Free Range in the City

My husband texted me a link yesterday about Utah’s new “free-range parenting” law that passed. Although neither of us knew such a law was in the works, we were both so happy to see it happen. The law exempts from the definition of child neglect various activities children can do without supervision, permitting “a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities …walk, run or bike to and from school, travel to commercial or recreational facilities, play outside and remain at home unattended.”

It’s about time our country comes to its senses!

While I think it is insane that we need laws to protect good parents who choose to parent as they see fit, I also think the culture that brought us here is insane. This is a culture born of fear and paranoia. A culture that pays no attention to odds or likelihood. This is a culture that assumes the worst and busts out the torches and pitchforks with no hesitation. This is a culture I just don’t want to be a part of.

Living in a big city, my kids are worldly and aware and capable. I’d love to let them run across the street to the grocery store to grab milk and the Sunday paper while I stay at home.

But, I don’t. Not yet, at least.

Not because I’m worried something bad will happen to them, but because I’m worried something bad will happen to me. I’m worried a nosy busybody will see my kids “on their own” and call the police or DCFS. I know I am a good parent, but I certainly don’t want to justify my parenting to a judge or a cop.

When I was a kid, my mom would leave all five of us in the car while she went grocery shopping. No one accused her of bad or lazy parenting. Of course, my siblings and I would have much rather tagged along with her into the store, but no 1980′s mother in her right mind would have allowed that. What was the worst that could happen?!

I firmly believe that my kids’ lives are at greater risk walking through the grocery store parking lot than sitting alone in the car for five minutes. I can get the errand done a lot quicker on my own, so of course, it is easier for me to leave them in the car. And, why is that so bad? Why do we all insist on making life harder for each other?!

So, I’m here to fess up in hopes that we can all regain a little sanity:

1. I let my kids use public bathrooms on their own.

2. I let my kids go into the local bagel shop on their own.

3. I send my kids into the dry cleaner to pick up our clothes while I wait in the car.

4. I let my kids play outside on their own.

5. I let my kids make tea, cut fruit, and prepare frozen pizza on their own.

I do all of the above, and more, not because I am a bad or lazy parent, but because I don’t want my kids to be bad or lazy adults. I love my kids and I want to keep them safe, but I also want them to appreciate the feelings of independence and self-reliance. I see their confidence soar when they manage tasks on their own.

Maybe this weekend I’ll send Evie to the grocery store on her own…she’s almost 10 and as her parent, I believe she is ready…and isn’t that what really matters?!

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Written by Maureen

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