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All posts in 2009

Hi Readers: This letter is from a woman whose mom was way more helicopter than most — an extreme case. Nonetheless, it’s a cautionary tale and she sent it here to endorse the Free-Range movement. Here’s wishing the writer, and her mom, a very happy and  liberating 2010. Lenore

Dear Free-Range Kids: I really wish that I had a free, happy childhood memory to share, but I don’t.  I grew up in the ’80s and my mother was obsessed with keeping my brother and me “safe.”  She was a total helicopter mom, even though that term wasn’t used then.  She watched us every second she possibly could.  I was never allowed to go over to any friends’ homes because their parents could be child molesters.  My mom didn’t like other children in her house, so they weren’t allowed to come to our house, either.  She was a bit more lenient with my brother because he’s a boy and I’m a girl, but not much.

My brother and I grew up confined to our back yard and had only each other as playmates.  Eventually, I stopped going outside completely, pretty well bored of the tiny yard.  I was a stereotypical fat kid.  My mom wouldn’t even let us go very often to play with our own cousins, thinking that they were too “rough.”  Every newspaper item regarding a child that had been abducted, raped, or murdered was thrust into our faces with the same phrase, “See?  Next time you want to complain, you should think about this kid!”

I love my mother very much, and she did teach me many things that I am forever grateful for, like the value of a dollar (I’m the only cousin in our family who has never had a problem with credit card debt) and how important reading is (she never denied me any book I ever wanted to read).  The lesson I could have done without?  That every person you meet will probably try to hurt you in some way.

I am now 26 years old and I have never had a real friend. I am very grateful that I am alive today and have never been seriously injured, but it sure seems like there was an awfully high price to pay in order to guard against something that seems so unlikely to me now that I am older.  I can’t completely escape her influence, and I may never be able to.  I hope that this website can reach many parents and show them how to let their kids have more freedom.  I’ve never had a serious physical injury, but I’ve had all kinds of emotional illnesses.  I think I would rather have had a few more bumps and bruises. They heal a lot quicker.

Hi Readers! Let us help this mama-to-be, who is being driven crazy by all the obsessive, micromanaging pregnancy advice she’s getting from all sides, especially her cyber-friends. What I try to remind folks — pregnant and not — is that if humanity required perfect on the part of its parents, there would not BE humanity.

It is only in the last generation or so that mothers-to-be have even known exactly which fingernail was being formed during which second of which trimester. Now that we do know, it’s very hard not to worry about it all, but we really don’t have to. I get so annoyed with the books that dictate what to eat, do, and buy every second from conception to delivery, as if one sub-optimal bite means we’ve ruined the kid, while nine months’ worth of  gold stars means our children will never have a bad hair day or low-paying job or obstructed view.

‘Taint so. Eat pretty well, get some sleep, and hope for the best, pregnant ladies.  It’s really not all up to you, and it’ll make you miserable if you think it is. — Lenore

Dear Lenore: How about a companion website: Free-Range Fetus? Because I had to go through medical intervention to  get pregnant (and had a doctor who provided very little help beyond the obvious), I have spent a great deal of time looking up pregnancy-related information on the internet. There, I have found that many people are obsessed with the ways in which they are endangering their children before they have even developed feet!

I am struggling to separate myself from the culture of fear that permeates every book I read and every website I visit. Why, today alone I have endangered my 15-week-old fetus by taking a warm bath, painting my nails green, eating Parmesan cheese that I’m not SURE was pasteurized, and struggling to install a new cable box (with the box balancing on my abdomen for a moment). And I will probably endanger it further in a few hours by  going to a Step class and allowing my heart rate to climb above 130!

I am terrified… if it starts now, where does it end? Is there any reassurance out there that leaving my bedroom and eating a variety of foods ISN’T going to cause catastrophic birth defects?

Yes! I’m reassuring you and I hope soon the folks who comment below will be doing the same thing! Part of Free-Ranging is accepting the fact that there is only so much control we have over our children’s lives — starting Day One. Sure, we do our best, but we realize that fate plays a hand, too.

Another key Free-Range concept is realizing that the current mania for making everything perfect is just that: a mania. There is no such thing as perfect — except some pregnancy books and “experts” who are perfectly annoying! — L

Hi Readers — This just in! A lovely story. Be of good cheer — it’s happening! — Lenore

Dear Free-Range Kids: This happened to me the other day. I was talking to a co-worker about how, as a child, my parents would send me to spend my summers with family in America… alone. I was an “UM” (Unaccompanied Minor) on the flights, which meant that a steward(ess) would meet me at the gate, take me to the plane, and plunk me down on my seat. When the plane landed, s/he would get me and walk me to my parents. While I was technically unattended during the 8 hours or so of the flight, it’s not like I could go very far!

Well, my co-worker was mind-boggled. “I won’t even let my daughter walk to the corner shop by herself!” I asked him why not. He gave the usual waffling of,  ”Well, you never know what could happen.” He talked about a couple cases of children who have been abducted. His examples were all from over a decade ago. So I told him about how the media works, how these things are so shocking that they are drilled into our consciousness because everyone talks about them, but that in actual fact they are very rare.

“But what if it happens to MY daughter? That something is rare is poor comfort for a grieving parent.” So I told him about confidence, about how letting kids take care of themselves a bit and do ‘grown-up things’ like walking to the corner shop prepares them far better for dealing with possible nasty situations. After all, I said, you don’t want to dump a sheltered girl at college!

He seemed unconvinced. He was stuck on the “what if.” But the great news is that a couple weeks later, he came into work beaming with pride and told us all about how he was running short on time that morning and desperately needed something from the corner store. So he gave his daughter money and let her go ahead while he finished getting ready. She bought what he needed (candy canes, as it so happens) and waited for him outside. When he finished getting ready, he drove by the corner store, picked her up, and off they went.

All he talked about for the next week or so was how grown-up his daughter was, and how proud of herself she was for accomplishing her little errand. Finally, a happy ending!

Hi Readers! This photo montage has been making the rounds. Thought I’d share it, too. I’ve seen it headlined, “Why Boys Need Moms,” and, “Why Boys Need Parents.” (As opposed to the post two below this one: Why Boys Need Lawyers.) Enjoy, but don’t bother to tell us that not all these pix are in good taste. We know.

Meantime, if you celebrate Xmas, hope it’s a merry one! Save those boxes for your kids to play with. — Lenore

Hi Readers and gollllly. Here I thought we’d cornered the market on commonsense. But according to the megasite Babble — and its wonderful list of the 50 top mommy bloggers — Free-Range Kids is the “Most Controversial” parenting blog of 2009. If you visit the Babble list, please feel free to click on the “I Like This Blogger” doodad next to our mention.

Maybe Free-Range is still a little controversial. But next year it’ll be the most mainstream.  – Lenore

….please read this amazing letter to the editor that ran in the Eastern Arizona Courier the other day. So glad it was forwarded to me. Voila:

Dear Editor:

I am writing this because I am tired of seeing young men’s lives destroyed.

Young men, there’s a real danger out there you need to be aware of that can destroy your lives forever. That danger is young girls wanting to be popular by dating older guys. You know the ones, those who want to be known as the girl with the more mature boyfriend. It may even be that her mother thinks it is kind of cute that her young daughter can attract an older boy. She may not even mind your spending a lot of time alone with her younger daughter or even your spending the night at their home. It may even be that this young woman is sending explicit pictures to you and your friends on her cell phone.

I know you are probably saying, “What is wrong with this? Her mother does not seem to mind my being with her daughter.” This, however, is where the danger lies. You see, it does not matter what this mother lets her daughter do. If you allow yourself to fall into the trap of being sexually involved with this young woman in any way, your life will be destroyed forever. It does not matter that you have not done anything like this in the past or that you are known to most people as a great young man who is a hard worker and loves his family. It does not matter that you have many friends you have helped and have been of service to. I say it does not matter because in the eyes of the law you have committed a very serious crime and will be treated as a dangerous criminal with no value to society.

You will soon be known by some new names. These are sex offender, predator, child molester or pedophile. People will start treating you differently. Your employer, who has always been pleased with your work performance, will bow to public pressure and tell you that you no longer have a job.

Oh, and you can forget about finding another job because everyone who does a background check on you will see that you have been arrested for a sex crime. The newspaper wanting a front-page story will run your picture and write about how you took advantage of this innocent little girl. Strangers will come up to you on the street and threaten you. Others will call you on the phone and taunt you. Law enforcement will discourage them from doing this but will do little to help you. You and your family will spend thousands of dollars defending you in court and paying for damages done to your vehicles by this young woman’s family.

If you are lucky, you may get only three to five years in prison, but you could get up to 50 years or more. Then if you are lucky enough to get out of prison alive and not warped by years of being around hardened criminals, you now get to register as a sex offender. Everywhere you go, your picture will be published in the newspaper so people will know to avoid you. If you are lucky, no one will harm you.

For the rest of your life, you will not be allowed to be with any females under the age of 18 without being supervised. You will not be able to go to a public park or swimming pool. You will not be able to see your children participate in school activities or sporting events. You will not be able to go to the toy aisle at Wal-Mart so your children can show you what they want for Christmas.

You will have to pay hundreds of dollars a month in probation and counseling fees for the rest of your life. You will only be able to work in certain jobs and live in certain neighborhoods. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

Hopefully, young men and you parents of young men will heed my warning and wake up to the danger that surrounds you. My heart goes out to those young men who have fallen into this trap, and to their families and friends who know their true characters.

Carol Chavarria

‘Tis Christmas Carol parody season. Here’s one of mine, below. For more — including “Text My Cell” to Jingle Bells, and “Frosty the Outsourced Snowman” —  check out ParentDish.com and Creators.com, my two other gigs!  (And I won’t tell you which one has the Tiger Woods Greensleeves song, “Whose Texts Are These?”) — Lenore

THE OCTOMOM SONG (TO “O TANNENBAUM”)
by Lenore Skenazy

O Octomom, O Octomom
You hear the patter, pitter
Like Jon and Kate
You, too, had eight –
Except in just one litter
It must be hard to keep them fed
And patty-caked and put to bed
O Octomom don’t call upon
Me when you need a sitter.

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