Fear and Parenting

I posted this on Twitter yesterday.  Another one of my rants about the cost of parenting and preparing my child for his elementary school career.  I figured that people are tired of shelling out money like I am, and they would agree with my bitching about back-to-school preparation. Nope, I got freaky responses and private messages about the “privacy” of my child.

Apparently, because I had my son’s name embroidered on his backpack, so that it won’t get taken by another kid, he is going to get kidnapped.  Yep, that creepy guy in the ice cream truck is out there looking for kids with their name embroidered on their backpacks.  My son is five, he is going into Kindergarten.  We will be walking him to and from school everyday.  He goes to school only three hours, and three days a week, he will go to the after care program at school.  I’m trying to figure out how there will be time in between all of that for Angry Kid to be kidnapped?

I didn’t realize that I was a “Free Range” parent until I read Lenore Skenazy’s book, “Free-Range Kids”.  My friend Carrie recommended the book last year. It was a fast read for me.  I did a lot of head nodding while reading it.  I may not always agree with everything said in the book, but it did make me realize that I need to chill out sometimes as a parent.  I think kids are way too micro-managed these days in the land of the helicopter parent.

I’ve heard this phrase way too much lately, “Perception Is Reality”.  What does that really mean to you? I would like to compare it to, “Innocent Until Proven Guilty”.  People hear things on the news, read them on the newspaper, and/or Internet and believe this all to be true.  I wish people would take more time to research things, than to jump to conclusions without really thinking about these things through.

I’m more freaked out about my son getting into a car accident than being kidnapped.  I think people need to really think about the statistics, and trust their better judgment and instincts, rather than the media.  I would assume that most people know that most kidnappings you hear about these days are parental or known family abductions, usually related to child custody.  Yes, there are stranger abductions, which are very rare, and of course you will see those all over the news.

So everyone who responded to me yesterday, “Thank you for thinking about this, but we are not worried that predators will seek out our child because his name is embroidered on his backpack and lunchbox.”  I don’t think that the school is too worried either as they told us to label everything, and they also posted his full name on the front doors of the school for class listings.

Oh, and I posted my presentation last week on Privacy and Your Blog-Ten Things To Think About.  This was an outline and guidelines for everyone to think about.  I didn’t write down my thoughts and rules on these subjects, but a general outline.  Everyone has their own opinions about privacy and I am not going to judge you for that at all.  I have my reasons for doing certain things, that I will not go into here, but most of the time, I’m an open book.  Seriously, there are many things that I leave wide open.  My e-mail is provided on my contact page if you have questions about privacy, etc. I promise to get back to you as soon as I can.

P.S. My son’s goggles got taken at swim lessons the other day.  He was in the pre-swim pool with about ten other kids.  It was like they disappeared out of thin air.  My husband had to drop $16 for a new pair before his lesson.  I wish I could have monogrammed those damn goggles.

42 comments
jayhawkmommy
jayhawkmommy

My only thoughts are why are you shelling out money for embroidery?? I used a sharpie on my daughter's bag. Not in the front, but the back that goes along her back. I don't see the point of spending money like that for a name. So, honestly, you didn't have to embroider. That was the choice you made. However, I agree with the rest. I tend to be a free range mom.

Melissa
Melissa

The only thing I disagree with is you bitching about the price of getting those things embroidered. I'm sorry but you decided to shell out copious amounts of money for something completely unnecessary. What the hell happened to a sharpie? My mom had to raise me on food stamps and work two jobs and your bitching about embroidery.

Kat Aldrich
Kat Aldrich

Hey Julie. I stumbled upon your blog post and it really struck me. I have been reading a book lately called "Perfect Madness; Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety" by Judith Warner and your blog called to mind the theme that runs so rampantly through her book. We live in an age of fear perpetuated by the media until we, as parents, are left as nothing more than quivering masses of anxiety when confronted with any decision regarding the upbringing of our children. I still have yet to finish the book, but what I have read so far leaves me angry at our society and yearning for the supportive community she found during her stay in France while her children were young. Her book compares the drastic differences between their parental culture and that of our own here in the States, and it leaves a dismal picture of the mindset of our society regarding child-rearing and a bad taste in the mouth of any mother who has to endure the pressures set upon us by our fear-mongering media. The book talks about how society uses these techniques of mass hysteria and anxiety to control parents based on the usually misguided assumptions of some psychologist about the welfare of our children and how this not only effects how the mother interacts with her children, but also how involved with the children a father is expected to be. I, for one, am glad that you have had the courage to speak out against falling victim to the fears pushed on us by outside sources. You and Judith Warner are truly women to be admired for standing up for yourselves and reaching out to other mothers to support them in taking back their authority as parents. Thank you for this post. You really have given me hope that things can change.

Kelly
Kelly

Two words: Mabel's Labels. My friend, Julie, used them on her son's googles. BRILLIANT. Now I use them on everything. For shared stuff I use our last name, for their stuff I use their names.

Stephanie - Encourage Their Talents
Stephanie - Encourage Their Talents

I do the Sharpie thing on my kids' school supplies too. My daughter lost her lunch box and containers regularly. I didn't bother to mark the containers, but that box, absolutely! I'm way too cheap to do the embroidery thing, although I did paint my daughter's name on her stainless steel water bottle. But kidnapping, really people? Not going to happen just because someone sees a child's name on their backpack. My kids know that they are not to go anywhere with a stranger. Speaking to one is fine, even necessary if they ever get lost, so we talk about what should and shouldn't be done in different situations.

Meredith
Meredith

Oh, do not get me started! This is my favorite topic to rant about, I swear. I do not know how the current crop of 35+'ers managed to even STAY ALIVE in this dangerous, dangerous world. I have a 9 year old and a 7 year old, and I write their names on EVERY. THING. If I didn't, it would get lost/stolen/forgotten/left on the bus/whatever. That Sharpie name on the label has saved me many a Quicksilver hoodie, let me tell you. I've been Free Range since the beginning, and let me tell you, it makes parenting so much more fun! People need to stop worrying, relax, and enjoy their kids - and let those kids enjoy themselves, too! They will have so many years to be stressed - I can't bear to make their childhood any more stressy than it has to be. Great book recommendation - I've been following Lenore's blog for several years now, and was thrilled to see her get a book deal!

dd
dd

Congrats on the new kindergarten milestone! Now you need to give up the 56 minutes or so of sleep you are allowed each night so you have time to join PTA ...... or whatever it is called these days.

Barbara
Barbara

Ha! I laughed at the last part. My son does swim team and loses his goggles ALL.THE.TIME. I can relate to that one!

Shari@Tales from the Sippy Cup
Shari@Tales from the Sippy Cup

Wow. I seriously would have never even thought of monogramming as a stairway to kidnapping! And I come from a family of all cops - so you know I'm ALWAYS thinking of all the crazy things that could happen. Because they do. My parents see it everyday. But I have to agree, this is kinda crazy. What are you going to do? Not even SAY your child's name in public for fear of someone overhearing on the way in the door? I know I say my kiddo's name about 50 times trying to get him to pay attention to actually making it into the classroom. Do the anti-monogram parents give their kiddos a "code name" for public appearances?

jodifur
jodifur

I was just thinking about you yesterday and wondering how school was going. You guys haven't started yet?

cheryl
cheryl

So I'm late in reading the blogs, but REALLY? REALLY? a label gives your kid a better chance of being taken?? I could be a smarta$$ & say I'm off to go label everything now....I need a vacation. But that would probably be taken wrong since no one can hear my smarta$$ tone. My son started kindergarten last week (& buddy did I bawl) but we had to label EVERYTHING! So honestly I don't think it matters if you had it done permanently ---& did you know Sharpie's can come off with rubbing alcohol? I think I need to pick up that book. I have been told I'm too lax in my parenting (letting my kid run around crazy & not gasp every time they fall over--which is a lot) & telling them to shake it off & give them a kiss. Plus I let them pee outside in OUR yard where no one can see them. That apparently is a huge isue with the family. 2 boys who drink lots of water my choices are pee outside or go inside tracking mud, grass, water & probably leaving the door open. & if anyone knows my kids they tell the stranger their name & how old they are so a label wouldn't matter anyway.

Ofthesea
Ofthesea

Hey! I had never realised the hidden dangers of monogramming your child's possessions. Off to cut out all the "C"s I hand-embroidered on my son's crap!! (not because I'm a smug DIY-er, but because I'm cheap, mind you.) Ridiculousness. I agree with Cheryl, this is a perfect example of the "ostriches" we chase as parents! Let's focus on common sense and the REAL dangers, shall we? Now if you excuse me, I have a bunch of crap to de-embroider.

Mama Mary
Mama Mary

Great post Julie! I think people take this kind of thing to the extreme! Sidenote: How do you embroider a lunchbox? I'm confused.

Mama Bub
Mama Bub

It never even occurred to me that monogramming would be a kidnapping risk. I guess I see their point, but COME ON people. Anyone following me around Target could learn my son's name in under sixty seconds. "B, don't touch that." "B, stay near me." "B, knock it OFF!"

OMG! Yummy
OMG! Yummy

Ok - so this is so interesting. My reaction to your embroidery was just that it's cheaper to use Sharpie - is that a sign that my kids are older and I'm just not as paranoid anymore or am I just cheap and exhausted by parenting two kids for so long? In any case, if your kid ever goes to sleep away camp, the monogramming will stop - they make you put their name or some kind of identification on EVERYTHING! Of course, you can buy pre-embroidered tags but then you have to put them on EVERYTHING. So I bought a laundry marking pen and put his initials on EVERYTHING. Who would've thought your tweet would bring up so many interesting angles. Fun to read Julie.

Karen Perea
Karen Perea

My older boys have monogrammed backpacks so they will get the correct packpack in the morning and when they are at school they get the correct one. They have Lands End backpacks that will last forever. When they ruin these I will get monogrammed ones again. If anyone wants to kidnap my 12 year old I highly advise against it! He has anger issues and likely will not going willingly. I am sure he will inflict massive amounts of damage! My 11 year old would not be as violent but I am sure he would put up a good fight!

Kristin
Kristin

GREAT post. that is all.

Heather - Diapers & Divas
Heather - Diapers & Divas

Amen to common sense! I think a lot of the jumping to conclusions about what you read and hear about is laziness. You're right, no one takes the time to research or look into these stories...they just snap judge and are done with it. Talk to your kids about the danger of strangers and what they should do, and walk your kid to and from class or day care or wherever they are... And if you don't like it, don't have kids.

Jenn
Jenn

I think if somebody wants to kidnap a kid they will, regardless of if their name is monogramed on clothing/bags/etc or not. I think by the time a kid is 4 or so they understand that either they DO or DON'T know a person, and they can easily be taught that JUST because a person knows their name does not mean said person should be trusted. Hope Kindergarten goes well for you guys! I'm sure your Son will be just fine :P

Sue Anne Reed
Sue Anne Reed

If your child gets in a car accident, unless you were drunk driving, texting or doing something else nefarious, most people will see it as an accident. However, the way the news media and "community" attacks other people's accidents is horrible. Look at the Elizabeth Smart case and how her parents were blamed for a) inviting people into their house to do work and b) forgetting to turn on their alarm that night. Or, the case of the little girl in Turlock who was kidnapped by a family friend on her way home from school. The world has gone a bit sideways. It's not enough to look at the bad guy / gal and blame them, but people also think they have a right to say how other parents should raise their kids and then give you all the doomsday examples if they think "you're doing it wrong".

Megan
Megan

Im with Katie- I can see where the "dont monogram" people are coming from... but at the same time, its no different than the youth football kids wearing football jerseys with their names on the back. We live in a small town. My hubby and 2 of his brothers are in the same profession. One that we dont want everyone to know who we are. between the 3 families we have 9 kids. and although we are careful because of the lifestyle our husbands have chosen, we dont seclude ourselves or keep our kids locked up either. they almost all play sports, they have jerseys and backpacks with their names on them. one brother-in-law even has personalized license plates. (a little more personal than the other 2 would like. lol). The point being- despite the fact that we live in a little more "danger" than the average families, we still live! and we let our kids live. this helicopter business is certainly not for me!

Nichole
Nichole

I'll admit, I was one of those moms who was all "OH MY GOD YOUR KID WILL GET KIDNAPPED!" I'm that parent though. I worry about absolutely everything. I actually admire those who give their kids some breathing room to spread their wings a bit. That's something that I am honestly working on being better at. And I'll get on that as soon as I finish worrying about BPA, high fructose corn syrup, and the Boogey Man. ;)

Mama's Viewfinder
Mama's Viewfinder

Thanks for this. I actually bought my daughter a monogrammed backpack and ended up returning it because I was scared into thinking she would be kidnapped because of it. I'm an idiot. I should have just kept it. It was what she wanted and what I wanted. Maybe next year.

katie | motherbumper
katie | motherbumper

I also find it fascinating that some parents worry about the statistically rare events over others. No judging, I just find it fascinating. While I 'get' not wanting strangers know your child's name for the creep factor, how is one supposed to protect their possessions? If someone wants to know a kids name, they are going to find out without the aid of tag. So would you recommend that free-range read?

Nancy [Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas]
Nancy [Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas]

Boo has her name on her backpack too. She's escorted in and out of school every day, like your angry kid. As much as I try to stay focused on managing the real risks for my kids, it's easy to get bogged down and obsess in the minutia. Thanks for the reminder to stay focused on the big picture. I'm running out of bubble wrap anyway.

Mommy's Sippy Cup
Mommy's Sippy Cup

That is insane that you got responses about getting a back pack embroidered! Ridiculous! There are more important things in life than to stress out about stuff like that. Especially when you are at your child's side taking him to and from. It's not like you are sending him out the door at 5 years old and saying good luck, kid!

Contessa Grigia
Contessa Grigia

Oh Julie, Just wait as they grow older. The amount of stuff they need is just so wild. My kids go to a private school, and we buy all the extras that go with children being in school. Kleenex, wipes, etc.Our school also wants us to buy the clothing from one company which racks up a couple of thousand dollars. We had our kids jackets and things monogrammed too. We did not worry about anyone kidnapping our children. I did realize that someone would know their names right away, but we talked over and over about strangers. I think you are right. Go with what you believe. I think parents of the children know the child so much better. I enjoyed your talk at Bloggy Boot camp in SF!

Carabee
Carabee

I tell people this all. the. time. Stop worrying so much about the lightening strike and worry about the real things like their education and their health. I plan to write/monogram my kid's name on everything she owns. I dare someone to get past this mama bear.

Cheryl
Cheryl

Hey, Julie I couldn't agree more. Where is people's common sense any more? And moms can be so mean when they are on the prowl! By the sound of it, you should check out Moms Against Ostriches. We are trying to take the guilt and fear out of parenting and replace it with common sense. Wea re working on getting a blog started soon but in the meanwhile we are building a community. Check it out here--> http://bit.ly/cZNVtv

Julie {Angry Julie}
Julie {Angry Julie}

Ironically, we have a ton of Mabel's. My son's lunchbox and everything has Mabel's on them. I had the backpack embroidered for extra pre-cautions.

Angry Julie
Angry Julie

Sharpies are my best friend.. I always appreciate a lover of Sharpies...:)

Angry Julie
Angry Julie

He started kindergarten today....woot!

cheryl
cheryl

WOW I had too much coffee today; sorry for the rambling rant. Also the teacher read "The Kissing Hand" about a racoon's 1st day of school---very cool book; even after a week my son still wants his hand kissed (AND he even washes it before hand; hygiene bonus!)

Angry Julie
Angry Julie

LOL...The lunchbox is cloth. I had the handle embroidered...

Ofthesea
Ofthesea

You said it! All it takes is 15 seconds of paying attention, and everyone in a 100-mt ratio will know my boy's name. And the potential kidnapper doesn't even have to be able to read!

Angry Julie
Angry Julie

I use a Sharpie way too much at work. I have post traumatic stress from Sharpies, otherwise I would have used one. Plus, Sharpies tend to bleed and that completely upsets the OCD in me.

Angry Julie
Angry Julie

Ok, you have to e-mail me...this "lifestyle our husbands have chosen thing" fascinates me...just sayin'

Angry Julie
Angry Julie

and that is ok!! I just got rid of one of those Shrek McDonald's glasses this week, that were recalled like months ago. We all will learn to unclench over a period of time. I was a mess when my son was little, now I have let go of the leash.

Angry Julie
Angry Julie

Yes, get her the backpack next year or for the holidays. Because there will be a time coming where they won't want things like monogrammed backpacks.

Angry Julie
Angry Julie

Yes, I highly recommend that book. As my blogging soul sister, you need it. *Fist Bump*

Angry Julie
Angry Julie

I had an entire list of school supplies to buy, way over $50....and that was just for the classroom...

Nichole
Nichole

The funny part is I use my children's real names on my blog and I'm pretty open about what city we live in. I'm not freaked out NOW that someone will nab them, but the thought of them starting school leaves me running for a paper bag to breathe into.