Kid walks to soccer, neighbors call the cops

From the Free Range Kids blog, the story of Lori from a small town in Mississippi, who sent her 10-year-old on foot to soccer practice, only to have him picked up by the cops, who reported "hundreds" of 911 calls by curtain-twitchers who were horrified at the thought of a 10-year-old walking a third of a mile to a local school. The cops told her she could be charged with child endangerment! After she complained to the cops, the local police chief called her to apologize and to reassure her that she lived in a safe neighborhood. The moral of the story: stand your ground when crazy people tell you that your kid needs to be swaddled in bubblewrap until she's 22.
My 10-year-old son wanted the chance to walk from our house to soccer practice behind an elementary school about 1/3 mile from our house. He had walked in our neighborhood a number of times with the family and we have driven the route to practice who knows how many times. It was broad daylight - 5:00 pm. I had to be at the field myself 15 minutes after practice started, so I gave him my cell phone and told him I would be there to check that he made it and sent him off. He got 3 blocks and a police car intercepted him. The police came to my house – after I had left – and spoke with my younger children (who were home with Grandma). They then found me at the soccer field and proceeded to tell me how I could be charged with child endangerment. They said they had gotten “hundreds” of calls to 911 about him walking. Now, I know bad things can happen and I wasn’t flippant about letting him go and not checking up, but come on. I live in a small town in Mississippi. To be perfectly honest, I’m much more concerned about letting him attend a birthday party sleepover next Friday, but I’m guessing the police wouldn’t be at my house if I chose to let him go (which I probably won’t).
A Mom Lets Her Son Walk to Soccer…And The Police Come Calling

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  1. I find that very difficult to believe, I think the cops were not being straight. Probably they just drove by and saw the kid and decided to pick him up. There’s no way a kid could have instigated hundreds of calls in just three blocks! And there’s no way the cops could have got there that fast. We live in the country and we see kids walking to the lake all the time, riding their bikes, just being kids, I doubt anyone has ever thought to call the cops to save them. It’s ridiculous to imply that kids are not given their freedom. Certainly not as much as they used to (I had a retired guy tell me about bicycling and hitchhiking his way through central CA to visit relatives when he was nine!) but this persons story is obviously an extraordinary event.

  2. If I were her, I’d probably go door to door on the way home and introduce myself to the neighbors.

  3. I hate to get all “get off my lawn,” but I really worry about a generation of kids that have never been allowed to run around without supervision. My niece (eleven years old) hasn’t been able to roam as freely as I did when I was six and walked myself a half a mile to school. I went downhill after that, riding bikes with my friends or, gasp, even alone, miles away from my home with no supervision.

    My niece is smart, aware, sarcastic and does great in school. But I can’t help but fear what will happen when she is finally out of the bubble with so little experience at roaming free.

    As for the cops and the “curtain-twitchers” (awesome phrase) in this episode, get a grip.

    Now, get off my lawn.

  4. The scariest bit of that quote is “He had walked in our neighborhood a number of times with the family and we have driven the route to practice who knows how many times”. Seriously? The kid had never walked in the neighbourhood alone? That happens?!? Weird.

    Wow, I’m glad I don’t like in the US. Kids younger than that walk longer than that to get to school here in New Zealand every day! Sure, there are a whole bunch of over-protective mothers in SUVS who park their cars and walk their kid to the classroom, but there are still plenty of kids walking and biking to school.

  5. For what it’s worth, where I live in Japan, and furthermore in Tokyo, world’s largest metropolis, kids roam free at astonishingly young ages. They get on the trains by themselves as soon as they are tall enough to swipe a pass card on the turnstile.

    There’s even a reality TV show here in which very young children, usually in the 4-year-old ballpark, are sent on their first errand by themselves, walking quite an amazing distance, sometimes along narrow, busy highways, to go pick up groceries, tofu, deliver lunch to dad, etc. Cameras follow them in safe, hidden distances. The kids are so young that they do things like accidentally dump the tofu on the pavement, go all the way home and tearfully whine about it, and mom sends them back to go scoop it up and bring it back (not that they would eat it at that point, but it teaches the kid a lesson in responsibility and makes for good TV).

  6. #6
    that sounds like tv gold.

    btw what is up with this part
    “I’m much more concerned about letting him attend a birthday party sleepover next Friday”

  7. Tis a sad world these days in the USA. -*(

    Long ago as a child of 10 years old, I used to walk 2 miles to the beach every day along major roads. My friends and I used to play in a park 1 mile from our homes. We used to roam the neighborhood at all times of the day and dusk. These days, parents have to be over-protective of their children or they can suddenly disappear forever.

    I used to live in MS. It is not just children whom they hate to see walking. I was almost arrested in a mid-sized town because I was walking to the local tax assessors office to register my truck. NO ONE walks when it is 90°F with 90% humidity. What did I know, I was raised in another state where people try to stay healthy. I was a victim of MS mind-set.

  8. I went to a boarding school in the jungles of Malaysia from age 6-11. When we were in the older classes (ages 10-11) we’d play a game where the teachers would drop us off at a random spot a mile or two from school and we’d have to ‘bush-wack’ back to school through the jungle or along the roads/tracks without getting spotted by the team that were trying to catch us. Just in groups of two or three unsupervised kids. And it was BRILLIANT. Of course, the neighbours didn’t have curtains to twitch…

  9. #8: “These days, parents have to be over-protective of their children or they can suddenly disappear forever.” – Has it really changed?

  10. A neighbor once berated a ten-ish neighborhood kid for the unforgivable sin of wanting to play on their trampoline with their kids.

    I wasn’t being nosy, the hill’s acoustics here amplify sound, and they were being quite loud..

    From the overblown way they were yelling I thought it was something bad (insert modern nightmare scenario) but they just wanted to bounce.

    The neighbor was going to call the police if they showed up again. no boing-boing for them.

    What next, people complaining to the FCC about reruns of classic tv ‘encouraging kids to endanger themselves’ by depicting, not pranks, but just walking home from school unsupervised?

  11. I walked between our house or school to my grandparents on a regular basis when I was in elementary school. Hell, I used walk to the corner liquor store to buy my dad smokes when I was that kids age.

  12. 911 is for EMERGENCIES. Dumb asses. This shit reminds me of a picture I saw the other day of play ranges by generation: the great-grandfather was allowed to walk 6 MILES to go fishing, the grandfather slightly less, the mother even less, and the mother’s kid is only allowed to go to the end of the street. I tell you, if my parents tried restricting me to such a small range when I was a kid, I’d rebel. But I didn’t have to. I went pretty much wherever the hell I felt like. My parents were happy if I came home after they honked this horribly noisy bicycle horn. I don’t think it endeared us to the neighbors, but it was effective. Even though I couldn’t hear worth shit as a kid, I could usually hear that bike horn. I don’t remember the range it had, but I do remember being as far away as two or three streets away.

    On the rare occasions when I was too far to hear the bike horn, my dad would look for me with the car. He usually found me pretty quickly, I’ve always been somewhat predictable about where I went. He was a little annoyed on those rare occasions, but it was never a huge deal. I think I’d be the same way as a parent, only I think I’d use a pager to call the kid home. None of this cell-phone shit; I’m old fashioned that way. I got my first, and so far only, cell phone just three years ago. I resisted getting one for ages before finally getting one. And I *still* haven’t gotten a credit card yet, and don’t intend to.
    </soapbox>

  13. When I was 7 I walked to and from school 2 miles each way regardless of the weather.

    Returning home through the biggest snow fall I had ever seen protected by a duffel coat but wearing short trousers.

    There was about a foot of snow built up on me.

    This was normal in the mid 70s in Scotland.

    I went to an IKEA last year and had lunch before braving the conveyor of zombie shoppers. I sat by the window where it was normally the quietest but there was some huge red cylinder there which I basically ignored as being IKEA business.

    Then a gaggle of kids storm into it and all the noise starts. It turns out it was some sort of modernist play house, so much for a quiet lunch I thought.

    So I finish my meal and go over to return the tray and crockery to the rack.

    As I pass a young couple they both hiss “PAEDOPHILE” at me.

    I asked them to repeat what they said,at which point they bubbled over with their mental curtain twitching hysterical brain seizure.

    I volunteered to call the police in , then insisted upon it which served as a slap in the face to them and the shut the fuck up.

    It should be normal for kids to walk to and from school , but it will never be while people are kept at Daily Mail defcon 1.

  14. My six year old son goes to school all by himself. We live in Munich/Germany an nobody raises an eyebrow about that (although we also have our fair amount of “curtain twitchers”)

  15. When I was 16 I walked to summer school with cans of beer on ice in a zip lock bag
    (it was a long walk with a lot of hills)

  16. when i was about 10 or 12 my friend and I (he lived 2 doors down the street) would clean neighbourhood cars. We could wander for miles if we wanted as we were unsupervised and knew the area from a lot of roaming on our bikes but we tended to stay close when on foot.

    One day a police car pulled us over and said they’d had a call about two boys ‘acting suspicious with a bucket’. The police officer queried what we were up to. When we explained, we had regular customers cars to clean, he sent us on our way.

  17. I grew up in a small (Canadian) farming community, and at sixteen(!) I got a summer job at the local farm store helping with accounting. To get to and from work, I would either take my bike or walk the two miles, and my mother would drive me there on rainy days.

    Soon after I started working there, my mother started getting calls from the local curtain-twitchers, who were apalled that she was letting me walk to work. And this was in a community where I knew everyone by name, face and reputation. And this took place over ten years ago!

  18. It’s another science fiction nightmare come true, this time foreseen in 1951 by Ray Bradbury in his short story “The Pedestrian”:
    http://englischlehrer.de/texts/pedestrian.php

    ‘What are you doing out?’
    ‘Walking,’ said Leonard Mead.
    ‘Walking!’
    ‘Just walking,’ he said simply, but his face felt cold.
    ‘Walking, just walking, walking?’
    ‘Yes, sir.’
    ‘Walking where? For what?’

  19. @ Dolnor “I was almost arrested in a mid-sized town because I was walking to the local tax assessors office”

    Shades of Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian”.

    I have a story from Christmas 1968 I get out on occasions like this. I was 10 and at the end of my first term at boarding school in the north of England I walked down to the railway station with my bag and got on a train to London. There I was met by my brother’s student girlfriend Sarah, who was 19, and spent the night with some of her student friends (I read John Wyndham’s Midwich Cuckoos; dunno what they did). In the morning she took me to Heathrow and put me on a plane to Beirut.

    When I got to Beirut I didn’t have a visa, though that was part of the plan (which, in the absence of convenient phones, must have been worked out by airmail letter weeks before): my mother was waiting on the viewing balcony and threw down the visa fee, which was 75 piastres, wrapped in a one-lire note. I then presented my fee and passport and got in. (I guess you wouldn’t try standing in an airport now and throwing stuff from landside to airside).

    Nine days after I arrived the airport did get more hairy – Israeli commandos attacked and blew up 13 airliners on the tarmac.

    I suppose in reality the most I was really alone was school-York station-London… but in my mind’s eye I did the journey all by myself. Presumably some cabin crew member was assigned to look after me (my father was a pilot with the airline, though not on that flight) but I don’t remember all that (maybe I even had my own undignified luggage label).

    Also, I don’t know what my plan was if Sarah hadn’t been waiting for me in London.

  20. That’s one paranoid little story. I used to bike to school about 1.5 mile daily, four times, since I was about six or seven. Even crossing a dangerous road a couple of times and a part of the route goes through a small wood.

    What kind of society has been created when you can’t even let your kid go free for even less than 1 freaking mile. Weird…

  21. Sorry, but isn’t that just… normal?

    I wasn’t a “free range kid” nor were my friends, but at 10 (TEN!) we walked kilometers without parental guidance. And nobody would have considered calling the police.

    And I’m 24, not exactly from another era.

  22. in switzerland its normal to see children from the age of 5 walking to school by themselves every day! they don’t seem any worse off for it .. in fact they learn self-reliance, a rather important survival skill.

  23. @ #6 by jtegnell:

    Actually, in that episode (the most recent), you may remember that grandpa actually did wash the tofu and make Ma Po Tofu (I think that’s how it’s usually romanized at Chinese restaurants), which the kid didn’t like (too spicy, I imagine).

    Also, I feel I must admit that I started bawling when he kept trying to put the soy sprouts back in the bag that had torn open from dragging, over and over, trying to get them to stay, then discovering the tofu package had burst open when it fell, and trying to pick it all up with his little mitten hands and get it into the bag that wouldn’t work anymore, finally realizing that it was futile and that he had failed, within sight of home, and walking, sobbing, that last 20m home, having failed.

    Every time we watch that show, my wife and I bawl. I don’t even particularly like kids, but that show shows how strong and smart they really are, and also reminds how hard many things in life really were the first time we tried them.

    Usually when I tell people about that show (Hajimete no Otsukai, I believe it’s called –“First Errand”), they are horrified, but there are people all over the place watching those kids. They’ve got a huge camera crew dressed up like “These Are the People in Your Neighborhood” carrying oddly shaped boxes with holes in them, and others who seem to just be there to make sure that they don’t really get into trouble, and to give the moms information on how they are doing.

    These kids are TINY. But they almost always pull off the trips, even if they get tired and sit down in the middle.

    Also, these don’t happen in Tokyo. They always seem to be in pretty rural areas where they can probably tell everyone on the path that the kid is coming and to just act normal. It’s highly orchestrated for everyone but the kid–to him it’s an epic adventure, complete with possible failure and heartbreak.

    Great show. It’s only on once in awhile, though, as a special.

  24. Wow…just seriously, wow.

    I’m currently 20 years old. When I was probably just 5 years old, I was playing happily in the street outside my house with my mum glancing out the window as she wandered around doing chores and whatnot. By the time I was six I walked the kilometre or so to school with just my friend, also six and my carefully fussed over jacket to protect me from the harsh world. We’d roam the streets with fake guns, playing Cops and Robbers and later on laser tag, as well as water fights in the summer. If a ball went into a garden, we’d knock politely on the door and ask to retrieve it.

    By nine, we were playing in the local park and neighbourhood til nearly 9 oclock at night, unsupervised and without cell phones. If one of us got hurt, one went to get help and the others stayed with the hurt one. If one of us was hurt, we were back out the next night, proudly displaying our scars and wounds. I split my head open on the pavement by falling off my bike. I was in school the next day, at my own insistence. A day without playing British Bulldogs (occasionally on concrete paving slabs) or wrestling or jumpers for goalposts football wasn’t worth missing for a head injury. Once we ran to get help for a neighbour whose husband had a stroke and got my aunt to help keep the wife calm.

    At 11 we walked the couple of miles to secondary school, unsupervised and I think I was the first in our group to get a coveted phone. We cared more about playing Snake than what the other functions were. At 14, me and my friend cycled in a manner most would consider near suicidal to school in order to have an extra 20 minutes asleep. As we weaved through traffic, we’d shout back and forth how far we’d gotten in the latest video game or how awesome an album was. On Saturdays we’d go and browse the game shops, making snarky comments about the trash that was getting released.

    At 16, with parental consent, we walked the streets at night to house parties, backpacks full of vodka through sketchy areas. We drank and danced the night away then helped clean the house up and headed home. At least once, I called at my friend’s house at 4am with him slung over my shoulder. His parents just rolled their eyes and made sure he was awake to suffer the hangover in the morning. We sat and laughed about it at school the next morning, slugging back Irn Bru to soothe our brains.
    By 17 we had a weekly night out in a pub, murdering songs on the karaoke, using the money from our weekend jobs to fund the fun. We walked home, carrying the incapable and making sure everyone was home safe. By this point, some of the local police were people we’d gone to school with. We were more likely to get a lift home than a stop and search.

    Now I’m 20, on the third year of a university degree at the most prestigious institute for this degree in Scotland. I’m happy, healthy and well versed in what it meant to be a child, all of which I attribute to my parents willingness to let me test the limits of everything I did. I know it terrified my mum at times. But she knew that if I didn’t do it myself, I never would.

    Yes, the unthinkable can happen. The worst we ever had a broken arm after a friend got hit by a car. Worse does happen. But I know that if the worst does come to me, I’d react, not panic and look for mummy and daddy to ride in to rescue me.

    So thanks Mum and Dad. By not letting fear rule you, I think I’m a better person for it. Here’s to kids who were kids and want their kids to do the same. Fight back against the fear!

  25. Yes, everybody, the country we all were little kids in (for me it was in the ’70s) no longer exists. Grown-ups live in a police state, and so, like “shit rolling downhill,” the same Lidless Eye looks down on their kids too.

    I wasn’t flippant about letting him go and not checking up

    I will be flippant about it, right here: If there is any significant amount of traumatic violence going on in your kid’s life, if Something Really Bad is going to happen to him, it will almost always be at the hands of his own father. With Mom a distant but significant runner-up.

    We all know this. This is common knowledge. But culturally, we are not allowed to talk about it. We make lame (and unfair) jokes about “weird uncles” and obsess about strangers. And it’s all bullshit. Like Osama’s dialysis machine in a cave. We’ll get that guy any day now, and soon you’ll be able to afford to put a GPS ankle bracelet on your kid, and soon after that it will be a crime not to.

  26. I smell BS. The kid had to walk just a third of a mile? That’s about 900 kid-steps (maybe 600 by an adult). And he was stopped by the police after just three blocks? Maybe in her town people call when the see a kid walks 100 steps from their own house, and the cops arrive before he can walk another 100, but it certainly doesn’t happen in any town I’ve lived in.

    The story sounds made up. Why someone would do that I don’t know, but this is the Internet, folks. Don’t believe everything you read.

  27. These days, parents have to be over-protective of their children or they can suddenly disappear forever

    No, wrong, stranger abduction is not more prevalent now than it was 15 years ago, when people said the same thing, or 30 years ago, when people said the same thing, or 45 years ago, when the world was black and white and everything was perfect. Except the Klan was lynching people and stuff.

    It’s like the drug war propaganda that constantly tells everybody that cannabis is much stronger now than it was back when today’s responsible middle-aged people were young and smokin’ it — even though it said the exact same thing when I was in high school 25 years ago.

  28. I was in juvie as a kid because I insisted on all kinds of autonomy for myself. Not all of it the best, obviously. But speaking as someone who chose to run away to an entirely different city at the age of 13, the idea of being stopped by a cop for walking a third of a mile in the suburbs is, well… well, I’m black too, so it’s not that unimaginable. But, still!

  29. I can’t help but think, “WTF?” I’m in a far southwest suburb of Chicago, and if the temperature is above freezing, there are kids on bikes all over town.

    I’d have expected the bubble wrap mentality in California, maybe, but Mississippi? FFS.

  30. #22 – I was thinking the same thing. Either this story is fabricated by the mother or the cop was lying about the calls. Unless, that is, her small-town Mississippi street is lined with several high-rise apartment buildings, filled with shut-ins spending their days staring ruefully out their windows, phones in hand, waiting for children to go a step too far from their houses.

  31. @FAYANORA

    Unfortunately, you are wrong. This is a common misconception among the ill-informed. It depends on the city or 911 district that you live in. For instance in Dallas, the 911 system is for emergencies, and also for non-emergencies that require police response.

  32. I agree with #22. Either fake, or something’s unusual about the situation. 1/3rd of a mile in an elementary school area and the cops come? By the time they responded to a curtain twitcher, the kid could have made that walk 10 times.

    People are way more overprotective now, sure, myself included, and that’s a bad thing. But we see kids all the time in our neighborhood, and throughout our city (Tampa). And lots and lots of kids walk, alone, to the elementary school a block away from us.

  33. I would probably seriously consider suing the Police for not keeping the neighbourhood safe enough that they had to keep kids off the streets for their own protection. I assume the kid would have been quite scared about being picked up by the Police.

  34. I’m with the BS contingent. The only possible way for this kid to have been the cause of “hundreds” of 911 calls and a cop stop in a third of a mile was if he was setting fire to each house he passed or dancing blindfolded down the middle of a 4 lane highway — and even then there simply wasn’t the time or reason for that kind of attention to have been generated.

  35. Firstly, the story does seem odd. A third of a mile is nothing.

    On the other hand. How does letting your 10 year old walk a third of a mile, to a location with adult supervision, holding your cell phone, being followed by you 15 minutes later qualify as free range? That poor kid, he’s being smothered.

  36. Heavily mixed with bullshit. But this is a BB thread: first bullshitter doesn’t have a chance

  37. Good for her!

    My eight year old walks home from school everyday (about a mile). The school doesn’t really like it, but — fortunately — there is nothing the can do about it.

    Sometimes I wonder what all the over-protectiveness will create, beyond those things which are obvious (like fearful kids). Perhaps, for example, if we let our pre-teens be more exploratory they wouldn’t be so wacky when they became teens are here allowed to hang out on their own for the first time. Just speculating…

  38. I don’t think it’s BS at all. It’s totally within the level of fear and paranoia for that segment of the US. These white evangelical Southern Christians have good reasons to be afraid. They’ve been shitting on everyone around them for a long time. This is what white privilege does to you. Had that child been black the outcome would have been even worse.

    They have also long cultivated in themselves a culture of victim hood. Even though they are by far the dominant religion in their minds they are the innocent victims of a hostile culture that surrounds them.

    And of course, people who are constantly afraid are easily manipulated.

  39. People, the writer was quoting the responding officers, showcasing the ridiculous hyperbole employed BY THE OFFICERS when they claimed to have received “hundreds” of calls about her son. She’s just spotlighting the fact that even the police were trying to employ a scare tactic, exaggerating numbers to her, trying to make the whole situation seem severe. Don’t they teach reading comprehension anymore?

  40. I call BS too. This story is literally incredible. And even if it were true, there’s no way this is “normal,” because a) there wouldn’t be a story about it if it was, and b) it just can’t be.

    That’s not to say that American parents, at least in upper middle class suburbs, haven’t gotten steadily more overprotective over the years to a currently rather ridiculous degree. They definitely have. I’m only 24 myself, but my mother (who has been an elementary school teacher in such a place since before I was born, and thus is in an ideal position to witness changing attitudes firsthand) tells me things are very different even from when I was that age.

  41. This is the thing that scares me the most about having kids…

    These days, parents have to be over-protective of their children or they can suddenly disappear forever.

    Yup, but you don’t have to worry about them being abducted so much… The chances against are almost astronomical. You have to worry about the government taking them away from you because some busybody jerk decided you’re not coddling them enough.

    Is it worth living if you can’t explore and have basic freedoms? I don’t want to bring a child into the world if I have to subject them to house arrest.

  42. We’re reaping what the culture of fear that’s been sown in this country for the past decade. I blame mostly the 24 hour news network Appetite That Must Be Filled and bloodsucking harpies like that Tennessee vulture Nancy Grace.

  43. It’s childish to assume everything on the internet is photoshopped.

    Bored people in little neighbourhoods really do just sit and stare out the window, and gossip, and all that stupid stuff.

    And the cop was probably just exaggerating about the number of calls.

    Don’t be so quick to dismiss mankind’s potential for stupidity – if you do, the terrorists haven’t just won, we’ve opened the doors and let them in.

  44. When I was ten, I walked six miles home from school. Only once, though, because that took me 2.5 hours.

    A couple of people tried to give me rides, but I refused. It was a matter of pride.

  45. #34 >> People, the writer was quoting the responding officers, showcasing the ridiculous hyperbole employed BY THE OFFICERS when they claimed to have received “hundreds” of calls about her son.

    Uh…that’s understood (sheesh!)

    The BS claims are regarding 1/3rd of a mile generating a cop intervention at all in so short a time. The “100’s of calls” statement, if anything, showcases the likely BS in the mother’s depiction of events. Since there aren’t hundreds of houses along the street in 1/3rd of a mile, it seems unlikely to me the cops would have said something so obviously over the top and easily refuted.

  46. I remember once, when I was about 12… I decided to go on an adventure.

    I got on my 20″ kids’ bike, with a striped banana seat (we’re talking 1980 here), and headed off to the next closest town from my mid-sized Ohio town, to the next one, about 6 miles away. Down a busy 2-lane highway. Past an all-black university. Then past another mostly black public university. Then through a good bit of tree-lined highway. Then past a county park with a log cabin. Then past another county park with a waterfall. Then I made it to the other town, which had an even more frightening thing… a CHRISTIAN COLLEGE FULL OF ADULTS. Oh the humanity.

    Then I rode back home the same way. Oh, how it was to be 12.

    (no cops stopped me, no one called 911 (i don’t think there was 911 in 1980 though)

  47. @33 >> I don’t think it’s BS at all. It’s totally within the level of fear and paranoia for that segment of the US. These white evangelical Southern Christians have good reasons to be afraid. They’ve been shitting on everyone around them for a long time. This is what white privilege does to you. Had that child been black the outcome would have been even worse.

    Uh…speaking of fear and paranoia.

  48. “You have to worry about the government taking them away from you because some busybody jerk decided you’re not coddling them enough.”

    You have direct experience with that Ivan? Yeah, I feel your pain. It’s like you can’t beat the shit out of your child anymore and then some busybody Dr. notices the bruises. What is this world coming to?

  49. Here in Finland I was using subway with my friends for traveling on the 3rd grade (age of 10).
    We were at the city of Helsinki, in the center of it, with no others.

    No one was worried.

  50. When I was eighteen (2006), I hitchhiked from Bar Harbor ME to Boston and back with two of my friends. While walking along route 1 outside of York, ME we were stopped by a police car who had received calls from these “curtain twitchers”. He checked our IDs saying he had to make sure we weren’t runaways.

    I kept thinking, if these people are so worried, they could at least give us a ride!

    I blame sprawls design favoring cars over foottraffic.

  51. I’ve been silent on this ‘free range kids’ nonsense long enough. There are real dangers out there for unsupervised kids, and I’m not talking about being abducted by pedophiles. The #1 source of preventable death is accidents – #1 on that list?
    Drowning – 100% supervision issue. Accidental injury and death in children is way down over the last 20 years. Why do you think that is?

    Lets all yearn for the good old days when children were dying of accidents at twice the rate they do today!

  52. Yeah, I used to have to walk a mile home from school everyday since when I was..what, 8? 9?

    This is a function of privelage so much as it is overprotectiveness. Most kids in inner city neighborhoods have to walk much further distances in bad neighborhoods without much of a choice. It’s been this way well, for ever. I see kids walking home from school through bad parts of Brooklyn everyday, no one makes a fuss.

  53. You guys were obviously never raised in the south. A third of a mile is a HUGE distance to walk! There’s a reason so many of the adults who live there are overweight; it was normal for a family to head to Wal-Mart, only to get upset because all the spaces closest to the entrance were taken. Oh, the horror of having to walk an extra 200 feet! And what if you had to go to the Piggly Wiggly next door? Walk? HA! Load your Wal-Mart items into your car and DRIVE the tenth of a mile to the grocery store.

    This is why I’m thankful that we get to raise our kids in France.

  54. I probably had to walk 1/3 of a mile just to mail a package or pick up milk for my mom when I was a kid. This is just… stupid.

    And my school was over a mile away. Granted, there was a school bus, but if you missed it, what else could we do but walk?

    In Brooklyn. Oh noes!

  55. @#41…

    “Then I made it to the other town, which had an even more frightening thing… a CHRISTIAN COLLEGE FULL OF ADULTS.”

    You were a lucky kid. On that leg of your journey you really placed your 12-year-old ass in jeopardy!

  56. Thankfully we have nothing like that in Brazil.
    The idea of a police car intercepting a kid for just “walking alone” in a street in Rio is just preposterous.

    Streets are always crowded with kids. Actually everyone walks a lot, (I could never understand those american towns with empty streets) and we have a nice collective transport system coverage in the city, lots of buses going almost everywhere (there are so many, that they do jam the traffic a lot, unfortunatelly).

    And most kids go to school by themselves. I’ve seen kids that looked about 7 years old getting the bus to school. And it’s not a school bus, mind you, it is a regular bus, the same one I catch to go to work

  57. So weird. I was a cautious and anxious kid, but even I walked home from school by 10. It was a really good feeling, some little tiny thing that I had control over.

    I will be honest. Once when I was 12 or so a creepy car was at a cross-street, then at another… then I saw the same car cruise by slowly. I got nervous so when it was out of sight again I walked between some houses and hung out there for a few minutes (no cell phones yet). Then I went on home. I would still let my kid walk, if for no other reason than this: If we always try to keep our kids off the street then there’s only a small step before we start saying that kids who get abducted or abused “deserved” it because they were out walking around. Only a little bit before we hold the parent accountable and forget that the problem is the criminals who target kids. There aren’t that many of them really, but we empower them with our fear.

  58. #21 Mattz

    Aye that sounds like a perfectly good Scottish childhood and adolescence.

    Getting pissed but seeing your pals home, sometimes carrying sometimes dragging the buggers for miles.

    Good luck in your degree by ra way.

    You at Glasgow?

  59. The police once brought my (then) 8-year-old home because they found her outside NEXT DOOR and thought she was too young to be on the street alone. Granted, she was the size of a 5-year-old, but still. Since then, I moved to a neighborhood where my two daughters can skate and ride bikes in the street and walk the half-mile to school. The (private) school was leery abut letting them walk home, because NONE of the other students walk! But I insisted, and my now 10- and 11-year-old are pretty competent kids.

  60. I’m in the ‘prolly true’ camp. If you knew how paranoid my sister-in-law is with her scrawny, hairy little monkey of a daughter…
    I’ve gone wherever I wanted all my life- all the way back to kindergarden. We moved to a fairly large city when I was four. I remember my older brother and I asking Mom if we could go hitch-hike around; see the city. That was the only time she said no, because that was the only time we asked. I did a whole lot of hitchhiking. Never had any trouble, other than long waits/walks.

  61. @#10

    “”These days, parents have to be over-protective of their children or they can suddenly disappear forever.” – Has it really changed?”

    From what I’ve read on actual statistics, yes, it has. It’s gotten safer.

  62. “To be perfectly honest, I’m much more concerned about letting him attend a birthday party sleepover next Friday, but I’m guessing the police wouldn’t be at my house if I chose to let him go (which I probably won’t).”

    What? If he can wipe his own ass and someone else is offering to take on the responsibility for a night kick him out the door. At 10 I was walking a half mile to school with my 5 and 6 year old neighbors in tow, and I’m only 25 so not too long ago.

    When I lived and worked in DC, there were a bunch of kids on my morning bus route, commuting along with everyone else. Occasionally someone would correct them or ask them to quiet down, but no one was concerned.

    There’s this bizarre view of the world that 1) kids are helpless nitwits, 2)half the population are kidnappers and 3)no one else is keeping an eye on kids. If your kid is sticking his head out the bus window, the person sitting next to him is going to say something. I get pissed when parents let their kids run around the restaurant, but keeping them from killing themselves when they’re on their own is a very small responsibility everyone takes on when they become part of a community. Growing up, more than one neighbor bandaged me up and took me home when I took a spill off my bike. Neighbor, not saint.

  63. I used to take off all day on my bicycle with the promise that I would be home before dark. Never had a problem.

    If kids go outside and explore and socialize and do kid things, how are they going to learn about life? Books can’t teach you everything. No wonder the “dangerous book for boys/girls” are so popular.

  64. I’ll add another crotchety old man tale to the pile. When I was a lad of six or seven Mom would take me shopping at Field’s in downtown Chicago and leave me in the toy department while she did her shopping. Later it was books. But she never thought twice about it. Leaving me alone in a crowded department store in the middle of downtown Chicago today she’d be arrested for endangerment and possibly even abandonment.

    And I won’t even get into how I used to walk to school by myself and to the library and to the toy store and…I don’t think I could stand being a kid today. It would make me a neurotic mess. That is, it would make me an even bigger neurotic mess. ;)

  65. @48
    “I probably had to walk 1/3 of a mile just to mail a package or pick up milk for my mom when I was a kid. This is just… stupid.”

    I used to have to walk about 1/2 mile to pick up my mom some cigarettes. God, I miss those days…

  66. Gulo Gulo @ 6

    I think she was referring to the the likelihood that her son would be harmed by someone he knows, which is far greater than him being harmed by a stranger in the street.

  67. #50
    Satire?
    “We don’t over-protect our children in the Favelas. Thats just silly!”

  68. Maybe my mom should have been a bit more protective. When I was 9 or 10, friends and I would walk 1/4 mile to the effluent stream from an abandoned lead mine (the water was orange). At least we were smart enough to play upstream of the raw sewage discharge. My mom’s one requirement was that I take my shoes off before wading. The stream was so acidic that shoes would fall apart a few days after getting wet (aluminum cans would disappear in a few hours, cars took a bit longer).

    What was she thinking letting me go 1/4 mile by myself?!?! What if some dog had attacked me?

  69. Hmmm…my Mom made me walk or ride my bike a half mile to school and back everyday alone…she walked with me until I started the 1st grade…after that…it was just me on the crazy streets near Orlando…*rolls eyes*

    Yeah, buncha crap. Personally I think unless a child is physically hurt or abused no one but the parents should have any say. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child…just a parent, preferably two. But it does take a village to blow stuff out of proportion. I say arrest everyone who complained and caused the kid to be “traumatized” by the ride in the police cruiser…

  70. You know I think i I’d tld some of the shop owners in the area when I was a kid that I was getting smokes for my parents they’d have believed me…

    But I used to go all over the place, with a genuine child- murderer in the area at the time! Driving kids everywhere wasn’t on the list of solutions for most of the parents in the city- catching the guy was. It seems that people panic more about fake problems than real ones.

  71. #8: I’m not sure what you mean by a “Mississippi mindset” when it comes to walking and children. I’ve lived in this state all of my life and grew up walking all over my small hometown from the time I was a little kid. All of my friends did too. I live in an even smaller town now and kids ride their bikes and walk EVERYWHERE.

    By the way, it sure is easy to say that people in Mississippi don’t “want” to stay healthy, but the truth of the matter is that we don’t have good public transportation and practically no sidewalks or other evidence of good, people-centered urban planning, forcing adults to drive a lot more than they’d like. Combine that with staggering poverty, a poor education system (those two go hand-in-hand, if you haven’t noticed) and a traditional diet rich in fats and salt and you’ve got a recipe for trouble.

    It’s always funny to see how smug people can be about problems in the rural south, but on the other hand be incredibly sympathetic to the same problems in other parts of the world. The south has a lot of problems: poor infrastructure, superstition, ignorance and poverty, the same sorts of problems that you can find in any other underdeveloped society. I would welcome an influx of public health workers, educators, activists and organizers. We need help down here, rather than an endless regurgitation of old jokes about incest, bad teeth, laziness and outhouses.

  72. Me and my buddies were hitch-hiking around Vancouver BC at the age of 10 (1971). So were lots of other people. A serial killer put an end to that a few years later (he picked up hitch-hikers and…). Kids in the interior of BC still hitch around, it’s the only transport available for some.

  73. “hundreds of 911 calls” over a kid walking a third of a mile by himself?

    Something doesn’t jive about this story.

    Where I live, kids that are less than half a mile from their school aren’t even bussed.

  74. this is the way it is.. ask any mother driving her kids to school, the very IDEA of letting them walk is too terrifying.. they will get picked up and appear on the side of a milk carton.

    New schools don’t even allow kids to walk in and bike racks are being eliminated to prevent “theft” and discourage anything but safe driving transportation.

    Our local elementary school requires kids across the street to be bused.. this is not a lie, its amazingly sad to see the school bus pull out of the parking lot and stop across the street to let the kids out

  75. Final Word on BS:

    Okay, so the cop’s story was that he got “hundreds” of calls in the time it took the kid to walk 3 blocks. Unless the kid was walking REALLY slow, it takes less than 5 minutes to walk 3 blocks.

    So here’s what I bet happened: The kid is walking, and a cop happens to see him while on patrol. The cop has concerns, and says he got “calls” about the situation.

    I’d bet that no calls were made to cops…just a concerned cop on patrol who made up the story about the calls to prove a point to the parent.

    Nuff Said?

  76. I wandered all over the place when I was that age. Of course if my Mom knew that I was joy riding backhoes at construction sites that might not have happened.

  77. My spouse’s father and uncle walked to school since they were 3 and 5 (the 3 year old wouldn’t let his big brother leave the house without him, so his parents sent him along even though he didn’t have to go). The distance to school was about 2 miles. In the winter they would each be given a hot boiled potato to keep their hands warm and to eat for lunch. I love that story.

  78. @53: No, I’m a Highland lad, currently in Edinburgh. But yeah, getting your mates home is the right course. No man left behind. It also stems from the fact that I was always the biggest of my mates. If I went down, it would take at least 2 of them to shift me, so I built up a tolerance pretty quicksmart and was usually left as last man standing.

    That said, I was pretty bad for wandering off on my own when I’d had a drink. I ended up making a several mile detour up the main A9 to the 24 hour supermarket for something to eat. My house was a ~20 minute walk from where I started -_-

    @32 Oh it will. I’ve got good genes when it comes to booze and I’m by comparison a moderate drinker to some people I know. But that’s more of a cashflow thing than a health choice :p

  79. Here in New Jersey, children in grades K-5 are expected to walk up to 1 mile to school, unless their path crosses a dangerous area (highway, train tracks, etc.), kids in grades 6-12 are expected to walk up to a mile and a half, again with the same dangerous area exception.

    This is for purposes of planning busing for schools, any buses provided to parents that live closer than the above limits are considered “courtesy” buses (compared with Safety Busing for greater distances or to avoid dangerous areas).

  80. #16 Narmitaj beats everyone else. If you’ve ever read Narnia, it seems to be very common practice. Load your kids onto some transport (plane, train, etc), and have someone meet them at the other end.

    I wonder how many parents experienced the harrowing and desperate search when the kid doesn’t appear at the other end. If so many people do this, something must have gone wrong a few times. Miscommunication about arrival time or pick-up spot, or unexpected delays.

  81. when I was in grade school, the bus just stopped at a local corner and all the kids in the immidiate vicinity had to walk a little bit to get to it. Nowadays as I understand it the bus stops at each individual house.. which leads to the bus literally having to stop every 10 feet in some instances. Unbelievably stupid (and aggrivating for us poor commuters stuck behind it).

  82. “I’m much more concerned making sure he attends a birthday party sleepover next Friday, as I plan to get wasted and screw in every room in the house. God knows, we never get any free time anymore…”

    There, fixed that for you.

  83. I was curious about the “First Errands” show mentioned above and it looks like it’s on youtube, just search for はじめてのおつかい .

  84. Abortion…it’s for the children.

    Frying pan…it’s for the nosy bacon who have nothing better to do.

  85. You got to be kidding me, i used to walk to my school all the time, it was about 1 mile from my house. I think i started walking when i was 9 years old. In fact, almost everybody i knew was walking to school alone. I don’t see why the cops have to be involved.

  86. I grew up in smalltown Ontario Canada — population less than 150. We biked/walked into town (since technically we weren’t in town) about a mile since six yrs old (as long as we took the thistley ‘path’ instead of the ‘big road’ (one vehicle an hour)

    Later on, I moved into a ‘city’ — population over half a million — where I was constantly asked by cops after dark when I was 16 to 28! are you sure you should be walking alone?

    People can be helpful and concerned, and this is preferable to callousness, but it can be aggravating too.

    Overall, give me the village that cares about its kids enough to annoy them without extreme prejudice, I give you Canada, the country I love.

  87. I’m realizing this is such a non-freaking issue.

    I’m a little slow, but I fell for the hype.

    There is a minority of soccer moms that are over-protective. It’s fun to point at them and laugh. In my ten years as a parent, I’ve never met one of them. Their kids will eventually rebel.

  88. These stories mystify me.

    At eighteen, I am still not often allowed to go on walks where my whims take me.

  89. If I were the parent I would ask for copies of the ‘hundreds of 911 calls’, the police dispatch of the vehicle and any other relevent documents
    regarding this insane fiasco. Sounds like overreacting, possibly harassment. Next thing you know there will be laws requiring a paerent to accompany all children under 14 at all times in public then require ‘permits for fees’ for others to do the duty, such as grandma or another relative. This is muchlike parents getting arrested for naked pics of their kid in the bath.

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