You are Free to Roam about the Country

Or at least your back yard.

Have you heard of this lady? That’s Lenore Skenazy. She got “in trouble” a while back for letting her nine year old son ride the NYC subway by himself. You can watch a clip of the “much ado” if you like.

Since then, she has written a book and started a blog both called Free Range Kids.

I was wide awake, long past my bedtime, due to a nap yesterday, I spent quite a bit of time perusing the website. I had no idea there was such a controversy about this.

If you’ve never heard of the concept of “Free Range Kids” (kind of catchy, isn’t it?), you’ve probably never heard of the “helicopter parent” either. At opposite ends of the spectrum, the helicopter parent never lets their child out of their sight, hovers if you will. The extreme heli-parent gives the child a ride to school even if it’s only a block, puts a helmet on their child while on a tricycle, stays within arms reach at the playground at all times, and carries sanitizer in a holster.

The Free Range Parent gives their child room to explore, room to find their own sense of independence and love of the world. The extreme Free Range Parent then would let their toddler cook dinner over the stove, play with knives and guns, climb cliffs naked, and walk to pre-school unattended.

Of course most people are at neither extreme.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and shockingly, I’m a “free range parent”. And yet, according to some, I’m overprotective. No doubt about it, I am very protective.

Statisticly, there were 36.4 million elementary school aged children in the U.S. in 2004. In 2006, 115 of them were abducted by strangers. 40% were killed. This means the “Stranger Danger” we hear about? Nonexistent.


From Ms. Skenazy’s blog: If you, for some strange reason, WANTED your child to be KIDNAPPED AND HELD OVERNIGHT BY A STRANGER, HOW LONG WOULD YOU HAVE TO LEAVE HIM OR HER OUTSIDE, ALONE AND UNSUPERVISED HERE IN AMERICA, FOR THIS TO BE STATISTICALLY LIKELY TO HAPPEN? The answer, crunched for me by Warwick Cairns, author of How to Live Dangerously is this: 750,000 years.It’s more likely my child will be struck by lighting or attacked by a shark. And we live in a land locked state.

It’s not that being kidnapped is the only thing to fear. I personally know of several families in which a small child was killed or severely injured by being run over in their own driveway. Letting your child be more independent than most of us Gen Xers allow for our kids is definitely not the norm. We tend to veer more toward the helicopter end of the spectrum. I understand that.

I let my baby play in the dirt. It gets in his mouth. I let him explore the mulch, rain water in the wagon, green apples from the tree. I let him eat off the floor. I let my five year old and two year old play outside while I’m inside. I let them be in a different part of the library than I am. I give my children responsibilities and expect them to be team players in our home to give them a sense of accomplishment and independence.

I realize that the country is different from the city too. I “roamed” as a child. We played all over our neighborhood all summer long.

I was exposed to my first porn while being a “Free Range Kid”.

This is why I’m protective. I’m not all that worried about my children’s physical safety. I am EXTREMELY concerned about my children’s mental and emotional safety. Especially while they are so young and don’t have any discernment of their own right now. I monitor everything they read, watch and see. We talk about what they watch and what we read, and then we watch or read it again, and talk about it some more.

I fast forward through the scary parts in the movies we do watch (like the chase scene in Cinderella). We don’t watch TV, except for Curious George, bless his cotton pickin’ heart, who comes on right when I need to make dinner. When he’s on in the summertime though, it’s still daylight, and the kids are outside playing.

I don’t do babysitters, except for family. I’m very picky about who I do playdates with.

When my kids get older, I sure hope they will think the irony is funny.

Sure, go ahead and play in the creek all day, use Dada’s saw and drills all you want, climb that tree and jump out of it onto the trampoline, but you’re not doing any overnights with people whose hearts I don’t know.

I guess I’m a Fr-Heli-Range Parent.

12 thoughts on “You are Free to Roam about the Country

  1. Very interesting stats. I hadn't heard those.

    Still not sure what kind of parent I'm going to be… I hope to find out soon [smile].


  2. I think its just important to have a balance between the two. I want my kids to explore and have freedom BUT I too am very careful to monitor what they read, watch and see. My brothers were exposed to porn at a VERY young age even though my mom was so good about watching us. Sometimes that knowledge scares me. I only let my family watch my kids as well and I am SERIOUSLY considering my kids only doing sleepovers at my brother and SIL's house. Growing up I rarely got to stay at someone's house for a sleepover. I had kids stay at my house a lot though. I could always do that. I just think in this day and age we have to be careful. It kind of sucks that it has to be that way. The key is to find a balance in it all so we don't become some crazy overprotective mom.

  3. OMG . . . you are so like me. I love my kids to be adventurous and we've go lots of scars and bruises to prove it, but they've only had 2 babysitters who are my best friends and they don't get to watch anything on TV ALONE except Thomas the Train and the cute bugger, Curious George!

  4. The statistics about abduction do put my mind at ease. However, I was wondering if the fact that parents are so watchful and careful of their kids has an effect on the statistics. In other words, would the abduction numbers be a lot higher if more parents were of the free range type? Did the author talk about this?

  5. I think it definitely depends on where you live. Living in the inner-city of KC I wouldn't let my kids play like some of the other "free range" kids I see (diaper-clad toddlers toddling in the busy street without a single adult in sight?!).

    Children don't have reasoning skills or the ability to know danger is in their face until it's already upon them.

    I think balancing it out is important but I definitely wouldn't let my kids play alone in our front-yard anytime soon.

  6. I think I lean more towards the hovering kind ;). Although, I must admit with good reason. Sadly we live in a neighborhood that has numerous sex offenders too close for comfort. I'm sure if we lived on a big farm where my neighbors weren't right on top of us (literally we share our driveway with two other houses with ours and one of those houses being multi family houses) I might be more free ranged. I love my sons curiosity, but the busy road and all the traffic in and out of our driveway is too much for me to allow them to be out there on their own. So I'm sure a lot of parenting styles have to do with the environment that you live in.

  7. Wow! Again, we have a lot in common. I would say I am the same way with my kids. Other parents don't get why I allow Emmy to climb all over things and yet I won't let her watch Little Mermaid! When we as parents are more concerned about our child's physical safety than spiritual state we are not in balance. NOT to say we don't worry about their physical…Oh, I do!…but their little hearts are def. first in my mind. And I, too am picky about who I want watching my kids. Oh, and should I mention I don't let them drink soda? Abby's 6 and probably on had soda about 4 or 5 times.

  8. I agree with Kayla… how many more abductions would there have been if more parents didn't watch their kids.

    I am all for exploration. I think it's great. I try to let my kids do as much as possible within reasonable risk.

    I live in a religious Jewish neighborhood- it's considered one of the safest ones around here. I'm not scared to walk at 1-2 AM alone. Nevertheless, just in the past year, there have been two abductions here. One was a teenage girl. At 8 PM, in front of everyone, abducted and raped. Another one was a 4 year old, who was playing outside with her older sisters. Also sexually assaulted and let free a couple of miles from her home.

    A parent has to be SMART. And although the abduction risk is almost nonexistent, it is there. Two children in a small, close, very safe neighborhood.

    It is so safe, that parents feel it's alright to leave kids in strollers on the avenue while they go into stores to shop. That is just awful. All the crying babies with no one to attend to them… toddlers standing up in strollers… often double strollers with their baby sibling next to them. I've seen a few tip over.

    Let them explore, but within reason. Would you allow your kids to play with a chainsaw and electric drill unsupervised?

  9. I agree balance is so important with parenting. It is so easy to fall into one extreme or the other. I am thankful for a husband who keeps me balanced. I think with my first born was def more of a hoverer than I am now with three. partly b/c you can't hover like that with 3, an partly, b/c I've learned what needs hovering and what doesn't.

    I am glad to see comments enabled again, I've been reading on the reader but didn't realize I could comment again… sorry for the radio silence. 🙂

    Can I say I think you are an awesome mommy?

  10. Good on you. It always surprises me to hear which of my friends think I'm too "lax" and which think I'm to "strict". How can I be both?

    Have you read "Protecting The Gift". I think you'll find it interesting.

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