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Ramona Quimby: Free Range Kid?

By paulabernstein |

A “Free Range Kid” walks to school, makes dinner on her own, or rides a bike around the neighborhood, according to Lenore Skenazy. By that definition, Ramona Quimby is a model “Free Range Kid.”

9-year-old Ramona isn’t hurrying off to get to dance class or playing with video games. Instead, she’s doing exactly what a 9-year-old should do — playing. She uses her imagination and her ingenuity to make her own fun. Yes, she gets into quite a lot of trouble and things don’t always work out as planned. But isn’t that how kids learn?

Ramona’s parents — who are busy keeping the family afloat — give her free reign to learn things on her own. They’re not hovering over her as she sets up a lemonade stand or starts her own car wash (to try to raise money for the family!). They’re not micromanaging her schedule and setting up play dates for her.

In one heartbreaking scene, Ramona and big sister Beezus have to bury their beloved cat in a grave in their backyard. It reminded me of when I was a kid and my neighborhood pals and I found a dead bird and buried in the backyard. I can’t imagine the germs we must have been exposed to, but it was a character-building experience that I wouldn’t trade (although, to be honest, I’m not sure I’d let my kids bury our cat!)

Amazingly, Ramona is even given tacit permission to run away. I don’t know many parents today who would let their 9-year-old pack a bag and drag it to the nearby bus stop. Before they could get there, it’s likely a well-intentioned stranger would call Child Protective Services. It’s not as if her parents didn’t care about her. Instead, they let her figure some things out on her own (and they did slip a baby monitor in her suit case, after all).

There were elements of the movie that didn’t work for me (Selena Gomez seems miscast as Beezus, for one), but I loved Ramona (Joey King), the spunky oddball with a can-do attitude and a generous heart. I also appreciated that the movie wasn’t in 3D and didn’t feature high-tech gadgets or even every day technology such as ipods, cell phones and laptops. It was a treat to see a kids’ movie where kids actually acted like kids.

My fellow blogger Madeline recently wrote about why she won’t take her daughters to see “Ramona and Beezus.” I certainly respect her decision and know how hard it is to see a beloved book translated onto the big screen. So often the movie version replaces the book version in our minds.

I’m certainly not suggesting that the movie “Ramona and Beezus” is better than the books – or could replace the books in any way. But I do think the movie sends a great message to young girls. Don’t worry about how you look or fitting in with the popular crowd. Be your weird self and your independent spirit will shine through.

Photo: courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

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About paulabernstein



Paula Bernstein is a freelance writer and social media manager with a background in entertainment journalism. She is also the co-author of Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited.

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4 thoughts on “Ramona Quimby: Free Range Kid?

  1. anon says:

    When I was a kid in the 80s, with two working parents, and an older brother “watching” me, I fit the definition of a free range kid. Sure, we ate ice cream out of the container while sitting on the couch, and we got into our share of trouble. While it’s difficult today to give your kids these opportunities, you have to find a way to let kids play, use their imaginations, and expose themselves to the world on their own terms. Whether today’s definition of Free Range Kids is it or not, I am not sure!

  2. bob says:

    If a parent can tolerate letting their kids go down to the pond to swim or skate, spend the day wandering in the adjoining woods with a BB gun, climb trees, swing from a self-made rope swings, ride around on motorized bicycles, and jump off roofs, all subject to the poor judgment of friends and spiteful bullies encountered along the way, and all without a responsible adult anywhere in the vicinity, then maybe they can call themselves free-rangers. This is exactly how parents and in-laws were raised, as I expect many in their generation were. I’m sure many were injured, but I also think they were savvy from experience, and strong from the exercise, which made them safer than today’s padded-and-bound kids might be doing the same things.

    I am personally very conflicted about this. We are more aware of risk and more involved with all aspects of our kids’ lives, which I think is a good thing. Also, just as there was once a time when being a clerk was a respected career position, occupied by bright and well-adjusted people, likewise the fields and ponds of old are no longer the same as they once were because a different category of person might be found there. My parents tell stories about public dances at a pavilion in the park and about dressing up fancy to go to the local fair. I’m saying that no matter how hard we try, some things can never again be as they once were. Hopefully, that’s not all bad. Hopefully we can still find ways to allow our kids to get strong, take risks, experience the outdoors and gain independence, in today’s world. But, unlike the past and like many other things now, I think those opportunities may instead require deliberate effort on our part.

  3. JZ says:

    Didnt they use to be called latch key kids? Same idea just a differnt term.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I just took my daughter to see this movie and loved it. On the surface, it compels us to recognize that “different” doesn’t mean “bad”. Underneath, which is more compelling and intriguing, is that we must encourage our children to embrace themselves completely. We are not robots. We all have gifts and talents. If our own parents cannot help us uncover those, then who? Sadly, we do not live in a world where children can roam free and explore. We live in a world with fences and locked doors and our children’s exploration abilities and creativity have been stunted by Wii’s and computers and Playstations. It’s not creativity we value, but test scores. It’s not independent thinking we encourage, but groupthink. With the myriad of challenges facing our children, I’m not sure they are equipped to deal with it, having had their ability to strategize solutions and think outside the box squashed by the many systems put in place to ‘protect’ them. Here’s to more Ramona’s!

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