Why Does My Neighbor Trust Her Kid at the Bus Stop, And I Don’t?

Hi Readers!
Here’s an honest reflection by writer/editor/mom of two, Denise etbeaeksas
Schipani, whose blog is Confessions of a Mean Mommy. 

The Bus Stop Conundrum: To Free-Range or Not Free-Range?

By Denise Schipani

Last fall, a new family moved into our neighborhood, and on the first day of school, there was a new girl at our little bus stop. They’d arrived at their house literally the day before school started. From Israel.

That first day, the father took his little girl, Hadar, 6, to the stop. She wanted to take the bus (even though her English wasn’t very strong), and he was planning to follow in his car to complete her registration at the school. There were two other children in the family: an 11-year-old girl, Tevel, and Albel, a baby boy.

I’ll be getting to my point here — which is about how today’s parents do roughly 100% more hovering over their kids than my parents did when I was my children’s age — in a moment, I promise.

But first a wee bit of geography. I live on a longish, curvy suburban street, with no sidewalks. Our bus stop is about a 20-second walk away, at a stop sign where a small cul-de-sac intersects my street. From my front windows, I can’t quite see the stop sign on the corner, thanks to a curve in the road.

The Israeli family moved into a house in the cul-de-sac; from their front porch, it’s a straight shot to the bus stop, with no need to cross the street. On the second day of school, and nearly every day thereafter, little Hadar left her house on her own (though sometimes her big sister walked out with her). And when the bus returned the kids in the afternoon, she walked back home on her own.

I tried to picture the scene from Hadar’s mom’s point of view — she was usually just inside her door, with baby Albel: Why were those other three moms standing there? (This is a woman who’d served in the Israeli army.) But from our  perspective, she was the one who looked “off.”

When I started first grade, I walked with my sister down the street and around the corner to our stop, well out of sight range of our house. My mom, who had not served in any country’s army, but who had grown up in Brooklyn and walked to school every day, watched as long as she could see us, then went back inside.

These days, bus stops are coffee klatches and meeting spots for moms, dads, grandparents sometimes, and of course the kids. Our bus drivers are not allowed to let kindergartners off the bus for anyone but their parent or guardian, and even my neighbor and I can’t get each other’s kids off the bus without clearing it with the school first. Back when I was a kid, bus stops were lawless places. Anything could happen there, any many things did (none of which our parents were told). Like the time, for the space of an entire winter, an older boy made it his mission to steal my hat and hold it up just out of my reach. I fought that battle (not well, I have to admit; I still get hot tears just thinking about it) on my own.

One of my mom’s often-repeated stories from my first school year is how she would watch for me to round the corner in the afternoon, with my plaid jumper skirt (this was Catholic school) just grazing my knobby, bony knees, my green knee socks clinging to my stick legs. “Your book bag seemed bigger than you! I wondered how you could manage it.”

But did it occur to her to run out there and meet me at the corner, grab my book bag for me, make sure I walked carefully on the sidewalk, protect me from the big boy hat stealer?

No. Nor did it ever occur to me to want her to.

The fact is: Kids can’t seem to just roam free anymore, because the world’s not set up for them to. My kids play on that cul-de-sac as much as they can, just as I played on my dead-end street for hours on end. The difference? I walk them there and stay with them, whereas we just went outside by ourselves (hearing, as the door slammed behind us, “Don’t come back until you see your dad’s car in the driveway!”).

I have no solution to the Free-Range-or-not conundrum. Lenore’s blog’s tagline is “Giving our kids the free reign we had without going nuts with worry,” and that is the tall order today’s parents face. Some, in fact most, of the moms I know don’t even bother worrying about the “range” they give their kids, they just don’t give them much at all, beyond the PVC-fenced confines of their yards or the carpeted expanses of their playrooms, and consider themselves to be doing the right thing.

But that doesn’t feel right to me, and I’m struggling with what does feel right.

I am not naturally fearful on my children’s behalf (I refuse to cower to scare-tactic news stories about danger at every turn, from pedophiles in white vans to head trauma from improper toddling). Yet I still can’t just let my sons wander up the street on their own. For one thing, who’s home to watch them out the window? Not the same number of semi-watchful parents who, village-like, kept an eye on all us kids. And for another, cars are bigger and, I swear, go faster down the street than they did when I was growing up in a similar suburban area. And back then no one was distracted by their cellphones.

My children are still too young for solo subway riding, but I’m looking forward to the day I can lengthen the distance between myself and them, and let them try things on their own. Like walking to a bus stop. Or going to a party: Just last Saturday, I dropped Daniel off at a birthday bash and left. Felt weird — but felt good, too.

I took a lesson from little Hadar, who was the only guest at my boys’ party last fall who showed up parent-free. Her sister walked her up the road, and seemed mightily puzzled (or probably just amused) at all the parents huddled in the rain on my deck. “I’ll come back for you later,” said Tevel.

How Free-Range are your chickens?

38 Responses to Why Does My Neighbor Trust Her Kid at the Bus Stop, And I Don’t?

  1. Scott August 8, 2009 at 12:13 am #

    An additional irony, of course, is that families in Israel (depending on the location) are in far more *real* danger than just about anyone living in the suburbs what with many of their neighboring countries actively trying to kill them all.

  2. KateNonymous August 8, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    This is a great look at cultures–both ours over time, and intersecting ones today–and how they affect this issue. Really, I think one of the biggest steps is asking yourself the questions that Denise is asking herself. The answers are going to vary from one family to another, as they should–but an awful lot of people don’t really question themselves or their assumptions, and I think that’s key to deciding nearly anything in life. Including how free-range you want your kids to be.

  3. jb August 8, 2009 at 12:20 am #

    “Yet I still can’t just let my sons wander up the street on their own. For one thing, who’s home to watch them out the window? Not the same number of semi-watchful parents who, village-like, kept an eye on all us kids”

    That’s another problem with figuring out how to free-range: It takes critical mass to do it well. That’s why it’s essential not only to free-range, but to convince others to–among other free-range parents it is safer to go farther.

  4. Elizabeth August 8, 2009 at 12:27 am #

    This author hit the nail on the head when she said:

    “Kids can’t seem to just roam free anymore, because the world’s not set up for them to.”

    A huge part of the problem is that the world is not set up for children to go out and enjoy being in the world. Towns have rules about not being in the library, in a tree, at a playground, riding bikes, or walking to school without adults. Sidewalks are in ruins and drivers forget (or don’t seem to care) that pedestrians actually do have the right of way at all times and that they should be sharing the roads with cyclists.

    Show me a place where there is environmental respect and accommodation for people who aren’t in cars and are under 5 feet tall and I’ll show you a community full of free-range kids. It’s a cycle and we have to take our part seriously. We have to make sure that kids have places to go once they are outside like libraries, parks, community pools, and have sidewalks to walk on, bike lanes to ride in, and neighbors who know their names.

    Equip the world for kids and we can equip kids for the world.

  5. Kelly August 8, 2009 at 12:34 am #

    “We have to make sure that kids have places to go once they are outside like libraries, parks, community pools, and have sidewalks to walk on, bike lanes to ride in, and neighbors who know their names.”

    The neighborhood absolutely does matter. We just moved across town and are instantly in a more friendly place to walk about. My kids are 7 and 5 and have been doing more Free Ranging as makes sense for their desires and abilities.

    It is my 7 year old daughter’s responsibility to get the mail from the Post office (about 2 blocks away). She also takes my mom’s dog for walks. A couple days ago she took her first solo trip to the bike shop to get cable ties for a bike repair. We also have a deli, a hardware store, the library, a handful of thrift stores, and a drug store within very close range. She is allowed to go to any of these as far as I’m concerned. She is the type of kid who communicates when she doesn’t feel she can do something. In the case of the PO Box, I took her the first day and led her through the operation; every morning she jumps up now, excited to go.

    Yesterday my 5 year old called a friend who lived 2 blocks away; he was obsessed with borrowing a glue gun and some glitter to make a homemade snow globe. He handled the whole thing, including asking his 7 year old sister for an escort and walking to the friends’ (about three blocks) to pick up the items.

    I am so grateful to be living where I am because I can instantly see how much more fun it is for ALL of us that my kids get to venture out. They are learning a lot from these trips and I am genuinely grateful to have some more assistance when it comes to errands.

  6. Katie August 8, 2009 at 12:39 am #

    @Elizabeth, well said! “Show me a place where there is environmental respect and accommodation for people who aren’t in cars and are under 5 feet tall and I’ll show you a community full of free-range kids.”

    You are describing my community (Eugene, Oregon)! The helicopter parents are encroaching, but luckily, there is still a large mass of cycling enthusiasts (trying to get ALL kids on bikes as young as possible!), hippies and other countercultural types (not going to trust “the man” to tell them how to parent), and a lot of openmindedness. Lots of parents in my neighborhood let their kids run free, and all of these kids know the names of other parents/adults if they should need help. I love it.

    But even here, I can see the tendrils of paranoia parenting taking hold. I fear it’s only a matter of time before I start seeing the sorts of outrages I read about on this blog.

  7. Uly August 8, 2009 at 12:54 am #

    “Giving our kids the free reign we had without going nuts with worry,”

    Is it? That should be rein then. A lot of people confuse the two words in the phrase “free rein”, but it’s a horse metaphor, not a king one.

    An additional irony, of course, is that families in Israel (depending on the location) are in far more *real* danger than just about anyone living in the suburbs what with many of their neighboring countries actively trying to kill them all.

    Probably gives them a healthy (more or less) dose of perspective.

  8. Steve August 8, 2009 at 1:09 am #

    “And for another, cars are bigger and, I swear, go faster down the street than they did when I was growing up in a similar suburban area.”

    I’d venture that neither of those statements is true. Cars also have much better braking systems, fewer blind spots, crosswalks are better marked, drivers are less likely to be drunk, etc etc etc.

    Another factoid to go with Lenore’s oft-cited crime statistics: the roads, although still dangerous, have never been safer, and this goes for pedestrians too.

  9. RaJen August 8, 2009 at 1:16 am #

    My twin cluckers are only 16 months so they’re still in the pen. I just have to comment on the bus stop thing, though. you are right, they were lawless. we walked maybe 100 yards down a country road to get to the bus stop which was at the corner of our street and a Farm To Market highway. No sidewalks. Our parents were already gone to work so my brother (4 years older than me) and I had to get ourselves there. I was 6 at the time. One day, we didn’t get there on time. We started running, but the bus just left (even though I swear the driver could see us in the rearview mirror) You know what that taught us? RESPONSIBILITY for getting there on time.

  10. Rayne of Terror August 8, 2009 at 2:47 am #

    My preschooler is going to start riding the bus home from our public preschool in a couple weeks. He’s excited about it and I’m going to let him do it because we will have a newborn at the same time the school year begins. But I am pretty nervous about it. The drop off is only 3 houses away, but there’s a curve so I can’t see it, there aren’t any sidewalks here, and it’s always the preschoolers that are left on the bus in the news. None of the other parents on our short stretch of road let their kids ride the bus home, so I don’t have any older kids to pair him up with. I’m going to prep my child and trust that it will work out fine, but man if my heart won’t be doing some flip flops the first few days.

  11. Denise August 8, 2009 at 2:52 am #

    Why does this have to be all or nothing?

    It seems like either you hover over your children like the world is going to end tomorrow or you give them so much freedom…the children have no idea what parental concern is.

    We give our children freedom as they are ready for it. We allow them to make mistakes…we acknowledge that there can be danger, but we prepare them to handle it.

    And at the same time…if something feels really wrong…we step in an say no.

    It just really seems like parents stopped being rationale as soon as the children came along.

  12. Lisa August 8, 2009 at 3:18 am #

    @Denise, it’s NOT “all or nothing”. Or, I guess, it’s “all” making thoughtful decisions about what freedoms and responsibilities our own kids are ready for at a particular age, and what we can do to prepare them for more freedoms and responsibility in the future. And “all” about making decisions based on REAL risk factors, not media-induced exaggerated ones. That doesn’t mean anything goes, and it definitely doesn’t mean that children have no idea what parental concern is. I just found this web site and started taking some small steps to be more free-range in around May. Letting my daughter (7) go places and do things on her own is one way I can show that I DO have concern for her well-being, and want to do everything I can to help her grow up strong, independant, and safe.

  13. KarenW August 8, 2009 at 3:32 am #

    Sometimes I wonder if helicopter parenting is more of a wealthy suburb thing. I live in a nice, but not upper-class neighborhood, with a fair share of renters, and I am always so shocked by the stories I read on this blog. My yard is always full of kids, there are kids riding their bikes around the block up to 9:00 pm, and many kids (including my own) walk to school. And as it was pointed out before, if you go into the inner city, there are lots of unsupervised kids playing, even though the neighborhoods are more dangerous. Any thoughts?

  14. Lindsay August 8, 2009 at 3:34 am #

    I disagree that kids can’t be watched by neighbors. I’m a grad student, and since I don’t work, I’m home during the day. I always look out the window when the kids are riding their skateboards or bikes down my driveway to the huge hill we have by our house. If I heard a scream, I would go a-runnin. I’m 24, and I don’t like kids, but as a human being, I would always help a child in need. You need to get to know your neighbors. In the South (where I live) I find cookies work well.

  15. Amy August 8, 2009 at 4:09 am #

    You all need to move to Indiana.

    The bus stop is in front of my house. I never see parents there. Occasionally kids will get picked up from the bus stop in cars, but I presume that they have somewhere to be, and time is critical. It’s not a regular thing.

    The kids play outside, unsupervised. My daughter is going to be 4 and has been playing outside with her friends all summer. Now, if her 2 year old sister is out there, I’m with her, but I don’t hover over the 4 year old. She knows not to leave our block. She knows not to cross the street alone. In fact, one day I took her across the street with instructions not to come back over without one of the “big girls” (8 or 9). It started to rain. I ran out and found her at the end of the neighbor’s driveway, patiently waiting for me in the rain.

    I see kids alone at the park and the library all the time, and if they do something stupid, I tell them to knock it off. I figure as the present adult, I have some responsibility to not let them hurt themselves or others. But there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be there on their own at age 8 or 9.

    I think the midwest is the only place in this country that still makes any sense. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

  16. Uly August 8, 2009 at 4:50 am #

    KarenW, I think you’re absolutely correct. I’ve often observed that wealthier areas have fewer kids outside than poorer areas… probably because people in poor areas cannot AFFORD to supervise their older children that closely, nor to put them in program after program.

  17. the Rebbetzin August 8, 2009 at 5:39 am #

    I think it’s a neighborhood by neighborhood thing, not so much related to economic status. We have several wealthy neighborhoods here where kids are all over the place, as well as middle ones like ours. I think it’s culture and neighborhood. And in regards to Israelis, I think if your main concern is your 18 year old who just left to defend your country against borders filled with hostile neighbors, you aren’t as worried about leaving your kid at the bus stop in America.

  18. TC August 8, 2009 at 5:40 am #

    We live on a dead-end street full of kids, and they ALL have ALWAYS run around more-or-less unobserved by any parents. In fact, I once had a neighbor–the parent of an already-teenaged daughter–come to my house outraged that my then-5-year-old was out in the street with his 8-year-old sister, doing…whatever they were doing.

    On the other hand, I’m STILL not comfortable with my now-almost-12-year-old daughter walking the three-quarters-of-a-mile to school each day (no school buses here…), if she’s alone. If she’s with other kids…even her younger brother…I’m fine with it. Safety in numbers, and all that…and the knowledge that, if something did go wrong, there would be someone there to see and get help.

  19. TC August 8, 2009 at 5:45 am #

    Sorry…hit submit too soon.

    My point is, there are people–like that neighbor–who think I’m way too permissive. And then there are others who think I’m way too helicoptery. But I’m comfy with my decisions…most of the time. And when I’m not, I have discussions like this one to help me figure things out!

  20. the Rebbetzin August 8, 2009 at 6:07 am #

    TC, amen!

  21. MaeMae August 8, 2009 at 9:22 am #

    My kids hear one phrase from me almost every time they leave my house without me, “Watch for the cars because they won’t watch for you.” This was a lesson I taught my kids very early on in life. I agree that drivers won’t yield to pedestrians so we have to make sure it’s safe. It’s not fair but it has kept them safe so far and I don’t worry at all when they take off on their bikes (or walk) for the library or the park or my sister’s house.

  22. Stassja August 8, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    I can definitely understand why the Israeli mom is a little more lax, in Israel these days many children ride in armored buses wearing flak jackets and helmets! And we worry about…what?

  23. Sammi August 8, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    Well, this is what I really love about free range parenting. It’s not a set of rules. It’s a mindset. One that says, “I’m going to base my parenting decisions on reality, not fear.”

  24. The free ranging we enjoyed as children still exists but the balance between keeping our children safe and keeping the childhood wilderness alive is so much harder to achieve this century than the last. Harder, but not impossible.

  25. Sierra August 8, 2009 at 12:32 pm #

    Just wanted to weigh in that I think this is very much a class issue, at least in my neighborhood. I live on a street that borders a railroad line, so the houses across the street from mine have the train tracks running through their backyards. The neighborhood on my side of the block and expanding on our side of the tracks behind my house is a pretty nice, middle-class neighborhood. The other side of the street, and the neighborhood behind it, is much more run-down.

    The kids on our side of the street go between each other’s houses a very little bit, always with supervision. The kids on the opposite, poorer side of the street run riot in the streets with their bikes the way I remember doing as a child.

  26. Sam D. August 8, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    In our school district they won’t let my son of the bus unless I’m standing there. So I have to close my store (sometimes kicking out paying customers), walk around the corner, wait for the bus…. and what does my son do when he gets off the bus? runs past me to our apartment by himself while I go back to reopen the store…. ti’s pretty ridiculous if you ask me that a parent or known adult has to close their business to wait for a school bus….

    I tend to agree that it’s a “class” issue, but also a location issue…. we moved from a large city and suburbs, where children rode the public transportation to school and activities all the time. In our middle class suburban neighborhood, kids were always walking to school by themselves (actually usually in groups of friends, but sans adults). Now in a much more rural area (but in a town known for it’s walkability and friendliness), parents are always with their kids… I rarely see kids under the age of 12 walking to school without a parent escort. I also think it has something to do with the fact that around here, dual working parent families are a rarity, so it’s much more likely that mom (never dad!) is home and can hover much more.

  27. SheWhoPicksUpToys August 8, 2009 at 10:14 pm #

    “And in regards to Israelis, I think if your main concern is your 18 year old who just left to defend your country against borders filled with hostile neighbors, you aren’t as worried about leaving your kid at the bus stop in America.”

    And, if (depending on what part of the country you live in) you know that you can helicopter your kid here, there, and everywhere and still be able to do NOTHING about a bomber, other potential dangers get a little more perspective. Again, the theme that maybe over-protection and helicoptering come out of being “spoiled” by a really safe and prosperous society, and so we have the luxury of making up things to worry about, or of exaggerating the consequences of what might happen (e.g., a kid getting picked on by other kids at the bus stop. Not fun by any stretch of the imagination, but most of us here probably survived that in our own day and were probably better off than had we been completely protected from such dangers.) Not that safety and prosperity aren’t good things, but I guess it’s human nature to always drive straight into the pitfall of the blessing.

  28. Peter August 11, 2009 at 12:20 am #

    “We have to make sure that kids have places to go once they are outside like libraries, parks, community pools, and have sidewalks to walk on, bike lanes to ride in, and neighbors who know their names.”

    This mindset is part of the problem, too. We don’t *need* any of that (other than perhaps the friendly neighbors). When I was growing up (70s/80s) in the suburbs, our library was five miles away, we had no parks other than the nearby woods, there was no community pool unless you counted the one neighbor with a rusted-out above-ground, no sidewalks, and bike lanes – are you freaking kidding me? Talk about coddling your kids. We biked on the road and in the woods. I’m not sure the concept of bike lanes had even been invented yet.

    You have to stop using “oh, our kids could play if we gave them expensive pools and sidewalks and bike lanes” as an excuse. Because we sure didn’t need any of that. So what’s changed?

  29. Kelly August 11, 2009 at 12:26 am #

    Peter, I agree with you.

    I do notice though that now that we’ve moved we’re in a place that’s much more fun and easy for my children to navigate, and that does encourage them to go outside more.

  30. D August 11, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    I’m glad I moved, you just reminded me of the huge gaggles of kids and parents and grandparents and their cars and minivans who used to take up half the street yakking while waiting for the bus. And glare at me for trying to use the street for its purpose while driving to work. All this for schools no more than 3/4 of a mile away.

  31. Uly August 11, 2009 at 11:22 am #

    Peter, I wouldn’t call a sidewalk some form of expensive luxury, no more than I’d call a refrigerator or an indoor toilet a form of coddling my kids.

    Sidewalks, along with occasional garbage pickup and public schools, are what is supposed to be provided to citizens.

  32. Peter August 11, 2009 at 9:45 pm #

    You wouldn’t call it an expensive luxury, but *someone* has to pay for building them and maintaining them. The fact remains that there were no sidewalks in the neighborhood I grew up in and there still aren’t. I don’t even know what we’d need a sidewalk for: we played on the lawn or we played in the woods, or we played on the street.

    As for garbage pickup, my wife grew up in a rural town without sidewalks *and* without garbage pickup. You had to take your own trash to the dump. I think that sort of arrangement is more common than I thought (and than what you think).

    We do have sidewalks and garbage pickup now that we live in New York City. But I can’t say they’re providing quality public schools 🙁

  33. sonya August 11, 2009 at 10:26 pm #

    I’m a parent who’s torn about letting my daughter cross to the bus unattended. I think she’s perfectly capable of waiting for the bus and crossing over the road when the bus stops. The problem is that we live on a busy road, and on several occasions in the past 3 years that she has been taking the bus, cars going the opposite direction to the bus (which stops on the opposite side of the road from our house) have failed to stop. Once my husband chased down the driver and asked them why they didn’t stop, and they acted totally unaware that they were even required to if the bus was on the other side of the road! So because of these idiot drivers, who are usually going above the 35Mph speed limit, I feel compelled to check the cars have stopped before giving my daughter the all clear. If she takes the bus home (which is very rare since she usually does the afterschool program) I have no problem with her getting off (now on the same side as our house, no crossing traffic involved) without me being at the road. I guess I need to work on her road crossing skills – she knows the drill, but gets distracted when the bus comes sometimes, thinking she’s safe when she isn’t really….Our busy road, with no sidewalks, is the biggest hindrance to having her be free-range…..

  34. Uly August 13, 2009 at 2:08 am #

    You wouldn’t call it an expensive luxury, but *someone* has to pay for building them and maintaining them. The fact remains that there were no sidewalks in the neighborhood I grew up in and there still aren’t. I don’t even know what we’d need a sidewalk for: we played on the lawn or we played in the woods, or we played on the street.

    Yes, and some places don’t have any schools at all. (Unfortunately, the quality of the sidewalks and the quality of the schools don’t run together, more is the pity.) That doesn’t mean that they should NOT just because some people grew up without schools and “don’t even know what we need one for”. You need one so you don’t have to walk in the street where the cars go fastfast. I’d be just as happy to *really* limit the speed at which cars can go or eliminate them altogether in favor of public transportation and nonmotorized transport but let’s see that happen in my lifetime. (Yeah… I’d love to be dictator of the world some days, but as my other hypothetical policies include banning Twilight novels for the public good I’m not so sure that’s gonna happen any time soon :P)

  35. J August 13, 2009 at 10:55 pm #

    There are oodles of kids running around, catching their buses, etc. in our neighborhood – which is actually what added to the sense that this was a good, generally safe neighborhood when my husband and I bought our home. We do not have children and don’t have any plans to. We both grew up as “free-range” children before that phrase had to exist, I guess.

    My point is that I think “free-range” is good…if the parents of “free-rangers” teach their kids respect for others, their property, and are open to other adults in the neighborhood telling their kids to “knock it off!” when their kids are mis-behaving when the parents aren’t around. I have some neighbors who are great at this, but a few who seem to resent anyone else telling their unsupervised kids “what to do.” I think that if you trust your kids and/or want the neighborhood to be one that your kids can just run around in, which to me means in part that you are expecting other adults to come to your kids’ aide if they are hurt, etc., then you have to trust your neighbors and teach your children to respect all adults and listen to the “village” that is raising your kid.

    Just a thought. Oh, and I guess I’m thinking of when kids are damaging your property while playing, perhaps unintentionally, but still…

  36. Ben September 17, 2009 at 6:48 pm #

    This goes to show that the overprotectiveness is a local phenomenon. Americans are scared witless by the media, Brits are too often politically correct. Israeli kids are free.

  37. Hannah September 24, 2009 at 1:48 am #

    I think it is less about what “feels” right and more about what is right. Most of o ur feelings are to keep our kids as close as possible as long as possible. I let my kids do things all the time that don’t feel right. The kids want to sleep on the deck and I cheerfully let them. I don’t sleep with worry but that is my problem. I shouldn’t make my emotions the basis of my kids lives. I have to think it though.

  38. Anna April 10, 2010 at 1:15 am #

    Wow! This whole topic is nuts! We have 2 kids, ages 6 and 9. My husband and I are older parents…. 48 and 49 years old. We grew up in the 70’s “free-range” as you put it (what’s with all these kooky terms you keep coming up with, anyway?!!) We raise our kids pretty much the way we were raised. They have always been encouraged to do for themselves and go out and PLAY!!! Yes, today is perhaps not quite the same as when we were growing up… there are many things we would not let our kids do now that we did as kids, but mostly that just comes down to common sense… something sincerely lacking in most parents these days! Quit being afraid of everything! You are making your kids fat, lazy, and fearful. Let your kids be kids and cut the dam apron strings! Get your minds out of the media and away from all the “experts” that are scaring you to death, and try a little common sense instead. I am so sick of parents who are afraid to let their kids do anything! I had a parent tell me that their kid couldn’t come over to play on our son’s slip and slide because it was too dangerous! This same kid was not allowed to run because “you might fall down and get hurt” !!! What a nut case! This kid is 9 years old and still cannot ride a bike because “mommy” has to always hold onto the back of the bike while he is trying to learn how to ride! That just amazes me! She did it even when he had training wheels a few years back…. duh! what do you think training wheels are for??!! Let go of the bike, mom! Now he is 9 and still cannot ride a bike. My husband just saw them out there yesterday trying again… with mommy still holding on! Man! I learned to ride without training wheels ( and every other kid I ever knew growing up) by the time I was 7. Our son could ride by age 7, and our daughter by age 5!! Come on!! I am convinced that kid could have been riding as quickly as our kids if mommy would get the heck out of the way!! We live on a dead end street …. the perfect place to learn…. it’s just unbelieveable to me!!! Our kids also ride ( supervised by dad) motorcycles and quads since they were 5, and they do great and have a lot of fun. They have been taught to ride responsibly and they know that motorcycles and quads are not toys like their bikes and peddle cars. When our kids were toddlers a few years back, I was totally unprepared for the kind of parenting I saw! I was so shocked that for a long time I wondered if there was something wrong with me because I felt no need to run and jump at every little sneeze, every little bump… ets, etc, etc,! Finally I realized that they are the wacky ones!! Our kids are so much more healthy and mature emotionally and physically because we let them be kids! We let them play! The only problem we have had is that there is so little opportunity for them to find friends that they can PLAY with! My daughter’s friend’s mom was worried about the safety of our backyard because we have an old type swing set that “lifts off the ground a bit” when the kids get going real good…. something that always happened when we were kids! Never saw one tip over and neither has ours in the 8 years we have had it; although when I see the kids going too fast and wild, I tell them to slow down… just like our parents did! NO BIG DEAL…. JUST A LITTLE COMMON SENSE!!! This mom was also upset that we had a homemade fort that my husband and the kids built together. Our kids have been playing on it for 2 years now… never got hurt. Although, I must say that even getting hurt is just a part of being a kid!! IT HAPPENS SOMETIMES!! Gosh, we remember that most kids… especially boys, all broke an arm or leg at least once when we were kids…. or had a few stitches…. it was just expected when we were growing up…. not the big deal it is today. Of course we do not want our kids to get hurt like that, and once again, we try to use our old friend, COMMON SENSE. But like everything else in life, we are letting the kids take the risk of getting injured. I don’t think there is any choice about it if you want to have healthy, happy kids and give them a good childhood to boot. Up until now, that is always how kids played. Now everything is a “playdate” with mommy hanging around. I certainly keep a watchful eye on our kids when they are playing…. like I mentioned, we do not let our kids do everything that we did as kids. Our kids have boundaries outdoors where they ride their bikes on the dead-end street. When I was their age, I was allowed to go up to three blocks away on my bike…. we do not let our kids even go around the block without one of us. I don’t know at what age that will change… I suppose we will know when it is time. Of course our “blocks” are much different than where we grew up. We are a bit more rural, rather than being in an old suburban neighborhood, and there are train tracks the next block over. We also have woods next to our house which we allow our kids to play in but with boundaries…. they can only go so far… and if I can’t hear them, I go after them… and they always get the talk about watching out for strangers and even other bigger kids, as well as cars before they go play out of the yard. Like us, our kids will be allowed to walk to the bus stop alone…. (we walked to school with mom watching as far as she could see … school was several blocks away for my husband and about 3 blocks away for me… I would not do that with my kids today). But they take the bus, and the bus stop is right at our corner which I can see from our front porch. They will walk by themselves once our daughter is allowed by the school which is after first grade. That is the rule in our school district. I will watch like my mom did from our front porch. There are also all you other parents there, so i really will not be worried at all. If I could not see the bus stop from our house, I probably would walk with them to the point where I could and then just let them go ahead. These are the little ways that foster healthy independence in children. They need to be encouraged to do for themselves and be a bit on their own. Someone once told me there is MOTHERING and there is SMOTHERING. Let your kids breathe!!!