Playing with Knives


I haven’t had a chance to keep up with blogs until the last few days or so. It has been good catching up and reading what people have been up to. One of my favorite blogs/websites is called Free Range Kids, which is also the subject of a new book which I will be buying shortly:


Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry

The excerpt below is from the Free Range Kids blog.

Link to this topic HERE.

Mini Free-Range Outrage Involving a Kitchen Utensil

Posted on September 22, 2009 by lskenazy

Hi Folks — This just in from a town outside of Georgia. (That’s the American Georgia, for all our international readers!) A “Webelo Scout” is a youngster on the cusp between Cub and Boy Scout.

My son is Webelo scout and earned his whittling chit last year.  This year I volunteered at the district day camp and led the Bear den.  When it came time for the boys to earn their whittling chit, the instructor showed them all the proper ways to handle the knife and then — he handed them each a potato peeler!

It was pathetic.  So all of the boys who were there earned the whittling chit without ever once touching a pocket knife.  I am so glad my son earned his the old fashioned way!  We are also lucky to belong to a pack that believes in Free-Range scouts!  If you can find a pack or troop like this, then scouting can be a great experience!

Agreed. And I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to whittle with a potato peeler. It’s like knitting with a fork. – Lenore

As for me, Garrett will definitely learn how to use a knife. So will my daughter. In fact, they both will own pocket knives. Cami all ready has a sling shot and loves it!

Here is a link to a post I wrote on this topic awhile back:

Where have all the children gone?

One Handed Feats

black and white

Me with Garrett (blonde) and Emeth’s son, Zuri

The following are things (many of them unpleasant or dangerous) that I now know are possible to do with only one hand. The other hand, of course, is busy holding a baby. Feel free to add your own one handed feats in the comments.

P.S. If you don’t own one all ready slings, wraps and backpack style carriers like Ergo’s are heaven-sent. My little guy just wants up and down constantly so sometimes it’s easier just to hold him.

The List

-Wash and chop potatoes.

-Use the bathroom.

-Wipe older child’s bottom while holding younger one at an unnatural angle so as to prevent younger one from pulling older ones hair.

-Wash my hands with soap and water. You’ve got to switch hips and wash them one at a time.

-Put things in and out of the oven.

-Wash, dry, fold and put away laundry.

-Pre-wash and load and empty the dishwasher. I’ve also done this while on the phone AND holding a baby. I don’t recommend. It leaves a kink in your neck.


-Throw up. Not that throwing up is ever pleasant but to do so while holding a child is even more so.

-Clean the bathroom.

-Eat within 3 bites any meal that I would care to partake of while simultaneously defending my meal from my child.

-Sign receipts or any other nonsense. At least most of the women are thoughtful enough to hold the paper still for you so that the signature is more than garbledygook.

-Lock the front door with keys. For us this is tough because you have to pull the handle while simultaneously turning the key.

-Carry as many as six grocery bags plus three books under your arm up a flight of stairs. Ok, I cheated on this one. Two grocery bags were in my hand that was carrying the baby but I’m still pretty impressed with this one.

-Put my hair up in a pony tail. This is a lot harder than it sounds.

-Drive. I admit it. I have driven with Garrett on my lap (through a parking lot).

-Type an email/blog post or Facebook entry using my cat like reflexes to thwart unwanted additions.

-Sleep. Everyone should try this one, it’s worth it.

-Brush my teeth.

-Blowdry my hair.

-Shop and push the shopping cart.

-Shower. This is hard and precarious.

-Prepared countless breakfasts/lunches/dinners.

-Push an empty stroller. Oh, the irony.

-Console an older sibling, who erupts into further crying while younger child (once again) pulls hair.

-Take pictures. Retake the picture. Clean lens. Retake the picture.

-Try to balance in the squatting position. Fall over and attempt again.

-Put on shoes while standing. Like above, fall over and attempt again.

-Mail packages

-And my personal favorite? Cut your own fingernails.

Mothering Two: A Reality Check

When I was pregnant everyone with more than one child was kind enough to point out to me how “hard” the transition to two children would be. Some of them were even gracious enough to share horror stories with me like I had some magical undoing spell or something that could allow me to go back to having just one kid after I heard how awful it was to deal with two. Even if I had possesed an undoing spell during my pregnancy I certainly would have never even considered using it. Nah, people like me are a little too sure of themselves. I would listen to all these moms relate to how tough it was and think to myself, “I’ll be fine. That won’t be me. I can handle it.”

And to be honest we’ve been trucking along just fine and dandy. Until Monday. On Monday Camden decided to give me a run for my money and offered me a crash course in being the full time mother of two. She was unbelievably whiny all day and so I thought a nap would help. One nap down and I still had an amazingly whiny and weepy 3 1/2 year old on my hands. A lightbulb dimly flickered over my head and I brought my hand to her forehead. My hand was met with a blazing inferno. A fever. Great, she was sick. I took her temperature and it registered in at 102. Since it was a holiday, Mike was home and with his help I was able to balance the two of them fairly well. We moved Camden’s mattress into our room for the night and Mike decided to sleep on the guest bed in the office so he could get some good sleep before work.

Camden fell asleep quickly but awoke a few hours later, crying in misery. I took her temperature again and she was at 104. I decided to give her some dye free motrin so she could get some sleep since she was too uncomfortable to get any rest. Luckily Garrett was still happily sleeping on the big bed. I rocked Cami in my arms and sang her some songs. I laid her down on her mattress and was just about to climb back in bed when she proceeded to throw up all over the bed. Yuck. I tried to pick her up quickly and get her to the bathroom. The second round made it all over the tile by the sinks. The third round, thankfully, made it into the toilet. Camden was thoroughly saturated. I got her into the shower and cleaned her up and thankfully she wanted to stand in the shower for awhile. While she did that I threw all of the contaminated linens into the washing machine and had Mike put the pukey mattress in the garage (speaking of which I just realized it is still in the garage uncleaned, nasty). I then wiped down the bathroom and had Mike bring in the second mattress (we have bunkbeds) into the bedroom. This time he brought the one with the mattress protector. Go figure. What was Mikes comment when he came into the cleaned room? “It smells like pomegranate.” Um, I wish. That would be the smell of regurgitated Motrin and Popsicle.

I finally got her back in bed and said a silent prayer that Garrett had slept through it all because I’m pretty sure as helpful as Mike has been that he wouldn’t take over puke duty for me and he’s not exactly fit for being Garrett’s food source. The rest of that night wasn’t too bad. Camden was able to sleep until about two in the morning when her fever started to spike again and I gave her another dose of ibuprofen since she basically lost the first dose. Normally I try not to medicate for fevers but I knew all of us needed sleep if we were going to survive the next day.

Tuesday was my reality check. On Tuesday, I learned what it felt like to get nothing done and still be constantly busy. It was the day of trying to accomplish something over and over and over and never being able to finish it. The dishes piled up. The laundry was undone. It was the day when I realized at 3 in the afternoon that my teeth were still fuzzy and I set off to brush my teeth a half dozen times but never made it to the bathroom because of x, y, z. One of those days when I realized I was thirsty for the umpteenth time that day and that I never did get that glass of water a few hours ago. More annoying was the realization that I had a full bladder but that I could never find a spare minute to go. The house was a disaster and I was a mess but I had to just keep reminding myself that no one was screaming their heads off so that all in all we were having a good day.

By the end of the night I had a headache and my mind was numb from an all day movie marathon of animated annoyingness. I was hungry, crabby, snappy and exhausted and more than once I felt like breaking into tears.

In other words, I got a nice dose of reality and was made to eat my overly self assured attitude about mothing multiple children and accept like every other mother on this planet that I am not perfect and I will fall short of the mark and most importantly, that it’s OK. And unfortunately, it will happen again and again and again. Enter in humbleness.

Why I Let My 9 Year Old Ride The Subway Alone

This is a piece from one of my new favorite blogs, Free Range Kids. I love the comparison of New York City being as safe as Provo, Utah. I am looking forward to doing more research on the actual statistical dangers of what this world is really like these days. I am also looking forward to comparing the safety statistics from my home town when I grew up to now. I’m willing to bet it hasn’t changed much. What has definitely changed is the perceived danger.

Why FreeRange?

When I wrote a column for The New York Sun on “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Take The Subway Alone,” I figured I’d get a few e-mails pro and con.

Two days later I was on the Today Show, MSNBC, FoxNews and all manner of talk radio with a new title under my smiling face: “America’s Worst Mom?”

Yes, that’s what it took for me to learn just what a hot-button this is — this issue of whether good parents ever let their kids out of their sight. But even as the anchors were having a field day with the story, many of the cameramen and make up people were pulling me aside to say that THEY had been allowed to get around by themselves as kids– and boy were they glad. They relished the memories!

Had the world really become so much more dangerous in just one generation?Yes — in most people’s estimation. But no — not according to the evidence. Over at the think tank, where they examine the way the media use statistics, researchers have found that the number of kids getting abducted by strangers actually holds very steady over the years. In 2006, that number was 115, and 40% of them were killed.

Any kid killed is a horrible tragedy. It makes my stomach plunge to even think about it. But when the numbers are about 50 kids in a country of 300 million, it’s also a very random, rare event. It is far more rare, for instance, than dying from a fall off the bed or other furniture. So should we, for safety’s sake, all start sleeping on the floor?

Well, upon reading that, I’m sure that some people will. But — let’s hope it doesn’t catch on. It’s crazy to limit our lives based on fear of a wildy remote danger. And yet, as I started speaking to people about kid safety in the last few days, I heard things that strike me as completely bizarre. One dad in an upscale suburb of New York, for instance, “lets” his 11-year-old walk one block to her best friend’s house –but she has to call the minute she arrives safely.

As if she’s been dodging sniper fire.

Another mom castigated me for my irresponsibility and proudly said that she doesn’t even let her daughter go to the mailbox in her upscale Atlanta neighborhood. There’s just too much “opportunity” for the girl to be snatched and killed. To her, I’m the crazy mom.

People who want me arrested for child abuse were sure that my son had dodged drug dealers, bullies, child molesters and psychopaths on that afternoon subway ride home by himself.

Believe me, if I lived in a city like that, I’d evacuate. But crime wise, New York City is actually on par with Provo, Utah — very safe.

Not that facts make any difference. Somehow, a whole lot of parents are just convinced that nothing outside the home is safe. At the same time, they’re also convinced that their children are helpless to fend for themselves. While most of these parents walked to school as kids, or hiked the woods — or even took public transportation — they can’t imagine their own offspring doing the same thing.

They have lost confidence in everything: Their neighborhood. Their kids. And their own ability to teach their children how to get by in the world. As a result, they batten down the hatches.

And then there are those who don’t.

I’m relieved to report that plenty of letters poured in with exactly the opposite viewpoint. There were more of these, in fact, than the naysayers. Parents from all over the country wrote, “Bravo!” “You’re not a bad mom!” And, “Good for you and good for your son!”

I loved getting these emails and hearing what these parents (and grandparents and friends and relatives) let their little loved ones do, but plenty of them also mentioned the dubious reactions of the other people in their community — sometimes even the other person in their bed.

So I started this site for anyone who thinks that kids need a little more freedom and would like to connect to people who feel the same way.

We are not daredevils. We believe in life jackets and bike helmets and air bags. But we also believe in independence.

Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned.

So here’s to Free Range Kids, raised by Free Range Parents willing to take some heat. I hope this web site encourages us all to think outside the house.


And here is the original piece that Lenore is referencing to above:

Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone

I left my 9-year-old at Bloomingdale’s (the original one) a couple weeks ago. Last seen, he was in first floor handbags as I sashayed out the door. Bye-bye! Have fun!

And he did. He came home on the subway and bus by himself .

Was I worried? Yes, a tinge. But it didn’t strike me as that daring, either. Isn’t New York as safe now as it was in 1963? It’s not like we’re living in downtown Baghdad.

Anyway, for weeks my boy had been begging for me to please leave him somewhere, anywhere, and let him try to figure out how to get home on his own. So on that sunny Sunday I gave him a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill, and several quarters, just in case he had to make a call.

No, I did not give him a cell phone. Didn’t want to lose it. And no, I didn’t trail him, like a mommy private eye. I trusted him to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway down, and the 34th Street crosstown bus home. If he couldn’t do that, I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, “Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child instead.”

Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence.

Long story longer, and analyzed, to boot: Half the people I’ve told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It’s not. It’s debilitating — for us and for them.

And yet —

“How would you have felt if he didn’t come home?” a New Jersey mom of four, Vicki Garfinkle, asked.

Guess what, Ms. Garfinkle: I’d have been devastated. But would that just prove that no mom should ever let her child ride the subway alone?

No. It would just be one more awful but extremely rare example of random violence, the kind that hyper parents cite as proof that every day in every way our children are more and more vulnerable.

“Carlie Brucia — I don’t know if you’re familiar with that case or not, but she was in Florida and she did a cut-through about a mile from her house … and midday, at 11 in the morning, she was abducted by a guy who violated her several times, killed her, and left her behind a church.”

That’s the story that the head of, Katharine Francis, immediately told me when I asked her what she thought of my son getting around on his own. She runs a company that makes wallet-sized copies of a child’s photo and fingerprints, just in case.

Well of course I know the story of Carlie Brucia. That’s the problem. We all know that story — and the one about the Mormon girl in Utah and the one about the little girl in Spain — and because we do, we all run those tapes in our heads when we think of leaving our kids on their own. We even run a tape of how we’d look on Larry King.

“I do not want to be the one on TV explaining my daughter’s disappearance,” a father, Garth Chouteau, said when we were talking about the subway issue.

These days, when a kid dies, the world — i.e., cable TV — blames the parents. It’s simple as that. And yet, Trevor Butterworth, a spokesman for the research center, said, “The statistics show that this is an incredibly rare event, and you can’t protect people from very rare events. It would be like trying to create a shield against being struck by lightning.”

Justice Department data actually show the number of children abducted by strangers has been going down over the years. So why not let your kids get home from school by themselves?

“Parents are in the grip of anxiety and when you’re anxious, you’re totally warped,” the author of “A Nation of Wimps,” Hara Estroff Marano, said. We become so bent out of shape over something as simple as letting your children out of sight on the playground that it starts seeming on par with letting them play on the railroad tracks at night. In the rain. In dark non-reflective coats.

The problem with this everything-is-dangerous outlook is that over-protectiveness is a danger in and of itself. A child who thinks he can’t do anything on his own eventually can’t.

Meantime, my son wants his next trip to be from Queens. In my day, I doubt that would have struck anyone as particularly brave. Now it seems like hitchhiking through Yemen.

Here’s your MetroCard, kid. Go.

Where Have All The Children Gone?

Do you ever notice how empty all of the playgrounds are? Or even your neighborhood? Or if the playgrounds are populated have you noticed that the parent to child ratio is amazingly equal? Have you noticed that the play equipment is drastically different from the type of equipment we used to play on? Does anyone else miss the swings, merry-go-rounds, metal domes and tire swings? Where are all of the children? Why does everything related to childhood seem like it must be eliminated if it has any semblance of danger?

I have hesitated to speak on this topic for fear of, well, getting my head bitten off basically. As a parent I feel I live quite the parody. On one hand during the newborn/baby stage I am an extremely attached mother. I practice Attachment Parenting (wearing my child, sleeping with my child, breastfeeding my child, not letting my child cry-it-out to go to sleep, etc) and in the eyes of most mainstream parents that makes me quite overbearing. On the other hand when my kids (or should I say kid since I’m just barely on the road to doing this twice) reach toddlerhood I take gradual steps back to remove my constant companionship and guide them towards independence and self mastery. Sounds fine, right? However, apparently my concept of acceptable independence and self mastery is quite deviant from the accepted norm. So much so that I’ve just had to learn to keep my mouth shut most of the time in regards to the topic.

That’s why today I was shocked when a blog got passed my way that echo’s the same childhood ideals that I long to provide to my children as they grow. I didn’t even know the concept had a name. I had always just thought of it in my own head as childhood without a leash. It appears there is a more formal term and that term is Free Range Kids or Free Range Childhood. The blog I mention also goes under that title and is found HERE. Reading it has given me a bit more courage to address this topic.

So what are my own parental confessions that tend to get me the neglectful parent award? I’ll name just a few:

– I let my 3 1/2 year old take her baths by herself which equates to a drowning hazard. I do keep the door open but that’s about the extent of my supervision. Earlier tonight I heard a cough, cough, sputter. Do I jump up and run into the bathroom? Nope. I call out and ask, “You okay?” There’s a slight hesitation and then a “yeah, I just got some water up my nose.” Then she returns to playing.

-I allow my daughter to play outside in our backyard with a swing set and a kiddie pool by herself, which equates to a risk of kidnapping, drowning, broken bones and I’m sure some other creative disasters I haven’t taken into consideration. Sure, I can see her from the windows if I am looking but am I always looking? Admittedly, no.

-Sometimes she wakes up earlier than I am ready to get myself out of bed and typically she wakes up hungry. Instead of me bolting out of bed and finding her something to eat, I encourage her to go to the fridge and gets herself one of the self help items that she enjoys in the morning (a soft taco shell, a string cheese, carrots or a Ziploc baggie of dried cereal) and she eats it next to me in bed watching cartoons until I’m ready to get up and make her a real breakfast. I suppose that could equate to many various dangers such as a huge mess, suffocation (maybe she’d lock herself in the fridge – anyone remember that Punky Brewster episode?), a stab wound (perhaps she’d try to get a steak knife to open something) or even poisoning (eating really old leftovers).

-When my daughter gets hurt I don’t run to her (except on very rare occasions). There is usually at least one occasion per day where I hear my daughter crying because she’s hurt. I usually wait wherever I am for her to come to me and then I wait for her to tell me what happened. The only exception I make to this is when there has been an extreme hurt and usually that is very apparent because there is that scary quiet period where they are trying to breathe followed by a half cry/half scream that every mother is probably familiar with. In those cases I high tail it on over. I am also not a gasp mom. Do you know what those are? Those are the ones that have a high pitched breath intake that occurs with every bump, bruise and fall that their child encounters. Amazingly their children are well trained and on queue they can cry the moment they hear their mothers gasp. It reminds me of the whole Pavlov thing. I was one of those really mean moms that when my child was learning to walk instead of gasping every time she fell or running to her to pick her up I did the unthinkable. I clapped. Seriously. She fell; I clapped and said “yayyy!!” in an encouraging voice. The really weird thing is that after I started doing that she would smile and clap for herself and then stand back up and keep walking. If she ran into the wall or bumped into a table instead of gasping or looking worried I’d say “kaboom!” and smile. Now obviously if it was apparent that she was truly hurt I wouldn’t dare do that but I’ve rarely met a toddler that was truly hurt by a small collision with a wall or floor. I’m not sure what danger is posed by not running to your child when they are hurt or not gasping. I mean, they are all ready hurt. Your emotional stress only fuels more emotional stress on their part. For arguments sake, I suppose lack of immediately responding to your child’s owies would have to be filed under some type of emotional abuse or something of that nature.

-My daughter has free reign of the house. There are no off-limit rooms. She can play in the bathroom. She can go in the garage. She doesn’t have to ask to go in the back yard. Most of our days are spent with each of us doing our various activities and I don’t always know where in the house she is or exactly what she is doing. What are the danger possibilities? Endless.

-When we go to public playgrounds I don’t always watch what she is doing (because sometimes I am reading a book) and sometimes I can’t even see her if I am looking and that doesn’t freak me out at all. We have this really awesome park close to us called, The Playground of Dreams. And boy, it really is. I would have LOVED to play at this park when I was a kid. Unfortunately, we are not able to get any of our friends to go there with us. Why? Because the way the park was designed there are many nooks and crannies all over the playground where the kids can go and there is no way to see them unless you are literally walking behind your child. This makes my friends nervous and they worry about a sicko hiding in one of these blind spots just ready to pounce on their child. While it is entirely possible that it could happen I just don’t find it likely enough to worry about.

So, do I consider myself a lazy, neglectful, uncaring mother? Absolutely not. To be honest I feel that I am very in tune with my daughter and very involved in her life. I can say without a doubt that I know my daughter better than anyone else on this planet with my husband coming in as a close second. Are there things that I allow in my house and/or in her childhood that could cause her harm? Yes, admittedly so. In the end, the simplest way to put it is that I don’t view it as my job to sanitize or pad my daughter’s existence to such an extent that our lives are spent constantly evaluating “what if?” situations. I feel many of the things that parents seem to fear the most are sensationalized far above and beyond the true risk that is actually posed; it is because of this opinion that I stand quite alone amid a population of parents that choose a “better safe than sorry” path.

I am, admittedly, biased. I grew up with a lot of freedom and a lot of responsibility. I did things at the age of 8 that it seems like most teenagers these days can’t even do for themselves. Like wash my own laundry, make my own lunch, find my own entertainment, etc. I even walked a mile each way to the bus stop in the morning and in the afternoon. I wasn’t alone, either. Every other kid in my neighborhood was expected to do the same thing. As I got older, I did even more. I watched over my brother and his friend. My friends and I (usually my brother tagged along and some of my friends’ siblings as well) walked all over the place in the summers to go swimming by ourselves, or to play in the lake, woods or the creek. I was able to take the city bus with my friends and we’d explore the town, go to the mall or ride it just for fun. There was even a local “crazy lady” that was always on the bus and we were mean kids and did things to try to antagonize her craziness. Usually she cast a spell on us. In short there were a million conceived risks that could have occurred to either myself, my brother or the dozens of other children who lived their summers the same way we did. But we all survived and I don’t think it was out of sheer luck. I also didn’t grow up in the 50’s, 60’s or even the 70’s. I grew up in the 90’s. It really wasn’t that long ago and no, I don’t believe the world is that much more dangerous than it was back then. I believe children are more capable of self preservation than we give them credit for and I think the world, while a dangerous place in many ways, is less of a danger to our children than we make it out to be. So even though I know my opinion is not widely accepted and is typically frowned upon I am willing to stand forward and be counted among those who would like to see kids be able to live a more free range childhood. I am one of the parents that want to say that kids get hurt, they break bones, they get bruises and bloody noses and no, you can’t sue people for it. Bring back the swings, the merry-go-rounds and all other things that were fun and let your kids play – and no, you don’t always have to watch.