The column that started it all:http://www.nysun.com/news/why-i-let-my-9-year-old-ride-subway-aloneThe Your Childhood Section from the FreeRange kids website:http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/your-childhood/
Man, the stuff I and my cousins did as kids would get somebody busted nowadays -- either us for some trumped-up juvie bullshit or else our parents for some species of neglect/child endangerment. From about the age of seven onward -- when my family undertook the two mile move from Pottstown to a larger apartment in Stowe -- my cousins and I pretty much had the run of both the towns. Literally. My mom would give us breakfast in the morning and then shoo us out to play and, thereafter, if we stayed near the house it was probably because it was raining. My mom was the only stay-at-home-mom of her sisters and watched my cousins every summer for pretty much the bulk of our childhood; we were a pack of wild animals,
I tell you, and we'd rove wherever we wanted to go. Race Street Park, surrounded by wooded swamp and storm-drain culverts on each side? Check -- we built a treehouse in the swamp that remained in place until the township sold that plot of land to a developer, who drained it and fenced it off and built houses on it. The West Pottsgrove Elementary school yard, back when dear old WPE had playground equipment that could actually kill you and a mile of fields and woods behind it? Check -- we hiked every inch of those woods; now the half-wild field behind the school is a perfectly groomed series of athletic fields and the woods were mostly bulldozed down to build, you guessed it!, a mushroom farm housing development. Memorial Park and Gruber's Pool? We'd put my baby brother, a big thermos full of Kool-Aid, and a bag of sandwiches in a little red pulling-stuff-thing whose proper name I can't remember and hike over hill and dale and play in the park and run around in the fields and if we had money, we'd go to the pool -- if we didn't have money, we'd swim in the creek. Granny Kalis' house. Mim-Mim's house. The houses of randomly occurring school friends.
During the school year, I'd either walk or ride my bike the mile-and-a-quarter to West Pottsgrove Elementary School. That was Glasgow to Rice, Rice to East Vine, East Vine to Monroe, Monroe to Grosstown and then two blocks up Grosstown to the crossing point, manned by a crossing guard. Approximately eight intersections. When I reached fifth grade, I was made one of the school's student crossing helpers, and it was my job to sit at my assigned intersection until about fifteen minutes before school started and help younger kids cross the street. I was eleven. I don't even think school districts allow that any longer. When I was twelve, we moved out of the suburban environs of Stowe to the rural setting of West Bumblefuck Barto, where my brothers and I did all those things but with more hiking in denser woods and faster-moving creeks, while regularly walking the five miles between our trailer park and the trailer park where our cousins lived. When I was thirteen, my mother had a complete physical breakdown and a psychotic break from reality as a result of post-partum complications from the birth of my youngest brother. She spent most of the next two years either clinically insane and poorly medicated or committed to assorted psychiatric facilities. My father worked fifty miles away, sixteen hours a day. I cooked a lot of breakfasts and dinners, changed a lot of diapers, made sure my school-aged brother knew when to go out for his bus, and worried a lot about my youngest brother when I was at school. At fifteen, I started working outside my house. I like to think that my childhood prepared me to be a capable, responsible, and self-reliant teenager and adult.Lenore Skenazy at HuffPo:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lenore-skenazy/why-im-raising-free-range_b_216264.htmlMoney Quote:My whole point - lost on these lovely callers -- is not to deny that there is danger in the world. It's just to put that danger back in perspective so we can give our children exactly what Irving has treasured for eight solid decades: The chance to say: "I did it myself!"
A chance we've started denying our kids.
As parents, we all want to raise children who are self-confident and independent. And we all want them to be safe. What's happened in the past generation is that our fear for their safety has overwhelmed any old-fashioned notion of the benefits of letting them knock around and make their own fun. Even make their own mistakes.
I don't blame us parents for feeling so scared. I blame the things that got us to this point:
*A litigious society that has trained us to consider every situation in light of, "What if?" and dream up worst-case scenarios.
*A kiddie safety industry that keeps warning us about remote childhood dangers so we'll run and buy their products, from baby knee pads to toddler helmets. (Yes, for real: helmets your child is supposed to wear to protect his brain while learning to walk. As if evolution hadn't already come up with that whole "skull" thing.)
*A legion of parenting magazines and advice books eager to point out the hideous and lasting effects of giving our kids the wrong food, book, toy, feedback, praise, discipline, hug, class, or rattle, so we'll buy their words of wisdom (that worry us even more).
*I even blame Sesame Street. Because if you go get the collector's DVD, "Sesame Street: Old School," featuring highlights from 1969-1974, all you'll see are delightful scenes of kids playing follow-the-leader and tag and such without any grown-ups around. And even though this show was created to model the IDEAL safe, happy childhood as envisioned by a battery of psychologists and educators, this nostalgia-fest comes with the warning: "These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups." Like a porno movie! The wimps at PBS refuse to sanction any notion that kids can play on their own anymore. So now it's modeling the NEW norm: Constant parental supervision.
We've got one of those Sesame Street DVDs, and I was completely fucking stunned by that 'intended for grown-ups' message. Intended for grown-ups? The completely fucking ordinary pleasures of CHILDHOOD?
It is to weep.