Note From a Non-Free-Range 16-Year-Old

Hi Readers! This cautionary note just in:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I wish I had been raised Free-Ranged. What parents don’t seem to realize is that when your parents are constantly hovering, it’s like being told No You Can’t every single day.

I am sixteen years old. I am sixteen years old, I don’t drink, I don’t even LIKE parties, and I have never even seen a real joint. I am a straight A student who is currently taking more college courses than a college freshman. I am also, apparently, too irresponsible to ride my bike to school. Or to my best friend’s house (which is about halfway down my would-be bike route to school).

I had this really odd realization the other day. I noticed that when I go bike riding with my dad, I tend to be less competent than when I go by myself. The days when I do my homework without being told are the days when no one is there to tell me to do it. When there is someone there to “hover” over me and make sure I’m okay, I become less capable. One time, while riding my bike, I went past the “boundary lines” for where I’m allowed to ride, and instead explored another part of my neighborhood (by the way, my neighborhood’s definition of “youth crime spree” was when a kid spray painted a p***s on a fence two and a half years ago). When I decided to head back, I was able to remember which streets I had taken without a problem. This took me completely by surprise.

I think what happens for a lot of kids is that when our parents keep denying us the chance to look after ourselves, we eventually stop trying, which our parents see and take as evidence that we’re not ready yet.

44 Responses to Note From a Non-Free-Range 16-Year-Old

  1. pentamom September 6, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    This kid will have some handicaps to work against, but with this kind of self-awareness, he’ll be okay. It’s the kids who panic when Mommy isn’t there to figure out the course schedule that I worry about.

  2. Renata Bowers September 6, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    If ever there was a case of a 16 year old worthy of some trust (and some wings to go with those roots), it is this one. As pentamom said, with his extraordinary self-awareness, he will probably be a very together adult…despite some obstacles.

  3. KarenW September 6, 2010 at 10:10 pm #

    Dear 16-year-old: I am really amazed that you do not seem filled with fear about doing things on your own. Please keep up that attitude! Two years may seem very long to you, but it really is not that long. When you are 18, find a way to move out of your parents’ house, even if it is a struggle.

  4. Larry Harrison September 6, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

    Dear 16 year old. I’m a 41 year old father of 1 & 3 year olds. 3 months ago or so, found this site. I identify with its concepts so much.

    At any rate, I really feel for you. By comparison to your situation, at 15 years of age, while home at summer not working while my mother did, I started riding more than the 1 mile from home I had been doing. I’d ride 10 miles from home without a problem. I was itching to drive but couldn’t yet, so I started cycling. It was such a wonderful feeling of liberation that so excited me. I still cycle like that at times to this day.

    But you know what you can take from your experiences? You can learn now NOT to parent, the same as I learn from my experience a more sensible approach to situations like yours, and also how I, for example, make weekends as play-oriented as possible, because when I was a child it was work work work (chores usually) all weekend long, it seemed so anyway, and I hated it. I learned what I agreed with (being unshackled for longer bicycling at age 15) and what I didn’t (too much work on the weekends).

    In the same way, don’t forget how stifling the excessive limitations are making you feel now, and vow that you will parent your children differently when the time comes.

    But don’t hate your parents for it. Make a mental note of what you AGREE with too. Just hate the limitations imposed on you now & learn for it for when YOU have kids. If you do so, you will make a great free-ranger/parent when the time comes.

  5. Heather September 6, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    I grew up in Toronto, and I still live in the same complex. We have a valley behind our building. I grew up playing in that valley with no adults around. I loved it. We would explore that valley for hours. When I went bike riding we would go one streets we have never been before just to see what was there.
    When my daughter was small I would pick a mall and we would go explore it. With my son ( he is 6) we pick a playground in another neighbourhood and we go play. We will walk around the neighbourhood just to look.
    I send him out to play in the yard with his friends and I don’t go with them. I know this is shocking for some but how can he learn to handle situations by himself if I am there to solve them for him all the time.

  6. Molly Santa Croce September 6, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    Wow I love this post! What a discerning kid! Great to hear about “hovering” from the kids point of view. I will repost on FB…

  7. Steve September 6, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    Get a copy of the book:

    “DO HARD THINGS: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations”

    It was written by Alex and Brett Harris when they were 18 years old. They tell about The Myth of Adolecence – a relatively new category that permits teenagers to get by without being expected to do much of anything.

    I loved their story about David Farragut, the first admiral of the United States Navy! As a young boy, he was in the navy at age 10, and put in command of a captured ship at age 12. That’s right, given command of a captured British ship at age 12.

    Brett and Alex Harrris have a website:

    http://www.therebelution.com/

  8. tracey September 7, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    Good luck, hon. I hope you can remember how it feels to do things on your own so that when you leave home or go to college you will retain that ability and thrive.

    If a 16 year old isn’t capable of making some decisions for themselves, when ARE kids able?!?

  9. SKL September 7, 2010 at 12:15 am #

    Yes, this seems to be a very self-aware young adult.

    In the summer when I was 15, I had a babysitting job working 40+ hours, and I also was part of a gifted program at the county Vo-Ed school. The only way I could continue both was by riding my bike out to the Vo-Ed and back (alone, of course). This was about 10 miles round trip. There was never any question about whether I was “allowed” to do this. I simply decided and informed my folks and did it. I also began commuting to college full-time the following summer, at age 16. (I remember being offended that my mom thought I needed to live at home because of my age, but I now believe she was right about that).

    It really scares me to think that kids as old as 16 are not allowed to do basic things that prepare them for independence. In my view, they are practically adults, and they’ll be allowed to do anything they want within two years. Personally, I want my daughters to be well-versed in finding their way around and making important decisions at that age.

    Many parents believe that simply talking at their children is enough to prepare them to make wise decisions. The problem is, the kid never really understands what a “bad decision” is until he is free to make one and experience the consequences. After a few of those situations, all that family lore about the aunt who did something really foolish starts to really make sense.

    There’s a debate over at the mighty-mom site – well actually, it’s me against the world over there. The topic is: when can kids be allowed to “wander” (i.e., go out of their parents’ sight for any purpose). Most commenters feel children should be at least tweens before that is allowed. And we’re talking about just letting them go to another aisle in the grocery store! I mentioned that I let my 3.5-year-olds do some things like that, and nobody can believe it. In fact, they have decided I’m really a childless man, LOL! They also say that if they saw a preschooler going about his business unaccompanied, they would take hold of the child (which I think is outrageous) and page the parents or call the cops. I’m trying to make them see the light, but the tide is against me. (Not saying every 3.5-year-old is ready to go off alone, but I really think it’s a bad idea to wait until they’re old enough to start thinking about boyfriends!)

    To the 16-year-old who wrote the original post, I suggest you prepare to talk to your parents just like you “talked” to us – point out that you actually do better when drawing exclusively on your own instincts. (Obviously you want to couch this in the most “mature” terms so your parents will be open to it, and not use it as another proof of your immaturity!)

  10. Stacy September 7, 2010 at 12:24 am #

    This phenomenon is called “learned helplessness”. Being self-aware enough to escape it after an entire lifetime of conditioning is… difficult, and impressive.

  11. EricS September 7, 2010 at 12:39 am #

    Right from the horses mouth…per say. Youths of today and when we were that age have really changed very little. As this 16 year old has mentioned, when something negative is constantly put on you from the time you were born, it is all you will ever know. Unless you make changes for yourself. Which can be a real task for kids who don’t know how to. I really hope that helicopter parents open their eyes and see that they can do more harm than good with their over protectiveness.

    To the teen…if your parents can’t help you, trust in yourself to do the right thing. Sounds like you have a pretty good head on your shoulders, you recognize the issues, and your intelligent enough to make the right changes for yourself. If you have friends that have been brought up free-range, maybe you should spend more time with them and their parents. Maybe even get some advice from time to time from them. Not saying to cut your parents off, but rather see it like your now getting your car looked at by a mechanic, and not by a plumber who’s watched a couple of car shows on tv.

    It is sad though that there are plenty of children like 16 year old. That the people they should be looking up to, isn’t really there for them as they should be. I’m a product of my parents, aunt and uncles, and extended families. Plenty of positive reinforcement and support.

  12. talesofacrazypsychmajor September 7, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    @Stacy Learned helplessness is actually something a little bit different. It’s when so many horrible things keep happening that someone gives up trying to escape them because there’s nothing they can do to avoid having awful things happen to them.
    Whereas in this situation is more about feeling less capable when the safety net is there being over protective and therefore not needing to make the effort to handle things on their own.

  13. An Island Mom September 7, 2010 at 1:59 am #

    I know it’s a bit off topic, but “penis” is a medical term; no need to “bleep” it. Then again, maybe it’s *on* topic.

  14. Gina September 7, 2010 at 2:01 am #

    This makes my heart ache.

  15. Naomi September 7, 2010 at 2:08 am #

    Dear 16-year-old,

    Talk to your guidance counselor this year about college planning. Make it clear you’d like to go to college in another state (I would suggest at least a five-hour drive from home), and you would like to find a place that will admit with you with a merit scholarship that will cover costs if your parents decide not to pay it.

    You do NOT want to live at home through college and even if your parents are willing to pay for college, I think you should make some contingency plans in case they start attaching strings to their money (like, “you should live at home to save money!”)

    If you go to a small college and live in the dorms for a few years, that’ll give you some years where you have freedom but not a ton of responsibility, so you can ease into adulthood in a place where you don’t have to learn to cook, drive, hold down a job, etc., all at once.

  16. Hege September 7, 2010 at 2:17 am #

    Dear 16-year-old,
    I feel for you! Being told through actions and “Forbidden-signs” that you’re incompetent is a hard burden to carry.
    However, reading your post, it also strikes me that your tale could give even more fuel to those who believe in “always within eye-sight” parenting. When you write “I don’t drink, I don’t even LIKE parties, and I have never even seen a real joint. I am a straight A student who is currently taking more college courses than a college freshman”, for some people it sound like whatever your parents have done is a recipe for success. Having all those boundaries, will in their eyes be exactly what made you into such a fine young man.

    I’m truly hoping that’s not the part of the story that will stick.
    I’m the mother of a 17-year-old and a 13-year-old. My 17-year-old is pretty close to the above description. She’s a good student in the International Baccalaureate program, well rounded, speaks 4 languages fluently; doesn’t like alcohol – prefers having friends over to our house; doesn’t smoke and hasn’t tried joints yet, despite living in Toronto (and believe, me we’ve all seen them and know what they look like).
    And this is not the result of us keeping her under a glass jar for 17 years, rather the contrary. She walked to the bus stop for school at age 6; she came home from school alone and fixed herself lunch at 10; she started babysitting her sister at 12; moving on her own by subway at 11 (almost 12); travelled by plane alone at 15 (without the U.M.-sign) and took her first trip with a friend though Norway (3 days by bus and train) at 16.
    She’ll be leaving home in 10 months to go to University 6000 km away, and I’m fully confident she’s capable.

    P.S. I didn’t even realize I was a free-range parent until a couple of years ago, I just went about doing my thing, applying common sense, whatever culture I was living in.

  17. SKL September 7, 2010 at 2:30 am #

    I agree with Hege. I was a pretty free-range kid and I was (and still am) a tee-totaling, high-achieving prude! I had no desire to waste time and resources on foolishness when I saw a great future for myself. Sure, I tried some nonsense with other neighborhood kids / siblings when I was in elementary school (and out of my parents’ sight!). But I got all that out of my system at an early age. I remember when I was 11 or 12, seeing the light about some (relatively minor) things I’d done and actually going back and reimbursing stores I’d pilfered candy from, without my parents being any the wiser. Once (and only once) I got really angry and let a swear word fly at my mom. Then I came back and apologized and always felt strongly about respecting my parents after that. All of my free-range siblings had similar experiences – though some took a few more years to come around to wisdom.

  18. This girl loves to talk September 7, 2010 at 4:11 am #

    the problem is your parents will say that you are a A grade student, and dont like parties etc BECAUSE they dont let you out (which may or may not be true)

    I found out about the less capable part when I had a baby. My husband was recently unemployed and we would both pass the screaming baby back and forth with ‘I dont know what I’m doing, you try now”

    After 2 months he was finally out of the house and I had to rely on ME! best thing ever, and I found myself more capable. So thankyou for reminding me to let my little children do things on their own!

  19. This girl loves to talk September 7, 2010 at 4:23 am #

    @skl

    I let my kids out of my sight from about 3ish too. Helps that my 4 year old has older sisters to go with. I dont let them go far, but they do go to the next isle in the shops to choose something (my 9, 7, 4 year olds) they also play in the yard where I cant see them. I’ve also let my 9 and 7 year olds go to the park alone (about 3 blocks away) after I started reading free range kids and the let the kids go to the park day. I also frequently loose my kids at church :) They like to play around the building and garden afterwards. I feel like one of the few parents who never knows where their kids are…..which I sometimes feel bad about.

    My husband wants me to let our 9 year old ride the train to her grandma’s but I’m not ready for that yet :)

    and funnily enough I dont really think of myself as a free range parent. I go with my kids to school each day and talk to their teachers, we are fairly religious (so strict about alcohol – we dont drink, language, dress – must be modest etc, faith )

    I just think of myself as a mother of four who cant hover over everyone….. so If I am an example of free range (parents at school comment on ‘HOW RELAXED” I am (ie irresponsible) than it is truly sad….

  20. Emily September 7, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    @Steve – thanks for the site!

    @15 yr old wing-spreader (aka: OP) – thank you for reminding us that kids have brains and they need to be respected. Goodonya!

  21. spacefall September 7, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    On a related note, I was just reading that the stereotypical angst-ridden teenage years, which are actually relatively rare world wide, are significantly more common in westernized countries. The theory goes that teens are treated like children (or worse, like property!) here, whereas in other countries they gradually earn trust and are given responsibility. It used to be that way in western society, too — teens would be working, or apprentices, at the same age that we now debate whether or not the are responsible enough to bike to school.

    So actually, you, 16 year old poster, are at greater risk for acting out (though still not much) than you might have been as a free-ranger (though judging by your post, you’re off the hook on that one.)

  22. Linda Wightman September 7, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    I second Steve’s recommendation of the Harrises’ Do Hard Things. You don’t have to agree with them on everything (and I don’t) to recognize the importance of what they have to say about the curse of low expectations, and how teens can overcome it.

  23. Robin September 7, 2010 at 5:12 am #

    16-year-old, what would be the consequences if you began doing things more on your own? Without being rude or disrespectful, just let your parents know what you’re going to do, and then do it.

    I see three possibilities:

    – your parents say no. Do it anyways. If they ground you or take something away, fine. Continue doing what you feel you can handle responsibly. At some point (perhaps as late as your 30th birthday) they will come to grips with the fact that you are competent and capable.

    – your parents do not confront you because they are secretly relieved you can deal with things and they realize they now have more time to themselves.

    – your parents physically try to stop you. At that point, I would recommend a little of Dr. King’s civil disobedience. Go on strike – scholastically, athletically, and familially – until they crack.

    What few adults and even fewer children realize is that we are all free, if we are willing to take the consequences that come with our decision. The consequences of civil disobedience may be that you wreck your grades (or not, maybe you can do your homework in secret. What a rebel!) or delay your entrance into college. Has it occurred to you that you may not even want to go to college? Your parents will be furious, and they may accuse you of many things you aren’t – irresponsible, disrespectful, thoughtless, whatever. You might even counter these with a persuasive essay referencing strong sources on self-reliance, child development, and other topics.

    At the penultimate worst, you can survive for two more years, move out, and live life on your terms.

    At the very, extreme worst, you could even leave and declare yourself an emancipated minor. I wouldn’t. You’ve got enough stuff to deal with now. Just remember, it is an option.

  24. SKL September 7, 2010 at 6:05 am #

    From the time I was in my mid-teens, I used to periodically declare to myself that I was going to move out of my parents’ house the INSTANT I legally could, and take ANY job and put myself up in the cheapest apartment I could find. LOL! I never did move out until I left for grad school at 21. I had hormones that made me think illogically at times – don’t we all? But there is no end of love in my family.

    It can be very hard to talk to one’s parents, but if they care at all, chances are, there is a way to get a message to them without actually walking out. I would not assume that this young man’s parents are toxic to him until he tries every way to come to an understanding with them, and fails.

  25. Donna September 7, 2010 at 9:16 am #

    Slightly off topic but today I was reading a book about teaching kids financial responsibility. This is not a super old book – written in the mid-90’s. Basically the author asserts that by the time kids are in their early teens, they should be earning a significant portion of their own spending money outside the home (babysitting, cutting grass, etc.) and that by the time that they are 15 or 16, they are capable of handling ALL their financial affairs (with supervision) and should be earning most or all of their own income.

    Can anyone really imagine saying this about most kids today? Forgetting the idea that even the most responsible young teen can’t find a job outside the home today, most kids are so ill prepared for the world that they could never function on this level. When did we start treating them like such babies?

  26. SKL September 7, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Donna, financial responsibility is a biggie. I got an “allowance” from age 5 to 10 but after that, I had to work if I wanted something. It didn’t include basic food or clothes until I was 16 (though most of my clothes came from the Salvation Army in those days anyway). I had paper routes, babysitting, and a variety of other jobs during my teens. I agree that there are now fewer job opportunities for young teens, but at the same time, there are fewer young teens competing for them.

    I sucked at money management when I had paper routes. It brings back stressful memories. But on the positive side, I got my financial shit in order by age 15, and as a young adult, I was pretty smart about money. Made a few mistakes, but considering I had a large educational debt and no family assistance, it could have been a lot worse.

    I believe in starting financial/economic education early. Beginning when my kids were 2, they’ve had the option to do yard work for pay. Then they can spend the money on whatever non-food they want. Eventually we’ll introduce planned saving, donations, etc. I am not sure if I’ll ever start an “allowance” where they get paid without having to work for it. It’s not a bad idea, but if I can incorporate work, I like that better.

    I love to see how financially / economically aware my kids are even at 3, because they know some of the cause and effect that leads to “getting stuff.” Another benefit is that they don’t “demand” stuff. If they want to buy something, I tell them what they need to do to earn enough money. It saves me from having to say “no” and gives them a sense of what is / isn’t realistic and fair. They also really appreciate the stuff they have bought through earned money – even if it’s just an armful of “silly bands.” I could go on and on about what I love about the “work for it” solution. (Though in some forums, that would give me “worst mom” points!)

  27. Donna September 7, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    @ SKL – I don’t just think there are fewer job opportunities for young teens; I think that they are darn near nonexistent. Most of the young teen jobs of our childhood have been shut down. Paper routes require cars. Parents want older babysitters. I would imagine that physical labor might net a handful of young teens a few dollars here and there but certainly not something regular. For example, I only mowed my lawn 3 or 4 times this summer so not exactly a bustling business for a kid. And most of the people around here who pay someone to mow their lawn have a yard service of adults who do it. I haven’t seen a single kid mowing lawns in my hood – even the kids who live in the house!

  28. HeatherD September 7, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    Can I have a link to that might-mom site? I can’t find it, and I’m wondering just how bad it is.

  29. Karen September 7, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    @Donna&SKL – All of the jobs kids used to get are now being taken over by adults. We’ve gotten to the point where we don’t believe kids are responsible enough for things they’ve been doing for centuries, like paper routes and babysitting. In my neighborhood, the only people who have come by offering to mow are adults. They pretty much have the market cornered here.

    Back when the Baby-Sitters’ Club books were written, 12 year olds were considered entirely competent babysitters, and 11 year olds only slightly less so. Now, well, I know a 13 year old whose mother felt he needed a babysitter this summer. And not even for the whole day, it was five hours at the most, due to differences in the parents’ work schedules.

    To the 16 year old – that problem you have when someone is babysitting you is actually typical. Grown ups do it all the time. If we’re in the passenger’s seat, we don’t always know how we got where we are. If we’re at work and the boss isn’t looking, we’ll goof off on Facebook. You have to actively work at being responsible for yourself, and if you don’t you’ll end up like they are; in a job they hate because it has a steady paycheck with absolutely no belief than you can take responsibility for making it better.

    Do what you feel is best for you, but don’t be disrespectful. You can tell your parents all about how you completely disregarded their rules just as soon as you aren’t dependent on them and subject to their rules. You have to for you, but you might get better results going around them than standing up for it right now. If your parents are the type to read standing up for what you feel you need as defiance rather than admirable… If you want to bike to school, come up with an excuse to leave before the bus gets there or Mom is ready to take you (however you get there), “forget” to tell them until right when you need to leave, and just wave goodbye as you take the bike. Apologize, don’t hang around to argue, accept that this is your decision, and you are actually intentionally being disobedient. Treat it to their face as though you recognize what you are doing wrong (willful disobedience) and accept that these are the consequences for doing yourself a greater good.

    It’s a sad thing about parents; once you’re grown with problems it may be their fault, but it is now YOUR responsibility. You’re old enough that you can take some responsibility now…but they can make you pay for it. It is worth it, yes, but it will still suck.

  30. SKL September 7, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    Donna, I can think of lots of things that youngsters could get paid for, if they’d be creative, reach out, and not demand union wages. Here’s an idea. I need someone to prevent critters from getting into my basement. If a young teen came asking for an odd job to do, I’d offer that for starters, and go from there. (However, I do hire a grown-up lawn service. I am afraid I’d get sued if some kid hurt himself while mowing my lawn.)

    We get some kids who come to our door periodically and try to get us to give them money. But it’s never for the kind of work people actually need. They offer to paint the house number on the kerb, at some exorbitant price, and they say it’s for a “good cause” called “youth travel program” or whatever. No thanks! But I do know of some young girls who are making crafts and selling them on the internet. They aren’t likely to get rich, but that shouldn’t be the point.

  31. Heather K September 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    I am in complete agreement with Robin. Be respectful and willing to accept the consequences. I eventually learned that it was okay to disappoint my parents, as long as I was sure I was doing what was right for me.

  32. SKL September 7, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    Heather D: As for the “mighty-mom” website I keep talking about – that’s not really its name. I don’t know if I ought to be trashing a website by name on another website. Especially since I’m all over both websites . . . . But OK, here ya go. It’s “the stir” at cafemom.com. And the stuff I said above is my own re-wording of one of the bloggers’ posts. The post is under the “Big Kid” category and the column/blogger is “Ask Dad.” The post is a day or two old. Good luck!

  33. Hege September 7, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    I’m quite surprised to hear that there’s a complete lack of job-opportunities for kids in the US.
    Living in downtown Toronto, both my girls have had small jobs early on, my youngest from age 10 and a half (dog-walking for an old lady who hates getting out in the winter). My eldest started being asked to babysit before she was 13, and in grade 8 took home one of the girls from a younger grade 3 times a week for the entire year.
    In grade 11, most her class-mates worked a few hours a week.

  34. y2chaotic September 7, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    I’m in my early forties and I am *STILL* less competent/capable when my mother is around! ;)

    This, though wasn’t because I was subject to hovering; quite the opposite. I think there’s something about knowing someone we respect and look up to is around to judge our efforts takes us out of the moment. Which is yet another reason not to hover — too many of those “judgement” moments strung together can really undermine one’s sense of self and competency.

    Being responsible for another person is WAY scarier than most anything else. But sucking that up and giving guided opportunities for personal growth is supposed to be part of the job.

    Just heard what was (said to be) a Jewish proverb: “A father should pull his son close with one hand, and push him away with the other.”

  35. Tuppence September 7, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    @SKL — I checked out the other website. What I want to know about these folks — why the MAJOR anger? If they want to actively handicap their children from learning to navigate the world (and do their best to insure their children have a very sucky childhood) – very stupid but that’s their business. But why does steam pour out of their ears when they hear about or see that some people are doing otherwise?

    It seems very obvious, on this website at least, in every case where a parent had the police (and in at least one story, social services) called on them, the motivation of the caller was NOT serious concern for the immediate welfare of the child, the motivation was a desire to punish the parent for not doing, what they deemed, “the right” thing. I find this not only a gross abuse of the justice system but just about the meanest thing you could possibly do to someone. What’s with the crazy anger?

  36. SKL September 7, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

    Tuppence, thanks for your comment. It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only person reading those comments that way. One thing I should remind myself is that these people may say one thing online, and do another thing in public. The individual who claimed that if she saw a 3.5yo in a store without a parent in sight, she’d do a/b/c – how would she even know how old the kid was? When you’re shopping, you probably have better things to do than investigate and interfere with other people’s parenting (assuming their kid isn’t knocking down your grocery cart).

    The other funny thing is how many assumptions people feel the need to make about others whom they don’t even know. I let my kids go get their little carts in the grocery store; they assume my kids are poking their fingers through he cellophane in the vegetable bins. (?) I let them go into the restroom alone; they assume I don’t bother to notice whether they ever come out alive. I let them walk down the sidewalk; they assume I force them to wander around “lost.” It’s funny, but it’s sad. Where does this mentality come from? Should I care? I’m really not sure. Can I assume my actual neighbors and actual co-shoppers have more sense?

    It’s sad that we’re always looking for that safe space between (a) fear of actual childhood dangers and (b) fear of busybodies.

  37. Tuppence September 8, 2010 at 2:37 am #

    @SKL — Now that I’ve taken time to reflect, I do think you can assume your actual neighbors and co-shoppers will have more sense. I think maybe, the same phenomenon Lenore has observed – that people watch bad things happen all the time on TV and start to take TV “reality” as the real one – occurs when we continually read those type of comments on these websites. We are probably getting a minority view, but since they post their rabid comments on these Mighty Mom type websites with alarming frequency, it feels like they’re a frightening majority. Well, anyway, let’s hope that’s the case. After all, remember our pledge — always assume the best until otherwise proven.

  38. ReflectiveAgent September 8, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    I sincerely appreciate this insight. Thanks to both the poster and to Lenore, for sharing it with us.

  39. SKL September 8, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    The latest comment on the Mighty-Mom debate:

    “I certainly don’t think independence begins with being capable of functioning alone in public!”

    That is an exact quote.

    Sigh.

  40. Giorgia September 8, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    OMG, this is really astonishing! I am italian, 24 years old, and was allowed to bike alone around my small city (35000 inhabitants) since I was 10! My mom just made sure I didn’t cross the major road alone, and then I could go everywhere, get lost, find the way again, in one word learn how to move around town!
    By 16 I could go alone to the seaside, take the coach, go away a weekend with friends! And I was smart at school, didn’t drink and didn’t party, so my parents knew they could trust me.
    My little brother, 14, is doing the same now and we’re both still alive and happy.
    How can our kids grow and LIVE if you tie them up and put them in a cage???

  41. Steve Bonds September 9, 2010 at 5:05 am #

    “There’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s called college.” — Chef

    Hang on until you can get the heck out of there!

  42. Gail September 9, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    “When there is someone there to “hover” over me and make sure I’m okay, I become less capable. ”

    This. Exactly. This was one of the things I noticed about my son early on that pushed me into free-rangedom. The more I trusted him, the more trustworthy he became. The more he did for himself, the better he was at, um, doing things for himself. I’ve even talked to him about it and he thinks it’s totally cool. Of course, some of the discussions have revolved around the subject of “I can’t always leave you alone, so we need to find ways for you to do your best even when I’m there.”

  43. hoepfl September 12, 2010 at 12:33 am #

    :( Good post. Very interesting and important reflection by that kid. Definitely true about feeling handicapped when one is expected to be. Heck, I get temporarily sick when people worry about me getting sick. Having others around acting like you can’t take care of yourself– now that’s something else entirely.

  44. Ann September 12, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    Wow… I loved this post! It gave me a lot to think about! Thank you 16 year old!