Readers! Sometimes I think back on the days of the Soviet Union, when the government would put political dissidents into insane asylums. From our side of the world, that seemed twisted: If you are punishing those against the regime, why not put them in a real prison? But over in the Soviet Union the scenario actually made some (twisted) sense, this way: Since the regime was NEVER going to change, anyone who thought it could or would was literally insane. Delusional! And so to the asylums they were sent.
That gives me some (twisted again) hope for our own culture. Right now, parents who think that their kids can walk a block or two are considered, in many places, INSANE for trusting their kids and community for even five minutes. Some day,though, we will look back and see: Those trusting souls were the SANE parents living in insanely terrified times. – L
Dear Free-Range Kids: I am sure you get this kind of question in the subject line all the time, but I am really curious what other Free-Range parents would say.
We live in Brooklyn, NY, in a very residential neighborhood. It’s very
safe, and there’s a lot of the old everyone-looks-out-for-each-other
mindset. It’s much quieter, compared to the hipster parts of the
borough. We live two and a half blocks away from the public school my
older son attends for kindergarten. We cross one street, and then the last
intersection has a school crossing guard. Luckily for us, my younger
son attends day care right across the street from this school. It
makes drop off much more simpler in the mornings.
Now, kindergarteners have to get to school exactly between 8:10 and
8:20, and they have to use the main entrance, which is around the corner of the school. We used to drop the older child off at the main entrance, and then backtrack (and cross the street) to drop the younger one at the day care. But we were always running the risk of getting the older one late, and the little one also keeps wanting to go inside with his brother (his best friend).
So we started taking the younger one to day care first, and then crossing
the street to drop off the older one but the little one kept trying
to convince his brother to stay with him and would occasionally
whine/cry. So I started leaving the older one outside
the day care while I walked up to the door, dropped his brother off,
and came back downstairs. The older one is out of my sight for maybe 2
minutes. Maybe 3. More importantly, he in full sight of the crossing
guard, since that’s the intersection in front of the school. And ALL
the parents dropping off kids, some of whom know him.
Apparently some parents of his friends have walked past him with their
parents, saying “You shouldn’t stand outside like that, a stranger is
gonna grab you.” I can’t figure out if it’s his friends saying this,
or the parents.
Once in a while, if we are really running late, I would cross the
street so he’s on the correct side, and then tell him to go ahead and
run around the corner to the main entrance to get in by himself.
No street crossings, and the only thing on the block is the school, so
he’s basically walking around the school. He doesn’t mind, and generally runs off when I tell him to do that. I watch until he turns the corner, before I cross thestreet. After the little one has been dropped off, I go back to make
sure he’s not lying on the sidewalk, injured. But he’s long inside and
And the number of dirty looks we’ve received from parents for letting
him run off around the corner on his own is mindboggling.
The neighborhood is very safe. I am not saying there’s no crime.
There’s no such Eden. But it is very close-knit, and I’ve lived here
since I was in elementary school. The neighbors all know each other.
And I am not having a six-year-old cross the street by himself. Just walk down the block, or stand outside a building.
Am I really being unsafe? I told my son today I would never ask him to
do something dangerous, and I realized I needed a gut check. Yes, I
get it that tragedies happen. But weighing the risks, I am not sure I
am doing something completely unfathomable.
But more importantly, what conversation do I have with a six-year-old
about how to deal with people (some he knows) telling him a stranger
is going to grab him? REALLY? — Bewildered Brooklynite
Dear Bewildered: I’m bewildered by the terror that people can conjure up in the most sunny of circumstances. As for what to tell your 6-year-old, tell him he can always TALK to people, he just cannot go OFF with them. Simple, direct, easy for a kid to understand. And write to let us know if anyone else starts following your lead! (Actually, his!) – L