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April 27, 2010


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I don't disagree with you at all, and I think *you* are brave and wise for not allowing the dreadful CPS trauma to alter your good parenting practices. If you are willing, I'd love to hear your response to the interfering neighbor. Did you say anything to her like what you've said here, expressing how unhelpful (to put it kindly) she was?

Oh, Jamie, I'm so sorry this keeps happening to you! And poor little Pete, and his ruined walk.

I wish more people would read (and ascribe to the views of) Free Range Kids - I think we'd all be much happier!

Oh dear. I'm heartbroken that Pete had to go through this (and you too)!

For me as an expatriate it's feels a bit as a "cultural" and maybe generational problem. I have a feeling that here in the U.S. people are almost paranoid in what regards to safety, particularly of kids. But it seems things were different twenty+ years ago -- I hear from everyone that it was not like that when they were kids -- and, what do I know, maybe in the past 14 years, things have changed in Brazil too...).

Our neighborhood is AWESOME and nobody has ever complained about my boys riding their bikes on the driveway and on our lane (which is only 3 houses long). I worry about how it's going to be in Virginia, though.

I'm really sleepy and don't have time to revise the comment, so it's probably slightly incoherent, but I'll still post it.

I am angry and would probably have let that come across toward my neighbor. If you find my kid and want to get her safely to where she is going because you're an overly fearful busybody, fine. But don't hold her with you and lecture her when you don't know the whole story.

I'm sorry this happened and you've had to deal with this AGAIN. BOO. I don't think you did anything wrong either time.

Oh my F-ing....AAAAAAA

Look. EVEN IF this woman has the right to interfere with your parent decisions, HOW is it SAFER to tell a CHILD not to TRUST HIS PARENTS? How is that a GOOD thing?

It would have been bad enough if she had said, "You know, that makes me uncomfortable. Let's find your mom so I can talk to her." Because really, who gives her the right to choose your boundaries? But that would have been an honest expression of her concern, and it would have opened up the chance for dialogue on the subject. It would have acknowledged that people are different and that talking about those differences is a good thing.

To tell your child that you were wrong?


Sigh. Words fail me, except to say that I'm listening and I agree with you. You made a reasonable decision for YOUR child in your neighborhood, and I can't figure out why she'd be concerned about him getting hit by a car in the sidewalk!?

That lady made a lot of assumptions; in particular I think she assumed you were not monitoring him at all. She shouldn't have done that.

I think you are a great mom for the care you give to your decisions. Independence training is so important, and I am just really sorry that what should have been a happy triumph for your son was spoiled by this woman's anxieties and her haughty belief that there is only one way to parent (ie, hers).

If I lived on your block, you'd probably be my favorite neighbor.

What Jody said. It is not ok to scare a little kid like that and to tell him his mom was wrong. Ugh.

OH MY LORD. You showed more restraint than I would have. If she had been an utter stranger I may have told her off with a lot of exclamation points (or not. It's impossible to know when my Iron Politeness will set in.), but I would have certainly let her know that she should mind her own business, thank you very much for your concern.

The hard part is, that we don't WANT people to mind their business. We want people to take a concern in our kids' well-being. But when it goes from "Hey, mind if I walk with you?" to "Your mom has no judgment and I'm going to lecture your ear off about it and shame you for it.", it crosses a line.

I'm so sorry that this has happened to you and Pete. I think it would be ok to tell him that that lady was WAAAAAY out of line and she shouldn't have been acting that way. I think it would have done me a lot of good as a child to know that, sometimes, even grown ups can be unkind and disrespectful. I had a teacher in elementary school treat me aggressively and I didn't tell my parents until I was grown up myself. It never crossed my mind that he was in the wrong. I thought that I had misbehaved and I didn't want my parents to know--I was ashamed that I had done something to deserve it. Anyway, it might be worth saying it, if you didn't already.

Keep up posted on how this works out.

AAAUGH! Just...AAAUGH! And everything Jody said, too.

Argh, argh, argh. This is why kids aren't allowed out to play. Parents aren't afraid of cars or kidnappings; they're afraid their neighbors will call the police on their neglected children.

A couple of weeks ago I saw some 5- or 6-yo boys whacking a wiffle ball into a busy street and running out to get the balls. I stopped to talk to the kids and stall them while I tried to figure out which door I should go knock on. I didn't assume their mom was clueless, incompetent, or neglectful; I just assumed she didn't know they were whacking balls into the street, you know? The mom saw what was going on and ran out before I had to do anything, and I spent several minutes reassuring her that I didn't think she was a Bad Mother and yes, that sort of thing could happen to anyone.

Sad. When I was 5 I walked to school daily without adults except the crossing guard on the busy street. 1980 wasn't so long ago.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if your two neighbors just flipped out because your child was alone.

I do recall a passage in Wendy Mogel's excellent book on parenting, "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee", in which she had another mother contact her and say that she had seen Wendy's daughter (first grade, maybe?)walking someplace alone and that typically girls in their area walked in pairs at age 9 and not alone until they were older (and if memory serves it might have something to do with the traffic in the area but I no longer own the book).

I'm actually wondering if something like this is afoot here. It makes me curious about the other families with small children in the area, and at what ages they were allowed to walk someplace alone vs. accompanied or in a group.

Just throwing out some food for thought. I'm not suggesting that you parent by committee and do what everyone else is doing rather than decide for yourself, but in trying to understand this neighbor it's something that came to mind. I still disagree with how she handled your son, and I do think you need to talk with her privately.

Very frustrating. I had a similar experience when Quinn was younger. My neighbor who had detained my son suggested that I start spanking him so he would know better than to walk outside by himself.

You are to be commended for the restraint and tact you showed. I would have been less kind had this been me and my daughter.

I am so sorry that you have to go through this. You are teaching your kids to be evolved independent human beings and yet our culture our country's fear-based culture keep hampering you...

just keep up the good work...you and Lenore (Free Range Kids) are my personal heroes!

Ugh, ugh, ugh. More and more the default attitude seems to be that almost anyone knows better about how to raise a child than the parent does.

I let my 6yo ride up and down the sidewalk on our side of the street unsupervised sometimes, because I trust him not to go across the street without me... given the traffic in your area, I'd have probably sent him out younger.

I don't understand the overreaction on the part of the other lady... I'd have understood her watching him walk home and maybe coming over to talk to you, but lecturing the kid? That's not right.

Sorry you had to go through this, again. :(

This must be so upsetting!

What concerns me most in this story and your previous trials, is the idea of walking to find your child and finding that a neighbour has accosted them.

From the way you've described it, and from the photo, I don't think there was anything wrong with letting your five-year-old go for a walk. However I did see from the photo that your children have platforms and ropes to climb, and that you let them sit up a tree! Didn't you know they could FALL OUT?? (hehe)

Agreeing with your post and the commentors! I am more worried about my neighbors being judgmental and mean, than I am of a drive by van kidnapping swiping.

We walked to a waterfall this week, with many people around, a thin trail, I had a friend to enjoy adult conversation with - more than legos and playdough - and I allowed the three boys to walk ahead down the trail with the dog. I should have kept track of how many times I heard, Are you here alone? Who are you walking with? Are you here with your mom? Each person they came upon made mention of it. Yet, I was close enough to hear the comments. Folks, we were 10 miles out of town in the mountains on a logging road. How would three young children get lost and find a waterfall??? I suppose I should have been scared of someone snatching their water bottles?

Sorry you have to fear the neighbors, and all those who seem to have a list of the what ifs. Keep your what ifs full of discovery an joy and gratitude. :)

Ugh. I have also posted about how I wish the Village would leave me alone. How that silly, trite line from a political speech only served to give people more confidence in sticking their noses in my business. The Village LOVES to make comments, but hell's bells, the Village was not lined up outside my door with covered dishes when I had my babies 20 months apart.

I have let my son (now 4.5) play in our front yard for 2 years now (He's been playing in our back yard unattended since he was 18 months old.) I can see him when I am inside the house and it is not as if I go inside, take a bath or a nap. I do keep an eye on him. It makes people nervous, I can tell.

The shocking part to me was the amount of bravery that *I* needed to be able to stand up to others' judgments and listening to the comments ("where is your mommy?") It is hard, but I want a different childhood for my son. My daughter is nearly 3 and this spring, we have been letting her play out front with him, too.

I am more afraid of my neighbors reporting me to CPS than I am of some random bogeyman.

I actually started reading your blog in the middle of the original neighbor b.s.

I think you did the right thing exactly. If I were your neighbor, and I saw a small child out walking alone I also would have asked him where his mother was. And when he said she was in the house, not far away, I would have asked if she knew where he was. And once he said yes I would have let me go on his way, but kept an eye on him. That's what the village is for.

I would go back and ask the neighbor, very politely, to please never restrain my child again. Tell her that she scared him greatly, and that she may have done harm to the very important lessons about safety and independence that you have been trying to teach him. (You try to teach him to walk on the sidewalk because it's safe, she tells him he'll get hit by a car on the sidewalk.)

Good luck. Be brave. You're doing the right thing.

When my son was about 4, I let him tricycle to the end of the block and back while I was gardening. Yes, we live on a very busy street, but he stayed on the sidewalk, and I could glance up from the weeds to check on him from time to time. I stepped into the yard for a moment to grab a rake, and as I came back out a passer by came up to me and said "DO YOU KNOW THAT YOUR SON IS RIDING DOWN THE BLOCK???" I answered "Um, yeah, we told him we could..." She seemed really astonished that we would let him actually move 5 inches away from us without a leash or something. She muttered something and left, but it left me shaking my head wondering what is the big deal.

Now my kids are 8 and 9, and I (gasp) let them ride to their friends' houses 10 minutes away. My friends can't believe it. I can't believe how they can stand not to let their kids do the same.

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