Thursday, May 01, 2008

Free range kids

Has anyone else heard of Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids and the media furor over her letting her 9-year old ride a Manhattan subway alone? I heard this story on NPR a couple of weeks ago and was just thinking about it again as I contemplate summer.

For me, I grew up riding my bike along with my little brother the several busy blocks to school in Miami from age 8 til we moved to NC a few years later. We were home alone together after school and were allowed to roam the neighborhood with our similarly unfettered friends til my mom got home from work. I went up to the 7-11 by myself to buy candy. I went alone to friends' houses and didn't have to call when I got there. My mom told us not to talk to strangers and gave us certain cross streets as boundaries, but that was the extent of her keeping tabs on us while we were out. Oh, and I knew how to cook several dinners for us all by the time I was 9. Unsupervised. In the oven, even.

I've realized recently that I'd like Sister--and eventually my little girls--to really enjoy this sort of freedom as a matter of course. Sister's been walking to school by herself for two years now and enjoys a solo scooter ride about the neighborhood and solo walks to a friend's. I've told her I thought she was old enough now to go hang out in the woods if she wants and she was psyched (though she has yet to take me up on this).

What about you and your kids? Are they "free range" Were you?


Amber said...

I remember growing up much like you did and would also like similar for my kids. But then again my girls just lost the right to play out front when they were caught crossing the boundary of their 'allowed' space- which happened to be a busy street.

Suzanne said...

I was fairly free-range as well. My mom did need to know where I was going and told me when to be home, but I did things like walk to school by myself in kindergarten (5 or so blocks), walk to the store myself, and, when I was older, ride my bike wherever I wanted.

My kids? I can't imagine any of that freedom for them. In theory I think it would be terrific -- and maybe I'll loosen up as they get older. Check back with me!

Piece of Work said...

Our house rule was we had to be home by the time the street lights came on. Otherwise we were free to roam--and we did, downtown to the best donut shop and the only penny candy store, or to the park where we'd climb the rocks and hide in caves that the teenagers made out in, or jump into the river from the rickety rope swing that someone put up years before.
The neighborhood where I live now is more urban--no parks with rocks or woods nearby but I'm hoping my 5 year old will be able to walk to school by himself next year. He already walks up to the neighbor's to play (there are no streets to cross) and I'm really looking forward to a time when he can ride his bike by himself, since it's impossible for me to keep up with him when I have Vivian (who is FAR too lazy to learn to ride a bike herself) and he is dying to ride everyday. But I'm not sure when he'll be ready for that. OR when I'll be ready to let him. This summer? (He's 5)

Bina said...

I grew up the same way. And we didn't have to go home in the summer until the front porch light came on, which was around 10:00 PMish. We climbed trees, made forts, threw apples at cars (okay, so she didn't know that) and did all sorts of things most people freak out about today.

I let my 12 year old go roller skating. I drop her and a friend off and the mother picks them up and brings them home. Chris thinks I am SO wrong in SO many ways.

I taught my boys to climb trees and all my kids to go up and down stairs before they could walk cause let's face it, if they knew how to do it, they couldn't get hurt, right?

I never had a net on the trampolene and my kids never got hurt.

I let my 5 year old go to the neighbors and play and don't check on her much! FOR SHAME!

My 12 year old has been staying home before and after school since she was 9. Chris's daughter is almost 12 and he and his ex would NEVER let her stay alone. Heck, when she stayed with Alaina one day last year for two hours her mother treatened to call children services on us!

Okay, I'm making this my own post. Sorry.

But yea, I totally get ya.

Mama D said...

I grew up (till 13) in a very small town. I was allowed to be free range but my mom always warned me to be careful whenever I went out for a bike ride.

Miss A at the moment is one of those kids who would take off and never look back. Therefore, free range is not possible, for now. When we go to the park we try to give her space and not hover and yet be close enough to keep her from running into on coming traffic or running of the play structure.

We'll see how this progresses as she gets older.

Beth said...

I was really free- range...esp. when I lived with my dad in California. I was in 2nd grade, and walked or rode my bike EVERYWHERE! to the dentist, to school, to the park, to the the dark!!!

my kids are so NOT free-range. I know what canhappen out there in the big bad world, and I keep them close. My youngest walks to school, sometimes, but always with friends, never alone. he can go to friends houses but he has to call as soon as he gets there and before he leaves to come home.

I am a nervous wreck just writing about it!

Devilish Southern Belle said...

I was pretty much free-range, but I lived in a tiny town where everybody knew everybody else. I am pretty lenient with my own kids, but we live out in the country and there isn't really anyplace for them to go that wouldn't be trespassing on someone else's property. And when we lived in an apartment complex several years ago, I couldn't even leave them on the playground behind our apartment by themselves without trouble. If we lived where I used to live, or in a similar place, I'd have no trouble with it.