Sorry Free-Rangers, I Refuse to Leave My Kid Alone in a Locked Car

When I was about ten years old, a sex offender with a record lured his neighbor’s 7-year-old daughter off her front lawn while she was playing. He took her to the nice suburban home he lived in across the street with two other sex offenders. There he raped her, then strangled her and left her body in a nearby public park. The crime was so heinous that a law to track sex offenders was named after the victim. But because this act defies the statistics, I’m encouraged by free-range parenting advocates to go ahead and let my child run free in the neighborhood where this girl once lived and died. They reason that because what happened to her doesn’t happen every day, my son should be totally fine.

The only thing I’m left wondering is, if he isn’t okay, if something were to happen to him, what will the free-range parents do for me then?

I’m reading a lot of articles by free-range parenting advocates about my rights when it comes to leaving my child in a car unattended. Every single article uses statistics to defend the idea that young children can be left alone in a locked car in a public place. Every writer seems to use those statistics to criticize parents who’d rather be safe than sorry. The irony is that in doing so, they’re gambling with their own child’s security, relying on the law of averages to protect them from something that, thank God, isn’t average, but does occur. Megan Kanka’s death wasn’t average. Do you think her parents are comforted at night by the statistics?

Free-range parents argue that leaving their children in a locked car makes the errand they’re running easier on both them and their children. For nearly 20 years my mother had 45 minutes to feed us dinner and get my father out the door from one job to the next. She managed to do so with me in tow all the time. I was the errand buddy. I helped in the grocery store; I assisted in the packing and unpacking of the bags and the car. As I grew older my presence made errands easier, not harder. And doing those everyday things gave us the ability to form a bond most of today’s parents fail to form with their own over-scheduled, peer-oriented children. Who knew that a little attention to safety could have such positive long-term results on a parent-child relationship?

Life experience has taught me that evil defies statistics. Is it extra work to haul a stroller and car seat in and out of a car up to five times a day while errands are run? Yes. But I didn’t have a child to make my life easy. I had a child to be with my child—heavy lifting, temper tantrums, missed naps and all. This doesn’t make me an “attachment parent” or a “helicopter parent” or even an “overprotective parent.” It makes me a parent who values being with her son so much that she’s willing to sacrifice some minutes and some ease to build that relationship. Because it is my time with him, not the statistics that ultimately gives me parenting peace.