You may have seen the articles about the Meitiv family in Maryland who have had their children, ages 6 and 10, taken from them and placed into Child Protective Services this year for "unsubstantiated neglect". The neglect was allowing their children to walk home alone from a park near their home - less than a mile away.
Their case has been thrown into the national spotlight and is raising questions about the parenting style deemed free range, a stark contrast to the helicopter parenting trend.
I align myself more with the free range parenting style. My children are well-cared for, protected and guided but I encourage them to try things on their own, build confidence, and gain independence. I rarely used a baby monitor because I felt I could hear if one of my children needed me nearby. We sometimes allow them to play in the street (it's a dead-end) in front of the house and in the backyard.
Today's picture shows my youngest son at a public beach in Montauk, NY last summer. I snapped the pic because he was happily exploring, comfortably examining his environment. Looking at the picture now, some may feel he was pretty far away from where I was, but there are two lifeguards between him and the surf. He's in my sight and I'm paying attention to what he's doing - but I'm allowing him to be a kid.
We tell ourselves we grew up in different times, different places and of course we want our children to have it better than we did. I don't want my children to grow up thinking they need to constantly look over their shoulder for my approving eye or that they always need an adult to guide their playground games. I want them to make up their own rules for their own games, and then learn what to do when one of their playmates wants to change the rules. Conflict resolution, tolerance and patience can all be learned this way.
When we walk through our neighborhood and participate in our community, we see other families teaching similar values. Children leave the local library programs, swing by the deli and grab a treat before heading back to their parents. Boys and girls ride their bikes and scooters with fishing poles hanging off one side and a bucket off the other. They have places to go, friends to see, and adventures to create - but only if we decide to let them.
Maybe it sounds too ideal and perhaps I'm being naive to think children can grow up like this today. I don't want to track the kids using an app, I want to get a text from Mrs. H on Oak Street that she saw them coming home. I don't want them to be afraid to play at the park down the street, I want them to say hi to their neighbors on the way, and pick up their friends, too.
I'm proud to be a free-range mom and for letting them be little boys and have fun the way kids should. And I really hope no one calls CPS on me for not being a helicopter mom.