Neighbors Teach Mom Sonya Hendren A Lesson For Letting Son, Tomahawk, Play Outside

Tomahawk Hendren is 4-years-old and right now is learning how to spend time alone, exploring outside. That doesn’t mean his mother, Sonya, doesn’t keep her eye on him.

Like many toddlers, his mom is the center of little Tomahawk’s life. He told a Sacramento news station, KTXL, that “I love her like 20 times … Maybe a thousand.”

Sonya is 37, considers herself a “free-range” parent, and loves being Tomahawk’s mother.

“I breast fed for 28 months. I cloth diapered and, you know, obviously avoided helicopter parenting. I’m doing everything.”

But now, Hendren is facing up to six months in jail for doing something that countless parents have done many times before — letter her son play alone for awhile. In this case, one day Sonya let Tomahawk play outside at a playground 120 feet from her home, in a gated community, for up to 20 minutes.

And Sonya‘s neighbors called the cops, Fox40 added.


For letting Tomahawk play alone outside, Hendren was initially charged with felony child endangerment and neglect, and the child was temporarily taken away from her. Sonya has since regained custody, the charges have been reduced to misdemeanors that she’s still struggling to have dismissed, and she is cited by Child Protective Services every time her child isn’t within her line of sight.

Hendren has since been offered a reduced sentence of 30 days in jail and a year probation, which she rejected.

“If this happened 20 years ago, we wouldn’t be here. There wouldn’t be a criminal case filed,” said Hendren’s attorney, who wasn’t named.

Soya said her son had started to show his mom that he was ready to play outside alone. So a few times before the incident that landed her with criminal charges, Tomahawk ventured outside and returned moments later to assure his mom he was okay.

On one of those experimental trips, two neighbors were watching. Those neighbors are Sonja and her daughter, Brandi Horrell. They watched Tomahawk play by himself for 15 to 20 minutes, then talked to him a bit and asked him to go home. Ever the independent little boy, he told them he still had some playing to do.

So, the Horrell’s went home and called child protective services. Sonya said they called the cops.

Now, Sonja and Brandi — who lived at the gated complex, as well — said they were just worried about the boy and didn’t call the authorities to be malicious. However, Horrell seemed to harbor some anger about the situation, though seemed regretful.

“How would (Hendren) feel if he was on an AMBER Alert? Then what would she be feeling? I thought she would just get a warning… and she wouldn’t let them be out alone again.”

As for Brandi, she told KTXL that she wasn’t “mad that she has to do things now to teach her because what if somebody did take him away.”

As CPS continues to keep their watchful eye on Hendren, she fights the charges against her but still may face six months in jail, People added. Though the prosecution can only proceed with charges if they can prove that Sonya meant to put her child in danger by letting him play outside alone.

This controversy raises questions about who gets to decide what’s the correct way to parent, the state’s involvement in private matters, and the “stranger danger” ideology that possibly inspired Hendren’s neighbors to call the authorities, Reason noted.

But one question remains: Why didn’t her neighbors just talk to Sonya before calling the cops? So parents — what do you think? Was it okay for Tomahawk to play alone, 120 feet from his front door? Or do you agree with the neighbors? Would you have called the cops?

[Photo by inraam/Shutterstock]