I find some aspects of free-range parenting very admirable. In many ways, my childhood was a "free-range" childhood: I walked to school with a classmate, walked to stores alone as a teen, hit up my friends' homes by walking alone within reason, and generally traveled in packs of kids rather than adult-led ways of traveling. Going to the park alone wouldn't have been a big deal unless I was younger than a certain age. Typically, I played right on my block outside and didn't go very far anyway.
I think my childhood is far more ideal than the current day and age in which kids rarely play with other kids after school, and if they on a rare occasion do, it's orchestrated by adults, and rarely do kids get to walk to and from each other's homes. I had fewer activities to do and less homework and generally had a good schoolwork-fun balance. It helped I was good at school.
But let's face it: our lives aren't really free-range anymore in that particular aspect. And while I monitor my parenting to be sure I am not hovering and have made an incredibly independent almost-5-year-old who does many things without help, I have to say: I don't think I could completely free-range parent. Could I let my kid walk to the bus stop alone like I did? Sure. Could I let my kid walk down the street to see a friend? Yes. Could I let her walk and hang out in a park for hours, alone?
Eh, on second thought, I don't know.
I know that part of my reasons hinge on an air of imagined terror — that the boogeyman lurks around the corner waiting to take my child. But in some ways, these terrors are not imagined. Sure, we could go to a public event and deal with a shooting perhaps more likely than someone trying to snatch her from the park, but as a woman who has met many "boogeymen" in her time, I don't feel settled. Statistics could tell me that there is less crime than there was when I was growing up, so maybe my feelings are imagined . . . or not. Perhaps we have become more anxious as parents as a whole? I would say yes: not only parents, but also society.
It's not just about my anxiety (yes, I worry) but also about the fact that the peers my daughter will grow up with will most likely ALSO not be allowed to roam. So it's a mixture of reasons.
What I do like about the general philosophy of free-range parenting is allowing kids to learn street smarts, as well as gain independence and confidence from themselves and not from parent approval or instillation. This is something I am on board with. My daughter's teachers often let the kids figure out their problems on their own unless adult intervention is absolutely necessary. This is a good way to teach kids how to "fight fairly" and cope with life right in the wild itself! Sign me up for parenting that allows this and gives kids the chance to make choices.
But to free-roam? I struggle with that. My daughter is not yet 5 and so this has not come up for me yet as a parent, but I think for me and possibly many parents, it's finding a balance between recognizing how society functions today (and not back when we were kids) but also allowing kids to learn how to make choices and function in the everyday world without being riddled with worry.
And therein lies the real problem, well, for me at least: how do I manage my own worries and fears without having it impact my daughter? I think so far, I am managing that task well, but for me, it's a fine balance. I can't be the only parent struggling to juggle those emotions. I often find myself fitting in with "no" parenting technique or style. I suppose I am doting like "hover parents" and stubbornly persist for my daughter to make her own choices (free-range parenting), and at the same time, I will gather her for nighttime snuggles when she needs me (attachment parenting). I'm beginning to think there is no real right way to raise your kids besides the one you create.
And as they say, "Raise the kid you have, not the one you want."
Each child needs a different way of growing up, and perhaps as my daughter and I journey through life together, it's not just her learning and growing — it's me, too. We're both "growing up" together.