SAFE-reasonable requirement or obsession?

I just read this post a friend just sent me from a website called Free Range Kids. And it seemed a propos somehow. This whole issue about time and overscheduling and the need to have every minute of the day accounted for in our children’s life is a little obsessive, not to mention psychotic.

The mother who wrote this article did not hurt anyone. She is not guilty of abuse, negligence, or malnourishing her child. She’s just doing what every mother in every generation have found hard to do: LET GO.

Now I say this, after only allowing my nine and seven year old daughters to cross the busy street to go to the store by themselves only about a month ago. These trip are few and far between, and I feel horribly tense everytime they do it. If I had my druthers, I would make them wait for me to be ready and then I would hold them firmly each by the hand and tell them exactly when to cross. I would then tell them exactly what they can and cannot buy and tow them across the street until we were safely inside our own yard, the gate clamped shut. The maybe, just maybe, I would let go of their hands.

Anybody else see the problem in this?

First of all,I am not always going to be there. In fact, I am frequently not there. I work, I write, I have better things to do than lead my kids by the hand. And I think I am pretty safe in saying that they have better things to do than to have me lead them by the hand everywhere.

Second of all, as much as I would like to say I can stop every bad thing from happening just by my sheer presence, that is not true. I can’t. All I can do is make sure they are as prepared as possible to face the world. Yes, I tell them how to cross the street. I tell them what to do if a stranger comes up to them. I give them the pretty common sense guidelines about what is safe and what is not safe. But it can’t just be theoretical- it has to be practical. It’s like Professor Umbridge telling Harry and co. that they can learn how to defend themselves by reading the text book. It won’t work. At one point, they are going to have to cross that street and get themselves somewhere without me.

So, although I have a long way to go and many fears to face before I reach Lenore Skenazy’s level of Free Range parenting, I hope one day to match her courage by letting my kids take the bus to school by themselves.

Even if I do end up dying of a neurosis induced heart attack waiting for them to come home again, it would sure save me a lot in time and gas….

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2 Responses to SAFE-reasonable requirement or obsession?

  1. french panic says:

    Hoo-ray! I love being “the friend” who sends you links that you actually read and inspire you to write something fantastic in response!I loved that my neurotic mother let me take the bus by myself when I was 9 – and I appreciate how bloody hard it was for her to do.I’m going to give myself high-fives now for proof that my useless internetting is sometimes not so terribly useless.

  2. No indeedydo- I check out all the links you send me as they are often pertinent and interesting.My mother once let my nine year old sister walk home from the crappy neighborhood where our school was located to our home on the other side of town because she got kicked off the school bus. My sister totally deserved the punishment but did not have the sense to realize it was a punishment. She had a blast- her first real taste of freedom! And now she takes the subway in New York city all alone too! And she’s not even dead.Now, stop distracting me. I’m working.

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