flaco ai dalle

FLACO THE FIRST FREE-RANGE KIDS MASCOT: Escaped Owl Flies in the Face of Overprotection

Just one month ago, Flaco the owl was sprung from New York’s Central Park Zoo. Until then the Eurasian Eagle Owl had lived a very safe, sleepy life in, basically, a cozy 1BR apt w/ park vu.  He had a tree to perch in, some rocks to, I don’t know, scratch? Bang his bored head against? And for sustenance he received the owl equivalent of Grub Hub — food delivered to him. Perhaps actual grubs.

But when his mesh enclosure was snipped open by some miscreant on Feb. 2 (and I swear it wasn’t me), suddenly that spoon-fed, molly-coddled creature rose to the occasion. Literally. He flew out into the city that never sleeps — which, when you think about it, is probably perfect for an owl. But an overprotected one?

Could he figure out how to fly further than 15 feet in each direction? Stay safe? Find food?


Readers: He has done all that and more. He is king of the forest — and catnip to columnists (including, obviously, me). As one such NY Times piece reports, it turns out all Flaco really needed was a little trust and a little freedom. Neither were offered by the zoo, but when he got them, he became a new bird. Curious, capable, captivating.

The parallels to young people are so painfully obvious, all I can say is: In my line or work I have seen this time and again. Parents, terrified to let their kids go, are given a little push and — poof! They are flabbergasted and fulfilled to see how much their kids are capable of. Far from feeling like useless castoffs, the parents are elated: “I had no idea my son was so capable!” “If I’d known how much she could do, I’d have let her start a lot sooner.” “He seems so much more confident — and so am I!”


Want to feel that same heady mixture of relief, joy, and amazement? Download the Let Grow Independence Kit. It’s got some simple suggestions for how to start letting go. Or, better still, ask your child’s school or teacher to assign The Let Grow Project, where students K-12 get the homework assignment, “Go home and do something new, on your own, without your parents.” When a bunch of kids ALL start doing new stuff on their own, things (like anxiety!) change fast and for the better. The kids compare notes, their parents do the same, and voila: The norms switch from over-protective to overwhelmed with pride and excitement.

Want a school full of Flacos (without the regurgitated mouse skeletons)? Get started! Download The Let Grow Project implementation guide and watch those fledgling kids fly!

4 Responses to FLACO THE FIRST FREE-RANGE KIDS MASCOT: Escaped Owl Flies in the Face of Overprotection

  1. Holly March 16, 2023 at 10:08 am #

    Thank you for sharing about Flaco the owl!

  2. Elisabeth March 16, 2023 at 2:38 pm #

    Is it Flaco or Falco? I really hope its Falco because Flaco sounds a little…um…flaky.

  3. James Bordonaro March 16, 2023 at 3:16 pm #


    It’s actually Flaco. Here’s a link to the story from late night comedian, Seth Meyers.


  4. Mark J Headley March 16, 2023 at 5:58 pm #

    When I ask parents now here in NYC, they most all all they acknowledge enjoying much more experience, freedoms, in their youth. ALL are happy about this. NONE felt they’d been neglected, endangered; wish their parents had doted on them more. So why not extend their kids the same freedoms? “It’s a different world now.” Around the world, from their perspective .Actually, as Lenore has aptly underscored, the stats on crimes, including violence against children, have further declined with the current generation — once the crack epidemic petered out. Back to when Baby Boomers like me, Lenore grew up. Contrary to lousy media, my Dad DID lecture my younger bro’ and me to offer no resistance, no excuse for escalation if cops/authorities got rough, accusatory. To report this such episodes, but offer no excuse for violence, escalation. A valuable lesson, I believe. One I thank for my survival despite at least 3 episodes of unprovoked police, security guard violence here, abroad. More violence from GFs, a Girl gang, a student gang descending upon a small teacher until I intervened, a male predator picking me up to help me get to my grandparents. never threatened me; never left the highway; left me off where I’d requested. Yet looked over at me seemingly sleeping as he masturbated. I figured I’d be safest if I pretended to remain sleeping; keeping an eye out for any turn off the highway: any opportunity where I’d be safest bailing from the car. No easy call. I figured likely best not sitting tight into the back woods, the wilderness. Never came to that. I figured best not to tell anyone but highly trusted peers. How would the guy get caught, punished much, based on anything I could tell? I wasn’t traumatized. I didn’t hitchhike again though. Largely because I did’t wang to scare. rile up my parents. Nor spur some cutback to my extensive freedoms. Still went backpacking, kayaking, biking, body surfing, camping. Trips to NYC as a minor without supervision. Working in McDonald’s as a minor. So why the Baby Boomers happy w/ their independence as kids, yet going on to deprive THEIR kids? Swallowing sensationalized reports of a spike in US violence v. kids contrary to a fair assessment of actual data for over a decade? So FLACO? Amazing that depriving him of a proper upbringing has NOT left him unequipped for resourseful adulthood. BRAVO! I would NOT count on this in adult humans, other creatures. I’d expect to be left Flaccid, impotent.