Monday, May 24, 2010

Free-Range in Alabama

So, I found a new blog that I like and it got me thinking, as these things sometimes do.
The blog is called FreeRange Kids and the author is Lenore Skenazy. Apparently, her idea of parenting is causing major backlash and creating national attention. Her radial idea?? Let your kids go outside and play. Don't hover. Leave the Purell in your purse, or (gasp) you stay inside and let them go outside BY THEMSELVES.
I know. Pull yourself together. She advocates unstructured, unsupervised free time for kids. She lets her son, who is 9, ride the subway to school. They live in New York City. She advocates letting your child ride his/her bike around the neighborhood, to the park or library, walk to school, etc. She recommends letting kids over the age of 8 stay at home by themselves while mom runs to get some milk, or even while waiting for mom or dad to come home from work....didn't we used to call that "latch key"? Lenore goes on to explain that in other countries children over the age of 6 or 7 walk to school, which is sometimes miles away, as well as take the subway and sometimes a ferry to school. Her ideas have caused some problems. I read about her in the Christian Science Monitor, but apparently (according to her blog) has had to give interviews with all major media outlets to defend herself. Of course she has her supporters...a lot of them. So many people echo the same response on her comments section, " I played outside when I was a kids and I'm fine!"

I must admit that I am a free-range parent. I didn't know there was a name for it until now. In fact, I really sort of saw myself as a little bit of a mixture of relaxed and lazy when it came to parenting because I tend to compare myself to the other moms I know. In my circle of peers children are well-behaved, clean, never making messes and if they do it's never a problem for the mom to clean up after them. I live in the land of June Cleaver. So, I am actually thrilled to have a word for my parenting style: I am a Free-Range parent. I force my boys to go outside and threaten bodily harm if they come back in "one more time!" I meanly insist that they play basktball or ride the doggone bikes we spent good money on instead of playing another Wii game or having 10 more minutes on the internet. I went back to work this year and just could not force myself to allow them to return to the local public school due to the escalating gang violence, so I did what I thought at the time was the only thing I could do, I decided to continue homeschooling. My 15 yr old son supervises and assists my 10 and 8 yr old while I am gone. It helps that I don't work in the mornings. They each have a list of chores that have to be done when their father comes home from work. If their work or chores do not get completed my children will be punished. Yes, I spank my children. The older they get the less they get spanked because obviously they catch on pretty fast so spanking isn't really a common occurance, but I think the fact that it could happen is enough. In fact I think it's been like a once a year occurance for my teenager for the last couple of years. This year it was because of a spiteful sassy remark he gave me within earshot of his father (big mistake) and last year because we found him playing with matches, burning paper in his room...both highly worthy of corporal punishment in my opinion. Do I apologize for my parenting, certainly not, however I can be made to feel like I don't have it all together. Today I feel better about myself. Today I have learned what I knew all along, now I have backup, that kids who are given independance and expected to fend for themselves to a certain degree grow up to be self-sufficient, well-rounded and happy individuals. Like I said, I already knew that, but it certainly helps to hear it from another mom. Thanks, Lenore!


K. Erickson said...

As a recovering latch key free ranger myself when I was growing up thanks to my parents' divorce, I can't say that it's a bad way to be raised. I never had weight issues until well into my 30s (after several years of a sit down job) thanks to being very active as a child. Having said that, I do think it needs to be balanced with considerations like the neighborhood, the maturity level of the kid, etc. I wouldn't necessarily advocate free ranging in a neighborhood where the crips and bloods are having a turf war any more than I would recommending it for a kid that doesn't know how to follow instructions (like not taking candy from strangers, looking both ways before darting out into the street, don't steal the street signs, etc.).

GunDiva said...

I'm totally a free range parent.

Most of it was out of necessity, but I'm lucky to live in a neighborhood where there's space for the kids to go and be kids. They spend the majority of their summer days down at the "dirt hills" (an old area where the construction people used to dump their dirt when after they dug foundation). Did they get hurt sometimes? Yep. Did they get dirty? You bet. Did they have a blast with their friends without any adults around? Absolutely.

Melanie said...

K. - I totally agree about the community and maturity. I, for one, probably would not let my 9yr old ride the subway alone. I didn't start leaving my oldest in charge of his siblings until he was 13 because that is the local babysitting age. I do believe that it makes them more active, less prone to weight issues, more imaginative, self-reliant...etc.
Gundiva - "dirt hills" sounds way fun :) We have friends who have a large clay pit behind their house. My boys go over there and "dirt surf" to the bottom on plywood. It makes my heart skip a beat to watch but they love it. The good news is, thanks to my new job, I get a discount at the local ER!

raysofsunshine said...

I wish I could properly articulate how beautiful this post is..

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