It’s all fun and games until your neighbor decides that she is the boss of the fun and games

Monday. Late-morning. Hotter than hot. Not even 24 hours home from vacation, and I was going through the piles of mail. There was a knock at the door, which was weird because no one ever knocks on our door unless it’s the UPS guy, and he doesn’t come until dinner time. Corralling the crazy barky dog, I looked out the front door window and saw a woman I did not know — and my six-year-old.

I whipped the door open, trying to figure out what was happening. The woman smiled. My son frowned. And as soon as the door opened he flew into the house, running as far away from the woman as he could.

“Is that your son?” she asked with a smile.

I nodded, still trying to figure out what was happening.

“He said this was his house. I brought him home.” She was wearing dark glasses. I couldn’t see her eyes, couldn’t gauge her expression.

“You brought…”

“Yes. He was all the way down there, with no adult.” She motioned to a park bench about 150 yards from my house. A bench that is visible from my front porch. A bench where he had been playing with my 8-year-old daughter, and where he decided to stay and play when she brought our dog home from the walk they’d gone on.

“You brought him home… from playing outside?” I continued to be baffled.

And then the woman smiled condescendingly, explained that he was OUTSIDE. And he was ALONE. And she was RETURNING HIM SAFELY. To stay INSIDE. With an ADULT. I thanked her for her concern, quickly shut the door and tried to figure out what just happened.

Chalking it up to a well-meaning but over-vigilant neighbor, I went back to the huge, post-vacation stack of mail and my son went to get himself a drink of water (shocking that a 6-year-old has the complete faculties to not only play outside but to get himself a cold beverage!). A few minutes later there was another knock at the door and the dog again went nuts. I could feel my hackles rising to match his. I didn’t want to engage with this woman about my parenting practices. I didn’t want to have a discussion about how children should be allowed to play outside. I didn’t want to talk about how he’s the youngest of three, has been under constant surveillance since he was born, has rules and perimeters for playing outside, and had been outdoors a total of 15 minutes that morning. I didn’t want to get into it with a stranger. Not at all.

I opened the door, ready to politely and firmly tell her to go away, but it was not her. It was a police officer.

The police officer asked if my son had been outside alone. She asked why I thought it was OK for him to be unsupervised. She took my ID. She wrote down the names and ages of the children.

There are not a lot of times in one’s life when you can use a word like “flabbergasted” without hyperbole, but this was one of those times. I was nearly struck dumb. I answered her questions until I gathered my senses about me and began to explain the situation. I asked if she was *really* there to question me about letting my children play outside WITHIN VIEW OF MY OWN HOUSE. We seemed to agree that this was a little ridiculous. She offered a half-hearted warning that “you never know what can happen in just a few blocks” and I choked back my retort of “you never know what can happen when you get out of bed in the morning.” I choked back my, “The fact that this particular 6-year-old can play outside on his own is a miracle in and of itself, do you think I would ever, EVER tempt fate with him?” I choked back my, “We celebrate everyday that he is independent and healthy enough to play outside.” I choked back so many things.

The police officer left with a curt nod and without filing a report.

The children were awestruck and worried that a police officer had just questioned their mother in front of them. I was mortified. And angry. They were *just playing outside*. I can’t emphasize that enough.

I tried to shake it off and go about the rest of the day, but I was so, so upset. Then, that night, my 6-year-old cried because he thought someone would call the police when he couldn’t fall asleep at his bedtime. We talked about how that would never happen, how this was an isolated incident, how much we love and care for each other in our family. We talked about how the neighbor thought she was doing a good thing and that it was an unfortunate misunderstanding and everything was all over now.

The week moved slowly on. Preparations were made for the imminent start of school, seventeen tons of post-vacation laundry was cleaned, doctors appointments were attended. And then… later that week we were at the pulmonologist’s office when I got a voice mail from a Child Protective Services investigator. She wanted me to call her back immediately.

I think, if it was possible to base jump onto a diving roller coaster, the swooping feeling in your stomach would still be only half of what I experienced at that moment. I felt lucky to be at a pulmonologist’s office, because surely they’d be able to help me when I started hyperventilating.

I somehow drove us all home without having a heart attack. Made lunch. Called an attorney friend to see if I needed to start getting really, really worried, and then I called back the CPS investigator. Within an hour she was at the house, interviewing the kids one at a time, alone with her, while I had to sequester myself upstairs. I wanted to argue. I wanted to protest. I wanted to stamp my foot and say, “No, ma’am, you are NOT allowed to speak to my children without me being present.” But I was cowed. And I understood why the process had to be that way. I didn’t like it. I DON’T like it. But I understood. I understand. I complied.

My kids reported that she asked questions about drugs and alcohol, about pornography, about how often they bathe, about fighting in the home. And again, I understand the need for these questions. I understand CPS investigators have an incredibly difficult job. But the conflict I feel is immense. My children were playing outside, within sight of the house, and now my 6yo and 8yo and 12yo have seen their mother spoken to — multiple times — as if she, herself, was a child being reprimanded. They have all been questioned, by a stranger, about whether they’ve ever been shown movies of other people’s private parts. And no matter what I say, I can tell that they think they’ve done something wrong.

After the children were interviewed, I was interviewed, my husband was called (again, making me feel as if I had acted like a disobedient child), even our babysitter got a phone call. Then, finally, once the case worker consulted with her supervisor, I was reassured that because the kids really were just playing outside, and their stories matched mine as well as the police officer’s account, the incident would be marked as a non-event and the case would be closed. (The case is now officially closed, I waited to blog about it until I knew for sure.)

But I was also warned: the neighbor can call CPS as many times as she wants. If she truly feels there’s neglect, she can’t be prosecuted for making false allegations. We could try to sue her for harassment. We could try to press charges for kidnapping if she approaches our son again and tries to get him to move from where he’s playing. But in all reality, when children are involved, the person who makes the complaint gets the benefit of the doubt. For parents, it is guilty until proven innocent. I understand why the system works this way, but it makes me feel like we are prisoners in our own home. It makes me feel helpless and at the mercy of someone I don’t even know. It makes me incredibly, guiltily relieved to enjoy the privileges that I do.

Do I know how lucky I am to be able to call friends who are attorneys, to be able to google my questions, to have a working phone to call the CPS investigator to get updates, to have a circle of friends I can trust to be supportive and indignant along with me? I see my privilege. I want to apologize for it. I know this has been just a taste of what others go through. Just as I have had tastes in the past of food stamps and medicaid and being at the mercy of government support. I get it, Universe, you have thrown open the floodgates of perspective. I am drowning in it.

I am drowning in it.

 

***

 

Our neighborhood is small, there’s a wide open green space with walking trails right across the street from our house. The lawns are (sometimes forcibly through the Homeowners’ Association) well-maintained. There’s a playground at the top of the hill. And there are no children outside. Anywhere. It is a creepy vista of green grass and beautiful trees without a living soul marring its surface. It is a place where, when a woman is screaming in the middle of the night, she has to knock on the doors of three houses before someone will answer, but it is also a place where, when children are playing outside alone, the police are called immediately.

The real estate literature says “Perfect for families!”

This whole incident has left me very angry and disillusioned. And sad.

I could list statistics about how America is safer now that it’s ever been. About how child injury stats can be interpolated in such a way that leaving a kid with a stranger is actually statistically safer than leaving a child with a parent or a friend of the family. I could talk about helicopter parenting and a 24-hour news cycle that is making the country paranoid and couch-bound.

But what I want to talk about are children who don’t feel safe outside – not because of stranger danger or threat of immediate injury, but because the police will be called if they’re just playing like we played when we were young. What will the Always On Screens Generation be like when they’re adults? When they weren’t afforded the ability to play and explore and test limits and problem solve, when everything was sanitized and supervised, when the crimes committed against them were more likely to happen online than in the park across the street? What will this do? How will society be affected?

I guess we’re about to find out, aren’t we? Because my children aren’t allowed outside until we can sell our house and move to a more hospitable neighborhood. Though I wonder… do more hospitable neighborhoods even exist anymore? Is everyone so terrified of the world that they sit in their Wall-E chairs, watching 24-hour “news,” rifles on their laps, and their phones pre-dialed to 911? How do we make sense of the dichotomy that our country is safer than it’s ever been and yet small town police departments have tanks and automatic weapons? How do we teach our children that it’s OK to play outside and to learn on their own, to enjoy a taste of freedom – but to be very, very careful when wearing a hoodie especially if they have dark skin?

You’d think with all this perspective that I could see far and wide, that I could find an answer for these questions, that I could help cobble together a solution (“All Kids Play Outside Day”? “Look We Can Climb Trees Without Dying Day”? “National Don’t Shoot Anyone In A Hoodie Day”?) . But I haven’t been able to. I can’t reconcile anything. All I know is that my family, while still feeling kind of bruised and grouchy, is lucky. And that my neighbor, if given the resources, would probably write a blog post about this terrible mother down the street who lets her babies play outside all alone.

So for now we stay in the house. And we try not to fall victim to fear like everyone else. We try not to be afraid of the outside world. We try to learn from our privilege. We try not to be daunted by the view perspective affords us.

We just try.

Really, really hard.

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69 thoughts on “It’s all fun and games until your neighbor decides that she is the boss of the fun and games

  1. Oh, and I meant to add: truly sorry for this whole miserable experience. I have constant expectations that we’ll be going through something similar anytime now.

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  2. Our neighborhood is so much more laid back, but I really wonder if it’s just the “one bad apple” effect? If your neighbor lady lived down the street from us, I’m sure we’d be in a similar boat.

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  3. This sounds batshit insane to me. Kids where I live (Norway) start school when they’re between 5.5 and 6.5 years old. They walk to school. They get a bus if it’s more than 2 miles to school. They walk to school even at those parts of the year when it’s dark as they’re walking to school in the morning. These are not my personal parenting-choices, this is the law here: it’s the level of responsibility our lawmakers decided kids of that age can usually handle.
    Letting a 6-year-old play 150 yards from home is utterly trivial and perfectly unremarkable. You’ll probably enjoy this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-462091/How-children-lost-right-roam-generations.html (summary: in 4 generations the freedoms to roam for a 8-year-old shrunk from 6 miles to 300 yards.)

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  4. I know this feeling. I’m so sorry this happen to you and the extent to which it was elevated is truly ridiculous. If you’re looking for some solidarity, I wrote about my experience with a lady at bible study calling the cops on me because I wasn’t close enough to my child in a fenced in play area twenty feet from me: http://mademorebeautiful.com/2011/04/28/chick-fight/ and had a separate incident over with a CPS reporting that next year when a neighbor called me in after talking to my escape artist toddler and leaving him in the street to go report me when she could have returned my son to the babysitter in my house.
    People and their helicopter micromanagement need to back the hell off of other parents.

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  5. I’m sorry you had to go through this. And I appreciate your writing about it so honestly and clearly. It really raises my hackles. It’s so sad that people like your nosey neighbor are uncomfortable merely seeing children playing outside. This part rang true to me about os many neighborhoods today: “And there are no children outside. Anywhere. It is a creepy vista of green grass and beautiful trees without a living soul marring its surface.” Ugh.

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  6. How awful. And degrading. You are handling this So.Much.Better than I would.
    I don’t know if I would be able to not be inchoate with rage and anxiety. :/
    I’m raising (and have been, she’s fifteen now) my Girl as a free-range kid. Able to go outside and play and Do All The Things. My only caveat has been that I need to know where she is; not at all times. Just a heads up on where she is headed/is at.
    Your decision to move away from that person/neighborhood is wise. I hope you find a neighborhood full of interesting trees and flowers and other kids and whatnot. Also that said neighborhood isn’t full of people looking to make others as miserable as they are.

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  7. Hugs. I’ve been there. I once had a neighbor call CPS on us in retaliation for sending their drunk family member home… after he repeatedly knocked on our door in the middle of the night. Waking the sleeping 2 year old that CPS had to come check on. Yeah. Doesn’t make sense to me either.
    How do you feel about Nevada? I live in a great subdivision where kids do really play outside – sometimes out of the view of their parents. *gasp* They ride bikes, play on the tennis/basketball court, and enjoy the park and playground. 🙂 There are a few places left where kids can be kids.

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  8. Gosh– I am so sorry you had to go through this. It is hard to fathom that a person’s first instinct when seeing a child playing within eyesight of their own front porch is to call CPS. Unbelievable. I was just wondering if my son and his friend could walk a couple of blocks on Saturdays and go to the playscape in our neighborhood. They’re weeks away from being 8. Apparently I can’t risk that. When I was six, I would be gone for hours in our yard, other people’s yards, going to the school playground a few blocks away. My parents and big sisters taught me how to be safe. And I was.

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  9. If a neighbor had done this to my mother, the poor woman would have ended up in the ER with a broken arm, a ruptured drum from being yelled at, and undoubtedly a very serious burn to her eyeball from a Marlboro being thrust into it.

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  10. I am so sorry you’re dealing with this…my son is 9, autistic and non-verbal. One day he slipped out of a door that hadn’t latched (the doors are all protected and he’s never alone, but sometimes a mama has to pee)….when I realized he wasn’t in his room, I went screaming out the front door, only to find that 3 neighbor men that I didn’t even know had corralled him and were keeping him safe until I appeared. I was so grateful and felt blessed to have such wonderful neighbors…there was no judgment, no scolding…I apologized and explained, and I got nothing but sympathy and “we’re just glad we were here to help”; they all introduced themselves and assured me that if they ever saw him wandering, they’d now know where to return him and would do so without a problem. I worried for a couple days that someone might have called the cops or CPS to report that I wasn’t supervising my son appropriately, but there was none of that, just genuine neighborly desire to help. What a concept. That’s what neighbors should do – keep our kids safe when they need it, and stay out of it when they don’t. Bless you and your family.

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  11. CPS is a tricky situation. You do have to talk to them, but you don’t have to do it on their terms. You should never let them in your house unless you have been ordered by the court to do so. You should never let them interview your children or yourself without an attorney present. You should insist that all questions be relevant to whatever the allegation is. In this case, drug use and pornography have nothing to do with the allegation and should have been completely out of bounds. They will insist that it work differently than that, but they cannot do anything without your consent or a court order. If you withhold your consent, they must get a court order. If you are making a reasonable demand (don’t talk to my kid about porn if the allegation is neglectful supervision), it is very unlikely that a judge will go against you. I’m really sorry this happened to you. You subjected yourself to a fishing expedition, and you are fortunate that one of your kids didn’t say something strange (kids say the darnedest things) that got you wrapped up in some other drama. My family went through a similar circumstance. I’m terribly sorry you had to go through this. I am glad it worked out.

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  12. “You should insist that all questions be relevant to whatever the allegation is. In this case, drug use and pornography have nothing to do with the allegation and should have been completely out of bounds. ”
    This is what would have enraged me… how are these questions relevant? I wonder what kind of damage is CPS doing by merely asking these types of questions when a child isn’t mentally/emotionally ready to be able to process what drugs/porn are?

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  13. War. Warre. War to the knife, war until not one brick of her house stands upon another. Teach her the consequences of daring to take an interest in your affairs.
    You have no choice in the matter, you see. Do you think that she will never again do something like this? A war can occur with two sides actively fighting, but also with only one. She’s not going to leave you any choice.

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  14. I posted your story on my FB page. This story should definitely be shared. I wrote this preceding the link.
    “This blog post hit me hard. Not necessarily for what happened, but for the whole context of the post. LIVE IN FEAR… Many people commented that it made them sad–I also felt that–but mostly it made me furious. I mean really, really pissed.
    There are so many people living in constant fear. I want to say it’s recent, but it’s not new, it’s just easier to see because of the ease of being able to spread information now, i.e. social media, television. These fearful people see the world as this huge constant threat, where everything that can happen will most likely happen and happen to them over and over. The problem with that is they want everyone else to live in this fear as well. And they make sure to do everything in their power to create fear in others. Their message is: “BE AFRAID! ALWAYS!” And if you are not afraid, they will find a way to make you afraid.
    This lady’s neighbor succeeded. She made this mother afraid. Success! “Cower with me, people, I must not cower alone!”
    Well, to all the people like this neighbor I say, “Bring it the fuck on!” Bring it. I will NOT live my life in a perpetual state of fear. Let strangers call the police and CPS. I’ll greet them at the door with a plate of cookies and we’ll talk in the house while the kids play in the front yard. I’ll continue to live my life in love and happiness until the damn apocalypse happens and then I’ll kick some brain-sucking zombie ass. I will NOT fear you or what you think you can do to me. My lack of fear does not equal weakness and if you try to push your fear on me, you’ll know just how strong I can be.”
    All the best to you. I hope you find peace in another neighborhood.

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  15. Did you sue her? Did you file a criminal complaint for kidnapping? Your passivity is embarrassing. You should have called the police officer’s supervisor, you should have called the chief, you should have filed a civil rights lawsuit against CPS, you should not have allowed CPS to enter your house, and you should have gotten a better lawyer.

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  16. This is a sad commentary on our current society, but the truth is, I would never let a kid younger than 6 out beyond my front or back yard without being outside there, actually watching him/her. Perhaps your neighbors pay more attention to the news of abducted kids than you do, and they are a bit over-vigilant. However, I don’t think a parent can be too over-vigilant in this day and age. Unfortunately, it’s the world we live in.

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  17. But you did fall victim to fear. You fell victim to the fear that social services is going to invade and upset your life on absolutely no evidence whatsoever. What did they find? They found healthy, well-cared for, well-adjusted kids and healthy, attentive parents.
    You should confront the neighbor directly. All the child-rearing experts say 6 is the developmentally appropriate age for children to begin having outdoor play unsupervised, but within sight of their home. Independence and self-reliance cannot be learned if they are never practiced. Let that neighbor know your kids are healthy, well cared for, and that it is normal and HEALTHY for them to play outside, yes, even unsupervised. Let her know about the investigation into your home and how the case was closed after a single visit. Maybe even print her out a page from a child-rearing book that extols the virtues of the great outdoors and children having independent access to it at age 6. Let her know, too, that you understand she can report anyone she chooses to report anytime she suspects harm or neglect and let her know that if you continue to be the subject of her unwarranted attention in that area that you’ll be filing a police report for the harassment and will seek other remedies if it continues. And LET YOUR KIDS PLAY OUTSIDE! Don’t become a prisoner of your fear! That system is there to protect children from harm. You were investigated and no harm was found. Kids deserve to and SHOULD play outside!

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  18. Personally, I would have thanked the neighbor for caring about my kid’s safety and assured her that I had been keeping an eye out on my kids through the window and knew they were OK. And I would have added that I would appreciate knowing if they see any strangers lurking or if they notice my kids doing something dangerous that I didn’t see. It does take a whole village to raise a child, and your neighbor was probably just acting out of concern for a child.

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  19. The answer is not to keep you kids in the house. The answer is to communicate better with your neighbors,letting them know that you have educated your kids about safety — and not get automatically defensive. Perhaps things go so out-of-control because you responded the way you did.

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  20. Absolutely NOT, Kalilily! This neighbor (read: Gestapo) absolutely CROSSED THE LINE by asking by drugs, porn, etc. She needs a job, a hobby, and some serious counseling. Most of all, she needs to BUTT OUT.

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  21. Hmm I wonder if your neighbour has something personal against you or feels some sort of social entitlement that allows her to put her finger in your eye and get away with it.
    I mean, even if she called social services it seems unfair that she forced your children to stay within your house bounderies.
    It seems to me that this sort of things are more about the parents than about the children. Isnt there perhaps a way for you to keep doing what you were doing, to show her your finger without getting in trouble yourself? Do you have any friends in your neighbourhood that could side with you?

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  22. Hmm, you had me on your side for a while there, then all of a sudden you went off on a tangent about hoodies and guns. Look up the stats on your own instead of letting your predetermined stance from whatever news you’re watching tell you statistics… Because it turns out you sound just like the lady who brought your son to your house, only the topic is different.

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  23. Nice victim blaming Federale and Kalilily. It’s very easy to be an armchair quarterback from behind your keyboard. I suppose you would both know exactly what to say and do when the police and CPS show up on your doorstep with no warning?

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  24. Back in the late 90’s I used to work in the healthcare field. I used to meet some CPS workers mainly because I had to guide them to where some children were.
    There used to be a worker in her late 20s who was always nice and polite and then one time she said it was her last time coming as she had a new job.
    She was one of the nicest ones that used to come to the hospital so I was really surprised she was quitting and then she told me how things were changing and that now there was money to get kids away from their families. She said she didn’t feel comfortable talking about it, but her advice was, if I ever had to deal with CPS, to get a lawyer and treat the CPS people like scum because it was their business to break up families.
    That was many years ago but after that, I have read stories like these, and every time that encounter with that worker comes to mind.
    Reading the story, it seems to me that you did talk to a lawyer, but maybe not a lawyer that specialized with CPS individuals. I would be really careful next time because these CPS people are not your friends. Next time, don’t bend over so easily for the CPS police. They got money to make!

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  25. I feel like this is going to happen any day, even though there is a multitude of children who just go off and play. My daughter has two blocks around our house that she can go to, all I ask is that she tells me the general area where she’s going (her friends house, the alley behind our house, the park, whatever) and that she checks in every once in awhile (45-60m). But I’m terrified that someone will think I’m being a bad parent, simply because I let my daughter play outside with her friends. She rides her scooter to school, which is about a mile away, 5 days a week there and back. Such a scary situation for you to go to and I hope that people can start chilling the hell out because that is not okay. At all.

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  26. The unfortunate thing is that now you’ve given them an inch. Now they’re going to try and take a mile. CPS is aggressive in keeping an eye on good parents while they have no problems ignoring the bad ones.
    You see, living in fear, is the new (yes, modernly liberal) American way. This has nothing to do with the “universe” showing you something. No, you’ve let government get away with victimizing you and your family. Stop being a sheep and stand up for your family.

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  27. I’m sorry your family had to go through this. I know the feeling. One thing I learned the hard way is all-important: Never let CPS enter your home or interview your kids without a warrant to do so. When they do that, they are in violation of your 4th amendment rights.

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  28. Wow. Just wow. How dare the concerned neighbor remove a child from where their parent left them. How dare the concerned stranger take the child into her custody instead of calling police, if their was a problem. That is one child manipulating woman to be able to talk a kid into his address and to go with her. This strange woman shows signs of being a psychopath predator. I would get a restraining order on that woman from being anywhere near a park.
    Now, I may seem a bit inflammatory and exaggerating, but think about what this stranger did, in the name of caring. She took a child with her, removed him from his designated spot assigned by his mother, and she was able to coerce him into going with her. Children these days, including this little boy, are overdosed with “don’t talk to strangers” but this stranger was able to override that caution. And this unacceptable behavior is masked behind ‘concern’. Protect the children from this woman!
    I may be a bit dramatic, but think about it. Really think about what this lady did? If the child went with her to his house she has the skills to get him to go to her own house or into a car. All the while she wore sunglasses.

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  29. Let me ask you – where your son was playing was it near this woman’s home?
    If so, I feel like I could help you understand what drove her actions and it wasn’t fear. I would instead guess that his playing was bothering her – either with the noise or his movements.
    And so, under the premise of being “nice and neighborly” brought him home in hopes of shaming you into not letting him out again. Calling the cops was to ensure you wouldn’t let him out to play again.
    The truth is there are some people who do not like children. It does not make them bad people or parents bad people, it is just the way they feel. And I would gather a guess she is one of them – and thinks that parents should keep their children close and quiet.
    I don’t think this is about fear. It is about control.

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  30. Why are you protecting your neighbor by not sharing her name? The world knows your name. You stand behind your beliefs and convictions.
    I just happened by this blog post, and perhaps tomorrow all I will remember is your name and something about maybe not being a good mom.
    Can we reframe the story with you as a good mom being persecuted by neighbors and by petty government employees?

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  31. Your story is very similar to mine. My 6yo was playing at the school park with her 9yo brother, and he decided to come home. Some neighbor — I’ll never know who — called the cops, and a deputy brought her home. In our case, the cop was much ruder. She threatened to shoot our fenced-in dog, and said I was “threatening” her when I said I was going to complain to her superior. The social worker seemed to be on our side. We allowed a few questions, outside, with us standing right there, and she respected our request not to ask the younger ones about anything sexual. (Not that we have anything to hide. Just the opposite, we want to protect them from ever having those bad images in their heads in the first place.) She flat out told us that we hadn’t done anything wrong, and that our daughter was probably perfectly safe at the park.
    But none of that matters. Because the bottom line, according to CPS, is that she “looks” young, and therefore if we let her out the neighbors may keep calling the police. And if they keep calling the police, and the police keep calling CPS, they will be “forced” to pursue charges against us. It doesn’t matter if she’s plenty old enough to go to the park. It doesn’t matter if she’s perfectly safe. It doesn’t matter if letting her go is well within our rights. We aren’t “allowed,” because all that matters is what the neighbors think. If the neighbors think we are bad parents, CPS will take our children.
    It’s absolutely infuriating. It’s wrong. It’s unfair. And I have absolutely no idea what to do about it.

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  32. PS, I did complain to the Sheriff’s Office. The deputy’s superior apologized, and agreed that she was out of line, and that we had done nothing wrong. And yet, he says, it’s up to the individual deputy to decide how to respond to a child alone. Some of his deputies have brought home kids as old as 12 for no other reason than, “they were outside without an adult.”And if they decide to bring a kid home, they’re legally obligated to contact CPS. It almost makes me wish there was a law saying what age kids can play outside. As much as I think that ought to be a parental decision and none of the government’s business, at least then I would know how old my kids need to be before the cops will leave them alone.

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  33. This is absolutely absurd! This is why I love living out in the country where you can turn the kids loose for the whole day, let them run and play, ride bikes, climb trees, go fish, play with their weapon (sling shots, bow and arrows, and yes…shot guns!) and grow up being boys!
    This is just more intrusion of the government moving into our lives where they are not needed. If you are still looking at moving, there are spots open at The Rock, GA! Come on over and enjoy a bit of Mayberry life before it too gets taken away.
    http://www.husbandofahomeschoolingmom.com

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  34. I live in Baltimore, which everyone thinks IS The Wire. In my (and plenty other) neighborhoods, kids can play in their front yards. People still look out for each other. Progressive is as progressive does. Country, city, or “safe” neighborhood, life must be lived and letting your child play in public outside, alone, nearby is more than ok, it’s your right.

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  35. Where are the children at? Mother Nature has no one left to mother anymore. No kids are knocking at her door, to find solace and adventure, to drink the tincture of her honeysuckle and eat of her wild fruit. — Minister’s Wife

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  36. I am a smother mother so I know I do things difrently. That being said, if you were inside sorting vacation mail and your six year old was playing on a bench you could see from your porch then technically you couldn’t see him. We see so much anymore about kids being taken be creeps and it really can happen in a second. So while it was a big inconvenience to you the way it was handled. I think the lady should have just gotten a big thank you. I’m sure this is not the more popular of the comments. No offense intended.

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  37. Luanne, yes, there is a risk, but every parent has to evaluate the risk for themselves.
    For one thing, yes, “it could happen in a second,” but so could getting struck by lightning. And you may think that’s a nonsense thing to worry about, but it is literally more likely than having your child abducted by a stranger. On average, there are about 123 lightning-strike deaths in the US per year — and 115 stereotypical kidnappings. Just last year, lightning struck the ground literally inches from where my nephew and his friend were standing — with the friend’s mom standing right there, ushering the boys in out of the rain.
    But people don’t generally freak out about the possibility of lightning strikes. You don’t have people writing shaking, terrified blog posts about how they got caught out in the rain and “anything could have happened.” Even though it could have. Instead, they recognize lightning as a possible, but unlikely, danger, and take reasonable precautions to avoid it without significantly disrupting their lives. Moreover, we allow people to evaluate the risk themselves and make their own decisions about what precautions are reasonable. Some people like to walk in thunderstorms; some go inside. Some people get out of the pool while the storm clouds are still off in the distance, while even some public pools let swimming continue in the rain until lightning is actually seen or thunder heard.
    It ought to be (and used to be) the same way with allowing children out of our sight. Everyone knows that there is a real, but remote, possibility of our children encountering violence while away from our protection. Yet we also know that we will eventually have to let them go, and that we have to prepare them for that. None of us wants to be that one-in-a-million statistic, but neither do any of us want to raise crippled, dependent children who can’t function without us. So why exactly can’t we trust loving parents (which most of us are) to evaluate these risks for ourselves and make our own decisions about what’s reasonable?
    Does the neighbor deserve a thank you? For what? For “caring” about this little boy’s safety? Well, does she care more than his own mother, who had decided he was fine where he was? What she did wasn’t neighborly, even if she had convinced herself it was. What she did was decide that Kari Anne’s evaluation of the risk wasn’t good enough, and that she needed to force her own opinion on this family, without being asked, and using all the power of the state to make them comply. No, I would absolutely NOT thank her for that.

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  38. Sorry for so many comments, but one more thought to add for Luanne.
    The other day I was at the park, and another mom asked me if I was aware that my 6yo son (1st grade) was walking across the parking lot to go to the bathroom. I was, and I could see the bathrooms from where I was, and I assured her it was fine. She let it go. (I later found out that she thought my son was only 3 than he is, so I can totally see why she was concerned!) *That* was neighborly, and kind, and deserving of a thank you. If my son really was 3, or if I just didn’t think he was old enough to safely cross the parking lot by himself, then I would really have appreciated the heads-up. As it was, she accepted that I know my son (and she was probably relieved to hear his actual age), and she didn’t try to force her opinion of the risk on me, whatever her opinion may have been.
    IMO, *that’s* what it means (or ought to mean) when we say it takes a village to raise a child.

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  39. This is the definition of state-sponsored terrorism.
    “Then, that night, my 6-year-old cried because he thought someone would call the police when he couldn’t fall asleep at his bedtime.”

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  40. “Though I wonder… do more hospitable neighborhoods even exist anymore?”
    Yes, they do- I live in one. Working class, small houses, lots of immigrants, significant amount of minorities, few sidewalks, no parks, but kids always outside playing and house hopping. Adults are outside a lot, too.
    Certainly, there is a lot of stuff that happens that I don’t like. I do feel safe with the kids outside during daylight, though. They are very happy spending hours each day running around the neighborhood- I feel badly for the 9 year old boy down the street whose parents won’t let him out of their sight.

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  41. It’s those FOUR WORDS – MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!
    Yep – I’m one of those abusive moms. My child – he rides his bike unsupervised. And if we had land, he might climb a tree. HUH? Oh no – not a broken arm or skinned knee? How will he ever survive. Two weeks ago, we went to the pool with a friend. He said he could do the sunscreen himself. He was almost ugly about it. And guess what – he got a little pinkish sunburn! I bet he learned from it.
    He also doesn’t eat at McDonald’s and rarely has fast food. TOTAL ABUSE!
    We also …. home school. He makes straight A’s and he earns them. He eats veggies and does chores. He even cooks.
    I want to punch the busy body in this story and I’ve never had a fight. Where’s my bat! DANGIT!
    I’m sure my sarcasm doesn’t help you. I’m sorry about what happened. I really am. But I hate that it was in Texas… we’re supposed to embrace the old ways. SIGH!

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  42. Sorry you had to go thru this… Years ago when my kids were young. A ex-husbands wife decided to cause me problems that she hadn’t thought of before so she reported us to HHS for abuse. Had the same thing you went thru. Makes you feel like scum of the earth. Of course that’s what the ex’s wife wanted. Don’t know why people won’t leave other peoples business alone and take care of their own. I actually worked with this woman after this I swore I was gonna beat the snot out of her and swear that she fell off the commode. But I’m not that kind of person. Anyway Just wanted to let you know that you haven’t been the only one that goes thru this. Good luck in the future.

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  43. I’m so sorry. We moved to Hamilton, VA specifically to have a great place to raise our kids in a more old fashioned environment. It’s not unusual to see kids as young as 8 or 9 biking to the local convenience store to buy a soda or a snack. My kids play outside without worry because I know other community members are looking out for them, too.

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