Readers! The question that Emily poses, below, is so central to Free-Ranging that I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t have a truly killer response. But when in need, as we teach our kids, ask for help. So that is what I’m doing –asking all of you: How can we let our kids do things on their own at an age that WE consider appropriate, if much of the rest of society does NOT?
I’d love to hear from any of you who have done this successfully, as well as those who have not. I’d also appreciate any feedback and/or tips from people who work in child protection, the police department or the law.
I really do want to come up with some simple, usable strategies beyond the ones I’ve suggested before, which include:
* Give your child a “Free-Range Kids Membership Card” that states his name and the fact that you, the parent, approve of him being on his own. (It also includes your phone number, so a skeptical adult can confirm this.)
* Get other kids involved, so there’s strength in numbers.
* Try giving a talk to the PTA about the fact that violent crime is down since the ’70s and ’80s, which means today’s kids are NOT more in danger than we were.
*Yuppie Jujitsu: When parents say children need hovering, tell them recent studies show that unsupervised “free play” makes children less depressed, more fit AND it builds their cognitive capabilities. (Yuppies love the word “cognitive”!)
*And…what else? Eagerly awaiting your two cents! — Lenore
Dear Free-Range Kids: Sometimes I get so discouraged. I have a 7 year old boy, a 2.5 year old girl and a 1 year old boy. We live in an apartment building with no yard of our own. It’s also on the corner of two very busy streets. A few miles down the road, however, my father has a nice house in a suburban neighborhood. Two blocks away there are a playground, pool, library, grocery store and various small shops. When I was younger (7 or so), my best friend, younger brother and I would spend all day in this plaza, by ourselves. My lucky mother, haha! I would love a break like that!
Anyway, my son visits there often and I’d like him to be able to ride his bike around the neighborhood, go to the playground, and waste his allowance on candy at the store. I’d like him and his sister to be able to play in the (un-fenced-in) yard at my dad’s house. But I get SO many negative comments from just about everyone. Did I know my kids were on the porch ALONE?? Did I know my son rode his bike five houses away? Did I know my children were playing in THE DIRT????
Yes, I did. Thank you for your concern. Now please go away. Haha. I’m afraid that if I let my son go to the playground by himself, he’ll be accosted by every busybody along the way, and I’m even more worried that they’ll call the police.
Also, when we go out shopping, I let my son go to the toy aisle while I do my shopping nearby. When I go to “collect” him, there is always some other mom hovering and when she sees me she’ll say something like, “Oh, good, I just wanted to make sure he was safe.” Also while at the store, I occasionally have to take my 2 yr old to the bathroom. Rather than bring the baby in with us (which is ALWAYS a disaster), I’d like to leave him in the cart, by the door, with my older son. Yet, I fear the good-intentioned masses.
I’d appreciate any advice you can give me. Thank you! — Emily