FILL IN THE BLANK: You Know You’re a Free-Range Parent When…

Readers: A note I got yesterday:

we raiabdzndt
have so called free rangers in our neighborhood. rude, inconsiderate, etc.-their parents do not have a clue where they are or how they act. neither do they care. maybe they got their lazy parenting ideas from your lovely book. hopefully none of your kids will wind up in the hands of predators-how sad that you excuse lazy parenting.

I wrote back explaining (through gritted fingers) that what he or she was describing was not Free-Range but negligence. That Free-Rangers believe in teaching our kids the basics they need to be safe, then gradually giving them more rope. And as for fearing predators, violent crime is down to the level it was before color TV. So our kids today are actually safer than we were.

Then frequent commenter Earth Lion came up with a great idea: “You know you’re a Free-Range Parent when…” Earth’s was this:

You know you’re a Free-Range Parent when you send you 12 year old daughter off to a sleepover despite not remembering the house number of our daughter’s friends house, and not feeling worried but had a good laugh about how if there was an emergency, we would have to go door knocking on every house in the street to see which house they lived in.

And now, let’s hear yours! Mine:”You know you’re a Free-Range Parent when you want everyone to take their kids to the park and leave them there tomorrow. – L

boys and bricks

Dirt and Free-Range often go together.

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162 Responses to FILL IN THE BLANK: You Know You’re a Free-Range Parent When…

  1. Puzzled May 17, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    I’ll take rude kids any day over whiny, entitled children who think that the idea of doing anything for themselves is scary. Rude kids will learn how our society navigates socially. Weak kids will not.

  2. Linda Wightman May 17, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    You know you’re a free-range parent when you realize your nine-year-old son is missing and immediately call — not 911, but the library. (And after they tell you he was there, but left again, you eventually find him behind some boxes in the garage, reading his new book, totally oblivious to all the calling of his name.)

  3. pentamom May 17, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    ….when you post on non-parenting blogs in response to parents sharing anecdotes about worrying about their tween-age kids, to reassure them that the scary stuff is rare.

    Literally did that just before clicking on the link to FRK.

  4. skyscraper May 17, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    When other people talk about how ‘permissive’ you are as a parent AND you are praised for the wonderful problem solving skills your child has.

  5. Kelly D. May 17, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    ….when you post a video of your toddlers at the park splashing around in an inch or less of water and get berated by private message for recording instead of monitoring, letting them get wet and potentially dirty, and, the sins of all sins, letting them play with sticks, rocks, and leaves in the water.

  6. Bess May 17, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    …when your daughter is only a year old, but you’re already planning on letting ride her bike around the neighborhood alone at around age 8. (And getting her a cell phone so you can reach her if you need to, because that’s the beauty of technology – it gives people freedom.)

  7. Emily May 17, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    @Puzzled–I think whiny entitlement and refusal to do anything for oneself, falls under the definition of “rude.”

  8. Filioque May 17, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    …when you send your daughter alone into the bathroom at the zoo…not because she has to go, but just to make a point to her friend’s mother, who is fretting every time the girls walk 10 feet away from us, certain that they will be “snatched.”

  9. Jennifer Merck May 17, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    You know you’re a free-range when . . . you let your 11 year old ride his bike 0.7 miles to a friends house and don’t panic when you call there two hours later to ask him to come home and it turns out he’s not there, but went with that friend to another friends house. And you still don’t panic when you call that house and no one answers. You just drive on by to see what’s up because it’s time to head to his brother’s volleyball game. Free-range parents ssume the best has happened, rather than assuming the worst.

  10. Jenn May 17, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    …when your daughter doesn’t arrive home from the park at the scheduled time, instead of worrying, you sit down to dinner without her, and then explain to your very late daughter that if she isn’t home in time for dinner, she will have to make herself a sandwich to eat.

  11. CWH May 17, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    You know you’re a free-range parent when you take your kids to the country store in town (where you hardly ever go) and the people working there know your kids by name because they’re always riding their bikes there.

    You know you’re a free-range parent when every time you’re at an event with other kids & parents, you notice how much the other parents are waiting on their kids – tying their shoes, getting their food, and you just laugh and tell your child to do it him/herself.

  12. Uly May 17, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    What the hell is the obsession with predators? Seriously, of all the things that could possibly happen to your kid, why do they always harp on THAT unlikely one? Why can’t they mix it up occasionally and threaten us with our kids being hit by cars or running away or getting eaten by escaped hippos from the zoo?

  13. Carolyn May 17, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    You know your a free range parent when… you tell people that your kids (9, 7, & 5) are home while you take a half hour exersize class, and they reply, “Without a babysitter?”

  14. Carolyn May 17, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    You know your a free range parent when you enjoy your kids more, because you are not constantly afraid that they will get hurt. You can relax and enjoy them, rather than trying to protect them from their every move.

  15. BMS May 17, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    …when your 12 year old wants to build a skateboard ramp out of scrap wood and your only response is “Not in the basement this time, okay?”

    …when your 9 year old says, “Can I use the power screwdriver?” and you say, “Sure, just put it back when you’re done.” while your neighbor’s eyes boggle and they say “He knows how to use that???”

    …when you come home and ask your spouse, “Where are the kids?” and the answer is “Around here somewhere…”

  16. librarian May 17, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    you know you’re a free-range parent, when you’re working from home, and your seven-year-old asks you “mom, I’m making myself breakfast, would you like me to bring you some coffee?” (and she knows exactly how you like your coffee).

  17. Mike May 17, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    You know you’re a free-range parent when your 5 y/o daughter is playing at the next door neighbor’s house and you realize they’re not in the yard or in he house. But instead of panicking and assuming your neighbor of four years abandoned your child, you notice it’s a lovely sunny day and casually walk up to the park and confirm the neighbor took the kids to the park.

  18. Puzzled May 17, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Emily – good point.

  19. Michelle May 17, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    …when your 4 year old boy asks to go into a stall himself in the bathroom for the first time, and you let him because you have to go too, and he knows what to do since, well, it’s a bathroom. He comes out all proud of himself, waits patiently until you’re finished, and as you’re both leaving the bathroom, you see the longing look of an 8 year old boy whose mother makes him still go into the stall with her.

  20. Kerry G May 17, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    … when you have no idea what they spend their allowance on because you never even think to ask.

    and I totally agree, why does everybody pick on predators as the bad thing that’s going to happen to kids? I think it’s a weird kind of fascination which is scary in itself.

  21. Uly May 17, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    In the STALL with her? Ouch! Maybe he’s a tall and somewhat delayed six year old instead…?

  22. Warren May 17, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    ……..when a mass of kids come running in your house to raid the juiceboxes and snacks. And you honestly cannot say for sure your kid was among them.

  23. Jason May 17, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    You know you are a free range parent when your 4 and 6 year old girls are playing in the front yard of an urban dwelling and you hear a strange male voice and you don’t jump up and scream “Get away from my girls you pervert” you are just glad they know how to address adults with respect because they asked politely before petting his dog.

  24. Alicia May 17, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    When your two year old is wandering down the middle of a creek and you think, “Oh, wait he forgot to take his shoes off.”

  25. Amy May 17, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    When the other parents frequently call you ‘brave’ to your face, but you just know they are shaking their heads behind you back.

  26. Renee Anne May 17, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    You know you might be free-range when you let your two and a half year old run naked through the sprinkler (in a fenced-in back yard)….and I mean RUN, get muddy, fall on the grass….and it’s maybe70F.

  27. PaigeN May 17, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    You know you’re a free range parent/grandparent when you let your kids play in the back yard without being outside with them every moment.

    You know you’re a free range parent/grandparent when your son tells his friend he can’t ride bikes with him unless the friend wears a helmet and then brings a helmet for the friend and makes him wear it.

    You know you’re a free range parent/grandparent when your kid bikes down to the mall (after hitting the ATM for his spending money) and comes back with the game he promised he’d buy instead of the one he knew would be confiscated.

    You know you’re a free range parent/grandparent when you’re not worried that your kids have more dirt on their face and their hands than there is outside (maybe a slight exaggeration) but they know they need to wash their hands and face before having snack.

  28. Jenn May 17, 2013 at 11:44 am #


    I love it! I was out one day and got a picture from my husband of our 11 year old walking on homemade (by himself ) stilts made of scrap wood : ) Soon our 14 year old daughter was out there building herself a pair as well.

  29. Taradlion May 17, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    You know you’re a free range parent when you are questioned/fet comments about your

    10 year old walking from school to your office in NYC, or taking the subway alone to school at 11, or your 7 year old using a jackknife, or playing football in the park with a group of boys, or cooking his own eggs and waffles (on a waffle iron), or a million other things, you explain the Free Range philosophy, and refer people to Lenore’s book and blog…

    And you give the book Free Range Kids as a baby gift!

  30. Katie May 17, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    When your 8 year old son goes outside shouting behind him, “I’m going to play with the pick axe!” and you are good with that. PS After he finished with that, he got out the bow and arrow!

  31. RG May 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    You know you’re a free range parent when you studiously ignore the pointed comments of others at the zoo, all folks who are attempting to passively aggressively inform you that two year old boys should not hold sticks by saying, loudly, “That little boy is holding a STICK!! That mom is letting him walk around with a stick!!!”

    Since when is it ridiculously unsafe for a two year old boy to hold a stick??

  32. Jenny Islander May 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    YKYAFRP when everybody in the house is sick except the 6-year-old, so you give her her allowance early, ask her to show you how she can dial home on the cell phone, and send her downtown with her purse, cell phone, and library card.

  33. Brian May 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    When you (justly) worry more about CPS rules than predators

  34. lollipoplover May 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    …”$425″. Which is what your kids inform you is the amount saved in gas money by not being driven to school each day and instead walking or biking for the past 3 years. Coincidentally, it’s also the same amount as a new road bike that your 12 yo son desperately wants to compete in road races…

  35. Glennda May 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    When you tell your kids to go outside and not come back in until you call them for dinner.

    When your 15 year old says, “I don’t know why Susie can’t do that for herself and then asks you to take her to apply for jobs.”

    When your 13 year old son looks at you like you grew horns and says, “I can do my own laundry.” Yep, that’s true because I taught you how!

    When you are constantly complimented on how polite, well behaved, and self sufficient your children are.

  36. carriem May 17, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    …When your 10 year old oversleeps, misses the bus, and just walks to school on his own without asking for a ride or having a tantrum that plan A didn’t happen today.

  37. North Coast Dad May 17, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    When your 13 year old daughter and her best friend drop out of their Girl Scout Troop “because we’re tired of being treated like we’re 4.”

  38. Emily, Mom of Independents May 17, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    When your 7 year old can make the emergency response plan in case Mom is anaphylactic.

    When your 5 and 7 year olds can tell you which streets they can cross alone.

    When your kids can dream about what to be when they grow up and those dreams are endless.

    When a kid who less than two years ago suffered a serious injury that las had long term effects is riding his balance bike alone with speed, confidence, exhilaration and not with fear!

    When your son can tell the principal that the plan she has for stopping the fights on the school playground is a poor one. That the solution is to punish the fighters, who are bulliers, to not punish someone who fights back and to praise strongly those who stand up for others. When he then reminds her that she wouldn’t be a principal if people still believed that girls were delicate flowers that must be shielded from big mean boys.

    When a kid who wants to give up on a difficult chore BEAMS with pride that he got all of the “devil weed” out.

    When he tells his Auntie that before she freaks out over “safety” she should understand it.

  39. Jo May 17, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    … When you call your 5 and 7 year old for dinner, get no response and figure they’ll come in when they’re hungry, and then see them coming out of the woods (scratched up and muddy – which are the two signs of a definite good time) two hours later talking about their treasure hunt and telling you how hungry they are.

  40. Lindsey Drake May 17, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    … when you receive frequent compliments on your child’s demeanor in public starting at age 4.

    … when she insists on being the exclusive house barista starting at 8 years old.

    … when you send her to order ice cream by herself and, when she strikes up a conversation with the man next to her, you are proud that she is confidently talking to a stranger.

    … when you leave her home alone starting at 9 years old and she feels comfortable taking the dog for a walk.

  41. Lara May 17, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    When your child proudly shows every single house guest her new wallet that she uses when she runs an errand at the local market. …

    …and you get panicked, harassing texts from a “helpful” relative saying that she’ll get hit by a car or kidnapped or hit by a kidnapper’s car.

  42. Irina May 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    … when your nine-year-old daughter has a friend over, and she asks if they can have some fruit, and you say yes (of course) and she makes a whopping big fruit salad for herself and her friend with ALL THE FRUIT.

  43. SKL May 17, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    You know you’re a free-range parent when . . .

    – You have no idea of the content or reading level of whatever your 6yo is reading these days.

    – Your 6yo is able to save you time in the morning by taking the keys and letting all the kids into the car to get belted up, etc. while you fill your travel mug with your morning coffee.

    – Your 6yo doesn’t ask before going to use the restroom (alone) in a restaurant.

    – Your 6yo can go out of your sight and ask a store / restaurant employee for something she wants/needs while you do something else.

    – Your 6yos’ unsupervised stomping ground is a mile wide (when permission is given).

    – Your kids can give you some truly good problem-solving / planning ideas, because their brain has had some exercise.

    – People compliment you on your kids’ behavior, saying “you can take them anywhere.”

  44. tanyam May 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    …when your three-yr-old’s preschool teacher says to you the week after he started in her class, “it’s great how he taught all the other kids how to use the scissors!” and all i can do is laugh and think “oh wow, some other kid’s mom is hating me now…” cus my kid learned how to use real scissors 6 months ago. And now he uses my old metal ones to cut the grass, and help me trim trees.

    … also when said 3-yr-old climbs trees almost as well as the 8-yr-old girl who lives across the street.

  45. Earth.W May 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    When your neighbour rings the Police to complain about your infant aged kids playing in the backyard, at times naked, and when the Police speak to you as if you’re a dangerous negligent parent, you speak back to them as if they’re paranoid followed up by your request to them to provide statistics to you that backs their paranoid argument.

  46. M.H. May 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    When your 3 year old and 5 year old are the only two kids at a party that are allowed to go all the way down to the bottom of a long hill in the woods. The hill was quite steep but the trees were thin enough that I could see all the way down to the bottom. The sad part was that my kids chose to stay close since that is where all the other kids had to stay and they wanted to play with the kids. I was quite sad to see an 8ish year old boy giving my 5 year old directions on things to get since he wasn’t allowed more than 5 feet down the hill.

  47. leah e May 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    …your 15 yo makes a FOUNDRY out of stuff he purchased at home depot, so he CAN MAKE your mother’s day present. at one point, he used the laser thermometer and the temp registered over 800F. clearly, i’ve been free-range for a looooong time.

  48. Cindy Karlan May 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    You know you are a quirky free-range parent when you allow your 11 year old to take 2 London Tubes, a bus, and then walk 20 minutes to soccer camp. However, your kid is eating a bagel, cream cheese, and lox on the Tube, and you’re concerned that he may not have enough water with him to wash down the bagel.

  49. Leslie May 17, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    When you let your 7 yr old and 5 yr old monitor each other at the park, and you from a far distance. When you trust your 7 yr old to walk to the front of the house (out of sight) and get something out of the car… ALONE (GASP). When your kids want to ride 1/2 way around the block, on the sidewalk without you, and you do without worrying. When you see nothing wrong with letting your 5 yr old go to the bathroom at their baseball field complex, alone.

  50. Kate May 17, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    ….you make your 9 year old bike back up the .5 mile hill alone to get his swimsuit (for swim practice) because you’re sick and tired of him forgetting his stuff and he was supposed to have it on his body before he left the house!!

  51. Krista May 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    You know you want to be free-range when you let your kid ride her bike a mile to the store to get some glue for a school project. You know you’re a still a free-range parent in training when you get in the car 40 minutes later to see what’s taking so long. You know your kid is truly ready to be free-range when it turns out the she was just chatting with some Girl Scouts in front of the store that were selling cookies (and who watched her bike for her) and she also scolds you for checking up on her when she catches sight of you in your car.

  52. Jill May 17, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    ….when your 10 and 5 -year-old kids have been out looking for new pond water, to refill their tadpoles’ tank (which they caught and have been raising for 6 weeks), and the neighbors find them wandering in the woods, and escort them home because they “looked lost,” and you say, “okay, guys, glad to see you, but DID YOU GET THE POND WATER?”

  53. SKL May 17, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    When dirty little feet make you smile.

  54. M.H. May 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    I thought of another one. You know you are a free range parent when your 5 year old son is better at using tools than most teenagers.

    You know you are a free range parent when your kids know how to use their imaginations and can entertain themselves without technology.

  55. Lindsay May 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    You know you’re of the free range mentality when you nanny for three kids and get yelled at by their mother for leaving the 7-year-old home alone FOR 20 MINUTES while you go pick up her sisters from soccer. Oy, vay. :-/

  56. Earth.W May 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    When you take your kids aged 11, 9 and 8 to a Truck Show and sit down while the kids put themselves on the amusements rides both together and alone without having a single worry.

  57. Donna May 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    … when you leave your 7 year old at a friend’s house for 2 nights while you enjoy a girl’s weekend on another island (which is a completely different country) only to have the plane break on the day of your flight home, turning it into a 3 night stay now including Mother’s Day and your kid just rolls with the punches and doesn’t get upset in the least.

  58. Megan W. May 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    When you let your 4 year old son go to the bathroom alone at McDonald’s, and sit calmly while a “gentleman” screams at you for allowing such a thing. And when he asks “don’t you read the papers?!??!” You can say “Why yes, I do, and that’s why I know such events are incredibly rare, so why are you creating a disturbance?”

  59. sallytricia May 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    when your 12 years (has special needs) worker say what do you mean she walks to Girl guides on her own(you know she will cross a busy street). Yes she can cook herself a hot breakfast. When people comment on her Independence her reply “Well I am not always gonna live with my Mom”

  60. Mary B. May 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    When you let your one year old daughter stay in the church nursery, the one with teenage boys for volunteers (and that doesn’t require a police check).

    When you also let your daughter nap in the backyard while doing work inside the house.

  61. Forsythia May 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    When you are on a college visit tour and let it slip that you plan to turn your kid loose – alone – to explore the campus area and city where he might want to live for an evening … and people look at you like you are crazy to let a 17-year old explore a city … and start “what if”ing all over the place

  62. Melina May 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    When asked by a friend who popped in to say hi: hey, where are the kids” and my reply is: ” idk somewhere outside, they’ll be back at supper time”.

  63. Kate May 17, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    When your three year olds teacher comments on how independent she is every time you pick her up.

  64. Dean May 17, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    When you get pissed off at the immigration official at JFK for refusing to process your 10 year old child without the parent by her side (note: there is no law about a child needing a parent to clear immigration, even he admitted it after calling me over from the Global Entry area and demanding I be by her side)

  65. gap.runner May 17, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    * When your 14-year-old has a problem with his bicycle and calls to say that he will be late coming home because he locked the bike in a safe place and will be taking the city bus home. On a side note to that, when said 14-year-old knows the city bus system better than you do.

    * When you tell your kids to be home when it starts getting dark.

    * When your son is about 4 or 5 and starting to use a men’s bathroom on his own, and you peek in to see what’s taking so long to see a man holding your child up to the sink and your first thought is, “Oh good, he remembered to wash his hands.”

    * When your child comes home covered in dirt from playing outside, and you tell him, “You look like you had a lot of fun.”

    * When well-meaning friends and relatives in the States tell me that things are so much different now, I reply that they are because there is less crime now than when we were growing up.

  66. Erin May 17, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    When your 8 year old hops on his bike before dinner to run to the grocery store to pickup ketchup- can’t eat dinner without it!

  67. Elf May 17, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    * When your teenage daughter reminds you to pick up bread crumbs from the store because she’s making fried chicken and wants to make enough to have leftovers for lunch on the weekend.

    * When your 12-year-old started taking plane trips on her own to visit her grandparents in another state.

  68. Laura May 17, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    …when other people freak out at whatever it is my children are doing and say,
    ‘I could/would never let…’. Otherwise I never really think about it.

  69. Christi May 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    When you realize, 30 minutes after your 2 1/2 year old has walked off for a snack with your neighbor and her 3 year old granddaughter, that you only know the nice lady as “Jenny’s Nana”… and feel bad about not introducing yourself properly.

  70. Liz May 17, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    …when you put your 8 year old daughter on a 1 hour non-stop flight to NY with your sister waiting for her at the arrival gate. Two ladies realized they would be sitting next to her and offered to keep an eye open. My daughter gave me a hug, a kiss, and off she went. Three days later she arrived back at our airport with a big smile and a “city girl” outfit. She is always so proud to tell that story…even now that she is 18 and heading to college!

  71. Beth May 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    I have to laugh that the writer to Lenore accuses other people of being rude. That note was itself quite rude.

  72. Becky May 17, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    I haven’t been a parent long enough to have any good examples, but I can share.

    *When you’re having a conversation with co-workers and you introduce them to the free-range parent tactics you’d like to implement someday, and they all act horrified and assure you that, “You’ll feel differently when it’s one of your own.”

  73. Nicole May 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    …when a neighbor kid rings the doorbell looking for yours, and you say “he’s out there somewhere already” – without once wondering where exactly he is that she can’t find him, or what horrible thing must have happened to him.

  74. thinkbannedthoughts May 17, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    You might be a free range parent if…
    Adults who met your children ask you how you raised them to be so polite, such good helpers, and so confident. And even adults who don’t like children, like yours.

  75. Ann May 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    … when your kid asks if she (14) can ride her bike to school with her friends – and when your first instinct is to say “no” but you realize that YOU did it when you were a kid, and they were going to be in a group, and your daughter has the smarts to handle this situation… and the big one – that you read this webiste! and know she will be fine – and she was! side note: They all made it, they have already biked 8 miles today (there and back), and they are all at the park – alone – playing baksetball right now 🙂

  76. Nerd-faced Girl May 17, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    …when you take your daughter to the park with a cast on her arm (which she broke at school!) and she spends the entire time climbing trees.

  77. pentamom May 17, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Nicole, I don’t know how many times I’ve done that!

  78. LRothman May 17, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    …when, on a Saturday mid-afternoon, you realize you haven’t seen your 11 year old since 10am and think “he’ll come home when he’s hungry” followed by a concern that instead he invited himself to lunch at someone’s house.

  79. Crystal May 17, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    …when you have a brand-new baby to nurse while also needing to fix her big brothers’ lunches, and your 5-year-old says, “No problem” and proceeds to slice the strawberries, make the sandwiches AND clean up by the time you’re finished.

  80. Claudia May 17, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    when you let your kid have a sweetie offered by a man on the Underground, because it’s not really likely he’s offering your child a poisoned sweet in front of a carriage full of people.

  81. Jenna K. May 17, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    *When your 7-year-old fixes you a cooler full of snacks to be nice when you have terrible morning sickness

    *When your kids (ages 9, 8, 6) come to you that they’re bored and have nothing to do and you give them $5 and tell them to ride their bikes to the nearest snow cone shack and buy themselves a snow cone and they do and have a great time

    *When you’re nursing your baby and your 10- and 8-year-olds start making breakfast/lunch/dinner for you because you can’t leave the couch.

    *When your kids start walking home from school because you weren’t there on time to pick them up (due to an appointment that went long) and they make it almost all the way home before you find them instead of wringing their hands wondering where you are

    *When your children receive compliments all the time about how good they are at problem-solving and entertaining themselves without the use of video games and TV

  82. Ann May 17, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    … I remembered another one… when you can place your 16 year old daughter on a plane – alone – with layovers and unexpected plane changes, adn she makes it to her destination in one piece and happy as a lark!

  83. Magnolia May 17, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    …when you let your 11 year old strap a surf board onto his bike, pedal 13 blocks to the beach, and ride the waves for 2 hours because you know there are lifeguards on duty.

  84. Susan Crook Saunders May 17, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    When you leave your daughters in London to take up an incredible job opportunity in Toronto (producing World’s Worst Mom). And your daughters say ‘we’re so glad you’re a free-range mum!’

  85. Kimberly May 17, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    Aunt here not mom

    ** Niece and Nephew listen to the zoo keeper/Docent’s mini lesson on x animal they ask good questions directly and the zoo keeper/docent is pleasantly surprised because most people won’t let their kids talk to the “Strangers”

    ** Docent makes a comment about it and Niece asks then how do they learning things and what do they do if they get lost?

    **Woman freaks out because the Docent is letting the kids pet a poisonous snake – Niece and Nephew tell her NO IT ISN’T Red and Black friend of Jack. (snake is a milk snake not a coral snake) It is Red and Yellow that kill a fellow. Then go on to explain that the coral snake is the only poisonous snake in Texas not to have a triangle shaped heads.

    (Due to their mom being extremely phobic we do have a rule no catching snakes or alligators in the wild (have both on our farm/wild life refuge). You have to let my Sis have that one. She stepped on a Rattler as a kid. Had to be held in place, because if she removed her foot it would have struck her. Our uncle then shot the snake point blank with a 22.)

    These 2 and 4 cousins on our side are the ring leaders were ever we go. They make instant friends with all the kids in the area and lead them on wild adventures. Last summer they were tearing around on the beach with kids from 2 other families. Sharing toys – accepting food from all 3 families despite having 3 uncommon languages between them.

  86. John Flaherty May 17, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    When you take your 12 and 9 year olds to a park, at night, for an end-of-soccer-season bonfire and festival, hand them $10 each of their OWN money (taken from their banks), drop them off, with no cell phones, and leave!

    Just like Mom would have done.

    And I told them the same thing my Mom did when she would drop us off at Six Flags Great Adventure, sans parents, at the same age, in the 1970’s.

    “Be at (____location) when I come to pick you up at ____time, and don’t be late, or your walking home.

  87. BPFH May 17, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    …when the cops come up to the front door with your (then) 5-year-old son, saying that neighbors had said he’d been riding his bike in the road, and the cops ask you to take it easy on the kid. (I was very, VERY unhappy with him… and I think it showed.)

    …when your (then) 9-year-old daughter decides to walk the > 1 mile home from school on her own, without telling you, and your only response is, “Next time, tell us you want to walk home first, please.”

  88. oncefallendotcom May 17, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Do we read this in Jeff Foxworthy-esque twang?

  89. Meg May 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    As someone only moderately free-range, maybe you could have a future post,

    Free Range is Not….

    I often think there are posts on here that cross the line from free range to negligence or at least foolishness. It would be interesting to know where you and your readers think that line is.

  90. Jenn May 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    You know you’re a Free Range Parent when your 7 year old comes back from the forest with a buddy, covered from head to toe in dirt and proudly showing off their latest war-wound (this time a small gash on the knee) and all the other kids are envious.

    You know you’re a Free Range Parent when you can’t find your four year old daughter who was left playing in front of the house so instead of calling 911, you wander down to the park to discover that she didn’t know that she wasn’t old enough to go to the park by herself (her logic being that her seven year old brother can, so why can’t she?).

    You know you’re a Free Range Parent when you have company coming and the kids (8 and 5) clean the entire house themselves so you can focus on the meal preparation and yard work. The children receive ‘payment’ when the unaware guests comment to the parents on how clean and lovely the home is and the parents give credit to the kids. (I’m hoping my future children-in-laws will thank me).

  91. Autumn Totah May 17, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    You know you’re a free range parent when you’ve repeatedly said the sentence, “No, I don’t teach my kids stranger danger. I want them to feel comfortable talking to anyone they want.”

    When both the 5 and 7 year old can make their own lunch for school and know that they need at least 1 fruit and vege in addition to the sandwich they make themselves.

    When I walk by their room and they’ve put their folded clothes away without being asked. However, you will also see them with very interesting (and not always weather appropriate if they won’t take my advice) outfit choices because I have other things to do than pick out their clothes every morning.

    When many people consider you a “hippy” but can appreciate how calm, polite, and self sufficient your children are.

    And last, when you’re in an elevator of a huge hotel in Hawaii and your 4 year old consistently looks adults in the eye says “Hi, how ya doing? What floor are you on, we’re only on 8.”

  92. Tamaya May 17, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    …….. when on the first day of warm weather after a very long Canadian winter. You don’t see your kid all day because he is playing outside with his friends,,,, not in the backyard, but in the field beside your house.

  93. Donald May 17, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    Whatever you, me, everybody focuses on gets bigger. (well not always, I have been focusing on this small pile of money for a week and nothing has happened)

    Howard Hughes focused on germs. They didn’t actually grow but he became more and more anxious about them. A hypochondriac may be worried about their heart. In turn, they are often feeling/listening for any abnormalities in the rhythm. As this continues they become more and more sensitive to it. Their awareness can get so acute that their own heartbeat can become too loud for them to sleep! The only thing that they can see/feel is their irregular heartbeat. (that is actually normal.) Their perception has become dangerously warped.

    Parents can do the same. They can become so consumed about child safety that they develop tunnel vision. Pedophiles, kidnappers, and gun wielding psychopaths in schools are all they can see.
    I’m also afraid about harm coming to my child. However I see more dangers than pedophiles. It scares me to imagine my child having to face adulthood without knowing how to be mature.

    It takes strength to be able to see the other dangers and not develop the type of tunnel vision that actually puts them in danger!

    Creeps and pedophiles target the kids with low/nil self esteem. Therefore, preventing children from developing any (for safety sake) is one of the more dangerous things that you can do. The problems don’t end after school age. Violent people target the people with low self esteem/insecurity.

    These kids become adult age are much more likely to face problems such as domestic violence, anxiety, depression, and bullying in the workplace. All of us has seen or heard of sever domestic violence where the battered wife stays and puts up with her situation for years. 99.9% of the reason for this is because she does not have the self esteem to leave!

    Injecting children full of fear does not protect them from these things. It attracts them like spilled sugar will attract ants! This is what I’m afraid of and I resent parents that think that if I allow my kid to ride his bike to the shop = that I don’t love them as much as they do. I see different dangers than they do. That’s all.

    Tunnel vision is powerful. It can block out any other dangers so that people can only see kidnappers and then believe that it happens 5000 times more often than it actually does!

    Lenore, you’re under attack a lot. It must be incredibly exhausting! However, PLEASE consider the source. They are in such a deep tunnel vision that they put children in danger! Statistics show that the likelihood of children to be kidnapped are about 0.00005%. However the rate for suicide is about 0.01% and it’s estimated that 50 times more people that don’t actually suicide have severe thoughts about it! I have spoken to several of these people.

    Your work is saving the lives of children. Please don’t let a hysteric wear you down.

  94. vas May 17, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

    …when your kids run around the neighborhood barefoot because you have done a thorough research in the library and on the Internet and found out that the health and emotional benefits of going barefoot far outweigh the risk of injury which is in fact minor.

    …when you have to forbid something to your kids, you bother to explain to them the reason of the prohibition and the prohibition must be rational.

  95. Rebecca May 17, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

    You know you’re a Free Range Parent when you see your 17-month-old (3rd child) standing in the middle of the dining room table, and instead of freaking out and running over to rescue him from imminent death, you think, “well, he can’t reach the chandelier yet” then finish the chore you were doing.

  96. LauraL May 17, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    You know you’re a Free Range Parent when you go over the route your son will take on his bike to get the seven miles to school, and ask him to text you when he arrives.

    And he does, with: “I’m not dead.”

  97. Donna May 18, 2013 at 1:11 am #

    “I often think there are posts on here that cross the line from free range to negligence or at least foolishness. It would be interesting to know where you and your readers think that line is.”

    I don’t think there is a single line. We all have different lines depending on our own children and comfort levels.

    As I read through these examples (and other recent similar threads), I get ideas from some, say “that’s crazy” for others and think “that’s no big deal” for still others. Many won’t work because of my particular child or our particular living situation or some other reason. At the end of the day, I don’t think what you do is as important as having a desire to raise independent children and a realization that children need some freedom to get there. Where you personally draw the line is up for you to decide.

    But I do think that you can’t decide what is negligent or foolish without knowing the children and families involved. For example, it would be completely negligent for me to allow my kid, who rarely uses public transportation accompanied, to take the subway alone at 9. Lenore’s kid, who grew up using the subway, is a different story. I will probably not be allowing my child to play with a pick ax anytime soon since my child has never seen one, but my child, who has lived on an island for the last year and a half with little to do outside of swimming year around, probably has much more freedom around water than most 1st graders.

  98. Jenny Islander May 18, 2013 at 2:07 am #

    The situation definitely has to be considered. When I send my 6-year-old downtown for the afternoon, I’m talking about an area I can see from my house: we’re on the hillside overlooking downtown. So she’s a half-hour walk from everything interesting. On top of that, the store and fast food employees all know her and me. Move us to the Upper West Side and there’s no way I would be sending her downtown alone at six!

  99. Lisa in Melbourne May 18, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    You know you’re a free-range when … your 10-year-old daughter asks if we have any chips you say “no, but there are chips at the shop down the road, you just got your pocket money and the dog could use a walk.” Off she goes. Also, she regularly takes the tram home from school, lets herself in with her own key and entertains herself until my husband or I comes home from work. A real-life latch-key kid!

  100. Eliza May 18, 2013 at 3:35 am #

    You know you are free-range when your 13 year old starts and completes homework on time without reminders because she knows that her mother won’t write a note to ask for extensions and will support the teacher giving her detention. Or when you happen to see your 13 year old, and doesn’t see you at the shops, helping an older lady with her shopping bags to the car.

    You know you are a free-range teacher when a couple of 5 year olds come back from lunch dirty with big smiles and when ask if they had a good time at lunch, the two master 5’s nod their heads enthusiastically.

  101. Mrs. H. May 18, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    You know you’re a free-range parent when…

    …you worry more about busybodies calling CPS when they observe your four-year-old walking up the street alone than you do about a rogue car driving up onto the sidewalk and squashing her or a man in a windowless van asking her to help look for his sick puppy or a rabid raccoon striking from behind a trash can.

  102. hineata May 18, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    Can’t think of anything exciting to fill in the blank, it just seems to be the way life is. Maybe when your sixteen year old thanks you for not turning up at subject-confirmation day (I did point out that the new kid with his mother was quite possibly a new immigrant, and that I would have done the same in a new country). Or when crap of various types happens, and you realise how competent your kids have become at dealing with things.

    Definitely, as we see in the comments here, it’s different things for different families. For instance, I take my hat off to Dean above – personally I hate it that the kids usually have to go through immigration by themselves, because once through they are not allowed to wait for us, but have to carry on down into a large concourse containing a number of unsavory characters mixed in with the decent types, and in a country where you don’t speak the language, it is difficult to tell who is trustworthy. Not so bad now they’re a bit older, but when the youngest was eight it was not so nice.

  103. Taradlion May 18, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    Donna makes an excellent point.

    I think a main difference between neglect and Free Range parenting is that neglect involves not meeting kids needs by leaving them to do things they are not capable or doing for themselves, while Free Range parenting involves teaching and preparing kids to do things themselves. FRee Range takes into account the experiences, personality, and developmental maturity (versus age) of the child. A Free Range parent knows the risks (the real risks) and decides there is benefit to a kid doing something (independently) in spite of the risk. A neglectful patent doesn’t know the risks or doesn’t care about the risk. Neglect is not for the purpose of developing independence and competence or self-esteem.

    A parent looking at the “nothing bad happened when….” Or “you know you’re a Free Range parent when…” posts and thinking, “that’s insane (neglectful,dangerous,etc),” probably has a kid who doesn’t have the same experience. Maybe the parent doesn’t have the experience themselves. The NYC subway is a perfect example. Although I had a small town free range childhood, my mother was petrified of the city and the subway. She didn’t ride the subway until I moved here as a young adult. Then she rode (on visits) accompanied by me. Ultimately, she rode “accompanied” by my kids. When they were maybe 6, although she thought of herself as the chaperone, they were the ones that knew the stops, uptown/downtown, correct exits. Mykids have taken the subway thousands of times, so riding the subway solo to school at age 11 (or home for Lenore’s son at age 9) is not the same as telling a country kid to take the subway solo. I wouldn’t let my kids drive a tractor (without some training).

    Sometimes a kid doesn’t have experience because they are protected from it. For example, maybe a kid has not been allowed to climb a tree or go to the library, or a nearby store in their own. To me, that’s a bit like not teaching a kid to swim because they might drown. Kids learn to swim at different times (there is no “age” where it is safe all of a sudden). Some of that is exposure/experience. Some of that is personality. A Free Range parent knows their child, their skills. They teach their child to swim and know the situation. Neglect would be having a kid that could not swim go down to the pool/pond unsupervised.

  104. EB May 18, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    When your seven-year old and his best friend leave for school; then you get a phone call from the school secretary who says: “Your son and his friend are up in a tree on Lombard Street. I only know because the homeowner called. But don’t worry, I’m OK with that.”

  105. rhodykat May 18, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    When you suddenly realize you haven’t heard from your 7 and 4yo who are playing outside for an hour and a half, and instead of worrying are excited about the adventure stories you’ll hear when they do show up again…

  106. CS May 18, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    I’m not a parent, but I’m a teenager who was raised by a Free Range Parent.

    You know you’ve been raised by a Free Range parent when:

    1. …you’re a teenager but you know how to make conversation with all kinds of people and you know that eye contact is important! (Also texting while talking to someone is unacceptable.)

    2. …you can’t get a ride to work, your parents are fine with you walking or biking.

    3. …you live in a town of 250 people but your parents are fine with you going on a trip to Ottawa alone to participate in a sort of retreat program for a week. (Hooray for Encounters with Canada!)

    4. …they have no idea what you’re reading but keep open communication lines in case you want to discuss something you encountered in a book.

    5. …they’re okay with leaving you and your little sister alone for a day and a day.

    I have very little chance of ever becoming a parent, but if I ever do I will definitely go free range.

  107. Kim May 18, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    When you get distracted talking to a friend and your 7 yr old walks home from the bus stop by herself.. Or when you send her outside to play without a second thought, and find her 3 hours later in the woods or playing in a HUGE rain induced pond w/o freaking about germs, insects or snakes.

  108. Kim May 18, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    Oh and when she wanders off in the grocery store because literally every employee there knows her (and you)

  109. Rachel May 18, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Your coworkers marvel at how mature your toddler is and in the same breath tell you how naive your views are on the dangers of the world.

    You’re more concerned with the cat being out without direct supervision than the toddler.

  110. Stafir May 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    When your kid knows more than you do about something, and you’re proud of them for it.

  111. Natalie May 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    While I love these stories, they give me plenty of ideas for my girls, rudeness/politeness has nothing to do with free-range, as we can see from the commenters and how they conduct themselves on-line. And helicopter/free-range has nothing to do with how well children behave.
    It’s a method of parenting designed to raise children to be independent. It’s not a cure-all. If it was, everyone would be doing it.

  112. Michelle May 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    … when you’re actually very sorry to tell your child that he can’t do a job alone, and it’s only because he isn’t physically strong enough yet.

    … when other parents won’t let their kids play in your yard because your kids have built their own “dangerous” (perfectly safe) play equipment.

    … when you remind your kids about safety rules and they look at you like you’re crazy – not because the rules are ridiculous, but because they’re so common sense that the kids can’t imagine breaking them.

    … when your home schooled kindergartener walks alone to the bus stop to meet a third-grade friend after school, but the friend isn’t allowed to get off the bus without an adult.

    … when you’re browsing a message board for parents of teenagers, and come across a question about when kids should be allowed to make decisions on their own, and your response starts with decisions you allowed your child to make at age 2.

  113. lollipoplover May 18, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    …when someone uses the term “lazy parenting” and you think of those who still do everything for their kids when the kids are perfectly capable of doing it themselves.

    …when your 6 yo daughter is surrounded by boys at a fishing derby because she is an expert at getting fish off lines to relesse.

    …when you hear sawing and hammering coming from the garage and you think, “What is he making this time?”

    …when your 9 yo daughter teaches the 7 yo neighbor how to ride a 2-wheeler.

    ….when your children REQUIRE baths each night because they are filthy from adventures.

    ….when you imagine what the future holds for your children and instead of worry, you know they’re capable of so many great things because you gave them the freedom to explore the possibilities.

  114. Maggie May 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    …when you hear about your children pushing their go-kart down the creek bank into the creek, and your first question is “Did they get it back out?”

    …when you see your 5 year old 15 feet up in a tree and you just smile and wave at him.

    …when you place your 10 year old in charge of the children’s dept. at your bookstore.

    …when your 6 YO can cross the street by herself to the bank AND fill out her own deposit slip

    …when your three year old can lead the way 5 blocks home from your family business

    …when your 8 and 9 YO’s leave a friend’s house where they’re playing, and rather than come right back to the above-mentioned family business where Mom and Dad are, they decide to pool their money and stop at the local pizza place on the way for supper.

    …when you track the kdis down at the pizza place, and instead of grounding them, you tell them next time to just come check in first, and leave them to enjoy their pizza.

    …when you say to your husband “Well, at least if we both die in our sleep one night, we know the kids won’t starve”

  115. steve May 18, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    You know you’re a successful Free Range Parent when:__ your 10-year-old teaches himself how to climb enormous trees with ropes and mountain climbing equipment – and you know that he knows the risks and how to stay safe.

    You know you’re a successful Free Range Parent when: __your teenage son teaches himself how to weld by watching youtube videos, buys what he needs, and builds his own really nice go kart from scrap metal and assorted parts.

    You know you’re a successful Free Range Parent when: __your 15-year-old gets a full-time summer job on his own with a major corporation___and they give him a key to the building. (and the company has never before hired a teenager…)

    You know you’re a successful Free Range Parent when: __your son works on his science fair project and you don’t worry (too much) because he’s using 30,000 volts.

    You know you’re a successful Free Range Parent when: __your teenage son makes all his own contacts to visit major colleges he’d like to attend, including Harvard and Yale, and the parents are essentially taken along for the ride.

  116. lsl May 18, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Hey Lenore, did you see this: ?

  117. rhodykat May 18, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    …you don’t understand why your fourth grader wouldn’t be okay on an overnight school field trip to a local museum even when the PTA president is trying to label one of the chaperones as “inappropriate” and refuses to let his child go because of the “danger”

  118. Donald May 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    Donna brings up a good point

    We need to assess the strengths of the child in order to determine how much or how little freedom they are ready for. All children are different. Bonsai parenting doesn’t do this. They lump all children together. I.E. No 8 year old should be allowed to walk to school. Their parents must be too lazy to drive them. Anything can happen.

  119. CrazyCatLady May 18, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    You know you are a Free Range Parent when you read all of the above comments and think that these parents are allowing their kids that are fine for the kids and the area that they live in.

    Personally, that is how I have looked at all of these. Of course all kids are different, and all towns/cities are different. But I assume that the parents know what is best for them and their families.

  120. CrazyCatLady May 18, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    You know that you are a Free Range Parent when you are at a yard sale and buy a Makita Drill for your son (age 8), and the person asks if it is for Dad and your son says “No! It is for me!”

  121. deborah s. May 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    You know you’re a free-range parent when: Your oldest just got his first real post-college job after endless applications, pounding the pavement, and networking all on his own in NYC where he is going to make almost no money, live on baloney sandwiches and figure out how to be an adult, your second is flying off to Uganda to do aids education in the rural countryside, your youngest is spending the summer climbing glaciers…and your most serious worry, the one that keeps you pacing the floor is is “When will we be able to get everyone together in the same house and have a decent Christmas?”

  122. Jenna K. May 18, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    I had another one happen….when you come downstairs on Friday afternoon from feeding the baby, look around, and realize your 10-year-old is not in the house but instead of freaking out, you wait and he returns 20 minutes later with a broom in his hands telling you that he earned $5 by walking around offering to sweep the neighbors’ porches

  123. sylvia_rachel May 18, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

    … when your 8-year-old introduces *you* to the nice lady who runs the corner store.

    … when your 10-year-old asks you to wash her costume for Gallery Night at school, and you say, “I have choir rehearsal, so if you need it washed, you’re going to have to wash it yourself,” and she does.

  124. Yan Seiner May 18, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

    You know you’re a free range parent when you walk into a hobby shop and the cashier ignores you and says to your 12 year old (with a big grin): “Hey, slacker, what do you need today?” – and the 12 year old knows what he needs and can talk confidently to adult about it and figure out if it’s in his budget.

    When your 15 year old calls the bank and spends 30 minutes on the phone figuring out why they keep locking her out of her debit card account.

  125. Warren May 19, 2013 at 1:11 am #

    Natalie brings up a valid point. Rudeness and politeness are not part of free range. Just as being negative and judgemental such as Natalie does not make her free range or helicopter.

  126. Emily May 19, 2013 at 1:57 am #

    @Warren–I don’t see where Natalie was being rude; she just said that there are rude and polite free-range kids, just like there are rude and polite bubble-wrapped kids.

  127. Kimberly May 19, 2013 at 2:53 am #

    You know you’re a free-range parent when…

    …you visit the general store of a small town that’s a 30 minute drive from your home, and your two-year-old son desperately wants to run 20 yards ahead to go say “hi” to all of the locals hanging out on the porch, so you let him. Despite the fact that you’re still unloading a three-year-old and an infant from the car, and there is a (country) road that he could theoretically run out into.

    …and by the time you catch up to said two-year-old, he is sitting in the lap of an old man you’ve never met, and the two are chatting like long-lost friends.

    …and when another local sees how happy your son has made this old-timer (who you find out is one of the oldest residents of the town), he asks you if he can share the remainder of a bag of M&Ms he has in his hand with your son. And you say yes, without giving a thought to the possibility of poison or razor blades or any other dangers. Your son further makes you proud by offering to share the candy with his siblings.

    …and before you leave, you have had more compliments on your children’s behavior in one afternoon than you’ve ever gotten in your hometown, which tends toward helicopter parenting and considers you “weird.”

    We started bringing our kids to this town when they were babies; they are now four, three (the one featured in this particular story), and one, and everyone there now knows them by name. We go at least once a week to get away from the drama of suburbia and to let the kids run in a place where strangers won’t try to corral or parent them for us.

    The best part of this place is that the population there is mostly older, and they all raised their kids in a free-range lifestyle. So not only do they see nothing odd about us, but they actually agree with us. It’s so refreshing. Today my social butterflies scored free ice cream cones after my oldest was offered the last bite of the general store manager’s ice cream cone. Our younger kids got a bit jealous, and a couple of our favorite locals immediately started fighting over who got to treat the kids to ice cream. I love that feeling of having other people adoring my kids.

    And my four- and three-year-old immediately said thank you without being prompted, which was just icing on the cake. 🙂

  128. hineata May 19, 2013 at 6:43 am #

    Had a nice one today – when we all got into strife with ‘order confusion’ in the volunteer café I run today – everyone changed around jobs, never a good idea for a bunch of middle-agers who do other things in their workaday lives!- the twelve year old went from table to table sorting out the kerfuffle, and when there were still issues, she just told the cooks who needed what, and pointed out to her father that we could set aside the extras and eat them ourselves. And she was still filing my orders at the same time. Can’t wait for her to be allowed to get a paid job…she’s a lot better at this sort of organisational thing than I am, LOL!

  129. Yan Seiner May 19, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    @Natalie: For me, free range means the kids are polite and know how to behave themselves when away from adults. A rude kid is not a free range kid in my book. A free range kid behaves herself, picks up his trash, follows the rules, and in general is an asset to society because s/he is internally motivated and not externally driven to do so.

    At least that’s the rules we follow. Maybe that’s why my kids’ friends think I am strict. 🙂

  130. Natalie May 19, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    @Yan Seiner- I’m all for strictness. It’s a lost art. 😉
    I just wanted to point out that politeness, good behavior, following rules, a good work ethic etc. can also be found with helicopter kids. Just as rude behavior can be found with free- range. If a free range parent takes the time to teach a kid to be polite, be civil to others and behave well, that’s even better.
    I just don’t see helicoptering and good behavior as mutually exclusive.

  131. lollipoplover May 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Last night, my husband and I went out to dinner with a group of friends, leaving our kids in the care of our responsible 12 yo. Our neighbors who joined us have similar aged children and hired a babysitter, telling us they would never leave their kids *alone*. They received 7 calls from the sitter and had to leave early because of “problems at home”. We enjoyed our night out, came home to kids sleeping, toys picked up, and not one dirty dish in the sink.

  132. Warren May 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    I was being sarcastic. Lenore put up a good humoured post, for everyone to have fun with, and do a little bragging about their kids. A couple of commentors couldn’t just have a little fun, they had to and try to make a point, or analysis. Like Natalie and Meg.

  133. Emily May 19, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    @Natalie and Yan Seiner–I agree that rude kids and polite kids can be found all over the bubble-wrap-to-free-range spectrum. However, a lot of the time, bubble-wrapped kids are polite because their parents are always hovering over them, keeping tabs on their behaviour, even though they might not necessarily have to. Meanwhile, properly free-ranged kids are taught the right way to behave in the world, but then they’re allowed to go out and BE in that world, and interact with people. I know this, because I was one of the first generation of bubble-wrapped kids, as the O.J. Simpson trial made headlines when I was in about grade one or so. My parents were avid newspaper readers (before Internet), so all around me, I saw kids playing in the neighbourhood alone, riding bikes alone, going to the park alone, walking to and from school alone, etc., and I was allowed these and other age-appropriate freedoms at a MUCH later age (and then only selectively), or not at all. So, everywhere my brother and I went, it felt like we were under parental purview, and after awhile, we resented it, because the undertone of “we don’t trust the world,” was “we don’t trust YOU,” and the undertone of that was “you are bad and irresponsible,” EVEN if my parents meant well, and were trying to ensure our safety. When I started high school, and got involved with multiple extra-curricular activities, I got a lot more freedom, the resentment dropped, and I realized that I wasn’t bad or irresponsible, I felt better about myself, and I started interacting with others in a much more pleasant way. Before that, during my bubble-wrap days, I wasn’t so much openly rude (beyond normal adolescent indiscretions), I was just sort of withdrawn, because of all the teasing that came with not being allowed to explore the world with my peers for so long. So, I think it all goes together, and good free-range parenting is more likely to produce genuinely nice and polite kids, than lazy parenting (duh), or bubble-wrap/bonsai/helicopter parenting.

  134. pentamom May 19, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Emily, are you saying your parents started bubble wrapping you because of OJ Simpson? That goes even beyond the normal helicopter reaction — were they afraid you were going to enrage your ex-husband by picking up a waiter when you were 8 years old?

  135. Natalie May 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    Emily – there you go. You’ve been helicoptered and you’re perfectly civil to everyone here no matter the tone. 😉

  136. Emily May 19, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    @Pentamom–Sort of. Actually, it wasn’t just O.J. Simpson and Carla Holmolka; it was the whole “sensationalist news” thing–they’d see reports of abductions in the newspaper, and shorten the leash they had on me and my brother even more, “not as a punishment, but just to keep you safe.” Of course, by today’s standards, their version of bonsai parenting might seem average-to-free-range, because we were still allowed to play in the yard unsupervised, and cook simple meals for ourselves, but at the time, we felt confined, because we saw all our peers being allowed to go places without a parent. During those years, I remember a lot of family outings, and a lot of talk about how “it’s not that we don’t trust you; it’s that we don’t trust the world.” Of course, what that really meant was, they didn’t trust us to handle ourselves in the world, even if “the world” just meant the park down the street, or the variety mart three blocks away. Anyway, no, my parents weren’t afraid that my brother and I would turn to a life of crime (at least, not until we started rebelling against our upbringing, and “sneaking out” to places like, say, the arcade on a Saturday afternoon). Instead, they were afraid that we’d get abducted and/or sexually assaulted.

  137. Natalie May 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    Its funny you say that, Emily. I think we grew up around the same time because I remember the whole OJ mess being around junior high, maybe high school. My youngest sister, was around nine or so. My middle sister and I weren’t helicoptered from a young age, but my youngest was. And my mom tried to helicopter my sister and I around the same time, but we were older and refused it.
    I never thought of the time that she changed parenting styles to correlate with OJ. Was that around the time that kidnappings got so much press? Maybe that whole period was a turning point in the media as far as sensationalism and crime.
    Has anyone here studied this topic at all?

  138. pentamom May 19, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Emily, I think I understand what your parents were thinking about keeping you “safe,” I’m just mystified why anyone would think that the OJ situation in any way bears on child abduction or other things relating to child safety. I guess they just thought of it as an example of a “dangerous world,” though of course people committing crimes out of sexual jealousy was HARDLY new or happening at a greater rate in 1994 than before.

    But then, I’m quite capable of having reactions that aren’t totally logical so I don’t mean to mock your parents. It just struck me a bit funny.

  139. pentamom May 19, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    By funny I mean “mildly amusing” when you look at the actual logic of the situation, not funny “odd.”

  140. Emily May 19, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    >>Emily – there you go. You’ve been helicoptered and you’re perfectly civil to everyone here no matter the tone. ;)<<

    Natalie–I was only really strictly "helicoptered" until a little ways into high school. By late grade nine/early grade ten, I was given a LOT more room to breathe. If the helicoptering had continued, I'd probably be a completely different person.

  141. Natalie May 19, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    And this just in from today:

    When you give your girls a bath after a day outside and the bath water turns brown. You drain the water and a nice layer of sediment is left over. You consider a second bath.

    When your 6 yr old and her friend raid the arts and crafts section of the closet while you’re giving your 2 1/2 yr old a bath and you come down to see they’ve turned wrapping paper, ribbons and a few random plastic containers from the recycling into guns. You consider if ribbons on homemade hand-held weapons would demonstrate the stupidity of zero-tolerance rules.

  142. D May 19, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    The one about homework being turned in on time……. That is not being free rNge but immediate. If you can’t do that, then you’re one heck of a failure. Ameri an children these days need to know how to PROPERLY complete their homework without being told to- I know many twelve year olds who have had this skill mastered since preschool

  143. Emily May 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    @D–To be fair, a lot of schools these days set homework assignments that no kid can reasonably complete independently, without considerable involvement and/or financial outlay from their parents. If I remember correctly, we’ve had at least one discussion on this blog about Student #1 submitting, say, a diorama, for school that was obviously kid-made, and getting a C for it, while Student #2 submitting a diorama that was obviously made by an adult (presumably Mom or Dad), and getting an A.

  144. Warren May 19, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    So much for the fun post.

  145. Free Range Criminal May 19, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    You get arrested and thrown in jail for “Reckless Conduct” for allowing your child to walk 1 mile home on his own. Happened to me last week.

  146. Emily May 20, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    >>So much for the fun post.<<

    Fine. I'll tell a fun, free-range story, then. One time, when I was eight or so, and my brother would have been five, it was a scorching hot summer afternoon, and my brother and I were in the car, on the way back from some errand or another with my mom. Since it was so hot, we stopped off at the sprinkler park, except we didn't have bathing suits, because this was a spontaneous detour. I pointed this out to my mom, and she said, "Oh, you can get as wet as you please," so my brother and I ran through the sprinklers in our shorts and T-shirts, got completely soaked, and my mom didn't even care about us getting the upholstery in the car wet, since we didn't have towels with us either.

  147. Michelle May 20, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    when you wave goodbye to your 8 yr old on the train platform, departing for a scout camp, only knowing the name of the destination town…

  148. Hellen May 20, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    …when your 14 yr old thanks you for not hovering over every Scout event he goes to and for not planning on visiting him at the 2013 Jambo like his friends’ mother does

  149. Havva May 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    You know you are on track to free-range when … your 2 year-old pulls you back to the curb because she spotted a car that in your sleepy state you didn’t notice. Then she reminds you that you told her that mom must look for cars before crossing. Because of course you have been teaching her about the major dangers in our environment ever since she learned to walk.

    You know you are a free range parent at heart when… other parents are complaining about how 2 year olds want to do everything on their own, and you sit there a bit bewildered until they look at you. And all you can say is, “But I love that about my 2 year old! I do my best to let her, and to help her succeed.”

    You know this free-range thought process really is something when … the other parents then hear how your 2 year old WANTS to help and that she loads and unloads the dishwasher, cleans her place mat, washes floors , throws out trash, tries to sweep, and helps make sandwiches and they joke about sending their 4 – 8 year olds home with you so your 2 year old can teach them to be helpers.

    You know you’re a free-range parent when… you’re sitting outside reading a book while the 2 year old picks dandelions. And you feel perfectly fine doing this because you have taught her to stay out of the street (and actually seen her ask an adult for help the times her ball has rolled out into the street.). Taught her not to put things she finds in her mouth. Taught her to leave bees alone, and that toadstools are poisonous. And because you look up if the babbling stops for more than 2 seconds. And you notice that this constitutes less supervision than the father across the street who is giving the death glare to every move his school age son makes. And he will not let the boy go more than 2 houses down the sidewalk even though there is good visibility up to 5 houses down the road. And you realize you have already allowed your toddler to run about 2 houses ahead of you on the sidewalk, because again… you know she won’t go into the street, and you would let her go farther except that she hasn’t managed to open that large a gap yet.

  150. Natalie May 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Regarding parent involvement in projects, my friend would more or less take over her kids’ science fair projects. And when her kids won first place multiple years, people grumbled about it. The competition is a bit skewed.
    This would be my personal free-range challenge in that it would be difficult for me to step back from these kinds of school projects. They’re just so much fun! And I’d like to share that with my daughters.
    But I probably enjoyed them so much because I did them on my own or with a friend. I may have asked my parents for advice, fact checking, etc, but they never sat down and put the projects together with me, as my friend did with her kids.

  151. Kerry May 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    You know you’re free range when you send your 11, 10, & 8 year old off on their bikes to the school playground and drop their 6 year old sibling off because he can’t ride yet.

    By the way nothing happened…..

  152. Emily May 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    @Hellen–Where are you from? I volunteered with the Girl Guides in Australia for a few months, before I had to return to Canada, and loved it. I volunteered with two different units; Rangers and Brownies, and Guides was strictly a “drop-off” thing–even for the blind girl in the Brownie unit, and the girl with an intellectual disability and epilepsy in the Ranger unit. When I went back to Canada, I tried volunteering with the Girl Guides again, and lasted ONE meeting, because of the parental hovering, and because it was just overall a much more micromanaged, bubble-wrapped kind of atmosphere. I hear things are also like that in the States, but I haven’t witnessed it first-hand.

  153. Emily May 20, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    @Natalie–Some schools, including Kimberley’s school (where she teaches grade five), have clued into the phenomenon of parents doing their kids’ projects for them, and have mandated that all science fair projects, and other major projects, are to be completed at school. This not only ensures that the kids do their own work; it also levels the socioeconomic playing field, so that the child whose parents can afford to run out to the craft store to buy supplies to build the pioneer horse and buggy, doesn’t have an unfair advantage over the child who has to assemble the horse and buggy from recycled cardboard.

  154. Paul May 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    You know you’re a free-range parent when your three-year-old kid stops you at the archery range because the range officer didn’t call “the range is now clear” loud enough for her to hear, and she knows quite well not to even lift her bow until she hears the all-clear.

  155. Emily May 21, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    @Paul–How about “You know you’re a free-range parent when you allow your three-year-old to do archery in the first place.” Seriously, good on you–even if your daughter doesn’t grow up to be a latter-day Robin Hood (Robin being an androgynous name), she’ll have a lot of confidence and positive self-esteem from knowing that her father trusted her from such an early age.

  156. Paul May 22, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    @Emily: Thanks! She can barely pull the eight-pound bow at this point, but a big part of starting her out early is to make sure she understands the safety rules in the first place. Her six-year-old brother is quite a shot, and does pretty good shooting from horseback as well :).

  157. ladykatza May 22, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    When your kids go outside to play with the crappy toy bow and arrow and a bb gun and you don’t worry because you’ve taught them proper safety rules.

    When you proudly watch them casting fishing rods by themselves while enjoying grown-up time.

  158. Danielle Meitiv May 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    … when everyone on the block knows your 5 and 8 year old kids because they’ve made friends with all the grown-ups (the kids are too busy!), hangout in other people’s backyards, and play with the neighborhood cats and dogs.

  159. D May 26, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    That’s nothing to what children around the world thses days are facing-kids is Korea or china have way more assignments and still do all of it. When I was in sixth grade, I could complete the assignments my teachers gave me and could do them correctly and on time. The only times when I would recieve help is when I was asked to do something my parents considered uneducational and a waste of time, such as coloring( what twelve year old colors?). And kids these days shouldn’t waste their time running around the woods; they should be more productive. While FR can give the child emotional skills to be successful, actual studying and hard work can insure the child a good place in the job market.

  160. Paul May 27, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    You know you’re a free range parent when … my kids befriend your kids, and I use your common sense to loosen up and set an example of what I should let my kids do with yours, and on their own. Double win!

  161. Angela May 28, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    ….when you let your 6 YO go play at the school playground 1/2 block away, by herself, and she comes home an hour later talking about her friends who were also there, with their Mommy and their Daddy and their Nanny.

    ….and when that 6 YO tells you the Mommy and the Daddy and the Nanny all asked where HER Mommy or Daddy was, and she replied, “At home drinking coffee!”.