worried mom from back unsplash

Help! I’ve Become a Helicopter Parent!

This is far from the only mom I’ve heard from who grew up Free-Range — and happy about it — who then found herself helicoptering.

I always try to explain that it is not that millions of individual parents suddenly and individually became neurotic basket cases. It’s that we are living in a culture turning an entire GENERATION of parents into what I call “worst-first thinkers”: People automatically leaping to the worst case scenario FIRST and then proceeding as if it’s likely  to happen. (That’s what my Free-Range Kids book is all about — how we got to this point.) So when I get an introspective letter from a worst-firster, like this one, which was written to Let Grow (the nonprofit that grew out of Free-Range Kids, yada, yada, yada), I savor it: 

I grew up Free-Range to the max.

Dear Let Grow:

A friend of mine recommended your newsletter to me just in the last few months and I really enjoy it.

I grew up in Vermont in the ’70s with LOTS of freedom. At 5, 6, 7 and 8 years old, I left in the morning to play in the neighborhood, came home for lunch, left again and came home for dinner.  Sometimes I’d go back out until it started to get dark. I walked at least three blocks to school each day, sometimes with a buddy but alone as I grew older. Then we moved to the country and as a pre-teen and teenager, I rode my bike on main roads miles from home, hiked in woods, and was a latch-key kid, even during the dark winter months. My parents would get home well after dark.

Now I am so afraid for my daughter.

Many years later, I live in a middle class neighborhood that has a nature reserve one mile up the road, and one mile the other way is the Boston line, an area with one of the highest crime rates in the city.  I have an 11 year old daughter who I won’t even let play in the yard alone.

I can preach all day about the importance of independence, responsibility and freedom, but when it comes to the most valuable thing in my life, I am afraid.  She also attends a small private school (where I work) so she doesn’t have neighborhood kids that she knows that she can go play with, or their mothers looking out for her. I absolutely will not let her have a phone until she’s in high school so I’ve struggled with letting her go out of my reach of safety, unable to call me if she needs me.

I truly struggle to let go.

So here is where I say thank you for your April 17th article, “I Let My Kids Walk to the Library On Their Own.”  I know it’s not much, but since reading the article, I’ve allowed my daughter the freedom to ride her bike a few blocks away from home alone.

When I say it aloud, it sounds absurd, like, “Of course she should be able to do that.” But even this is hard for me. I do not get anything done while she’s gone because I’m waiting and worrying, and she has to check in every 20 minutes. I know if we lived elsewhere, it would likely be very different but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

I couldn’t have done it without hearing about others.

Keep sending your newsletters!  Pray for the safety of our children and the strength for the moms to know that their children will be okay.



Lenore here again: Pray I do. But as for hearing other people’s stories: the comments part of this blog is limping along. So if you want to chat and swap stories, the action has moved to our Facebook Group, Raising Independent Kids. As you’ll see, it’s where you can ask questions, give advice, and float balloons about any independence you’re thinking of giving your kids. Go there to chat. And know that you are not alone. SO MANY PARENTS  are shocked to find themselves hovering way more than their own parents did. It’s a sign on the times, not you! 

Comments are closed.