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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Free range parenting

If you haven't heard about this story about Free Range parenting, then you must be living under a rock.   Now the parents have been charged with, "unsubstantiated child neglect".   Here's my take on it.

When I was in elementary school, we walked to school.  I honestly don't know how far it was, it could have been a mile, I've not been back to that area since I was an adult to actually calculate it, but I know it was more than 3 or 4 blocks, AND (OH the HORROR) we had to cross the very active train tracks. I was in 2nd/3rd grade and it was about 1982ish (without doing the math).  My mother didn't walk with us, my brother usually...reluctantly...walked with me, or ahead of me, but not too far ahead, and most the time I had a friend or two to walk with.  We also walked to downtown, to the library, which was across a four lane busy main road, and to more than one park.  We were "latchkey" kids and always outside and busy.  We were taught how to cross the road, and the train tracks, and life went on.  Many times as a kid I walked more than a mile from home, alone or with friends/siblings, but here's my question.  Was it a different time then?  Were we safer?  Remember this is right around the time that "Adam" went missing from the department store.  You know the national case were he was kidnapped from the store, and I believe, only his head was ever found.  So was it safer, or were we just not as connected as we are now, and all the horrible things that happen now, still happened then, and we just didn't know it.

I have four kids,  I don't allow them to walk all over town, in fact I can't even imagine letting my 8 and 10 yr old walk that far away even with some tag on their clothes saying, "I'm not lost, I'm a free range kid".   Do I think it's a bad thing to give your kids some freedom?  No, but I'm not sure how far that freedom should go.  Like I said, it's a different time, and even if we were no safer in the 80's at least we didn't know  the horrors that exist and the sick people that commit them. Just last week there was a 6 year old boy molested in a movie theater bathroom and I think it was here in Michigan.  All because his parents thought it was ok for him to go to the bathroom alone.  Isn't that sad?  A little boy can't even go to the bathroom alone?  Now he is ruined FOR LIFE because his parents let him go to the bathroom alone.  How would that make you feel as a parent?  I would be devastated.  Let me be clear, I do let my son go to the bathroom alone, my youngest son is 13, but I can honestly say that this stuff does cross my mind even though he's 13.  I have 3 sons, 2 are adults, and I have a daughter.  I try not to be helicopter parent, and let them have some space, but I think the parents in this case have gone too far for this day and age.  There are just too many freaks out there to trust that those kids won't be taken and now that they have made a national case out of it, all those freaks know to look for kids with those stupid tags.  That those kids are probably not anywhere near home, or responsible adults that are looking out for them.  I don't know these parents at all, but to me it almost makes me think, do they even care if their kids get kidnapped?  Are they daring someone to do it?  Or are they just trusting the rest of the city to parent their kids for them? Obviously there is some level of nonchalance to just let them go wonder around.   I'm not saying they don't love their kids, but really?  I don't understand this, why not take the time to go to the park with their kids?  Are they so busy they can't take a break and walk their kids to the park? 

I couldn't do it.  I'm as laid back a person as you'll most likely ever meet, but I'm not as laid back as these people.  I don't stress about much but keeping my kids safe is definitely a priority.  It's a fine line as well to keep them informed of possible dangers, but not scaring them into being a recluse.  Kids think they are invincible, and they don't understand an adult over powering them.  They think (especially little kids) that they will be able to just take off and run away like a superhero, or fight back like a ninja(or Karate Kid), and they are not in danger. They don't understand the level of manipulation that these predators are capable of to lure them in.  Even if you have told them about it, and the tricks  that you've heard of, they can still fall for it.  One of the talk shows a few years ago did test with the show's staff kids, about trying to lure them into a van, and they video taped the segment.  Of the 6 or 7 kids they tried to lure in, about half of them did get in the van.  I can see this causing a LOT of controversy, I don't know that they deserve 'neglect' charges, but I don't know what this constitutes.  Maybe they should have to pay a bill every time the police have to pick the kids up and take them home because someone called them about the children wandering.  I don't know, what do you think?

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