A Gated Community. A 6-year-old Outside for a Moment. Safe?

Hi Folks — Here’s a nice story from Leslie in Georgia, and a response from her friend that has me shaking my head. Is NOTHING safe enough? NOTHING? Not the most normal, delightful, sane, sweet  slice of childhood, as dangerous as a daisy? To many Americans, the answer is simply nope, nothing IS safe enough. Next question please. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Wanted to share a quick Free Range victory…
Background: we live in a gated “country club” community, on a quiet street off the main avenue. There are very few kids on our street for my six-year-old to play with, but recently I’ve met a mom on our street who has four kids– one two weeks younger than mine.
Yesterday, my son and I were walking home from his tennis lesson when we saw a few of these kids–unsupervised!!– in the yard four houses down from our house. They looked to be having fun, and I asked my son if he wanted to stay and play. He looked apprehensive and told me, “I don’t know, it’s getting late!” (It was 5 p.m.). (I know– when I was a kid, this would have been a completely normal thing to do, but you know how it is these days!) The other six-year-old ran inside to ask his mom if James could stay and play, and soon Mom came out and said it was fine. I cheerfully waved to my son and told the other mom just to send him home (ALONE! UP THE STREET–FOUR HOUSES!) in an hour. I was a bit nervous… she would either say, “Okay, great!” or she would go inside and call Child Protective Services.
I held my breath and waited.
She paused. Then she said, “Okay!” I trotted back to my house and began getting dinner ready…in peace and quiet… knowing my son was actually playing outside down the street. It was fabulous– for both of us.
A few minutes after six, I saw a strange car go up by my house and I paused… did someone grab my kid on his way home? I knew the odds were likely on par with his being attacked by zombies, but the thought still crossed my mind. Mad at myself, I called the other mom just to tell her to shoo him home. She said, “They had a great time, he should be about back by now.” Sure enough… he was trotting through the front yard, sweaty and smiling. He made it. I told the other mom and she said she was glad to know he was back. I don’t know if she thinks I’m nuts or if she thought I’d taken a risk or if she’s Free-Range or not… but a good time was had by all, no one was abducted, and my son LOVED coming home on his own. And I can’t wait for our next opportunity!
But…I told a helicoptering friend of mine about his four-house-walk, and she told me I was crazy. “Oh my GOODNESS,” she said. “You just kill me. Anything could have happened!”
Something did! My son now has a bit more confidence and a new friend.  - Leslie
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Gated but…is it safe enough?

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