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Free-Range Parenting

I recently read an opinion piece in the New York Times making the case for Free-Range Parenting. This struck me as strange, the need to assign a label to a parenting style that I was very familiar with.

Like many parents with young children, we 30 and 40-somethings grew up in households where the expectation was that kids were home for dinner, and that’s about it. My back yard happened to be hundreds of acres of woods, not to mention each of the back yards in my neighborhood.

So it felt odd that I had to read a plea for parents to let their kids be a little more free. That’s what I had and that’s what my kids er, uh…hmmm. Hang on. I don’t shuffle my kids out the door in the morning on sunny weekend days. I don’t let them wander. In fact, I walk them into most of their activities, from swimming to art class. Like I’m their personal security detail ready to declare a room “clear” before the VIP is okay to enter. So I guess I don’t know what that Free Range Parenting style is like.

I can’t decide if I’m annoyed for not being a free-range parent or upset that nobody I know is. Well, maybe a couple of friends are, but I admit to thinking they’re a little fast-and-loose with their kids. But are they really? Or have they been able to let go the stresses, fears, tensions and whatever other hangs up I clearly have not?

I suspect that most parents would like to be more free-range, even just a little. I know I would. So today I let me kids out half a block from their art class. Parking was bad and I had a little one in the car screaming potty. This was a perfect time for my 8 and 6 year old to get a few seconds of independence and, just the same, a perfect way for me to go just a little free-range. And yes, I watched them the whole way in and waited 20 seconds to make sure the world didn’t end.

So far so good.

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