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It Is My Right to Raise “Free-Range” Kids

Image Source: Danielle Meitiv Facebook
Image Source: Danielle Meitiv Facebook

In the last few months, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, scientists and parents of two, have unwittingly become the free-range poster parents for allowing their children to walk around their neighborhood unsupervised.

The Meitivs were first dragged into the media spotlight in December when police picked up their children, Rafi, 10, and Dzora, 6, while walking home from a park in Maryland. The Meitivs say they gave much consideration and deliberation to whether or not their children were ready to walk home alone and decided that the well-spoken, articulate children were ready. Regardless, the couple was found guilty of neglect by Child Protective Services in March. The non-criminal charge means the CPS keeps a file on the family for at least 5 years.

Undaunted, the Meitivs were determined to parent their children the way that felt best to them. Last Sunday the kids were, once again, taken into custody when someone saw them playing in a park and called 911. They were picked up by police four-tenths of a mile away from home. And, get this: the kids were taken to Child Protective Services and their parents were not even contacted until hours later.

According to CNN, “Meitiv and her husband dropped their children off at a park at 4:00 p.m. ET Sunday and told them to return home two hours later. When the kids didn’t return by about 6:30 p.m., they started looking for them and grew concerned.”

Danielle Meitiv explained in a post on Facebook:

The police coerced our children into the back of a patrol car, telling them they would drive them home. They kept the kids trapped there for three hours, without notifying us, before dropping them at the Crisis Center, and holding them there without dinner for another two and a half hours. We finally got home at 11pm and the kids slept in our room because we were all exhausted and terrified.

The irony of clearly loving parents allowing their children to walk to the park alone contrasted by the egregious actions of Child Protective Services, who probably scarred the kids for life, should escape no one.

Before they could take their kids home, the Meitivs were required to sign a safety plan that forbids them from leaving their kids alone again. “CPS has finally succeeded in making me terrified to let my kids out unsupervised because I’m afraid they’re going to take them away,” Danielle Meitiv says. Nonetheless, on her Facebook page she says they’ll continue to fight for the right to raise their children in the ways they see fit and they are currently planning to file a lawsuit against Child Protective Services.

The Meitivs have also started a page you can join to help their cause and sign a petition against the misuse of government resources. They explain: “We don’t have to agree on what parents ‘should do’ or what we consider acceptable or best, but we must stop wasting resources and stop infringing on other parents who just do it differently than we would or we do.”

I’ll tell you right now that if this law existed in my state of Pennsylvania, I would fight tooth and nail for the right to raise my kids in the way I see fit based on what I intimately know about the personalities and abilities of my children, something the state can never quantify or qualify with ridiculous blanket laws concerning parenting styles.

Although I applaud Lenore Skenazy, the original “free-range” mom who is credited with pioneering the parenting movement in 2008 when she let her  9-year-old ride the New York subway alone, I’ve been lifting an eyebrow ever higher to see the manner in which children have always been raised slowly transform into a parenting “style” or “movement.” Over the course of the past century we’ve shifted from one extreme to the other: children being seen and not heard, to children dominating nearly ever facet of family life. Mothers used to encourage children to go outside and play, as long as they were home by dinner. Now we have scheduled playdates that often include parents not only driving children to and from the neighbor’s house but remaining to hover on the sidelines mitigating play.

In a January interview on Today, Danielle Meitiv explained their parenting style is hardly new. “We’re just doing what our parents did. It was considered perfectly normal just one generation ago.” Exactly. If you told a billion moms from the twentieth century that in the year 2015 parents would be charged with neglect for letting their children walk to the park they’d laugh in your face.

Next time you drive around a neighborhood take note of how many kids you see. The answer is probably none. Where have all the children gone? They’re being chauffeured by parents too freaked out by stories of child predators and pedophiles lurking just around the corner. So now we have parents too afraid to let their kids walk to the park; helicopter parents who have bought into the phenomenon that’s spawning a coddled generation; tiger parents hovering on the sidelines of baseball/gymnastics/soccer/ballet. We’re exhausted, sitting for hours at the playground while surreptitiously checking our iPhones in search of one minute of parenting relief next to parents ready to call 911 the second they see kids playing without their parents standing ten feet away.

Parents arrested for parenting.

This can’t be the world we live in, can it?

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