Letter: I Was Abused as a Child and I am a Free-Range Mom

Hi Folks — Just got this stirring letter from a mom named Cathy. She was responding to a comment on the Free-Range For or Against forum by another mom, Heather, whose father was an abuser. Heather believes that an adult who doesn’t want to constantly supervise his/her kids is not only putting them in  danger, but has “issues” and needs psychological help.  – L.

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@ Heather-I am so sorry for the pain and trauma and immense fear you obviously still carry around with you. I hope you are in treatment.

I am a survivor of physical abuse at the hands of my bio parents, sexual abuse at the hands of a very trusted religious leader, and rape by 3 different men during my teens and young adulthood. It took me years of treatment to be able to let go of my paranoia that everyone was out to hurt me. Becoming a mother brought back those fears some, especially since I am the mother of 2, soon to be 3, little girls!

Thankfully, my therapy worked and unlike many survivors I do not live in fear for my kids. I am watchful, yes. I am careful about who i trust them with. But i certainly don’t fear every stranger on the street or every man who might smile at my kids. In my years of treatment and using online forums I have only once or twice come across someone who was sexually abused or raped by someone they didn’t know. The idea that strangers are dangerous is what is silly. the number of people hurt by strangers is very low.

I will give my kids freedom to play and be confident to be out without me by their side 24/7 because it’s what is best for them. Because truth is even if I try to smother them with my presence and “protect” them 24/7…it can still happen. My own (adoptive) parents were pretty overprotective of me. But that didn’t protect me. Fact is, you can’t stop bad things from happening by living in fear and paranoia of all the “what ifs” ….and i refuse to put my kids in a bubble and destroy their childhood because something *might* happen. I will teach them to be safe, teach them to trust me and come to me if anyone ever makes them uncomfortable or does anything improper. The biggest problem with children being sexually abused is that parents never want to believe it, the kids fear they won’t be believed and often aren’t… because it’s very very rarely some random old man at the park wanting to luck out with some kid they’ve never seen before. That old man is gonna go for the easier target of his grandkids, not waste time hoping to catch a kid alone at the park.

I hope very much my girls never have to experience anything like I have. I will do my best to make sure that never happens. but I will not do that by making them grow up in fear of being alone. I will teach them to be safe, not keep them oblivious and wrongfully think I can be there 24/7 to protect them. It’s impossible to be there all the time. We’ve gotta teach them to be confident, free, and knowledgeable and able to protect themselves. – Cathy

Help Needed! Your “Kids Outside” Stories for Dr. Drew TONIGHT!

Hi Readers — I’m going to be on Dr. Drew tonight discussing the idea of letting kids play outside on their own, a topic inspired by Saturday’s  “Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There” Day.

If you have allowed your children to play outside, unsupervised, either on the holiday or on any other day, the Dr. Drew folks might want you to call in and talk about it on air. (Or they just might read aloud the story.) So they’d like you to do two things:

1 – Write your story here and indicate YEA or NAY if the producers can contact you. (I will forward them your email address if you say YEA.)

or

2 – Call or write to them directly.  1-855-DRDREW5 or 1-855-373-7395. Or write to them at: http://on.hln.tv/1SZ9PG

While we’re at it, if you have any great ways to open minds when parents worry, “But the risk is just not worth it!” and, “But predators will swarm the park if they know children are coming!” please pass ’em along. Always helpful! – L

The Latest Trend: “Alcatraz Parenting”!

Hey Readers! ALCATRAZ PARENTING. Let’s popularize that term, okay? We need it, because we’re getting to the point when children are monitored by GPS, cell phone and camera in ways prison wardens can only dream of! Check out this ad:

The mom says she  has cameras “in the playroom, the living room, the kitchen. And from my mobile phone and computer I can check in on them any time and it just gives me some added peace of mind.”

Great. And just what does it give the children? That added sense that Big Mother is watching. That sense that they are never safe without her electronic eye upon them. (It doesn’t MAKE them any safer, of course. It just reassures the mom.) It also tells them they are never free and never completely to be trusted. Just like prisoners, except with refrigerator privileges.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

Just as I was going to end my post,I got this letter in my email:

Dear Free-Range Kids:

I just got two tickets for child abuse because my 7 yo and her friend were playing in the complex when 2 older girls tried to hit them with sticks. They ran away and my daughter, being frantic, got lost. The police found her and brought her home. They then  gave me a ticket for both girls but not the other girls parents! One officer said I could not let her out to play at all without me. The other said she could but needs to stay close and tell me where she will be, which she always does. There are many children in this complex who play outside alone! They said children under 16 must be supervised.

How are these topics — the cameras in home and the tickets for unsupervised kids — related? They both start with the assumption that children are never safe without an adult by their side, either physically (if they’re outside) or electronically (if they’re inside).

That is a RADICALLY NEW, DYSTOPIAN VISION OF CHILDHOOD! It is not based on reality, as the reality is our children are safer today than at almost any time in history. It is based on FEAR.

The result? Alcatraz Parenting, either by choice, if you buy into it, or by force if you don’t…but the authorities do. – L

Help Needed! 50 Things to Do Before You’re 12

Hi Readers! This is so inspirational — Britain’s National Trust has come up with a list of 50 things kids should do before they’re 12. These include take a look inside a tree, watch the sun come up, go sledding, make a mud pie…

Many of them sound great, a few sound impossible unless you’re living in the outback. But the rationale behind them all makes a ton of sense: We tend to think of childhood “enrichment” as something involving classes and museums (and car rides and money). But free time, exploring and doing things YOURSELF are enriching, too.

Which got me to thinking: Could we make our own Free-Range List of Things to Do by Age 12? Of course this is not a “must do” list because it’s…Free-Range. But still, maybe this could just be a little reminder of the things that are safe and fun and “enriching” that some parents have forgotten about, or avoided out of fear. A list might re-normalize them as part of childhood.

So if you’ve got some ideas, let’s hear! — L.

Good for the list? “Feed some local animal.”

TIME MAGAZINE endorses “TAKE OUR CHILDREN TO THE PARK…AND LEAVE THEM THERE DAY”

Hi Readers! Get a load of this lovely piece by Time Magazine’s Bonnie Rochman! And don’t forget: The holiday is this Saturday! Take your kids (age 7 and up) the local park at around 10 in the morning and hopefully a lot of other kids will be gathering, too. Then leave! Details in that great Time Magazine piece.

Now if only they’d put a photo of me on the cover with a breast exposed…

Or maybe not. – L.

Letting your kids play by themselves at the park is not radical!

We Interrupt This Blog to Bring You the 1970s

…Via this fantastic commercial. Actually, I’d never heard of the advertiser  before — it’s Halfords, which, according to its Twitter feed, is the U.K.’s “leading retailer of automotive, leisure and cycling products.” It also seems to be a leader in supporting Free-Range Kids! (And, okay, nostalgia. But it’s legit!)

Let’s hope seeing all the fun that kids can have outside, on their own, reminds everyone to celebrate Saturday’s holiday: TAKE OUR CHILDREN TO THE PARK…AND LEAVE THEM THERE DAY! Spread the word!

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE!! Post-It Prank Leaves Superintendent Unglued! Now 67 Kids Suspended

Hi Folks! Here’s an update on today’s story about the five seniors suspended from Indiana’s Cascade High School for decorating it, at night, with Post-It Notes. Now a whopping 67 students have been suspended, because they were protesting the suspension of the Cascade Five.

As you can hear in the TV report — presented by the stations “Crime Beat” reporter (making you wonder what exactly constitutes crime in Indiana) — the kids who did the “prank” got permission from a school board member and the head custodian. And even if they didn’t, I agree with one of the commenters on my original post: While it’s being labeled a “‘prank” it could just as easily have been labeled a beautification effort, or a morale booster.

Come to think of it, it IS a morale booster. As Anthony Canaday, the young man interviewed by the crime reporter, put it: “During the week we may not be friends, but when small things happen in a small community like this, we pull together.”

That boosts my morale right there: People uniting to fight stupidity, rigidity and an inflated sense of danger. Right on! — L.

UPDATE: Get a load of this! Superintendent still a stickler, but everything else has changed for the better! No — best!