Mili Note: I didn’t grow up in a city or the ‘burbs. I’ve lived in one and hated every minute of it. My daughter won’t grow up in a city either. Most of these stupid fears parents have that cause them to overprotect their children are based on two things: living where these things can actually happen (the anonymity of the city) and watching too much TV. That’s why we have a generation of gangsters and pansies today.
A year ago, Lenore Skenazy let her independent and spunky 9-year-old child take a New York subway home alone because he asked his parents to let him find his way home from someplace. So the parents, who are best equipped to judge their child’s ability and preparedness, allowed him to journey his way home from Bloomingdale’s along with “a subway map, a transit card, $20 in case of emergencies, and some quarters to make a call.” As a journalist, Mom wrote a column about her son’s experience for the New York Sun.
She was vilified by the media, parenting “experts,” hysterical, busybody parent-peers, and the entire American Parental Safety Entourage. Her ability to raise a child was called into question, and accordingly, I am surprised that social services did not immediately send out a swat team to forcibly remove the child from the home at gunpoint.
I hadn’t made the connection, but this is the same lady who runs the Free Range Kids blog, a neat blog that a reader pointed out to me last year. The central theme of Lenore’s blog is based on her statement that “mostly I’m afraid that I, too, have been swept up in the impossible obsession of our era: total safety for our children every second of every day.” Lenore adds, “it is really up to us parents to start renormalizing childhood. That begins with us realizing how scared we’ve gotten, even of ridiculously remote dangers……We have to be less afraid of nature and more willing to embrace the idea that some rashes and bites are a fair price to pay in exchange for appreciating the wonder of a cool-looking rock or an unforgettable fern.”
Milquetoast Americans love to be afraid, and they love to live in constant fear. These fragile beings desire the government to step in and regulate all of our lives to their liking: the way we play, what we eat, where we smoke, when we can drink, how we drive, how we parent, where we educate – all under the pretense that it is for our own collective “good.” These people are not only hysterical about their own kids, but they are hysterical about all of our kids, and they use the power of the state to force others into obeying rules and preferences set forth by them because they believe that only they know what’s ultimately best for all. These are the self-anointed Safety Czars – mere “concerned” citizens who have a penchant for cross-examining the lifestyles of their fellow humans, and they are never lacking in “expert” advice or a slew of new ideas for more laws to defend each of us from ourselves.
One critic of the Free Range Kids blog wrote Lenore to say, “If you want them to run wild and stay out of your hair, you shouldn’t have had them.” This is a typical and tedious response from a blind advocate of coercive “safety” to any person – such as Lenore – who bucks the conventional wisdom concerning the “rules” of parenting.
On the contrary, Lenore has gone above and beyond the typical passive parenting role. Instead of dumping her kids off at the double doors to the local mall or allowing them to hole up all day in front of black boxes that offer up the pursuit of mindless electronic entertainment, she has allowed her son to develop the soul of an explorer. She has opened up his world and allowed him to use his brain and self-assess his sense of independence while learning how to handle uncertainty and adventure. She has given her son an opportunity that will open up his world to many unique options. Meanwhile, her parenting peers will be slapping down her rights as a parent to decide what is best for her own child, demanding that someone somewhere pass some law that will forever defend their fear mongering preferences and rob the freedom of others to do as they see fit.
I, too, was raised a Free Range Kid. My Dad didn’t have a fear-mongering bone in his body, and Mom just never really cared to spend hours on safety and oversight details. I never took gymnastics, dancing, or piano lessons, but instead, my time was my own and play was unstructured, and I was supervised only from a comfortable distance. I was never shuttled from one predetermined activity to another based on my parents’ proclivities for all things popular and benign. As an adult I realize how immensely I have benefited from those early freedoms to explore and pursue with the blessing of the folks who brought me into the world.