I know I’m not a helicopter parent, but I thought maybe I was a free-range parent. Do you know what a free-range parent is? Free-rangers believe in carseats, seat belts, and helmets, but they also do NOT believe in “security details” for kids every time they go out. Sounds good, right?
When I first read this description, I too thought I was a free-ranger and then I read this article about a dad who left his 9 year old and 5 year old in a public park for about 2 hours while he ran errands and hit the gym showers several miles away. The dad was arrested for child endangerment. After the arrest, the free-rangers had a field day calling the police stupid and saying that this man did nothing wrong. That’s when I realized I am not a free-ranger. Sigh. Another group I don’t fit into.
I read the comments section of the article and I got fired up (of course). The free-rangers said things like:
“…the dad should get an award for raising independent, competent kids instead of whiny, dependent brats who can’t do anything without mommy and daddy controlling their every move…” (Escorting your child to a park and sitting on a bench reading a book or chatting with a friend while they play is not controlling their every move. It’s called I have children and I need to be responsible for their safety.) OR
“…they’re not abusing them – butt out…” (Yes, these children were not bruised, but neglect is a form of abuse, too. I’m not saying this man neglects his kids, I don’t know anything about him. I am saying I’ve seen a lot of “independent” kids who are actually neglected.) OR
“…What a waste of police time and money…” (How about when the kids wander off looking for dad and now suddenly they’re “missing”? Imagine the expense to track them down only to find they’d been scared because they couldn’t find their dad.)
I have a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old. I am not Mother of the Year, and I’ve done some stupid and lazy things over the years with my kids, but I’ve never thought for a second to drop them off at a park for 2 hours while I run some errands. I can safely say I will not change my mind when my oldest is 9. I will still think that’s entirely too young to be responsible for himself and his sister for that length of time.
I’m not even that worried about a stranger abducting them or a pedophile molesting them — although those thoughts definitely creep into my head. Rather, I’m thinking of either one of my clumsy kids falling off the monkey bars and breaking an arm without anyone there to help them. I’m thinking of Adolpha whining that she’s hungry and wandering off to find a snack and getting lost. I’m thinking they could have an argument about what to play next and Gomer stomps off for home and leaves Adolpha alone at the park. They’re children. Children don’t always make good choices and that’s why I think they need some supervision.
You can still raise independent, competent kids without abandoning them in a public park for two hours. Kids can be taught independence through other means. I’d like to think I’m raising some independent kids. I let them play in our cul-de-sac alone. There are many times I drop them off at the top of our street and let them check our mail and walk home alone. When we go grocery shopping, they help me find items on my list one or two aisles over. They help me cook dinner, and they help me with chores around the house.
Right now, my kids’ sole purpose is to learn and have fun. That’s all I want from them. I don’t want them to be small adults who can navigate the New York City subway system on their own or kids who can hop on their bikes and ride by themselves 5 miles to the library. I don’t even expect them to do a load of laundry or take a turn planning and preparing dinner each week.
I’m sure that sounds laughable to the free-rangers. I may not be raising free-range kids, but I think I’m raising medium-sized-enclosure-range kids. Yes, my children are still pretty dependent on me. They’re children. They should be dependent upon me. I should be responsible for them. I appreciate all the help the village is willing to give me, but at the end of the day, I’m their mother and I can’t always trust (or expect) the village to be there for us.
What about you? Would you let your kids go to the park alone?
Be sure to read my daily rants at People I Want to Punch in the Throat where you’re sure to laugh and/or might be offended (it’s where you can find my R-rated rants).
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