Free Range Kids

Lenore Skenazy has a post over at City Lab about letting kids be kids. Outdoors. By themselves. Without adult helicopter parents.

Her article got me thinking about how my childhood would be next to impossible these days. Patrols of 11- and 12-year old boy scouts no longer go camping on their own. A kid with a BB gun would be hassled by the police today. Building the kind of model rockets we made would get a kid busted by the BATFE.

Is this progress?

17 thoughts on “Free Range Kids

  1. I often think the same thing about my life versus my children’s lives.

    I almost always left home early in the day and frequently came home near sundown.

    I frequently ran 5 miles or more, along busy roads, alone.

    I have struggled to NOT be one of those parents, allowing my children more freedom where I can and trying to teach them to be aware of their surroundings and potential threats and danger without becoming paranoid.

    The unfolding Hannah Graham case in Charlottesville is a huge punctuation point on how evil exists and how we must be on guard against it.

    The world has changed and in many ways it is clearly not progress.

    • Yes. For the Smarter Than You, nanny state crowd that can run your life and your kids lives better than you can, of course it’s progress. For the rest of us, not so much.

  2. Back when the kidlets were 6 and 8, a decade or so ago, I used to take them to the local Michaels every Saturday morning for the kid’s craft session and then to the nearby Border’s for their kids program. During the program I would sit in the café with my latté enjoying some “me-time”.

    One Saturday I ran into another mother from my eldest’s Girl Scout Troop. The woman was absolutely horrified that a) I’d leave my kids alone in a different section of Borders and b) I’d let them walk back to find me by themselves. (I should add that the café had a great view of both doors, and we’d been going there long enough that all the staff knew us.) She told me how her child had a cell phone with a GPS so they could track her if anything happened, but basically she was never going to let that child out of her site. I was obviously a horrible, uncaring mother for not doing the same with mine. That the staff knew the girls and who they belonged to didn’t matter to her. That I was keeping an eye on the exits from the building didn’t matter. That the girls both knew what to do if someone they didn’t know tried to get them to go with him/her/them didn’t matter. That they knew to come and talk to me before leaving with someone they did know, even grandma, didn’t matter. I was a horrid mother. I’m amazed she didn’t call DCF right that minute.

    I would then, even at that tender age, having previously had them place their order for cocoa or soda with me standing next to them several times, give them the money and make them go up to the counter and place their own orders when they got back to me after the reading and craft session.

    And now I have self-reliant teens whom I can trust. I hate to think how this woman’s child is going to survive moving away from home.

    • I have had to learn to let go and give my children more freedom and responsibility and coaching them to use their own common sense and judgement. They have to learn to be more responsible. If I keep them petrified and tied to my coat strings I am not doing them a favor. I am impeding them from growing up.

      Some folks are better at that than others. I try not to judge parents who are obsessed and unnecessarily over-protective. But we lived in places where kidnap for ransom was common so we learned to be overprotective and then had to learn to be less so.

      But “progressive society” seems to make lunatics and forbids locking them up for their, and our, protection.

      That isn’t “progress” and it makes for a lot of parents who are scared out of their minds. Government and the media seem to want to keep us in a perpetual state of fear and dependency on the government and media.

      Again, that isn’t “progress.”

      • I understand exactly what you’re saying. There are plenty of areas of the world, this country, and even this state, where I wouldn’t have done this, or at least not at that young an age. But crime in this region is quite low, and virtually all crime against children, is from family (or live in boyfriends). I’m actually more concerned now that they are teens, since there’s more sexual assaults on teens (and it’s still quite a low frequency) than non-family crime against pre-teens. I haven’t heard of any kidnappings by non-family in this locality since we moved here, and extremely few of custody type ones too. A more urban and/or higher crime environment, and I’d be a lot more wary. It’s all about looking at the risks and the child’s age in deciding what you’ll let or even make them do on their own. I didn’t let them walk to the local minimart, even though if we drove there, I’d let them go in on their own, until they were much older, and even then not after dark, because there was no sidewalk on a fairly major side road that one had to use between our place and the store.

        But I have to let go sometime, and since this is a safe-enough area to do so, I wanted to give them enough skills to be able to live on their own, even if it’s just at college in a dorm, without having to call me every 10 minutes because they don’t know what to do, how to do it, or are just too scared to do it.

  3. I think it depends on what “progress” is considered to be.

    “Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress toward more pain.”

    “Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”

    “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”

    Seems like we’re right on track.

  4. It is talking away or ability to educate our children about the big wild world out there. And leaving in its place brats that think that if they get blind drunk at a frat party that nothing will happen to them. It’s appalling. They need to learn to be self sufficient. Helicopter patenting only produces bad adults.

  5. Mike (from That Mr G Guy blog) and I discussed this briefly today when we met for lunch down on St Pete Beach (Crabby Bill’s Tiki Deck … wind, surf, bathing beauties and seafood too) this noontime. ‘Twould seem that the world is overpopulated with stupid idiots that should have died due to mis-adventure as children. Instead they survive and pass the stupid gene onward …

  6. Parents today, more concerned with being their children’s friend than a parent, are their children’s own worst enemy. Legacy of Dr. Spock.

    • In all fairness to the good doctor, he did come out later and state that in at least some instances spanking was warranted and NOT abusive.

      Sadly, people ignore that in favor of his earlier work.

      The same people tell you to reason with your child, even though the child development class I had to take when I was considering getting teaching certificate explained that the vast majority of children can’t take in that sort of reasoning until they are older, somewhere around 8 or 10.

  7. You had a BB gun as a child?! So jealous, I only got to use Dad’s .22 and 410. (The richness of farm life.)

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