Free Range Childhood…

Candice eetimesWhen my daughter Liz was ten years old, I would pick her up from school and take her directly to the ice rink where she could skate and I could sit in comfort and occasionally glance through a window from the warm lobby to see her zooming backwards at high-speed to throw herself into the air to perform a double mumble-mumble. (I could never keep the moves clear in my head.  They all looked the same to me.)  I usually read a book while Liz was on the ice.  Every now and then she would zoom up to the window, tap on it to get my attention so she could show off to me.  A happy child doing happy kid things.  Life was good.

Then one day, a woman a few years younger than me came up and angrily demanded that I, “do something about” my daughter.  I glanced up from my book, searching through the throng of mostly pre-adolescent girls on the ice until I spotted Liz, chatting and playing with another little girl… whew!  For a moment, I thought that Liz had perhaps gotten into a fight with another child or hurt herself.  I turned back to the woman and asked what she was so agitated about.

“Your daughter is distracting mine from her practice!”

Oh boy… an “ice skating mom”… you know the type, living out their dreams of athletic and artistic narcissistic glory through their children.

“What I see is two little girls doing what kids that age should be doing, playing, socializing, learning how to make friends.”

Off the woman huffed, put out by my total lack of concern or sympathy.

That was decades ago.  Today, not only are parents totally controlling every moment of their children’s lives and thoughts, our neighbors are turning us into the authorities if we too do not hover over our children, never letting them out of our sight for a moment, never letting them be… like kids used to be… kids.

Older adults can remember walking or riding their bike to school alone.  Playing in the park with their friends while their parents were at work or at home.  We used to play with the neighbor kids down by the creek, in a tiny copse of trees and brush, get our shoes squishy wet catching pollywogs in a jar with nary an adult in sight.  If we got hungry, we dropped in on any one of our parents houses for cookies and milk before running out to toss a frisbee or jump rope in the suburban street.  The boys would be playing baseball with a light bat and a taped up ‘wiffle-ball’.  (The wiffle-ball, if you don’t have such memories, was a plastic ball with holes in it so light that it could never break a neighbors windows… but because of the holes, they couldn’t be thrown very far, so the boys would tape them up with black electricians tape to make them more aerodynamic and a tad heavier.)

Sometimes, an ice cream truck would come by… and kids would haul out their dimes from their pockets to get a treat… and we didn’t have to ask permission from our parents.

But today’s kids will never have these memories unless this horrid practice of over supervision of every moment of their lives isn’t countered with a counter movement back to sanity… cause as it is now… parents are afraid that the neighbors will call the police and child protective services if they so much as let their kids play in the front yard alone.

Hurray for Utah.  (And I never thought I would be happy about anything that came out of that homophobic state.)  They have specifically made a law that allows kids to be kids.  The “Free Range Parenting” movement, which is really just a return to the type of parenting that was the norm before the past two decades, has finally pushed back against the “stranger danger” and “oh my god your child can’t walk to school alone like that” fear mongers.  Hurray for Utah.

Now, let’s see this same sanity return to the rest of the Western world.

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