I ran across this column today, and as child-free adult, found it interesting. You might want to check it out.
Back already? Good. I’ve been following a new trending parenting, “free range parenting.” In a nutshell, free-range parenting is a reaction to the trend over the past twenty years of hyper-parenting. Sometimes called helicopter parents, people hyper-parenting never leave their children unsupervised, move them from one organized, regimented activity to another, and above all, never let them take any risks. Free range parents encourage their children’s imagination and let them explore their world in an age-appropriate manner, often unsupervised or alone.
Child-rearing in a rational manner, you know, like I was raised.
I remember when I was first left home alone. I was nine. NINE. Mom was running to the corner store for a quart of milk and a loaf of bread. She was gone MAYBE twenty minutes. I felt incredibly privileged and grown-up. The house was empty, and _I_ was in charge of keeping it safe, neat, and tidy. As I recall, I was really focused on nothing going wrong, lest the opportunity never recur. After all, I was always going to be nine, and Mom was always going to be there.
More to the point, while Mom was home, I was allowed to go practically anywhere. I walked to school this distance of .7 miles unsupervised to the first grade and up to midway through the second grade. When we moved to Boston, or, more properly, to Framingham, it was .9 miles to school. (You can actually ‘walk’ both of these routes virtually using Google Street View. Ain’t that cool?) I was there from second the midway through the fourth grade. During those times, Mom’s first priority was to select a house “within walking distance” to the local grammar school. She was not going to fool with a school bus, and she was certainly not going to waste half her day running us back and forth to school. I’m told by a buddy of mine who’s got nieces and nephews in grammar school that the de reguir these days is to drive your kids to school and sit there and wait until you see them go in the door. After school, you wait in line and staff from school escort them out to you. My range as a child was smaller than some other free-range kids, but I was allowed to freely travel up to about a mile and a half from home, with no supervision, from the time I was about nine or ten. I had to tell mom if I was leaving her immediate vicinity, where I was going, and when I expected to be back.
I’d have suffocated, and my Mom would have gone ballistic. This is no way to raise children in the world. Yes, it’s dangerous, but it’s the world, they have to live in it. How on earth are these kids going to learn independence, self reliance, and good, old-fashion courage if they’re not ever allowed to take any risks.
Today, parents are afraid to leave their kids in the car while they run in and pay the bill. Not that they’re afraid of the children getting hurt. They’re afraid of some busybody seeing kids left alone and calling the police, who will immediately call Child Protective Services. In fact, one of the best parents I know came within a hair of CPS being called because her son had learned to work a doorknob.
Do we really want to raise an entire generation of kids who, until they graduate from college, believes that no one trusts them to make good decisions?