs to be strapped in, no matter the age. It's all about force vectors, not overprotectiveness. Most ER doctors will tell you that helmets do cut down on serious, life-altering accidents for children (and adults). I think knee pads, etc., are a little silly for children - they're pretty resilient in that area, and a scraped knee never killed anyone, for heaven's sake. But head injuries do cause permanent damage, and they are not nearly as uncommon as stranger abductions!

Amy said...

Well said. I've been thinking and researching this issue a lot lately. The statistics on the random abduction that everyone fears are so low that it's not something even worth considering. At the same time, I've heard 3 separate unofficial reports of "attempted abductions" in my neighborhood in the past 6 months. (We don't live in a bad neighborhood.) I don't see how both could be true, unless the the success rate of these child abductors is around .001%. I guess that could be true. My working theory is that people are seeing "attempted abductions" in their own heads. But it's not something that I want to make an assumption about. Do you have a suggestion for good resources to research the real numbers and really understand what is going on?

Debbie said...

Excellent post! My children are all grown and gone from home now, but they were allowed to ride bikes and walk all over the neighborhood growing up. My son even got to go hunting in the woods by himself (HUGE COLLECTIVE GASP!!!) before the days of cell phones, and he actually came home just fine. Now he does this for a living - he's a Wildlife & Fisheries officer. One daughter isn't afraid to hop on a plane and head to NYC or London all alone and recently spent nearly 2 weeks in Europe with a friend on a wonderful trip. Like you, I was much more concerned about the moral and spiritual dangers than the physical dangers facing my children. We weren't foolish about their safety, but we weren't paranoid about it either.

Lis Garrett said...

I think I fall somewhere in the middle on this. I'm certainly not one of those parents who walks her children to their desks each day, but I can't say I'd feel comfortable letting my 10 yr old ride her bike 20 minutes across town to the mall. While I agree that there is a lot of fear-mongering in our society, I can't blame parents for needing to do what feels right to them, even if *I* think they're being overprotective.

Just yesterday, three of the neighbor children came inside my house to play with my kids. One of the girls has NEVER been inside to play, despite the fact my kids have been friends with her for the past six years. I asked her if it was okay with her parents and she said, "they said it's okay as long as nothing bad happens." I got really mad for a minute and wondered if they thought I'd serve up a platter of drugs and alcohol to their daughter! However, she's an only child, and her parents are VERY protective of her. I think I'm a good mom, but they look at me and I know they question my judgment about a lot of things.

thediaperdiaries said...

Really good post. I really struggle with this, but I do agree many parents have gone to far. I too am amazed at how many parents are still walking their 3rd graders all the way to their classes. Did you read the article about the mom who let her kid take the train into NYC and all the flack she got? She had a very similar argument to yours and it was a great article.

Anyway, I hope I am striking the right balance. The one thing I am sure of? No 26 yo kid of mine will be moving back in unless the circumstances are extreme. That drives me NUTS!

Lara said...

This is a hard issue for me. But I'm trying to let go a little bit of the kids and let them grow their own wings. I'm not a helicopter parent, but the one thing I have difficulty with is letting them roam the neighborhood or even go play at friend's houses. With other things I'm much more balanced (I think!)

Your bus story reminded me of my own mall/bus story. The SAME thing happened to me and my friend. Only the bus driver realized we must be on the wrong bus and so we just went on the route back to the mall, where our parents were frantically looking for us. :)

Shannon said...

Totally agree. Here in Germany kids there are very few school buses at least in Frankfurt. Instead the city buses and subway are packed with school children before and after school. The very young have their parents with them but from around 3rd or 4th grade they are on their own. No one thinks twice about it.

As far as driving. I kinda like the older driving age especially since my son is 17. He can't get a license in Germany until 18 BUT he can (and does) go out and have a beer or a glass of wine legally. By the time he can drive the novelty of drinking will have mostly worn off and he will be (I hope) a safer driver for it!

Patricia Linehan said...

I agree with you here, eventhough I'm still in the training wheel phase (meaning we're starting to extend a lot more freedom to our 11 yr old). The time goes so fast that it seems like it'd be a pretty steep learning curve if we didn't start letting her do more things on her own now.

Susan Berlien (warmchocmilk) said...

You put my thoughts into words.

Momish said...

I agree that today parents are way too protective of their children and causing delayed independance. I grew up in the city so we were always more or less on our own, taking buses everywhere, etc. But on the flip side, I do think there is more danger out there than when I was a kid. I don't remember there being metal detectors on our school doors, for example. We also have had two shootings in our neighborhood in the past year (both before 9 PM). I just hope I can find the right balance as a parent to let my daughter out into the world, but not into danger.

Musings of a Housewife said...

This is the best post I've read in weeks. Amen to that! It's nuts how overprotective parents are these days.

Musings of a Housewife said...

I should add, overprotective of the wrong things.

Pam D said...

Yep. :<)
(with the exception of helmets and seatbelts, both of which I feel truly do save lives....)

Amber @ Classic Housewife said...

Great thoughts!! I admit I'm a worrier. It's really hard for me to let my kids go. Of course, they're still very young and my oldest is only just now getting old enough to let her roam a little bit. We live out in the country, 6 miles from town, so there aren't many opportunities to let her walk to a friend's house or ride her bike to the store. We do have a good piece of countryside here though, and they go off exploring through the trees a bit. Her three year old brother is often with them though (and it's not like he listens to them!) so they still can't go very far. But I'd like to think that as he grows older I can loosen my apron strings a little and let my parenting grow with them. We homeschool also, so I'm going to have to look for specific opportunities to let my kids run free. For example, I've been letting my nine year old go into the post office by herself to check our mailbox. She loves it (and I can still see her through the big glass windows anyway.) ;)

Heart2Heart said...


I had never thought about it the ways you described before. Now I have the answer why so many kids stay at home instead of venturing out on their own. Perhaps the best education is consequences and let that be the ultimate dictator of learning from mistakes. I commend you for letting the boys venture out and they handled themselves so well. They, as well as you must have been so proud.

I too, have let our kids have a little more freedom as they grow older. With one more year under their belt, we increase not only their responsibilities at home but also increase their privileges as well.

Thanks again for your wonderful insight on this topic.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Beth (A Mom's Life) said...

What a great post!

Scribbit said...

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, and especially those who can politely disagree :) Glad I don't scare you into agreement!

I don't want you to get the idea that I don't use seat belts. I actually do think they're a great thing, and helmets can be useful in some circumstances.

Having said that, I think both items have been taken to the extreme and are part of the shift toward an obsession with safety.

Our city just passed a law that any child under 8 has to be in a booster seat. In actuality a child is no more safe buckled in a traditional seat belt past the age of two than they are in a car seat according to the latest reports but it doesn't matter because parents are so sure things are unsafe and the dangers are real. How much is the car seat companies whipping them into a frenzy? Parents are so quick to worry that it plays on their natural fears to the point of accepting whatever conventional wisdom seems to indicate rather than saying "You're kidding. My eight year old has to ride in a booster seat? Really?"

Same thing with bike helmets. Yes, they can do some good in rather limited circumstances but really, the danger of my children being in an accident in our neighborhood to the point that a helmet would do any good is pretty slight. Yes, maybe if they were riding amid heavy traffic but if that's the case the danger of worse traumas happening increases to the point that a helmet is only part of the issue anyway.

I think it's fearmongering and trying to protect against any eventuality but what they've given up isn't worth it.

TX Poppet said...

I grew up in a dangerous city and now my kids do, too. Like my parents, we would never think of allowing our kids to bike to the mall at that age.
Child abductions are fairly frequent in our neighborhood. That's why my gut reaction to this post was a resounding NO!
However, I do not live in your neighborhood or know your kids or your neighbors. I am sure you know exactly what is best for your family.
While I can't agree with your hard line on protecting our kids, I do agree that our children are leading more restricted lives today. This was a fun thought provoking post.

cndymkr / jean said...

I agree with everything you said. So why is it that I now have a nervous tummy?

Anji Gallanos said...

Thanks so much for posting this Michelle. If I didn't live in Juneau, I am not sure if I would feel less safe. I take a lot of liberties here I probably would not else where.

I have been following a blog called "Free Range Kids" that talks a lot about this kind of thing. I follow it mostly because I am fascinated by how afraid we have become in this society.

Great post

Roo said...

I'm glad to see so many in agreement with your post and for those that don't agree, that they can do it constructively.

I am not a parent but have a lot of children around me that I love dearly. I want them to be safe, but they have to learn to keep themselves safe as well has having their parents keep them safe.

Well, said Michelle.

chelle said...

I agree with you 100% and I was on a tangent about it a few months ago, challenging moms that I hung out with to think through their fears. Then a little girl was abducted walking home from school and murdered. All my arguments where useless.

The "What if it was my kid" fear is too strong. If I could have prevented my child from being abducted by merely walking them to school how could I live myself afterward?

I still try within societies new rules to allow my children to be a little free and hope that I will be able to continue to do that. Sometimes it is way hard, people are totally judgmental about seeing kids being all free range.

Jill in MA said...

Well said!

Sheri said...

I agree with you on so many levels, it is kind of spooky :) I may take it to a further extreme though. Out of necessity, my kids have been very independent for several years. They have been getting themselves up, dressed and fed for years, while their friends moms were still doing all or most of that for their kids. They've been doing actual work around the house, beyond cleaning their own messes, for years, with no pay. They do not get paid for doing well in school, but they do have consequences for "blowing off" a test or assignment. Yet they are healthy and happy kids, despite all my torture :)

I grew up in a tiny town and I roamed the streets constantly as a child. Now my children do, to a certain extent. I am not worried about them being abducted, but I do worry about a coach or teacher hurting them, and we have been having frank discussions about that for years, much earlier than I would have liked. But that happens way too often, and it recently happened with the father of one of my son's friends. That is a real concern, and all I can do is talk to my kids and try to prepare them if something should happen, God forbid.

It may come as a shock to many parents, but most of what we want to protect them from is rampant in their schools, and I'm not just talking about germs. They have seen it and heard it all, and hopefully, if we've done our jobs right, they choose not to participate. That is a choice, and keeping them locked away only makes it harder for them to make the right choice when the time comes.

JENNIFER said...

I have been thinking about writing about this very topic for the last couple of weeks as I have become painfully aware that I do not parent like most.....cocooning my children so that they do not know how to function when they leave home.

I could not have said it so well :)

Rachel said...

Great post. I totally agree with you. My daughter is only two, but I can already see that I am going to have a hard time with this. I try to balance common sense and safety with allowing my child the freedoms she so rightfully deserves.

Anjali said...

Have you read Free Range Kids? It's fantastic.

The truth is, is that our children are far safer now than they were when we were kids.

I got chewed out by a school official who told me that it was not safe for my 2nd grader and Kindergartner to walk home from the bus stop together in our extremely safe neighborhood by themselves. There are sidewalks the whole way, no streets to cross, and the bus stop is a little more than a tenth of a mile from our house. A TENTH of a mile. Oh, and I can watch most of the walk from my front porch.

It's insanity, this fear factor in parenting. I will not succumb!

Janel said...

I completely agree, but that doesn't mean it's been easy to live. My parents were reeeeally overprotective - and I grew up in the 70s. Rich's parents were more like yours. Learning to let go with my wild and adventerous boys took a lot of work (and faith!) If they want to do something I'm uncomfortable with allowing, I tell them to ask their dad & trust his judgement. If they get pushy for an answer, I tell them they can wait and ask Dad or I can just say no now. Evil Mummy that I am. They usually opt to wait. ; )

Bike helmets and booster seats are a *huge* pet peeve of mine. Our third son, who is 9 1/2 years old, is STILL required to be in a booster seat. He's not yet 55 inches so it's "The Law." My GRANDMOTHER, when she died at 86 years old, was NOT 55 inches!!! The current psycho booster seat laws are ridiculous!

Did I mention it was a pet peeve?

Summer said...

I think a lot of parental decisions have to change depending on where you live. I don't know what your area is like in Alaska, but here in good ol' Baltimore city there's no way I'm letting my kids walk or bike anywhere without me or their father. Of course they're 7 and under right now and still a bit on the young side for that sort of thing anyway.

I know through my own experience as a teen that I will give them the same kinds of freedoms I had and that teaching independence and letting them grow is extremely important. I just hope we live in a safer place then.

Deb said...

My sentiments exactly. And you can check that with my now four responsible adults.

How big did you say you wanted that soapbox? j/k

My youngest had three roommates his first semester at university and all three moms call every morning to get them up. Not joking. I learned later that one mom called and tried to interrogate about his study habits to be sure he wasn't going to be a negative influence on her son. He very politely told her nothing doing. If you though high school was scary for parents it gets worse in college because parents try to recreate other parents in their image. Be warned.

MommyK said...

I'm also in Baltimore City, and I'm pretty routinely appalled at the number of kids I see riding bikes on busy city streets without helmets. As for being out and about alone, that totally depends on where you live. We live on a busy street with a lot of heavy traffic, and I have neither a front yard nor a driveway. The only thing between my front door and the road is the sidewalk.

Jaycee Dugard was abducted from her busstop in plain view when she was 11. Hers is an isolated case, but I can see why so many parents would rather be safe than sorry.

Penny said...

I love this. I have just recently started reading your blog regularly, and just from this post, I know I will need to go back and look at all your parenting posts. Thank you for helping us all stop suffocating our kids! :)


Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

I let my 4 year old play in our front yard by himself and have no worries about him doing so. What I worry about MORE is someone claiming that is unsafe and taking it upon themselves to report us to child services.

Aleta said...


Kathryn said...

This was a very interesting post! On the booster seat issue, our 4 year old son just recently tipped the 30 lb mark. Just on a weight based factor, he will probably be in a booster till he's 10. I'm sure he'll be even less excited than me about that prospect.

I also realized recently that I have only-child-parenting syndrome even though I'm pregnant with #2 and we always planned on having more children. I was shocked when my 4 year old son went to the mens bathroom by himself while I was helping his 4yr old cousin in the ladies. I didn't even realize that he was old enough to do that by himself. But why not. Because I hover.

Reading all the info and comments about the child abductions I realized that my son never goes anywhere without me. While this "keeps him safe" from abductions, it dawned on me that never once have I had a talk with him about strangers and how to scream and kick and bite if someone tries to take him. The best way to protect him is to teach him the skills he needs to handle that sort of situation.

Thanks for all the great insight Michelle! I'm off to teach my son about strangers!

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said...

I wish I had time to read all the comments, but unfortunately I don't. I just wanted to chime in and say "way to go!" I really appreciate your stepping out on a limb here and saying what needs to be said. Especially that second to last paragraph. Amen!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, in fact, there are far worse things than a scraped knee.
One of my BIGGEST pet peeves is parents who let their kids run wild without any supervision. Especially younger kids. I don't understand the logic in ignoring the dangers of it. Honestly, could you live with yourself if something actually did happen? Really? If you were in a car accident and your child was badly hurt, maybe you would think twice about what a "pain" it is to just strap them in the dang booster seat?

Laurie said...

Not a mom. Just a teacher. HALLEJUAH! Do you hear Handel's chorus in the background?

Bobbie in AK said...

If I may say so, Amen!

Janel said...

"If you were in a car accident and your child was badly hurt, maybe you would think twice about what a ‘pain’ it is to just strap them in the dang booster seat?"

At almost 10 years old, my son has been able to strap himself in responsibly for years. That's not the point. We're asking when does cautious border on ridiculous? Should my 86 year old grandmother have been made to ride in a booster seat because she wasn't 55 inches tall - like my 9 year old? If 55 inches is too short for a child to safely ride in a car without a booster seat, is it safe for a similar sized adult? Does that mean we need to make legislation that demands all adults under 55 inches tall ride in booster seats too? God forbid.

We absolutely need to take responsibility to see those in our charge are safe and cared for and don't run wild or unsupervised, but I refuse to wrap my kids in bubble wrap because some paranoid person who knew someone who knew some one who had a bad experience and thinks I should.


melissa said...

i struggle with this issue on a daily basis. i remember growing up in a not so nice neigborhood and still going outside early in the morning on a nice summer day and not coming back in until dinner time. my mom just never really worried and as a consequence, neither did i. it just feels like a very different world now for my kids. i live in a very urban neighborhood in baltimore, md and according to the md sex offender registry, we are surrounded by them. the registry wasn't available when we moved here or i'm not sure we would have. which is a shame, because in general, our neigbors and the area has been very nice for us.

i know my kids need to be independent. i want them to. to that end, i'm lazy about a lot of those things that some mothers would consider part of the job of a good mother: helmets, hand sanitizer, dusting my house, playing in the dirt (we call it gardening at my house!), but letting my 8 year old loose alone in an area filled with registered sex offenders is not something i'm willing to be lazy about, independent kid or no...

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Rhonda said...

Considering we live in a virtually crime free community and where the worse thing that could happen to a child is to get run over by some rogue snowplowing lunatic....I would say we give a lot of freedom to our kids. But, things have changed in that more and more, there are always those in the powers that be who find a way to pass a law to protect our children. (Because apparently we are clueless parents) Unfortunately here in CT, we also have such a litigious mentality and everyone is suing everyone. Including the prosecutors who sue moms for "allowing" such negligent ways as to not insist on helmets while riding scooters. That is what has changed in the last 50 years.

Your post hit the nail on the head with what seems to plague common sense.

imadramamama said...

This is an excellent post, Michelle. I struggle with giving my kids the freedom that they can probably handle. I try to give it to them when I can, but I'm so afraid that they'll abuse it.

Then again, maybe I should relax. They're only 4 and 6!

Sage said...

Well said, the children today have a lot less freedom than I had growing up and I feel more confident than today's children in tomorrow's world.

Lori said...

While I'm constantly being reprimanded by a friend for letting my son play on the playground, I can't imagine letting the kids ride the bus until they're sixteen at least!

I used to ride public transit in college and there are some very strange characters there. People trying to get me to join the church of Zion or go with them to AA, registered sex offenders (interestingly the friendliest people to me they once made soup for everyone) and then the thugs.

I suppose it all depends on the area you're in.

Janet said...

I totally agree with you. I get grief because I let my kids get dirty while they're playing soccer or when we're on the playground. It's insane.

page2 said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I think I need permission to let go and let my kids have some freedom. Watching the news makes me paranoid. The real danger is what they might be exposed to at school (filthy language, pornography). They need to be taught what to do at home when they are confronted with these things and I'm not around to protect them.

Amateur Steph said...

Hooray for stating this truth! Sometimes I long for my extended adolescence, but I am grateful that I no longer reside in the "me-only" zone.

I choose to civilly disobey those dumb booster seat laws. That doesn't mean I don't believe in buckling up, I just think the govt has gone much too far in protectionism.

Patois said...

Amen, Michelle. Amen! I just let my boy hang with a few of his buddies at an all day concert at the lake in our town. The event was a fundraiser for the schools. Yeah, the B-52s were there, so presumably some dope, too, but we're talking from 10 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. No midnights, right?

Convincing other parents to let their boys go was not THAT difficult. My boy has clearly hooked up with boys from like-minded families. I can't tell you the number of others who were shocked that I let him wonder around for hours on end with his friends.

He's not 8, folks. He's 12.

Headless Mom said...

Good gravy, I agree with EVERY WORD!!!!!

Rosanne said...

I love this post - thank you for writing it. Now if only the 'right' people would read it. ;) However, I am a seatbelt, carseat/booster, helmet Nazi...and that's okay with me. ;)

Mariah said...

Bravo,bravo!!! Very well said! I couldn't agree more! I do think that the world today isn't the same as it was when we were kids, and some areas and neighborhoods are safer than others, but in general, we need to allow our kids the space to grow up and learn and develop without fear of the boogie man.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Oh Michelle. This so eloquently states what I've been thinking for months.

Obviously, you're not recommending we send our kids out in the morning with their bikes and a little lunch money and ask them to come home by 5:00. But you are advocating a return to sane parenting. We live in a society of fear, and it's not healthy for us or our kids. We need to have more balance.

sassypriscilla said...

I wish I could agree with this post but with my son's school losing a child at recess last year and my own 6-year-old son getting locked out of the building in the freezing cold, and a newspaper reporter reporting on how he was able to wander the school without being stopped, you can bet your boots I walk him up to his classroom. In the hour it would take for the school secretary to call me to ask where my son is, precious time would be lost trying to locate him.

Also, my son has medical issues relating to his heart and is on blood thinner. There are definitely things that he cannot do and should not do and bumps that would not be serious for some children would be for him. And Purell is a must for him as he is one of those kids they talk about with extenuating circumstances that could die from the Swine Flu.

I explain all of this but when you look at my son, you would never know he has these problems. So while some of the moms might look down their noses at me for being overprotective, I wish they would consider that they don't know the whole story.

Alice Wills Gold said...

I so want to let them's hard for me to let my 10 year old go around the block on her bike. (Mind you, we are pretty close to the projects)

I think this is totally different when you have daughters.

And I have to say to plantnomad that I was proud to drink out of the school's water fountain last week..but I was certain I would get the swine flu. :)

So far, so good...maybe I will work up to the bike riding thing but allowing them to walk the two blocks to the library first. a couple more years.

I know, I know, stone me.

Go right ahead, tonight I am having one of those blogging nights.

"LG I am such a bad mom and wife. I don't have fresh cut roses in my bathroom. I don't have a baking day where I bake 5 months of waffels at one time."

it's time for bed.

After I make sure we have all locked ourselves in properly and reviewed the fire escape plan. :)

Anonymous said...

Couldn'g agree more!!! MOMM

perilloparodies said...

Very interesting and thought-provoking post. I shall not venture to share my own thoughts, as so many have pretty much mentioned them already. I fall towards the middle but much closer to the agree end. Thanks.

Wendy said...

I have been thinking about this subject for quite some time and have come to the conclusion that this trend is due to a loss of faith. Don't read that wrong I am not trying to condemn anyone who wants to keep their kids safe. My point is that we go overboard because we fear death. We fear because we believe The Liar instead of trusting Him who already conquered death. In a culture where many do not believe in Christ and there is nothing beyond this life and no hope if we loose someone we love, of course there is fear. There is unreasonable fear because of complete absence of hope. Believing does not mean that nothing bad will ever happen it just means that we will live our lives not out of fear but out of hope. The perspective changes everything. We can make wise decisions based on facts instead of making decisions based on fear and being made slaves to the what if. Believers just need to remember Whose culture we should belong to and follow that trend instead of the world.

Steve said...

Reading this article really got my attention because I live in the type of neighborhood where most people know each other and it tends to be pretty safe, so I see what I think is too much under-protective parenting taking place. Kids as young as 3 and 4 playing outside unsupervised and wandering to other homes (often my own) asking to play with no adult communication going on about it. Kids in kindergarten and first grade biking themselves to school who dart out in front of cars and don't demonstrate an awareness of traffic enough to help keep themselves safe. What I suspect is going on is parental short-cuts to make the parents' lives easier at the children's potential expense.
The main point, which I agree with, about over-protecting our children is when it is done to an extent that our children are not sufficiently prepared for adulthood. The thought I want to add is that a big factor in this is what age and stage our children are at for granting them new freedoms that will help them gain such preparation. I think that being there to make sure a grade school child makes it to school safely is perfectly appropriate and responsible. Then somewhere more like the teenage years it is good to let them have experiences taking themselves places (like on a city bus or to the mall) when they are old enough to have the potential to know how to do things safely and to figure things out that don't go as planned (creating those good growing and confidence building experiences).

a happy heart blog. said...

I grew up on a farm and always had the freedom to go and do what I wanted. My children are growing up in the city. To me it is just as dangerous to say go ahead and play out front by yourself as to say I'll give you unended use of all content on the internet. It's easy to say that my kids will never be the ones to be abducted, run over by a speeding car down the neighborhood, or bullied as it is to say that my kids would never get involved with inappropriate content and activities indoors. Truth is, I monitor both. They have many freedoms and ways to excert their independance without knowingly leading them into the bustle around them.

I believe that the amount of freedom you give your children depends on the environment they live among, their age, and their ability to make choices quickly. We can't put all children's freedom into one basket and say we are bogarting their abilities. We need to take each situation and each community and understand the dangers.

A couple of years ago, I thought I was safe running in my community where I lived. But, halfway through my jog, I felt I should cross the street to the opposite side. The car that was traveling towards me began to follow me across the street and pulled along side me. He leaned over with his arm out the passenger window offering me flowers. He commented about how beautiful I was and asked me to get in. I said "no" and kept running. I felt certain that had I stayed on his driver's side, I may not have been as lucky. He sped off, freaked I cut to home and called the police. Perhpas he just wanted to give me flowers, but had it been my children walking by themselves and someone offering them flowers, I would hope they would "no" and avoid the danger like I did. But, the other option is just too scarey for me to allow complete freedom, in this community, and at their age.

Really good thoughts Michelle - as always!

Tiaras said...

wow - I have to say that I don't agree with this at all. I am a parent to 3 little ones and I have never left my children with a babysitter and I never will. My children will never be allowed to go to a sleepover. I struggle daily sending my kids to school by themselves and they attend a christian school. And yes, either my husband or myself do walk our kids to their lockers and doors. I don't think my kids will be kidnapped, I want to walk them and wish them a good day AND more importantly, they love that we do this. My children are outdoors all the time - but either myself or my husband are with them. We don't park them in front of video games or television. Fortunately, I am able to stay home with my kids and be ACTIVE in their lives. But I will not, in this day and age, EVER, let my kids wander off by themselves. It will not happen. And the simple reason is that I was allowed to as a child as were my siblings and something terrible did happen. Perhaps someone may think that my children are suffering for anothers sins, but I don't see it that way at all.