Last year, I came across a WordPress.com blog post on FreeRangeKids. The basic idea that the writer behind the blog, Lenore Skenazy, created the blog to discuss is that children shouldn’t be “helicopter parented” and should be allowed to learn self-reliance and how to maintain their own safety at vulnerably young ages. Obviously, those who are long time readers of my blog are fully aware that I respectfully – and completely – disagree with the notion that 8 or 9 year old children should be left home alone or that kids should be able to walk freely around town, stay at parks by themselves, and be in charge of themselves for long periods of time without having a parental leash of some sort attached to them.
When we lived in Downsville which consisted of one four-way stop at which there was the only store and the post office just about a football field (if that) from our house, I did leave the kids at home. Alone. With the phone to Briyana’s ear, my cell to mine, the security system fully armed, and everything locked up tight while I took about 3 minutes to make a weekend snack run. In and out and back home in a flash – but that only happened twice. Oh and there was that one time I picked up a package from the post office directly across the street from the store while the kids were watching TV. Same scenario – phones, alarm, 3 minutes, and all LOL Yes, I’m that mom.
On Lenore’s site, the sidebar reads:
Do you ever…… let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk to school? Make dinner? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free-Range Kid! Free-Rangers believe in helmets, car seats, seat belts — safety! We just do NOT believe that every time school age kids go outside, they need a security detail. Share your stories, tell your tips and maybe I’ll use them in a new book. Here’s to common sense parenting in uncommonly overprotective times!
Now, most of that sounds absolutely reasonable. I believe in children learning to be independent, having responsibilities, and having sense enough to know how to keep themselves out of harm’s way. My 10 year old daughter does cook (as does my 8 year old son). My kids do NOT, however, ride their bikes in the street, walk further than I can see them, go into friends’ homes for sleepovers (unless I know the family extremely well), or get dropped off at the library or anywhere else for that matter, unless a trusted adult is supervising them. The thought of something happening to one of my children simply for the sake of allowing them to become more self-reliant makes my heart ache. I couldn’t handle someone knocking on my door to tell me my child had been run over, kidnapped – or worse. I read through a few of the posts Lenore wrote and I can respect her personal views on parenting, but since I don’t share them (and since most of her entries make me uncomfortable and strike a nerve in the highly opinionated side of me) I chose not to become one of her many avid readers.
Tonight on Twitter, I saw an update from Jessica Gottlieb whom I enjoy exchanging tweets/DMs with from time to time. She’s a very intelligent, also very highly opinionated woman whom I don’t always agree with but do more than not so I make a habit of reading her posts. The update made mention of @freerangekids (Lenore Skenazy) so it peaked my interest as I was curious to know what I’d find on the other end of that URL. I arrived on Jessica’s blog and first watched her video about Jane – her 11 year old daughter – getting her ears pierced and I smiled when I learned that Jessica wasn’t very thrilled about it as it marks one of the “before and after” events in a child’s life which signifies their closing in on “growing up” – an event that you can’t go “back” on. I can totally relate to this feeling. I love the milestones my children reach. I enjoy watching them grow up and become who they are (even though I find it amazing that the core of their personalities has changed very little in each of them since they were about three years old). Even so, looking back it’s easy to miss those days that have passed. It’s easy to dread losing your innocent little child as he/she is replaced by a raging teenager whom you hope will one day understand what maturity is all about… prayerfully before they’ve been an adult for 10 years!
Then, I read the entry…
Jessica’s post was about her daughter walking about eight-tenths of a mile to a birthday party carrying her cell phone and accompanied by two other kids her age. Honestly, I don’t doubt that Jane is capable of making such a short trek on her own (well, with friends) because I know from my dealings with Jessica online that she has raised her daughter to be an aware, strong, sensible young girl. Yet and still, it made me cringe. Not because I think it’s irresponsible or because I disagree with her decision; not because I think Jane and her friends are too young or that the party is too far. It’s quite frankly all the ‘what ifs’ that I can’t get past when my 5th grade daughter asks me if she can walk 5 blocks to school with her 2nd and 3rd grade siblings or to Dollar Tree with her 13 year old friend from down the street (which by the way is about the same distance as Jessica’s house is from the party). I’m sure that the free range people of the world would gasp in horror at this statement, but I have a 10.5 year old and I still barely let her leave the yard without being accompanied by an adult.
It’s not that I don’t trust my kids… They are (for the most part) great kids with good heads on their shoulders. They are responsible for their ages, VERY independent, and extremely aware of what goes on in the world – aware enough to be very cautious and never converse with someone they are unfamiliar with. The thing is, I don’t trust this world with them. Yes, I know that when I was a kid and when my mom was a kid, kids walked everywhere by themselves. I did. However, times have changed SO drastically in just the last 20 years; heck, in just the last TEN years… the world they are venturing out into isn’t the same anymore; the kids that our kids are around aren’t the kids we were around. There are things I don’t want my kids exposed to at this point; things I don’t want them subjected to, made aware of, pressured into, or tempted by. It’s just too much for me to imagine all of the things that could happen, all the people they could encounter, everything that could go wrong… my body goes limp at the thought of one little thing happening that changes our entire world; or one little thing happening and me never seeing one of my babies again.
I’m just curious… for the majority of you, how old were your children – or will your children be – when they are “old enough” to stay home alone, walk to stores or friends’ houses, stay at the park or library alone, etc? For those whose children walk to school, how old were they when they started? How far do you live from the school? Am I really that overprotective? I don’t know. I know that we all parent our children differently and I’m certainly not one to say who is doing it the “right” way and who isn’t because I don’t believe any of us will know until our children are grown and we can see the finished product of our efforts (LOL) but I just wonder sometimes – is there such thing as being overprotective of our kids? With my oldest child being 10 and the youngest being two, I don’t believe that overprotective parenting even exists in our world yet. I know there will come a day very soon when my daughter will begin walking to destinations closeby, going places on her own, talking to boys on the phone, going to movies with friends, etc… I just honestly cannot say when that will be. I just don’t know. Do you?
Oh, and just for the record, Jessica… Briyana’s ears are already pierced *wink* :)