Free-Range Parenting

Utah just passed a law to protect parents from being found neglectful for practicing what’s termed as “free-range parenting.” Haven’t heard of this? Apparently, letting your child walk unattended in your neighborhood is “free-range parenting.” Don’t we just call that parenting and letting our kids be kids?

One incident that triggered needing laws like this was two children walking home from the park where they were playing in Silver Spring, Maryland in 2015. They were picked up by local police and held in Child Protective Services. Their parents were charged with neglect.

You have got to be kidding me?

“Come home when the lights are on.” This is a phrase children of the 70’s and 80’s know. We were all outside in our neighborhoods hanging out with friends and singing to Madonna on our portable radios. We were riding bikes, picking up candy at the corner store and waiting to see when the street lights came on to head home. You loved the summer time because that meant they came on later!

I didn’t have a phone with GPS tracking built in so my parents could keep tabs on me. I told them where I was going and headed out with their trust that I would return. They never would have dreamed they could be arrested because I was off exploring crawdads in a creek somewhere.

Are we really at the point where being a “helicopter mom” is the normal way to parent? If that’s the case, welcome to a world full of even more socially awkward people who are asking their parents if they can go to Suzie’s house when they’re 42. Our kids need the opportunity to explore and problem solve.

How is my 12 year-old going to learn how to deal with adults that don’t like teenagers if I don’t let her go out on her own? She went to our local park with our dogs and got verbally bitch-slapped by a mom from the neighborhood. She came home, cried, we commiserated and then talked about that mom’s perspective. Her dad and I then gave her tips on how the situation could go better next time.

Learning opportunities and adventures don’t happen if they are under my watch 24/7.

So, my name is Jessica, and I’m a free-range parent. Lock me up and throw away the key!  I will rest easy knowing my kids won’t be living in my basement the rest of their lives because they don’t know how to be citizens of the world.

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