I need to preface this post with a disclaimer: I am not a Mom. I have nieces and nephews and love being an Auntie. But I understand clearly that Aunties and Moms are two entirely different roles in life.
O.K. That said, I found this website to be intriguing: Free Range Kids. A phrase has recently entered the lexicon “helicopter parents”. It describes parents who constantly hover around their children. Free Range Kids is a concept formed by Lenore Skenazy in response to overprotecting and over scheduling children. As Ms. Skenazy puts it: “Free-Rangers believe in helmets, car seats, seat belts — safety! We just do NOT believe that every time school age kids go outside, they need a security detail.”
I grew up with pretty protective parents. I knew some kids whose parents were truly over-protective. My parents were strict enough that they came in handy if I needed to say “No I can’t go (fill in the blank for do something stupid) with you. You know my parents would kill me!” But even with them being as protective as they were, I spent a great deal of time out in the world, on my own. Before the house across the street was built, I built forts there. There was a school one street over where I sat by myself and wrote my first poem. When I was somewhere between 12 and 14 years old, Dad got me my ten speed bike and I was gone. I would ride from our home in Warwick down to East Greenwich and on to Potowomut. I would visit with friends and we’d ride all over together. But sometimes I’d be by myself. Truth be told, I would often ride my bike down to church, sit in a pew and visit with God, so I wasn’t exactly a hellion! But the point was I was out and about, on my own, with no cell phone, just some coins for a pay phone in case of emergency and a wrist watch. I had to be home on time, so the watch was part of the uniform.
I know there is a perception that the world was a whole lot safer back in the day. I often share that perception. I feel the clutch of fear whenever an Amber Alert goes out. I remember Holly Piranian and Molly Bish. Yet there is still something inside of me that is convinced that the world is, on balance, a pretty safe place. What I gained from being out and about on my own, whether it was a block or two away or several miles, was a great gift. Especially to a shy, sometimes really scared little kid who discovered she possessed more self confidence and a more adventuresome spirit than she thought she had. I wouldn’t want to take that away from any child.