On the other hand, parents may occasionally want to FREAK OUT!

At the start of the week, Lenore Skenazy had another commonsense op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, marking (belatedly, in these parts) the start of the school year.

Ms. Skenazy is the nation’s premiere advocate of what she calls “Free-Range Kids,” a lone voice of sanity in a world of helicopter parents. An excerpt from her column this week:

As yellow buses start heading back to school, you might notice some of them being trailed by a little line of cars. Predators? Pervs?

Nope. Parents.

“I was talking to a bunch of parents and found out they all follow the bus for the first week or so,” one mother told me the other day. “I sat there thinking that I was a really bad mom because that thought had never even occurred to me!”

Although I am officially the World’s Worst Mom—I even have a TV show with that name—the thought had never occurred to me, either. But apparently it’s becoming par for the course as the line gradually blurs between shipping a child off to school and shipping a child off to ‘Nam.

“They can’t seem to let go,” says Natascha Santos, a school psychologist in Great Neck, N.Y., on Long Island—and she’s not talking about the kids. This could be because everywhere parents turn, the advice-o-sphere keeps harping on how incredibly hard they must work to ease their child’s incredibly harrowing adjustment to school…

I generally find her columns reassuring, a small sign that the world hasn’t gone entirely mad. Indeed, parents should chill and let their kids be kids.

But then… this was brought to my attention today:

In a tale that will soon pass into Mom Urban Legend, a 7-year-old girl in Colorado, a 7-year-old girl not so very different from you, in fact, in a Colorado much like your own state, played near a dead squirrel after her mom told her to leave it alone. And do you know what happened to that little girl?


Yikes. Nothing like a little Black Death to cure parents inclined toward a sanguine outlook. Obviously, there are times to chill, and times to TOTALLY FREAK OUT.

The key, for wise parents, lies in knowing when to do which…

16 thoughts on “On the other hand, parents may occasionally want to FREAK OUT!

  1. Doug Ross

    Having a spouse who works for the school system allows me to hear all sorts of stories about today’s parents.

    Junior skips class. Mom can’t reach Junior on cellphone (during the school day). Mom calls school and wants to know where Junior is.

    This happens too often to count.

  2. Karen McLeod

    I trust that Junior catches it when Mom finds out where he’s really been, or he get’s home to a Mom who knows where he hasn’t been.

  3. Mark Stewart

    Unfortunately this topic would benefit from a bit of sexism. It’s not helicopter parenting, It’s more often helicopter mothering. Or the perceived pressure to helicopter parent. And maybe too many husbands saying yes dear.

  4. Kathy

    I agree that many people hover over their children too much. There is another huge portion of parents who do as little as possible in their parenting roles, however. I’m sure it’s a little irritating at times to work in a school where many parents may be a little overly concerning about their children. It’s downright depressing to work in a school where two parents out of forty show up for their children’s IEP meetings. (I went to all the homes of the other children to meet with their parents on my own time. I know that blows some of your beliefs that all public school teachers are lazy and stupid. Well, there was one mother with whom I never met. She was adept at avoiding me at all times.)

    At many schools, even when a meal is provided, a twenty percent parental turnout is considered a great success. (Vouchers will solve all the problems though, I’m sure.) As one principal told me once, “I think a lot of the parents would give us their children if we would take them.” So, I trust you’ll forgive me for kind of liking the hovering type of parent.

    By the way, I think any parent nowadays who is not concerned about predators and other evil people isn’t much of a parent. I’ve seen Ms. Skenazy on television a couple of times. I think she’s an idiot.

  5. Doug Ross


    You may be onto something. The mothers of today are probably part of the generation who were mostly raised by working mothers. That group probably felt a little neglected and are now over-compensating.

  6. Ralph Hightower

    I grew up during simpler times. I walked to elementary school (3 blocks). A friend and I biked 7 miles to his family’s house on a pond (without bicyle helmets).

    As long as I was home for dinner or supper, or I called and said I was eating with a friend’s family, it was okay with my parents.

    To date myself, I didn’t grow up with computers or the internet. Cameras used film back then; Polaroid Instant film was the preferred for family photos. On TV, I grew up with Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo; I watched man land and walkd on the moon.

  7. Matt Bohn

    Getting calls from parents regarding assessments that include the line “I’m not sure if I think that’s fair…”

  8. Doug Ross


    ” (Vouchers will solve all the problems though, I’m sure.) ”

    No, they won’t. But they would allow those parents who ARE engaged in their children’s education to maybe have an option to get them out of a lousy environment.

    Help those who are willing to help themselves.

  9. Mark Stewart


    Please stop thinking your tax dollars are spent educating your children.

    This is the same as the upstate guy telling the ’08 debaters to keep their hands off his Medicare.

  10. Juan Caruso

    “All vouchers will do is make it a bit cheaper for the wealthy to send their kids to private schools.” – Bud

    Vouchers apparently worked well for minorities (while they lasted)in D.C.

    Although I currently reject the voucher concept except as a last resort, the woeful waste and lowered standards of public education is gradually changing my mind.

    Oh, and one immensely important thing that vouchers will do is provide competition for languishing public education. Teachers need not worry, the good ones have jobs in private schools and more will be needed.

    Well, what about incompetent teachers? Like everyone else they should either go back to school, or try to get government jobs.

  11. Doug Ross


    I don’t. I don’t want a voucher and don’t need a voucher.

    I want vouchers based on income and based on school performance. Give the poorest kids in the worst schools an opportunity to escape. Start with giving that option to 1000 students as a test case. Let’s start with that and see what happens. The worst case scenario is that nothing changes if no private options become available. The best case is 1000 students with engaged parents get a better education than they are relegated to now.

  12. Bart

    Private school was the last thing we considered for our children when they were in public schoo. Why? At the time, even though SC schools were far behind the nation, some of the public schools were very good, especially the ones our children attended. No, we didn’t live in a wealthy neighborhood or could afford tutors. We took an active role in their education, went to ATP or PTA, attended teacher conferences, and insisted on study time and we took the time to help if it was needed.

    Our children knew and understood the importance of an education. In spite of the fact that when we moved back to SC from Virginia and our daughter was at least 3 grades ahead of her peers, she still graduated with honors from high school and college. She earned her masters on her own just as our son has done.

    No, the problem is not the pubic schools, the problem is still with the parents who don’t care.

    Vouchers may the be answer for some children but overall, if the parents are involved in their children’s education, most of the arguments would be moot.

  13. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    I agree, Bart, except a lot of the parents do care. They just don’t have the education, or the time, since they are working two jobs, to fix the problems. Too many parents are really behind and they have far more children than the well-equipped parents are, on the whole, so the problem gets worse. They often just don’t know any better.

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