My husband and I grew up building forts, making blanket tents, wading in creeks, and riding our bikes all over town -- he lived in California, I lived in New Jersey. We try to imagine our children doing as we did... and recoil from it! Our parents usually had no idea where we were or what we did; as long as we were "in by dark" or "home for dinner," we were not in any trouble or danger. But our parents were wrong.

I was abducted and raped as a child, due directly to a lack of responsible adult supervision. While I realize that "millions of children playing unsupervised outside and becoming healthier and wiser" is not considered newsworthy -- and one abducted child is on every front page -- I also know that when you are that one child, life is never the same again. Yesterday's parents may have been more "trusting" of their children, but they were also oblivious to real threats to their children's well-being. Today's "protective" parents are yesterday's children, grown up, and painfully AWARE that the world is not only less safe than it used to be, but that it was never as safe as our parents believed it to be.

My husband and I work hard to not parent out of fear, but it IS an uphill battle. We think we'd like to "move out," as if a smaller town or country life would solve the problems of modern parenting. We think we'd like to homeschool, because we have watched the horrifying encroachment of the public schools systems into our siblings families (e.g., The Summer Reading List; The School Conference; The IEP Meeting; and on and on and on). [Side Note: These people have long arms! My nephews came home telling us about "Lunch Bunch." This is when the school psychologist -- without the parent's knowledge and/or permission -- "invites" a group of elementary-aged students to have lunch in her office and they talk about their families and home life. My sister was livid, hearing about this ex post facto. Food for thought, folks.]

As much as we have to work against our (overly?) protective tendencies, we are perpetually reminded to "watch the girls, watch the girls," especially by my own parents. Perhaps you can understand that my parents live with never-ending regret.

I do agree that the news media feeds into parents' fears, but we don't even have a TV. We have no relationship to that part of the larger culture, no interest in it. We know our neighbors, about as well as anyone does these days. We are living in the same town that I grew up in. I am 42 -- so, I've been here 42 years -- and it isn't even remotely the same town that it was when I was a child.

It's ironic that I felt safe as a child, when in fact I wasn't, simply because my parents conveyed to me that it was safe to "go out and play." My children probably will not feel safe, when in fact they might be, simply because we convey to them that it is not safe to "go out and play." How can my generation raise "free range children," when we've become convinced by our own personal, painful experiences that the world is NOT a safe place for an unsupervised child? I'll be reading your column for further reflection....

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