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Walkabout

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Karyn Bryant: Last night my husband and I were invited to our friend's house to hang out. Our daughter loves her two kids, so spending time together is always fun. Our little ones ran around, giggled and fought gently over toys as we chatted and snacked in the back yard. As the sun set, another pal from the neighborhood came by -- a nice little girl welcomed by all of us. But, the thing is, she came alone. And she's three.

toddler walking alone outside

In some places (Mayberry, perhaps?) a 3-year-old walking out the front door and crossing the street at dusk without supervision may not be a big deal. But in my mind, and in Los Angeles, it most certainly is. My husband freaked! He couldn't believe what he was seeing. And he nearly choked when my friend told him that this was a regular occurrence. "Sometimes," she said, "it's an hour or more before someone comes looking for her."

I know the little girl's parents and they are nice people, but apparently quite often they don't even realize that their kid has left the house! WTH???? How is that even possible? I understand that munchkins want to explore and may succeed in escaping once or twice, but there is no way my daughter could be out of earshot for more than a few minutes without me checking up on her. And what about this angle: maybe they do know she's gone, and they are consciously foisting her upon my friend.

I don't think we need to call CPS, but there is definitely a problem here. I can't even decide what's more bothersome. Is it the lax parenting? The babysitting that my friend has to do for free and without warning? Or the fact that the kid could get hurt (or worse) while strolling around? Yikes.



next: Insomniac Kid is Killing Me
27 comments so far | Post a comment now
appalledatKaryn March 22, 2009, 8:53 AM

what?!! Who are you kidding besides yourself, Karyn. You are now involved, whether you like it or not. The fact that you say, “I don’t think we need to call CPS…” I find it disturbing. You can bet that if I saw a child wandering around at dusk, I would call the police. Oh, and don’t get me started on your friend who is the key witness to this, they see this 3 year old out a lot, and it doesn’t even dawn on them to get involved? Sounds like you all are very self absorbed and in your own element, too tired, too bothered, to do anything about it. Shame on you. Especially since you have kids, yourself. It takes a village to raise a child, and if you haven’t learned this now, you are going to be sorely disappointed in the future regarding the safety of your OWN kids!
Please, get involved. This has the potential to be another Haleigh Cummings case. Do you want that on your conscience?

appalledatKaryn March 22, 2009, 8:54 AM

what?!! Who are you kidding besides yourself, Karyn. You are now involved, whether you like it or not. The fact that you say, “I don’t think we need to call CPS…” I find it disturbing. You can bet that if I saw a child wandering around at dusk, I would call the police. Oh, and don’t get me started on your friend who is the key witness to this, they see this 3 year old out a lot, and it doesn’t even dawn on them to get involved? Sounds like you all are very self absorbed and in your own element, too tired, too bothered, to do anything about it. Shame on you. Especially since you have kids, yourself. It takes a village to raise a child, and if you haven’t learned this now, you are going to be sorely disappointed in the future regarding the safety of your OWN kids!
Please, get involved. This has the potential to be another Haleigh Cummings case. Do you want that on your conscience?

Vita David March 22, 2009, 9:02 AM

I totally agree with appalledat Karyn—you are involved and need to do something, we all know what is going to happen next, and we need to prevent another horrible incident happening to another innocent child.

Former Walky March 22, 2009, 10:46 AM

I was a walkabout at that age. My older brothers wore my mom out to the point she was too exhausted to keep track of me. She later nearly died from undiagnosed anemia. Just saying, there are lots of reasons this could be happening. The kid may simply be very adept and stubborn. (I was.) Or maybe she comes from a huge extended family with relatives that live next door to each other. I’d suggest your friends have a talk with Walky’s’ parents and find out what the deal is. Your friends should then inform the parents that from here on out, anytime they see the kid, they will scoop her up and return her. Enough doorbell rings and humiliating confrontations later should set Walky’s parents (and possibly Walky herself) straight. If not, they should have a different anonymous neighbor call CPS so they don’t have to take the rap.

call cps March 22, 2009, 12:57 PM

Holy crap. YES CPS IS WARRANTED! CALL THEM! There is no reason a 3 y/o should be out and about. There are door knob locks and other locks you can put to keep your child indoors. Not to mention they don’t come for an HOUR looking for her. Nice does not negate neglect. People can be “nice” and be bad parents. Someone could take dear walky or she could be hit by a car, attacked by a stray dog…anything can happen. I would not care what the neighbors thought of me, I’d call CPS. It isn’t like this is the first time it has happened.

cyndi March 22, 2009, 4:59 PM

A few years ago I visited my sister in LA at the Air Force base and there was a 6 year old that “hung out” all the time to the point that he was there for lunch and many times supper too. I asked what the deal was and my sister said that the mother did medical transcription at home and locked this kid out of the house all summer to “play” while she worked. It was safe enough—the base was a gated-lock-ID required. so your kids could wander safely anywhere pretty much, but I was just appalled at a parent who actually thought this was parenting. I often think of that little boy and wonder how he is today….

Ju March 22, 2009, 8:01 PM

I know I “escaped” from my mother when I was around 18 mths old and walked to the playground, but didn’t know how to get back. My mom freaked and my daddy eventually found me. Luckily we were on an Air Force base and was fairly safe.
I agree that Karen is now involved and should take some sort of initiative in this. Whether it is embarrassing the parents into watching their child better or calling CPS.

Anne March 22, 2009, 8:50 PM

Oh, good Lord, please do not call CPS, but of course a conversation with the parents is in order. I notice the photo, although it’s a stock photo, is of an ethnic child. If we are talking about Los Angeles, the family may very well be hispanic and overly trusting that the child is safe in the neighborhood. It doesn’t make them bad parents. If the little girl is out after dark, not dressed appropriately for the weather or always seems hungry, then yes, I would report. Otherwise, I would take the child home and explain the dangers. If language is a problem, I’d have someone who speaks the same language tell them. If older kids in the family go to school, I would talk to the principal and you can be sure the parents will be talked to.

appalledAtKaryn March 22, 2009, 9:17 PM

TO ANNE AND FORMER WALKY,
why should she NOT call CPS? In this day and age, you need to know that it’s NOT ok for a three year old to be a “walky” or whatever someone called it earlier. For all you know, the parent’s are so stoned out of their mind, or past out. Let me ask you all this, who don’t agree with me. WHAT HARM IS GREATER? That you turn a blind eye, and keep saying to yourself that It’s fine, because the child “seem’s fine”, or is there more harm if you actually let yourself get involved and call CPS on this family. What business does a child or toddler have roaming the neighborhood? Is it soooo much work to be a parent to actually get off your a**, and walk WITH your child? Ever think that the child is looking for food? Or has an extremely dirty diaper on, maybe left on too long? ALso, if the parent’s are aware of the kid roaming, that is bad. But what is worse if they are NOT aware of it. Imagine if the child get’s abducted. Do you really want something like that to happen in order for the law to finally STEP IN, and the COMMUNITY TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR wansering kids? Common sense, people! This is not the “olden days”, where you can let your child just roam the steets, do as they please, go where they want. This is no Brady Bunch, not every neighbor is a good neighbor, and not every person that takes a walk around your street has good intentions.

OHLORD March 22, 2009, 9:22 PM


why should she NOT call CPS? In this day and age, you need to know that it’s NOT ok for a three year old to be a “walky” or whatever someone called it earlier. For all you know, the parent’s are so stoned out of their mind, or past out. Let me ask you all this, who don’t agree with me. WHAT HARM IS GREATER? That you turn a blind eye, and keep saying to yourself that It’s fine, because the child “seem’s fine”, or is there more harm if you actually let yourself get involved and call CPS on this family. What business does a child or toddler have roaming the neighborhood? Is it soooo much work to be a parent to actually get off your a**, and walk WITH your child? Ever think that the child is looking for food? Or has an extremely dirty diaper on, maybe left on too long? ALso, if the parent’s are aware of the kid roaming, that is bad. But what is worse if they are NOT aware of it. Imagine if the child get’s abducted. Do you really want something like that to happen in order for the law to finally STEP IN, and the COMMUNITY TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR wansering kids? Common sense, people! This is not the “olden days”, where you can let your child just roam the steets, do as they please, go where they want. This is no Brady Bunch, not every neighbor is a good neighbor, and not every person that takes a walk around your street has good intentions.

ame i. March 22, 2009, 11:23 PM

I am 40 and grew up in rural west Tennessee. My parents were comfortable letting me play in our front yard while they were in our house when I was 3. Mom told me to never step into the road and I never did. I was allowed to visit friends 7 or 8 houses away from us when I was 5. Mom told me to call when I arrived at my friend’s house. I did.
I live in a larger town, within the city limits, in West TN now and have 2 daughters, 9 and 11. I will not let them leave our cove on foot or on bike if I’m not with them.
One of my older daughter’s former classmates is allowed to roam around our neighborhood whenever and wherever. She often shows up at our door around dinner time or after school because her parents and older sisters are not home. She invites herself to spend the night with us on weekends. Her 13 year old sister has shown up with her in tow asking if they both could stay with us because their 16 year old sister (who is in charge of the younger 2 most of the time) wanted to go out with her boyfriend.
I understand the fact that her parents, both nurses, often work double shifts and need help with watching their daughters, but neither parent asks. The children ask and I can’t turn them away.

Barb March 23, 2009, 9:56 AM

I am so glad to see this topic. We have neighbors who have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, and the 4-year-old often wanders the neighborhood, running across the street without even looking. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve warned friends before they come over to watch for the little girl. She comes over and rings my bell looking for my daughter, who is in school, several times a day even though I’ve told her my daughter won’t be home before dinnertime.

It’s really gotten to be a nuisance, and I’ve let the parents know, but they don’t seem to keep track of her once she goes outside to play. They just laugh about it “not sinking in” that it’s not a weekend.

Those of you who talk about CPS—what IS the proper age for kids to cross the street themselves? I hate the thought of “reporting” this family because they are nice, good people, and I don’t think the little girl would be better off in another home; but I also worry about the girl getting hurt. She runs up to dogs and does all sorts of things that make me cringe.

In a related topic, there are several kids in my neighborhood who are out playing in the street (it’s a dead-end but right off of a busy road) with no parents watching (including the 4-year-old). They ride their bikes in the street, and play there. This has become an argument with my 6-year-old because she wants to play with them every time they’re out there, but I’m not at the point of just letting her go out and play without an adult watching, and I can’t always drop what I’m doing (I also have a 1-year-old) to babysit all the neighborhood kids.

QUESTION TO PARENTS: When do you let your kids play outside without you? The way I feel right now, it will be never! I really could use some input on this one.

Former Walky March 23, 2009, 2:03 PM

appalledATKaryn. You make some good points. But YEESH you’re paranoid. Most folks aren’t stoners or drunks passed out while their kids go starving. The author of the article CLEARY stated that Walky’s parents were nice people. (As in normal nice, not drugged out mellow.) Makes me wonder what hell hole you grew up in. Maybe it was the same one a friend of mine grew up in. HER parents never let her out to play for fear she’d get hurt or kidnapped, but they were just fine with her being pysically and sexually abused AT HOME, and that in addition to lack of exercise and social interaction contributed greatly to her growing up morbidly obese.

Sara Jane March 23, 2009, 3:12 PM

WTF!!? This is a good subject. Bottom line some parents will not see a problem with letting toddlers and tweens run amok until an event occurs and they suffer from their lack of parental supervision. If you call them on it now, they will be put out with your perceived interference with how they raise their children. But if no one ever says anything, then what has become the norm will then be seen as simply tragic without bearing any responsibility for what could have been prevented.

Emmy's Mum March 23, 2009, 3:51 PM

My little girl is almost 3 years old and I couldn’t imagine her stepping foot out of our home without my knowledge. And if she did, I guarantee you she wouldn’t go far! A 3 year old has NO IDEA about the dangers in the real world!! If these parents don’t want to take responsibility of their children and PAY ATTENTION to them, then at least hire someone who will!! At least they’ll be safe!! I get SO ANGRY when I read these stories. Children are abducted, molested, and killed in the “safest” neighborhoods. Don’t think it can’t happen to you..there are sickos always watching & waiting!

AppaledAtKaryn March 23, 2009, 5:26 PM

I’m “Paranoid?” Thanks for your input, but I’d rather be “paranoid” than blase about my kids. Really, so you think most parent’s don’t smoke weed or drink. Well, I bet you live in a suburb and never have lived in different towns/cities,have never had a scare where your kid went missing for a few minutes because you looked away, Or your kid failed to show up on time at home. I have seen TOO MUCH bad things in my short lifetime, I am actually a DES caseworker. So with that said, I wonder what life YOU had to say that I am paranoid. I think YOU need a reality check, and maybe go watch some CNN from time to time. Sadly, more than half of the horrible things that happen to children and families are not even in the news. It’s a fact, that in today’s society we cannot allow ourselves to let our children have the same kind of freedom as we were able to years ago. Not that the crime rate has increased dramatically, but back in your “good ol day’s” we didn’t have the media to tell us about the dangers that were happening all around the world. There was no Sex Offender Register, there was no internet, there was no myspace, there was no online predators, the drugs were different, There were more (if not all) after school programs to have your children go to. Now in my area, we don’t have any after school programs for any children over 12. You have to either be there at home or just trust your kid to be okay by themselves. So yes you can call me whatever you like, but I am doing my job. How about you do yours and be a little MORE cautious? At least I know my children will never and have never be roaming the streets at dusk.

AppalledAtKaryn March 23, 2009, 5:34 PM

EXACTLY! Emmy’s Mum, you couldn’t of said it better. You are so right, I have a 4 year old, and unlike his other brother who is now a teen, he has NO notion of danger yet, regardless of how much I try to instill it in him. Every child is different, I know, and this is my point. Just because a person was “safe” being a “walky”, allowed to play at will outside with no supervision, it does not warrant you to give that same privlage to your child. The stuff that you don’t hear is the worst of them all, like I said. As far as others opinions on a child that will be “obese and socially inept” well, I doubt that is due to parent’s NOT letting the child go out and play. I never once said “Don’t let your child go out”, I simply said, “Don’t let them go out by themselves” but I can understand how some people would just get so fired up about my view and totally miss the key points that I am trying to make :)

AppaledatAppalled March 23, 2009, 5:58 PM

Dear AppalledAtKaryn,

I completely agree that a 3 year old has no business wandering around by themselves. But what’s with the attitude and hate? Karyn clearly got involved by writing an article about her neighbor and posting it on this national forum! I believe she said this only happened the night before - how do you know she didn’t approach the parents and/or use this article to wake them up? Considering the current economy, I think most people are having a difficult enough time w/o CPS harassing them, too. She said they were good people - perhaps they are young parents, perhaps there is a cultural difference, perhaps who knows. But I have to agree a one-on-one approach with the parents is best. Maybe if more Americans had compassion for their fellow neighbor, we’d get out of this rut we’re in. There are far too many people like you that automatically assume the worse in everyone and want to immediately call the authorities. Lastly, Karyn mentioned that she would not let her kid out of her sight for a second. Considering this and considering how bright she is (check out her resume) - my gut feeling is she probably had a long heart to heart with the parents. Hate is easy to spread. Try spreading some love.

BeOriginal March 23, 2009, 7:57 PM

Dear “AppaledatAppalled” wow. What wit you have with your username.

Melissa K March 23, 2009, 8:11 PM

If this so called Karyn is using this forum to call attention to the parents, then that is a passive agressive move. Not the best way to get involved, in fact, I don’t think it’s getting involved at all. What do you mean, “more Americans?” I take it you are not in America, “appaledatAppaled”? That would make sense, since Americans seem to be more concerned and “paranoid” than most. I bet you are from the U.K, am I right? ANyways…I dont think the person appaledatAppalled read the article right. This is what the article said, “My husband freaked! He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. And he nearly choked when my friend told him that this was a regular occurrence.”
Read it again. I dont think that regarding the safety of a child, or in this case a VERY small child, that anyone should “care what anyone thinks” if they were to call CPS on them. I certainly would not care, and rightfully so I would feel it was my duty as a good citizen, and a parent myself. You can also say that, If my 3 year old child were to be seen wandering the neighborhood ANY time of the day, You are darn right that I would hope someone were to care enough to call the cops. But that wouldn’t happen, I don’t expect the neighborhood or my community to watch my child, but I would HOPE they would if she were to walk about. It’s all too easy to get distracted, but it’s also not that hard to be an attentive parent. I don’t believe “appaledatKaren” meant any hate, I sense a passion from someone who is only looking out for the well fare of this child, and for all children since he she is for cps. For the parents of the feral child, I’ts possible they are nice. But nice people do not mean they are nice parent’s, even good parent’s for that matter. I knew plenty of nice people but when I got to know them in depth overtime, I got to see their true colors as people and as parents. They not only were drug users, but were drug sellers. They seemed like good parent’s, always nice. Who would of known they were smoking dope in the home with the kids around. I did call the cops, and cps on them. So that just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by the cover, and old adage we should always remember when dealing with people. Even if the cover seems bitter and full of hate, it might be that the person is passionate about what the topic is. The end.


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