An Overprotected Kid (Conquering it. At 34)

Hi Readers — Gosh, there have been so many interesting letters lately! Here’s one that has me so proud for the writer. It is so difficult to break old habits, and harder still when those are based on FEAR. But as she discovered: When we deal with the real world, instead of the dreadful illusion we have of it,  the world is OURS. All props to her for being so brave! — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: At the age of 34 I have just started taking classes at night without having a ride home from a relative. ( I’m mildly hearing impaired.) I’m finding out that taking the bus  at night, people watch out for each other, and it’s not all pandemonium like I imagined.  On the bus last night an elderly lady handed me a toy butterfly when I said it was cute.  The only problem I’ve had are when guys get on and they have bad B.O. from work, or someone is drunk and loud before getting kicked off the bus.

Here I’d been taught that even going out after 8:00PM would cost me my life instantly, but I’m realizing I can fend for myself. As a child I was never allowed out of my moher’s site until I was fourteen and I still have crippling anxiety. It’s only been in the past six years I’ve slowly allowed myself to be more a “Free-Range Adult”. Next, despite my hearing problems, I’m going to get a doctor’s note so I can learn to drive. — A.

37 Responses

  1. It’s never too late to start living.

  2. It is totally hard to break habits based on fear! Go, girl, go! I’m proud of her for being so brave, too!

  3. It is never, ever too late.

    I was speaking to somebody about middle school last year. This woman turned down a good gifted program for her daughter because the school was too close to the projects, without even checking the school out. (People get so scared of Jersey Street on Staten Island, but it’s not like you open up the paper and read “another ten shot in carnage on Jersey Street” every day!)

    And she went very huffily that there’s no WAY she’d allow her kids to take the BUS by themSELVES at the age of TWELVE.

    I was taking the bus with the nieces at that time of day for three years. The worst I ever saw on a bus full of middle or high schoolers was that one of them might curse and their friends would shush them because of “the babies”. They routinely got up and offered – OFFERED! – me a seat because I was ushering two small children around.

    This is what this woman is scared to let her kids do, and it’s no different from what this woman found out on her much later bus. It’s perfectly safe.

  4. I had similar transport problems when I first moved out of home and into the city, but for different reasons.

    I lived in a rural area with my parents. I never walked anywhere – night or otherwise – because there was nowhere to walk to. I did have a few friends in primary school that lived, say, half a kilometer away, but that’s half a kilometer along poorly sealed, narrow, twisty roads with no speed limit, lined on both sides by scrub which, this being australia, is full of extremely poisonous snakes, and mostly with no houses within yelling distance. So, yeah, too dangerous for a primary school kid to traverse.

    I’d also never used public transport before – because there was none that actually went by within walking distance of where I lived, and next to none in the nearest town. Whenever I went anywhere, I had to be driven.

    Happily, I managed to figure it all out by myself. I must say though, the public transport website for this city is not at all helpful if you’re actually trying to learn how to use public transport for the first time.

    But, well, I came good, and so will you. Also, now that I can actually walk places where there are sidewalks, no real likelihood of being run over, and no brown snakes, I walk around the city all the time between the hours of midnight and dawn, and have never once been abducted, raped, robbed or murdered, despite my aunt who thinks that I will be (all of them, in that order) if I venture outside alone past about 3pm. I’ve never even been leered or jeered at (well, except that one time, but to be fair it was friday afternoon, I was walking past a crowded pub, and I was carrying a kilo of popcorn.)

  5. Beautiful! Bravo to your Letter Writer. As a free range parent and a grown up free range kid – I am understanding it takes alot of courage from those who live with fear. I applaud those who write to you, sharing how they are seeing truth – and safe streets.😉

  6. Awesome! I think you will love your new-found freedom once you get accustomed to it.

  7. This letter makes me so happy and so sad too.

    I am so glad that she has finally found the courage to face her fears and keep going.

    My hearing impaired daughter is almost 12 and so full of life and vitality. She rides the bus to and from school. She is in the school play.

    She is totally independent and fearless.

    I would hate for her disability to hamper her in any way — and i am grateful that she doesn’t let it.

    As parents we need to do all that we can to make sure our children learn the skills they need to take care of themselves.

    So they don’t have to wait until they are in their 30s to really start living.

    Bless this reader for taking charge of her life. I wish her much success.

  8. Wow, so good she’s starting to find independence. This kind of story strikes me as very disturbing because my own stepmother is completely deaf in one ear and almost completely deaf in the other ear, and she has driven successfully for her entire adult life. She’s visited foreign countries on her own and done a lot of other things people wouldn’t expect from a woman who is almost completely deaf.

    Shoot for the stars. There’s a lot more out there that you can do.

  9. I think it’s great that you, the writer, are making these steps to further independance! Yet, I find it all so remarkably sad.

    I’m deaf (as a post) and I have 5 wonderful children that are, to varying degrees, deaf or significantly hearing impaired. I am a few years older than the writer but not much. I was pushed by my parents from a very early age to be independent. I partially grew up in Canada, went to an american university. Sign language was my first language. It can be difficult to live in a hearing world.

    If you instill fear in your children your children will fear, too. All this said, I really do hope that the writer continues to gain more independence. I drive, I work, I’ve travelled, I have a family (my husband is also deaf btw). I do everything most other people do with the difference that I can’t hear. How difficult this is is in part dictated by society; not hearing is a definate dis-advantage but the advent of such technology as email, smart-phones and other technical aids has brought an immense relief. I can stay in touch with my children in a way that was impossible for my parents.

  10. In 2004 I walked back from a resteraunt in Dahab at 11pm at night. As I was walking back I saw two young men sitting on the curb oppersite to me. One of them shouted “hey lady you want husband” which I found really funny. In 2005,6,7,9 I have traveled to Orlando to stay and travel round disney alone. Going to Bush Gardens Kennedy space station by car alone. In 2009 I traveled around Moscow using their subway sytem alone (try buying a big mac and fries when you don’t speak russian got the food didn’t manage to get a drink. If you take reasonable precautions you don’t have to be scared about travelling round the world alone. I did once do a group holiday and found that I hate the whole group trip bit I LIKE travelling alone. When my mother is better (probably next year) I want to spend my birthday in New York.

  11. Wow, I’m really proud of the letter writer!

  12. Dear Free-Range Kids:

    I didn’t really know where else to direct this, so have a comment to a pretty much unrelated post! I am a 25-year-old woman who started her childhood more free-range than she ended it.

    When I was small, we lived in a little residential area in Arizona. We knew most of our neighbours, at least in passing, and I got into plenty of scrapes. I climbed trees, fell out of trees, rode my bike on our (very painful to fall on) driveway, jumped on a large trampoline with no net (and launched myself off it accidentally more than once). When I was five, I was allowed to cross the street to my friend’s house by myself, and we spent many years running back and forth between our houses, and playing in the street on our bikes. When I was eight, I was allowed to be left home alone, and when I was eleven I was allowed to be left home (for short periods of time) with my six-year-old sister. When I was twelve, I started babysitting the little three-year-old that lived next door. I spent my childhood running barefoot on hot pavement, and making flying leaps into the swimming pool, and climbing any tree with low enough branches, and trying to climb onto the roof of my best friend’s three-story house. I got my fair share of bruises and scrapes, but it was fun and free and I never felt like I was in danger. Stray cats were potential friends (and I did befriend more than a few), and strangers were obviously not necessarily to be trusted, but they weren’t scary kidnappers or murderers, either. I was happy and had loads of fun.

    As I got older, however, I started noticing my parents being more… controlling. While it was perfectly fine for the dad of the little girl next door to take me out for ice cream after babysitting on short notice when I was 12 or 13, being driven home by the husband of one of my mother’s church friends when I was 15 was “unsafe”. My sister wasn’t allowed the neighbourhood freedom that I was given, only allowed to go visit her best friend (whose house backed up to ours and therefore involved no street-crossing) at age 8 if I went to drop her off. By the time I was 18, I had to call my parents if there was the SLIGHTEST change in my plans when I went out – if I’d planned to go to a movie with my best friend, and we ended up inviting a boy or two, or even just another girl my parents didn’t know, to come along, I HAD to call home and make sure it was okay with my parents – even though I was a legal adult.

    Obviously, as I got older and ESPECIALLY after I turned 18, I didn’t give in to my parents’ frantic need to know everything I was doing, and personally vet every person I spent time with or gave my phone number or email address to. But it always made me wonder – why were they so willing to be content with “I’m going to Walter’s house!” when I was six and seven, never needing any more information about what we were going to do, but the addition of a single unknown entity into my life as an adult was cause for panic?

    Looking at this blog, I’ve realised that what happened was that my parents – my mother especially – were pressured and guilted into being far more overprotective of my sister and I than they’d been in the 90’s, especially the early 90’s. I went from a little girl who was allowed to get scrapes and bumps and was allowed and encouraged to learn how to make pancakes on my own at age 8, to a grown woman whose parents thought was going to be murdered or raped just because she happened to participate in sci-fi/fantasy online forums and chat rooms. I feel bad for my poor sister – she didn’t get nearly the amount of freedom I did as a child.

    My own childhood, and stuff like this, make me determined to let my kids grow up getting scraped knees and splinters, and to teach them how to use knives and climb trees, and not wrap them in cotton wool and teach them to fear anything that might even have a remote possibility of hurting them. My kids will learn to ride bikes without training wheels the same way I did – trial and error, and no special wheels to help them balance. They’ll fall out of trees and burn their fingers learning to cook and make messes and need bandaids and kisses and maybe the occasional trip to the ER. And I think they’ll be better-adjusted people for it.

  13. @Apple: Or, there’s the other possibility that your parent’s were much like my father… a female in her teens (according to his logic) was in much greater risk of being sexually assaulted than an 8-year-old.

    To some degree, this is true. Regular men can fantasize about a teen, but won’t do that with a pre-teen and younger (unless they’re pedo’s). Key here, for those of us with common sense, is fantasize. They’re no more likely to snatch you into a car than anyone else, but for parents I guess the fear can be very real.

    My father was so anti-boys/anti-males that he’d actually threaten me if he ever saw me walking with a boy. This after my first years in the neighborhood were hanging around boys and having my best friends be boys. I think the sex thing is probably what you experienced, not so much the pressure to keep you “safe” from the world.

    In either case, good to know you survived it and are planning on letting your future kids be kids. Just make sure your husband is on the same page! 😉

  14. Way to go!

  15. Great job beating your fears.

  16. @ Nicola – perhaps it’s appropriate for me to relate my experience in this matter.

    I was 17 when I decided that I was ready to become sexually active with my boyfriend of the time. Having paid attention in sex ed, I decided to discuss the issue with my parents, specifically in relation to starting to take the contraceptive pill.

    They didn’t “freak out” per se, but they were really, really apprehensive and certainly against the idea.

    I found it incredibly insulting that they didn’t trust me, at 17, to a) be able to emotionally handle having sex, b) be able to intellectually handle all of the issues surrounding having sex, and c) be able to “know my own mind” in regards to the entire issue.

    Two years (and one boyfriend) later, my dad expressed concern about my new relationship – because he didn’t like the fact that I was risking “getting hurt” (by a potential messy breakup). He still didn’t think that I was emotionally mature and resilient enough to handle having a relationship and potentially having it fall apart. Note that 17 + 2 = 19 at the time, with two previous breakups and no spectacular failure to cope.

    Yeah. Insulting. They meant well, but, insulting.

  17. Lenore’s quote “When we deal with the real world, instead of the dreadful illusion we have of it…” for some reason made me think of Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development and how she would never let Buster (her adult son) swim in the ocean.

    I get that it’s a parody on the show and it’s MEANT to be “too far,” but sadly it is too close to being real.

    Good on you, A for taking the bus and stepping into the ocean!!! We are proud of you!!!

  18. Just one thing though is if our ancestors had had this fearful attitude to life we would not have moved over the entire planet and would be very cramped in one place!

  19. I never read the book, but the title —
    Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway — was inspired. Feeling fearful is okay. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling afraid. But DO realize that just because it feels scary, doesn’t necessarily mean it IS scary. And the more you do, the less you’ll fear, the better you’ll relax, and the more you’ll enjoy.

    Watch out, world — Here comes A!

  20. As Mike said, it’s never too late to start living. Enjoy your new life as a Free Range Adult. I hope it works out for you to start taking driving lessons and getting your license.

    Your attitude about conquering your fears is awesome.

  21. What a great victory. Good for her. The world is never as fearful as we make it out to be.

  22. FYI, deaf people drive all the time. No doctor’s note is required.

  23. Way to go! I’m glad it wasn’t too late for her to learn. But she would have been better off learning it when she was younger. How better her life would have been.

  24. Wow, good luck. My son is profoundly deaf and is as free range as they come…I would never even consider treating him differently because he’s deaf. I do wonder, though, why you need a doctor’s note to learn to drive? As far as I know, unless you’re going for a CDL, there are no driving restrictions based on ability to hear.

  25. Sera, sorry, but it’s not insulting for an adult old enough to have a 17 or 19 year old child to believe that they might have life experience and knowledge about the pitfalls and realities of sexual relationships that the teen lacks. It’s reality. Anyone 17 or 19 year old who believes that 17 is old enough not to need parental advice about such a complicated matter is only proving she REALLY needs it.

  26. @ pentamom – I agree that an adult old enough to have 17 or 19 year old children may (should) have life experience and knowledge that a teen lacks. That said, a 19 year old is an adult. Unsolicited romantic advice from parents IS insulting. A 19 year old has a right to her own heart break and to learn from her own mistakes, so unless there is a serious problem (abuse, criminal behavior, drugs), Mom and Dad need to butt out and let their off spring handle matters herself.

  27. Yeah,pentamom, I agree with Donna and Sera. At 19 you are an adult. When I was 19 I met my husband, worked 30 – 35 hours a week while attending college full time. I paid all my own bills. If my parents had given me unsolicited romantic advice I think I might have been just a little insulted.

  28. That they might be old enough to make their own mistakes doesn’t mean it’s insulting for people who *really do know better than they are* to give them advice. It’s not insulting, it’s *kind* to warn people that they might be making a mistake, especially when it’s someone you’re in the kind of relationship with where that is appropriate. Kids don’t suddenly become unrelated strangers with nothing to learn as soon as they’re old enough to make and live with their own mistakes — they’ll still your own kids, who can profit from the wisdom and experience of those who actually *have it.*

    At 19 (not 17) you might be free to ignore adult advice, and I don’t disagree with that, but it is simply not insulting to be kind enough to care enough to share your wisdom with someone who could not possibly have it, due to their 100% lack of experience with the thing they think they know so much about.

  29. Sorry, that’s *really do know better than they do*

  30. I ride the bus all the time and it amazes me the comments I get about it. I don’t know how many times I’ve had people tell me they would be afraid to ride the bus at night or to wait at the bus stops at night. Funny, the ONE time I’ve been at all uncomfortable (in 3 years) was in the middle of the day, and even at that, while I was uncomfortable, I didn’t feel even remotely in danger.

  31. When my daughter was 4 years old, we traveled to Atlanta to visit my husband on his business trip. While he had to work all day, my 4 yr old and I explored all over Atlanta by ourselves. We walked and took the city bus wherever we needed to go. While at times, it did not feel like the wisest choice of travel method, we survived unscathed!

    Love it! You can teach an “old” dog new tricks:) Congrats to her!

  32. Sera, sorry, but it’s not insulting for an adult old enough to have a 17 or 19 year old child to believe that they might have life experience and knowledge about the pitfalls and realities of sexual relationships that the teen lacks. It’s reality. Anyone 17 or 19 year old who believes that 17 is old enough not to need parental advice about such a complicated matter is only proving she REALLY needs it.

    Did you read what I wrote thoroughly?

    I went to my parents for advice when I decided to become sexually active. What I got was essentially a dismissal of my ability to handle such matters at that age. Advice is what I wanted. The implication that I wasn’t savvy enough to, you know, not let myself be used by men and/or use appropriate precautions, was insulting.

    (I didn’t go to them and say “Mum, Dad, I’m going to start having sex now, ok? Ok.” That appears to be the impression you picked up.)

    What was extremely insulting was my dad telling me he was “concerned” about me starting a new relationship at 19 because I could get hurt. That was also not advice. Again, that was a dismissal of my ability to cope with having a relationship at all. He was “concerned” about me having a relationship at all. Not “you need to be careful with relationships, you could get hurt”, but, rather, “you need to avoid having relationships because you could get hurt and then you won’t be able to handle it”.

    That having been said – at 17 I knew all about various forms of contraception and their failure rates, how STDs and pregnancy work… which is why I wanted to talk about going on the pill before I ever had sex (pill + condom = win). However, I’ve met plenty of 18+ year olds while at uni who have absolutely no idea. I’ve met grown men who actually think that the pull-out method is a viable form of contraception, or who push for using no condom – despite the fact that they have no idea I’m also on the pill (and never thought about if every man who picked up a woman didn’t use a condom…). The woman who used to be my babysitter had a long series of unprotected sexual relationships while in her early 20s… which ultimately ended in a son she still can’t handle having. Just because someone is not legally an adult does not mean that they can’t intellectually and emotionally handle a sexual relationship, just as being a legal adult doesn’t mean you can. Bear in mind that the age of consent in most places in the world (including here) is 16.

  33. Sera, first some men can’t think on their feet very well, especially if he is old school. All I hear from your dad was I love you and I don’t want to see you hurt. He said you could get hurt which means I don’t want to see you hurt. To me he is not trusting them not you. I really think you were reading too much into what your father said to you.

    No father wants to know that his “Little girl” is doing that. So it looks like your insulted because your father should have signed off on you the day you walked out the door as an adult. Well at the age of 21 when my father died. I was an adult and his little girl. He treated me as an adult because I was one BUT he loved me as his child. I was his child and I will always be his daughter. You will always be his daughter and in time when you have your own kids and they become that age you too will understand.

    I have 4 kids of my own and at the time I was 19 I thought wow they are treating me like a kid how dare they… Then I got it many many years later. I even have to remind my own husband to pick his words carefully with our kids as he does make a few mistakes here and there.

    Ill remember your situation so that I can remind myself to choose my words carefully and not assume that my kids will know what I mean. So thank you for that insight. Peace.

    BTW I miss my dad and would love to hear that from him just one more time. He hated my BF… He was right he wasn’t good for me LOL

  34. In my opinion, it is always insulting to give other adults unsolicited advice under the purview “I’m older so I know better.” If the person asks your advice, then advize away, but inserting yourself into a situation is, at nest annoying.

    My mother frequently tells me that she thinks that being a parent of an adult is harder than being the parent of a child. You have to let them make their own mistakes, even if that means that you bite your tongue when they are doing something that you believe is not going to go well. There are limits for things that are serious but otherwise parents need to let their adult children lead their own lives.

  35. “In my opinion, it is always insulting to give other adults unsolicited advice under the purview “I’m older so I know better.” If the person asks your advice, then advize away, but inserting yourself into a situation is, at nest annoying.”

    Look, I’m not saying that adult children are obligated to follow their parents’ advice. I’m not saying that advice is always good, or always offered in a good way. And I’m not saying that there aren’t times when a parent should just butt out.

    But you “inserted” yourself into your child’s life when you conceived her. You’re there. As I said, you don’t just become some random stranger, and your child doesn’t cease in every way to be your child and just become “another adult” when a certain birthday occurs. It takes wisdom to know what to say and when to shut up, but the idea of it being automatically insulting to care about someone you gave birth to strikes me as foolish. I can agree that someone might legitimately find a parent’s advice useless or interfering or worse; I think that people who are “insulted” by any and all attempts at loving counsel are way too easily “insulted.”

    Sera, you are partly right — I did misread you to some extent in thinking that you rejected the very idea of their advice. But I still think the word “insulting” is really inappropriate.

  36. Sera, I see what you’re saying. I went to my dad at 12 to ask about sex – not because I wanted to have it or anything like that – but because I saw how my friend was able to talk to her parents about it and wanted my father’s perspective. My mother had passed away when I was 8, so he was the only one. What I got was a very red-faced, angry man shouting at me, “DO YOU WANT TO END UP A PROSTITUTE ON THE CORNER?” Literally. That was the last time I asked him anything having to do with my anatomy. (I think he had his own skeletons in the closet to fly off like that, but I digress…)

    I can see how you’d say it was insulting to have your dad talk to you that way. I see what some of the others are saying too. I think what we should all see is that even the most well meaning of talks can be perceived badly if it’s delivered in the wrong way.

    I do think your dad was just trying to be helpful, but I also know at that age, I felt my dad was the biggest hypocrite on earth and much of his “advice” went by the wayside as I trudged my own path. I don’t regret that choice, either, I should say. I don’t balk at your choice of words simply because, I don’t know your situation personally and knowing mine, I can easily come up with a whole host of words to describe what I thought of my dad, none of which would nab me a “Daughter of the Year” award.

    All the best to you. 🙂

  37. It’s never too late to start conquering the world.
    And it is never too early to start believing in the goodness of community and trusting people.

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