My kids are finally old enough that I feel like I can breathe one of the first sighs of relief. They are old enough that together they are able to stay home while we run errands in town, or they’re able to come home from school and get their homework started on their own. This is a big step and has allowed us to finally let go of the daycare costs that we were being crushed under.
I celebrate this new found independence because I believe strongly that kids should be able to learn how to make their own decisions, they should know how to navigate the complex waters of social interaction without an adult present to jump in.
I am grateful that new community we live in allows us an environment where I feel my kids can thrive and learn to be independent without an abundance of danger. I do not subscribe to fears surrounding stranger danger and have undeniable proof that there are more monsters living in the average home of a child than there are roaming the streets.
It wasn’t until recently that I learned that there’s a name for this set of beliefs I had: Free Range Parenting. And while I’m not sure I’m comfortable yet labeling myself as such, I do know that I believe strongly in the movement.
I’ve found that my biggest obstacle to completely embracing this attitude is not that I fear for my children’s safety, but rather that I fear the repercussions of not following the society’s accepted norms. Will other parents call the police claiming I’m neglecting my children if I leave them home alone after school? If I let them walk around town on their own will I be labeled as the crazy mother that obviously doesn’t care enough about her children to supervise them? I think as parents we are so cruel and judgmental of one another.
This article, published last year in The Atlantic and titled The Overprotected Kid really struck a chord with me. It was shared with me on Facebook by a childhood friend whom I knew had recently lost her young son. I decided to read it knowing that despite her loss she could endorse it, then surely I should give it a try.
The article gave statistics comparing the number of hours kids spend with their families or in an adult organized activity now vs. when many of us were kids. The statistics are alarming. Despite the fact that we’re doing many activities with our kids because we love them and want them to be well-rounded, we may in fact be failing to give them what they need the most, a chance to think for themselves and interact without us.
This philosophy however will never replace worry. I will always worry about them.