View Full Version : Free Range Parenting No Walk In The Park.

09-14-2009, 01:02 PM

But communal will around this issue has not yet arrived in many places. In Columbus, Miss., Lori Pierce would like her daughters, 6 and 8, to walk the mile to school by the end of the year. “They want to walk,” she said. “They have scooters.” But she and the girls face obstacles. Mrs. Pierce must teach them the rules of a busy street, have officials install some sidewalks and urge the school to hire a crossing guard.

And Mrs. Pierce faces another obstacle to becoming a free-range mother: public opinion.

Last spring, her son, 10, announced he wanted to walk to soccer practice rather than be driven, a distance of about a mile. Several people who saw the boy walking alone called 911. A police officer stopped him, drove him the rest of the way and then reprimanded Mrs. Pierce. According to local news reports, the officer told Mrs. Pierce that if anything untoward had happened to the boy, she could have been charged with child endangerment. Many felt the officer acted appropriately and that Mrs. Pierce had put her child at risk.

Critics say fears that children will be abducted by strangers are at a level unjustified by reality. About 115 children are kidnapped by strangers each year, according to federal statistics; 250,000 are injured in auto accidents.

Ms. Skenazy, who prompted an uproar in 2008 when she wrote a column about allowing her 9-year-old son to take a New York City subway and bus alone, said that the alarm parents feel has been stoked by sensation-seeking news outlets and crime shows like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

“On TV, most criminals are strangers,” she said. “That sinks into your view of the world and you think all strangers are to be distrusted.”

Schools are skittish about unsupervised young walkers. Lisa Reid, who lives in a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, had signed a permission form, but when her first-grader proudly told his teacher he was walking home himself last spring, a distance of six houses, the teacher was incredulous. She took him to the office and called Mrs. Reid, who didn’t hear the phone.

That was because Mrs. Reid was pacing at the end of the driveway, waiting for her son, her worries climbing exponentially as the moments ticked by.

Mrs. Reid used to teach in a Vancouver school where many students were refugees. “Those kids all walked home,” she said. “They came from countries where they walked through terrible, horrible things, and they thought it was great to be safe here on our streets.”

Jonathan Zimmerman, a New York University professor who writes about the history of American education, said that schools themselves should not be blamed for what some might consider hyper-vigilance. “The public school is the most grass-roots institution we have,” he said. “They’re responding to very real demands. This is clearly something that has engaged and agitated the public.”

Not only do institutions feel threatened when individuals wander off the range; so do other parents.

Recently, Amy Utzinger, a mother of four in Tucson, Ariz., let her daughter, 7, walk down the block to play with a friend. Five houses. Same side of the street.

Afterward, the friend’s mother drove Mrs. Utzinger’s daughter home. “She said, ‘I just drove her back, just in case ... you know,’ ” recalled Mrs. Utzinger. “What was I supposed to say? How can you argue against ‘just in case’?”

This is nuts. When kids walk by themselves they learn the social skills any adult needs to stay safe: ignore crazy people, avoid physical proximity to crazy, large, or angry-looking people, know your area, be prepared to run or fight or both, and never be taken from the scene no matter what the threat may be.

They don't learn all this at once, of course, but by high school they've got it. When I lived where I walked to school I had dirty old men and perverted young ones talking trash to me out of cars or pulling up next to me at stop signs waving their tiny dicks around. I had crazy people yell at me. I fended off dogs. It was cold or hot or snowy. So what? At least I can walk the streets without of fear of every little thing.

Parents aren't doing their kids any favors by supervising them to this degree.

NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/fashion/13kids.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1252944072-01GrQqVlet1yVZbWMKU3jg)

ralph wiggum
09-14-2009, 06:26 PM
Wow, the evils of walking to school by yourself. THE HORROR!!!!!! :rolleyes:

09-14-2009, 06:51 PM
Interesting. I can remember the negotiating with my parents to be allowed to walk to a friend's house. My neighborhood was fine, but one friend lived on the other side of a fairly busy 4 lane highway. We reached a compromise whereby I could go, but had to call upon a arrival so that she knew I hadn't been crushed by a truck.

I was probably around 9 years old for that one and the distance was about a mile or so. Of course, most of it was suburban streets, plus a field and some horses. The highway was the debating point.

09-14-2009, 10:21 PM
My own mother, who let her children wander aimlessly for miles without knowing where they were, yelled at me for allowing my son to walk home less than 1/2 a mile from school when he was 7. "TIMES ARE DIFFERENT!":p

09-14-2009, 10:45 PM
My own mother, who let her children wander aimlessly for miles without knowing where they were, yelled at me for allowing my son to walk home less than 1/2 a mile from school when he was 7. "TIMES ARE DIFFERENT!":p

No it was just a different kid!

09-14-2009, 11:29 PM
I guess the days of, "Back in my day we walked 10 miles to school barefoot, in the snow, uphill both ways" are long gone.

09-14-2009, 11:31 PM
I guess the days of, "Back in my day we walked 10 miles to school barefoot, in the snow, uphill both ways" are long gone.
Oh no, I still use that one.:p

09-15-2009, 12:22 AM
My daughter just bit the bullet and started allowing my 5 and 7 year old granddaughters to take their bikes around the block unsupervised. (They cannot cross streets and they must keep an eye on each other.)

Their self-confidence has increased enormously and they're doing a good job of learning to deal with life on their own terms.

09-15-2009, 09:50 AM
Oh no, I still use that one.:p

How well does that resonate in Florida? :)

09-15-2009, 09:56 AM
My parents used to let me go play on my own at the park by the time I was 4. Busted my head open once when I fell off the merry-go-round. Not a single authority said a thing about it.

Granted, this was in Texas.

As long as I know the route, I know the area is safe, I know my kids are properly trained on what to do, then I will not have a problem with my kid wanting to walk a mile to school, or his sports practice.

09-15-2009, 11:01 AM
What's interesting about all of this is that child abductions/rapes/murders haven't actually increased much at all since the 1970s (I'm talking about stranger danger stuff). It just gets such huge publicity now. Times haven't really changed in terms of actual threats - just our perception of threats.

It must really suck to be a kid today. Your parents are constantly within earshot and you have no private "kid life" where you play with kids you've just met or do things that are even slightly physically dangerous. :(