Readers: This letter is from a woman whose mom was way more helicopter than most — an extreme case. Nonetheless, it’s a cautionary tale and she sent it here to endorse the Free-Range movement. Here’s wishing the writer, and her mom, a very happy and liberating 2010. — Lenore
Dear Free-Range Kids: I really wish that I had a free, happy childhood memory to share, but I don’t. I grew up in the ’80s and my mother was obsessed with keeping my brother and me “safe.” She was a total helicopter mom, even though that term wasn’t used then. She watched us every second she possibly could. I was never allowed to go over to any friends’ homes because their parents could be child molesters. My mom didn’t like other children in her house, so they weren’t allowed to come to our house, either. She was a bit more lenient with my brother because he’s a boy and I’m a girl, but not much.
My brother and I grew up confined to our back yard and had only each other as playmates. Eventually, I stopped going outside completely, pretty well bored of the tiny yard. I was a stereotypical fat kid. My mom wouldn’t even let us go very often to play with our own cousins, thinking that they were too “rough.” Every newspaper item regarding a child that had been abducted, raped, or murdered was thrust into our faces with the same phrase, “See? Next time you want to complain, you should think about this kid!”
I love my mother very much, and she did teach me many things that I am forever grateful for, like the value of a dollar (I’m the only cousin in our family who has never had a problem with credit card debt) and how important reading is (she never denied me any book I ever wanted to read). The lesson I could have done without? That every person you meet will probably try to hurt you in some way.
I am now 26 years old and I have never had a real friend. I am very grateful that I am alive today and have never been seriously injured, but it sure seems like there was an awfully high price to pay in order to guard against something that seems so unlikely to me now that I am older. I can’t completely escape her influence, and I may never be able to. I hope that this website can reach many parents and show them how to let their kids have more freedom. I’ve never had a serious physical injury, but I’ve had all kinds of emotional illnesses. I think I would rather have had a few more bumps and bruises. They heal a lot quicker.