Free Range Kids, blog for raising kids without being freaked out about safety all the time

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82 Responses to “Free Range Kids, blog for raising kids without being freaked out about safety all the time”

  1. acb says:

    I’m half expecting social services to attempt to take her kids away from her on the grounds of her being an “unfit parent”. Which would be insane, though not much more insane than denying someone custody of their children because they took part in SubGenius art performances.

  2. bishophicks says:

    Last summer there was a BB link to a Globe and Mail article about the gradual confinement of a family over 4 generations. The great-grandfather roamed free over many square miles, while the youngest generation was practically confined to their yard. That really got my attention. We live on a busy street and it’s a pain in the neck to get my kids (7 and 4) together with the kids in the next two houses down. Just this weekend, I finished making a path through the woods that connects three houses. Within minutes of finishing the path there were 3 kids playing the the woods and within 30 minutes there were 5 kids playing in our yard, in the rain, having a ball. It’s exactly what I had hoped for, except for a few ticks. Future plans include more paths and a bridge over the brook/swamp in the woods that blocks access to about half our property. I think kids NEED to play outside. I recently googled a map of the suburban neighborhood I grew up in (1970′s) and discovered that, while I spent most of my time on just three streets and in a few yards, we would on occasion roam an area that covered between 1 and 2 square miles. And starting at age 12 I was allowed to bike several miles to the next town with a friend, so at that point, the range expanded enormously.

  3. sproing3 says:

    Many studies are showing that youths need challenges in order to develop to potential, in much the same way as toddlers need hugs.

    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ talks about how being coddled leads to becoming a socially concervative authoritarian.

    Keep in mind that governments can sway whole populations, and offspring, by raising fear levels.

    Keep in mind why the security theater.

  4. Razzabeth says:

    My parents didn’t really have much to do with raising me. They were pretty much just a bunch of bad influences on me anyway. Whenever they did pay attention, they would just screw up royally (“No, you can’t do gymnastics, you’ll break your neck.”).

    Also, my mom became a single parent pretty early in my childhood. I was left alone for hours upon hours at a time, far into the night. I would leave in the evening and run around with my friends till it was around midnight or so, because I knew that’s when my mom would get off work and come home. She would call the house to check on me (before cell phones) and when I wouldn’t answer I would just tell her I’d been in the shower. I would even wet the towel as if I’d taken a shower later.

    I had a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. I consider myself a pretty smart person now. I learned to spot trouble a mile away and I learned to give shady people a wide berth when walking at night. I read a LOT of books. Mom tried to make up for not being there by buying me whatever I wanted, and I wanted books. I had a library that took up a whole wall of the apartment.

    Of course, I did end up going into teenage years with a lack of weird knowledge that other people usually know because their parents teach them. Such as, how to use hair conditioner properly, how to shave your legs, how to read a map, how to dress oneself without looking like a clown, matching colors and such. Luckily a stepsister eventually came along and pointed me in the right direction.

  5. Normal Norman says:

    As kids we played real cowboys and Indians on real horses and shot each other with .22 air guns. We all carried a knife – no one got stabbed. We made weed killer and sugar pipe bombs and blew up trees and garbage bins. We rode trains without a ticket for hundreds of miles. We rode motorcycles without a license or documents. We fell out of trees and broke bones, got badly burned with petrol, got swept out to sea on a rip tide. Every day was an adventure where we learned life. Now adults, the friends I grew up with live good law abiding lives and take the risks in our careers and business that are necessary for a thriving country and we in turn have let our kids have a free run. The world has no more dangers today than yesterday but the millions of today’s cotton wool kids will not have learned how to deal with every day problems and will live in perpetual fear of non existent risks. Their parents will have done them and our country a great disservice by creating a generation who are not self reliant, don’t take risks and don’t speak up for freedom and justice.

  6. blackseabrew says:

    Thanks Skenazy. You were absolutely correct in allowing you child to ride the subway alone. Parents who make the opposite choice are also absolutely correct. Parents should be allowed to make their own choices on how to raise their children. PERIOD! No government intervention.

    To re-enforce my point, the Texas state/Federal courts have no business placing the FLDS children in foster homes and separating them from their mothers. If they are truly worried about the children, then temporarily move the men out of the compound. But I see even that as an intrusion by the government, no matter how repugnant I think the situation is there with the polygamy.

    Taking matters one step further, the concept of free range kids could also be applied to a whole host of other issues. We have such a sterile society driven by both the government and the media.

  7. Agent 86 says:

    I still remember one of the defining moments in my life, when I first rebelled against my parents’ “safety first” approach towards every activity.

    Ran ~1/2 mile from my grandparents house to home, by myself, because we had already been there for 3 hours, and there was nothing left to do for entertainment. Got grounded for a week for disobeying and because I could have gotten kidnapped (gasp), but as soon as that was up I started running and biking everywhere. Wooo, freedom of movement.

  8. Sister Y says:

    Normal Norman and others, your stories are so much fun – I was also definitely “free range,” doing unsupervised things like riding the horses bareback, generally being a nuisance to the other animals, getting kicked in the stomach by a donkey, getting shocked by the garden’s electric fence, going to the outhouse in the middle of the night (possibly the most dangerous thing, since in the winter bears liked to take refuge in our outhouse), rafting down the river with no one but other junior high school girls, sleeping outdoors on the river bank – but I never thought of our parents as particularly open-minded or lenient at that time (I’m only 30 now).

    My boyfriend grew up in suburban San Jose, overprotected by his paranoid immigrant parents, rarely allowed to leave the house. But now, if anything, he’s more self-reliant and willing to try new things than I am. The best reason for letting kids explore alone is what #1 said, letting them have fun! Keep in mind the findings of the studies Steven Pinker talks about in The Blank Slate: genetics are responsible for personality differences as adults, not parenting.

  9. Takuan says:

    I myself have fond family memories of activities together, mushrooming in the forest and always getting the special privilege of first tasting of the haul in all its vivid colours…. and then the lovingly crafted baby soother, whittled from the purest, silvery lead….climbing for bird’s eggs on the cliffs while every solicitous parents kept a softly padded basket dangling near at hand so I didn’t have to carry them up myself…pure idyll

  10. Antinous says:

    Tak-kun,

    I can only offer anecdotal data. If you want a theory, I would suggest that families with a lot of children give up on amenities like cleaning and cooking and end up eating fast food in the sty. I had, effectively, private lessons on how to cook, clean, shoot, tip…

  11. Takuan says:

    yes, I am at my best when sun-dried, pickled and allowed to sit for several months

  12. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    ANYWAY…
    There is evidence that exposing children to germs is essential to developing normal immune systems. Some pediatric allergists blame excessive emphasis on cleanliness to later allergies.
    Interesting scars and temporary plaster casts confer status upon the wearer, but concussions may be cumulative and should be avoided.
    I read #1 as ‘Indiana’ and just figured out he’s talking about the subcontinent and not the state to the immediate south. Makes sense now.

  13. Takuan says:

    quite right, rossindetroit,quite right. I am sure much current asthma can be attributed to this as well. I don’t follow about the cumulative concussions though, whywhywhywhywhy is thahttthatt a problem?

  14. Tammie says:

    I am a very conservative, very concerned 35 year old mother of 11 children ages 17-2 years old. First I want to say that I don’t feel that what this mother did should be considered free range. She made an educated decision to allow her son to do something after checking the facts. She then made a plan with him. Would I have done it? Never in a million years. Do I think she was a bad mother for doing it? No. I think bad mothers are parents that do let their children free range. Parents that don’t care where their children are, when they come home, etc. These are the parents that scare me.

    I grew up being a part time free range child. When I was little I had a lot of room. I would walk a mile away to go to Highs to get some milk. I walked alone to kindergarten. Now I think back and say, whooaaa, what was my mother thinking. Anybody, absolutely anybody could have grabbed me. It is not as though there were not abducted children back in those days.

    Years past and my mother became a lot more protective. In the times I did manage to get out from under her smothering wings I made totally all the wrong decisions. One night I was approached by someone who obviously wanted sex in exchange for cocaine. I was 13!

    I decided back in those days what sort of mother I would be. The biggest flaw was that we didn’t have much money and no extended family. My mother gave up driving and that left me a very depressed, stay at home child. Knowing myself, and lots of the crazies out there in the world, I decided that my children would be all about family. They have always been homeschooled. I don’t let them spend the nights out. We are very religious so parties outside of family and family friend gatherings are out of the question. We have bought our children a house with a 3 acre wood, pool, horses, you name it. They stay busy with their animals and each other. Sometimes they help me with my company, Shea Terra Organics. We go on frequent family outings. When the kids want to go somewhere or do something we cater to them. When they want to be with children that we approve of, it is always in family settings. We drop our daughter off at college and pick her up. There are charitable things she attends to there and at some point we have to trust that she has to make the all the right decisions.

    What I consider to be free range children are children who are not blessed enough to have their parents deeply involved in their lives. There is a reason why children do not hatch out of eggs like alligators. For example, after school in our 3 acre wood we discovered that teenagers from the school next to us had been smoking pot. The children were eventually captured on infra red. How sad, I thought. Where are the parents of these kids, and why don’t they know that their children are on my property smoking pot after school?

  15. Sister Y says:

    Takuan I bet most Boingers would love to get pickled with you.

  16. Laurie Mann says:

    We now live in a very safe, quiet neighborhood in the country. It’s dismaying to see parents wait with their kids every day at the bus stop. When I was in kindergarten (1962), I walked a whole half block to my bus stop. My mother was hyper-protective, but only walked me to the bus stop the first day.

    When our daughter was 12, we’d just moved to a close-in suburb of Pittsburgh (this was 1993). We explained to her how to walk to the trolley, which she did, meeting her father for lunch when he worked in downtown. Some of his co-workers were amazed that we let her do that. *sigh*

  17. Takuan says:

    well, grab that fifth of tequila and belly up to the keyboard! I wonder, how many here are typically drunk while posting? Legally drunk, anyway?

  18. Takuan says:

    “Captured” on infra red? Three acre wood? I’m not sure where to begin.

  19. agentmom says:

    I’m a parent (in the city) and also a teacher. I deeply believe in the old adage, “…it’s dangerous to let your kid climb a tree, but more dangerous not to…” To allay fears of the parents of children I teach, I have done extensive research on kidnapping, molestation and abduction and can definitively say that it is wildly unlikely that strangers abduct children from public places, and that, as has been said, it is much more likely that these acts are perpetrated by someone the child knows. Children in the city are statistically safer because of their close proximity to emergency services. I feel like I have found several sane parents here… and my parental methods /opinions have been validated in ways that are rare. If you can’t trust your instincts about this try reading either book titled “Culture of Fear” (there are two) and check out the chapter in Freakonomics called “How to raise a perfect parent.”

  20. agentmom says:

    Oh, and another thing. Confidence in letting your children wander does seem to be related to issues with comfort with diversity. That is, in more homogenous populations people have greater confidence that they can predict other’s behavior. In communities that are polycultural, people tend to feel less able to predict what would happen to their child, who they would meet, how they might help, etc….
    This actually seems like an even better reason to allow our children to “mix it up” if you ask me.

  21. Tenn says:

    @Tammie 70,
    I’m glad your lifestyle works for you and your family. I’m glad I have a different sort of lifestyle for my own self.

  22. Antinous says:

    However, when retirement comes, remember us. Our children will be the ones who make your retirement possible.

    Also the ones who make a tropical vacation in Newfoundland possible. Let’s not be quite so glowy about having lots of children.

    As an only child, I’ve lived with a variety of roommates, ranging from only children to one of twelve. My experience has been that only children have far more functional skills like cooking, cleaning and managing money than children from large families. When the litter is large, the cubs don’t always learn to hunt as well.

  23. Anonymous says:

    When my own kids were in elementary school, like back in the late 70′s or early 80′s, they caught a city bus from the nearby bus stop to the bus stop near their school, and ditto back home after school. Neither parent accompanied them to the bus stop nor met them when they came home. One day I remember coming home from work to find my wife filling in some forms. “What are those?” I asked. “Oh this is from school, we have to let the school know what route the kids take to and from school.” “But there are any number of possible routes, depending on whether they catch bus X or bus Y. Do we have to list all possible routes?” “No, we have to choose one course, and the kids have to stick to that fixed route,” she replied.

    She had to restrain me from going to the school to give them a piece of my mind. I was very displeased that the school wanted to restrict my kids to one fixed route. If bus No. X would be along in a couple of minutes but bus No. Y wouldn’t be along for another half hour, why should they have to wait the extra half hour? It didn’t make sense. But when seen from today’s practices, even that would probably seem liberal.

  24. Antinous says:

    Parents should be allowed to make their own choices on how to raise their children.

    I, conversely, am utterly opposed to the doctrine of parental rights. Children are not possessions. They have the right to be raised in a sane and safe manner. If parents fail to do that, they should lose their children and their freedom.

  25. Jake0748 says:

    I’m not sure where to begin either. But one of the first things that came to my mind was to wonder, since this is your first comment post here, whether the whole thing was just a long piece of spam for your organic cosmetics company?

  26. cybertoast says:

    I just spent 4 months in India, and it’s interesting to see the stark difference between the over-protective (generally upper income) and the non-protective (lower income) parents. The trend towards the over-protective world-wide is really rather disturbing and I’m glad that someone is making the effort to go “free-range” on their kids.

    The problem, of course, is that one free-range kid getting hurt is all it takes for the knee-jerk reaction that these parents are irresponsible and negligent and then there’s the lawsuits and morality police and all the other associated nonsense.

    Ah well, at least a few kids get to have fun :)

  27. Takuan says:

    drat! some”Iconclast” beat me to it:

    “I once had a client who tried to adapt a breathalyzer ignition lock from his car to his computer keyboard, hoping to prevent himself from sending late night emails to an old girlfriend and embarrassing himself beyond shame when sober reality returned the next morning. Had he been successful, he would have found a ready market among certain public officials who appear guilty of writing under the influence of hubris and making themselves appear foolish.”

  28. huntsu says:

    Free Range Kids has only two posts in its 12 days of existence! However, I put it in my feed list and am hoping for some good stuff. Especially since I need to convince my hubby to lighten up on our brood!

  29. Tenn says:

    @Antinous 73,
    Who decides the sane and safe manner?

    “Home, home — a few small rooms, stiflingly over-inabited by a man, by a periodically teeming woman, by a rabble of boys and girls of all ages. No air, no space; an understerilized prison; darkness, disease, and smells.”

    “What suffocating intimacies, what dangerous, insane, obscene relationships between the members of the family group! Maniacally, the mother brooded over her children (her children) … brooded over them like a cat over its kittens; but a cat that could talk, a cat that could say ‘My baby, my baby,’ over and over again… ‘Yes,’ said Mustapha Mond, nodding his head, ‘you may well shudder.’”

    “‘Stability,’ insisted the Controller, ‘stability. The primal and the ultimate need. Stability. Hence all this.’ With a wave of his hand he indicated the gardens, the huge building of the Conditioning Centre, the naked children furtive in the undergrowth or running across the lawns.”

    Mister Aldous Huxley,
    Brave New World

    It’s terrible when I can reach out and pick up my choice of an Orwellian text without even standing. I have too many of them.

  30. Robbo says:

    I’m a strong proponent of the “5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do” – and am proud to have already done 4 with my son … I don’t drive so the car thing is up to his mom.

    As a writer and producer of children’s television for many years it was continual battle agains the forces of absurdity in attempting to depict “normal” kid behaviour. What the television gatekeepers always sought would have made Diana Moon Glampers almost smile. When it comes to children I’m definitely in the camp of Carlin.

    Looking forward to more from Skenazy.

    Cheers.

  31. squeeziecat says:

    I have been using the phrase “free range kids” for years to describe my parenting style (I have even committed it to print several times with full awareness that it is considered “odd”).

    FYI – at this moment, there are 3 children outside jumping on the trampoline AT THE SAME TIME AND I”M NOT EVEN WATCHING THEM! not only that, they walked to the store and back – a 1 mile trip – ALONE! and one of them skateboarded without supervision!!!

    they are smart and cautious and have had the opportunity to learn things by actually experiencing them first hand. they’ll be just fine.

  32. Antinous says:

    Not beating them, fucking them or subjecting them to pathogenic verbal abuse would be a good start. But seriously, when the religious fanatics breed like lemmings and home school their children to be right wing warriors, we’re cooked. Fox News likes to show Islamic children being trained as terrorists in madrasas, but it’s happening in the US with Christian children as well. Germany was liberal in the 20s. Beirut was once the Paris of the Mediterranean. Nations can turn to explicit fascism in a decade. Do parents have the right to indoctrinate their children to be extremists?

  33. Wickedashtray says:

    Plus Free Range kids cook up nicely on the grill if they are marinated with some vinaigrette and leeks.

  34. Takuan says:

    not if you want a society larger than a cult.

  35. planettom says:

    I see a lot of commenters here either patting themselves on the back for their childhood being so much more rough and tumble than today’s kids…

    …or gearing up to throw some scorpions into their kid’s bedsheets as a learning experience.

    I would point out though that I don’t think age 9 is really the problem. It’s when the kid is age 12-15 (and beyond) and the parents are still driving them everywhere instead of having them ocasionally use public transport or walking that’s the problem.

  36. Takuan says:

    Really Antinous? That seems counterintuitive. Wouldn’t only kids get all done for them and be more dependent and large families create independence since there would never be enough parent to go around?

  37. Remez says:

    I think part of the issue is worrying about things that are, statistically speaking, not an issue. For instance, my older kid started walking home from school alone when she was 10. This was about a mile along a busy suburban street with sidewalks. Other parents, worried, would call me to ask if she needed a ride home. Their worry was that she would be kidnapped or put upon by some predator. My worry was that some idiot driver wouldn’t see her when she was crossing a street. I didn’t want her going free-range until I could see that she was making sure to catch the eye of a driver waiting to make a turn right into her path.

    We were told by a teacher that we were “very brave” for letting our 5th grader take public transport to and from school. Sigh. And based on what I’ve heard from my kids, other parents are similarly astounded that they are allowed to go to the park and to the local mall without a parent.

    Speaking of statistically significant risks: having multiple people on a trampoline is not a good idea.

  38. koolkev says:

    I have no kids as of yet, but when I was young my parents let us do things that we probably shouldn’t have, nothing illegal, but that helped me learn a lot. I had a friend who lived behind me who’s mother never let him out of her sight. He ended up killing himself as a teen after I moved away. I often wonder if the overprotectiveness left him with a feeling of no escape. They had a small front yard less than 30 feet wide but with a steep hill. When we were 8 or 9, if he was barely out of site at the bottom of the hill his mom would come out to tell him to come up the hill.

  39. Sister Y says:

    PlanetTom, very true about patting ourselves on the back – I like to play “Back when I was a kid . . . ” with my grandmother, who lived through the Great Depression, and I sometimes beat her!

    Takuan, stalking commenced, thank you. Also I’m totally making that recipe tomorrow (kosher-keeping friends over tonight).

  40. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Okay,one more.
    Many parents strive to succeed economically so they can provide for their own children what they themselves lacked. Perhaps out of the same impulse they seek to provide protection for their kids from what harmed or frightened them when they were young. Overcoming this may involve not accepting potential new risks for the kids but getting over old risks to themselves.
    Say, isn’t it past time for someone with kids to dive in and categorically disqualify the opinions of all non parents in this thread? They’re always lurking somewhere…

  41. Takuan says:

    good luck Sister, it’s totally delish. I recommend a decent champagne to go with if it is a seduction meal.

  42. Takuan says:

    I posted this on the nine year old riding subway thread, but I think it apposite here

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067959/

    further, I recommend an old Japanese animation: “Hotaro no Hakka” or “The Grave of the Firefly”

  43. Takuan says:

    Pan’s Labyrinth, Tideland, The Professional….
    even Badlands after a fashion….

  44. Takuan says:

    the little girl in the red coat in Schindler’s List, the little boy in Life Is Beautiful…..

  45. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Toby in the film Sweeny Todd

  46. Jake0748 says:

    Huntsu @2, There are only two posts, but almost two hundred comments on the blog. I read them and most are supportive, some very inspirational. You should check them out.

  47. Takuan says:

    have to rent that one yet

  48. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    “Back in those days you could buy dynamite” is the start of one of my stepfather’s many stories about growing up on a farm. It’s one of the places you’re most likely to have free rein and ample opportunities for tragedy. Most farm kids survive unscathed despite experiences that would make urban parents faint dead away. I have no children so it’s easy to say that I’d take a permissive attitude, but if it was my own flesh and blood at risk I might be just as protective as the worst of the isolationist parents.

  49. Sister Y says:

    Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver

  50. Takuan says:

    careful, don’t get Antinous going

  51. Tenn says:

    I was not a Free Range kid. Most of my ‘dangerous’ experiences were never mentioned to my parents who would have flipped over them. Therefore, when I did escape to friend’s places with permissive-r parents and do stupid shit, I was much more wild and foolish about it.

    Did your stepfather wear an onion on his belt Ross?

  52. lrivers says:

    It’s sad, I’m in my mid-forties and I remember only seeing my parents at the beginning and end of the day in the summer time, coming home exhausted, filthy, scratched and HAPPY. Americans live in such FEAR. Most child abductions/abuse is at the hands of family members not “predators” (though they do exist and it’s awful when they do strike, but I don’t think the price our kids are paying is worth the “risk”).

  53. buddy66 says:

    I was a free range kid. I ranged so free and so far that when I was sixteen I sort of forgot to come back. And why did I do that? I was escaping from over-protectiveness.

  54. Takuan says:

    free range works best where everyone is about the same in income. You may find in societies that have extremely poor and filthy rich that those with money have a legitimate fear of kidnapping.

  55. Jamie Sue says:

    My son will be five soon. He never leaves my sight. Some days (the tough days) I’m afraid to let him go into the kitchen or bathroom alone. We don’t go anywhere outside without holding hands. Of course, my son has autism, and is unable to appreciate the concept of danger in the same way that you, I, or a typical five year old would. For instance – having burned himself on a hot pan, my child is still unable to understand that it is dangerous to touch a hot pan or any hot object.

    I dream of a day when my son is capable of being so independent as to ride the subway alone. I would be grateful for it. Many parents are so enraptured by thier media driven fears that they are unwilling to enjoy the tremendous good fortune they have recieved in having a typically developing child. Parents who overprotect thier children do so because they WANT to. On some level they must crave the sense of control that comes with being an overbearing force in thier child’s life. If they HAD gaurd every moment from real, not percieved, dangers to they would not be so thrilled at the task. I don’t begrudge any moment with my son, but I don’t understand other parent’s needs to constantly control a child who is capabable and willing to control himself.

  56. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Farms use(d) dynamite to clear stumps and rocks and occasionally beaver dams. Other hazards of farms: unshielded power machinery, toxic chemicals, tractor rollovers, grain silos, livestock, hay lofts and firearms. The dangers to a kid on a farm require no exaggeration.
    I grew up in a small rural town. Getting into trouble more serious than the mundane bicycle crash, fistfight or fall in the river required more imagination and better transportation than we could muster so our options for mayhem and damage were limited.

  57. boyvbar says:

    Cybertoast sez:

    “I just spent 4 months in India, and it’s interesting to see the stark difference between the over-protective (generally upper income) and the non-protective (lower income) parents. The trend towards the over-protective world-wide is really rather disturbing and I’m glad that someone is making the effort to go “free-range” on their kids.

    The problem, of course, is that one free-range kid getting hurt is all it takes for the knee-jerk reaction that these parents are irresponsible and negligent and then there’s the lawsuits and morality police and all the other associated nonsense.

    Ah well, at least a few kids get to have fun :)”

    I think what’s interesting is the class-based differences being drawn out here. It’s like the rich driving new minis and miatas because they have no need to carry objects, whereas trucks are sort of solely “functional” and for working classes. It seems like it may be partially an assertion of elitist autonomy: we don’t have to do this.

    It also, however, sounds cool as hell.

  58. Deidzoeb says:

    I agree with the sentiment of not being an overprotective parent, but my first reaction to the “Free Range Kids” blog is that it reminds me of an old Mad magazine joke survey asking you where you work, how much money you make, where you live, what days you’re planning to be on vacation this year, if anyone will be watching your house while you’re away, where you hide valuables in your house, and there’s a little square on the survey where you’re supposed to trace the shape of your house key.

    I don’t want to stir up UK-style “omg the pedophiles are everywhere” hysteria but can’t you just picture “Free Range Kids is having a big picnic fundraiser in Springfield park, right in front of the statue of Jebediah Springfield, sponsored by the Springfield Chapter of NAMBLA!”

    I’m sure Free Range Kids will have responsible advice. There’s some balance between overprotective and underprotective, and I thankfully don’t have enough parenting or even babysitting experience to know where the line should be drawn.

  59. BooBerry Bill says:

    Raising children is hard work. Just watch your damn kids. Wow “free range kids!” … Just supervise them … please don’t make lazy parenting a super new cool trend… jeez…

  60. Bookyloo says:

    When my grandfather was five years old, in the 1920′s, he went to Coney Island with his older brother and they got separated. My grandfather wandered around lost for a while, and eventually a man noticed him and asked if he was lost. When he said he was, the man asked, “do you know how to get home on the subway?” my grandfather said, “sure!” The guy gave him a nickel. And my five-year-old grandfather got himself home to Brooklyn from Coney Island on the subway.

    Judging from the man’s reaction, I’m assuming it wasn’t unusual, or that big a deal, for a kid to do something like that. However, history has not recorded the hiding that the allegedly “in charge” older brother got for losing a 5-year old on Coney Island.

    We grew up hyper-sheltered and protected, asthmatic and allergic to everything as a result. My brother’s kid is free-range, spends half her day playing with bugs and lizards behind the shed. But they live in Australia where free range kids are the rule rather than the exception. It’s a great thing, and inspiring to me.

  61. vespabelle says:

    My biggest fear while letting my kid out of my sight are the many cars that speed down our street rather then pedophiles and kidnappers.

  62. Dena says:

    OK, I’ll bite. Lived a nondescript life with no highlights, camping and fishing – learned how to kill the day’s catch with a rock, shot a rifle at birds a couple times, brothers terrorized local wildlife (in a small town) with bb guns. I have one child who is *sob* about to go to college. We live in a large city and she is the love of my life. Is she a city girl? Of course. Interesting though. I would LET her and encourage her to do some of those free range things, as many of her friends do, but she doesn’t want to. Is that a result of her upbringing? Or just because she’s a basically quiet kid? Is she a quiet kid because she’s an only child, or would that be her personality regardless? I find it an interesting topic. Sociology at it’s finest. I like to THINK I would encourage her, if we lived in NYC, to be able to and not be scared to take the subway on her own. I think that’s a pretty cool thing for a kid to be street savvy.

  63. zuzu says:

    Did I ever tell you to eat up? Go to bed? Wash your ears? Do your homework? No. I respected your privacy and I taught you self-reliance.

    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

    I think the vital importance of this has been completely lost on “helicopter parents”.

  64. mae says:

    I love this sight! As a homeschooling mom (not raising right-wing extremists, thank you very much)I am constantly being given advice on how to better raise my two children. For instance, my ten-year-old left her lunch at home on our weekly coop day. As it is her responsibility to bring it I informed that she could eat in an hour and a half when we got home. The other moms thought I was terrible for trying to teach her to be responsible. Guess what? She’s never forgotten it again. Another thing I hear all the time is about shoes. Our coop doesn’t allow flip-flops because the kids may trip when running around, so what?! I don’t remember falling all that much and I lived in flip-flops. I also let me kids pick their clothes and shoes year round. I have had so many moms suggest in late October that they should be wearing sneakers instead of crocs or flip-flops. Why? If they get too cold they’ll think harder about wearing that shoe the next day. Why should I dictate to a 10 or 8 year old what shoes to wear. I would rather save my battles for teaching them to be respectful, resourceful, helpful, kind, responsible,etc. Kids have to be given the freedom to make choices and make mistakes and learn from that. Don’t even get me started on the idea that competition hurts kids and no child should be singled out for exceptional behavior or achievement! That’s what kept me a straight A student all through school. Terrible! :)

  65. mckennagene says:

    This is brilliant.

    Thank you for giving a name to this. Free Range Kids it is.

    I have long said that “you can’t put up a web page saying we are a group of parents who think our society has a gone a little bit too far in the direction of safety. We are looking to form a group of like-minded parents who want to hang out, let the kids roam free in the fields behind our homes and tell them to simply be home for dinner.”

    You have proven me wrong. You can put up that page and people will respond. That’s awesome.

    I also loved the comment about the fact that today’s smaller families treat children as precious possessions and not interesting personalities. It explains a lot. When you only have two kids they have to be perfect and safe all the time. And between the two of them they have to be overachievers, fulfilling every dream their parents ever had (for themselves).

    Here is the real dilemma for me. I believe there is tremendous value in Free Range Childhood. I believe the odds of a “bad-guy” being in a neighborhood when kids are playing has not changed in 50 years, maybe 500 years. I believe I want my kids to be Free Range Kids.

    But (this is where fear is an isidious thing)
    Assume that 95% of kids are being watched by parents, and only 5% are Free Range Kids. The odds of your Free Range Kid being messed with are a lot higher.

    Also, when I was a Free Range Kid, there was a mom at every third house who knew who I was and she was home, all day long. Today, there are only three moms in my neighborhood who know my kids, and they are not likely to be home because they are driving their over-scheduled, over-managed kids to too many adult-overseen events.

  66. happyez says:

    As kids we played real cowboys and Indians on real horses

    > OMG! Didn’t you have your liability insurance before you approached it. Dangerous animal alert!

    and shot each other with .22 air guns.

    > Please don’t tell me you’re not part of the walking dead…please….

    We all carried a knife – no one got stabbed.

    > What about the amendment to the law passed a few years ago, that prohibited you from talking about wounds unless you filed a 34.6A supplementary form denying all responsibiltiies…..you didn’t think did you!

    We made weed killer

    > If it had 202 in it, you could have gotten autism from the preservatives. I’m amazed food wasn’t withheld from you!

    and blew up trees and garbage bins.

    > I hope you got yourself a working solar calculator and tallied the financial consequences before doing what you did, and discussed it with your ‘friends’ in a thoughtful, thorough and serious manner only. Though, numbers are fun in confined white walled padded roo
    .
    .
    .

    Reactive examples such are the one you have been reading is just one way in which our society has become risk-adverse.
    Stop it before it’s too late
    Purchase our pamphlet for 10c, and read how you can stop society falling into this hellhole, and by 1970, we might keep our freedoms.
    Do you bit for childhood! Stamp this behaviour out!

    (with apologies to Monty Python in my head)

  67. BeeBee says:

    #36
    Takuan, I need that device for BUI (bidding under the influence). Let me know if he ever perfects it and tell him to put it up on ebay and I’ll make sure to get one with buy it now. Especially if it late on Saturday night.

  68. oncogenesis says:

    I agree with the sentiment of not being an overprotective parent, but [...]

    FAIL!

  69. happyez says:

    “Where are the parents of these kids, and why don’t they know that their children are on my property smoking pot after school?”

    Nice and ordered sentiments made manifest, but hey, where’s your kids freedom to kiss someone of the same sex, take ecstasy, and generally shuck fit up?

    “Knowing myself, and lots of the crazies out there in the world, I decided that my children would be all about family. They have always been homeschooled. I don’t let them spend the nights out. We are very religious so parties outside of family and family friend gatherings are out of the question.”

    Well, the local chapter of the Fun, Diversity and Chaos/Order Balance Society certainly wont be booking any of your 11 rooms for meetings any time soon!

    “children that we approve of”
    Looking forward to 11 separate cases of rebelliousness at any time in the future, and the resulting REAL harm done to the self, all in the name of sticking a finger in your direction. Or a majority so repressed about being ‘right’, they mine as well get a job as a store manikin. Pays well I hear.

    Enjoy the real fruits of your parenting labour. Hmmmm delicious!

  70. ab3a says:

    As a father of three young children under the age of 10, let me say that most of the people commenting against “free-range kids” here have a very poor perspective of risk and reward.

    Part of the problem with the risk-reward calculation is that those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s came from larger families with four to six children. Birth control was less common. These days, a family with more than two children is considered large. More than four children is regarded as unusual. And yet I grew up in a family of five and my wife grew up in a family of six. See the contrast?

    I notice many parents regarding their children as precious possessions instead of interesting personalities. It’s not that I care for my children any less than someone who has only one child. It’s that we have to carefully plan our time with each of them because my wife and I are simply outnumbered. I have to teach them survival skills because I can’t give each of them individual attention whenever they might want it.

    In other words, the parents of families with one or two children often lose the perspective that larger families have. And this leads to a lack of understanding of who their child really is, and what they are capable of.

  71. NidSquid says:

    @#17 ab3a: That was a wonderful comment. Your perspective really helped me formulate some thoughts that I need to share with friends who recently became parents. They have become the uber-helicopters and they’re becoming almost unbearable to be around – I really have to say something but until I ran across your comment, I couldn’t seem to find the right words!

    My favourite line: “I notice many parents regarding their children as precious possessions instead of interesting personalities.”

    Bingo! Thank you!

  72. Deidzoeb says:

    RE: #17, AB3A, only-children and their parents hear this all the time, that we’re spoiled. My parents were pretty conscious about why they stopped at one child. Have four kids, you have to split your time and money and resources between four kids. Have one kid, it gets all your time and money and resources. That doesn’t seem like a “lost perspective” to me. It seems like good planning. If anything, people who decide to have many kids have lost perspective on the practical value that children used to have, helping out on farms from an early age, getting jobs at an early age, ensuring that one or two of them might survive childhood diseases, increasing the chance that one might take care of you when you get too old.

    Maybe I’m being cynical, but there were a lot of financial or practical motivations for having five and ten kids 100 years ago. The reason that tradition of large families has fallen off seems to be a matter of practicality. Having more kids won’t increase income or increase your farm’s free labor force within 5 or 6 years like it used to. Having another kid used to be a short term cost but a long term benefit. Now kids are all cost, short term and long term, and they’re likely to go off on their own when they’re old enough to work. Adult children are no longer expected to provide all the care for their elderly parents, so that benefit of having kids is lost. (Because our society is callous now or because no one can afford it?) It’s like you pay for all these kids and they split as soon as they can. You can’t really blame them if you live in an area where there are few good jobs. Again, have extended families lost their mojo because people don’t care about each other anymore, or because people have to find jobs in other towns and other states just to get by?

    For anyone who decides they want the luxury of having several kids, or even the luxury of supporting one child at this point, more power to them. Is my perspective lost because I have weighed the costs and benefits and decided not to have many/any kids? No.

  73. anaximander says:

    I remember at age eleven being mildly freaked out by my parents’ request that I leave a school group at the ROM, take toronto’s subway system downtown, and meet them for dinner (before going to a taping of the royal canadian air farce). The only thing that caused this was the fact that the subway shut down, and in an age before cell phones, I had no way to tell them I’d be late.

    They spent the better part of my teenage years leaving my brother and I alone on weekends, running off to business conferences – I think my parents’ friends nearly called family services. Now I’m 26, completely self reliant, and have had some pretty amazing experiences. I wouldn’t trade it for the world – unlike my friends whose parents gave them silly things like curfews, keeping them from seeing dawn over Niagara Falls :)

  74. Amber says:

    The parents in our small community would, one would think, allow children more freedom than city kids get. I thought so, until I saw all the cars dropping off the children at school. What ever happened to riding your bike?

  75. Takuan says:

    free range is not quite the right descriptor for my experience…. perhaps “feral”?

  76. ShaneBabylon says:

    I just find it funny that many of the parents out there today grew up in the freewheeling 70s like myself and yet somehow managed to become the most overprotective people on Earth.

    What good ultimately is it for our kids to make them afraid of the world? I think we are doing them a disservice by keeping them in their shrink wrap.

    I think it’s kind of sad in a way that the story of one woman in New York letting her kid ride the subway has garnered so much attention just by the fact that she doesn’t want her kid growing up in a bubble. It should be the rule and not the exception.

    Just my two Lincoln heads.

  77. ab3a says:

    @#52 DEIDZOB: Sorry, I think you misunderstood what I was getting at. I’m talking about trends and you’re taking what I said personally.

    I dispute the notion that the calculation was strictly financial for larger families in the 60s and 70s. I think it had more to do with the new options for birth control not yet becoming popular in families. Nevertheless, your point is valid: Given the safety and availability of birth control, this is a strong motivation toward having smaller families.

    In any case, the notion of the helicopter parent is a relatively new thing. When children from larger families outnumbered the one and two child families, there was a certain social reality that is not present in today’s society: People used to look after each other’s children. They had to. Parents couldn’t be everywhere at once.

    My wife and I would probably be financially independent now, were it not for our children. However, when retirement comes, remember us. Our children will be the ones who make your retirement possible. Or you could do what the Europeans are trying: Bring in a large stream of immigrants to make up for the shrinking population. Then they have to hope that they assimilate enough to keep supporting the country’s social programs in to their old age (I wish them the best of luck with that, because I’m afraid there is a good chance they’re going to need it).

  78. ab3a says:

    @#18 NIDSQUID: Thanks, but I didn’t come up with this observation myself. It comes from seeing the cousins and school kids my children play with and what sorts of homes they live in. And I’ve noticed that the more children there tended to be in the family, the more well behaved most of them were.

    Oh, and having a very bright sister-in-law who brings helicoptering to a new level is very instructional too. The rest is pure extrapolation from what my wife and I had had to learn and do after our third child was born.

    It’s amazing what kids can teach you…

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