Free-Range at Disneyland (with a 4-year-old!)

Hi Folks! Here’s a heartening letter from Susan in the Northwest, below.

And, on another not: Not to worry — I’ll be blogging AND vlogging and figuring out new ways to get the Free Range message out. I’m always looking for ideas and suggestions and sometimes…help. For instance, if anyone wants to research a topic like comparing two schools — one with a “background check required” policy for volunteers and one without, to see if the checks make any REAL difference (Is the school safer? Do fewer parents volunteer?) — that would be great. Grad students? Sociologists? Anyone? Drop a note!

Anyway, just trying to evolve!   – L. 

Dear FRK:  It’s almost a year now since I discovered Free Range Kids.  My husband and I read the book just before we took our then-4.5 year old to Disneyland.  We had a wonderful time, largely because of Free-Range Kids.

1)  We assessed the threat:  How likely is it that someone can/does kidnap children from Disneyland?  If it happened, it would be all over the news (which has never happened, now has it?), there are cameras everywhere in the darn park, and it is a mile from the rides to the front gate.  And really, what child kidnapper is going to fork over $69 A DAY on the CHANCE that there might be a kid to abduct.  Ok, that one had us laughing.

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2)  We assessed our child.  She’s not a “runner,” one of those kids who will run away at first chance and never look back.  Nope.  She likes to stay pretty close.  Always has.  She’s highly verbal and can and reason like kids far older.

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3)  We assessed ourselves:  What would our ideal day at Disneyland be with her?  Holding her hand tightly, all day because “she might get lost”  – OMG NO!  So we sat together and thought through what guidelines we planned to give her about the day.  About if she can’t see us, we can’t see her.  About what Disney employee name tags look like if she gets separated from us (the most likely scenario).  About placing my cell number on a piece of tape inside her skort in case that happens.  We consciously chose not to take “just in case” photos.

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As we entered the park, we introduced her to a security guard, pointed out the name tag, and told her to find someone wearing one of those if perhaps we got separated.  (She showed him the tape with my cell # on it immediately!)  And we let her run ahead of us much of the day.  When navigating some bunches of crowds, we sometimes reminded her to be sure she could see us.

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We laughed.
We rode rides.
We had fun.

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And I know in my heart that it would have been a very different trip if we had not found Free-Range Kids the week before.

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A few months later, her preschool teacher offered a special program for those kids who were going off to kindergarten and who had demonstrated the necessary skills.  It was called Tumbleweeds, and these kids rode public transportation and walked all over our city, to parks and fire stations and the zoo, with only a few chaperones.  And they felt enormously proud of themselves.

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And in September, upon registering her for kindergarten, several parents of these children asked me how I could let my daughter (gasp) RIDE THE BUS TO SCHOOL?  But ride it she does, very successfully. — A mom who is goofy with glee!