An honest letter about a real problem: Kids given lots of freedom but, it seems, no behavior boundaries. Or boundary boundaries, for that matter:
Lenore. I’m a firm Free-Range mom, though to be honest I don’t give my children the freedom I’d like to, though not for fear of the boogey man, but for fear of the law coming down hard on us.
My five kids, my husband and I recently moved to an apartment complex (admittedly not my favorite living situation). The community here is rather poor and most are immigrants and it’s my belief that their culture lends to a much more Free-Range parenting style, which I was initially really excited to be immersed in!
My praise has turned to grief as I’ve been hurt by the level of un-supervision afforded the children. My car has been vandalized, hundreds of dollars’ worth of packages have been stolen, and the unruly screaming just outside my apartment door makes me feel like we live in a Chuck-E-Cheese’s ball pit.
So here’s my conundrum. This experience has caused me to question just how much freedom I support and it’s also made me realize the difficult position unsupervised children can put neighbors in. I’ve spoken to apartment management and to children and the parents (though there’s a huge language barrier) and I’ve had packages replaced countless times by Amazon and I’ve made numerous reports to USPS in an attempt to assuage my own suffering while not getting the police involved (both because I support the rights of kids to play outside and because I strongly fear retaliation if the police do become involved).
So as a Free-Range parent, what do you say to a citizen who is suffering because of unsupervised children? I must add, the ages of these children range from four to maybe ten. Also, they are outside in the apartment breezeway or parking lot generally is sunrise to sunset. Our apartment doors are very close so when the kids are playing and screaming outside their own apartment door, they are also screaming outside of mine, which sounds like they’re actually in my apartment. Asking them to be quiet doesn’t have any effect. And then worst of all is the theft. I actually feel sorry for the kids and don’t want to report them to police but in tired of time-sensitive materials I need for my home business disappearing! Help!
To which I replied:
That sounds incredibly vexing. As you probably know, there is a difference between Free-Range Kids, which advocates granting freedom along with responsibility, and simply letting kids run wild. I mean, I do want them running wild, but knowing that they can’t bother other people, and that they have to be home by X time, and they certainly aren’t allowed to vandalize or steal. I wonder if there’s any other open space where they could gather rather than right next to the apartments.
The problem is: I also don’t know how to get neighbors on board with making their kids more socially aware and better behaved. So, per usual, I will run your note on my blog and ask for other people’s ideas.
Meantime, good luck. And I very much agree with your decision not to call the police. Tangling kids or parents up with the authorities doesn’t seem to make things better and often makes them worse.
And now readers — I say the same as this frustrated mom: Help! – L.