“Wish I’d Been Raised More Free-Range”

Hi Readers — Just got this note from a gal named Heather. You know I don’t dwell on, or even endorse, the idea that kids who have been overprotected  will turn out badly, because, first of all, that would mean that parents are solely responsible for how their kids turn out — a notion I don’t subscribe to. Secondly,  I really do believe that, in the end, most everyone turns out okay, so long as their parents loved and fed them.

BUT helicoptered kids do miss out on a lot of childhood, and they may have to overcome some hurdles that Free-Range Kid don’t, as this letter illustrates. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’ve been following Free-Range Parenting since Lenore appeared on the Today Show. I was already a Free-Range parent at that point, but didn’t have the verbage to describe my philosophy.

I grew up with helicopter parents, to some degree. They didn’t get as involved with teachers/grades, but they certainly restricted my independence. I remember with irony, having to drive home on the freeway as an 18-year-old to go to my father’s funeral. It was my first time driving on the freeway because I had never been allowed to do so by my parents.

I’m sure my experience was unique in that my dad died when I was 18. But, I remember feeling completely unprepared to be an adult and having no one to turn to once he was gone. I also have vivid memories of my mom telling me never to talk to strangers. Strangers were BAD!!

After my dad’s death, I struggled for two years. With therapy, things have turned out okay, but I certainly struggled with low self-esteem and anxiety. I have taken the opposite approach with my 10-year-old son. He started walking home from school alone in second grade. He’s an amazing kid with lots of independence. I enjoy watching him thrive as a Free-Range Kid! — Heather

The road to independence, for one helicoptered kid.

UPDATE!! Outrage of the Week: Mom Convicted in Death of Her Son (Who Ran Across the Street)

UPDATE! Readers — Here’s a petition asking Georgia to release the mother from her “vehicular manslaughter” conviction and PUT IN A CROSSWALK! I just signed it! — L. 

Hi Readers — This case is so sickeningly sad, I don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, a blog I’d never heard of before — Transportation for America — does a PERFECT  job of summing up the whole story and why it is such an outrage. Read it right here and kudos to the author, David Goldberg.

In brief: An Atlanta mom and her three kids got off a bus stop that is across a busy highway from her home. She COULD have dragged everyone to the next light,  three tenths of a mile up the road, but it seemed to make sense to try to cross. Not only was her apartment in sight across the way, but the other passengers who disembarked were crossing the highway right there, too.

So she and her kids made it to the median, but then the 4-year-old squirmed away and got killed by a drunk driver. The driver was convicted of a hit and run.  The mom was convicted of vehicular manslaughter. Yep. But as Goldberg says:

What about the highway designers, traffic engineers, transit planners and land use regulators who allowed a bus stop to be placed so far from a signal and made no other provision for a safe crossing; who allowed – even encouraged, with wide, straight lanes – prevailing speeds of 50-plus on a road flanked by houses and apartments; who carved a fifth lane out of a wider median that could have provided more of a safe refuge for pedestrians; who designed the entire landscape to be hostile to people trying to get to work and groceries despite having no access to a car?

They are as innocent as the day is long, according to the solicitor general’s office.

Goldberg also points out that none of the jurors who convicted the mom had ever even taken a public bus in Atlanta. They all had cars. In other words:

They had never taken two buses to go grocery shopping at Wal-Mart with three kids in tow. They had never missed a transfer on the way home that caused them to wait a full hour-and-a-half with tired and hungry kids for the next bus. They had never been let off at a bus stop on a five-lane speedway, with their apartment in sight across the road, and been asked to drag those three little ones an additional half-mile-plus down the road to the nearest traffic signal and back in order to get home at last.

When we prosecute parents who are trying their hardest, who make mistakes, or who misjudge a situation, we are prosecuting them for being what parents have always been: human. Not superheroes with super strength, judgment, fortitude and foresight.

A human parent is what I am and what we all are. Let’s not make that a crime. — Lenore