What’s it like to be the neighbor of a 'free-range kid'?

The Meitivs wereback in the news last week when the kids landed in the back of a police car again. “Two Children Walk Unattended; Neighbors Lose Their Minds,”read a typical headline. Free-range advocate Lenore Skenazy painted the Meitivs’ neighbors as“busybodies,” and in the Washington Post, Petula Dvorakheld up the Meitivs’ ordeal as proof that “we’ve morphed from being a village that helps raise children to a parenting police state,” speculating that whoever called the police on the Meitivs “wanted to get back at them” for their free-range advocacy. “If that adult who called police was worried about the kids,” Dvorak asked, “why not talk to them?”

This insta-narrative—about the snooping neighbor twitching the curtains and speed-dialing the cops every time the Meitiv kids wander a block from their home to pick flowers in the park—was irresistible.

It was also untrue. The 911 callerwas a guy walking his dog who’d never seen the children before; when the operator asked the caller if he’d spoken to them, he replied, “I don’t want to scare them.” At the time of the call, the kids were about to enter a multilevel parking garage in a sparse commercial block of Silver Spring, next to the Greyhound station and across from a vape, hookah, and smoke shop.