Is It Okay to Free-Range While Privately Freaking Out?

A reader eftkiihkyt
I want to be a Free-Range parent.  I really really do.  I do try.  Just last week I told myself to stay calm before saying anything to a parent who had allowed my son to swim in her pool before I arrived at a birthday party.  There were 12 kids in the pool, 10 adults watching and there I was in full panic.  But, I did calm down and did not freak out.  I was soon advised that my son was the strongest swimmer of the bunch.
On a recent camping trip, my kids decided to play “Mantracker” while we were out hiking and as a result I lost them for about 10 minutes.  I barely managed to contain my panic – but I did take the opportunity to teach them a few do’s and dont’s of hiking.  (i.e. Don’t play Mantracker without telling Mommy first)
Which brings me to overnight camp.  I went to overnight camp as a child and I cannot extol its virtues and benefits enough.  Every fiber of my being wanted this experience for my children (perhaps particularly for my anxiety-prone 8 year old) and so this year off she went.
In all the planning stages I honestly was thinking only of the fun.  But literally as I drove onto the camp property and parked my car, I turned into a puddle of tears.  I had to pretend I had dropped something on the ground so that I could compose myself before she saw me crying.  When it came time for me to leave, although I was telling her to go off and join the other girls, she finally had to say “Uhhhh, Mama, I can’t go join the other girls if you don’t let go of me.” Turns out I was clutching her to me for dear life.  Every day this week I have had at least one moment of panic.  Of course, I know perfectly well that she is having an awesome time and that if there were any problems, the camp would call.  I know this is a 100% good thing.
But I am still panicking.  And being happy for her.  And panicking.  And being happy for her.
So, to the extent that any of your readers feel a little on the fence from time to time, or aren’t totally certain about letting go, maybe my story will make them feel that they are not alone.  I will keep working on my Free-Ranging and letting go as much as I can. – Fearful Free-Ranger
To which I replied:
First off, I am very proud of you!
Secondly, Free-Rangers aren’t without fear and trembling. We just try to let go DESPITE that. I am a wreck now that my son has learned to (it’ll happen to you , too) DRIVE. DRIVE!!! I wish there weren’t any cars in the world! But as Napoleon (?) said: “Courage is the thing with wet pants.”
We are with you. There isn’t some brave breed out there that is genetically different — or if there is, i don’t belong to it. So good for you and good for your daughter. Also, after a few “letting go”s (or sometimes even just once — see the Free-Range Kids Project) it gets much easier. Good luck on all fronts. – L
P.S. Actually i just tried to find that “courage” quote. Found this instead, and love it:
Fear is wetting your pants.

Courage is taking action with wet pants

Confidence is doing it enough times with wet pants.
Is it okay to panic while Free-Ranging?

Is it okay to panic while Free-Ranging?



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87 Responses to Is It Okay to Free-Range While Privately Freaking Out?

  1. anonymous mom July 20, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    Love this. Yes. The question isn’t whether you worry, or even whether your worry irrationally. I don’t think there are many parents who do not worry irrationally about their kids. (I still sometimes have to resist the urge to make sure my 5 and 3 year olds are breathing at night, and every time my 11 year old is a little late coming home, my first thought is that he’s in a metaphorical ditch) The question is whether you will allow those irrational fears to dictate how you parent, or whether you recognize them for what they are and give your children reasonable freedom in spite of your fears.

  2. Erika July 20, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    My son’s only one, but I can so identify with everything you wrote, from “This will be fun” to “WHY DID I EVER THINK THIS WOULD BE FUN!?” I am so going to be that mom clutching my kid, pretending to be normal while dying inside.

  3. Juluho July 20, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    Bless her. I’m in the same boat. Constantly terrorized by the ‘what ifs’. My kids prove the ‘what ifs’ wrong everytime though. I bite back my fears and they display amazing independence!
    We recently went on vacation and we let out 9 yr old run around with his 16,14, 12, 11, & 10 yr old cousins. He loved every single minute of it and his dad and I were always moments away from needing paper bags to breathe into.
    Sure, he watched some movies I wouldn’t let him (ahem Benchwarmers) and displayed a shocking lack of fear of sharks and ocean currents, but they all were so surprisingly responsible! And care-free! And happy!

  4. Warren July 20, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    Good for you Mom. One of the most important jobs as a parent is to swallow/put aside our irrational fears and anxieties, to allow our kids to grow.

    If I can make a suggestion. Your anxiety might be treatable. You talk about your 8 yr old being anxiety prone. My ex wife was anxiety prone, as was her aunt and mother. Our family doctor tried to get her to see someone about it but she never would. He always said, “If she would just take that first step, it will become so obvious how much better her life could be.”.

  5. Emily Morris July 20, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    I’m the biggest worry wart and I daresay that’s one of the things that makes me love FRK: I can worry and worry and not feel I have to act on every single one of those worries! Lot less pressure. I can narrow down the worries that require true action.

  6. Michelle July 20, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    Congratulations, you are a great parent! Putting what you know to be good for your children ahead of your own fear and worry is selfless and smart!

  7. librarian July 20, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    I freak out a lot whenever my kid is out of my sight. Then I think about my mom freaking out a lot… on several occasions when I failed to show up at the agreed time (pre-mobile phones era) I found her in tears and with migraine headache. I think it’s normal to be worried – but my mom knew better than to allow this fear to determine my lifestyle. I will follow her example.

  8. L. July 20, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    My experience is that the anxiety passes with exposure… your exposure and your kids’. The first time your child walks around the block, you sit white knuckled on the porch waiting for them to get back. The second time maybe the reaction is the same. The third time, it’s a little easier. The tenth time, you barely notice. You get used to new things, and your children prove their abilities to you.

  9. Rina Lederman July 20, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    That’s so cool that your son is already learning to drive. I still have 2 and a half more years till I drive.

  10. SanityAnyone? July 20, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    Happens to the best of us. The first time they ride their bike around the block out of sight is so nerve-wracking! There are times to listen to your gut and hold them back, but if you do some soul searching and feel it is just a normal experience, time to let them try. Their successes will bring you confidence, and how they handle problems will, too. Never underestimate your child!

  11. theresa hall July 20, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    there nothing wrong with fear if it kept you from doing something dumb as long you remember life is for living. fear is there to keep us from dumb stuff like drinking and driving. fear that you could get very hurt doing that is to stop us from doing that. now the last we want to imaging trouble when the proof we have is telling us that we don’t need to worry so much. if your kid is to be by certain time and then isn’t when they usually would be you be worried. now it the reason for the kid being late might be no big deal but they might need help. being careful isn’t bad as long fear doesn’t get to be in charge. fear can be like fire. it can hopefully keep us from being reckless but like fire it can start small and grow all out of control in no time at all

  12. Cynthia812 July 20, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    Great story. It sounds like you’re doing fabulously at letting her go despite your fears and not passing them on to her. I agree with what L said. It gets easier each time they do something. My uncle just told us last night that he discovered as an adult that his mother was afraid of frogs. Their town had an annual frog jumping contest that they always went to. I don’t know if she didn’t tell them in order to not pass on her fear, or to avoid getting frogs in her bed, but I admire her for it.

  13. SKL July 20, 2015 at 11:01 am #

    Yes, I have little bits of yikes here and there at times. I just keep reminding myself that the serious “what ifs” are practically impossible in my kids’ world.

    Last week I sent them up parasailing. (I had already gone up [my first time], so my kids could see it wasn’t patently dangerous.) While the kids were aloft, I asked a lot of questions, even though I knew they were silly and probably annoying.

    I also went jet-skiing that day for the first time, with my kid hanging onto my butt. More than a few times, I was afraid we were going to take a drink. But my kid is a better swimmer than I am, and we both had life jackets, and the owner of the jet-ski would have come instantly if we’d fallen off. Still, I really really didn’t want to fall off. 🙂

    When my youngest was nearly 5, we were on a Caribbean cruise and one of the activities had us swimming from a catamaran to the shore. It looked reasonable so I let my youngest swim it (without a life jacket) before I got in the water. Once in the water, I realized how deep and how far it was and I felt the panic rise. But she never panicked and had a great time. 🙂 I may or may not have a white hair from that day.

    At the dolphin encounter on Belize, at first they said the smallest kid had to hang onto me to ride the dolphin. Then they realized my kids were more comfortable in the water than I was, so they had the kids go alone. I went last. 🙂

  14. Liz K July 20, 2015 at 11:32 am #

    You are doing the right thing. Your panic is about YOU. Allowing your kid to free-range is about what is best for THEM. It’s your job as a parent to encourage your kid’s independence in spite of your anxieties.

  15. Elizabeth July 20, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    I am in a constant panic when I let my kids (ages 10 & 7) do things on their own. Yet, I don’t show it and sometimes I am even the one *making* them do things on their own. Often my heart is in my throat the whole time and I’m mentally preparing myself for the worst while I’m simultaneously repeating to myself all the reasons why their independence is a good thing for them and smiling and congratulating them out the outside. They don’t seem to have the foggiest idea how much I worry. Which is good. They shouldn’t. The better they get at it the less I worry and I know that living through the “firsts” is good for all of us.

  16. Jill July 20, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    This is for Fearful Free-Ranger,

    You are completely normal for having these panicky-episodes. Free-Range parenting is about letting kids grow and stretch, but another benefit is that the parent also experiences growth, and growth isn’t always comfortable. In fact, you are the one doing the learning in this situation, and keeping her from having to have these fears when she’s an adult.

    You are the one that has been inundated by all the messages telling you how dangerous the world is from children. Your fears, as you push through them for your daughter, are completely rational. You’re doing a good job. Stay strong. Keep it up.


  17. Brian July 20, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    Way to go Mom! Stay strong, and share your resolve with others…

  18. pentamom July 20, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    Of course it’s okay! People have this weird idea that if you don’t do something for all the right reasons in all the right ways, it’s better not to do it at all. As though it’s hypocrisy to do what you think is right if it doesn’t come naturally.

    Nope. You should try to do it right, but meanwhile, if it’s the right thing to do, do it!

  19. meg July 20, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    Totally okay.

    I have OCD, so I spend way more time than the average bear worrying about things that really aren’t worth worrying about. (Like the time a car blew through a stop sign two blocks ahead of where I was walking with my kids & I spent the next two days playing over and over again on an endless loop what might have happened if we’d left the house five minutes earlier & been at that intersection at that time…even though we hadn’t, and we weren’t, and nothing about the situation was actually dangerous.)

    My six-year-old is at Girl Scout camp this week. Left her there yesterday. I was way more anxious than I should have been – I was a camper for many years & camp counselor *cough*20*cough* years ago, for heaven’s sake; I know how unlikely it is for anything to happen to her while she is away. But…I’m still sitting here obsessing over brain-eating amoebae and anaphylactic bee stings (she’s not even allergic) and the fact that she’s an early riser & what if she wakes up before her counselors and wanders off into the woods and they can’t find her?

    So it’s a struggle. I imagine it’s a struggle for every parent; I just have an added layer of crazy that makes it more challenging.

    But the point isn’t that we’re always confident about free ranging; it’s that we do it in spite of our worries. That’s how kids learn, right? They try something new and scary (because new things are often scary) & they find out it wasn’t all that scary after all & that they can do something they didn’t think they could. And we learn right along with them, that letting them try something new & scary isn’t so so scary for us, either, each time we allow them that freedom and they come back wiser, stronger, more confident, and completely (or at least mostly…childhood is full of bumps and bruises, after all) unharmed.

    The important thing is to teach them how to take care of themselves & make good decisions, to allow them the freedom to find out what they can do for themselves…and to try our best not to let them see how anxious we are about it.

  20. lollipoplover July 20, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    I have a horribly irrational fear of my kids being eaten by sharks. I am sooo much fun on beach vacations!!
    The latest news coverage of the shark attacks in the Outer Banks (we almost went there this year) and the recent surfer video does not help my cause. Thankfully, I planned a lake vacation this year so I don’t have to go all postal mommy and see shadows and freak out while they blissfully swim in the ocean.

    We all have our own private freak outs. It takes courage to own up to them and not instill them upon our children.

  21. hineata July 20, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    Sounds like you’re completely normal! . As I am often anxious too about life in general, my kids usually know about it, but never stops them or me giving things a go (except wonky 6 story stairs….no way never mind!).

    Boy just got his license too Lenore. Parental anxiety mode right up there!!).

    And I’m in your absolutely beautiful country right now! Issaquah, Washington State. Just so green and beautiful. Met my first fawns in a suburban garden, and talk about anxiety. …couldn’t see the mum so thought she was behind me, as you do! Also saw pink rifles in the supermarket (just wow!). No bears or bison yet….where do y’all keep your bison these days? We really want to catch up with one !

  22. Rina Lederman July 20, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    As long as the kids don’t feel your fear, it’s fine to worry.

  23. Warren July 20, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Sorry to be the bad guy, but these fears are not rational. They are irrational. The anxiety is not normal when it leads to tears and panic.

    Healthy fear will get you to research and weighs the pros and cons. Irrational fears lead to anxiety. And sometimes healthy fear will lead you to say, no it is not worth the risk. That is what healthy fear is supposed to do.

    Anxiety in any form is not healthy for anyone.

  24. Kenny Felder July 20, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    I realize this sounds like cheap promotion, but really–seriously–check out Lenore’s TV show. Watch an episode, and then watch another, and then watch another. The whole purpose is to help mothers like you get over their fears, and I think you’ll find it has a gradual effect.

  25. Heather July 20, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    I decided to let my almost 10 year old ride her bike to and from dance class on Saturdays. It is literally around the block, but it’s in a strip mall near a major highway. I am fighting the thoughts of how easily someone could disappear if they grabbed her and what would happen if someone calls the police on me. I would love it more if she had a sibling or friend to ride with her, but I am confident that she can do this. I was doing more at a much younger age. There is no walking to school in our neighborhood because major roads lack sidewalks and I want this child to be confident in herself so I will just freak out and let her go anyways.

  26. Nadine July 20, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Its not just how much you worry but also that your feeling is something you should adress. Not use to stiffle someone else. Your fear says something about you.

  27. JJ July 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    I can totally relate and it doesn’t stop as they get older. My 15-year old has been taking the train or bus into the city (it is a big city) every once in awhile at night either to see a game or hang out with friends. Especially the hanging out with friends makes me nervous. I don’t relax that, is for sure. And I know he’ll eventually do something I don’t want him doing if he hasn’t already. Still, I know it is best to give him a bit more freedom every year. He needs to keep as apprised and needs to be home at a certain time (obviously).

    Also for those who say (not here today but sometimes in the media) that FRee Rang parenting is lazy parenting I tell you it would be FAR easier to drive him into center city and pick him up.

  28. Marianne Lappin July 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    Acknowledgement of possible dangers does not keep you from being a free range parent. Healthy respect for danger keeps us alive and well. Sounds like you are doing a great job!

  29. hineata July 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    @Warren – your statement caused me to burst into tears of irrational anxiety, lol!

    Seriously, I agree that it’s not healthy but I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of anxiety completely in the general population. For me, I just set myself things to do incrementally to get over the really dumb fears (I got up several ridiculously tall buildings in Europe, for example) and just get on with everything else. For anxious feelings regarding kids, you need to do just what this mum is doing, and let them do stuff anyway.

  30. Jen July 20, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    While i aspire to be more like Warren, I am comforted by the fact that many other moms are also stewing quietly while putting on a brave face. I do hope that it gets easier. While i know logically that it is unlikely that anything will happen except that my child will competently execute whatever the mission is at the time, I still have that nervous-pit-of-the-stomach feeling until she is back within line of site. What’s disturbing is how many (non-related) people experience anxiety about my almost double-digit kid walking/shopping/playing on her own and don’t bite their tongue–thus making her feel uncomfortable or putting the idea in her head that her parents aren’t doing their job.

  31. hineata July 20, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    P.S. I promise to try to keep to topic later on, but am just so excited about being on another actual continent. Continents are seriously cool….so much land! I could drive to NY from here….except we have to drive up to Canada tomorrow (driving to another country. …repeat that slowly. …driving.…another….whole ….COUNTRY!)

    Anyway my brother showed me Saturday where the Green River killer and Ted Bundy operated from, each just a few miles from their house, and I can see why maybe there are more serial killers here (while still a statistically non-significant proportion of criminals not worth fearing). Simply, so much spare room for body-dumping…..

  32. Abigail July 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    I just let my active 4 year old ride a well-known walking path alone to meet me at swim lessons (maybe 1/5mile). Day 1, he was not waiting at the appointed spot. Panic set in fast, I had to systematically shut down each fear with reality (the creek bed is dry, there’s a drought; there are kids and adults around for Jr triathlon training; etc…). He ended up at the closest gate to the pool, rather than the main entrance. Waiting and perfectly safe. The next day, he beat me to the main gate. He has been nonchalant about it – more proud that he is faster than me in the car.

    The comment in here about growing as a parent – and growth being uncomfortable – bang on. My son was ready to take that first, short ride. We are building lesson on top of lesson and I can see that he is safer even with me now. No more stopping to pet a dog without asking the owner first, assuming I’ll put my mom bubble out to keep him safe. He’s become more traffic aware. He is safer now because he is taking responsibility for the factors within his control sphere. And so I’ll go into the next situation waiting to ride the pendulum swing from anxiety to pride.

  33. hineata July 20, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    PPS we are off to visit our first Walmart shortly, so not sure whether we’ll make it out alive. How anxious should I be? What proportion of the population goes missing inside Walmart every year?!

    And does anyone know the best place to buy PINK gear (some kind of brand ) for teen girls?

  34. Warren July 20, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that this poster is whacko or anything. I have first hand seen what anxiety if not dealt with can do to people. When it is at the point that it causes panic attacks, tearful outbursts and such it can be very harmful. Not just to your day to day activities, but to one’s health as well.

    All I am saying is that if you cannot find the ways to get ahold of it, there is help out there.

  35. AmyO July 20, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    Right there with you! I just this summer started letting my 5 year old out to play on her own, without me out there with her. Things were fine when it was comfortable enough to keep the windows and door open so I could hear what was going on, but now that the a/c is on and the house is closed up I have to give myself a pep talk. She’s done a great job of following the boundaries I set for her (we live in a big city, so no fences for us, just don’t go past so-and-so’s tree), made some friends with the other kids, and is having a great time. I have to stop myself from peeking out the window every three seconds.

  36. Jen July 20, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    Congratulations on your many new adventures. It sounds like you are approaching everything with great spirit.
    I believe you will need to find a shopping mall for PINK clothes — they are a Victoria’s Secret brand.
    Good luck!

  37. Mandy July 20, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    I don’t think there is a parent in the world who doesn’t have panic moments. As free-rangers we just get used to dealing with that panic and allow our kids to take those risks.

    Well done to that Mom who let her kid go to camp – we’ve all got your back!

  38. Steve July 20, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    “Fearful Free-Ranger” mentioned several things of interest:

    1.) “Just last week I told myself to stay calm before saying anything to a parent who had allowed my son to swim in her pool before I arrived at a birthday party.”

    2.) “On a recent camping trip, my kids decided to play “Mantracker” while we were out hiking and as a result I lost them for about 10 minutes. I barely managed to contain my panic…”

    3.) “my anxiety-prone 8 year old”

    4.) ” When it came time for me to leave, although I was telling her to go off and join the other girls, she finally had to say “Uhhhh, Mama, I can’t go join the other girls if you don’t let go of me.” Turns out I was clutching her to me for dear life. Every day this week I have had at least one moment of panic.


    A. We can have rational fear based on facts, and then there’s over-the-top kind that is irrational. And yes, we all feel panic sometimes. That’s life.

    There are also reasons you might be a Panic-aholic, and it could have to do with your past. Did your parents (or care givers) demonstrate anxiety when you were growing up? Do you watch a lot of scary stuff on TV? Do you read books by authors like Dean Koontz? Are you creative? Creative people can keep themselves scared what-iffing non-stop. Did you experience upsetting events in your childhood that you keep revisiting? These kinds of things can “program” you to have Unreasonable anxiety which you know is over-the-top.

    You can choose to run panic-stories over and over in your head, or you can choose helpful, positive stories. How often do you replay wonderful scenarios compared to the time you give fear stories? Picture a rose bush with blossoms. You probably aren’t focusing on the blossoms and perfume, you’re always thinking, “but there are so many thorns! All those thorns!”

    EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) can help you erase your anxiety – Google EFT – it’s everywhere and it’s very affective.) It can stop your worrying and a lot more.

    You will of course panic if fear stories are almost all you picture happening. Those fearful “what-ifs” are framed pictures hanging on the wall of your mind. You haven’t framed enough pleasant uplifting scenes and you aren’t looking at them very often.

    B. Here’s a good example of how Anxiety gets passed along to other people and one reason why.

    On page 86, in the book by psychotherapist, Sean Stephenson, “Get Off Your ‘But’, ” he tells about a client:

    “I once met a young woman who was so crippled by fear that she was afraid to drive, go swimming, and use public restrooms and elevators. By running an endless loop of worse-case scenarios in her mind, she literally talked herself into panic attacks on a daily basis.

    “This young woman had grown up in a household where her mom was always worried that something bad could happen. Many times over the years, her mom would cancel all the family plans out of pure, unfounded fear. As we worked together, I learned that she loved her mother dearly. Deep down inside, she was afraid that if she didn’t share or live out her mother’s paranoia, she would be acting as if her mom were flawed.”

  39. Milissa July 20, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

    I have the same problem. I know it is perfectly safe for my 9 year old to ride his bike 10 houses around the corner in our neighborhood. I know the family he if visiting and since the road is curved, I can actually see their house from my front yard. Still feel panic and look at the window all the time while he is gone. I had much more freedom at his age. I used to walk with a girlfriend probably a mile a way to a convenience store. We were gone for hours and hours, playing on the school yard and stopping at friend’s houses on the way.

    I question why I feel panic and fear. My mother says she did not worry.

  40. Lori July 20, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    All I can say to this is “been there, done that, have the t-shirt” lol. Even doing it today while my teenage girls are at a library program at an area camp. My 14yo daughter plans on ziplining so I am trying to pretend they’re not gone anywhere!

  41. Anne Egli July 20, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    I must tell you, Lenore, that a kid driving puts the worry thing in a whole new light. Kids driving is the worst of all fears, for we not only have to fear for their ability, but also for the other drivers on the road. We live 45-60 minutes from the nearest towns, so all five of our kids had that long drive home from wherever once they were driving, and it didn’t get any easier waiting for them to arrive once we’d had their call saying they were on their way. Though with our youngest, who is still at home, we are able to fall asleep, so that’s great progress after all these years. I found though, that it’s easier not to worry about a child when they are away from us (one daughter is in Peru right now for 8 months and others have spent time overseas) for I have no idea what is happening at the moment, but if the kid is driving home late at night, I know about it and am “concerned.” Just don’t let them be more than a few minutes late, for then my mind goes places it really shouldn’t!
    Want to say that though my kids are grown, I LOVE your site, and pass on all kinds of things I read about to my son and his wife so that their kids will grow up “free” to be children!

  42. Anna July 20, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    It seems like many people here agree that they find this normal and have felt anxiety similar to this letter-writer. I don’t worry like this at all: I’ve never felt the urge to check if my son was breathing even when he was a newborn, and I simply can’t imagine feeling any of the reactions and fears described in that letter. And I’ve known lots of parents who are much more relaxed and less fearful than me.

    So I wonder what makes some people feel this way and others not. Is it just a matter of temperament, or is a lot of it caused by one’s environment? I grew up in a large family and spend a lot of time around other large families, so pretty much all my friends and family are very free-range – i.e., it’s my “normal.” My experience of “helicopter parents” is generally only with more casual acquaintances, so to me it seems odd and not normal. Does an atmosphere where irrational fear is “normal” actually make people feel more fear? I wonder if the letter-writer’s own parents were over-protective. Perhaps it would help to seek out friends who aren’t so anxious?

  43. Stephanie July 20, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    I worry when my kids go out to play at the school, but I know it’s pretty safe. They love the school’s parking lot as one of the few places nearby that’s mostly flat, great for learning to skate, ride a skateboard or bike, before they’re ready for the many hills in our area. My older two go there regularly but I’m not ready for my youngest to go there – we’ve had too many times where it has been clear she’s not ready to be away from my supervision yet. We tried once during this past school year and it ended badly. Hopefully this year she’ll be more ready to break away a little bit. She’ll play a little bit out front with friends without supervision, but that’s about it.

  44. Buffy July 20, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    Can I ask what frightened you about camp? Did you not trust the counselors and other staff there to have the best interests of all the campers at heart?

  45. Warren July 20, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

    Worrying has never changed the outcome of anything.

    Anxiety has never changed the outcome of anything.

    But both do have harmful effects on the one with them.

    They are both a complete waste of time.

  46. Steve July 20, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    Those of you who have NOT read Lenore’s book – probably worry a lot more than if you had read it. And if you read it 2 or 3 times, you would worry a LOT less.



    from my last post in case you missed it:

    Here’s a good example of how Anxiety gets passed along to other people and one reason why.

    On page 86, in the book by psychotherapist, Sean Stephenson, “Get Off Your ‘But’, ” he tells about a client:

    “I once met a young woman who was so crippled by fear that she was afraid to drive, go swimming, and use public restrooms and elevators. By running an endless loop of worse-case scenarios in her mind, she literally talked herself into panic attacks on a daily basis.

    “This young woman had grown up in a household where her mom was always worried that something bad could happen. Many times over the years, her mom would cancel all the family plans out of pure, unfounded fear. As we worked together, I learned that she loved her mother dearly. Deep down inside, she was afraid that if she didn’t share or live out her mother’s paranoia, she would be acting as if her mom were flawed.”

  47. Jim Collins July 20, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    The part about her son swimming before she got there cracked me up. Fourth of July weekend, I got invited to a cookout by a co-worker. When I showed up I saw a bunch of disappointed kids. The family that invited me had a swimming pool, but, their oldest son wasn’t there to lifeguard so the kids were not allowed to swim. I said that I’d lifeguard so that the kids could swim. My friend’s wife asked if I was qualified to lifeguard and her husband choked on his drink. I told her that I would have no problem and she finally relented. The “pool” was 40 feet in diameter and about 40 inches deep. I’m 6′-2″ and the water came just above my waist. We didn’t have a problem. A few days ago my friend’s wife comes in to go to lunch with her husband. When they came over to say hello, my friend told me to show his wife the wallpaper on my computer. It is a picture of me hanging from the rescue hoist of a Navy helicopter. I spent five years as a rescue swimmer in the early 80’s.

  48. Warren July 20, 2015 at 5:48 pm #


    I spent my later teen years into my early twenties as a lifeguard. A few times when there were family events where pools were, I was asked by the owner to lifeguard the kids. They all got my standard response. $13.50 per hour, with the pool cleared for half an hour every two hours for me to get out of the sun and something to eat and drink.” They would complain, moan and then whine to my folks. My old man would tell them, ” You’re getting off cheap. It’s his day off and he should be demanding time and a half.”

  49. E July 20, 2015 at 6:15 pm #

    I do not want to give this Mom more to “worry” about, but I will suggest that they spend some time examining the anxiety because I think the teen years might send you over the edge.

    I would suggest there are rational fears with the teen years. You have to figure out a way to get thru them without losing your mind.

  50. pentamom July 20, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

    I have a fear of heights that’s not totally crippling, but bad enough that if we’re hiking too near a precipice I simply can’t avoid showing and projecting my fear all over the place and making everybody uncomfortable.

    So for local hiking in places like that, I send the kids with hubby and say, “Have fun!” I’m not actually afraid of anyone getting hurt, I just can’t control my anxiety in the situation.

  51. Beth July 20, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    I sort of feel like too that this is more than just worry for the kids – it does sound like full blown anxiety, including the physical reactions, especially about things that really sound safe like 10 adults watching 12 kids (because what pool or beach has 1 adult for every kid?) and a camp that I’m sure mom fully researched before sending her child there.

    This mom might want to look into some treatment because, as stated above, the teen years bring with them some pretty scary stuff.

  52. Katie July 20, 2015 at 8:37 pm #

    Dear fearful free ranger,

    Take a deep breath. Your daughter is more likely to die as you drive her to camp than being at camp. Always remember this as you fearfully let her take her own steps towards independence. Accidents may or may not happen with or without you. We do not control the universe, nor should we. Your job is to make her independent, not keep her in a gilded cage. Congrats for doing your part and then letting go and not letting your own emotions get in the way of good parenting. This term “free range” is rather ridiculous. It’s not a special form of parenting, but traditional normal parenting that treats children as humans rather than pets. So, to all those fearful normal parents out there: take a deep breath, you’re doing the right thing – you’re raising your children to become independent adults. That far outweighs any perceived risks (real or imaginary)


    Normally Raised

  53. Warren July 20, 2015 at 10:12 pm #


    Way to go. Tell a fearful lady to take a deep breath, your kid is going to die. LOL!!!!

  54. Tsu Dho Nimh July 20, 2015 at 11:37 pm #

    “On a recent camping trip, my kids decided to play “Mantracker” while we were out hiking and as a result I lost them for about 10 minutes”

    Cool! I’ll be taking classes on tracking lost people this summer … it’s a good skill to have.

    Please teach your kids how to get “unlost” … Someone will be coming to find them.

    Stop moving around, pick an easy to be seen spot, and listen for people making noise. When you hear people, start making noise back at them!

  55. SKL July 20, 2015 at 11:53 pm #

    Oh, I almost forgot my kids’ first sleepover camp last year (they were 7). It was only for 2 nights. I wasn’t “worried,” but on the 2nd night there were thunderstorms. My kids used to get scared and ask to sleep with me when there were thunderstorms. So I’m listening to the storm and figuring they are scared and miserable. When I picked them up the next day, they said nothing about the storm, so I asked what they were doing during that time. “Oh, we were watching a movie and eating popcorn. It was fun!”

  56. hineata July 21, 2015 at 1:18 am #

    @Jen – thanks so much for that, you were so right, found them at the back of a Victoria’s Secret. It was seriously a laugh too to go through Walmart with my brother, who was convinced we’d be pickpocketed ….after enjoying Barcelona, where the chances are rather higher :-).

    And how wonderfully friendly everyone is! Even Customs at the sirport were nice. Anxious Mom, if all your compatriots are as friendly and helpful as I’ve found so far, you should have no trouble with your kids’ safety. …

    America, I salute you :-). Now if you would only quit selling handguns at the supermarket and practice a little more ethnic diversity (only seeing white people so far, pretty much!) you might be not far from the perfect country! Still not Godzone, mind you, but pretty good 🙂 :-).

  57. Alex July 21, 2015 at 3:50 am #

    I worry a lot too about things that could go wrong. I mean the worries don’t control my life, but I recognize the potential for terrible harm to happen. I also recognize when it’s a low probability, and I try to understand how to balance minimizing that probability with still providing the child with sufficient freedom and ability to learn on their own.

    Actually this doesn’t come into play with me much since I don’t have any children. But if I did have children, I believe this is how I would feel. Consider what could happen, prepare the child in the ways I can, and then hope for the best.

  58. Andrew July 21, 2015 at 4:46 am #

    “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

  59. Anna July 21, 2015 at 9:47 am #

    Hineata: “America, I salute you :-). Now if you would only. . . practice a little more ethnic diversity (only seeing white people so far, pretty much!) you might be not far from the perfect country!”

    It really depends where you are, you know. Where I live right now is as white as snow (and it’s annoyingly impossible to find any ethnic ingredients at the grocery store beyond your basic Kikkoman soy sauce) but that’s not so in previous places I’ve lived. On the other hand, people just are the color they are, it’s not really a choice. Also – haven’t you mentioned before that you’re from Japan? I didn’t think Japan was exactly known for ethnic diversity.

  60. Katie July 21, 2015 at 1:52 pm #


    Well, there are two thing certain in life: death and taxes. However, in case anyone got the wrong impression, I was letting a fearful lady know that it is ok to let go, that many things are out of our control, and that trying to control all dangers in life is like trying to control the weather.

  61. SKL July 21, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    Hineata, if we sell guns at grocery stores in our peaceful towns (like the one where I was a teen), doesn’t that say something for our civility? Most of the gun violence is in places where guns are banned / strictly regulated. (I know you probably hear reports that make it sound like we Americans like to shoot each other all day long, but that’s about as accurate as a baby can die if left in a car for 1 minute.) A woman from Canada recently commented that she is afraid to step foot in the US because we have so many guns here. I hope you can report back home that during your stay, our guns were not being waved around everywhere you went. 😛

    As for white people, where are you? There are lots of places in the US where whites are the minority. Most places have some diversity. Non-Hispanic whites aren’t much more than half of the US population. I hope you are planning to make stops in multiple regions.

  62. Papilio July 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    @Hineata: Did you look behind you when the person outside the supermarket went all “HI! How ARE you?!’ ? 😀
    Not to burst your bubble, but you do realize that tourists see only a fraction of any country’s reality? I’m sure there are plenty of foreigners convinced my entire country was built before 1800 and everyone either smokes pot or dresses in traditional clothing because all they’ve seen is the center of Amsterdam and Volendam before their bus shuttled them off to the next country…

    @Anna: She’s from New Zealand and as far as I remember at least partially Maori.

  63. ebohlman July 21, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    It’s worth mentioning that the standard (evidence-based) treatment for anxiety is exactly what Lenore’s reader is practicing: “exposure with response prevention”. You allow yourself to be exposed to the thing you fear, while keeping yourself from fighting, fleeing, or falling apart. When you do that repeatedly, you become less sensitive to the anxiety-inducing stimulus over time. Maybe you never get over the fear, but you get to the point where you control it rather than it controlling you.

  64. Papilio July 21, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    @SKL: “if we sell guns at grocery stores in our peaceful towns (like the one where I was a teen), doesn’t that say something for our civility?”

    Huh? ‘If we sell water purification tablets at grocery stores in our modern 21th century country, doesn’t that say something for the quality of our tap water?’

    “Most of the gun violence is in places where guns are banned / strictly regulated.”

    Yes, and crime and the traffic death rate are very low… if you compare the USA to the USA.

  65. Anna July 21, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    Papilio: Ah, that makes more sense. I think I’d gathered “island nation in the Pacific” and then I probably jumped to Japan.

  66. James Pollock July 21, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

    “Most of the gun violence is in places where guns are banned / strictly regulated.”

    “Gun violence” is a very broad category. It includes:

    A) people who use a weapon to protect themselves and others from violent attack.

    B) people who injure themselves or others through carelessness or negligence.

    C) people who injure themselves intentionally.

    and, yes, D) People who use a gun to commit crimes.

    Gun violence is not more prevalent in places with strict regulation.

  67. hineata July 21, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

    @SKL and Anna, sorry, I have the most appalling sense of humour :-). My brother is in Issaquah in Washington State, and the area he lives in just tends toward being white. And we were only there 3 days sadly. ….but had lots of fun. Yes, such a vast country and we were only in the upper left hand corner of it :-). Would love to do a road trip some time, but that will have to wait for more dollaros. …

    Sitting in Vancouver airport, another very friendly place, though am looking forward to getting home.

  68. Donna July 21, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

    Non-Hispanic whites make up 62% of the US population. Since that remaining 38% is made up of numerous different groups (black, hispanic, asian, native americans, pacific islanders, etc), white is still the majority single group by a HUGE amount. The next closest single group is blacks at 13% of the population.

  69. James Pollock July 21, 2015 at 11:04 pm #

    “My brother is in Issaquah in Washington State, and the area he lives in just tends toward being white.”

    The Pacific Northwest does have a lot of white folks in it. But, if you get into the suburbs of Seattle, you’ll find people drawn to the tech industry from all over the world (Mostly Asian, but also non-native white folks from various European nations as well.) Of course, there’s large chunks of both Oregon and Washington that are set aside for the Native Americans, as well. The somewhat-less-white population is there, if you know where to look for them.

  70. baby-paramedic July 22, 2015 at 6:06 am #

    Fake it til you make it.

    No, seriously. Just today I was discussing our paramedic training with someone I went through with. Both of us apparently project an air of being absolutely in control, whilst absolutely freaking out.

    We faked that calm until we could project it reliably. We can now project it at will. This is helpful in our line of work (you really don’t want your paramedic freaking out), but it is also helpful in so many things (apparently why people kept asking me for directions on public transport in a city I had been in less than 24hrs, in a foreign country no less).

    fake it until you make it, it will come.

  71. Amanda July 22, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    I sometimes have to stop and remind myself that it is WRONG for me to prevent my kids from doing something that is good for them, simply because of MY fear.

  72. Barry Lederman July 22, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    NFL Quarterback Dree Brews was interviewed before the Super Bowl. Here was the biggest game of his life. Was he nervous?

    The quarterback answered, “The day I don’t get nervous before a game is the day I retire. Yes I am nervous but I have confidence in my coaches, my teammates and myself.”

    Post script: Brees went on the win the Super Bowl.

  73. Papilio July 22, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

    @Anna: Funny how you categorize Japan and New Zealand together! I have such different associations with Japan that I don’t think I’d ever confuse those two.

    @Hineata: Wait, wait – so you first travelled from home to Europe – via Asia? – and then went on to the USA and then across the Pacific back home – does that mean you, like, gained a day?

  74. SKL July 22, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

    Donna, we are apparently looking at two different sources for our numbers. The one I looked at was from 2015.

    I am not sure whether it includes folks living in the US who are not citizens, or who are not legal residents etc.

    Point is that if you get around much, you will not see almost all white people.

  75. SKL July 22, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    James, right, I wasn’t including accidents and suicides, but Hineata doesn’t really have to fear those as she’s walking down most US streets.

    When a person is leaving a brief comment and you get their point, let it go. Don’t hold each poster to the standard of a scholarly research paper. Unless you want each post to be 3 pages long.

  76. James Pollock July 22, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

    ” Don’t hold each poster to the standard of a scholarly research paper.”
    I don’t. Accuracy, however, is another story.

    Thus, in response to the statement:
    ““Most of the gun violence is in places where guns are banned / strictly regulated.”, which is incorrect, I offered the correct statement, which is
    “Gun violence is not more prevalent in places with strict regulation.”

    Moving on to this one:
    “I wasn’t including accidents and suicides, but Hineata doesn’t really have to fear those as she’s walking down most US streets.”

    What is it about walking down most US streets that makes us bulletproof, but only from accidentally-fired bullets?

  77. SKL July 23, 2015 at 4:42 am #

    James, where do you live? How old are you? How many times have you been hit by a stray bullet in your lifetime?

    I have always lived in a state where you can have all the guns you want. Many people own guns here. I never see other people’s guns. I never hear other people’s guns. I am unaware of a violent shooting happening on my street (any street I’ve ever lived on) ever. The presence of legally owned guns does not make a neighborhood dangerous.

    You sound like a person opposed to gun ownership, and I don’t want to argue with you, because that would be a waste of time. I just don’t like people creating an impression for non-US people that the US is the wild wild west or something. I’ve traveled rather broadly and the US is definitely not the place to go if you want to see a lot of guns in people’s hands.

  78. Donna July 23, 2015 at 10:09 am #

    “I have always lived in a state where you can have all the guns you want.”

    Me too.

    “Many people own guns here.”

    Same here.

    “I never see other people’s guns.”

    I see other people’s guns all the time. They hang on gun racks in the back of trucks. I occasionally see them on people in stores and restaurants.

    “I never hear other people’s guns.”

    I rarely hear other people’s guns because it is actually illegal to fire them in the city limits (you can’t hunt or target shoot within the city limits in other words). If I go to the country where my mother lives (only about 15 miles away), I hear them all the time.

    “I am unaware of a violent shooting happening on my street (any street I’ve ever lived on) ever.”

    On my street, no. Within a couple mile radius of my house, absolutely. They just tried a high profile murder case (well it is still ongoing for the death penalty phase, but he has been convicted) in which both shootings happened within a couple miles of my house (one just over a mile and one closer to two). I represent a client charged with a totally different murder that happened about 3 miles from my house. An old client of mine is currently charged with shooting someone within a couple blocks of my house. A lawyer friend of mine shot someone robbing her house a couple blocks away from me.

    “The presence of legally owned guns does not make a neighborhood dangerous.”

    Nor does it make a neighborhood safe. The presence of legal guns is irrelevant to the safety of the neighborhood. And, no, I am not opposed to guns. I find the attachment to them completely ridiculous, but if you want to have one and are a responsible gun owner, go for it.

  79. SKL July 23, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    Donna: “The presence of legal guns is irrelevant to the safety of the neighborhood.”

    Exactly my point.

  80. Donna July 23, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    SKL – You said “Most of the gun violence is in places where guns are banned / strictly regulated.” That is what James and I are debating. That statement is untrue. It also indicates a belief that legal gun ownership makes a neighborhood safer. It does not.

  81. SKL July 23, 2015 at 11:01 am #

    Donna, if you got that from my post, I wasn’t a good communicator. We already talked about what I meant by “violent” and that it wasn’t intended to be a doctoral dissertation. Let it go. I cannot go back and edit my post.

    I never said gun ownership makes a neighborhood safer. Never thought that. But the sight of guns legally on sale in a grocery store should not send shivers up a visitor’s spine. That was what I was responding to. That’s all.

  82. James Pollock July 23, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    “James, where do you live? How old are you? How many times have you been hit by a stray bullet in your lifetime?”
    Just once.

    “You sound like a person opposed to gun ownership”
    No, I don’t.

  83. Papilio July 24, 2015 at 5:58 pm #

    @Lenore: Saw these, thought of you…
    “A driving test, mistaken questions – and why it’s too easy to get a New York driving licence”:
    Okay, this is just downright scary. A miracle that there are still pedestrians left in New York City…
    Speaking of which – have you heard of this movement?:

  84. hineata July 25, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    @Papilio – actually we lost a day coming home, never had a Wednesday 22nd, but we gained the same in dribs and drabs as we went around the globe (for example, the longest hour of my life was the ‘hour’ it took us to get from Frankfurt to Seattle ).

    Didn’t feel unsafe, even in Walmart (!) and actually the only guns we saw in America attached to actual people were on police officers in a Taco Time (damn, Taco Time was delicious! !). Evidently Washington is a conceal carry state if you have some kind of permit for that….which I do find a little difficult to get my head around. Being a lifelong klutz, if I hid a gun on my person the only thing I’d be likely to shoot is myself, but I suppose people into concealing handguns etc train themselves how to use one properly (or I certainly hope they do 🙂 ).

    There were publicly displayed rifles in several places in Europe…..daughter found the soldiers under the Eiffel Tower a bit freaky, until I pointed out to her that it was an obvious place for acts of terrorism or other forms of attention seeking.

  85. Papilio July 25, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    @Hineata: So you kind of broke even with your travelling time 🙂 That must be so weird! ‘I didn’t have a Wednesday the 22nd because when that day happened I was still in Tuesday the 21st…!’
    ‘America, the country where it’s yesterday’ 😛

    “which I do find a little difficult to get my head around” Yeah.

    Where in Europe have you been, because it’s 40+ countries? (Plus Australia. No wait – that was just for the Eurovision Songcontest…) If I remember correctly, Switzerland is among the more lenient, and Finland, I know there are gun stores in Belgium… Anyway, like traditions and holidays and all things cultural, it differs from country to country.

  86. hineata July 25, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    Hi Papilio, yeah, you’re so right . Only Switzerland (for a few days) Spain (3weeks) and then France (again aga few days). Oh, and Gibraltar for a few hours, which was cool because we’d forgotten it’s a separate territory. Plus it’s pretty cool to sight Africa, even from a distance.

    Would love to spend time in Northern Europe. …like the Netherlands, Germany etc. Or is that central Europe? Will have to save a bit more :-).

  87. Joules July 30, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    I love this post so much. I feel that free rangers are thought of as cavalier with the lives of their children, but that’s the opposite of the truth. I want to be a free range parent who teaches and guides my child to do the things that I know he can do, even if it scares him a bit and scares the living daylights out of me. Private freakouts are abundant when you have children, not transferring that fear to them is what it means to me to be free range.