A Sweet, Simple Free-Range Success Story

Hi Folks! In the midst of all the usual nuttiness, let’s celebrate a nice little moment, courtesy of a  mom of four in Nebraska. You’ll note, she takes a lot of precautions because this was a first. Eventually, she won’t need them and neither will her kids because they’ll all be more confident and competent,  which is pretty much the Free-Range goal! — L.


Dear Free-Range Kids: Just wanted to send a little note about our own personal Free Range Success story. Our family recently moved from the Northern Virginia/DC suburbs to a small suburb of Omaha, Nebraska. It is much easier to be Free Range when all of your neighbors are doing it too! Kids walk and ride their bikes to school here by themselves, roam the neighborhoods, etc.
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Anyway, my kids were always trying to find ways to spend their allowances, but I was sick of the clutter they were bringing home. So I suggested that they think about using their money to attend a movie. We have four children, and taking everyone out to a show is cost prohibitive. But if two of the kids wanted to spend their own money to go by themselves. . .
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We decided on The Adventures of Tintin, as my older two (boy age 9 and girl age 11) have read the comics and it’s not a movie that my younger two would want to see. I picked a matinee hour, gave them notes to keep in their wallets in case someone questioned them or they needed to call me (similar to your “I am a Free-Range Kid” note), and we talked about the various scenarios that could go wrong and how they would handle them (movie never starts or is cancelled for techincal problems, I’m not waiting for them outside afterwards, etc.). I made them come out after buying their tickets so I could check that they had purchased the correct showing, and they went skipping back in to buy their snacks and watch their movie.
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Needless to say, they had a wonderful time. They shared a popcorn and pop and enjoyed the show. They realized my son’s wallet was missing, and asked for the lost-and-found. When it wasn’t there, they returned to their seats and found it wedged between the seat and the armrest. They came running out to find me waiting for them and to tell me all about it. My daughter had expressed surprise (and maybe disappointment?) that no one had questioned them. I told her that if they behave like adults, they will be treated like adults. They thanked me for letting them go. They were obviously very proud of themselves and I am obviously very proud of them.
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When I posted this adventure to Facebook, my brother commented that he and my younger sister were similar ages when they went to the movies by themselves. He said they sat in the front row and he spilled their pop all over the floor. Twenty years later, it’s still a fond memory for him.
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I would never have done this were it not for the Free-Range encouragement. Thank you for  making our society a saner place to live. – Nebraska Mom

Maybe it's time to let your kids escape to the movies...by themselves?

“Law & Order” & Its Special Victims: Us

Hi Readers — I wholeheartedly endorse this note!

Dear Free-Range Kids: Recently I started watching hours of “Law and Order SVU” (streaming live on Netflix for graduate students wanting to procrastinate!) and it’s really quite absurd to watch after a year of following your blog. The episodes where there is a child abduction or attempted abduction always involve some crazy sicko, and the parents are hysterical messes vowing never to let their child go anywhere alone again, etc.

I have to say that, as I think about it, I cannot off the top of my head think of more the three or four names of children who have been kidnapped by crazy psychos (as opposed to by their own family members in a custody battle or something). But SVU seems to find it a pressing enough problem to make countless episodes about it…I guess my point is just that maybe people are so paranoid because they watch too many TV shows and movies that depict this kind of situation, and we allow fiction to creep into our reality.

Why do we automatically jump to Worst-First thinking? In part, because TV and movies have programmed our brains to think that the worst happens more frequently than it really does. — Emily Tanner

Yup, yup, EXACTLY, yup. And in my Free-Range Kids book I have a whole chapter on how the media chooses its stories, and how the brain stores scary images, and why these influence us even when we KNOW they are rare or even FICTION!

And speaking of my book — here’s a link! It’s $10.17 on Amazon and makes a lovely (non-scary! non-toxic! non-threatening!) present. — Lenore