Let’s Hear it for Parents Magazine– And Some of Its Commenters!

Hi Readers — Usually I flip through parenting magazines and am amazed by all the items, activities, foods and basic childhood rites of passage they find dangerous (and possibly deadly). But kudos to Parents Mag for this lovely little blog post about Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day — which is coming up this Saturday.

The tone is receptive, open and calming. Couldn’t ask for anything more. Of course, there are some comments along the lines of, “This is absurd!” and, “Life isn’t the way it was when WE were kids,” and, “It’s easy to push for ‘Free Range Kids’ based on statistics but that means shit when YOU become PART of those statistics.” But get a load of some of the wonderful counter-comments:

Right, our world isn’t like when we were kids. It’s significantly safer.

Also: Why doesn’t the fear of the Unknown Other Driver keep you from driving your children anywhere? I mean, you can look at all the automobile-safety statistics in the world, but that means shit when YOU get hit and YOUR CHILD gets injured, right?

Nah, that’d just be ridiculous, to live your life afraid of something so unlikely as a car crash.

And:

Good gracious! The point is not for the kids to hang out in singles. The idea is for them to hang out together! My oldest child would be so happy if other parents would let their kids out of their living rooms and into their yards. He would love to throw a ball around with some other kid at the park.

I won’t live my life in fear. I won’t let my kid live that way. Do I want to teach my child how to make independent decisions? I do. Do I want him to feel trusted? I do. Do I worry about becoming a statistic? Sure do. But I truly believe my kid should be a kid! (The first day we let him ride his bike to the park by himself – he went there and back 10 times. He was so happy. And nothing untoward happened.)

And, finally:

It is just so sad that parents (like many above) have such fear of the world that they can’t let their kids out of their sight. My son, 8, is already allowed to play outside by himself, ride his bike around the neighborhood, stay at a park by himself, etc….and he’s autistic. And before you think we live in some tiny little po-dunk town, we don’t. We live in a major suburb/city in the Bay Area in California. Without the opportunity to be on his own, how will he learn to negotiate conflict with other kids? How will be learn to wait his turn for the tire swing? How will be learn to trust his gut instincts that something’s going down that he should not be a part of? How will he learn that falling off his bike and getting a scraped knee isn’t the end of the world? He won’t. Unless he is given free reign (or range :P) to experience and learn and grown on his own. Kudos to Lenore and all the other Free Range parents out there that are letting their kids be just that…kids.

Welcome, Parents and Parents readers, to Free-Range Kids! — L.

27 Responses

  1. Wow, I am …blown away by the comments on that article. 1) way to miss the point and 2) not being a parent, not really spending time around parents, I always kind of assumed the knee-jerk fear-mongering was exaggerated.

    Just wow.

  2. I’m so dis-heartened by the comments on this, and other, sites that have talked about this. People really do believe there’s a pervert on every corner just waiting for some lone child to walk by so they can strike? I honestly can’t believe people think they way they do about the world.

  3. Lenore.. I am reading a book called The lost art of sleep by Michael McGirr anyway there was a quote that made me think of this site!!

    Bed is the most dangerous place on earth. More people die there than anywhere else!

    Thought that would be fun to quote to helicoptering parents (who probably have a perfect sleep schedule for their kids.) sleeping is no longer allowed!! ha ha hah

  4. Right, our world isn’t like when we were kids. It’s significantly safer.

    Also: Why doesn’t the fear of the Unknown Other Driver keep you from driving your children anywhere? I mean, you can look at all the automobile-safety statistics in the world, but that means shit when YOU get hit and YOUR CHILD gets injured, right?

    Nah, that’d just be ridiculous, to live your life afraid of something so unlikely as a car crash.

    My god, it’s like this person is reading my mind. I think I’ve left this comment, word for word, so many times in other places…!

  5. lol to your comment back to me.. true… I have never had a baby monitor (even though i have four kids) and never thought that parents are already worried about that…

    the quote was tongue in cheek in the book.. and then said “maybe that is why each passing generation spends less time in bed than the one before’

  6. I couldn’t resist leaving a message on the Parents blog — there were just so many stupid “oh, no, they’ll die immediately” comments that I had to stick up for us.

    We can’t do anything on Saturday — we’ve had a backpacking trip planned for months. But my (12 year old) daughter has to take her unicycle to school tomorrow (long story) and since I can’t pick her up and she didn’t want to wrestle the thing onto the bus after school, it seemed like a great idea to let her just ride it to a nearby playground/park instead. It’s nice and crowded with kids and moms in the late afternoon, so I’m not worried about safety. She’s taking a snack and a phone and a helmet, and she’ll have a couple of hours to play with the uni on the curvy walking track and the amphitheatre stairs before we arrive to pick her up.

    I guess we’re having a “Ride Your Unicycle To The Park By Yourself Tuesday.” It’s sort of our own brand of your event.
    Thanks for giving us a little push toward trying it. If things go well maybe we’ll make it a semi-regular thing!

  7. People are crazy. I was recently involved in a very heated discussion about letting preschool aged kids outside without constant adult supervision (as in, in ear shot with an adult checking ever 5-15 minutes). The argument for why not to was BABY JESSICA. Because, you know, if one child falls down a well 20 years ago that means if you leave your child outside they WILL fall down a well too.

    duh.

    (I think some of my brain cells just fell down a well)

  8. My kids want to go to the park with Aly’s daughter and her unicycle.

  9. Sometimes other parents scare me. Thank goodness there were several others there who delighted me.

    My kids have a karate tournament to attend this Saturday, but they already play out front on their own regularly. I’m pleased to report that none of the neighbors seem to mind. Now if only some would accept my children’s invitations to come play at our house, as my kids do at theirs, we might be getting somewhere.

  10. Our local news had a story tonight of children that were NOT kidnapped, NOT injured, and were, in fact, HELPED by strangers.

    http://kstp.com/news/stories/S1563637.shtml?cat=1

  11. I agree, the unicycle family are our new heros! Hurray for unicycles and the children who ride them without fear!

  12. I just stumbled on to your blog and am delighted!

    Because we are also homeschoolers we get even weirder comments about letting our kids “run free” because they do so at hours when most other kids are in school but for Pete’s Sake – they are usually riding their bikes to the LIBRARY to do research!

    I want someone to figure out which is more damaging/risky – letting your kid play XBox for 8 hours a day or letting them walk to the corner store.

  13. This comment: “Is there a register? Who keeps an eye on the kids? Hmm.”

    Yes. There are forms to complete in triplicate, along with a mandatory waiting period for background checks, home investigations, and DNA sampling. We were going to have optical scanners, but they were so complicated that only the kids could figure out the technology, and of course, they could have gotten an electric shock, so that was a no-no.

    Dear commenter: The Point, you have missed it.

  14. Also: I am totally buying my 10-year-old girl a unicycle! That just screams awesome! 🙂

  15. OMG, Nicole, that’s just like Adam Walsh. Tragic case, but it happened 30 years ago! Pick a more recent case, guys!

  16. This kind of crazy, fearful way of living life is exactly why I haven’t made any parent friends in my area. I live in a large residential community, and there are several families in the neighborhood (not that you’d know it, because in the almost 3 years I’ve lived here I’ve seen kids out maybe 5 times, and usually with a parent right on top of them).

    And also, Aurora will be getting a unicycle when she’s old enough (she’s only 7 months now, but soon😉 )

  17. About the cars being dangerous issue, I know several moms who have their 4 year olds still rear-facing, and talk openly about how parents who have their kids forward-facing before age 2 are negligent.

  18. Ashley, that reminds me…I need to check the law because I am just dying to get my almost 4 year old out of that awful tight car seat and into a much more manageable booster…I think I have to legally wait until he’s 4.

  19. @Ashley: That’s amazing. First, have you asked the moms to cite evidence that keeping a 4-year-old rear facing is safer?

    Second, what amazingly class-biased moms. If you are a lower-income driver of a smaller car, it’s hard (but not impossible) to find a car seat that fill fit rear-facing until your baby is a year old. Forget about getting one of those massive convertible seats for older kids into your back seat rear facing.

    (FYI: The Graco Snugride 32 is a great option for the smaller-car family, especially if you have bucket seats in the front and install it in the center. While the largest 3% of babies will outgrow it before 12 months, most can fit in this seat longer than 1 year.)

    I guess those of us who aren’t part of the upper class are negligent for not buying massive SUVs to accommodate those big car rear-facing-until-5 car seats. Then again, there are actually higher death rates in SUVs than in regular cars, so it’s probably a wash.

  20. To be clear…install the car seat in the center portion of the BACK seat. If you have bucket seats in the front, the rounded top of the car seat will often fit nicely between your bucket seats.

  21. Lisa — Technically, rear-facing is safer for everyone because being rear-facing in an impact reduces neck trauma and chance of whiplash (think about it — you have support behind your head from your seat, but the closest thing to the front of your head is the dashboard/steering wheel/seat in front of you).

    That said, Car-safety.org has stats and all-around information about why people in general are safer in rear-facing seats.

    And as a side note, if you want to see a demonstration of the injury difference between forward and rear-facing seats, check out the Mythbusters episode “Killer Brace Position.” The myth itself isn’t really relevant, but they test both the passenger seats and the (rear-facing) staff seats.

  22. Thanks for all your funny positive comments! The free range unicycle family appreciates your support!

    Here’s an update, since you’re interested: On the way to school this morning, the kid in question actually decided that it should be Ride Your Unicycle To School And Then LATER Ride It To The Park By Yourself Day. So she insisted that I drop her off in some random neighborhood sort of near the school, and she rode in by herself. (Complete with hugely heavy school backpack.) (Which had a stack of orange soccer cones clipped to it.) (Which looked really bizarre.)

    Anyway, so I haven’t had a “what the hell are you doing” call from the school, so I suppose things are okay.

  23. Lisa, it’s not classism, nor fear-mongering, nor cruelty to children to say that rear-facing and five-point-harnesses are safer. It’s basic physics.

    Cars ARE dangerous. They go at high speeds, and are surrounded by other several-ton high speed devices.

    The real solution, which would be a boon to people with less money, would be to improve our communities to make them more pedestrian and bike friendly, and to allow greater public transportation options for most people. That’s a bit long-term, though.

  24. Uly, it’s not classism to say “X is safer.” It’s classism to say “X, which is unaffordable to a large number of people, is necessary in order to make you a good, caring parent.” Personally, I think the “child-rearing wars” are shot through with classism and elitism — and I’m not one to see classism and elitism as quickly as some others.

  25. Rear facing car seats may be safer but as someone who has spent their entire life battling carsickness, I’d rather swim in crocodile-infested waters than ride in one. My child turned forward facing just prior to her first birthday and, not surprising, stopped screaming every single second that she was in the car. Again, safest might not always be best.

  26. Driving a car containing a constantly screaming child doesn’t strike me as “safest,” anyway. Not having an accident because you’re distracted is a lot safer than having one, but with the child in an optimally safe carseat position. So yeah, there are things to weigh.

  27. […] the Park…& Leave Them There Day.” Let’s just say the debate got a little, um, lively. Free-Range Kids posted this response. Check out the comments on both blogs, and feel free to weigh in. Just keep it […]

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