I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime between 1989 and 2015 “the village” lost its mind. It seems like every day there are reports of parents being arrested for simply letting their children play outside without hovering over them. The things parents are being arrested for are the exact same things that we were allowed to do when we were kids.
As a result, neighborhood streets are empty and parents are terrified to allow free, unsupervised play. These are not toddlers we are talking about but 8, 9, 10 and 11 year-olds who are being taught they have no right to play at the neighborhood parks without the ever watchful eyes of parents. Debra Harrell is one mother who bears the scars of the nanny state encroaching on her right to parent for allowing her 9 year old to play in the park instead of sit with her at work all day. Nicole Gainey is another mother who was arrested for letting her 7 year old go to the neighborhood park unsupervised. Tammy Cooper was arrested for letting her two children ride bikes outside of her home. She is suing and I hope she wins.
These are just a few of the ,any stories popping up all around the country as our culture nosedives into total acceptance of a surveillance state. Our children are suffering under unreasonable restrictions and we should be concerned about their ability to function independently as adults. And maybe that’s the purpose — to retard the development of dependent children into independent adults so that children go seamlessly from dependence on parents to dependence on an all-powerful government. We should fight this in our own homes and seek to produce highly independent and therefore inherently American citizens.
Here are 10 ways to do that:
10. Play on “Dangerous” Playground Equipment
Has your park taken down all teeter-totters? Are merry-go-rounds a thing of the past? Build some in your backyard. Monkey bars look too high? Let them swing on them anyway. We are simply too concerned with the safety of children around things that really are not that unsafe. If Little Jimmy gets a broken arm, he’ll also get a memory of an itchy cast and friends who signed it and learning how to do stuff with his other hand along with all that extra attention from Mom. It’s not the end of the world.
9. Climb Trees
Wherever we go, if there is a tree my oldest daughter is climbing it. Yes, it makes me feel queasy, but up she goes anyway. Could she fall out and break her neck? Yep. But I can’t wrap her up in bubble wrap and lock her in her room. That’s just crazy. Let them climb the trees and just pray harder.
8. Use Power Tools
I’m not suggesting you let your 6 year old operate a jigsaw for his first experience with a power tool, but kids love to learn new and exciting things. One year we used a drill to carve pumpkins and my husband let the girls take turns drilling holes into them. It was so fun to watch them do this. It’s never too soon to teach safety around power tools either. It’s a good learning opportunity and it gives them a chance to practice a skill. You’ll also reap the benefits when you need pictures hung and one of your kids can do it!
My 8 year old asked for a whittling set for Christmas. I almost said no. Sharp knives near her precious tender fingers? What, are you kidding!? Then Mr. Fox did what men are supposed to do and bought it for her despite my misplaced objections. She is determined to learn how to carve things out of sticks and blocks of wood so now she has these scary-looking, very sharp sets of tools with which to do what she desires. Her very first carving was a leaf in a block of wood. It’s terrific. So far, she still has all her fingers.
6. Bake/Cook/Use Fire
My daughter asked me the other day if she could chop an onion. Honestly, this is so hard for me to let her do, but I let her do it anyway. I handed her the knife, gave her the best instruction I could and then stopped looking. Again, she still has all her fingers. If you’ve seen Master Chef Jr., you’ve already been shocked at the amazing things these kids can do when trusted and allowed. The other night, my daughter made us dinner. It was ravioli soup and it was delicious. Here’s the recipe.
I also recently started allowing her to use the oven, after much discussion about using mitts and how to safely remove trays. The result has been delicious cookies for everyone!
5. Walk or Ride Bikes Around the Neighborhood Without You (or a Helmet)
When I was a kid, my friends and I got on our bikes and rode from dawn till dusk without ever seeing an adult. We knew to get home when the lights came on. That was the only rule we had. Be home when the lights come on. I was 7 or 8 when this began. Some in the group were as young as 5. Today, it’s unheard of to allow your child out of your sight for that many hours. Why? What has changed since 1985? Truthfully, crime is lower. The country is more safe, statistically, now than it was then.
So what in the heck are we doing? Why are we suffocating children inside and sticking them in front of the TV or video games all day?
When we do allow our darlings to ride bikes, we stuff them into helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and anything marketed to protect them. In my opinion, these things are only necessary when you have a new rider who doesn’t know how to balance properly, but once they do, it’s really okay to let them feel the breeze in their hair. If they will be riding near busy streets or on long distances, helmets are probably a good idea. But can we stop freaking out about helmets?
If what happened to the parents in the video ever happens to you, follow their lead. Do not comply and be sure to stand your ground. Our children deserve to live a life of freedom and joy without being scared silly by nanny-state overlords or trapped like prisoners in their houses with parents acting as prison guards.
4. Walk to the Store
Another rite of passage of childhood is the walk to the neighborhood store to spend allowance on candy and ice cream. We did it almost every day in the summer when we were kids. There was a White Hen at the top of my street, across a busy street, and we never missed an opportunity to go there and spend our pennies on Fun Dip and popsicles. Never were any of us escorted by a parent. These are the types of activities that foster independence and self-esteem in children. They learn to trust in their abilities to get themselves to a store, save their money, allocate their money wisely and make good choices. These are essential skills to develop in our children and they cannot learn them while being constantly supervised. Being on their own is the lesson!
3. Stay Home Alone
We recently watched Home Alone for the first time with our kids and it struck me as so odd that the police were so unconcerned with an 8 year old left alone (while his parents were out of the country!) that they barely could rustle up one officer to do a well-being check — and even then the guy rings the bell once, doesn’t make contact and never comes back. That movie was made in the ’90s and it seems that the “helicopter parenting” hadn’t started yet because no one was outraged that the police didn’t seem to care if Kevin McCallister was eating too much ice cream on his couch in Wilmette, Illinois.
Each state has different laws about staying home alone and most of them are absurd. Most 8 and 9 year olds are old enough to be home for 15 minutes to an hour alone while mom runs to the store. Truthfully, they’d probably do just fine for a week alone and even manage to shop for and feed themselves (and possibly fend off a home invasion). Just try telling someone you think your 8 year old could hold down the fort for 20 minutes and see what kind of reaction you get.
Are we raising capable human beings or ignorant, useless dopes? Unfortunately, due to stupid laws, leaving your capable children alone for a bit is risky if it’s illegal. These laws need to be revisited and changed. The legal age to be left at home alone in my state is 13. With Obamacare defining “children” as old as 27 so they can stay on their parents’ insurance, watch for that age requirement to steadily rise until there are mothers being arrested because they left their 20-year-old hipster son in the basement while they went to the store.
2. Shoot Guns and Arrows
This one always gets me in trouble on Facebook. If you want your kids to do something other than grow mold in front of video games, you have to give them something more fun to do. Guns are incredibly fun to shoot. It takes practice and skill to become good at it and children are surprisingly patient about practicing when it comes to something that interests and excites them. Gun ownership is also a great way to learn about being responsible, thorough and careful. There are many learning opportunities when shooting is involved.
No child should ever be given a gun (even a BB gun) and left to learn how to shoot it on their own. This is a parent-led activity and should never be taken lightly. But correctly done, it’s a great activity for family bonding and learning together.
1. Travel Without a Seat Belt
Okay, maybe this is going too far, but does anyone remember car trips without car seats or seat belts? Remember climbing over the bench seat to get to the comfy “way back” where your sleeping bags and UNO cards were? How about waving madly at truckers behind you and getting them to blow that ear-splitting horn? Car trips these days are awful! Everyone is strapped in and strapped down and immobile.
I believe in seat belts. You’d have to be crazy not to. I believe in car seats, too. My mother used to put us in a laundry basket and set us on the front seat as infants. Seriously. That’s not safe. But I can’t help but be sorry for my children on a twenty-hour car trip as they struggle to find a way to use the shoulder strap as a head sling. I’m sad that they will never ride free in the back of a pickup truck or make a comfy bed on the floor of a station wagon with six pillows and a Barbie sleeping bag.
For interesting opinions on this topic, visit FreeRangeKids.com
image illustrations via shutterstock / ISchmidt /