Readers — I got this note the other day and found it very intriguing. You may, too. It’s about two issues that affect how we think about kids and freedom !
Dear Free-Range Kids: These thoughts have been swirling around my mind.
1. Have you noticed that “anything can happen” is the new code phrase for “s/he could be kidnapped” but people don’t like to spell it out? I’ve started pushing people into telling me exactly what they mean and then giving them a lecture on the real risks in life (as non-sarcastically as I can manage, but that’s not always saying much). Today, for example, I ran into the mother of a classmate of my older son’s and she gave me that line when it came out that my son goes to the grocery store — literally at the strip mall three houses away from us — by himself. I very innocently asked, “What, like something falling on his head?” Which, realistically, is far more likely than him being kidnapped. And that forced her to spell it out. She remained unconvinced that it was safe, but at least I don’t think she’ll be reporting me to the authorities!
2. Something’s been niggling at me for years, since my older boy learned to climb on things and got very good at it, but it took me until recently to put my finger on exactly what it is. I — and my sons directly, which really ticks me off — have had many people from acquaintances to full strangers tell me that what they’re doing (usually something involving climbing and/or balancing) is dangerous and they will fall. Not “might.” “Will.” This is what’s wrong with so much of our society today. Since every risk has become unacceptable, everything that “might” happen has been elevated to a “will” happen, with no determination of actual risk (based on a combination of the activity, the individual’s skill, and the magnitude of the consequences). So, now, balancing on the arm of my living room sofa is equivalent to crossing a busy street without first checking the traffic. Maybe I’m more rational about this because of my strong mathematics background (guess what my degree is in!) but it seems like basic common sense to me.
Thanks for letting me unload. There aren’t a lot of people in real life — other than my husband who thankfully agrees with me — to talk to rationally about this stuff. Keep up the good work.