Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I've realized something unusual about myself, when the twins and I are at a playground. I generally find myself a shady bench or table, pull out a crossword book, and absorb myself. I'll glance up to see the kids, every now and then, but I just let them do their thing. It's easier with twins, too; they definitely interact with each other a ton.

In much the same way that "feminism is the radical idea that women are equal to men" (attributed to Rebecca West, among others), free range parenting is the radical idea that children aren't idiots. It's realizing that they need to learn through experience. It's not a term I'd heard until recently; in fact, when I first heard about it, I was flatly against it. The idea of not knowing where my kids are? Terrifying.

But wait. I started having childhood flashbacks to following my brothers into the woods, not coming out until my stepmom rang the giant cast iron bell inherited from her grandmother's farm. I remembered the whole neighborhood, ages fifteen and under, dividing up into teams for flashlight capture the flag in the summer. I remember walking to the bookstore half a mile away, in my early teens, and telling my mom I'd be back in a few hours.

Maybe this idea isn't so radical after all. The more I think about my childhood (which really wasn't that long ago!), the more it seems I - and everyone else my age - was "free-ranged."

Thanks to this article by Libby Anne for making me think through this again. I'm interested to see how it affects my future child-rearing ideas!

I'll come back to the twins and I at the playground tomorrow, and write about the Incident that got this stuck in my brain. Though it really wasn't big enough to warrant a capital I.

1 comment:

  1. I have the same recollections of living freely as kid, although I was in the 70s. I expect to do a similar thing with my kids, but it's taking a lot of investment now to get them to a savvy enough place that I'll be comfortable with it.

    I imagine that if they had the words for it they'd self-describe as free-range, but I'm always aware of where they are, who they're with, and what they're doing. I try to hang back really far. they are 5 now; I let them go into the local hippie store and buy their own muffin, while I sit in the car (7' away, watching through the plate glass window. I let them go in the library and return books (while I sit in the car 25" away, and we know all the librarians.) I make them/encourage them to ask their own questions if strangers, and always read folks' name tags so the kids know who they're talking to. I've also drilled them on an emergency plan if they get lost, or have to call 911.

    My party line that they love is, "you can go whatever you want as long as you can see my eyes.)