Monday, October 4, 2010

Free Range Kids!

I'm sure you've all heard of free range chickens and eggs. But, for the first time a few nights ago, I heard the term 'Free Range Kids'. This is actually the title of a book by Lenore Skenazy. She also has a blog and you can visit it here. The term 'Free Range' is used in the context of common sense parenting in a world that is often overprotective. I haven't read the book yet but it does sound very interesting. The author was in Australia last week and I watched an interview with her. Supposedly, she was called America's worst mom last year for allowing her 9 year old son to catch the subway on his own.

'Free Range' probably also mean being raised the way my parents were raised. I must admit that the stories my mother tells of her childhood sound a little harsh at times but more often, it sounded like she had lots of fun and all the freedom in the world as long as she was home by dinner time. So, there was freedom, hence independence, with boundaries.

My own childhood seemed to have a little freedom but more boundaries. The youngest I remember going about by myself was when I was about 9 years old. I remember walking to my piano lessons which were a ten minute walk away. It wasn't far but there was a very busy road to cross and I remember always being nervous about it. When I was eleven, we moved to Brisbane and I caught the train to school each day. However, there was no stopping by anywhere else. Just straight to school and back again. This was the case until I finished high school. I remember that it was also very hard to convince my mother to let me spend the night at any of my friend's houses.

I can't remember if we were ever very interested in what went on in the kitchen but I don't think we were allowed to do any cooking until I was about twelve! My parents did put my brother and I on a plane by ourselves when I was twelve and he was nine. No big deal as the flight attendants look after us the whole way.

Obviously, I don't have all that must experience in the free range style of parenting yet. Or maybe I've automatically moved into the helicopter parenting mode. I do think that I allow Aaron a certain about of freedom for his age. Since he was three, he's been allowed to be out in the garden by himself. I don't hover over him but I am constantly watching him from inside. Since Adrian was born, I've had no choice but to let him spend a lot more time by himself and he's free to go in and out of the house. However, he's not allowed to play in the front of the house.

During my parent's childhoods, they had no TV, no internet and no constant stream of news about the bad bad people out there. During her interview on TV here, Lenore Skenazy said something like crime rates were actually dropping or the world being more dangerous in the past except that there wasn't a constant stream of news back then. That may be true, but its also true that we are so much more aware of the gruesome things that have happened to a few unfortunate kids today. In her website, she says parents today are swimming in 'fear soup' and she's right. I know I am. I want to allow Aaron and Adrian some freedom but at the same time, I have things like the image of a map of Queensland dotted with all the locations of known pedophiles in my mind.

I like the sound of this 'Free Range Movement' and I'm going to try to get my hands on that book but I think I'm still going to be a little on the protective side. Having said that, while Aaron and Adrian are still within the boundaries of this house, I can at least feel that I'm giving them some freedom by not putting either of them in a play pen or putting up any safety gates so far. Don't worry, they're still safe, I just allow them to explore the entire house.


nomadicexpat said...

You did stay over at my place quite a few times and your parents allowed you to go on trips with us, remember?

Anyhow, yeah with all the stories of kids missing... nabbed by pedophiles and being enslaved for years, it is a scary world out there for kids these days.

Nomadic Expat said...

Bostson Globe just wrote an article on this, but article is more about kids becoming too dependent on technology, hence they become nincompoops:

Amanda said...

Nomadic Expat : I think that was because they were friends with your parents. I found out recently that it was because they knew nothing of my friends parents here that stopped all my sleepovers. That is a poignant article isn't it?

Mike said...

"Obviously, I don't have..."

I thought you might repost the picture of Aaron hanging on the gate waiting for the girls to come see him.

Bilbo said...

This reminds me of the post I did a while back called "The Bubble-Wrapped Child." One of the most difficult things about being a parent (or grandparent) is deciding the right balance of protectiveness and freedom for our children. No matter what we do, we always end up second-guessing least, I did. But right now, today, living where I do, I would never allow my children or grandchildren to go free-range. Sad, isn't it?

NomadicExpat said...

Guess what? Not only do you have to worry about pedophiles, you also have to worry about monkeys nabbing your kids!

We saw a monkey outside my parents house in Ipoh sometime last year, and when we ran outside, it has climbed up the roof. It's unbelievable to see a monkey in a residential area! Mom was afraid that it had rabbies...