Free-Range Kids Grow Up to be Responsible Adults

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Two Maryland parents are in hot water with Child Protective Services for letting their kids walk home alone from a park, and we can't help but say, "WTF?!"
Two Maryland parents are in hot water with Child Protective Services for letting their kids walk home alone from a park, and we can’t help but say, “WTF?!”

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv live in Silver Spring, Md., and they are in deep trouble with the local child welfare authorities.

Do they abuse their kids physically, sexually or emotionally? No. They dine with their kids every night. They take them to religious services every week. They make their kids go to bed at set times every night. Their kids are in school every day. The children seem to be in excellent health.

So what did the Meitivs do to merit the attentions of the Montgomery County Child Protective Services? They let their kids walk home from the park by themselves.

Yep, one Saturday afternoon, two white kids were walking alone between a public park and their suburban home, and that sure looked suspicious. Before the kids got halfway home, some busybody had called the police, and the police sent a squad car to pick up the kids. And then, the CPS got involved.


A 10-year-old boy and his 6-year-old sister walking through the suburbs of the nation’s capital can’t go one mile without the police getting involved? Shouldn’t the police be arresting bank robbers or practicing chokeholds or buying donuts? Is the crime rate so low in Silver Spring that the men and women in blue have nothing better to do?

Three things happened that shouldn’t: First off, kids walking in the suburbs on a Saturday afternoon should not spark a call to the police. Second, if the police do get called, the dispatcher should tell the nosy-parker involved to let the police deal with real crimes. Third, even if the police did turn up to get the kids, the CPS shouldn’t have hasseled the parents for letting their kids be kids.

When I was 4, I started school in Los Angeles — Granada Hills in the San Fernando Valley to be precise. I walked to and from kindergarten with the other kids every day. No parent had to escort us. There was no sign-out sheet. At the appropriate time, the teacher said, “Go home,” and we did.

Funny thing about that: My class had about 20 kids and not one of us was kidnapped, raped or murdered. We were teased by the first graders as we walked home, but this was before bullying was a considered a problem. They called us names like “babies.” They were just pissed because they had to stay for another hour.

When we moved to Denver, I had to ride the school bus 20 minutes each way. However, my friends who lived in the neighborhood were allowed to go home at lunchtime, eat and return for the afternoon’s lessons. My school, Stephen Knight Elementary, had about 600 kids. In my five years there, no one was abducted, sexually abused by strangers or sold to a cult for sacrifice.

OK, well, that was a long time ago. Things have changed. It’s true; they have. Kids are safer now than they have been in years. Everybody in America is safer than they have been in DECADES. Between 1993 and 2012, violent crime in America has dropped 48 percent. Homicides are down 50.5 percent. Forcible rape is down 34.5 percent.

For kids, of all children under age 5 murdered from 1976-2005:

31 percent were killed by fathers
29 percent were killed by mothers
23 percent were killed by male acquaintances
7 percent were killed by other relatives
3 percent were killed by strangers

That’s right, statistics fans, a kid is 20 times more likely to get killed by a parent than by a stranger, almost 8 times more likely to be killed by Mom’s boyfriend and more than twice as likely to be killed by an uncle, aunt, cousin or other relative. Jesus wept! Families are dangerous things.

Well, what about your kid being snatched by a stranger? There are 800,000 missing-child reports in America every year. About 115 are “stereotypical kidnappings.” Most of the kids reported missing are teens who run away, and about 90 percent of them are home within 24 hours. Of those 115 kidnappings, about 50 do end in a murder unfortunately. Yet that compares favorably to the 1,000 kids who get killed by family members every year.

I have raised three kids in New York City and have a granddaughter here, so let me weigh in based on a quarter of a century of experience. Giving your kids more and more responsibility is the only effective way to raise responsible adults. All of my kids either have their degrees or are working on them. All of them hold down jobs and pay taxes. None is in trouble with the law.

They walked to school the 10 blocks from our house to PS 220 and later to Halsey Middle School in Queens. They were allowed to stay out after dark so long as they told us where they were going (cellphones were just becoming affordable). If they wanted to use the gas stove to cook something, from about age 8, that was OK. My house never burned down.

As a parent, it is your job to raise a responsible adult. You are not there to do things in their stead. You are there to equip them with the skills necessary to function as a grown up. Usually, the best way to do that is to get out of their way.

The truth about the younger generation is that they are pretty good human beings — despite their parents.

Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

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