Sunday, October 4, 2009

Free range kids

I read an article about a journalist, Lenore Skenazy, who says we overprotect our kids today. Seems the mom let her nine-year-old son ride the subway in New York – alone - earning her the title of “America’s worst mom.”

My first thought was, “Whew, Glad that one is taken!” My second was, “I guess that puts a damper on play dates at her house.”

Her book is called Free Range Kids, and you can read her defense of her behavior here. Now, I haven’t read her book, and I’d never lived anywhere near a subway, or even a bus stop, for that matter, so I can’t fully weigh in on the topic. However, from my Southern smothering mom point of view, it sounds horrible! I sure wouldn’t want to ride the subway alone.

Yet, I do know that when I was growing up, we (my sister, neighbors and I) spent hours roaming the woods – alone - behind our house, sidestepping copperheads, balancing fallen trees over ravines, and marveling firsthand at how much damage beavers can do at the creek/swamp. Oh, not to mention discovering the remnants of a moonshine still near an old shack that was still, apparently, used for gambling.

During the summer, we’d shed our shoes and leave the house first thing in the morning, go into the woods where it was cool, poke under moss, climb trees, make huts, you know, just be kids. My mama didn’t worry about me. She knew I’d be home by dinner. There were only two times I wasn’t, and both times something was wrong. Once I was stuck in a pipe propped up by a fence (Please don’t ask) and another I was trapped in a tree house by a large barking dog. Both times I escaped.

Am I saying parents should allow their kids to wander today? No, I’m afraid that, despite Skenazy’s argument, the world IS a different place. Yet, there is something about giving kids blocks of unscheduled time, time to be free, time to explore, time to learn things on their own that, ultimately, makes them become better and more self-reliant. At least until the dinner bell rings.


jo(e) said...

When I was a kid, I too had big chunks of time to just play outside with my siblings or the neighbor kids. Lots of unstructured time outdoors.

I feel very bad for kids who don't have that. Have you read Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods? He talks about the importance of kids spending unstructured time in nature.

Meredith Leigh Knight said...

I have not read that but will check it out. Those days outside in the woods were the best. Of course, I did leave out the part where my neighbor set them on fire once. I was out of town at the time, fortunately for my rear end.

My ADHD Me said...

"Stuck in a pipe"? Oh my. OK, I won't ask, but "Oh My!"

I've never even seen a subway and the thought of allowing my kids on it alone are scary. But people that live in the city probably read about people like us that let our kids go play in the woods and think how terrible that is.

They may think that at least there are witnesses in a subway, instead of just maybe a lone weirdo hanging out behind a tree.

Never-the-less, I feel more comfortable with them running around and doing exactly the things you mentioned than having them wandering a subway terminal.

Have a great day!!

P.S. I, also, am grateful that the title of "Worst Mom" has already been awarded to someone else!!! :)

Meredith Leigh Knight said...

Thank you for your comment. You make an excellent point about folks in NY thinking we are crazy to let them roam free in the woods. And I must admit, I don't think my mama and daddy knew quite how far we roamed!

As far as the pipe story, that may be a blog for another day! LOL

Take care!