I was giving my Free-Range yeseehayhy
Kids talk at a suburban New York school the other night and one of the audience members kept smiling as I whipped through all the reasons we’re so afraid for our kids. This lady was clearly on my side — speakers are always gauging the audience, by the way — and then I found out who she was.
Executive Editor of Parents Magazine.
Well, that made me gulp. Some of the props I bring on my talks are, well, let’s just say periodicals for people with children. Maybe I poke fun at some of their articles and tips. Like the list of items one magazine suggested parents take on a trip to visit relatives: a portable crib, baby monitor, stair gates, faucet covers, door handle covers, an inflatable tub, a night light and “plastic zip ties to secure cabinets.” Another mag gave this timeless advice for avoiding bug bites: “Bathe the kids before going out and try to keep them calm.” Have a fun summer!
But darned if Turner wasn’t laughing along. In fact, she seemed so game, I had her come up and play my child as I acted out the tips from a now-defunct parenting magazine’s “Hug How-To.” “Wrap your little one in both arms with chests touching….” (So THAT’S how you do it!)
She let me hug her, chest to chest, and the audience whooped. A few days later, a package arrived in the mail.
Parents Magazine. Two issues. With little Post-It tabs on them.
Open to the tab in the March issue and there’s a huge piece by Cara Birnbaum: “How to Let Go of Your Fears (And Give Your Kid More Freedom)“
The April issue has a huge article: “Gotcha! How Parent on Parent Tattle-Telling Has Spun Out of Control.”
Reading them was like reading this blog.
The “Let Go of Your Fears” piece actually quotes me talking about how the media has created our conviction that predators are everywhere. But the whole article sounds like everything we’ve been saying here for eight years: “Kids are living in a safer time than we were…so why are we so scared?” “Beginning with pregnancy, we …monitor our children’s every move.” “You could argue that all the hypervigilance is exactly why kids are safer today — except crime again adults is also down.” “Parks that were teeming with kids a generation ago feel eerily quiet…”
And the “Gotcha!” article running next month seems momentous, too, urging parents not to turn on other parents simply for letting their kids play outside, or wait in the car. Perhaps it is petty of me to point out that just a year ago Parents ran a 7-page opus on the dangers of letting your kid wait in the car. But perhaps it is also even more of a credit to Parents that it has done what looks like a U-Turn. Instead of urging worst-first thinking, they have cast their vote for rationality. The benefit of the doubt. Free-Range Kids.
This is a thrilling development for everyone who believed that the media was enslaved to fear-mongering. It’s like when Macy’s Santa sent the mom to Gimbel’s. It’s like when the Democrats and Republicans both started saying we have to change the drug laws. At some point, things can change, dramatically and fast, for the better. At Parents, that point seems be right in front of our eyes.
Makes me want to hug ’em. – L