Did you hear about the 10-year-old who rode his bike across the George Washington Bridge toÂ New York City?!
He says he, “pedaled twenty miles down unfamiliar roads and busy streets, past neighbors and strangers, out into the unknown….I didnâ€™t need help form anyone. It took me all day, but I found the way and did it myself.”
Later on, this independence seems to have served him well.
He went to theÂ moon.
name is Buzz Aldrin, and that’s a passage from the autobiographyÂ he wrote to inspire kids.
Better not inspire them too much. Last week we all heard about Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, the suburban Maryland parents visited by both the cops and CPS for letting their kids, 10 and 6, walk a mile home together from the local park. The cops scooped up the kids halfway through their journey and delivered them home in a cruiser. CPS threatened to take them away if the dad didn’t sign a “safety plan.” Â The parents Â will find out Tuesday what Child Protective Services intends to doÂ to themÂ next, for the crime of allowing their children independence.
“We all have our own dreams. This is the story of how mine came true,” Buzz wrote. It began with a glorious bike ride on his own.
What do you suppose would’ve happened if the cops had hauled him home half way and forced his parents to sign a “safety plan?”
Â Download a free Free-Range Kids membership card for your kids here.Â
For all the paronoid masses, I will get them out of the way now. Different time, safer then, less traffic, blah blah blah.
Yes Buzz was an exceptional kid, who became an exceptional man.
This does not prove that allowing independance leads to kids becoming exceptional adults, but it does make you wonder what denying that independance will stifle, and what kind of people we are creating.
Have you seen the remake of Annie that just came out? They depict her as a 10-year-old in 2014 New York City (the new One World Trade Center is copiously featured in many shots, and the setting is very trendy). She bikes and runs and takes the subway all over NYC by herself, and even interacts with government bureaucrats alone! This is NOT depicted as criminal or the way she has been neglected as a foster kid; rather, her neglect is educational (it turns out she hasn’t actually learned how to read). Maybe free range parents should latch on to this contemporary example of what neglect is and is not.
> … safer then …
Statistics disagree, now is safer 🙂
Well, at least the CPS’s writ doesn’t extend to the moon.
@Warren–If there’s more traffic now, a lot of it is because parents drive their children everywhere now, even two or three blocks to school “because there’s too much traffic and it isn’t safe.”
If it took him all day, he must have got(ten?) lost quite a few times…!
@Emily: Buzz Aldrin was 10 in 1940. I don’t think the *only* reason there’s more traffic now is because of parents driving their children…
Story Musgrave (another astronaut) has similar stories about his childhood independence and expectations of being able to help with the activities of the farm at an early age. He readily admits that his childhood was not idyllic due to alcoholism. But, he was also afforded a freedom that allowed him to roam and explore and discover his world. I do have to wonder if this is a common theme among the astronauts. If it is, it bodes poorly for our future space program.
I knew a four year old who wanted to see his daddy one work day so he snuck out of the house when he was supposed to be napping, walked to the train station. Got on the train to the city with an oblivious adult (kids ride free). Sat behind the adult and pointed to her when asked where his mommy was. Walked from the train to the bus, got on the right one (again pretending to belong to an oblivious adult). Got off at the right stop, walked to his father’s office building and was caught because he couldn’t reach the elevator button for his father’s floor. Security brought him to his father and he spent the rest of the day being passed around the building learning what all the occupants did for a living.
I also knew a six year old who walked 20 miles (with his pet German shepherd) from his new home to his old one, through the worst parts of the city because he was unhappy with living in the suburbs.
The parents were embarrassed, but not arrested, and both boys survived to adulthood and are doing quite well for themselves.
After talking about the Maryland couple with my father (born in the early 40’s) over the weekend he even uttered the dreaded “it’s a different time now, it’s not as safe”.
I proceeded to aid his Libertarian leanings in how to not believe such claptrap, he was more upset at the government agency telling people how to raise their kids. Which is as it should be. Let parents be parents.
CrazyCatLady, I had the exact same thought… that maybe this safety craze has done as much to stifle the space program as have economic factors and whatever else.
When did we last do something really different in space exploration? not since before the OMG-danger mindset took over child-rearing.
Buzz Aldrin isn’t alone. Look at other strong, independent, and highly successful individuals.
Teddy Roosevelt only grew into the man he became once he escaped from the cocoon of wealth and illness that surrounded him, and forged his own path.
One of India’s wealthiest men writes how his father “tested” him by dropping him off at a gas station in America to find his way back to the hotel where they were staying.
Australian artist, director and film maker Bazz Lerhman told how how his father would pretend to “abandon” them in the outback to walk home.
Now, I’m not advocating such extremes. But kids need to experience independence to grow.
“When did we last do something really different in space exploration? not since before the OMG-danger mindset took over child-rearing.”
Even so often I think about the fact that for most of human history walking on the moon was something that was supposed to happen in the future.
Now it’s over 40 years in the past. Not something being done in the present. The past.
I had a very unsettling and sad encounter the other night. At a party I was having a conversation about letting my kids do on their own and when it’s ok to leave a 9 year old home alone for periods of time. The person I was conversing with is a brilliant, retired intellectual property attorney, physicist and engineer. He has used data all his life. But when I cited facts and statistics to support my assertions, he absolutely would not believe them. When I told him that factually kids in this country are FAR safer than they were 50 years ago, he just could not accept it. That, I’m afraid, is the crux of the problem nationwide.
I recall hearing that one of the ways NASA selects their astronauts is to ask about their childhoods. Free Range raised make better problem solvers which is critical when in space with limited resources. I believe it for separating the well qualified candidates and narrowing down the field.
I’m trying to remember where I heard this. It may have been from “Spaceman Dan” who spoke at a conference I attended.
Well if space isn’t the ultimate free ranging….
I just wonderd if the family is going to file suit against those ninkapoops. Signing under duress, strange use of the law, overstepping the rights of the child. How is it that any child in the street can all of a sudden be taken into custody? How does that not break some really basic laws.
When I was 10 I would ride my bike 5 miles along the highway to visit friends I went to school with. My kids don’t even know how to ride a bike.
Over the long MLK weekend, my 4th grade (9 year old) daughter had her 2 BFFs over for a “playdate” ( hate that term!). I got the other parents to bring the kids scooters over and agree to let the three girls scooter off to the playground at the schoolyard where the kids go to elementary school. My daughter has been walking to school on her for 2 years but this is the first time she was off to play there without parental supervision. The girls had a great time and arrived back at the house a couple of hours later. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of more to come! If I can just get the other parents on board!
I think being an astronaut would be incredibly cool. And hard work, at least to get into the programme. But, playing devil’s advocate here, I’m unsure how you could describe it as free range, because surely of any job this is one of the most heavily supervised? For good reason, of course, but it’s not as if you can just willy-nilly flit about in space where you want to. .ðŸ˜Š
Speaking of the past . . . and even tho my Dad was the most honest and straightforward person I ever knew . . . this may be hard to believe, but . . . in about 1928 his Boy Scout troop in suburban New York wanted to take a trip to Washington, DC. Didn’t have enough money. Troop leader assembled them by the highway and, one by one, or maybe 2 by 2, they hitchhiked to DC. Met at a predetermined place. Everyone was OK.
PS this is not to say that hitchhiking is OK. That’s where I do draw the line, even for adults.
Does anybody here know who Johnny Sheffield was? He was the child actor who played “Boy” in the old Tarzan movies of the early 1940s. Johnny was born in 1930 and was sickly as a baby and young child. So his father FORCED him to vigorously exercise for the purpose of making him healthier and pushed him hard at it too. It obviously paid dividends because as anybody could plainly see, Johnny was a picture of health and had a pretty good physique on him for an 11-year-old kid wearing that loin cloth in the old Tarzan movies! The kid was fast and strong and even though he could not swim (Johnny Weissmuller taught him), it procured him the role of “Boy” and made him a legend.
Well today, Johnny’s father would be arrested for child abuse because he pushed him so hard physically, even though the vigorous exercise made him healthier and got him a leading role in the Tarzan movies. Of course, those kind of payoffs would be a moot point to Child Protection Services who see EVERYTHING as child abuse.
And we wonder why American kids nowadays are fatter and have less endurance than their parents had at their age.
BTW, Mr. Sheffield died in 2010 at the age of 79 from a heart attack after falling out of a tree he was trimming in his backyard.
“But, playing devilâ€™s advocate here, Iâ€™m unsure how you could describe it as free range, because surely of any job this is one of the most heavily supervised? ”
The job itself is not very free range in that sense. But I don’t think a helicoptered child could possibly be a successful astronaut, between the insulation from risk and the lack of opportunity to think outside the box, neither of which are conducive to an astronaut’s selection, let alone performance.
Also, back in Buzz Aldrin’s day, of course the space missions were supervised, but they were also “on their own” hundreds of thousands of miles from earth if something went wrong. To get a sense of how a moon flight could be considered “free range,” watch the movie Apollo 13, which is mostly true to history.