Thursday, May 3, 2012

Trust - It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

East Cobb Park
East Cobb Park - a place to run around and play
For those of you new to my blog, I avidly read and follow the Free Range Kids blog by Lenore Skenazy.  I raise my kids to be free range, roaming our neighborhood and a few surrounding neighborhoods in an effort to help them learn to be self-reliable.  I rail against the fear mongering as propagated through the supposed news media, as every single little potential incident gets blow up and reported as though it was happening it your own backyard.  I rail against the stupidity of school systems which all but ban a child either arriving at school alone or leaving school alone.  After all, what might happen if a child walks home alone or with a friend??  

But today, I want to ask the question - what happened to our trust in society?  What happened to trusting your neighbors, to other humans?

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I rode my bike or walked to school.  I had friends to talk to sometimes; I had time to think and enjoy nature at other times.  I learned that I was okay by myself, and that I didn't need someone else around for me to be okay.  I met neighbors, both old and young.  I felt like part of a community.

Fast forward to today, and see how much the world has changed.  Moms and dads schedule playdates for their kids, who have no other way of meeting friends.  Some moms even refuse to schedule a playdate if the dad is the only parent present at the other house.  A woman called 9-1-1 to report a man who talked to her daughter.  Yes, the man's only "crime" was speaking to a little girl outside.  (The man was looking for his lost puppy.)  Another woman called 9-1-1 because a van was slowly following the school bus in her neighborhood.  The reason behind this act completely eluded me, since any vehicles following a school bus in a neighborhood drive slowly, or risk hitting a child.  But then I learned the van was driven by a Hispanic man.

What are we really so afraid of?

In Sweden, mothers frequently leave their occupied strollers outside a store if a baby is sleeping or resting happily.  When asked why, the common response is "Why not?  Everyone watches out for babies." The same is true for toddlers, preschoolers, little kids, big kids, and even teens.

So why can't we Americans learn to trust our neighbors, our community, as much as Europeans?

If we trust our neighbors, then our kids can play outside without parents worrying about nebulous danger.  If our kids play outside, they get exercise, get practice making friends, learn how to navigate their own corner of the world, and - most importantly - learn to rely on themselves.  We help our children grow into responsible adults.

But only if we are willing to put down the mantle of fear, and retake the mantle of trust.


  1. The tidbit about Swedish moms leaving their strollers outside a store reminds me of the time when my friend had to run into JC Penney's to return something. It was in the back area of a mall where you can pull pretty much right up to the door. The doors were large glass ones so she could see her kids in the car the entire time. The kids were sleeping so she thought she'd just leave them in the car while she took less than 5 minutes to run in. Everything went smoothly...or so she thought, until the next day when CPS knocked on her door to interrogate her about the incident. Apparently someone saw her doing what she did and reported her.

    I don't know whose fault it is to make us so paranoid, but I agree, it has gotten pretty rampant.

    1. Oh - I feel so sorry for your friend!

      And why did someone report her to CPS instead of speaking with her himself (or herself)?

      (shakes head)


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