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.
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. 😉