Friday, March 6, 2015
My not so free range chickens, er kids
It has been interesting reading about the issue of the kids who were walking home on a busy street alone and the parents got into problems over it. I think that is wrong and that it is the right of those parents to decide if those kids are savvy enough to be safe doing that walk. By all accounts, the parents seem to have done a good job; starting out with smaller solo walks and building up to that one. That said, I'm not that much of a free range person for myself--I just don't want the government stepping in and telling me when and how to parent.
I read on social media about people who say they roamed their neighborhoods freely as children--leaving the house at daybreak and returning when the street lights came on. By the time I was a child in this same city, that was not really the parenting style. I did not have helicopter parents, but they knew where I was and there were designated times to check in. The times between check ins got longer as I grew into teen years, but I still had to check in. And it was a given that if my family expected me in one place and I didn't inform them of a change in plans and wasn't there if they needed me--all bets were off on future freedoms.
My friends all thought I had a way more laid back family set up than they did. They had rigid curfews, and really strict guidelines on where they could go and when. And all this was before there was an app to tell me how many pedofiles live in my neighborhood. Before the apartment building next door became a sad home of a number of substance abusers (somewhat sarcastically called the Heroin house amongst us) It was way before I saw people do a drug deal at the corner store where we buy our milk. There were fewer cars and they drove slower.Stores were not open on Sundays so we could and did mess around in the parking lots with skateboards or home made instruments of death defying fun.
So here in our city--which is not a bad city--just sadly, a fairly typical one, I am not so free range. We go on family bike rides and I'll let the kids be far enough ahead that i have to watch them, but I could speed up and get to them should the need arise. I don't let either KC and/or Lissa walk to and from the park alone. Part of it is that I know that Lissa would not listen to KC who is by far the most likely to be responsible. She is very strong willed,fiercely competitive and frankly can run faster than he can. If she takes off, he's not catching her.
I try and parent with an air of just matter of factness when we gather to cross one of our busy streets. Right now we hold hands because the ginormous snowbanks make visibility a challenge. There has been a fatality of someone walking home and being hit by a plow. It was no one's fault, but extra caution is warranted. There is also a ton of ice underfoot. So I just say we are being careful due to winter weather and that this way I know everyone is coming across at the same time. I don't say "hold on tight to my hand or you're gonna dieeeeeeeeeee!" LOL
Where I can be more free range is when we go camping and I suspect that is a facet of camping that my kids love more than all the back to nature stuff that I adore. They typically have a little posse of kids and they roam the campground together from dawn to dusk, checking in much as I did when I was a kid. There are times when we are doing something as a family and we all break off but when we return, the little gang of fun loving kids magically reappears. They need that. They need to do those crazy things that I did (like trying to walk on rolling cable spools) They need to catch fireflies and chatter with kids out of adult earshot. Camping gives us that. There is a leash, I suppose. I have the kind of check in system that my folks did but it seems to offer enough freedom for them to explore and stretch, at least for now.