The Washington Post, my default paper since I left New York, ran yet another story this week about Free Range Parenting. Until I wrote this blog, I was up for grabs on it. Now, maybe not.
In case you haven’t heard, Free Range Parenting is a term conceived by families who permit their children to navigate their home neighborhoods without chaperones at their heels, going hither and yon with the intention that they do so freely and fearlessly While letting children roam a bit was not an issue when I grew up in the Bronx, or when my daughter walked to school on her own by the time she was seven, and my eight year old son took two busses from East 20th Street to Greenwhich Village five days a week, solo, it is now. A big one! Not just for the families themselves but for those who choose to become self-appointed guardians of other people’s lives by way of reporting these events to police and social services like some suburban SS force — never directly to the parents themselves. Why get involved?.
There’s trouble, and people are taking sides.
When this past week, two children aged ten and six were dropped off by their parents at a neighborhood park behind my building in downtown Silver Spring, an area where kids play all the time, someone saw them walking home and called the police. The police took the bait, convinced the kids to get into the squad car just two blocks from their house, and held them there for three hours without letting the parents know that they had them in tow. Clearly, punishment due (though not labeled thus by the authorities) for the parents having already transgressed in this way once before.
Okay. Enough about police tactics and naive parenting over which we have no say. These parents need to do two things:
1. Find another way to deal. Just being “right” doesnt cut it.
2. Create a different name for their parenting program (this one reeks of idiocy).
Children are not chickens. Best not to set them free to be scared silly by ill trained cops who stuff them in a squad car, refuse to let them go to the bathroom, fail to give them somthing to eat, and neglect to notify their parents, But this is the world we live in. Pretending or wishing it otherwise won’t make it so.
I once asked a friend,from the rural midwest what he did in the summer while we New York kids went to camp. “We got up, ate breakfast, got on our bikes and didnt go home until dinner time,” he said.
Indeed. The world has changed. A few years back,,police would not have gone looking for these kids unless the family called in a missing child report. But lets not react by sticking our heads in the sand. I hate to say it, but: it is what it is. And though we can’t reverse time, we can exert a good bit of influence by the way we think, behave, and live our lives.
Form Children-ing Groups
My solution is this: there’s safety in numbers. Instead of “parenting groups” form “Children-ing” groups. Have the kids walk in packs like teenagers. How many of them could they possibly stuff in a squad car then?.