Friends of mine will tell you I’ve been pondering this for years: Do we try so hard to keep our kids safe that we’re holding them back? I worry we’re infantilizing them, and maybe worse. But I’m not sure.
Playing the Odds
I know the media have done a fantastic job terrifying us about all the bad things that happen even though statistically, kids are safer now than ever.
Here’s the thing that still stops me dead in my tracks, though:
The risk is low, but the stakes are just too high.
FD is nearly 14 now, and we’ve been arguing with her about walking to school for years. This is something our own parents let us do without hesitation, but we walked with other kids. FD would be alone. I assume I don’t need to go into detail about what we’re afraid of. FD has no idea. Even though we told her.
I tell myself we live in a tiny town with little crime, but—thank you news media—I’m reminded constantly that bad things happen in unexpected places. I gather this is not an issue everywhere.
Decisions like this shouldn’t be about my fears. They should be about giving FD room to grow. So this summer I’m letting FD go wherever she wants on her bike, with the condition that she text me when she gets where she’s going and again when she heads home. Part of my thinking is that she’s at an age where if I don’t let out some rope, she’ll be tempted to start lying to us about what she’s up to, and I really don’t want that to start. I’m paranoid enuff.
A Movement I’m Not Sure I Want to Join. Maybe. No. Maybe.
We’re not alone in being conflicted about how safe to keep kids — every parent I talk to is in the same boat. I’ve written elsewhere about a family in Silver Spring, Maryland who’ve been wrangling with local authorities for years. They’re part of a community of parents you can find at FreeRangeKids.com. I dunno.
But, Wait, There’s Moe-ah.
Next time: Lawnmower parenting. Helicopter parenting is, like, so five minutes ago.