Raising Wilshire's Grandparents

Blogoir about caregiving for Asian American immigrant parents

Free Range Kids: A Juan Percent kind of Thing?

Originally published to The Juan Percent in April 2015. I found this again recently, and found it still resonated with me. 

Earlier this month, Danielle Meitiv’s two elementary school aged kids were yet again picked up by Child Protective Services. This time, they were about 5 minutes from home. And this time around, they were held away from their parents for hours, and denied food and restroom access. The kids are 6 and 10. Apparently, a ‘neighbor’ called the cops, who then called CPS. And then this went viral yet again.

Today, the Washington Post published a response from Montgomery County offering clarity on the legality of allowing children to be unescorted in public. In sum, the police do not need to send children to CPS if they do not suspect neglect, and the kids should be taken home.. That was clear from the opening of the story. But then the rest of the story talks about the ambiguities the 6-page memo introduced yet again. At the very least, it offered no clarity on whether a neighbor’s call to report unescorted kids would immediately trigger an investigation of neglect.

This situation has struck a chord with me. I don’t have kids, but I like kids. I minored in Education, spent 10 years working with and teaching kids at summer camps, and I started my working life as an education policy analyst studying the No Child Left Behind Act.

I’ve also made some very deliberate life decisions in order to raise what may be called “Free Range” kids: Juan 6 and I purposefully settled in a city with after-school and summer camp programs that are way more robust than what our parents were able to find for us as kids. We also bought about a quarter mile from our local elementary school, which I’m excited about because it’s the only school that is still majority minority. Assuming our kids are capable of the responsibility of caring for themselves, we expect to let them walk to and from school on their own or out to extra curricular activities, also on their own.

As their (future) parents, we are committed livable streets and community activists because we want infrastructure in place that allows our kids to be independent. This means safe sidewalks and safe, highly visible crossings. This means buffered bike paths. This means street trees, and walking buses, and more kids walking, and walking in groups. This means changing the road geometry in front of our street in order to cut the 85% percentile speed to under 15 miles an hour (so I can lobby the max limit down to 20.) This means robust, affordable, and engaging after-school programming that my kids can access without my having to take them there myself (because I will be working to support them, and to be a productive member of society).

That said, our kids will be mixed race. We don’t really know what they will look like, but given what J6 and I look like, it’s highly unlikely they will elicit the kind of suspicion that brings worry and fear to the minds and hearts of mothers of black (and brown) sons in the U.S.  We also live in an urban place that is, comparatively speaking, quite sterile. We don’t have the same kind of gang turf battles and active street-level drug dealing in Santa Monica that they do elsewhere.

But absent in this discussion about the Meitivs’ situation and the free range kid movement is what does it mean to be a child of color in a neighborhood more like the one I grew up in (just north of Koreatown), and less like an affluent section of suburban Maryland? If the Meitivs’ kids were black, would the police and neighbors have been as concerned in the same way? Would they have called the cops out of concern for the child? Or out of “concern” for their own safety?

The Journey Begins

Wilshire / Sirinya on Big Blue Bus

Together on the bus

Welcome to my new blog. I’ve decided to call it Raising Wilshire.

My hope is to start first with writing about my experience as a working mother raising a family in an urban setting, and to go from there. I am also  looking forward to writing about topics like child care (why it’s so hard to find and expensive), school choice, and raising a son to be kind, respectful of women, and emphatic.

Driving Mr. Wilshire (when we should’ve walked or biked instead)


The kids and I really should have walked. Or biked. But we (the moms) didn’t think we could get to our destinations safely – and we were trip-chaining under time constraints. Transportation scholars would tell you our line of decisions are common amongst moms everywhere.

Wilshire had a busy Saturday morning. He got to go together with his neighborfriend to Virginia Avenue Park, where they also host a weekly farmers’ market, and then to the pool for his first swim lesson of the year. All of this was made convenient because my car seat (a Chicco NextFit) is easy to install–so we only had to take one car–and because there was free parking at our two destinations (the park and the pool).

We really should have walked. Or biked. Virginia Avenue Park may have free parking for cars, but they’ll valet your bike!  I was with a friend who is very comfortable riding a bike; she is the yin to my yang. The park was about a mile away. The pool was six blocks east of the park.

The bus was off the table, even though I can ride for free, because the two routes that go between my house, the park, and the pool don’t run on weekends.

I’ve walked to this park before. It necessitates walking along Cloverfield Boulevard, a fast-moving north/south street between my house and the park, and  crossing the on- and off-ramps for the I-10 freeway. I worry about not being seen by motorists entering and exiting the freeway. It’s not an irrational concern. Last year in Santa Monica (2017), 8 pedestrians died last year – and this doesn’t even reflect the close calls I experience, and they are numerous because I still walk with my son every day.

I cannot even begin to fathom riding my bicycle on Cloverfield Boulevard with my child. Not yet. Not right now. Not until that street design changes. And I am hopeful that it will change, but I can’t tell you when.

As I was looking through photos from our playdate, I remembered an essay written by my friend Katie Matchett, a fellow transportation planner and mother of two kids now living in San Diego, about how poor street design forces most women to default to getting in a car. Here’s an excerpt from the essay posted to her blog, Where the Sidewalk Starts:

My choice, like so many of women’s travel choices, was based primarily on safety. I was confident the kids could walk that far, and I knew it would be the healthier and more interesting choice for all of us–but without good walkability, I wasn’t sure that I could keep them all safe.

All across the country women, in particular mothers, make similar choices every day. Poor street design, disparate land use, time constraints, lack of personal safety—all of these conspire to force women off their feet and into cars. We have built a transportation system that discounts women’s travel needs, and women—and our communities—are suffering for it.

Alright, enough of the serious talk. Below are pics of the kids.
They are precious.
Will enjoyed sitting on the horsey

We saw this too.

A few weeks ago, a group of residents in Santa Monica officially launched a petition drive to solicit enough signatures to put a measure to institute term limits for our city council. (There are no term limits presently in Santa Monica. LA limits councilmembers to 12 years.) While I have no position on the issue, I did find it reassuring that I also recognized the woman soliciting signatures. Even if I do not agree with her most of the time, she is part of my community and I am part of hers. 

Until next time,


Wilshire’s first visit to Union Station




Yesterday, Will visited Los Angeles Union Station for the first time. We arrived at about 9:45 am and were able to see three trains depart in about a 15 minute period, including the once-daily Amtrak Coast Starlight bound for Vancouver, BC.

TAP staff were on hand to help customers buy and load passes and stored value on TAP cards and to answer questions. We enjoyed introducing staff to the first child we knew of named after the Westside Subway Extension. Finally, we were able to buy the commemorative TAP card printed in honor of Metro’s 25th anniversary.

Sirinya holds up Metro's 25th Anniversary commemorative TAP card

With my commemorative TAP card!

Union Station is gorgeous and bustling with activity, a public space that I think is now on par with Grand Central Station in New York City and Union Station in DC. What we have over those two marquee transportation hub are these beautiful, and accessible, outdoor gardens. There are two, one attached to the Metropolitan Water District and the other specifically to Union Station. What I love most about visiting Union Station these days is the aura of discovery. I visit only occasionally so there is always something new whenever I come to visit.

Until next time,


5 Pointers for Camping with a Toddler

Wilshire likes to be outdoors. It should come as no surprise that he likes camping. His parents like camping too.

I didn’t start out as a camper. As a child, my family ‘vacationed’ in Las Vegas up to 6 times a year. Las Vegas is not far from Los Angeles, and has functioned as a getaway destination for Angelenos for nearly a century. My dad is a compulsive gambling addict, so my relationship with Las Vegas is a sad one. I’m relieved that I can carve a different path with my family.

Kid and I go camping
Holding his hiking poles.

Most recently, we took Wilshire camping around his second birthday. We stayed Leo Carrillo State Park, which is just outside of Malibu city limits and about 25 miles away from our house. Leo Carrillo is in this little valley just east of the water. As it is a California State Park, the campground was very nice. Not all the campsites are created ‘equal’. We liked #26 because it was near restrooms and the on-site convenience store – but not near Mulholland Highway, which traverses just north of the campground.

This was our third time camping outdoors with our son, and I think we’re getting the hang of making camping fun and stress-free. The kid sleeps through the night when he’s in our tent. My mother wondered how we managed to make camping work because it was an experience she never had, so I realized there may be value to sharing the top 5 things I do to make camping safe, fun, and enjoyable with my toddler. Hopefully this helps you too.

1. Bring a travel crib. 
We bring a Graco Pack ‘N’ Play with us. Not only does our son sleep in it, it’s a safe place for him to play and chill while we are completing necessary tasks such as pitching our tent and cooking. We have had a lot of luck putting both our son and another child in said pack ‘n’ play. Don’t they look cute here?

2. Bring a high chair. 
We own this snap-on high chair from Chicco. Our son is still not quite big enough to sit at the picnic table comfortably. This snap-on chair allows him to be on par with the rest of us. I no longer worry about him sliding down off the bench and hitting his chin or head.

3. Reserve a campsite in advance. 
Through Reserve California, you can book a campsite up to six months in advance. There is a $7.99 registration fee and a $7.99 cancellation fee. I suggest setting up a reminder to book a site as soon as the 6 month window opens.

4. Set up dedicated camping bins if you have the space for storage.
We now have these nifty bins which contain all of our dedicated camping supplies, plus a table for holding our camping stove. These bins, plus a cooler, are now stored in a location which makes it quick and easy to load our car. It used to take me hours to prepare for our prior trips because everything was scattered across our house. Now we’ve gotten organized, it takes only an hour to pack everything – food, high chair, and diapers included. Less time packing, more time relaxing.

I will have to blog more about our camping set-up another time.

5. Stay more than one night.
In our first two trips, we only spent one night outdoors. It was exhausting and disappointing to spend so much time setting up only to have to dismantle the campsite less than 24 hours later. Last weekend, we spent two nights outdoors and it was glorious.

I have a tickler in my calendar now to book another campsite later this weekend for summer. I love being able to anticipate these sorts of events. Do you like to go camping with your kids? Tell us what kind of things you do to make camping more fun and accessible!

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