Kidnapping, Halloween, snowballs—in 2018, we freaked out about all of them, and so much more. Here are the year's ten most vexing moments for the Let Grow parenting movement:
1 - THE GREAT INDOORS
Penn State announced that its Outing Club can no longer go outside, since hikers may venture beyond the limits of cell phone coverage. "Student safety in any activity is our primary focus," said a university spokeswoman. The 98-year-old club is still allowed to hold film festivals and host speakers who talk about the outdoors.
2 - KIDS WITH LEASHES
Child Protective Services descended upon Corey Widen, a mom in Wilmette, Illinois, after a caller reported seeing her daughter, age 8, walking the dog alone. Investigators interrogated Widen, her daughter, other family members, and the girl's pediatrician before finally determining that the mom was not guilty of neglect.
3 - MAN SEEN WITH A CHILD: POLICE ALERTED
After a passerby witnessed a man seemingly abducting a little girl in a shopping mall parking lot in Brighton, England, all hell broke loose. Helicopters were scrambled. Cops went door to door. The mall aired the closed-circuit footage over and over (see photo, above) until a man actually recognized himself and called the police. Um...that was him, bringing his daughter home from the mall. Cops confirmed this. Sorry for the fuss.
4 - (NON) STRANGERS WITH CANDY
When Ohio 5-year-old Braylen Carwell started having seizures after trick or treating and tested positive for meth, parents were warned to check for poisoned candy. A few days later, Braylen's dad, a former drug user, was charged with meth possession and evidence tampering. Said the local police chief, "We are extremely confident that [Braylen] did not ingest any candy from Trick or Treat that was tainted." That leaves the number of trick or treaters ever poisoned by strangers' candy at precisely zero.
5 - THOU SHALT NOT PLAY
Preschoolers in Nova Scotia were not allowed to play on their playground's equipment because it was labeled for children ages 5-12. The fact that kids have always played on equipment without an age label (see, for instance, trees) matters not.
6 - NEW REPORT: FIVE PEOPLE SEEN AT A REST STOP
"A woman is giving a stark warning after she says two women and three men attempted to abduct her daughter at a rest stop on Interstate 74 in Indiana," announced a TV station in Ohio. This info came from the woman's Facebook page. In a post, she said she had been at a rest stop when two ladies looked at her daughter and three men stood in front of a minivan with its door open. Terrifying, right? The fact that none of them actually attempted an abduction did not stop the media from jumping on this non-story.
7 - CREATING SNOWFLAKES
A school in East London, England, forbid its 1,500 students from touching snow because this could tempt them to make snowballs. To skeptics, headmaster Ges Smith said: "It only takes one student, one piece of grit, one stone in a snowball in an eye, with an injury and we change our view."
8 - 911 CALL: "CHILD SEEN WITH MESSY HAIR AT PARK"
Texas writer May Cobb was returning to the car with her autistic 5-year-old after a day in the park when they were stopped by the cops. Someone had reported a boy with messy hair and too-short pants. Even the cops were embarrassed to be following up on this. But follow up they did.
9 - ANKLES AWAY!
A Florida company started selling the ankle bracelet monitors used on parolees to parents. Company owner Frank Kopczynski bragged that the monitor is so secure, "most people—we're talking hardened criminals who try to cut it off—have ended up in the ER." Lovely!
10 - BOY SPOTTED USING LEGS
Busybodies waved down the police when they saw a boy, about age 8, walking by himself. He told the cops he was going to his grandma's. He likes walking there. Grandma confirmed this. Police then spoke to his parents about the dangers of letting children walk alone. It is unclear whether they added anything about big bad wolves.
But thankfully, not all the news was bad.
This spring, Utah passed America's first Free-Range Parenting Law, which decreed that parents cannot be considered negligent simply for letting their kids run errands, play outside, wait briefly in the car (under some circumstances), or come home with a latchkey. It's a start. See you in 2019!
Note to media: Let Grow is happy to be interviewed about this list. Contact Info@LetGrow.org .