Here’s a note from a mom containing some common questions:
Dear Free-Range Kids: I would LOVE to allow my very active 11-year-old to go out and play like I used to. You are probably going to roll your eyes or heave a heavy sigh when you read my concerns, but here they are.
I don’t roll my eyes. I know it’s really hard to give kids a plain old childhood!
Things ARE very different than they were when I was a kid. For one thing, when I was a child, we lived on a block where all of the kids went to the same school, so we all knew each other. In my current neighborhood, the children go to many different schools. There are two public school options here and too many private schools to count, as well as homeschooling. If fact, it is so diverse, that one of the first questions I am asked by other parents I meet is “Where does you child go to school?” I doubt anyone ever asked my mom that; everyone knew that an elementary aged child in that neighborhood attended Johnson Elementary.
Note here: I know and agree that with kids going to many different schools it IS harder to get a local coterie together. That’s one reason I try to get ALL neighborhood kids to go to the local park at least on Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day. I’d suggest trying something similar on all Saturday mornings for the rest of the summer: Send a local notice that your kids will be at the park, and maybe that you yourself will supervise, at least the first time, giving parents a chance to drop their kids off.
Which brings me to another point, which is that when I was a kid, most moms were home during the day and they knew each other. No matter where the kids were, a parent was at least within distance of hearing any screams or shouts for help.
Where I now live, most families are two income which means that no adults are around. I wave at my neighbors as they pull in and out of their garages and that is about it. I don’t know them, or their kids.
This is something I hear this a lot — always framed this same way: When kids are screaming in pain or terror, there is no one around to help them anymore.
Our psyches and our kids would benefit if we broke the habit of framing childhood freedom in terms of only worst case scenarios. I really can’t one time as a kid when we were playing outside and something so terrible happened that we weren’t able to handle it. Most kids rise to the occasion when there’s a scrape, or someone forgets their lunch, or there’s a squabble. But our society insists we keep looking at childhood not just through the lens of risk — “What could go wrong?”– but through the lens of disastrous, unlikely, Sharknado risk. At which point, by the way, usually there’s some kid with a phone, or a stranger with a phone, who can call 911 if necessary.
And not to beat a dead horse, but there also seem to be lots of parents at home these days, because they work remotely. (Like me.)
I have posted messages on our Next Door Neighbor app, and either I am the only SAHM here or, if there are others, they are uninterested in getting to know each other. Also, when I was a child, my parents knew that they could count on the other adults around to hold the children to a standard of behavior that used to be common. Now, everyone has such diverse ideas about what is acceptable, there are adults who have actually encouraged and enabled my older children to do something that they KNEW we would be opposed to. That is the state of the “village” I am in. Suggestions?
Truly I understand your frustration, especially when you have been reaching out and getting radio silence. Is there maybe a way to get an article in the local paper: “Mom seeks other Free-Range Families”? Or maybe you can find some fellow Free-Rangers by trying my freerangefriend.com widget? It’s free. You just put in your Zip Code and see if there’s anyone else nearby. What if you volunteered to run one free day of end-of-summer “camp” at the local park and said anyone could drop off their kids? And then told the parents that if they want it to happen again tomorrow, one of THEM has to volunteer? Or they have to send a teenager?
And readers: If you have any solutions that have worked in your neighborhood PLEASE SHARE! The summer you save may be your own! L