Readers — Here’s a letter I got yesterday. It hit me in the gut because this woman just went through the same process I think a lot of us go through daily: Trying to deal, calmly, with the knee-jerk response of, “That’s too dangerous!” to any suggestion that kids can do anything on their own. Â Read it and you’ll probably find yourselves nodding along. (Or “Grrrrrr”ing along, in my case. How very mature!)
Dear Free-Range Kids: I live in Vermont. Our region is rather rural and, in general, considered â€œmuch saferâ€ than a lot of places. Yesterday, I was watching my childrenâ€™s swimming lesson (indoor pool!), when the woman next to me struck up a conversation. She was there for her grandsonâ€™s swim lesson, and she began to wax nostalgic about her own childhood and early swimming experiences.
She used to walk with other children a mile or so to a nearby lake to go swimming. She remembers this very clearly from about age eight or so. She said to me, â€œOf course, you would never let kids do that today.â€ After a beat, and thinking of Free-Range Kids, I asked, â€œWhy not?â€ She seemed puzzled by the question. So, I clarified, â€œWhy wouldnâ€™t you let kids walk to the lake today?â€ Â She looked at me like I was just a little crazy, honestly. She asked, incredulously, â€œLet eight-year-olds walk a couple miles alone?!?â€
I told her about your book and website. I donâ€™t know if I made an impression. And yet, as I mentioned the saga about the middle school kids who were not allowed to ride bikes to school, she seemed to be contemplating the matter. Is this what it means to proselytize? –Â Kimberly Barnhart
Hi Kim: Yes, in the nicest sense. Go forth and spread the word! Or at least get folks asking themselves where all their fear comes from? Why do they think their otherwise wonderful children (and grandchildren) are so much more pathetic and helpless than they were? — Lenore