When I was a kid:
- We used to run all over our neighborhood, in and out of neighbors' houses, for hours at a time and my mom had only a general idea of where we might be.
- One of our houses (we moved so much) was set on 4 acres of land. Lacking close neighbors, we'd leave the house after breakfast, wander the woods and creeks, climb trees, play with wildlife (turtles and crawdads and worms and salamanders), build forts, and have adventures. Sometimes we'd return home for lunch, but we usually brought some snacks and ate lunch in the wild apple trees and drank creek water when we got thirsty.
- I'd ride my bike for miles and no one knew where I was.
- I'd ride my bike for miles with my brother and sister and we'd go to the community pool for hours and hours.
- When we rode buses to school, we'd walk home from the bus stop every day all by ourselves.
- When we rode bikes to school, we'd ride a couple of miles or more. Sometimes, we'd fall.
- My parents let us use real tools and scrap wood to build structures that might stand on their own if it wasn't windy that day. They let us go inside them, too.
I struggle with how to give my kids the same level of freedom, since things really are different than they were, sigh, in the olden days. Now, my eldest would grow the umbilical back if he could, so as always to have a secure tether to my personal body and therefore know where I was at all times. So that adds to my challenge. But I'm finding ways to help him be free and learn how to step away from me, too. For instance, he recently took a walk in our neighborhood all by himself. Just to the culdesac and back, but still. He was alone and he was free.
Now, six year olds in my neighborhood are rarely spied outside of an adult's shadow. All the moms meet their kids at the bus stop, every single day (although that seems to stop at about the 6th grade). Not only that, but the bus stops at every intersection in the neighborhood, which boggles my mind--the buses I rode always stopped at the main intersection in the neighborhood, or at the end of one of the main streets, and dumped everyone off all at once. If you lived at the other end of the street, well, too bad for you. (And yes, I trudged through the snow from the bus stop, but not barefoot. I do realize how I'm sounding here!)
Anyway, I recently discovered a new blog, Free Range Kids, that explores some of the ways in which we can help our children be free!
At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail. Most of us grew up Free Range and lived to tell the tale. Our kids deserve no less.
YES! Do you know what this parent allowed her 9 year old to do? Get home on the subway all by himself! And they both survived to tell the tale. Awesome.
It's definitely time that parents recognize the difference between being safe and, you know, lock down, don't you think? Any thoughts?