Readers — Just got this letter from “Steph in Minneapolis.” Loved it. You will, too. – L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: On Saturday afternoon, the neighbor kids rang the bell and off ran our almost 8-year-old daughter to wander the block, chalking sidewalks and digging worms. Then we stood in the kitchen and talked about Etan Patz. The unthinkable happened, for that family lightening did strike and as parents we can’t imagine their pain.
For us though, the solution is not tying our daughter to our apron strings. It is teaching her to listen to her gut and giving her permission to take any course of action that makes her feel safe. She asked me once, what if an adult makes me feel uncomfortable and I kick them and run away but it wasn’t the right thing? I said, taking care of a problem like that is a mom job. You just do what you think is right at the time. Being confident and empowered is not a guarantee that she will be safe, but on some level you have to count on lightening not striking or you’d never leave your house.
We live on a busy city street with lots of car traffic in a working class urban neighborhood. There is a lot to look out for, and it means that our daughter’s range is smaller than ours was at her age, but she does spend most of her weekend out of our sight and I am glad for that. It’s called having a childhood.
After our talk in the kitchen on Saturday, I admit it, I peeked outside to see where DD was, and I called her to come home immediately. Why?
The kids were riding bikes without helmets and I made her come home for hers. The risk of a head injury from biking, while still tiny, is much larger than the risk of being abducted off the street.
Of course, she rolled her eyes at me and declared that I am “overprotective.” :-). Then she went out to ride some more, and I let her. — Steff