Last night I talked about one kind of nostalgia that I find…prickly. There’s another type of nostalgia that I find kind of interesting, and more helpful. I don’t have a handy internet meme to show you, but I’m sure you’ve seen or heard people who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s talking about how, by modern thinking we should never have survived our childhood, what with the lawn darts and iron playground equipment and the experience of kids being sent out by their parents with instructions to come home when the street lights come on.
Taken to a more serious level, we find a criticism that kids are being over parented and not given enough freedom to develop their independence. We see stories about parents facing CPS investigations for letting their elementary schoolers walk home or play in the park without them, and we see the rise of the free-range parenting movement.
I’m sympathetic to, if not completely on board with this movement. I look at my kids and where we live, and I think back to my childhood. As our eldest, I’m going to focus on Harry here. He’s about to turn 9. I’m certain that by the end of this summer he will be chomping at the bit to take his bike beyond our little cul de sac. He has friends living close by. We live in the school’s “walking zone”. He could get to the park without crossing a major street. He would only have to cross one major street to reach school.
I also look back at my own childhood. That summer after I turned 9, my friend Hector and I were playing baseball in the street and getting into all sorts of harmless mischief without direct adult supervision. Were we perfect angels? Of course not. There was an incident involving a garden hose in the bathroom. And of course there was the time I broke my foot jumping off a roof. Okay, that’s not the best example, except it kind of is. Yes, I did something stupid and got hurt, but I learned my lesson, paid the price, and moved on. I certainly never jumped off a roof, at any rate.
Am I a free range parent? Probably not. I think Harry is close to being ready to roam and stretch his boundaries, but he’s not there yet. The time is coming though…maybe this year, or the next, or, if early tests of the concept go poorly, in two or three years.
I guess that’s my point. I know my kids. I can’t think of better people to decide when they’re ready to sit in the car alone, or walk to a friend’s house or the park than Alissa and I.
So that’s where I come down. As a parent, I want to know that the considered decisions that Alissa and I make about what our kids are ready to do when will be respected by our community as opposed to an overly-strict one size fits all government policy. If we decide to let our kids out on their own, I don’t want to face prosecution for that decision.