Readers! Clearly, that TV town of uber-neighborliness lives on — if you let it. This mom did. Read on!
Dear Lenore: I just finished your book. Before I found your it and your website, I thought my husband and I were the last sane parents standing.
We bought our house while still in our 20’s. We picked a nearby small town with friendly neighborhoods and an extremely low crime rate. Less than a mile from our house is the bay and farther north is a system of rivers bayous, and creeks. We wanted to raise our future children to be Opie Taylor and Scout Finch.
It was 7 years before we had our daughter. In that time, my husband and I volunteered for everything and walked around downtown often – EVERYONE knew who we were. When my daughter was about 2 mos, I strolled her around town all the time. The shopkeepers knew her, the librarians knew her, the mail carriers and police knew her. When she was 8, she was allowed to ride her bike all over town by herself. I would have prefered she go with friends but the other parents were too busy questioning my sanity.
My daughter liked to go to the bookstore/coffee shop and read magazines while drinking hot chocolate, go to the art gallery and talk to the artists, go to the park, walk around the toy store to daydream and even go to city hall and chat with the Mayor. If she wanted to spend the day painting, she piled her supplies in a wagon and set up downtown selling whatever she painted while she painted other pieces. Occasionally the police chief would call us because tourists reported an unsupervised child and he apologized for having to follow up. Since everyone knew who she was, I would get reports on her behavior. By the time she got home, I would know that she made a left turn on her bike with out signaling.
What other parents didn’t understand is that my child is much safer than theirs. If anything is off kilter or odd concerning my daughter, at least a dozen people will notice. The sequestered child is unknown by the community. How will the nice lady at the drugstore know when those people with her are not her parents? How will they know if she is in trouble?
My daughter is 12 now and more parents are opening the doors so their older children can roam. Now she has friends with whom to lunch. What I’m taking forever to say is here’s to Free-Range Kids. We are not alone.