Hate Mail

Dear Readers: This arrived today. I think the attitude of this writer happens to be the  prevailing one today. Voila:

I’m sorry, but I think you parents are naive and negligent to allow your children to walk alone to & from school.
Do you people not watch the news or read the papers?  Do you honestly not realize the number of children who are abducted while walking unaccompanied?  I think some of you just use the “free range” crap as an excuse to sit on your lazy behinds at home instead of getting up off of your non-working behinds and walking your child to a bus stop or to school.  I’m sorry, but this is absolutely ridiculous.  Then when your child disappears, you’ll be all over the news crying and wondering how such a thing could happen.  Well, I’ll tell you how it happens:  you allow adults free range access to your kids.  This ought to be a crime.

Let’s take this letter’s issues one by one, shall we?

1 – Do you people not watch the news or read the papers? Maybe we try to watch a little less because of the grossly distorted picture it gives us of the world. A world where, on TV, children are being abducted 24/7. A world where producers are so focused on abduction stories that you’d never realize that actual sex crimes against children have fallen by 50% over the past 15 years. (And they’ve fallen against adults, too. So it’s not just that no children are allowed outside anymore. ALL violent crime is down.)  There are also things we DON’T see on TV. We don’t  see the depression and obesity and misery of children who are cooped up on sunny days with their snacks and computers and budding diabetes. We don’t  see the kids who have no idea  how to go to the park with a ball and make a friend. We don’t see the young adults  called “teacups” by college administrators — students  so fragile they break (down) the minute they leave home. That’s why we advocate spending a little less time in front of the TV and a little more time in the real world.

2 – Do you honestly not realize the number of children who are abducted while walking unaccompanied? We sure do realize that there is crime in the world. That’s why we take action! We prepare our kids to do everything from cross the street safely to stand up for themselves if they’re bullied, or worse. We teach them how to demand help from strangers, how to call attention to themselves if they need it. Unless a parent is willing to be or hire a bodyguard to accompany his/her children every single second of every single day — and watch over them when they sleep — at some point those kids will be on  their own. We want them prepared, not helpless.

3 – I think some of you just use the “free range” crap as an excuse to sit on your lazy behinds at home instead of getting up off of your non-working behinds and walking your child to a bus stop or to school. Well, I don’t know whence comes the notion that Free-Rangers don’t have jobs, but I do admit to a certain amount of laziness.  This dovetails nicely with allowing children to grow up and take their place in the world, rather than remaining babyishly incompetent long past when it’s cute. Gradually exposing our children to risk rather than totally eliminating it (an impossibility) is our goal. Why? Because that’s what makes them safe.

4. This ought to be a crime. What ought to be a crime? Letting our kids do what children in the rest of the world do, i.e., walk to school? Believing in our kids and our neighbors and our own parenting? Believing that sometimes bad things happen randomly and that the abductions you speak of were not the result of negligent parenting? Should we criminalize the fact we believe that even the most hands-on parents cannot control everything, which is why we try to train our kids for life’s contingencies?

Readers, this letter writer speaks for the millions of people who think Free-Range parenting is criminal. Literally. That is why I now hand her over to you, yes, even on a day when we are all hoping the very best for the 7-year-old gone missing in Florida.

In the face of that front-page news, it is all the more difficult to explain why Free-Ranging makes sense.  I invite you to try.   — Lenore