Letting go of the leash…
“Imagine being 10 years old and being led, along with your 6-year-old sibling, into the backseat of a police cruiser. The police promise to take you home to your parents. It’s only three blocks away, and you know they are searching for you frantically.
“But instead of taking you home, the police detain you there, in the car, for three hours, without a meal or access to a restroom. The sun sets, night falls. Eventually the cops take you to a facility maintained by Child Protective Services where you’re kept for another several hours. You still haven’t had any dinner. You aren’t reunited with your parents until 10:30 p.m., nearly six hours after your ordeal began.
“Your ‘crime’? Playing without parental supervision in a park less than a mile from home.
“That all actually happened to the Meitiv children of Silver Spring, Md., on Sunday [in March 2015, I think], according to the children’s parents. After a long family road trip, the children went to the neighborhood park with their parents’ permission, with strict instructions to be home by 6 p.m. They never made it, because the cops picked them up along the way after receiving a call from someone who saw the siblings walking down the street together.”¹
When I read Kristin van Ogtrop’s essay² (from which I borrowed the title, “Free-Range Parenting” she created in a recent Time²) it struck a responsive chord in me as I wonder why I feel so different from children I see today.
[If you are similarly struck, skim the two sources below.]
Van Ogtrop, who lives in a suburb of NYC, has waded into a politically incorrect pool up to her waist. According to her, Lenore Skenazy (of freerangekids.com), and even Bill Maher and the Washington Post, we’ve overprotected our children in ways that have done more harm than good. Shelves of books, of course, scream the opposite, saying that we should carefully protect and shelter children from a thousand things, and lawyers have emerged who specialize in cataloging the the one-in-a-thousand, or one-in-a-hundred times, a child unattached to a parent may take a serious misstep that wouldn’t have occurred if adults were more protective.
Is it any wonder that so many kids in their 20s and 30s can’t quite get brave enough to leave home?
Will society ever step back and accuse helicopter parents of “child abuse”–and lawyers “catalog” the sometimes insane ways we build towers around our children? Everything, of course, has risk, but perhaps better to chance a broken arm than to traumatize a whole life. (Classic, unsanitized fairy tales, by the way, are a good way to counter “helicopter insanity.” Enough of that! But if you ever hear that term, remember you heard it here first…)
I’ll resist recalling personal times as a child when I was sent outside to “play” at whatever except that I had to be back in time for supper. “Play” at what? That was my problem, a delightful one by the way. (And a problem that continues…)
For some, these two sources may be eye-opening.
¹ From freerangekids.com, “There’s Never Been a Safer Time to be a Kid in America: Washington Post, April 24, 2015.
² From Kristin van Ogtrop’s essay, “Free-Range Parenting 2.0” [from which I took my title] in Time May 11, 2015, p.62.