OK, so if this is your first time here, some quick background info: I live in an inner city neighborhood and am a free range mom of three. My son will be 15 at the end of the month, my elder daughter 12 in August, and my younger daughter is 8.5. All three use the city’s public transit system to varying degrees. My oldest is perfectly capable of planning a route to anywhere he wants to go (volunteer work downtown or a sporting goods store in the neighboring suburb) by using the transit book, my middle child travels mostly direct routes with the occasional transfer on familiar routes in our neighborhood, and my youngest is always accompanied by at least one of the older two. We’ve talked about the difference between making conversation and fishing for information and what they should and should not divulge. We’ve discussed the unlikely possibility of abduction or assault, what they should do if they are threatened and what they can do to prevent being targeted in the first place. They stay home alone regularly while I run errands in our neighborhood on weekends and occasionally while I’m at work, which is only 10-15 minutes away. One of my next door neighbors is retired as is the couple across the street, and there is a police substation less than a quarter of a mile away, should an emergency arise that needs addressed faster then I could get home. They know where the power breaker is, how to shut off the water supply to each toilet as well as the main water supply to the house. They know that unless I have told them I’m expecting someone to drop by, they are not even to approach the door if someone knocks and I am not home. We’ve discussed what to do or not do if there was an attempted burglary.
So this is my little free range success story. Short version: My three kids were home alone, making ramen (on the stove *gasp*) when someone came to the door. I had actually stepped away from my desk to speak to a coworker and missed two calls and a text from my son that someone was at the door and wouldn’t leave. When that someone entered the back yard, my son called my direct number at work but I didn’t quite make it back to my desk before it went to voicemail, but seeing the missed calls on my phone, figured it had been the kids and called right back.
“Mom, why haven’t you been answering your phone? This guy just stole my bike.”
So it takes me a second to gather that this is actually still in progress and the guy is still in view of the house. I figured was a good time to take my lunch break, told my son to hang up, call 9-1-1 and that I was on my way. I got home 15 minutes later, and as I approached the turn onto our street, the burglar was being apprehended around the corner from home and my kids were in driveway giving a police report to another officer. They’d already given a detailed scenario as well as descriptions of the stolen bike, what the guy was wearing, and his general physical features. The officer asked about how old the guy looked, and Tyler said, “eh… 35 to 45 years old. Halle chimed in, “I’d say he was in his late thirties.” Daija was pouting because they made her hide in the closet and she didn’t get to see him at all. Both girls were green with envy as Tyler left with the officer taking the report to ID the suspect and the property. When they returned, the officer explained our options, and I was proud again that Tyler indicated a desire to aid in prosecution.
When one of the officers that apprehended the burglar returned Tyler’s bike (and an empty propane tank… don’t know why he didn’t take the nearly full one from the grill?) a half hour after that, he asked me to tell my son (the spokesperson at the old age of 14) how proud he was of him, and all of them, and what a great job I’d done preparing them to handle an emergency.
I basked in the knowledge that my kids stayed calm and handled the kind of worse case scenario most parents cite as justification for helicopter parenting, then went back inside to share his praise (as well as one or two things to do better if we ever find ourselves in that situation again).
As I headed back to work, they had already resumed their lunches and promised me they were going to make sure to clean up the kitchen & dining room as soon as they were done (oh, they lie so earnestly…). Just before I shoved it into my purse, I looked down at the police report information the officer gave me before he left…
The suspect will be 37 in a couple months.
I keep seeing twitter comments along these lines: Sex offenders hand out big candy bars, razors, drugs, & hugs, or some such nonsense. Which is so interesting to me because I live in Phoenix, which is a pretty big damn city, one also known as the kidnap capital of the US, but I can’t think of a time I’ve ever heard of an abduction or other child sex crime on the news around Halloween. So before we all run out and buy The Offender Locator, let’s look at some facts, and CHILL THE FLOCK OUT. Instead of psyching yourself out over something that is highly UNLIKELY to happen, how about worrying about the things that are LIKELY to happen… like your child getting plowed down by a vehicle because you were too busy looking for sex offenders to look both ways before crossing the street… or some of there other tragedies that are far more likely to happen to your child.
Researchers looked at a 9-year period, saying even before increased awareness and enforcement, there were not significant spikes in sex crimes against children around Halloween.
“Reasonable parental supervision and vigilance on Halloween is appropriate, but there does not appear to be cause for alarm concerning sexual abuse risk in particular,” the study found. “Increased vigilance concerning risk should be directed to the summer months, where regular seasonal increases in sex crimes are readily seen.”
The report also notes that it could be more worthwhile to have police focusing on traffic-related incidents on Halloween over monitoring sex offenders.
“The wide net cast by Halloween laws places some degree of burden on law enforcement officers whose time would otherwise be allocated to addressing more probably dangerous events.”
Last spring, her son, 10, announced he wanted to walk to soccer practice rather than be driven, a distance of about a mile. Several people who saw the boy walking alone called 911. A police officer stopped him, drove him the rest of the way and then reprimanded Mrs. Pierce. According to local news reports, the officer told Mrs. Pierce that if anything untoward had happened to the boy, she could have been charged with child endangerment. Many felt the officer acted appropriately and that Mrs. Pierce had put her child at risk.
Critics say fears that children will be abducted by strangers are at a level unjustified by reality. About 115 children are kidnapped by strangers each year, according to federal statistics; 250,000 are injured in auto accidents.
So I woke up this morning and had a notification that a coworker had accepted my invitation to join Facebook. This was puzzling, since I don’t solicit people to join facebook if they’re not already on, unless you’re family anyway. I also seem to have a lot of email on my blackberry, for it being not quite 5AM… and strangely, some of them are out of office replies from vendors that I hadn’t emailed from work and who I’d never given my blackberry email to. Then I get an actual response from another coworker to an email I apparently generated, inviting them to view my pictures on facebook. I couldn’t have been more mortified… I mean, my kids & dogs are real cute, but most of the time that you get an email from someone you don’t really know inviting them to view your pictures… well… they’re not of cute kids & dogs.
I think my son, who has only been on facebook for a month, showed me a text he’d received from an uncle, telling Tyler he’d just signed up for facebook. I told him he could add his uncle this weekend, but Tyler was having trouble sleeping last night, and I strongly suspect he went online at some point with the intent of “friending” his uncle. The late hour may be why he didn’t realize he was in my account and not his, or that the “friend finder for smartphones” was not going to work on the kiddie lojack cell phone that he carries to & from the school bus stop… but it does would explain why he’d asked me yesterday evening what kind of phone he had/if it was a smartphone. It looks like he unintentionally sent invitations to join facebook to everyone in my blackberry, which wouldn’t be too big of a deal if I only had personal contact in my blackberry, but I sync it with outlook at work… so that request would have gone out to HUNDREDS of people. Literally. I’ve worked for US Airways for almost ten years and I probably have at least 1500 contacts in oulook.
So long story short/short story long… if you got an invitation to be my friend or view my pictures, please feel free to disregard or accept as you see fit. I only ask that either way, you never mention this little fiasco to me or anyone else for the rest of your natural life… 😉
I have to admit… when my oldest (now thirteen) wanted to use the men’s room solo at age four, at the airport of all places, I made him sing the ABC song so I would know he was OK. I was a single parent at he time, so it was the first time he’d gone into a public restroom alone (assuming his father accompanied him into men’s rooms during their time together). I also have to admit that I was probably as worried about him playing in the sink as I was about a pedophile.
I’m proud to say that I eventually chillaxed and I don’t think he was singing in public restrooms past the age of five. At the same time, I still don’t let my youngest (six and a half) go to the restroom unaccompanied in a lot of public places. Living in a large city, when we’re out shopping, we’re usually at a large store. I send a sibling along with her to make sure she gets there and back without getting lost in the aisles more than anything else… but being an “After School Special” kid myself, the possibility of her being abducted is present in my mind. This is part of the reason my tween carries a lo-jack equipped cell phone when he walks to the bus stop.
There’s a crazy phenomenon that happens anytime I put a phone to my ear… it emits some kind of high frequency signal audible only to children and dogs, which they seem to take as a sign that it is time to bug the piss out of me.
Sounds familiar to some of you, doesn’t it?
Twice today I tried to talk to a friend on the phone. Between a three hour time difference and conflicting work schedules, it’s not that often I get to talk to this particular person on the phone… and most of the time the conversation ends with me thinking of half a dozen things I would have liked to have said or asked but I got distracted or interrupted or I had a little person sitting at my feet, listening like a CIA informant.