Free-Range Kids

Happy Mother's Day From the 'Worst Moms' in American History

Yours truly made the list.


If you click on this "ten of the worst moms in America" list from Listverse, you will read about folks like Ma Barker, whose sons "terrorized the Midwest and beyond during the early '30s." Barker was gunned down in a shootout, after which J. Edgar Hoover declared her "the most vicious, dangerous, and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade." (He also may have made that up so no one would question why his FBI agents killed a gangster's elderly mom.)

Nonetheless, she's number seven on the list.

Calamity Jane is on the list for, among other rabble-rousing exploits, raising money to send her daughter to a convent school and then using the cash for a drunken party.

Joan Crawford made the list, not for her amazing film career, of course, but for Mommie Dearest, the book her daughter Christina Crawford wrote about her in 1978 that then became a movie. (Not a flattering one.)

There are some odd names on this list, including Eleanor Roosevelt at number four, who, for all her achievements, was said to have felt ill at ease as a mom—perhaps because her mother-in-law lived in the townhouse attached to hers and popped in whenever she liked, to tell the kids, basically, your mom sucks.

George Washington's mom is on the list for screwing him out of his inheritance and later embarrassing him by applying for the early American equivalent of welfare.

There are a couple of cold-blooded killers on the list, too. And Judy Garland's mom, for being pushy, self-pitying, and plying her daughter with pills. But then, there at the end of the list, number one without a bullet is… me.

"America's worst mom" is a nickname I received for letting my then nine-year-old ride the subway alone. You can read all about it on this strange Listverse list. The main thing I will say is that the reporting is remarkably accurate—right down to the fact I invented the annual holiday, "Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day" (coming up May 21!), wrote Free-Range Kids, and went on to co-found the non-profit Let Grow.

"Perhaps the term 'America's Worst Mom' is a bit extreme," the list concludes.

Perhaps, indeed! Just maybe, all of us who aren't selling, killing, or beating our kids with wire hangers are doing the best we can. Maybe today is a day to celebrate the moms who feel awkward, who fall short, or who may not raise the best-behaved kids.

Mother's Day is for all the moms who aren't perfect, because nobody is. And so, a toast to all of us, including some of the others on this very odd list.