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Free Range Parenting

Why Danish Parents Leave Their Kids On The Curb At Stores And Restaurants

It seems unnecessary to hire a babysitter just to head down to the corner pub for an impromptu bite with your wife. Then again, it also seems unnecessary to have a toddler crawl all over you while you try to have some conversation over a quick burger and beer, too. But there’s a third way: the Danish way.

In Denmark, parents think nothing of leaving their little Hamlets and Ophelias to snooze outside in their strollers while they do their shopping or down a couple pastries. “It is common practice,” writes an American expat blogger living in Denmark. “Walk around Copenhagen on any given day and you’ll come across dozens of strollers on sidewalks. … Some are obviously empty, but the ones that are all bundled up almost always contain a napping baby or toddler.”

Of course, leaving babies to nap in freezing temperatures isn’t strictly a Danish phenomenon; the Norwegians swear it has health benefits (and probably that they did it first). But parking junior on the sidewalk is also a product of a less anxious society: Kidnappings are exceedingly rare in Denmark — like three in the last 30 years rare (and two of those appear to have been honest mistakes by would-be thieves who just wanted to steal a bike, not a bike and a baby).

Most Danish parents equip their strollers with high-tech baby monitors, and they’re never that far away to begin with. “The parents are usually really close by, near the window,” according to another first-hand report from Copenhagen. That same source also says she’s walked into cafes and let the room know that “the baby in the blue pram has started to wiggle around and looks like he’s about to get up.”

Granted, people have been watching each other’s backs here since they were a Viking clan, so until U.S. parenting customs get a little more Scandinavian, you might think twice about letting your little girl fend for herself on the sidewalk. In a well-publicized case, authorities turned a child over to foster care and arrested the parents — a Danish-American couple, it so happens — after they hit up a New York BBQ joint while the baby lazed in her stroller outside.

Leaving Dane Cook on the curb probably wouldn’t elicit such a strong response.

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