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free range kids and helicopter mothering

I admit, I do like to read the blog Free Range Kids, though I do not always agree with all of it. Or even most of it. And sometimes the posts are a bit of a stretch. And I would never, ever leave an infant alone in a parked car while I went inside of a building. That's pretty crazy. And that baby is not free-ranging itself anywhere.

But it does make me think about my own over-protectiveness. I know people think I am over-protective. I get looks and comments from other moms. The other day I wouldn't let my kids go play outside at friend's house because their back yard is not fenced, my kids have never played there before, and from where I was forced to sit, I had zero view of the playscape area. One of the other moms scoffed at me when I told them they couldn't go unless I was out there (though I'd passively aggressively meant to insinuate that maybe all of us should move out; it was a lovely day!). But you know, I know my kids, no one else knows them as well as I do. I shouldn't feel like I need to justify my decisions because I did it out of concern for their well-being. And playing on a swingset is not a character-defining experience that I was depriving them of, anyway.

So I do think back to my own childhood, and I'm sure that plays a big role in why I worry about my children's safety so much when they are out in the world (and yes, that includes out in our yard, in our crazy friendly closed-off neighborhood). Where I grew up, it was not safe to play outside, but I still did it every single day. And I saw drug deals happening at the house at the end of the alley (though I'm not sure I fully understood what that meant until later). My friend Hilleri was pulled off her bike at age seven, by a teenage boy who shoved a knife under her shorts. Her dad chased the boy for a long time but  never caught up with him. (They moved out to the country the next year.) I was whistled at and cat-called by boys and men if I walked alone, or even with a friend. I saw countless neighborhood altercations, sometimes it was husband and wife, sometimes it was whites against blacks, sometimes it was just based on someone looking at someone else wrong. I was psychologically tortured on the playground in the fourth grade. I  mean, who wasn't right? But I don't think my experience was as mild as what many people consider normal schoolyard taunts. While some of what I experienced was the result of racial divisions in my neighborhood and school, and some of it was the result of poverty and its associated desperation, a good portion of it was just pure evil. Most of my friends had become sexually active by the eighth grade, and this was twenty years ago. I imagine it's earlier by now.

Even though the place where live now is, comparatively, safe, I know that the reality of the world is different than what we see out our front door. So while my kids are kids, I will do everything I can to keep them safe. The dilemma that creeps up is that, I do not want to inhibit their ability to learn how to cope with life situations on their own. I have to allow them to experience life enough to know how to recognize those who intend to harm them, and those who can be trusted. That's a very hard balance! So slowly, I am giving the oldest one more and more freedom, especially out in public places. The other day she went on her own to speak with the librarian about where to find a certain type of book, then went with that librarian to pick out the book. It was pretty far from where I was with the other two kids. This may not sound like a big deal to some people, but to me, it was huge. But she was proud of herself and I was proud of her for not being shy or afraid at all. So maybe I am doing something right after all.


  1. Are you protective of your children, yes, helicoptor mom, no. You don't hover over your kids when they are at the playground or other safe areas.
    I never dealt with the things you did as a kid, so I don't have the same fears. We also didn't live in a safe neighborhood, but my dad built a 6 ft stockade fence around our large backyard (I'm sure he would like to put razor wire on top as well!). My sister and I walked the mile home from school (I was in 1st and she was in 6th grade) until our house was burglarized while my sister was home alone from school...
    My mom grew up in a time and a place where she was allowed to roam the town by herself and no one locked their doors, ever. It was hard for her to realize how much things had changed.
    I wish my kids could walk to school because they would LOVE it, but I don't think Washington and Green River are kid friendly. It's too bad...
    Have you read 'Protecting the Gift'? It's about trusting your fear instinct, which will go a long way to keeping you safe :) If you want to read it, I have a copy you can borrow.

  2. Holy crap, you guys. That sure makes me grateful for hillbilly America where I grew up.


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