How Come Yesterday’s Free-Range Moms are Today’s Helicopter Grandmas?

Readers, naidyryrbh
this comes up often: terrified grandmas who were fearless moms (or at least feared less):

Dear Free-Range Kids: Funny thing about  my mother…

I was very much raised Free-Range.  From the time I was six or so, I left the house in the morning, returned for lunch, and then got called home after dark.  The only rule was don’t leave the block without telling someone.  My friends and I ran in a pack, organized our own games, settled our own rivalries, and learned important lessons like ‘poking sticks in the gutters is only fun until you bother a raccoon.’

I am incredibly grateful for my childhood.  I honestly grieve for children who are never allowed outside without supervision and aren’t even trusted in their own homes without an adult until they’re sixteen (if then).  But what I find most maddening is that my own mother, who raised me to be independent and dance in the rain, now firmly believes those parents have the right idea. 

Why?  Because, “The world has changed.” 

And when I show her the stats and explain how times are actually LESS dangerous than in the days when I was roaming the streets, she says, “Well, everyone has their own beliefs.”  I cannot convince her that the lower crime rate is an actual, verifiable FACT, not an opinion.  She tells me “anything could happen,” and when I remind her that nothing happened to her own children, she says, “It’s just not safe these days.”

That’s how insidious the media machine is.  Here we have a woman who once trusted in the world enough to let her children experience it…yet who now firmly believes in the face of all evidence that children are now being snatched off street corners every single day.  Data and facts do not sway her, because this isn’t about reality…it’s about perception, and ONLY perception. 

My brother recently had his first child.  They came to visit, and his wife scolded him for turning his back on the baby in a restaurant for less than thirty seconds.  He had dropped a fork, and while his wife was in the restroom my brother got up to grab a waiter’s attention.  “Anyone could have taken him!” his wife said, and my mother agreed.

It’s just so damn sad. – Frankly Frustrated  

Dear Frustrated: It IS sad. And to live in such safe times and treat them like we’re living through the Plague Years is really ungrateful, too.  So, if any of you readers have managed to make your own parents shake off the fear, please tell us how you did it!

Yesterday's Free-Range Moms are today's terrified grannies.

Yesterday’s Free-Range Moms are today’s terrified grannies.

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83 Responses to How Come Yesterday’s Free-Range Moms are Today’s Helicopter Grandmas?

  1. Katie G January 13, 2014 at 7:33 am #

    I’ve wondered the same thing although it isn’t quite the issue with my family. Our differences between Then and Now are just that- differences- b/c A, I have 3 children as opposed to be being an only, and B, we live on a busy street instead of a quiet one where my folks live/d.
    The most helicopter like couple I know are grandparents, whose daughter I grew up with. I’m not sure how much she & her husband helicopter. It’s not really a huge change though, because she was overly watched to my mind.

  2. BL January 13, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    People found things to go insane about in previous eras, they were just different things.

    In the early 1950s, parents were convinced by a drumbeat of “experts” that comic books were turning their children into crazed killers. This resulted in censorship, (comic-)book-burnings, the demonization of talented artists, and the destruction of an industry.

    (Look up David Hajdu’s book “The Ten-Cent Plague” for the gory details)

  3. Andy January 13, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    @BL I think that current equivalent of comics would be computer games and electronic devices generally. Are they all turning kids into cold killing machines? Lets ban computer games immediately and lock down all computer so kids can not learn anything about them.

  4. Mel H January 13, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    The same thing is happening to me. My mother let me go out all day to play as long as I stayed on the street. The cowbell signed dinner time some days. Now she panics if my 10 year old is outside by herself at her house. I feel your pain.

  5. Melanie Jones January 13, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    At the airport in San Diego, a little boy had his Thomas train and was rolling it along the top of the bag claim area. Safely, but of course, any second he could have done something that would have you know ripped his fingers off or something. People were watching him, mildly smiling. My son pulled out his Thomas train and joined in the fun. I felt anyone at the bag claim would have caught him if he did something truly dangerous, but his dad was right there and people weren’t going into distress mode over the possibilities (remote) of permanent disfigurement. On the other side of the ocean in Charlotte, my son and daughter were sitting at eye level watching the bag claim go by. No less than three older men shouted across the way “you better watch his fingers!”, after awhile a TSA employee came by and said, “Ma’am, she can’t look through there”. No smiles, just sheer terror. Then again, California is the state where there is a warning on about everything that it can give you cancer or birth defects. I guess every region has its ‘thing’.

  6. pentamom January 13, 2014 at 8:45 am #

    I think people become more fearful as they become older unless they consciously adopt a mentality of not doing so. Then that increased tendency to fearfulness causes the to fall for whatever fear-hype they get exposed to in the media, where 30 years earlier their common sense may have told them just to shrug it off as just another one of those things you hear about now and then but don’t really need to worry about. In many cases, it is just as simple as that.

  7. TaraK January 13, 2014 at 8:46 am #

    My mom is on news channels all day long. She has a grasp on what is going on not only in her neighborhood/town but around the world. And yet, she is allowing me to “Free Range” her grandchildren. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. One, she knows that I am actually very conscious of where my kids are and who they are with.

    Two, she knows that just because bad things happen in other places doesn’t mean they will happen to me. (News is news because it is rare, you don’t hear about EVERY little car accident!)

    Three, she knows that my kids are MY kids for ME to raise MY way. (And she also sees how awesome they are, loving towards each other and watching out for each other!)

  8. Michelle January 13, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    My mom is the same way. When I was a kid, if I came inside in the middle of the day, I’d be told to go back outside and play. We roamed all over with our friends. We had kool-aid stands. We rode bikes and climbed trees. We did chores for neighbors, and accepted money. We scavenged parts from a demolished house to fix up my playhouse.

    My mother and I grew up in the same house. Driving through the old neighborhood recently, I pointed out to my daughter the bayou where I used to play. My mother commented that I wasn’t supposed to play there… but then, neither was she as a kid, and she did. 😛

    But now the world is too dangerous for her grandchildren. “It’s not the same as when you were a kid,” she tells me. I agree that it’s not the same; it’s a safer era, and I live in a safer neighborhood! How lucky we are today!

  9. Carly January 13, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    That is a great question, one I’ve wrestled with. I think the media definitely plays a big part.

    It seems in some cases the media made the decision not to report on some crimes years ago so people weren’t aware of what was going on, and now they’ve gone the other direction into sensationalizing.

  10. Michelle January 13, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    You know what? I wonder if it’s not simply a function of not being around kids all the time anymore? You get some distance, and you forget what it’s like. I have several kids, who are mostly very close in age. But I recently had a baby after a five and a half year gap, and it’s almost like being a new parent for the first time again. I get nervous even leaving her in her bassinet while I’m in bed a few feet away. I’ll get used to it, but I’m sure it would be harder to let go if I wasn’t here every day, seeing for myself that she’s ok.

  11. Donna January 13, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    It isn’t just grandmas and it isn’t just about kids. Society, of all ages, seems to have an irrational fear of crime today. I just opted off my neighborhood listserv because I couldn’t stand my email being filled with almost daily reports of “oh, my god, someone knocked on my door in the middle of the afternoon and asked if I needed my yard raked. I called the police who said that they have spoken to him and he is fine, but I just don’t feel safe.”

    After my neighbors started insisting that 911 needed to be called any time a stranger knocked on your door, I tried to explain that (a) knocking on a door is not actually a crime and (b) crime is at its lowest rate in years. This was meant with insistence that crime is only down because people are vigilant (the fact that most crime is between people known to each other seems to go over their heads). Someone insisted that we need to call 911 because criminals monitor police scanners (WTF? That doesn’t even make sense). Most pointed out the recent spat of home invasions where a young female knocks on the door and then 4-5 men come in and rob and beat the occupants. That did in fact happen 3-4 times before Christmas but the news reports are very clear that the victims are all DRUG DEALERS and the TEENAGE GIRLS knocking on the door are all KNOWN to the people inside the house. This is absolutely not random acts of violence against average people living in nice neighborhoods. It is the targeted jumping of drug dealers in the ‘hood for their large stores of cash (likely by a gang that wants to run them out of business).

    I’ve given up believing that people have any ability to be rational about this subject. They believe that criminals are lurking on every corner. They have no ability to read and interpret the true threat in crime stories. They cannot differentiate the threat between crimes occurring in their neighborhood and crimes occurring 5 states away. And if statistics don’t match their belief, they just make crap up. It is not at all surprising that our formerly free range parents are buying into this fear too.

  12. Denise January 13, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    My father was upset about a shooting in Chicago and begging me to make sure that my daughter was always supervised. I reminded him we lived in rural Virginia and my daughter had more to fear from a snake than a gangbanger. It didn’t make sense to him- because he’s make the choice to be a afraid. I cannot get him to understand the reality that we are safer today….

    I’ve given up trying to get him to understand facts. He doesn’t see much of his granddaughter because he conterdicts how I try to raise my daughter.

  13. lollipoplover January 13, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    Many grandparents suffer from parenting amnesia. They reflect on their past experiences with rose colored glasses and forget the reality of what actually happened when they had active little ones.

    My MIL suffers from the same “times are different” affliction that the mom in this OP has. Several years ago she told me at a restaurant that she never allowed her son (my husband) to go to the restroom alone until he was 11. She made this comment after I told my 10 yo son where the restroom was. She said it with the “times have changed” message to which I agreed with her. “Times HAVE changed. If I took him with me in the women’s restroom he would probably be put on the sex offender registry for life. He’s 5’6 and 120 lbs! He can pee on his own.” For the record, my husband never remembers going to the bathroom with any parent. Parenting amnesia.

    It helps to reference actual events when grandparents and elders make stupid comments. My MIL frequently lectured me about “never letting them out of your sight” when I had 3 kids in less than 5 years and needed to go to the bathroom in peace. It helped that she gifted me with my husband’s baby book, where she recorded every detail of his youth. He had his stomach pumped for drinking a bottle of cologne at 2. He also ate his grandpa’s heart medication and had his stomach pumped again. He crashed his big wheel into a parked car in the street. His baby book made for great reading when I was feeling less than confident about my imperfect parenting skills and my inability to prevent accidents like my MIL thinks I should.
    Parenting Amnesia.

  14. J.T. Wenting January 13, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    well, if yesterday’s free range kids can be today’s helicopter moms, why can’t their mothers not be helicopter grandmas?

    It’s sad, but the whole media bombardment with fake stories about how dangerous things are these days for kids causes it, nothing more, nothing less.

    It’s the same thing that causes an ever larger area around schools and even houses where kids live to be effectively off limits to single men, after all those are all automatically pedophiles…

  15. Jen (P.) January 13, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    Yeah, this has been an issue with my mom, and “the world was a different place then” is her rationale. We’ve been debating for years about whether the world is really going to hell in a hand basket. The funny thing is that my kids are aware of her apprehension. They joke about how she comes up with excuses to come over when she knows they’re home alone.

  16. Jen (P.) January 13, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    I also agree that media exposure is a key factor here. My mom was a very young mother and has decided she was just completely clueless back then and had no business allowing my brother and me the freedom we had. At the same time though, as I mentioned, she thinks the world is an even more dangerous place now, and that is largely attributable to her copious free time which she spends reading on the internet that the sky is falling. I keep telling her she needs to get out more and interact with a broader range of people. Most of them aren’t so bad.

  17. Virginia January 13, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    My mom lives with me and my daughter, now 12 in 7th grade. Mom really wants to see a movie and I suggested Sunday afternoon that I take her. She said we couldn’t leave the kid at home. I asked why not, reminding her that not only was I left alone several years younger, but that I got myself home from school and started dinner prep much younger. Her reply was not that the world was different, but “I had no other options.” So apparently she was worried sick about it the whole time? No amount of convincing could get her out to the movie, so home she stayed so she could keep an eye on the kid who was engaged for 3 hours straight in her room writing the next great American novel (a great activity for a rainy day). We didn’t hear a peep out of the kid or see her all afternoon.

  18. Renee Anne January 13, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    I’ll admit that I can be a bit of a panicky parent about some things (I’m working on that) but there are other times when I find it perfectly acceptable to leave my kid alone to learn things on his own (he’s 3). We have a fenced-in backyard and I let him and the dog play back there, even where I can’t see him. Sure, he’s played with dog poop (quite often, even though we pick it up pretty regularly), and taken all his clothes off, but he’s fine. When we go to Subway, I let him pick a booth to sit in and turn my back on him while he sits there (or, rather, plays Musical Booths). He does, however, hold my hand on walks because he’s an established runner that doesn’t listen when he’s told to stop. I know what his limitations and okays are (for now).

  19. Warren January 13, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    Alot of it has to do with the transition of technology.

    My former inlaws are in their late 70s. They grew up thru the years of TVs with only antenae and a few local channels, to cable with more but still basically local channels, to Sat TV with countless channels, to now having the internet.

    For decades they never were informed of 99.9999% of what went on in the rest of the world. Now they hear about every school lockdown, every child abduction, missing child, and so on. They do not have the life logic to put this information into perspective, that said missing child is thousands of miles away, and not next door. When they were younger every piece of news was close to home, and now they cannot seperate it.

    I tried for years to be respectful and reason with them, but with no results. Finally just had to draw a line in the sand.
    Our kids, our rules. Do not contradict me, try to overrule me, or talk the kids out of things. It came to the point a couple of times my inlaws were told to go home.

    I would not have my kids caving into their fears, just for the sake of their feelings. No double standards, just for when their grandparents were there.

  20. Christina January 13, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    Ugh, I get this all the time from my mom and my MIL. I’ve given up providing them with facts, it got me nowhere. As a last resort, I play “helicopter mom” and insist I no news programs be watched while my kids are awake. It’s worked pretty well so far – without that crap going on in the background all the time, they’ve started going outside more with my kids, playing more with my kids, and usually a couple of days into a visit are a lot more relaxed about letting them go off and play without keeping an eagle eye on them the whole time.

  21. nina January 13, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    This is a very interesting observation. We went to see my parents in nyc for last Thanksgiving. During dinner conversation my mother lamented how our 13 and 11 yo sons miss out on a lot of culture and how she’d love to take them to museums, shows, etc. I thought it would be a great idea to have boys visit for a few weeks in the summer. I suggested that they could take subway to meet my mother after work (she’s usually done by 3 pm) and explore together. My mother was on board with this, but my father was completely horrified by the notion of boys taking subway by themselves. When I reminded him that it was never an issue with me growing up he told me that the times have changed. And I absolutely agree: NY was a much more scary place in the early 90s than it is now. The most curious thing about this exchange . Is that my father is a professor of probability and statistics and he wrote his Ph D thesis on how students’ misconceptions about probability and statistics are reinforced by improper ways they are introduced in schools. Go figure.

  22. Liz January 13, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    Yes, me too. I’m 36 years old and had a super free childhood, practically feral in retrospect, and now my mother is a helicopter grandparent. She lives on the exact same wooded, rural property that I was born on, but suddenly the woods, and even the yard are too dangerous for my kid to play in. She doesn’t want to allow my kid to have the rare and thrilling opportunity to basically relive MY childhood exactly! It’s a constant battle with my mom, but I am the parent, so I win.

  23. JJ January 13, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    I agree with those who suggest its partly because grandparents are no longer around kids like they were in the past. this happens with everything. We tend to be less understanding, realistic, etc. when we don’t have personal exposure and are influenced only by what we hear from media outlets. Unfortunately many older people watch a lot of TV, especially the “news” networks that spend most of the day recounting the things that are changing in America that you should be afraid of, up to and including Festivus taking over Christmas. Children being snatched is just one more variation in the theme of how America is going to Hell in A Handbasket and its no longer “ours”.

  24. Grady January 13, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    My parents (in their 60’s) are raising a pair of foster kids (in their teens) after a 20-year gap since my siblings and I left home. It’s amazing what they won’t let those kids do. Walk home from school, go to the library or park alone, just about anything. To top it off, my mother calls regularly to tell me she has nightmares about my children, as I allow them to play outside unsupervised, to walk down the street to meet friends, etc.–all things that my brothers and I did as children, whether we wanted to or not (“No, I will not watch you swing any longer. I have things to do.”).

    Why this is so, I have no idea, but it’s maddening. I really feel sorry for my foster-siblings, but my parents won’t listen to reason, statistics, or cold, hard facts.

  25. anonymous this time January 13, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    The need for belonging is a powerful one. It drives a lot of our behaviour.

    So back in the 70’s, parents who hovered over their children were looked at askance. Everyone knew what a “mama’s boy” was. That term isn’t even used anymore. Likewise for kids: if you “needed” your mommy all the time, you were a “crybaby.” Nobody has a chance to tease anyone about being a “crybaby” or a “mama’s boy” because all children are joined at their parents’ hip until puberty, if not beyond.

    So. In order to “fit in” in the 70s as a parent, you let your kids roam around. It was the prevailing cultural norm, and if you insisted on monitoring your children too closely or doing too much for them, you were thought to be “smothering” them.

    In order to “fit in” in the 70s as a kid, you ran with the pack, bought your own bubblegum, boasted about being more daring than other kids, and for God’s sake, didn’t cry about mistreatment from other kids because you would then be told, “What, you gonna run home to your Mommy and tell on me?” You solved your own problems. Period. Nothing was worse than being called a “crybaby.”

    So. The prevailing culture, whatever it is, is a strong pull. People want to belong with each other, to fit in, to have a place, to be accepted by the group. Yes, the media and corporations have crated the culture of fear. Parents boast about how “overwhelmed” they are trying to keep up with their kids’ organized activity schedules: that’s the new badge of honour. Kids boast about their Minecraft exploits rather than their real-world exploits (they don’t have any real-world exploits, but most other kids don’t either).

    To break out of that is terrifying: you risk losing your place in the group, you even risk getting censured by the authorities these days. It’s powerful stuff. It takes a very strong spirit to cry “bullshit” on this paranoid time-wasting, this self-imposed purgatory of monitoring and taking responsibility for your child’s every waking moment. I have that strong spirit, but I certainly enjoy company.

    Thank God for Lenore and this blog.

    And happily, my own parents are just as baffled by the culture’s swift embracing of 24/7 child monitoring as I am. The difference is that they can’t really believe it’s as bad as I say. The only “grandparent” who is at all paranoid is my dad’s wife; she has “times have changed”-itis, and wrings her hands about letting the kids go to the park. She’s pretty wide-eyed and gullible about the “dangers” of our world as delineated by the news outlets, and yet a devout conspiracy theorist on other issues. Selective breakdown in reasoning, methinks.

  26. JJ January 13, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    Anonymous this time:

    “times have changed-itis”. I love it!

  27. lsl January 13, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    I have this issue with one sister-in-law, who’s essentially a generation older than me, & a grandmother (my husband was a caboose, by a LOT). I don’t have kids yet, myself, but I help my closest-in-age SiL (~4.5 years older than me) with her kids (8-15). They recently moved to the same valley as us, & I’ve spent several afternoons teaching the kids how to use the bus system & get to the library, so they can have some freedom. The older SiL thinks we’re insane, and tries to use the “Times are different” arguement on me. I tell her, “Yes, it’s safer,” & try to get her to look at the FBI statistics, but she refuses to believe it. One time, the middle SiL (~12 years older than me) was present for one of these arguements, and she told me after that she was proud of me for standing up to the older SiL.

  28. BL January 13, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    @anonymous this time
    “So back in the 70′s, parents who hovered over their children were looked at askance”

    But they weren’t arrested or CPSed.

  29. anonymous this time January 13, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Yes, exactly, BL, that’s why I said it takes enormous strength of spirit to call “bullshit” on the paranoia, and even the LAWS that have been struck with that paranoia as a genesis. It is not for the faint of heart.

    In the 70s, CPS was called in when children had cigarette burns on their arms, black eyes, torn clothing, and were malnourished. If then! We went from being blind to abuse to hallucinating abuse when it is not present. CPS was never intended to cause harm to children, yet it does.

  30. Steve S January 13, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    I agree that previous generations got plenty bent out of shape about nonsense. Someone mentioned the fear of comic books. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and we saw an irrational fear of Dungeons and Dragons. Thanks to a crappy book and even crappier made for TV movie (starring Tom Hanks), parents were convinced that letting their kids play these games would result in their going insane or getting killed. I also recall a fair amount of hysteria over heavy metal music, with parents thinking their kids would suffer all sorts of bad things if they didn’t stop them from listening to that type of music.

    I also agree that the media plays a big role. Grandparents are getting bombarded with the same messages that parents are getting, so it only stands to reason that some of them are going to be influenced by this.

  31. SKL January 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    My mom isn’t like that, but my dad is. Funny, considering that he used to sneak and cook his own breakfast before anyone woke up – when he was two. 😉 He was free range, his kids were free range, and now I hesitate to send my kids over for a sleepover, because he tires himself out making sure he’s there to cater to their every “need.” LOL. I feel guilty seeing him helicopter my kids.

    Though I must admit, he bought the kids a bow and arrow for Christmas (my suggestion) as something they can bond over. They are going to learn archery from their horse riding instructor, including shooting from horseback. Now grandpa, you aren’t allowed to worry, this was your doing after all ….

    Oh, but wait – he only bought one bow, and the reason he gave me was that they might shoot each other if they had two bows. Sigh.

  32. lollipoplover January 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    The “anything could happen” comment always makes me think of Finding Nemo:

    Marlin: I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.
    Dory: Hmm. That’s a funny thing to promise.
    Marlin: What?
    Dory: Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

    My oldest (12) joined his middle school ski club. He had his first trip (during the polar vortex!) and had incredible time. When I told relatives about it, I got the “He’s too young to go by himself” and stories about Sonny Bono and Natasha Richardson. Why do they always have to go to the worst possible outcome?

    But he’s not by himself! The school had 2 bus loads of kids and teachers. They gave them all a ski test, then sent them off to enjoy an afternoon/night of skiing with the only rule of no skiing alone. He had proper gear and money for the lodge. He stopped when he was tired and hungry (but he never got cold) and ate cheeseburgers and hot chocolates around a fire with his buddies. They watched PG-13 movies on the ride home and most fell asleep (though he did remember to text me before the hit the parking lot for pick-up).

    He can’t wait for the next trip this week. He loves skiing! He doesn’t need a parent hovering over him. He probably skis better than both of us anyway. When his grandmother found out, she tsked tsked me that he’ll break something and no one will be there to help him.
    Of course that’s a possibility. My husband told me that when he was 16, his best friend got his drivers license and they took a road trip to go skiing. My husband had an epic fall and broke his collarbone because they were skiing like idiots (he admits this now). I’d much rather my kid learn responsible skiing and respect safety rules at an early age. Who says there’s a magic age for personal responsibility?

  33. Donna January 13, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    “People want to belong with each other, to fit in, to have a place, to be accepted by the group.”

    It is not just this, but also the fear of our children being ostracized from the group. I do realize that by not fitting the mold of a 2014 parent, that I am not completely accepted by the parents of my daughter’s friends. I couldn’t care less, but because I am not part of the group, my daughter is sometimes left out as well. And it appears that one of my daughter’s friends is not allowed to play at our house due to my free range tendencies (she has never said as much to me directly but recently made a comment that made me think this is true).

  34. LisaS January 13, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    The older we get, the more paranoid we become – I think that’s one reason there is a greater percentage of helicopter parents now than when we were kids. The only parents over 35 when we were under 10 were the ones whose kids didn’t get to run from dawn to dusk … or go beyond their own yard.

    My own mother is no exception to this: while we were allowed to run in the woods, go to the convenience store, etc. from the age of about 8 or 9, she doesn’t let our kids do any of these things at her suburban home. I think it’s partially age-related increased paranoia, but also that my sister – who became a parent later & takes helicoptering to a high art – has convinced her that everything about how we were raised was wrong. I disagree, but my opinion is easy to discount because my family reputation is as the irresponsible one.

  35. Emily January 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

    My mom doesn’t.

    She has had something like 13 grandkids and a bunch of great-grandkids and is not a new Grandma. She knows not to criticize how someone raises her grandkids because it’s rarely met with approval from mom/dad, and often has the wrong effect. For instance, if my mom saw your SIL get after your brother and your mom asked for advice, my mom would say to agree with the SIL. This gives you more grandbaby access because SIL typically has the greater control of the baby and it reassures SIL that you will raise the baby the way SIL wants you to when baby is left with Grandma. This is wise. It has little reflection on the way she would actually raise the baby if it was her baby… but is a wise grandma.

  36. SOA January 13, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    DITTO!!!! My mother was so free range with me. I roamed around the neighbor alone sometimes or with friends. I never had siblings. I would go off in the woods behind our house or around the neighborhood. I was walking to my first day of Kindergarten by myself or my friends. She trusted me to walk to school. She obviously did not childproof very well because I have the scars from stitches multiple times to prove it. She trusted neighbors and teenager babysitters to watch me. She even ran a daycare out of her home and would not even watch those kids 24/7 never taking her eyes off them.

    But she acts so different when it comes to her grandbabies. No matter what I tell her, she has to make judgments like I am being risky with them. When I am more cautious with mine than she ever was with me. When I point out to her I was doing the same at the same age or younger, she does not see the correlation.

    She is very much influenced by the media mostly Fox News. She believes whatever she hears and usually screws the story up in her brain to be even worse than it is. My Grandmother acts just like her and I bet she raised my mother and her siblings even more free range than my mother raised me and the stories from their childhood kinda back that up.

    So yeah, it is an odd thing going on here. Each generation gets less free range and more scared and cautious and judges their kids for doing the same thing they did as parents. Very very weird.

  37. jill January 13, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    this has perplexed me for a while. they’ve all been sipping the fear Kool aid for far too long, it’s become part if the collective (un) consciousness. it is indeed so sad and you said it, ungrateful!!!!

  38. SOA January 13, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    I will say though my father is the opposite of my mother. He needs to be more cautious. He took some not cool risks with me growing up that I don’t approve of and he is trying to do the same with my kids now. I am not talking about average things. Things like letting me at 8 years old climb to the top of Chicen Inza pyramid with him and abandoning me at the top and not even helping me climb back down. This is the same pyramid Mayans threw people down to kill them as sacrifices. My mother tried to stop him and he did it anyway. Of course I freaked out about coming down alone and my mother had to climb back up and get me down. He would not even go back up for me.

    He has like some mental issue where the man does not see danger ever. He likes to just walk out in front of cars and says “They’ll stop”. But you know, pedestrians are hit all the freaking time and no, they may not stop.

    So he kinda scares the crap out of me. I have to be the one lecturing him about holding the kids hands when crossing the street and in parking lots and not letting them do this or that. He also goes around eating handfuls of peanuts right next to my peanut allergic son and then gets mad when I tell him to go wash his hands. Also never reads food labels.

    So I have a parent on either extreme where one is too helicopter and annoying and the other is too risky and stresses me out. I lie in the middle between them.

  39. BL January 13, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    “I think it’s partially age-related increased paranoia”

    Is this really true? Both my grandmothers lived with my family for fairly long periods (not at the same time) starting when I was about eight years old.

    I don’t remember anything like that. Nor from the grandparents (who lived in the same town) of my friends.

    Sometimes some nattering about bundling up when it’s cold but that was about it.

  40. Sheri January 13, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    @Donna, I had to get off my neighborhood listserve for the very same thing. It was email after email of terror and danger. Doom and gloom. You would think our crime rate was hovering around 50% and not in the single digits (for my particularly, very safe neighborhood).

  41. Jodie January 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    I so want to look at the comments, but my daughter is done with her snack and whining to be let out of her booster so she can play, so I’ll just leave a short comment here. Frustrated’s mom sounds just like my mom! My mom doesn’t care about the real statistics; all she knows and all she wants to know is what she thinks and what she sees on the news and on nancy Grace. I don’t approve of Nancy Grace because from the few episodes I’ve seen she only adds to the fear of something bad happening to children. She seems to thrive on it. I hope I’m wrong about her; like I said, I only saw a few episodes, and then only because I was at my mom’s house and she was watching Nancy.

    This comment is longer than I intended, so I’m signing off now.

  42. Caro January 13, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Yes, yes, and more yes. My mom is still capable of rational thought, but she is a news junkie. If you watch that much fear-mongering crap, it will eventually conquer your defenses.
    My MIL is younger than my parents and just sent her youngest off to college. She is the worst. My independent 4 year old son sometimes likes to go to the men’s room by himself and sometimes to the ladies’ room with me. We were at the Zoo recently and she just about had a coronary when I asked him which restroom he wanted to use and he chose the men’s room. She started saying “No, no, no, don’t let him” and physically pushed past me to catch up with him and make him go to the ladies’. She was never a free range parent, though. We have seen her behave the same way with her 18 year old son in public. Effing frightening.

  43. Caro January 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    Jodie–you are right about Nancy Grace. Her “concern” for murdered, abused, and exploited children is hardly discernible from a fetish.

  44. k January 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    My parents are pretty good, and my mom used to make snide comments about safety gear like car seats and bike helmets, both of which are not optional in my household. Like, ” how did you guys ever survive to adulthood without any of this stuff.” I felt like she took my using these things as an unspoken insult to her parenting which is ridiculous. She changed her tune when we lost two family members to traumatic head injuries.

    Recently, I posted a link to am article about “millenials” and how basically helpless they are, on my Facebook page, tagged my mom and thanked her for raising me to be able to take care of myself. I think time helps. The older my kids get, the more my mom and mil realize that they are smart, confident kids that make good choices.

  45. parallel January 13, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    I also have to wonder how helicopter grandmothers affect the raising of their grandchildren. New parents are already hearing about how awful the world is from the media…then they’ve got their own parents chiding them on top of it. It has to be very hard to fight that message when it’s coming not only from a more impersonal source on the nightly news, but also from someone you trust. Those parents will then someday be grandparents, and the messages they’ll give their grown children will be even more paranoid and overwrought.

    In my mother’s case, her switch from free-range to worrywort is absolutely driven by the media. When we have conversations about free-range parenting, she insists that ‘children are taken every day…they’re always talking about it on the news.’ She brush off the statistics by asking what fraud made them up…and when I say the FBI, she refuses to believe it EVEN WHEN I SHOW HER THE SITE.

    Imagine if the media used the power to brainwash people for good!

  46. Laura January 13, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    I also think that perhaps experience has an influence. The longer you have been around, the more sad/bad stuff you have actually witnessed–media notwithstanding. That may also be why helicopter parenting is more common nowadays, as many people are having kids later in life.

  47. Stafir January 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    The other end of this is considering what they had to do compared to what they have to do now.

    Some free range parents were not that way by choice. But by necessity. And now with their children grown up, out of their life, and maybe their own life settled down a bit by now. They want to actually ‘be there’ for their a way to make things up.

    Also besides that, grandparents seem to have an inherent need to spoil their grandchildren. To let them get away with watch over them more..whatever. That just seems to be natural to most grandparents. I know my mom has threatened me with making any children I have into spoiled brats.

    So really..its hard to tell.

  48. KayDee January 13, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Yes! I talk to my mom about this and she will listen. I fear my MIL is beyond help. She almost had a melt down when I let my 6 year old daughter use the washroom by herself in a restaurant. The door was in clear view and I could see who was coming and going. My MIL could not continue eating while my daughter was in the washroom and it was all I could do to keep my MIL from bolting from the table to rescue her sweet delicate flower from certain doom.
    What really confuses me is that my MIL loves children and will speak to children she doesn’t know without a second thought. Yet she is teaching my children the ‘stranger danger’ mentality. I’m sure she has felt that a kid has been rude to her if they don’t respond to her initiating a conversation, but doesn’t feel it is rude if my child stares blankly at someone who is simply saying hello.

  49. Gary January 13, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    “Why? Because, “The world has changed.”

    And when I show her the stats and explain how times are actually LESS dangerous than in the days when I was roaming the streets, she says, “Well, everyone has their own beliefs.”

    Inform her that “The Truth Does Not Change According To Our Ability To Stomach It.”

  50. Really Bad Mum January 13, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    My mother is the same, I remember being literally thrown outside, told not to come in till X, told water from the hose( red hot mind you) was perfectly fine and an apple thrown out at me if I whinged I was hungry…. Her grandchildren on the other hand have to be supervised 24/7, ice cream, coke, ice water, and air conditioning is their right..
    I have come to the conclusion, which she didn’t deny when I put it to her, that she loves them more then she loves me… My kids think this is awesome and use it against me when ever they get the chance :/

  51. Papilio January 13, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    This is just perplexing! These people exist for real?!!

    “She is very much influenced by the media mostly Fox News. She believes whatever she hears”

    Yeah, Fox News………. If the truth percentage of their report on the Netherlands of a few years back is any indication, they’re amusing and insulting, but not worth much as a news source.

  52. Andrea January 13, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    I think when we age, it’s natural to become more and more risk averse. We may have to actively work against this tendency in the same way we might do crossword puzzles to fend of atrophy in our brains. I felt it myself last year when we bought a car from my husband’s grandmother, and I had the opportunity to take my son on a road trip across Canada to get the car from Oregon back home to Alaska. Now, I spent my twenties traveling, sometimes in sketchy countries, sometimes hitchhiking. I have had plenty of brushes with danger and handled them well, coming away unscathed every time. I am also no stranger to solo road trips across great, uninhabited distances. Still, after seven years of pregnancy, babies, and going pretty much everywhere with my husband, my initial reaction to the idea of a Canada road trip was that it was too risky! Then I remembered how many of my friends have made the trip, many of them women on their own or with kids, and I shook off my irrational fears and said, let’s do it. But then, guess who freaked out when I told her? My mom! What if the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere? What if the roads are really really bad? What if the boy (then six and a half) gets squirmy and bored in the car? What if we get preyed upon by bad people or bears? Her voice actually got a wail in it and she lost sleep over it. This was the woman who took me on multiple cross-country road trips as a child, Arizona to Maine and back, and not without car trouble and other assorted problems that we survived just fine. You’d have thought I was proposing a trip across Siberia in a jalopy, not Canada in a reliable, later model Honda. (Though, come to think of it, a Siberian jalopy trip sounds sweet! Wonder how I could swing that one…)

    So we went ahead and did the trip, tent camping in bear territory most nights even, and it was awesome, an Alaskan rite of passage for both of us, our only damage an ugly rock chip on the windshield and a fender crack when I was driving too fast over some bad road patches. Long story short, maybe the only way to teach the grandmas that the world is safe for free-range kids is to show them by example? Let them nag and wail, and then just do it and show them that it all turns out just fine. Show them enough times, and maybe they’ll get it.

  53. Deborah Y January 13, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    This describes me, so let me share a few thoughts. As a grandparent you are less able to exert any control over outcomes so this can increase anxiety. The worry also gets compounded because you worry for how your child would cope should something happen to your grandchild. We had a son that died as a baby and so when my grandchild was sick with a fever that lasted for weeks I was worried about both the grandchild as well as my daughter in case it was serious. For the record I remained calm and told my daughter just to follow the doctor’s orders and not to worry since fevers are common, but inside I was panicking. Another consideration and a confession- we still think of our own child as young and marvel that a baby is raising a baby (despite the college degree). Finally, and possibly most importantly, anxiety can have a strong hormonal component during the hot flash years.

  54. Kelly D. January 13, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    I have never seen anything like my mom (a.k.a. Grandma)! I grew up very similar to Frankly Frustrated and now my mother gasps and acts like the world is crashing down if the kids are playing (happily, nicely, quietly, etc.) in the next room. I don’t get it at all! I sure hope someone has figured out how to get through to them!

  55. Mama Dee January 13, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    I’m in the exact same boat here! I was visiting with my mom on the phone during a recent cold snap (-40something Celsius) when she asked what the kids (8 and 5) were up to. When I told her that they were getting dressed to go outside and play (in our yard…with neighbor kids), she told me that it was “too cold” for them to go out!

    I reminded her that she must have forgotten what it was like to be cooped up indoors all winter (Saskatchewan, Canada) with stir crazy kids. Not once did that woman EVER tell me and my brother that it was too cold to go play outside!!

    The kids went out and played for a short time. When they got cold, they came in and everyone was happy for the break.

  56. Amy U January 13, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    Wish I could help, but my mom is the same. And she doesn’t watch TV at all, doesn’t own one, only has access to news via our small town paper and a bit of radio for the most part. I think it’s because they don’t have enough to worry about, no distractions.

  57. Havva January 13, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

    I didn’t think I would have anything to add here, but perhaps I do. I notice the comments about older moms being more protective and extrapolating that out to grandmas.

    I had one of the oldest moms of anyone I knew growing up. A fair number of people said I had a “sheltered childhood.” They wanted to know where I was, who I was with, and they wanted to at least have had one conversation with the parents involved before I went to a new friend’s house. And I got dragged along for a lot of boring things like city counsel meetings for a lot of my childhood. That said they also left me alone in the car with prescription drugs in my lap at 3 or 4, which is about the same time they started letting me use sharp knives. Also they let my 7 year old sister babysit me for hours when I was 2. But they let me out plenty, alone or kicked out to play with the neighbor girl. Just not until the street lights came on. So the definition of sheltered has certainly changed.

    Anyhow my parents haven’t gone off the deep end on parenting. We have talked a lot about it and they are more relaxed than I am. More like how relaxed I would like to be. But, my mom at least, has gone off the deep end in politics. She seems to have gotten into an internet echo chamber and it is to the point where she will believe anything bad she hears about the opposition, no matter how insane or easily disproved. And no matter how much I do disprove, she has read 20 other insane rumors that week that she will just fall back on to “prove” that the other party is evil and destroying the country and so forth. My FIL feels the same way about the party my mother trusts. But neither of them have gotten nervous about our parenting so far. So perhaps they have expended their crazy energy in another arena.

  58. SaneMomof2 January 13, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

    OMG if this is not my life! My mom let me roam freely for as long as I can remember but now that I have kids…. if I don’t walk one step behind my kids at all times I’m being negligent and irresponsible. We’ve had countless fights over this. My mom FREAKED out because I let my 5 yr old daughter go into the restroom at the store by herself (I was standing at the front door with my son and our shopping cart while she went in to use the restroom). “Someone could just grab her and take her!!”. “How Mom? I’m standing at the front door. There’s no other door to the restroom.””Yeh but you never know who’s in there and what they will do to her.” I mean…. I get it… There are some crazies out there but really? It’s like 1 in a billion chances of something happening other that her running out of toilet paper.

    I can’t even let my kids go outside in my own backyard alone, she has a complete fit.

  59. df January 13, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    Absolutely, utterly true, true, true! My parents were incredibly laid back, so typical of the seventies and eighties. We had complete freedom and roamed wherever we would. It was really too much freedom when it came to school (ie they kept absolutely no eye on how we were doing), but what can you do. As soon as I had children, my mother suddenly turned into this hovering, ultra-careful person. It blew me away, but obviously there is a larger trend here!

  60. Reziac January 13, 2014 at 11:17 pm #

    I don’t know Nancy Grace from Adam, never heard of her outside of comments here. But I did look her up, and… she’s a former prosecuting attorney, a profession which has a default mindset of “Everyone is guilty” so everyone is a perp. And she took it to extremes:

    I’d say that pretty much blows any credibility she might have had.


    A few years ago in my relatively safe town, I had several random strangers ‘warn’ me that “babies are being stolen through open windows!” When I asked if anyone knew personally of such a case, I got a lot of hemming and hawing and “Well, I tell you, it’s happening!” but no one knew of an actual case.

  61. Peter January 13, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    The older we get, the more paranoid we become – I think that’s one reason there is a greater percentage of helicopter parents now than when we were kids.

    It’s an interesting idea.

    When I was a kid in the late ’70s, I biked to work. (IN THE MILL! THROUGH THE SNOW! UPHILL! BOTH WAYS!) It was about a 12 mile ride. There were some sections that were peaceful and some sections that had pretty heavy traffic. No big deal. Didn’t even wear a helmet.

    35 years later? I wear a helmet on my bike. Period. Doesn’t matter if I’m riding 45 miles or down the block. I hang the helmet right next to the bike so I have no excuse. When I see people riding without a helmet, I usually remark that I hope they signed their organ donor cards.

    One difference, of course, is that when I was a kid, I was riding my bike in a town of 5,000 people. Now I ride my bike in a town of 200,000 people. Of course, my town of 200,000 people has a bike infrastructure where almost all roads have a bike lane whereas in the town I grew up in, you were lucky if the street had a little white line along the right-hand side and the speed limit was usually 50 MPH.

    It’s kind of funny when I go back to visit. I’ll rent a bike and go for a ride and I get a little frightened about those cars zooming past me where I didn’t care less when I was younger.

  62. Krystal January 13, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

    What a fabulous post! I personally believe it is the constant, instant availability of news and information that get us into a tizzy (over anything!) It’s only news if its rare, but if you can’t apply rational thinking to the information constantly being thrown, you would think the world is ending!

  63. VJacob January 13, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

    My father bought me my first horse when I was four, and I often rode bareback. He got me a second hand bike that didn’t have any brakes. I climbed up on the roof with him and helped sweep off the pine straw. I had free run of the neighborhood from dawn to dusk.

    But his first granddaughter? When she was two years old he actually fussed at me when I let her stand on the grass, because it “might make her itchy.” Even though she had shoes on.

  64. bmommyx2 January 13, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

    I think for the grandparents they worry a bit more because of the above & also it’s not their child & they don’t want to get criticized if something happens. Sometimes I have that issue with my hubby he was often on his own as a child, but feels the need to helicopter the kids at times. I write it off that it’s due the fact that he doesn’t spend as much time with them as I do & has no idea of their capabilities & limits. Maybe that’s a factor for the grandparents too.

  65. Really Bad Mum January 14, 2014 at 12:19 am #

    @ VJacob, Omg your comment bought back a childhood memory when I was 7, my dad and uncle ( both rotton drunk, supposed to be babysitting me, nearly gave my grandmother a heart attack, someone said ‘the drinks are on the house’ which for normal, sober, mature people means free drinks, somehow I ended up on the roof with them and an esky full of beer. I remember my grandmother yelling at them to bring me down and them yelling at the neighbours ‘the drinks are on the house’. He was and is still the worlds worst babysitter, and I leave my kids with him as often as I can, even when he feeds them ice cream and chocolate for dinner, or teaches them how to clean a bolt action rifle, lol

  66. parallel January 14, 2014 at 2:24 am #

    On paranoia increasing as adults age…

    Sadly, I think when we’re speaking of elderly grandparents, there is sometimes a mental health issue involved. From the comments this issue is obviously wide spread, and I think media exposure is the root cause in the vast majority of cases.

    But mental illness like dementia and Alzheimer’s often have paranoia as a symptom. I see this is my own mother at the relatively young age of 67. If the doctor prescribes a medication, the first thing she does is ‘research’ it online…then flatly refuses to take it because it has side effects listed (in the past two years, I haven’t successfully gotten her to take ANY drug prescribed…yet she insists on going to doctors weekly so she can ignore their advice). She was always something of a worrier, but now she gets completely overwhelmed at the thought of running out to the corner store. What if we crash? Who would take care of the cats? Should we call someone to let them know we’re going out?

    It’s actually really frustrating and difficult to deal with this as her caretaker. Short of pilling her like a cat, that’s really not much I can effectively do. At the same time, the ability to go online and read up on kidnapping cases or complaints about drugs absolutely doesn’t help. I think also the generational gap with technology plays a role. If I look up ‘side effects of drug x’ or ‘how risky is leaving your kids in the car’, I have a good idea of what sites will have factual information vs. which will have fear mongering. Neither of my parents have this ability, to a sometimes laughable degree (my father was very upset when Jackie Chan ‘died’, and astounded a spider the size of a car was found in Australia.) This applies to the news media as well…as others mentioned, we’re not restricted to what can fit in the daily paper anymore or in an hour long news segment. Just like they can’t filter what’s relevant online, everything they see on the news becomes personally relevant no matter how unlikely they are to ever encounter it.

    (Again, I don’t think mental health issues are the root for most grandparents, and my mother’s smothering toward her grandchildren started long before these issues developed. But I would say if an older grandparent suddenly becomes more nervous about their existing grandchildren’s safety…maybe consider a doctor’s visit?)

  67. Suzanne January 14, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    I’ve been trying to figure this out since my oldest was born! My parents are the same way and no amount of stats will convince them otherwise. I am also lucky that my parents basically say they are my kids and I have to parent them how I think is right so I think that limits the amount of criticism I get.

  68. Julia January 14, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    I’m gathering a bit of a theory about parenthood and this phenomenon falls within those lines: Younger parents simply had too much practical stuff to worry about, like keeping the lights on and the rent paid, that they couldn’t devote their brainpower to worrying about where their kids were every second of the day. As we have advanced as a society and plan our families to occur when we are “ready” for them–when the house payment can be counted on and the lights not worried about–for whatever reason we convince ourself that we then must be selfless in our parenthood. this includes needless worry and fear as a form of self-flaggelation, we are attempting to be the martyrs we view our mothers to have been, selflessly toiling by the stove, while we microwave or purchase most of our meals today.
    Grandma now has the free time to feel guilty about how she “allowed” her children to run wild. Justifying it by telling herself “the world was different then.” To think the world was worse off would imply that she seriously endangered her offspring while she enjoyed the silence of the house.

    Grandma, you were young. Trying to make a happy home, likely on little funds and even less preparation for motherhood. You earned the peace that came with a silent house while your children learned how to be human beings.

    Hopefully, Grandma will learn that she is human too.

  69. Jenna K. January 14, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    I guess I’m fortunate in that I don’t live near my parents or my husband’s mom–they are both in other states. Therefore, I don’t tell them everything we let our kids do. I wonder what my MIL would say if we did tell her that our kids walk the mile to and from school alone (even down to the 6-year-old) or that we have let them ride their bikes to the nearby McDonald’s for a treat or that I have let the older ones (10 and 9) go into the store to grab a gallon of milk while I waited in the car. I tell my mom a lot and think she is on board with me. I really have no idea about my dad. My parents are sticklers about safety (bike helmets, swimming pools, etc.) although they think car seats are annoying and there are too many laws regarding them. I think they also think that certain areas are probably safer than others, and since I live in upper middle class suburban Utah, where everyone in the neighborhood knows each other because we all tend to attend the same church, they probably think we’re pretty safe to let our kids roam freely. I know that my mom voiced a worry once to me about my nephew who was allowed to roam his Austin, Texas neighborhood unattended when he was four but she never voiced that same opinion to me when she knew her granddaughter, my daughter, was doing the same thing at four in our Utah neighborhood.

  70. Joanne January 14, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Isn’t the bigger question how did a generation of kids who were mostly free-range (Gen Xers who were some of the first latch key kids) become crazed helicopter parents? Everytime someone in my age bracket (I’m almost 40) complains about “kids these days” I want to remind them that WE are the ones raising kids these days. This group that we bemoan is my generation’s kids. We’ve done it to ourselves.

  71. Warren January 14, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    You want a good one about grandparents.

    My youngest was only 7 days old. It was around 5:30 in the morning and she was awake, with no intention of going back to sleep. Mom was sleeping, so I packed up baby and supplies and went one town over to a great cafe, for coffee. We had a great morning, though she slept thru most of it. LOL. We stopped by a couple of shops where I knew people to show her off. We walked along the lakefront. A great morning.

    My mother in law called while we were out and blasted her daughter for allowing me to take my child out. This is the same MIL that called it babysitting when my kids and I were together without mom.

  72. Librarymomma January 14, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    I have a question not directly related to the topic above but which I feel is applicable to the free-range community. My husband and I both work and there’s a chance that our shifts will overlap and our son (who is homeschooled) may have to spend an hour or so at home before either I or my husband get home.
    My son just turned 10 last week, and I feel it is time he learned to be alone in the house for an hour or two. I checked the local library system for a book for kids on what to do and not to do when staying home alone, but the most recent one I could find was from the 1980s or 90s (about “latchkey” kids: is that term used anymore?). Does anyone here know of a good book written more recently for kids that are staying alone at home for the first time (for more than 10 minutes)?
    I haven’t been the most free range of parents but am working on it, so this would be something good for both me and my son. Thanks.

  73. EricS January 14, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    I think that is the consensus for most “former free-range” parents. Even the free-range children have grown up to become helicopter parents themselves. It all boils down to the human condition. We are creatures of habit. When we get into the habit of something, it’s very difficult to revert back to what we were doing before. Very much like addiction. In this situation, the addiction is technology and media. Research has shown that it can take anywhere from 3 – 8 months to form a habit that sticks. Depending on the habitual nature of each person. But safe to say, most, if done consistently for 8 months, such habit(s) will be part of them on a permanent basis. The internet has been around for 20 years. The internet mentality (not using common sense and relying on “experts” to tell you what to think and believe) has only been around for about a decade. So it’s not very hard to believe that once logical and common sense thinking people, if pressured or given into societies views long enough. Will change their way of thinking, and forget how they were before. And habits are much harder to break, than to form.

    The bright side is, if a habit can be formed, it can be reformed. It’s just a matter of the person’s will. The first step is to start thinking for ourselves again. Making common sense the norm once more. And not being afraid of ignorant criticism. I can bet that if more and more people were to start doing this consistently. All the helicopter parents would become embarrassed, and start thinking like everyone else. Humans are monkey see, monkey do.

  74. xpurg8d January 14, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    Oh, my. I can’t relate to any of these posts. I’m the grandmother, who raised my kids free-range back when it was just called “raising kids”.

    Now my daughter is a mom and she’s got these books and forums that tell her all kinds of things that sound kind of flaky to me but, hey, she’s the mom. Which she’ll remind everyone of if they look like they’re going to forget.

    So her little boy is never left alone for one second, even in his own house. He is not to walk across the front yard because cars kill and what if he went nuts and ran in front of one? He is not to play in his own back yard because there might be something dangerous. He is not to be left to quietly play in his room without being “checked on” ever two or three minutes. He doesn’t sleep in his own room because at nearly five years old he needs the comfort of his parents in order to fall asleep and their watchful eyes in order to wake up safely in the morning. Etcetera.

    So at the grandparents’ house he has his own room where he builds railroads and reads and practices singing and playing guitar, sleeps in his own bed, plays in the large and dangerous back yard with his own little garden tools, harvests organic veggies from the garden and eats them himself any time he wants, dances in the rain, leaps from the deck railing, climbs and runs and hides and gets scraped knees and splinters and bruises.

    In deference to his parents we don’t let him go out in the front yard alone because, yes, they are his parents, and they would object and most likely curtail his visits. So there’s a truce — we don’t tell them they’re doing it wrong and they don’t tell us to stop doing it our way.

    Now that I think of it, I guess that’s what all of you are doing, too. Maybe grandparents are supposed to be the balance for parents, whichever way it goes?

  75. Really Bad Mum January 15, 2014 at 1:55 am #

    @Librarymomma, why don’t you try leaving him for 15 minutes to start, you go for a walk around the block, over the next week or 2 extend it till he is up to an hour. Get a neighbour or someone who lives close by to be on standby incase he needs them. 1 hour is not really that long make sure he is clear on the rules you set for him and make sure there are consequences if they are broken. He will be fine

  76. anonymous mom January 15, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    I don’t think there’s any mystery about this, at all. It’s the media. And not just Fox News, although Fox News is a huge culprit. It’s all the news networks, and the local news. It’s the Law & Order franchise, with it’s “ripped from the headlines” stories about a world overrun by serial killers and sexual predators, and then the 400 other shows that copied that formula. It’s movie after movie after movie that depicts kids being kidnapped and women being brutalized, as if that was an accurate picture of the world. It’s the mystery books we read, so many of which in the last few decades center on the abuse and murder of children.

    Fear is not rational. My husband was telling me about studies that have found that, if a folklorist comes into a classroom and tells college students that some culture believes that a box they brought in shouldn’t be opened or it will release a curse on the person who opened it, nobody wants to open the box. They know the story isn’t true, but they still don’t want to do it. If you pour tap water into a glass marked “poison,” people do not want to drink it, even if the know it’s perfectly safe tap water. Our fear is extremely easily triggered, and once it’s triggered it’s hard to turn off.

    To some extent, it’s our fault for so happily consuming all of these stories of women and children being abused, brutalized, and killed. We sit riveted by these stories–we pay to read and watch them–and then we respond to the world as if it is an incredibly dangerous place. If we simply refused to consume that kind of media–whether it’s alarmist news networks or TV programs that continually tell stories about the abuse and murder of women and children–then we’re both protecting ourselves from unnecessary fear and helping to stop the demand for such entertainment.

  77. Natalie January 15, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    Because they parented through the progression from free range to helicopter. I see the difference between me and my younger sisters.

    I remember at 4 years old, running home from a friend’s house (by myself) falling home, bloodying my knees which we’re crawling with ants, getting up, and continuing on home. It was probably around the block.

    My youngest sister, in 3rd grade, was not allowed to go down to the corner store by herself.

    Same mom. She doesn’t explain the difference. She denies that she let me go anywhere on my own that young (I went to the same corner store in first grade alone). When I press, she says that she was wrong, not that times have changed.

    Me? I moved to another country at 18 and stayed for 7 years. My youngest sister? Wanted to go to college in CA (we lived in PA) but didn’t do any of the legwork to make that happen. She had to be cajoled to get her application in for the college in PA.

    My parents refused to let her go to CA until she had done one year in PA, I never asked permission to go abroad. I just got stuff together and went.

    Classic example.

  78. AB January 15, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    Ever since my grandmother died back in 2012 some of my relatives have used it to their advantage to insult me that my grandmother was overprotective of me while I was growing up. Little do they know her fears and anxieties came after being raped at her job in Los Angeles. That caused her to hold tight onto me where I couldn’t even go anywhere by myself until I was fifteen, and I was only allowed to walk down to the corner store ( but my mom told me to never tell my grandmother as she would be mad at her for allowing me to do that). Once during a yard sale at her house I decided to hold a sign by the busy street to attract people to her yard sale. When she came back out of her house with some lemonade she was a livid, and scolded me and my mom for what I did. She told us “What if some crazy guy tossed you into his car and took you,raped you, and killed you?”, and she went on saying because I was overweight some crazy guy might decide to skin me like what happened in Silence of the Lambs.

    I agree with my relatives that my grandmother was overprotective, but I wish they wouldn’t rub it in my face as she didn’t get so paranoid until after the incident at work when I was seven.

  79. Sarah January 16, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    I was just telling a friend yesterday about my mom, who frets and worries a fair amount over my kids’ health and safety. When I was in 1st grade and got chicken pox, my parents left me home alone during their work days for a week, supervised only by my older sister, who was in 3rd grade and also had the chicken pox. (And nothing bad happened)

  80. Ann January 18, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    Interesting! Kind of true here. My 10 year old told his grandma he and his friend were going on a bike ride and she was concerned and told him they’d better be careful. Whereas I, at 10, was riding all up and down our street (in a bad neighborhood to boot) by myself, sans helmet, and so on!

  81. Melissa January 20, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    My mom is a free-range grandmother, as she was a free-range mom. However, she is not insulated from the world, as I see happening many middle-aged women. She works full-time (only 57), has a varied and active social life both with my Dad and with her outdoors group, and participates in what many would consider a “high-risk” sport – kayaking. She regularly endangers my children: hiking, tree-climbing, canoeing, kayaking, camping (roasting marshmallows over the fire included) – with my blessing.

    My husband was coddled and over-protected by his mother, and she has only gotten worse. She is only 60, but does not work outside the home. All she gets is shock news from mainstream media, has no social life outside her partner, and is literally terrified of the outside world for herself, let alone her grandkids. I’m pretty sure she thinks I am a TERRIBLE mother. The other day she said “Watch out!” because my TWO YEAR OLD climbed up on the couch by herself and might fall onto the (carpeted) living room floor.

    So I think it’s a combination of growing isolation as women age (too many women draw back into their home as they age, especially if they had no social life outside their childrens’ activities), and an exacerbation of their younger personalities.

  82. Sarah Mc January 22, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

    Just a couple of points that I don’t see emphasized enough here regarding the crime rate dropping and having kids wander neighbourhoods “adult-less” in the good old days.
    1) It has been repeated on this blog that the crime rate is as low or lower than the 1970s level. Isn’t it clear that the increased diligence of the collective society has resulted in the lowered crime rate. It didn’t lower on its own, it was helped by the careful parenting that is being demonized now. We just don’t let the crimes happen!
    2) Children in neighbourhoods roaming around together were less at risk of being impacted by a crime against children because they would look out for one another. How many people today could say their free-range children are part of a similar network of neighbourhood kids? Would there be enough other like-minded parents living in the neighbourhood to offer the safety benefits kids roaming in packs once enjoyed way back when?

    Just a few thoughts on the topic.

    Sarah Mc

  83. Zak January 25, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

    Allowing your child to experience life and learn to be independent I am all for, but these ideas are great until your kid becomes the one kid that get molested by the neighbors dad who you thought was okay. Then that free range parent wishes they were a helicopter mom not trusting anyone with their child until they were 16. How do you justify that in your preaching’s?