I was a free range kid, so were most of my friends, and not a single one of us had a cellphone to keep in touch with our parents.
I walked through our freezing cold neigborhood at 6am to catch the bus by myself. I stayed home during my homeschool years with my sister (who was 6 years younger than me) and made her lunch and took her outside to play.
When I was 6 we lived in a complex of townhouses that was surrounded by trees and my best friend and I would run through the woods, skate on the frozen pond in our sneakers, and generally do anything we wanted until dinner time.
When I was 9 we lived in a small town and during the summer I would walk from our neighborhood to main street to visit the dollar store and buy candy.
When I was 10 I would leave the house, run through my neighborhood and over to the creek near my house (which was actually probably a drainage ditch that happened to have a lot of trees growing along it now that I think about it) and catch frogs and play with imaginary friends.
When I was 12 I would walk the two miles to my city’s main public library from my parent’s office and spend the whole day reading.
I probably should have broken many a limb over the years, but I didn’t.
I probably should have been offered candy to get into a strange van with someone, but I wasn’t.
I was as free range as it was possible to be when I was growing up and nothing bad ever happened to me, except for having to clean up a couple of scraped knees by myself.
None of this was because my parents were bad or neglectful. They were busy, they had jobs, and they knew me, knew I was responsible, and knew that I wouldn’t get myself into more trouble than I could get myself out of. No one ever called CPS or had the cops pick me up when I was at the park or when I walked into the library by myself most days during the summer.
I’m not saying this is right for your kids. I’m not saying it’s wrong for your kids. I am saying that you are the only one who knows your child (and your city and neighborhood) well enough to know at what age they can be set free to zip through your neighborhood on roller blades and terrorize the local frog population.
People say that it’s too dangerous now to let your kids be “free range” but the truth is crime rates are falling across the board (though apparently our perception of crime rates isn’t keeping up).
Violence and crime were at much higher rates in the 90s and early 2000s when I was exploring my hometown, yet no one thought I was in danger, sent me to a CPS facility while my parents were investigated, or thought my parents needed to sign a “parenting plan” that involved the government in deciding how I was to be raised.
We do have laws about child neglect and abandonment in this country, but we have them to protect children who are in genuinely neglectful homes where they are being abused. Where the parents are too doped up on their drug of choice to know, or even care, where their children are. We don’t have those laws to harass and force good parents to keep their children on a leash.
I would venture the guess that most of the kids in my age bracket were raised “free range” before it became a fad, with books and parenting websites and discussion forums devoted to it. An even larger percentage of my parents generation was raised the same way, in fact they probably had even more freedom to roam than I ever had. These are the generations that are now staffing CPS and the police departments that are harassing parents for raising children the same way they were most likely raised.
So why is this next generation being raised to be so dependent? The laws are left open for interpretation so that the police and CPS can use common sense to decide if a child is being abused or neglected, but clearly common sense took a right at Albuquerque when the law is being used to go after parents that let their 10 year and 6 year old walk home together from the park.