More Resistance to Free Range Kids


I know Lenore Skenazy’s terrific blog, Free-Range Kids, has been mentioned on BB before, but IMHO it’s relevant, especially when our kids are home from school for two weeks and we as parents have to choose between letting them zone out for hours with the new videogame Santa brought them, or giving them the opportunity to explore the world around them and perhaps push their abilities with a difficult project.

For Skenazy, Christmas Day included a call from the police about her son because he was trying to ride a commuter train by himself to visit a friend. The friend’s parents were waiting on the other end, but that apparently wasn’t good enough for the train conductor. She describes their experience:

He – Izzy – has ridden this route solo a dozen times before. It’s a straight shot on a commuter train and, as always, he was being met at the other end by his friend’s family. But today’s conductor was appalled to see a boy riding alone.

For some reason, the conductor wouldn’t talk to me, even though Izzy called from the train when the ordeal began. The man had no interest in hearing me state what Izzy had already been telling him: We believe a child of 10 is perfectly capable of taking a half hour journey by himself.

So instead the conductor and his superior got off at Izzy’s stop and then, as the train just sat there (I’m sure no one was a rush to get to their families on Christmas day), they awaited the police. I got a call from the friend’s dad who was waiting to take Izzy home. “We cannot leave the station,” he said.”

“Why not?”

“The police have to decide what to do next.”

This is the sort of story that really chaps my ass. I’m firmly ensconced in the camp that believes today’s kids are being robbed of self-reliance and instead being instilled with fear and couch-potato health. Our own kids have to wear their helmets when biking or skating, but they get to go on adventurous bike rides; the 13-year-old frequently rides on his own or with friends. The 6-year-old doesn’t venture out on his bike without us, but he does explore the few acres of woods around us by himself and he’s so fond of sliding down the hill by our house that we bought him a long rope for Christmas so he can “rappel” back up the hill and slide down again.

And we understand that a small hamlet in the forested hills of Sonoma County isn’t the same as the wilds of NYC or Chicago, but we’re fairly secure in thinking that we’d lean toward the free-range side even in those environs. We make it a point to take our kids to big cities several times each year, and they’re allowed to wander a bit. Sometimes it’s scary – I once lost my then 10-year-old in the American Natural History Museum in NYC for about 20 minutes after he begged me to let him take the top route while I took the bottom. When we eventually found each other I scared him even more by yelling at him; this was my own fear actualized, which I later had to apologize for. But hey, he knows I care and that I’m not perfect, and hopefully I gave him an example of cleaning up your outbursts. And when we returned to the museum this year, he had a great story to tell his little brother.


Free Range Kids

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)


  1. The “wilds of NYC” you say. (The 9 year old who rode the subway alone.)

    I once lost my then 10-year-old in the American Natural History Museum in NYC for about 20 minutes after he begged me to let him take the top route while I took the bottom. When we eventually found each other I scared him even more by yelling at him; this was my own fear actualized, which I later had to apologize for.

    Give your kids mobile phones and this ceases to be an issue. 90% of the utility of a mobile phone is for ad hoc coordination.

    Overall, though, this post is truly a Wonderful Thing. Thank you!

    Hooray for youth rights and youth empowerment!

    p.s. I don’t suppose you have anything to say on the subject of third culture kids?

  2. To be clear: Free-range kids are a truly Wonderful Thing, as is the public criticism of those who resist it (and insist on infantilizing all of us, even adults).

  3. Hey Shawn,

    I’m a lifelong Chicagoan, and from the age of 7 I was walking to and from school (a mile and a half through my NW side neighborhood) and at 9 I started taking the El and CTA buses beyond Albany Park. Wrigley field was 2 buses from my neighborhood and from there I would walk to the used book stores, comic shops on Clark all the way down to Lincoln Park Zoo. My mom gave me money for books, transportation and a stash of quarters for the phone (this was the early 90’s). I’m 29 now, alive, well, independent and infinitely grateful my mom had the faith in me to let me explore my world. I’m a YA librarian and when I see kids today (whew, I feel old) on such short tethers it makes me so very sad for them.

    Not every kid is ready for that kind of freedom at a set age, kids vary in maturity. But they’re not getting more responsible and more prepared by being less free.

    My mother wanted me to grow into an adult, not simply moulder as a very well-protected child. Thanks for posting this!

  4. People love to control other people through whatever thumbscrews they can come up with. Other people’s kids are great way to do so.

  5. I went back to the neighbourhood I grew up in a few years back. It amazed me just how far of a walk it was to get from my house to the school. It was a lot farther than most kids are allowed these days.

    I blame the evening news. Every night they have the fear stopry of the day. “If you don’t watch this your kids may DIE!”

  6. I know a lot of commenters don’t RTFA, so I’ll provide a crucial part that was left out of the excerpt:

    The police officer listened and agreed this sounded reasonable. He said as much to the conductor and the boss and they got back on the train. My son was free to go. The policeman wished me, “Merry Christmas.”

    But if I had been given a summons as a delinquent parent, or hauled into family court, or had my child had been taken away from me, this would not have been very merry at all.

    But if???? Speculation is not reality. So wait… you have overzealous transit authorities who call the police, but the police agree with the parents that it’s OK for a 10 year old to ride alone.

    Why does this chap your ass?

    This really chaps MY ass:

    But in reality, we are up against not just a bunch of well-meaning folks who fear for them, but against some powerful authorities, too … What we have to remember, I guess, is that all civil rights movements have had to stand up to people in power who were legally right, but otherwise wrong. And we have to stand up to bad laws, too.

    Oh, spare me. Civil rights? What bad laws? The cops agreed there is not a law against letting a kid ride the train alone. They made it clear to the conductor that he was WRONG to do what he did. They are on your side.

  7. So was the train transporting criminals, pedophiles, zombies, or was it… everyday people on the train?

    Everyday people… you shock and awe me.

  8. “We believe a child of 10 is perfectly capable of taking a half hour journey by himself.”

    Good grief, why is this even questioned?

  9. I see kids younger than 10 riding solo on the DC metro all the time. No one gives them a second look.

    Over xmas I asked my mom “did you ever put me in a stroller? because I don’t remember one.” She said she never used one, I was either carried or when I learned to walk I walked everywhere.

    Now I don’t have kids and don’t plan on having any. But I have noticed when I’m in a crowd of folks my age who do have children the amount of peer pressure associated with the safety of their kids is just unbearable. When I was a kid (crap, can’t believe I said that) the only time you took medicine was when the fever hit 105 or if you were so mentally disturbed you seriously hurt yourself or others on a regular basis. Now it seems like “not fitting in during playtime” is reason enough for chewable prozac.

  10. WCC, for the moment forget the reasonable cops actions. What about the unreasonable Transit guys?

    It seems they halted the service and dragged the police into this child’s free movement.

  11. Yup. When I was 9, 1970, I was (sneaking) on CTA trains with my other buddies and going for joy rides to the Loop (and The Treasure Chest arcade on Randolph & State) and to Wrigley Field. I rode the Milwaukee Road train from Streamwood to Chicago, and back, every week a couple years later, the “L” from my house to Howard Street every Sunday, etc.

    Even before that, as a kindergartner and first grader I walked to school by myself in Oakland, CA. And spent hours with small groups of kids getting into mischief.

    Yeah. I got into trouble. Had some scrapes. But here I am, an independent adult. I’m not addicted to drugs or alcohol, I’ve never been arrested in my life, nor have I ever broken anything bad enough to require a cast.

    But in my work I encounter, often, parents attempting to do things on behalf of their college-aged children. Like registering them for their classes, etc. (Most of which are not allowed by law) And I’m appalled. When I was 18-22, I’d have been ashamed and angry if my parents attempted to take care of my business for me in college.

  12. WeightedCompanionCube “I know a lot of commenters don’t RTFA”


    after reading, I must say you’re right, what she should be posting about is how the cops were okay with her son riding the commuter train by himself

  13. Shawn,
    I grew up (38 yrs old) in Sebastopol, Ca. and am so thankful that my mom let me roam pretty much anywhere. Well, going down to Sequoia Market on hwy 116 was off limits but you get the picture. Many times I get in the “well when I was young” mode and think that all kids are completely sheltered and coddled. It’s nice to know that some are allowed to get out and skin a knee or two.

  14. Toolbag, she posted about the incident, including the reasonable cop, and the reasonable ticket agent.

    Her issue was the conductor and the incident itself.

    I don’t think anything was misrepresented in her posting.

  15. That sucks! I remember literally disappearing on my bike for an entire 10 hour period at a time to go ‘play’ with my friends. We had all sorts of adventures. We only came home to eat, or if someone hurt themselves bad enough to need band aids. Even then, that was a nuisance. Too much helicopter parenting these days!

  16. When the closing of the Adam Walsh case was big news a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised there wasn’t more discussion on how that case changed the overall lives of American children, probably permanently and ultimately, for the worse.

    I can only hope that more postings and stories like this one can continue to make the idea of giving kids the freedom to explore independently at least a bigger discussion. As a parent in the current environment, I totally empathize with how uneasy people feel about letting their kids out into the dangerous world: if everything and everyone is saying that the WORST will happen to your children if they go for a walk without an adult, how could you feel comfortable with the risks? My child isn’t yet 3, but I hope in a few years this topic will be a greater issue AND I can comfortably practice what I preach.

  17. I must register my hearty approval of free-range kids. If nothing else, healthful outings to the seaside are to be recommended. As many and as often as possible.

  18. To chime in, when I was a kid, I walked a mile to school everyday past a hotel used by jockeys at the local horse racing track. Every so often, a squadron of cops were outside arresting some dude and a prostitute. I once found $20 in the parking lot. Oh, the good ol’ days!

  19. You know, earlier today there were some people on the radio talking about how parents should “unplug” their kids, and get the to spend more time doing things other than TV, videogames, etc.

    Of course, they didn’t actually come out and recommend doing anything else, because all the things that kids used to do – run around in the neighborhood unsupervised, for example, parents won’t allow these days.

    It’s also sort of hard for a parent to look remotely sane telling their kid to watch less TV, when the parent spends 3-5 hours a day in front of the tube themselves.

  20. takuan, baby longpig? hardly enough meat for the amount of effort and even harder to catch! now college students…

  21. growing up in a village just north of Niagara Falls NY i used the river gorge as a play ground.
    i was around 10 and kept it up untill i was off to college in 1965.i fished within feet of the rapids just down river from the huge power plant and we climbed around on the rocks and explored caves.we roamed fields and got fruit from huge old trees..this village had been there since the 1600’s..went into old barns.ran model boats down creeks..went to a village school on our my Grandmothers home in Nigara Falls i would wander over to a rail yard to watch cars getting switched around..put pennys on the within feet of moving stock. the point–my Dad,a WW2 vet did not allow guns or i assume knew there limits when it came to “kid stuff”,adult killing machines were another it seems the other way around–

  22. Free Range kids is the way to go.. and really was the way most of us over 30 were raised. And apparently it was more dangerous back then (I do believe that violent crime in north america has generally gone down)

    But things like facts don’t stop the zealous over- protective sorts. And they have plenty of news stories to point to (notably like 1 per year- but very well reported) to back up their fears.

    Better to be worried about your kid being struck by lightning since it’s statistically more likely.

  23. I also want to give my approval for free-range kids. They are quite tasty and have a “zest” that the domesticated variety just doesn’t have. Not to mention all the extra fat and chemicals, that shit can’t be good for you.

    Will there be recipes?

  24. This may be a case where a rule or law that seems onerous to good parents is used to protect children who are genuinely being neglected. Sure, all of *your* kids (and mine, for that matter) have been raised to be independent and self-sufficient, have been oriented to the transit system, and know who to ask for help and who to run away from; but what about the kids whose parents send them outside for the day because the parents want to get high without the responsibility of the kids? I mean, it happened to me when I was a kid. Heck, when I was a teenager the rule was “don’t be home before midnight, when the guests have left.” Not many good places for a 14-year-old to hang out at 11:00 pm on a Saturday night.

    Just to datapoint contrary to all the happy wanderer stories: I remember being sent to the store on my bike when I was 9 (3 miles); I was driven off the road into a ditch by some teenagers and broke my arm. Took a few hours for somebody to find me–it was a rural area, not much traffic.

  25. I recently heard a talk radio host freaking out that parents were cutting back on after-school programs for their kids due to economic hardship. “They’ll be unsupervised latch-key kids!” Yes, and it’s a good thing. Kids shouldn’t be raised to regard Orwellian surveillance as normal.

  26. My oldest is 5, and we walk to and from school everyday, a whopping 1.1kms.

    She, along with 4 other kids, are the ONLY ones walking, and all are with their parents. The other kids are all at least 8 or older. I spend most mornings wondering why no one can walk or let their kids walk the less than 1 km to school-why it’s imperative that they are driven.

    I intend to do what my mother did starting in the spring-letting her walk by herself a little farther away each week, and waiting for her a bit farther away each week. We live in an extremely safe city, in a low traffic area.

    As I always say-I’m raising women, not children. This type of stuff drives me insane, especially since I ran the roads even at 6.

  27. When i was younger i was left to my own devices in the woods on a Suzuki 125 ATV. Once I made it to the teens and i discovered the madness of the computer, i think my brain degenerated. I am now saddened that my sister plops her daughters in front of the tv with Nick Jr.’s incredibly disturbing children’s shows…

  28. Actually, as i read some of these other comments…

    @ #27
    You have to consider where the after-school programs are being cut. For some children (mainly from the inner city) these programs are the only thing they have. Many dont have such caring parents that will take them explore or care to ask “What did you do today outside the house?”. These programs also provide a kind of group friendship and loyalty circle that they might otherwise seek in gang membership. I’m not pushing for more and more structure, but i think it’s needed in certain respects.

  29. Uh, regardless of whether the policeman was reasonable, the train conductor was WAY out of line there.

    Ridiculous rhetoric about “civil rights movements” aside, can you imagine a train full of people stuck in the station until the police had come to check on one boy, who’s clearly old enough to be allowed to ride on his own?

  30. We were heading down from Deer Lake in Olympic National Park and saw a 12 year old motor girl fairly soaring up the trail with a pack frame as big as she was. A few minutes later we ran into a ranger asking if the unaccompanied minor was ours. A bit later we ran into the rest of her party. The ranger had checked with them. National Parks do not allow unaccompanied minors on the wilderness trails and for good reason. There are cougars, bears, coyotes and other wild animals, and there is rough terrain. Grown ups have died twenty feet from a trail, but that, like getting drunk is something we reserve for grown ups. The ranger handled it well. Since the girl was just ahead of her party, and had a plan to rejoin the group, no problem, at least not on a busy trail. On the other hand, if no adults claimed her, they were going to follow up. Well done.

    One reason for overprotection is that suburbs are much more dangerous for children than cities, and a whole generation of Americans have grown up in suburbs. Most cities have sidewalks, traffic lights, cross walks and busy areas with hundreds of eyes. The suburbs, especially those of the traditional cul de sac and 50 mph highway pattern, are extremely dangerous, even to adult pedestrians. A child on foot or on a bicycle is in much more danger of getting hit by a car than assaulted by a pedophile, and in the city there are likely to be people who will intervene if the child screams. Try to find someone outside on a suburban street these days. I’m not saying it’s rational, just not unexpected.

  31. On a related note, there was a story in the news very recently about a father in Idaho who told his kids to walk the 10 miles home in the snow after the truck broke down. One died and the other was found shivering and missing some of his clothes at a rest stop (hypothermia delirium had caused him to shed some of his clothes for some reason). From what I’ve read it seems to be either stupidity on the father’s part, or a mis-communication about whether the mother was coming to pick the kids up, or likely both. I suppose one can use this as ammo in a diatribe against “free range kids” but IF those kids had made it we wouldn’t have heard about it. I’m willing to bet there are lots of similarly bone-headed moves by parents everyday that don’t end up with the kids dead on the side of the road– we just don’t hear about them because nobody gets hurt (yeah sure, that’s a lot of “ifs” but it’s reasonable). Like a lot of people here I can recall things I did as a child that should have resulted in serious injury or death, but somehow didn’t.

    The question is “what’s a reasonable amount of freedom for a child to have?” A child alone on the subway could get abducted, but then they could get abducted from their own front yards or at the mall when the parent turns his/her back for a second (I recall plenty of those kind’s of stories in the evening news over the years). Riding the subway is probably no more dangerous than crossing the street, but having your kids walk 10 miles in the snow isn’t. Consider this: parents who spend so much time and money disinfecting everything in their house end up with children who have allergies and are more prone to illness, whereas kids who grow up on farms playing in the mud rarely have allergies and have stronger immune systems. The concept of “free range kids” is an investment in a stronger adult; as with any investment there are risks, and you have to decide if the risks outweigh the gains.

  32. I’d be irritated at this too if it happened to me, yet still I think if we give everybody their due it’s a little less bad than it sounds at first.

    Yes, the train personnel overreacted. They really could have learnt all they needed to through a brief chat with the child, and possibly a follow-up call to a parent, without the need to stop the train, call the police, and so forth.

    And yet: all they did, when you come down to it, was to see a situation in which they believed they had a public safety duty, and then take steps to delegate that situation to the public safety professionals. And the public safety professionals – the police – determined there was not a problem and closed out the incident in what sounds like a reasonable manner.

    I can see why this was infuriating to the families and probably upsetting to the child, but I honestly think that, aside from being annoyingly overcautious, this was not handled all that terribly. This seems to me more a case of some people being undertrained than of horrible authoritarian overreach.

  33. When I was 9 and my brother 7, we took the El from South 55th Street to Wrigley Field all by ourselves. This was in the 1975. No harm was done to us, and we had a great time.

    Today’s kids are being raised to be frightened and unimaginative. Very sad.

  34. For those interested in walking to school with their kids, look up the Walking School Bus. Basically it’s a group of kids and their parents who take turns walking to school together-there are regular stops and the kids are expected to be there on time.
    Here’s link:

  35. Rappel *up* a hill?! That’s CRAZY talk!

    Everything else you’ve expressed in the posting, however, sounds perfectly reasonable.

  36. Okay, can someone who was around thirty years ago clue me in on the media situation?

    Everybody’s talking about over-protected kids, but the main reason I’ve seen given is excessive media coverage of anecdotal support for the idea that the world is a dangerous place. There’s gotta be an other reason (although I was one of those kids, and I don’t know how it happened, myself).

    So… was the evening news significantly different decades ago?

  37. mmm, maybe it is just selective memory, but I do recall evening news programs being significantly different. More international and national news, actual reporting rather than fear baiting.

    I am sure someone has made an objective study.

  38. Great article from last year:

    When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere.

    It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.

    Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas’s eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom.

    He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home.

  39. @ #10 POSTED BY TAKUAN

    only poor kids are allowed independence.

    I rode the NYC Subway alone for the first time when I was 11 or 12 I believe. Before that I’d walk 6-7 blocks to school by myself. I even walked the boardwalk to get to Coney Island myself. Always had a stash of money in my sneaker just in case… And that never came to be.

    I tell friends about this and immediately I’ll get some “bad parenting” nonsense. And for a while I thought that was the case. Until I started to realize how many things fall into the category of “bad parenting” by the truly paranoid out there. Did you know some folks consider buying a hot dog for a kid from a street vendor “bad parenting”?


    Also, another thing I will share is I learned how to explore by having tons of local businesses in my neighborhood. First learned how to go to the corner to get candy and newspaper for my dad. Crossed the street to get milk and some small groceries from the supermarket. Walked further to get to the library. Hooked up with friends at the library to go to the toy store and cool bookstore that *GASP* bought back comics from neighborhood kids! Finally a way to sell off my Archies so I could buy Spider-Man comics!!!

    Now as an adult my neighbors are a tad shocked I’ll just climb up the fire escape ladder to the roof to unclog a drain. I learned how to do that to repair damaged TV antenna connections.

    In the end I appreciate my parents for giving me freedom without thinking too much about it. Truth be told they were overprotective in some ways, but these small pieces of freedom taught me so much more than I could ever appreciate otherwise.

  40. I don’t think theres anything wrong with letting your children roam, but I think your children should be made aware of potential predators.
    A mobile phone is a good idea too, maybe one with a GPS locator just in case.

  41. Lets get real about where we are heading. I shall arm my child, and any idiot security officer or cop that restrains her from her rights, or detains her without warrant, she shall have permission to shoot his mustache point blank.

    What else will it take, people? All of these articles on boingboing, what is being done? Awareness is great, action is progress. Do something! Quit talking about it!

    Do something.

  42. Infantilization. It’s not just for children anymore.

    It just hit me: our entire society is trending towards infantilizing *everyone*.

    We elect our political leaders based on “who can afford the most 30-second television ads.” He who gets their infantile slogans aired most often, wins. Rational, detailed, adult discussion of the issues: not so much.

    In most any kind of emergency (crime, medical, natural disaster), the modern response is “call 911 and wait for mommy” rather than attempt any self-defense, self-aid, or self-rescue.

    Our consumer culture: pure infantile acquisitiveness.

    Our near-outright denial of the reality of death (see also ‘religion’): infantile.

    So, yeah, this story about a 10-year-old being treated like a 4-year-old is troubling, but not nearly as troubling as how adults have acculturated to act as children.

  43. The Mamma state knows best!!! BS.
    I travelled to school on my own on two buses from the age of 7 – this is such CRAP. Just about ANY 10yo could make this simple commute trip without society crumbling around them.

  44. i beleive children should be given freedom to make their own choices and mistakes and clean up their own messes.
    however, i think this is more about conscious and intelligent parenting than societal restrictions. most laws only come to pass after many many many bad things happen. most rails are not installed on dangerous curves until a certain amount of deaths have occured for example. so while there are many seemingly stupid laws and restrictions in the world, often they came to pass for a reason many of us would never consider needed. but somebody did need to be told some very obvious things.
    i am 31 and i was allowed to roam the neighborhoods since i was a little girl. before 10 i think. we moved around a lot. during my childhood years i was beaten up by “friends” my bike was stolen -twice- i was sexually abused by several different people from my own age to adults etc. etc.
    but my parents werent “free ranging” me. they just believed that it was “OK” and normal to do so. ironically i spent many many hours watching tv,movies and playing games at home and my education and imagination definately suffered for it.
    anyway what im mostly saying is that its possible the train conductor had a childhood trauma and was overreacting as such.
    we must all learn to be more open minded when considering news stories and remember that we have all at one time or another actually made a mistake or two.

  45. since everyone seems to be in “what-if” mode…let’s turn the tables just a bit.

    Let’s suppose something unfortunate happened to this kid. You pick it…takes a spill and knocks himself out, gets lost and no one will let him use their cell phone, or go straight for the jugular — the kid gets nabbed by a psycho or pedo.

    Doesn’t matter, really…anything that keeps the kid from arriving at the correct platform when he’s supposed to.

    THAT would be when we would see the blazing headlines, the tearful appeals to the mass media, and the multi-billion-dollar lawsuits, because those apathetic fuckers on the train SAW that kid traveling alone, and didn’t do a FUCKING THING.

    So…he’s a nosy fucker because he did something, but he would have been an apathetic fucker had he done nothing.

    I feel kinda bad for the guy on the train…he’s pretty much fucked whether he gives a shit about the kid or not.

  46. Well I grew up in a more rural/suburb type of area. Before Nintendo (age 10 approx) I played outside in the woods all the time. Rode my bike to friends houses (up to 2 miles away) and in general did what I wanted to with in reason. My parents knew where I was going and who I was going to be with. If I was outside somewhere all my dad had to do was whistle and I’d be home in a flash. I’ve had my fair share of cuts and bad situations, like the time I almost caught the business end of an axe at chest height…ALMOST.

    Even once I got video games and the like I still spent a decent amount of time outside. Now in the summer it’s not like you go out a terrible amount in the first place (NC). When it’s 95 and 60% RH and a heat index above 105, yeah, no…. So yeah growing up I did camp in front of the tube a fair amount. At the same time I also played with every construction playset at the time (lego, erector, capsula, construx, ect..) I think I turned out pretty alright.

  47. the train conductor was not out of line… he or she was very likely NOT willing to be responsible for any accident that befell the unaccompanied kid…

    expect the conditions of travel for the trains to change stating that all children under 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

  48. manicbassman:
    Don’t some under 16s use trains to get to school? They do round here (London), where they also get free, unlimited local bus travel.

  49. Xaxa, not in the US. Public schools (and many private ones) have their own dedicated buses, completely separate from municipal transit, that collect and deliver the children in the morning and afternoon..and that’s not a new, overprotective idea — US schools have had their own bus systems for several generations now.

    The grey area is that the conductor has no way of knowing if this is a self-sufficient, intelligent kid on his way to visit family, a runaway getting away from a desperate situation and really needs help (a warm bed and a warm meal), a runaway who shouldn’t be running away (for whatever reason)or some kid who’s dumber than a rock, sent off for whatever reason by dumbass, give-a-shit parents who couldn’t care less about their kid.

    Talking to him? Sure..that’s a possibility…but it’s also a possibility that a kid clever enough to jump ship is also clever enough to lie about it (or been taught/threatened/bribed to lie about it).

    There isn’t a right answer here — it all seems perfectly clear because the kid’s intelligent and everything’s okay..but it just as easily could have been a situation where the conductor SHOULD have intervened and didn’t.

    Put yourself in his shoes for just a moment (ewww….okay, just mentally)…would you sleep better knowing you’d intervened and shouldn’t have, or would you sleep knowing that you COULD have helped, and you didn’t?

  50. I have two kids, aged six and three.

    The guy across the street is a convicted sex offender.

    They’re dealing crack out of the apartments on the corner.

    The boy down the street got jacked for his bicycle and pocket change last week by some older kids.

    I don’t think I’ll be free-ranging my kids in this neighborhood, thanks.

  51. Ridiculous! Back in my day we worked at the shirt factory in the morning and then won the Crimean War during our breaks! (If we took one, only the softest of children took breaks, which I fear is all too common in today’s children).

  52. @ZuZu – I’m surprised by how many people think their neighborhood is much better than what Ignatz described. You don’t know who your neighbors are. Check the free databases online. Sex offenders live everywhere. My “nice” neighborhood has one down the street, too.

    I like the idea of “free range kids”, and I’ve tried to loosen up over the years, (I have a 10 year old and a 7 year old), but in the end I have to ask myself if it would be worth it. Is it worth it to instill this independence and confidence in my kids if they get hurt?

    All it takes is one sick person and game over.

    I read a news article about a woman who brought her young son to the library in Massachusetts. He was literally just a couple rows away and was raped, right there in broad daylight in the middle of the library.

    Like I said, it only takes one sick person. Maybe it’s delusional to think I can protect my kids from everything, but I feel it’s my duty as a parent to keep them safe. Whatever happens, I’d like to think I did everything I could to ensure they don’t get seriously hurt or worse. Call me crazy.

  53. Part of the problem is that adults have become afraid of anonymously watching out for other people’s kids that might be out in public; instead of helping out and keeping an eye on kids around us, and other people in general, we have come to either ignore or stay away from them and their possible problems, except maybe to phone the police or whoever. Adults are afraid of kids, and we are afraid of each other.

  54. “But in my work I encounter, often, parents attempting to do things on behalf of their college-aged children. Like registering them for their classes, etc. (Most of which are not allowed by law) And I’m appalled. When I was 18-22, I’d have been ashamed and angry if my parents attempted to take care of my business for me in college.”

    I saw a report about the number of parents that did things like go on job interviews, negotiate salaries, and the like for their 20-something kids. Seriously?!?

  55. I grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan in “The Projects”.
    From about third grade (8 yrs old) I walked to Holy name of Jesus Catholic school with my two younger brothers in tow without our parents. 103rd St. & Columbus Ave. to 97th St. & Amsterdam Ave.

    Along the way we’d meet up with our pals who were also walking to school solo. Man, the adventures we had! Especially on the way back home.

    We started going to Central Park & Riverside drive sans parents at around this age. It was the 70’s.
    Riverside Drive was an inviting esplanade where families had picnics as they watched sail bots slowly heading south on the green waters of the Hudson River.
    Central Park, on the other hand, was like a big scary forest from some old European fairy tale. Bad things could happen to you in Central Park in those days. But me, my brothers (I haven’t any sisters) and our friends spent many more hours in that park than any other park. The fun and excitement (& terror) was incredible.

    I am now 51. I have never been the victim of any crime while wandering the streets of NYC (I learned how to run & hide early on).

    But my oldest son (14 years old) has been the victim of street crime three times. The first when he was 8 (his Razor scooter was taken from him). Once he was punched in the face and knocked to the ground by a group of older kids trying to take his cell phone.

    Luckily my boy’s desire to venture out on his own has not been curtailed by these incidents. He travels alone on the subway every day between our home in Brooklyn to his high school in Manhattan. He still takes his skateboard to other far flung parts of the city to hit the ramps that have popped up around town.

    Kids are gonna get banged up. That’s part of growing up. I feel I must allow my sons (my youngest is now 9) the opportunity to venture out on their own. Let them fall down. It’s in the getting back up that they will learn to be confident young men (my wife & I do not have daughters).

    I still fear for their safety (crime, police harassment, city traffic, sexual predators, I could go on). But my wife & I make sure to not let our fears overwhelm them.

    Come what may, when my boys are in their 50’s they will be sitting around worrying about their own kids (maybe, if I’m really lucky, they’ll present me with grand daughters!) just as I imagine my parents worried about me & my brothers.

  56. Sons are for your young manhood and maturity. Daughters are for your old age. Granddaughters are nice too, but grandsons are nowhere to be found after adolescence; I am told, however, they will show up at your funeral.

  57. There’s plenty of ammo for the free-range kids argument. A typical example:

    More importantly, “Research is clearly substantiating that an affinity to and love of nature, along with a positive environmental ethic, grow out of children’s regular contact with and play in the natural world” (many studies)

    What they mean is not organized, rule-bound Boy Scout type nature hikes, but going off in the woods all alone and being in nature, listening to the wind and birds, looking under rocks, getting comfortable with the world of the Not Human. Learning to love nature as it is. Seems a kid just can’t do that as part of a tour group.

  58. Maybe Chicago kids have more freedom than other places.

    When I worked at the University of Chicago Hospital 15 years ago, I took the Metra from the Loop out to the U of C campus. There were young kids (6 or 7) at the U of C Laboratory School who took the Metra with me. Their parents put them on the train at the Metra station, and the kids got off at the U of C station and walked to school from there. A classroom assistant would walk them back to the station in the evening to make sure they got on their trains. I assume that their parents met them at the Metra station in the evening, too.

  59. Any bets asto whether the conductor has kids?

    When I was a preteen living in the DC area I used to take the, then new, Metro by myself fairly often. Many saturdays I’d take it to the mall and spend a day in the Air & Space Museum, or go from the northern most station to the southern most (from Maryland to Virgina) to spend the weekend at a friend’s. Okay, there was the one time when my mother and I had our wires crossed and I thought she was going to pick me up, and she thought I was going to call. I had used up my money and didn’t have change for the phone. I sat outside the station for 3 hours before she showed up, and guess what, nobody bothered me. I also used to ride the area bike trails, easily spending 8 hours running around all over the place.

    More recently, when I’ve been in NY I see kids on their own all the time, going to school or just screwing around. Now, I wouldn’t want them out on their own at night –I won’t go out at night there by myself, but during the day, why not?

    I think this goes along with some parents who don’t let their toddlers play in the dirt, not their immune systems get used to the real world, and they wonder why little Billy’s always got a sniffly nose.


  60. Ruprecht Jones @43:

    “I shall arm my child, and any idiot security officer or cop that restrains her from her rights, or detains her without warrant, she shall have permission to shoot his mustache point blank.”

    This is your solution to an overzealous transit authority employee? I sincerely hope you are being sarcastic.

    And I thought the story about the supervolcano was scary stuff…

  61. I think @55 has it right. My older kid is four, so we’re not yet ready for long adventures by himself, although he has free range of the hill behind the house. But I’d worry much more about the neighbors NOT interacting with him than pestering him.

  62. @Zuzu: Things have gone downhill around here since my oldest was born. That’s why we’re moving back to the neighborhood where I grew up. There my kids can go freerange a lot more.

    A lot of it has to do with circumstances. I walk around the neighborhood with my kids. They pick the direction and the destination; I just make sure they remember to watch for traffic. As they get older I’ll encourage more independent explorations, including public transportation and bicycles.

    I would say that a lot of the unwillingness to let kids explore by themselves is parental fear, whether justified or no. We don’t want our kids to be hurt. It’s unlikely that they will, but it’s possible. So we take steps to minimize the risks. Some commenters have talked about being attacked, molested or robbed while they were out by themselves. I certainly don’t want that to happen to my kids, but rather than keep them indoors I’ll drop what I’m doing and go with them. They set the agenda; I’m just along for the ride.

  63. re. #32 POSTED BY KALEBERG

    National Parks do not allow unaccompanied minors on the wilderness trails and for good reason. There are cougars, bears, coyotes and other wild animals, and there is rough terrain.

    Well, this brought back a memory. I grew up n the 50’s and early 60’s, about half in the suburbs and half in a cabin in Northern Arizona mountains. I was free to roam alone (with my dog) in the wilderness from a very early age, and as a result was quite comfortable in that environment.

    The summer between 6th and 7th grade I would have been about 12. I managed, with a friend my same age, to talk one set of parents into driving us up up the rim of the Grand Canyon and dropping us off with backpacking gear, and the other set of parents into picking us up at the same spot the next week. At this time (1964) backpacking was pretty unusual, and trails in the canyon were empty for the most part, except for the main route the mules traveled. In some areas we went days without seeing any other people. Off trails there was no one. About halfway through the trip we “ran into” a ranger, who talked with us for a while and moved on. We later discovered our parents had called and asked that the backcountry rangers keep a lookout for us. He must have thought we were doing OK. The biggest worry my friend’s parents expressed was that we would not wash our pots & pans well enough and would get sick.

    Crazy? By contemporary standards, probably. My mother thinks so now. I can’t remember that anyone thought this was all that odd or unusual of a thing to do at the time. We were exposed to cliffs, loose rocks, rattlesnakes, rapids, cougars, and who-knows-what else. But we were also exposed to pristine wilderness, ancient Indian ruins, animals with no fear of humans, spectacular sunsets and sunrises, and the immense geology of the place, all without guidebooks or interpretive signs, with no adult telling us what to do or where to go or “taking care” of us. We had the opportunity to plan and carry out our trip and live with the consequences of our decisions.

    Would I have let my own daughter do this? No. She didn’t grow up in an environment that gave her the experiences I had, and she’s not temperamentally inclined to this sort of adventure. But at 12 she was riding the city bus alone back and forth to take summer classes at the University of Washington- something that would have probably terrified me at that age.

    Independence and self-reliance are traits that need to be developed in kids through experience, in whatever arena. I haven’t seen it mentioned, but my feeling is that one of the biggest factors in contemporary American culture working against this independence is the overwhelming emphasis on adult run and organized sports teams for kids. Kids need to learn to work things out on their own, and when adults run everything they don’t get the opportunity.

  64. @71,

    Thanks for the comment. What a great time you guys must have had. You’ll never forget that one, will you? It’s sad so few kids get to have those sort of adventures.

  65. “Oh, spare me. Civil rights? What bad laws? The cops agreed there is not a law against letting a kid ride the train alone. They made it clear to the conductor that he was WRONG to do what he did. They are on your side.”

    The problem is that the policeman could have gone the other way and determined that there was neglect, which actionable, and this family would have had a very un-merry christmas with a child in Foster care while a legal determination was made, to say nothing of the permanent damage the child would have sustained.

    I was an extreme free-ranger, and would take daily detours on the two-mile walk home from school that would carry into the early evening. I would usually spend my busfare (15 cents) on some tiny treat at a grocer and took pride in having walked every single street, side-road, and ally in our community.

    My experience was that the police were not on my side. When I was seven, I passed a man rattling the door of a closed business while I was on my way to the payphone to call my mom to pick me up after a movie at a theater. The burglar alarm activated after I was about a block away and a few minutes later I was dragged, while dialing, into a police car. Apparently, some older kids nearby had pointed to me when the police arrived. The officers grilled me about my role in the “break-in” while making comments about jail-time and my future criminal record. In tears, I professed my innocence and repeated my mother’s phone number over and over. They never called her, and finally let me go after about 30 minutes (I’m “fair-skinned”). With no remaining coins, I had to go to a drug store and have them call home for me. To this day, I feel weird when I pass by the jackinthebox which has replaced the business at that site.

    I’m know that there are good cops out there–my own BFF became one. Unfortunately, my interactions with his co-workers in unfiltered informal situations has tended more to re-affirm my skewed view of those who have sworn to serve and protect.

    When they are older (a few years after they start walking) my own children will carry copies of the ACLU wallet card with instructions of exactly what to and not to do when accosted by authorities.

  66. Zuzu, are you serious? Is having children the kind of thing you match to your neighborhood? Are you capable of living in the same place for the rest of your life? What happens if you get divorced/ split from the father/lose your job and have to move into what you can afford? What happens if your neighborhood goes downhill and you’re stuck paying the mortgage anyway?

    I have to assume you were being funny.

    I’m going to come down on the paranoid side, but I’ve had all kinds of shit happen to me and I’ve already had to chase pedophiles away from my oldest kid (we went shopping and she was an aisle over when a man in his fifties tried to approach and grab her. He had been staring at her backside and didn’t think she was accompanied.) I go places armed (not with a gun. And my daughters will go nowhere without a club/asp/karate.)

    Call me paranoid, I don’t care. The kids go nowhere without escort until they are teenagers. We don’t live in the same world as the one I wandered the streets in, as a kid.

  67. sadly true. But the best way to arm your kids is with knowledge, confidence, experience. The use of force must be taught, but never relied on. There’s just too many bigger predators, and Nature herself.

  68. The thing that blows me away about a lot of these “There are dangerous people out there…” arguments is they ignore the reality. Most child abuse is not committed by strangers. Most childhood trauma is not committed by magical demons that pop out of nowhere.

    Go to family court sometime and sit in on deliberations. And get ready to never look at the world the same again. Because you want to know something? Insular families keeping “secrets” are the worst thing to a a child’s life.

    So if the visual of a child alone scares you, think about some crying kid on the bus who is being “cared for” by an abusive lunatic.

    Educate your children that anything that makes them feel wrong IS wrong no matter no dealt it. Whether it be a stranger or a relative.

    In fact, I literally cannot think of a case of abuse in my own circle of friends/family that did not emanate from within the home.

  69. Hello, Jack. My name is mouthyb. I spent a good portion of my teenage years homeless. People are creepy and sometimes downright evil out there to girls or boys who are alone. I’ve had more than my fair share and the only reason I’m still alive is because I’m fast and really, really mean. Of course, I wouldn’t have been homeless without shitty caretakers, but there are plenty of creepy motherfuckers out there who just love it when there’s no adult around. Some of them are nice, middle class guys with families and jobs who don’t think they’re creepy. After all, they aren’t doing it to their own kids. They seem really nice up front, too.

    I don’t think we should ignore the creep factor outside the home, either.

    And yes, my kids get that kind of education, too.

    I find it amazing how many of you guys seemed to have such wonderful childhoods. I’m mean, seriously. It must be wonderful. I envy you. I don’t understand you, but I envy you some. I like what I’ve made of myself, though.

    I suppose there ain’t no bridging this experiential thing we’ve got going here. Pity.

  70. Having acknowledged that there is an experiential gap, MouthyB, you must also acknowledge that the problems homeless kids face are completely out of the ballpark, purely because they are homeless and voiceless. It’s admirable that you want to protect your kids from the abuse you faced, but they are protected 99.99% already by the “mere” fact that they have a home and people who love them. Be careful that your kids don’t end up paranoid and “mean”- it isn’t a positive social survival trait in most people’s lives. You’ve got to trust somebody sometimes- I’ve known and loved people who simply were never raised to understand that trusting anyone was even a possibility.

  71. Mouthyb, I’m not discounting your experience, but I think you need to differentiate your experiences being homeless from a someone else who has a home but is allowed to freely explore.

    Being homeless opens yourself up to whole new world where the rules are clearly different. A kid riding a train from point A to point B is not the same thing.

    I think your experiences must have been harsh. But living in paranoia can hurt you—and your children—more in the long run.

  72. Some people manage to go their whole lives without encountering anything of that kind. More power to them. It helps if their parents have money, and aren’t bad people. It also helps if they have a house. But mostly, it’s about luck.

    Let’s put it this way: you have a button. 99 percent of the time, when it’s pushed, nothing happens. 1 percent of the time, it blows up the city you’re in. Do you walk around pushing it even though you’re sure nothing will happen, almost every time?

    In terms of the conductor, I’d give the person a medal. If you see a young child and no one around them, it is better to check and see what’s going on instead of pretending you don’t see them so you aren’t ‘nosy.’ Because even if the parent says it’s fine, something else may be going on. Neglect, abuse, etc. I wish someone had checked on my brother and I, instead of turning their faces away/saying it was really family business. And I wish someone had checked on me when I was sleeping in parks, instead of regulating it to someone else’s problem/too much trouble.

    It amazes me how many times, in a group of people, I’ve seen an incident of domestic violence that no one else will even look at. Literally. They turn their faces away as if what is happening in front of them is invisible or if it is shameful to notice that kind of behavior. And when I call the police or interfere, people are disgusted with me for ‘being nosy.’ While this kid is not exactly the same case, the conductor still performed a human service which should make him/her a hero. I want someone to notice if my kids are crossing a city alone before 14. I also think that there are times when even just checking on someone, checking on why they have a black eye, or why they aren’t talking to anyone, or why they’re alone signals a ethos and civis which makes the checker a better citizen.

    It’s not paranoia, it’s the natural consequence of being poor in an urban area. I spent the entirety of last night listening to gunshots, screams and sirens. If I were experiencing paranoia, my response to children wandering would be unprovoked or not of the correct measure to the circumstances. My responses are correct and I am unrepentant. I’ve heard all this before from those same people who won’t look at a man hitting and choking his wife while we’re out on a walk together because it’s a shameful thing to see or because they shouldn’t have to watch that kind of thing. To my mind, paranoia is the label nice people give anything that falls outside their experiences.

  73. First: there’s much, much lower than 1% chance of anything bad happening on any given day to someone who isn’t totally unstreetwise.

    Second: “I’ve heard all this before from those same people who won’t look at a man hitting and choking his wife while we’re out on a walk together because it’s a shameful thing to see or because they shouldn’t have to watch that kind of thing.”

    I find it deeply offensive to be lumped in with people like that, and the fact you’ve done it (based entirely on my comment that fear, meanness and distrustfulness are not the paramount character traits with which to inculcate your kids) suggests to me that you have some real psychological problems. Don’t pass the issues to the next generation; they’re going to have enough to deal with.

  74. Ah, the ad hominems continue. Personally, I find it offensive to be told that I have issues (like making them paranoid and mean or making them incapable of love and trust) that I’m going to pass onto my children because I don’t want them out by themselves before a certain age and I want them to have access to a means to defend themselves.


    Some people manage to go their whole lives without encountering anything of that kind. More power to them. It helps if their parents have money, and aren’t bad people.

    It’s not paranoia, it’s the natural consequence of being poor in an urban area.

    I made a promise to myself I would not respond to any more paranoid nonsense you’re writing until I saw this. It shows how narrow minded you are to not even recognize some of us who are not freaking out were raised in abject poverty and in bad neighborhoods.

    My parents survived the Holocaust in their teens. They had their demons to deal with. They had me when they were in their 40s in 1968. I was born in Brooklyn, NY in a crappy neighborhood where some of my elementary school classmates were hookers, drug dealers or bookies by the time they hit junior high school. Even if they weren’t directly involved they lived next to, or were related to people like that.

    Despite all that it didn’t stop me from exploring my world. And because my parents were older, I often had to explore it on my own and simply call back or be home at a certain time. And while my own parents had their own slightly skewed view of the world thanks to the Holocaust, it was so disconnected from my American kid in the 1970s life it had no significant impact on me.

    Looking back on my childhood I realized something. Even though there was bad stuff happening around me, I had enough friends in the neighborhood and was known enough that I never got mixed up into any of that mess. You learn and you adapt. And in all honesty I watched the “Little Rascals” as a kid and could completely relate to this roaming kids getting into mischief. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Everyone stuck together and helped each other.

    In contrast I have siblings that are much older than me that have a bizarre mix of overprotectiveness and freedom in the way they raised their children. It’s really too complex to explain simply, but they have the equivalent of suburban overprotection that I find deadlier. And now that they are becoming adults it’s disturbing to see how this has all played out with them.

    MouthyB, my best advice for you is to build up your self-esteem and build up your kid’s self-esteem. Otherwise you have demons that you’re just passing onto your children. And since they have no real context as to who or what these demons are they will really be distrustful of the world in the end.


    Ah, the ad hominems continue. Personally, I find it offensive to be told that I have issues (like making them paranoid and mean or making them incapable of love and trust) that I’m going to pass onto my children because I don’t want them out by themselves before a certain age and I want them to have access to a means to defend themselves.

    You’re being called paranoid because you have made claims of your children needing to be “protected” without real examples of when you had to do that.

    Also you’re being a bit pedantic because you presume anyone who doesn’t see the world like you must come from “parents have money” when that could not be further from the truth. Ditto with your claim “…it’s the natural consequence of being poor in an urban area.”

    No it’s not. There are tons of people who have been raised poor in urban areas who don’t behave or see the world like you do.

    It has everything to do with self-esteem and being reasonable and not thinking everything is a threat to your children.

    The self-hatred you have towards the world will damage your children more than you can believe.

  77. Would you like examples or would you prefer to just insult this out? And did the 50 year old guy who tried to grope my oldest kid count as an example or did you not read that part? (comment #77)

    Since we arguing based on experience, I have to say I’ve never met anyone who was poor who did not have creepy shit happen to them while they were growing up. So why is my experience less valid than yours?

    ‘Self-hatred for the world’ is an oxymoron. In the technical and literal sense. Unless self and world are the same, in which case the choice of exclusively using argument from experience makes more sense.

    I seem to have hit a nerve with the money comment. Got anything you want to bring into the experience discussion, here? Or maybe something to substantiate the assertion that I’m going to damage my children.

    1. I had a governess, who at least kept me away from my parents. If she hadn’t been there, the forest would have been my next choice.


    And did the 50 year old guy who tried to grope my oldest kid count as an example or did you not read that part?

    This is literally the only example you’re providing outside of some nebulous claim that you were homeless when you were a teen and “People are creepy and sometimes downright evil out there to girls or boys who are alone.” with no other experiences.

    To quote what you said in #77:

    …we went shopping and she was an aisle over when a man in his fifties tried to approach and grab her. He had been staring at her backside and didn’t think she was accompanied.

    Here’s the problem with this account. Did it ever occur to you he was approaching her because he thought she was unaccompanied and might want to simply find out who she was with? Just like the train conductor you are praising? Because all you have described is someone coming up to your kid in a department store and YOU are projecting the worst case scenario as the only explanation. Did you grab the guy and call security? Pretty sure you didn’t. Because if what you’re saying is true you then “protected” your child and let a predator go… And if all of what you’re saying is true, I don’t think you would do that.

    I seem to have hit a nerve with the money comment. Got anything you want to bring into the experience discussion, here?

    ??? Baffling. Read what I wrote again. It has NOTHING to do with money. Nobody I grew up with had money. And nobody I know was ever randomly kidnapped or molested. If anything everyone I knew that had been attacked by an adult was attacked by an adult in their own family. ME AND FRIENDS INCLUDED. Strangers? I’d never say strangers are friends, but the mythical “stranger” who wants to grab a child who is walking down the street is about as common an occurrence as being attacked by a shark… Or even attacked by a dog…

    Do some research on violence towards kids and you might be shocked at how horrible some family members and “friends” are.

    Also to reiterate, a kid walking down the street or riding the train alone to get to one place or another is on a whole different plane of existence than someone who is homeless. The fact you can’t grasp that fact shows me—and others—you really have not ever gotten over that trauma and chances are very god that you will bring it back into your home.

  79. I have always believed that my role as a parent is to give my child all the knowledge and experiences I can to help them become an independent individual capable of making decisions that will lead to their happiness. And then get out of their way.

    My 13 year old daughter recently took the wrong bus after an appointment but was able to solve her own problem and get home by herself. I didn’t hear about it until after she got home, even though she had her cell phone on her. She was proud of her ability to deal with the difficulty and it made me happy she was given a little challenge and was able to overcome it on her own. But I doubt she would have been able to get through that challenge on her own had she not had experiences with independence before this.

    You can’t give your child a risk-free environment but you can teach them how to recognize risks and lessen them. Teach them to trust their own instincts and avoid dangerous situations, but if you lead them through life, who takes your place when you’re gone? And whose to say you can make better decisions about their own life than they’ll be able to make after they gain a little experience themselves?

  80. I, too, preferred the woods.

    Unfortunately, there’s a long hike to get to the dense trees in NM (other side of the mountains from Albuquerque.) I didn’t find the cacti to be conduce for hiding behind. Spines, you understand. They make standing close very prohibitive.

  81. and you two have known each other how long? I find it very hazardous in every respect of the word to offer child raising advice to others.

  82. Jack, you still haven’t given me any of your experiences but you continuously demand more of mine. I had no idea the burden of proof here was all on me. Are you under the impression you are endorsing the majority opinion, and if so, is that what you are comfortable arguing on the terms of?

    In the case of the creepy guy, when you’re staring at a minor’s ass, you should not be assumed to be beneficial in intent toward that minor. And I did make a deal out of it, but I love that you assume I haven’t.

    Do we know each other? Because so far you’ve talked ‘authoritatively’ about my child raising skills, my personality, my trauma, claimed there was something suspect about my account of being homeless and generally gone out of your way to ad hominem me. If all you’ve got is name-calling, I’m going to conclude you don’t have an argument, you just have ire.

    So far, I’ve never denied that family members can be creepy. I’ve also said that strangers should not be denied as creepy either. Are you actually reading what I’m writing? If I meant to be shitty, I could point out in a nasty way that you’re actually bringing all kinds of things into the discussion that I didn’t put there, which tells me you have trauma that you haven’t finished dealing with. But frankly, the point is not to have perfectly gotten over having trauma. The point is to try and prevent trauma. And I haven’t actually talked about how I try to prevent trauma other than to supervise and teach my children self-defense. Are you objecting to either of those methods?

    I’ve done a lot of research, but that’s not really important. I am curious, however, to know why you don’t think I have.


    Jack, you still haven’t given me any of your experiences but you continuously demand more of mine.

    Did you miss the point where I said I was raised by Holocaust survivors in poverty in a neighborhood where some friends became hookers, drug dealers and bookies? I mean you claim money plays a role here and that’s a classic “the grass is always greener” argument. And presumes that ANYONE who disagrees with you must be “well to do” or at least not poor. So are you ignoring your own paranoid view of others who disagree with you?

    I think you did.

    Also please reread the portions of comment #41 where I explain how my unsupervised exploration of my neighborhood expanded my world. Or did you ignore that?

    I think you did.

    Also, the paranoia claim comes from you continually presenting yourself as a victim and claiming ANY comment against you is an ad hominem attack. In my experience, people who claim “ad hominem” attacks instead of just saying “personal attacks” are usually delusional and paranoid.

    You also continually ignore the difference between your being homeless versus a child with a home riding the train themselves. You are clearly projecting all of your fears right into this scenario and that’s why some say you should seek a therapist, because the issue at hand and this child’s experience has 100% nothing to do with your experience being a homeless teen. Your response is out of scale and focused only on your narrow, cynical view of the world.

    Let’s put it this way: you have a button. 99 percent of the time, when it’s pushed, nothing happens. 1 percent of the time, it blows up the city you’re in. Do you walk around pushing it even though you’re sure nothing will happen, almost every time?

    Some of us would rather not live a life where a 1 percent risk denies us 99 percent freedom. Seeing that 1 percent as a reason to avoid the 99 percent is the reason people are saying you’re paranoid.

    Technically speaking, there’s a 1% chance that someone is trying to attack your PC to gain personal access to your documents at any given moment. Have you disconnected your PC yet? There’s also a 1% chance someone is photographing you anytime you walk the street… Have you stopped going outside yet?

  84. You know what, Jack, I owe you an apology. I should never say anything about anyone else’s trauma. That was super shitty of me. I let my annoyance get the best of me and I am sorry.

  85. If the use of the phrase ad hominem is a signifier for paranoid and delusional, then contents of entire rhetoric and poly-sci departments are in trouble.

    Technically speaking, attacks to the person are those in which the character, personality and/or appearance of the person are being attacked. Therefore, calling me paranoid, delusional, suggesting that I see a therapist, suggesting that I am ruining the lives of my children, or that I don’t value freedom etc are attacks on my character– ad homiems. If you like I will simply say that those are attacks on my personality and are not a species of argument which is likely to change my mind. But if all you want is to call names, attacks on someone’s character are excellent for that.

    I must have missed the comments about being the child of Holocaust survivors.

    I don’t think the risk is worth the pay-off, to use different terms. I perceive sending children out alone to be very risky, a risk that I find unnecessary. I think sending your children out alone before a certain age (14) is specious and a risk on something which is too precious to be hazarded in that fashion.

    I do identify money with privilege and shelter. I spent all day at work dealing with the children of privilege, both those I teach and those I have to deal with in my grad classes. I perceive this because they respond to my stories about dealing with the police, etc with denial and with literally turning their heads aside. The insulation money can provide often results in a different experience of life, from which they often generalize that nothing bad like that ever really happens to people. Certainly, since they never had someone try to stuff them in a van/truck/car, it only happens in the movies. Despite the fact that the essay in question was nonfiction. The phrase used was, ‘I’m not calling you a liar, but…’

    Since we are talking about children (the issue at hand), how are your freedoms being abridged? Also, where has my desire to laud the conductor for checking on the kid, even if the cops did end up being called, turned into abridging your freedoms? Who is this ‘some of us’ you’re talking about?

    Since when is my experience not useful/able to be mentioned here? Obviously, yours is fine to be brought in, I believe because you believe it to be contiguous with the norm. In my understanding, we always bring our experiences in with us, when we interpret events and decide what we should do. I wouldn’t presume my experience is everyone’s, and if I give the impression of that, I apologize, but I would think my experience provides a necessary counterpoint to being able to roam everywhere safely.

    The world has changed in the 30 some odd years I’ve been alive. A lot. In the 70s and 80s, in a community of people I knew, I would have been more comfortable letting kids roam. Now? Not so much. I’ve never met most of my neighbors and I’ve moved frequently due to sudden rent hikes in slum apartments or the landlord refusing to fix something like the roof, etc.

    And did you miss the context around the fact that I don’t think I’m paranoid? I’ll reiterate. I spent most of last night gaming, typing here and listening to screaming, gunfire, cars racing by and sirens. There were guns going off from 11:50 to 1 am here, almost constantly. As well as the regular fireworks. Am I going to let the kids play outside? It’s not like everyone was asleep.

    Hell, no. What goes up comes back down somewhere. Would I let them wander the neighborhood unattended, even during the day? Hell, no. I’m not into natural selection. I’m into insuring, to the best of my ability, that they get to adulthood. They can go places with other adults, if I believe the adults to be trustworthy. I’m sorry you don’t like my parenting techniques, but meh. As far as I can tell, you never intended to debate with me, only to accuse me of ruining my kids’ lives.

    There’s a substantive difference between not letting your kids roam and not letting them grow up which has more to do with providing challenges for them to surpass and with giving them the tools to be aware of their environment/prepared for a world in which they will not always be assured of safety by the people around them. I would not dream of buying them a car, paying for their apartments when they move out or trying to arrange their college classes, other than to offer advice and check if they’ve eaten/understand the paperwork/need someone to talk to, because these are examples of challenges they can deal with which can teach them important values and are not terribly risky. I don’t find that providing them with an escort until they are large enough to defend themselves and not fool-hardy enough to assume their own invulnerability to be a bad thing, in terms of those goals.

    Out of curiosity, I associate being a victim with being helpless. Everyone has bad things happen to them, even if it’s just a parking ticket. Have I ever implied, in this discussion, that I was without recourse?

    I think we’re at an impasse.


    I must have missed the comments about being the child of Holocaust survivors.


    I think we’re at an impasse.

    Yes, I think we are.

    One of us is actually reading what has been written and responding to the content of those statements. The other is barreling through comments, not reading them and then responding based not on the facts presented but delusions and paranoid assessments that anyone who doesn’t agree with the other must be “rich” or “well to do”. I can’t wait until you finally catch up to other aspects of my life I have had to reiterate TWICE to get nary an acknowledgement from you about anything.

    The world has changed in the 30 some odd years I’ve been alive. A lot. In the 70s and 80s, in a community of people I knew, I would have been more comfortable letting kids roam. Now? Not so much. I’ve never met most of my neighbors and I’ve moved frequently due to sudden rent hikes in slum apartments or the landlord refusing to fix something like the roof, etc.

    In the 1970s and 1980s it was safer? Where exactly do you get your Kool Aid?

    Specifically in the case of these kids riding public transportation in the year 2008—which is what this thread is about—the Long Island Railroad and the NYC MTA are stunningly safer than they have ever been in the 1970s or 1980s. So that’s why your comments on your homelessness in your teen years truly have no bearing on this at all.

    As far as meeting your neighbors goes, I’ve never known economic conditions having anything to do with that. It all has to do with you and your willingness to reach out to others. If you’re just going to reach out at times of crisis you get out of that relationship exactly what you put into it.

    Do us all a favor. At least read and digest what others have said. For example I read this quote someone wrote. Have you?

    You know what, Jack, I owe you an apology. I should never say anything about anyone else’s trauma. That was super shitty of me. I let my annoyance get the best of me and I am sorry.

  87. You know, I read your comments. I didn’t find them as relevant as you seem to. I found them to be full of personal experiences which you felt compelled to share about growing up, being poor, having everything work out great because of your friends and how roaming was helpful to you. Bully for you. This would be most of the comments on the thread and indeed most of the comments on boingboing I’ve read tend to be all about that.

    The difference is you feel yours are better and are not above incoherent name-calling, imagining a sympathetic audience who have not stepped forward to support you (with on exception) and accusations to ‘prove’ it. You’ve consistently missed the point of my comments and the fact that I preface assertions with these nifty things called conditionals, in which I say ‘sometimes happens,’ ‘in my experience’ and ‘happened to me.’ I do this because I am leaving room for other people’s experiences, which I am aware run counter to mine. Moreover, it amazes me that you can argue ‘my experience means that this always happens’ but can’t stand the idea that someone might be different than you. But this is exactly what you are accusing me of.

    I have also left your kids out of it. That is lower than I care to go.

    Since this is nothing but name calling, I’m going to leave. This has been remarkably like talking to a brick wall, without the reward of getting to examine the patterns worn into the brick.

    1. I have PTSD and my natural response around children and small animals is to neutralize all potential threats with extreme prejudice. But I have to acknowledge that projecting my own disastrous childhood onto every situation isn’t necessarily in the best interests of whom or whatever I’m trying to protect. Still, everyone at the veterinarian’s office is afraid of me.

  88. Antinous, as strange as you may find this request, would you email me at redacted?

    I did not see any contact info when clicking on your name.

    Just some information that may be helpful, or not, but still, you might find it interesting.

  89. @#101 POSTED BY MOUTHYB:

    Since this is nothing but name calling, I’m going to leave.

    Actually there has been no name calling. Just declarative statements from you building up straw-men to prove your twisted perception of the world based solely on your trauma.

    I said it before, so I’ll say it again, your experience being homeless as a teen has 100% no bearing on a child with a stable home riding a train from point A to point B.

  90. Wow! I really enjoyed Jack & MouthyB’s posts.

    Fun stuff.

    I was a poor kid who grew up in a Manhattan project during the 70’s.
    I encountered drug dealers & drug users, prostitutes, their pimps & madams, a murdering neighborhood pedophile, corrupt police, bullies, guys who bragged about rape, a drug sharing grammar school teacher, guys who bragged about murder, friends whose parents offered to share sex and or drugs with them or their kids and, the most feared of all, my father who regularly beat me, my siblings and my mother until the day that he was finally, forcibly removed from our apartment by the housing cops.

    All this & more I experienced in the bad days of the 70’s. A time when NYC was much more dangerous than it is now.

    My brothers & I have grown to be parents who have never used physical discipline against our kids. We have never struck a woman (with one exemption, defending our mother from the attack of a deranged paranoid neighbor when we were in 1975).
    We have cut our father out of our lives (he blames his behavior on his mother-in-law!).
    My brothers & I have climbed out of the projects to become responsible husbands & parents.

    I have told my sons about some of my 70’s experiences. But I do not “arm” them with paranoid fears of the outside world. They need to be able to navigate the urban threshold on their own. Just as my brothers & I did way back when.

    It is my feeling that if I shelter my kids from the world then I am not getting them prepared to deal with all that the world has to offer.

    Do sheltered children recognize when a good experience is happening or are they expecting the worst & therefore might not be able to see a good thing has come?

    MthyB, kp p th prn. t hlps m s wht NT t d wth my wn kds.

  91. I just read this, and felt compelled to comment. We live in Santa Monica, a fairly mild suburd of LA.

    Hi Shawn,

    It’s Whitney, your good old MIL’s old neighbor. She always shares good stuff with us like this…Congrats…

    I feel compelled to respond, despite my tardiness…

    Every day that my nearly nine year old boy goes out to ride his bicycle solo, I feel a mixture of pride at his autonomy and sense of adventure, and sadness at the paucity of children out there with him exploring the world and the somewhat lonely sojourns he takes.

    Still, I tell him all of the time, he will be a true leader, as he will be the rare child capable of making independent judgments, and taking sensible risks based on his experiences out in the “jungles of the westside.”

    My only fear is traffic, not bad guys or crazies. I trust him to make good judgments, and so far, so good. I hope the Free-Range mentality takes hold, and quickly!

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