Parenting without a Leash: Updated Thoughts

I let my 15 month old and 3 year old run around in our fenced in back yard without me all the time – am I really that different from the norm? (Maybe I am?)

Over the years I have written a few different posts about my ideals of how I would handle everything from pregnancy to parenting. It’s always interesting to me to read back over my thoughts (like my post on Screen Time wherein I might have written something like I don’t want her watching (even one hour) of it every day – hahahaha! We try, we really do, but I’d say she probably gets one to two 30 minute shows a day, so there went that conviction). My point is that I know that it’s easy to have ideas about how you’ll handle something before you’re actually in the situation, but I after reading a post my friend Waterbelle wrote last month, it really made me want to write about safety and find out what all of your expectations and fears are regarding your children and what kind of freedom you’ll let them have and at what age. I actually wrote a little about Parenting without a Leash about 18 months ago, and now that Harvey is here and Stella is a bit older, I’d actually say I have pretty much stayed true to my original thoughts thus far.

First off, have you guys read this article from Slate? It discussed a child-readiness checklist from 1979 designed to help parents know if their first grader was ready for school, and one of the items was “Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?” The (self-described free-range) author of the article admitted that she probably wouldn’t allow her 6-7 year old to do that, even though crime rates in the states are actually lower overall now than in 1979.

Honestly – I read that question and thought:

Yep, I’ll totally do that.

Would you?

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In my town, it is totally normal to see 6-7 year old kids riding bikes to the park or to friend’s houses, and I don’t see myself being any different from that. Thanks to Waterbelle’s post, I did start working on teaching Stella a few more details in case she gets lost. She already knew our first and last names (and says them clearly), but now we’re working on our home address and cell phone numbers. I had never even thought of that before, but I think it’s a good idea.

At any rate, last Saturday we were at a 3 year old’s birthday party in the town park, and I let Stella run around as far as the eye can see (which sometimes means a hundred yards, honestly). Harvey is an entirely different beast right now (good Lord he’s a fearless idiot at this age!), but I have absolute confidence that Stella won’t cross the street or go further than the confines of the park without permission, and abduction really isn’t on my worry list either. It’s honestly nice to not be stressed about keeping such a close eye on her anymore. Am I the only one who feels like this?

I’m sure the size of your community, the age of your child, the disposition of your child, your own experience as a kid, and your own style of parenting are all factors that go into this decision, but it seems like as a whole, our entire nation was much more “free range” when we were kids, so what’s your take on it? Why the change? Why all the fear?

*****
Edited to Add This: I meant to include this quote with my original post, but I completely spaced it. In an article about sharing photos of her children online, Lauren Apfel wrote something that REALLY resounded with me (emphasis mine).

Parents make wildly different choices about their children. They make these choices based on fears that are as idiosyncratic as they are bone-deep. As difficult as it is to quell a given fear once it seeps into a mother’s marrow, it is equally difficult to manufacture that gut-churning sensation of anxiety if it doesn’t present itself naturally. Put simply: posting pictures of my kids online does not make me nervous. My e-parenting in this regard is an outgrowth of my IRL-parenting: I am overcautious in neither arena.

That is how I feel about so much of my parenting – not just in regards to posting pictures online – and it just clarified so much for me to realize how differently we approach parenting because of convictions that are bone deep which perhaps still don’t make sense to other parents.

Also, to be clear, I detest the term “free range” – our kids are not animals after all! Well, usually they’re not. 😉

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51 comments

  1. I definitely think the community you live in has a lot to do with how “free range” you are. We live in the city, and no way would we let our kids go anywhere alone. If we eventually move back to the suburbs, I am fine with the kids riding their bikes to a friend’s house in the neighborhood. I am definitely not a hovering parent at the playground, and it’s hIlarious to watch my husband with C- he will climb with her on the play structures, follow her around wherever she goes-
    It’s exhausting to watch. I keep an eye on her but definitely keep my distance and enjoy some ME time 🙂

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  2. I freely admit that my husband and I are over-cautious parents: we rarely let our sons out of our sight, even in our own home or yard. We are not at all “free range.” They are now 3, and I am not sure when (if?) that will change.

    FWIW, we live in a surburban-ish area of a large metropolitan area.

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    1. sangela71 · · Reply

      Thought about your post and my comment overnight, and I realized I wasn’t actually sure WHY I am over-cautious as a parent. For my husband’s part, the answer to that is obvious to me: he has always suffered from anxiety, and since our sons were born, they have become one (more) focus for his anxiety.

      For myself, though, I am not a generally anxious or fearful person, and I was not over-supervised as a child. (I grew up in a very small town, where everyone knew everyone, so that may be a factor.)

      I think perhaps it is the nature of my work that has made me overcautious about my children: I am an attorney who has both prosecuted criminal cases and now handles civil litigation, so I am well aware from the cases I have been involved with in ten years of doing this job of all the bad things that can happen to children who are not closely supervised. (Everything from kidnapping and molestation to tragic accidents of all kinds.)

      When you couple that unfortunate knowledge with the difficulties we went through to become parents, I almost feel like I couldn’t be anything BUT overly cautious with my children. (Though I certainly do not judge parents who take a different approach. In fact, I admire them: my husband and I will probably have to learn to let go eventually.)

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      1. Yep, I get how a work environment that exposes you to the horrible stories would start to seep into your non-work life and cause changes there. My Mom started out as a social worker in her 20s, and she had to quit because she said she kept taking her work home with her and it affected everything she did.

        As for the IF stuff – I was sure I’d be overly cautious for that reason if nothing else, and I’m honestly surprised that it’s not at all how things have turned out for me. It probably helps that my husband is very relaxed about stuff as well, so I think we feed off of each other in that way.

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  3. Yeah, I agree that where you live has a lot to do with it. We also live in the middle of a big city, on a very busy street, so I won’t be letting Lettie wander free for a while! I would feel totally differently in the suburbs or a small town, though.

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    1. I also think that maybe my husband and I are both cautious types when it comes to her, though. I am naturally cautious about everything and he is more laid-back — except when it comes to her! Where does the fear come from is a good question that I don’t have the answer to.

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      1. Have you seen this article before? http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-04-13/seven-reasons-we-hate-free-range-parenting Another commenter posted it below.

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  4. slm1441 · · Reply

    Agreeing with masses. Your town/location probably helps you with your convictions. I live in a quiet suburban neighborhood, but I still need to keep an eye on my kids at all times. In the house, the kids have free range of the entire downstairs (which is fairly large) and I will check up on them once every ten minutes or so, but mostly to make sure they aren’t doing anything naughty. But outside or in public – I need to see them. And it will probably be that way for awhile!

    Shannon (sitting in a tree)

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    1. That’s what is interesting to me though. I’d hazard a guess that all quiet suburban neighborhoods have about the same amount of traffic, so why would it affect your parenting? I’m truly curious! I mean, it’s one house per lot (roughly) and that’s the same amount of homes per block whether you’re in a larger city overall or not. And FWIW, I have lots of friends who grew up in big cities who had plenty of license to roam as children as well. It’s just curious to me.

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      1. Our neighborhood is super safe and I’d let them roam easily if it wasn’t for the two roads that border us. My street Ts to a, busy street with no sidewalk. That’s a problem. Our street being one of the only through streets in our neighborhood makes our street super unsafe. Damn teenagers reaching everywhere and they do not look for kids.

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  5. mcmissis · · Reply

    This post has been in my head for ages now, and I even considered writing it a few minutes ago when I saw two different articles on the subject pop up in my fb feed this morning. So thanks for writing it for me 😉 I have a lot to comment, so maybe I should just write my own post. Anyway, I just taught Gracie and Lyla my cell phone number (we don’t have a landline. So “they’re” phone number is mine.) Lyla is still working on it, but Gracie can sing it easily. I put it to the tune of Happy Birthday. You might need a different song based on the actual numbers (syllables and such,) but I’ll text you my song so you can sing it yourself and see exactly what I mean.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m very curious to read your thoughts on this as I have a feeling you’ll be on a similar page as me, but maybe not. 🙂 I’ll await your post!

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  6. I don’t live in a neighborhood and I don’t trust some of the people in our area so no way would I let my children out of my sight. I do think things would be different though for us if we lived in another location. Actually, reading your post makes me want to move sooner rather than later!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe you should just come live by me 😉

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  7. It’s hard for me to think clearly on this right now, because I spent the last 10 minutes crying about two brothers who just weren’t missing today from their own backyard. Fenced backyard. They’re 3 and 5. No one thinks they were kidnapped – they just left. And when I read it, I thought, “if our yard was fenced, I would have let them play out there without me too.”. This story is proof that kids, even good listeners, run off sometimes. A good reality check.

    Matthew could NEVER be trusted to not cross a street or leave a park, and he’s older than Stella. It’s not a lack of trying on our part. 😉 he’s just… A free bird. He likes to push limits and defy us outright. He’s VERY safe and cautious, but he is a runner.

    We ran the entire neighborhood (8-10 blocks in all directions) all spring, summer, fall, and winter long when we were growing up. The rule was, “you’re in or you’re out for the morning/afternoon/evening” and we chose out 90% of the time. But… It was a different time. But I argue that it was a scarier time (Johnny gosh, Adam Walsh) that then made parents more protective now. Those kidnappings from my childhood put the fear of god in me and it lingers today (I still wonder what ever happened to poor Adam Walshs body). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if those memories contribute to my own watchful eye.

    My kids are pretty free to roam. I watch to make sure they’re not being brutes but do I worry that they’ll be taken? No… Not until one is lost for a moment or two and I’m in panic mode.

    I think your small town is a contributor to your feelings on this. Brian and I said that we’d be way more relaxed with the kids if we lived there. It is a draw for us to your town, actually, the thought that they would have childhoods more like our own.

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    1. I’m not familiar with the names you mentioned above, but for us it was Jacob Wetterling who was a big deal for us growing up (one of the first missing kids on a milk carton), but it didn’t change the freedom my parents were giving us – and for me personally – I don’t think it changed the way I parent at all. Like you said, kids can always run off when they’re not supposed to, but somehow the thought of that isn’t scary to me. Stella knows our neighborhood, she knows to look both ways for cars, she knows she’s not allowed to cross the street without holding our hands at this point… I dunno, for me (and for Stella and her particular personality), I’m just okay with it at this point. So interesting to me how different we all are (and I’m glad those boys are just fine!)

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      1. mandski · · Reply

        Jacob Wetterling. Gah. And then there were the young women who went missing and were killed in rural MN when we were teenagers. To this day, I’m WAY more uneasy in a rural setting than a city one because that’s where my fear was born.

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  8. I’m probably a free range parent, though I really hate that term. Living in NYC I think 8 is when I can envision Simon being able to cross streets alone (with a crossing guard) the nine blocks to school. But he has an incredible amount of freedom walking or on his scooter. He can go ahead of us on the sidewalk. I absolutely trust that he will stop at the corner. And very occasionally I will let him turn a corner before me depending on if we are in the residential or commercial part of the neighborhood. He knows our full address. I need to work on the phone number. As for playing there are two gated parks near us, one public one private (we are members) where he has free range of several acres. The first time I took him to a suburban park I was so anxious because no gates!
    And really, starting in 6th grade he’ll probably have to take at least some public transit without us to get to school. Yikes!

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    1. Yeah, I think you’re a good example of how just because you live in a city it doesn’t mean you have to be a particular type of parent. FWIW – I can’t stand the term free range parent either!

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  9. And this is why kids sometimes need to be treated like kids. Apparently, watching Disney Jr trumped moms directions to stay in the yard. Ha! Good news is that kids are found!

    “Authorities said the boys were found inside a neighbor’s house watching TV. The boys were upstairs and had let themselves in a back door of the home that was unoccupied.

    One of the boys told KCCI’s Laura Nichols that he was watching the Disney Junior channel.”

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  10. I don’t know. I’ll have to take each decision as they come. I’ve started letting Ever play in the yard for a few moments by herself. Our back room is all windows. And a glass door, that she can open. If I don’t see her I kinda freak for a second. And just recently I’ve started letting her play upstairs in her room alone while we are downstairs. It’s nice. And I’ll lock all the high dead bolts and go take a shower upstairs and tell her to come get me if she needs me (like while she is watching tv and I want to shower quickly after a run). That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Have no idea what will feel comfortable in the future. Depends on her discipline and maturity I guess. Her ability to be assertive to and aware of strangers. Right now she’s not doing too well with following direction and will run and is getting into a lot of trouble, so outside of the house she is in a short leash. My hand. Dragging her back to the car, stroller whatever.

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    1. Yeah, we have a wall of windows to the back yard that I let the kids play in, so that definitely plays into it, because I can see most of the yard from the kitchen when I’m cooking.

      6 months ago I wouldn’t have given Stella as much free reign because of the running you mentioned – she’s definitely improved leaps and bounds with that!

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      1. God I hope you’re right in Evers case. She’s a wild animal right now. I’m trying to teach her stop and go and freeze and red light green light and time out for not listening, and she’ll play my games but if she wants to run she’ll run! She almost got separated from me in the elevator at Nordstroms. How embarrassing would that be if she ended up in a different floor. Then I had to abandon my stroller with venture to catch her from going down the escalator. She thinks the world is her playground. Grrrr.

        She broke glass in the kitchen yesterday though and I screamed noo!!!!!! As I saw the jar falling and the yelled go sit in the couch while I clean this up! And she did! Somehow she saw danger or knew my tone was serious. Maybe we are making progress. A while back i may have had to plop her in the crib or she would be all in the broken glass with me.

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        1. By abandon I mean in eyesight. I told mark I left the stroller and he freaked. 😁 there was like one other Sahm innordstroms at 10.05 am. Lol.

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        2. Ha! Yesterday I walked in the door with both kids and went straight upstairs to change Harvey’s diaper. When I walked into the kitchen I found Stella had put our dog outside “because he was in trouble” and she was calmly cleaning up the broken bowl he had pulled off the counter. Um… thanks I think?

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  11. I let Molly play in the back yard on her own all the time. I mean I go and check but it is the back yard. It has a swimming pool so I check to make sure that it is locked and she has a healthy relationship around water but you know I always check. Front is a totally different story. Our small street is a thoroughfare between two bigger streets and dick heads roar down there like is a speedway it makes me so mad. At the park I keep a distance but I keep thinking what if she wanders away!

    when we went camping at Easter she went where ever she liked. Admittedly it was with some of the bigger kids and every now and then I would go “where’s Molly” and Ryan would say shit I don’t know and I would have a moment of panic but then she would pop her head from around the tent she was playing hide and seek in and I would think pull it together!

    When we came back into civilization and had mobile service again it turns out not that far from us a huge search was going on for a little boy who was lost in the bush. They found him after five days and I have NO idea how he survived the nights. It was freezing at night time. The mum let him out of her site for half an hour and he went (he did have autism but not to say that was why he went missing) it bloody put the fear of god back into me.

    I think the hardest thing is like it or not things aren’t the way they used to be and only we can change it. Bad things happen all the time but it seems we are just made more aware of it now with social media and instant news reporting.

    So, bottom line I am semi leash free but a long way of full leash free.

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    1. I definitely think the social media and instant worldwide news is a big part of it. You immediately hear about that one isolated case where a kid wandered off – and of course that sticks out in your mind more than the tens of thousands of kids who didn’t wander off that day.

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  12. I have let my two play outside without constant supervision pretty much since we moved to this house, so since they were about 3 and 5 years old. Our yard is not fenced in; sometimes they play in front, sometimes in back. At that age I would check on them every 10 min or so by peeking out of the window. Now that they’re 6 and 8, I will leave C (almost 3) with them outside for a few minutes but he is developmentally more like a 2yo so I won’t leave him longer than just running inside to get something if he’s in front of the house; in back if he’s okay without me (VERY attached) I feel comfortable leaving him with 5-10 min checkins. We live in a suburb in a fairly quiet neighborhood but not a dead end; there’s probably a car or truck that drives by every 10 min. At the age of 7 I let A bike from our house to a convenience store about four blocks away, taking my cell phone with him; he was very proud of himself. At 8.5 he regularly goes over to friends in the neighborhood by himself. The other day I strongly considered letting him bike home from downtown (about 1.2 miles on a bike path) by himself but then T wanted to go too so that didn’t happen. I trust my kids, I have walked/ridden with them enough times to know that they are being safe. I think that the risks of kidnapping or other worst case scenarios are so low that I am not going to live our lives in fear of them. That is my choice for my family; obviously others have different opinions and that’s fine.

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  13. I definitely fall into the more “free-range” parenting side of things. I can foresee allowing Sofia to go 4-8 blocks by herself when she’s 6-7 (although Stan doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me on that one, so likely she won’t…). It’s hard to say now because she’s not even 4, but I do give her a lot of free reign at the park, on our walks home from school, etc. I can also foresee an 8yo Sofia and a 6yo Andy walking to school by themselves, but come the time I might not feel as comfortable. It’s hard to say.

    Living in such an urban environment I find myself most worried about traffic (stranger danger doesn’t really resonate with me at all), even though Sofia is always good about stopping at the corner. I guess it’s because you just never know what might happen. I’d certainly feel more comfortable with her walking to school with a friend, even if it’s another 7 year old…

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  14. I am very cautious with my kids around traffic. We live in a “quiet suburban neighbourhood” but only a few houses in from one of two main through roads. It isn’t the “amount of traffic” – it’s the drivers. These days (at least in my area) everyone is zipping around in SUVs and on their fucking phones. All it takes is one roll through a stop sign, one person checking FB that is more important than not killing someone, one backing out without looking, one kid running into the street after a ball…so no, my kids cannot walk alone down our street or play outside unsupervised. Doesn’t mean I have them on a leash if I am out there with them. They can go down the sidewalk with us alone, but they cannot cross the street without holding hands (especially MJB as he is a runner). HGB would never dream of putting one molecule of his body on the street without permission whereas MJB would (and has) gleefully run down the centre of the street laughing at my hysterical pleas to STOP!

    This summer, I’ll be having them play out back for longer amounts of time while I’m in the kitchen. But they are still 3 and 2. Just kids. I feel I’m teaching them to be respectful of potential danger, versus being ‘free-range’ (which, I am still unclear as to what that really means). I am not a helicopter, either. I work exactly within my comfort level given each kid and situation.

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    1. We also require Stella to hold our hands if we are crossing a street at this point, though I think we’re about to the point with her that we’ll allow her to just walk alongside us as long as she has looked both ways (which she LOVES to do and does every single time).

      We definitely have to parent the type of kids we have – at this point Harvey is a total crazy runner, and I have a feeling that won’t change for a long time!

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  15. slm1441 · · Reply

    It wouldn’t allow me to reply to your comment above so I’ll just comment down here. Once my kids are older, I’ll absolutely let them ride their bikes through our neighborhood and ride to the local playground. Maybe I wasn’t clear in my original post. But that’s down the road…like when they are 10 years old. Right now, I don’t feel it’s safe. My neighborhood is called Meadow Lakes and there are about ten unfenced lakes in our neighborhood alone. Also, my neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks but it does have tons of drivers who speed through the winding roads and text and drive.

    If I’m at a playground, I’d let Taylor roam as long as she’s in my line of site (even if 100 yards away). She knows our full name, our address and my cell phone #.

    My yard isn’t fenced in and we have a lake in our backyard so that obviously means they can’t be outside without me right now. And a fence isn’t even an option b/c we sit diagonally on a corner lot so we don’t have a true backyard.

    So all those factors contributed to my response. If I didn’t live in a lake infused/sidewalkless/no fence neighborhood, I’d probably be less of an over-cautious parent. Probably.

    Shannon

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    1. Yeah, having access to open lakes from your yard would 100% change things when they’re under a certain age for me as well. I grew up on a river, and I honestly have no idea when my parents started letting us play outside unsupervised, but I know for a long time we only played in the fenced in yard without my parents with us – I’m sure because of that very reason. Open water is scary with little kids!

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    1. Yep, SO true!

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  16. […] and few clarifying thoughts to the bottom of it this morning that most of you probably missed. Please check it out! To be clear, I can’t stand the term “free-range” when used as a descriptor for […]

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  17. I live in a big city and consider myself very “free range” (though I’m not a fan of the phrase). I’ve written here before about the things I’m comfortable with her doing. My son needs to be watched constantly right now but I’m hoping some day I’ll trust him to keep himself safe (you know, instead of pitching himself from some great height).

    As for the city vs the suburbs thing, I definitely don’t think I will give my kids less freedom because we live in a city. If anything, I think they will have more freedom, because they CAN have more freedom with public transportation and the proximity of places near us. My daughter has been taking the bus to school with her father for three years now. I’m sure she’ll be able to take it alone when she is 9, maybe even younger. Our library is fairly close and I can see letting her walk there when she is 7 or 8 (and it requires crossing a very busy thoroughfare).

    I don’t know. I don’t think we give our kids enough credit. I mean, people used to get married and start families in their teens. And now we barely let them do anything until they are in their teens. Obviously they started getting bigger responsibilities at a younger age back in the day, but if we give them that responsibility, incrementally, they will be where they need to be when the time is right. And of course, every kid is different. I could look away from my daughter at the park when she was 18 months old because she wasn’t a runner or a climber. I can’t look away from my son for a second because he will run right into a swing or follow a ball into traffic. My daughter would never have stepped off a curb when she was a toddler. My son wouldn’t think twice about doing it. So yeah, each kid is different, but I don’t necessarily think that people in the city need to do things differently than those in the suburbs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah – you and Kasey both came to my mind immediately as parents who live in a city who still seem to parent similarly to me when it comes to this kind of stuff. I grew up on a farm in the country, but I can tell you that when I got to stay in town at my friend’s house, it was AMAZING to be able to ride our bikes all over town and have the freedom go to the park, library, etc if we wanted to (this was starting around age 8-9 I think?).

      I like your theory of giving them incrementally larger responsibilities to get them to the point that they ARE responsible enough to have this sort of freedom. So true.

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  18. Great discussion, and thanks for the mention! It is so interesting to hear everyone’s views on the topic. I have been working with S to stop at driveways when he is on his scooter (he is 100% at stopping at curbs and waiting for us to cross the street, looking both ways etc). Like SRB, it’s the drivers I worry about. Distracted drivers, people backing out of their driveway in a hurry, etc. Shudder. I agree with everyone that each child requires their own parenting strategy, according to their disposition and age, etc, and that that will change over time. I agree that the fear-mongering media is a huge factor to blame – but as a parent, it is so difficult to dismiss even the remotest possibility, when it is so dire, you know? I do try to, and I’m not paranoid at all, but I just don’t know what to do with the ‘what ifs’ that are irrationally-fear-based.

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    1. Yep, I totally get this – but I also relate it to the crap so many women are told when they are pregnant of the slightest chance something could possibly happen to their baby if you don’t follow “x” protocol… and I think it’s crap. It would cause me to parent from a place of fear if I routinely worried about those remotest possibilities, and that’s not at all how I want to parent (or have my children experience being parent-ed). Does that make sense?

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  19. mandski · · Reply

    I think A LOT about this (and recommend the book Protecting the Gift for practical, non-hysterical advice). We probably all have different things we’re serious about and more lax about based on our own context and experiences. My husband and mother-in-law FREAK out any time anyone’s fingers are even near a closing door because my brother-in-law lost a fingertip that way. I was startled as a parent to find myself struggling to hover even when I objectively should (like when my kids are in the bathtub). I look back on my own childhood, and while some of the risks I was allowed to take were great, many were just wildly unacceptable. I think thanks to that, I have to really try to worry about things that my husband automatically worries about. Finding the balance is key. I now consciously remind myself that the bathtub actually is dangerous, for example, and that’s probably a good thing. My one automatic and powerful fear is of cars–I feel they present a huge threat to my children as passengers and pedestrians, and I’d consider myself to be pretty intense about car safety (both car seats and crossing the street). Then again, I know some people would think I take unacceptable risks there too. I really do fear that if something happens to my children, it will be because I wasn’t paying enough attention. I can’t always protect my kids–I have to prepare them to meet the world as it comes–and as they age, I think I’ll be good at that, but while they’re really little, I’m actually working hard to fight my unusual relaxedness and to pay more attention to potential danger.

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    1. Ugh, ditto on the tub hovering. I have to literally force myself to sit there and not wander out to do “x” thing that needs to be done that I think of when I’m sitting there. Especially now with Stella always in there with Harvey and them both getting older – I sometimes feel like MEH, she’ll yell and tell me if Harvey slips or something… but obviously that’s not a great parenting philosophy, so I’ve gotten better about forcing myself to always stay right there. Charlie has always been VERY stringent on that, which has been good for me to see and model my behavior after for sure.

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      1. mandski · · Reply

        Hahaha, EXACTLY.

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        1. Oh, man, I love bath time because the kids are so happy playing together, but I, too, totally have to force myself to stay nearby. I figure the same as you, Jos, that Sofia will yell if something happens, but still… If Sofia’s in there alone I do get up to do other things, but my apartment is small and I can hear and see into the bathroom from almost every room… But that’s probably playing with fire… when is it “safe” to let kids bathe themselves without feeling wary?

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  20. We have a very anxious 7 year old so we push her to be outside alone (first in the fenced yard and now outside our yard sometimes) and out of our sight (but not out of earshot) because it’s good for her. We have made the choice that encouraging independence is crucial and so we have taught the Kid how to ask for help if she gets lost, what our phone number is, what our address is, and how to stay safe (like you knock on a door to ask for help but only go inside a house if you know the person or if you go with a trusted adult’s permission, why it matters to stay on the sidewalk and to look before running into the street). While I think where you live makes some difference in what is safe at what age, I think it’s also good to try to take field trips to other areas so kids can practice things like crossing the street at a stoplight safely and walking alone on a sidewalk and buying things at a shop. Being terrified isn’t productive. Teaching your children how to cope is productive. My kid has gotten lost a couple of times in the neighborhood and after the first time (she was lost for about an hour when we found her wandering, and then we taught her to read street signs!), she has knocked on a door and asked for directions. Once the direction-giving person called home to let us know she was en route, the other time, they walked her home. I’m so glad that she knew what to do and it’s a relief to know that most people will be helpful.

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  21. It’s still normal here, too. Which makes me happy, because it’s how I grew up and how I imagine raising my kids. What scares me more than the “what if” scenarios are how often CPS seems to be stepping in when parents are giving kids the same freedom most of us had as kids.

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  22. We’ve let the kids play in the backyard for short times without supervision, mainly if one of us has to run in the house to get something. I’d let them go for longer periods if we didn’t have the play set. Chloe I’m not worried about, but even though I let Drake go up the slide and ladder on his own now, I’d still be worried he’d fall in some freak way. We also live on a corner and like others have mentioned, seeing how some drivers take the turn so fast makes me worried. Chloe loves to spin around the YIELD (not stop, yield) sign which is inches from the corner and they also like to play on the two sewer things that are also in our yard right next to the curb. It makes me nervous, but if I’m out front standing in the yard, I’ve let them do it. I’ve realized that their elementary school is within walking distance, but I haven’t thought about if/when my kids can walk to school alone. I did it as a kid, but…it’s just different now. I can’t say why, but it just seems that way to me. Maybe as we get more familiar with our neighborhood and neighbors in general, that will help ease my worrisome mind.

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  23. With so many pedophiles wandering around, one has to be cautious. I am from Europe, but lately I have started following news on children abuse, whether from strangers or family members, and it is horrifying how children are preyed. Maybe you live in a different environment, but don’t take it for granted.

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    1. Have you read the statistics on childhood abuse? 90% of pedophiles are family (30%) or known by the family (60%). No way will I limit my child’s freedom in the community based on that. It seems more prudent to be aware of those who are closer to your family than not… http://www.nsopw.gov/en/Education/FactsStatistics?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

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      1. Oh yes, I am aware of the statistics, but when it comes to my child, even 10% that belongs to the strangers is to much. We cannot keep the kids in the cages, for sure, but definitely our eyes should be on them all the time plus, they should be taught what behaviour toward them is allowed and what not. It’s a scary world out there and we don’t want to gamble.

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        1. I definitely talk to my daughter about what kinds of contact is okay. However, everything we do in life has risk. Taking our kids in the car, on a plane, to the park, etc… everything has risk, and for me, I don’t want to parent from a place of fear. According to the research I’ve found, a female child’s chance of being molested by a stranger is the same as her chance of dying in a car accident in her life (2%). Both of those would be awful situations, but I can’t parent from a place of worrying about those things. I do what I can to mitigate the risk (defensive driving & teaching my child about bad touches)… but ultimately life is full of risks, and we all have to choose how we want to live through it anyway. To be clear, I am NOT letting my 3 year old walk anywhere alone at this age, but eventually I will, and I am comfortable that she will be prepared to know how to handle everything from traffic to strangers when she does that.

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