Or at least your back yard.
Have you heard of this lady? That’s Lenore Skenazy. She got “in trouble” a while back for letting her nine year old son ride the NYC subway by himself. You can watch a clip of the “much ado” if you like.
Since then, she has written a book and started a blog both called Free Range Kids.
I was wide awake, long past my bedtime, due to a nap yesterday, I spent quite a bit of time perusing the website. I had no idea there was such a controversy about this.
If you’ve never heard of the concept of “Free Range Kids” (kind of catchy, isn’t it?), you’ve probably never heard of the “helicopter parent” either. At opposite ends of the spectrum, the helicopter parent never lets their child out of their sight, hovers if you will. The extreme heli-parent gives the child a ride to school even if it’s only a block, puts a helmet on their child while on a tricycle, stays within arms reach at the playground at all times, and carries sanitizer in a holster.
The Free Range Parent gives their child room to explore, room to find their own sense of independence and love of the world. The extreme Free Range Parent then would let their toddler cook dinner over the stove, play with knives and guns, climb cliffs naked, and walk to pre-school unattended.
Of course most people are at neither extreme.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and shockingly, I’m a “free range parent”. And yet, according to some, I’m overprotective. No doubt about it, I am very protective.
Statisticly, there were 36.4 million elementary school aged children in the U.S. in 2004. In 2006, 115 of them were abducted by strangers. 40% were killed. This means the “Stranger Danger” we hear about? Nonexistent.
From Ms. Skenazy’s blog: If you, for some strange reason, WANTED your child to be KIDNAPPED AND HELD OVERNIGHT BY A STRANGER, HOW LONG WOULD YOU HAVE TO LEAVE HIM OR HER OUTSIDE, ALONE AND UNSUPERVISED HERE IN AMERICA, FOR THIS TO BE STATISTICALLY LIKELY TO HAPPEN? The answer, crunched for me by Warwick Cairns, author of How to Live Dangerously is this: 750,000 years.It’s more likely my child will be struck by lighting or attacked by a shark. And we live in a land locked state.
It’s not that being kidnapped is the only thing to fear. I personally know of several families in which a small child was killed or severely injured by being run over in their own driveway. Letting your child be more independent than most of us Gen Xers allow for our kids is definitely not the norm. We tend to veer more toward the helicopter end of the spectrum. I understand that.
I let my baby play in the dirt. It gets in his mouth. I let him explore the mulch, rain water in the wagon, green apples from the tree. I let him eat off the floor. I let my five year old and two year old play outside while I’m inside. I let them be in a different part of the library than I am. I give my children responsibilities and expect them to be team players in our home to give them a sense of accomplishment and independence.
I realize that the country is different from the city too. I “roamed” as a child. We played all over our neighborhood all summer long.
I was exposed to my first porn while being a “Free Range Kid”.
This is why I’m protective. I’m not all that worried about my children’s physical safety. I am EXTREMELY concerned about my children’s mental and emotional safety. Especially while they are so young and don’t have any discernment of their own right now. I monitor everything they read, watch and see. We talk about what they watch and what we read, and then we watch or read it again, and talk about it some more.
I fast forward through the scary parts in the movies we do watch (like the chase scene in Cinderella). We don’t watch TV, except for Curious George, bless his cotton pickin’ heart, who comes on right when I need to make dinner. When he’s on in the summertime though, it’s still daylight, and the kids are outside playing.
I don’t do babysitters, except for family. I’m very picky about who I do playdates with.
When my kids get older, I sure hope they will think the irony is funny.
Sure, go ahead and play in the creek all day, use Dada’s saw and drills all you want, climb that tree and jump out of it onto the trampoline, but you’re not doing any overnights with people whose hearts I don’t know.
I guess I’m a Fr-Heli-Range Parent.
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