Free Range Children

It was on the CBS morning news – parents who were put on notice by the CPS because their children, ages 10 and 6, were allowed to walk to the playground by themselves. The children were “at large” which was, according to the CPS, a case of neglect. The couple has chosen to fight the charge and all the nasty ramifications that came with it. Here is the story if you’re interested. This particular case is happening in Maryland.

I grew up in suburban Maryland, with a few years and summers in Alabama tossed in. Back in my day, kids basically had a few simple rules: do your homework, don’t talk to strangers, and be home for dinner. That was pretty much it.

Are things worse than they were when I was a kid? I don’t think so. But I do think, as usual, we can thank the mass media for hyping every bad thing that happens in the world and basically scaring the spit out of all of us and making us paranoid. Kids are monitored on their smart phones with instructions to call every hour. School buses around here drop off the kids at their front doors or else a parent meets them at the end of the driveway. I understand the fear, but I worry about what all the paranoia and limits on freedom do to a child’s spirit.

But anyway, this is not an opinion piece. The news story actually made me a little nostalgic. I recalled the house where I grew up and how very easy it was to slip out when I was supposed to be in my room doing homework or some other quiet task. So I checked out the street view of my house via the Google Spies:


My bedroom window is upstairs on the far right – over the retaining wall and rock garden that my mom built back in 1954 or so. There used to be a set of casement windows under a large picture window. You get the plan? I opened a window, climbed out and landed on that wall, dropped to the ground and headed on to whatever trouble I was hoping to find, usually finding my friend Annie and spying on neighbors, or heading to the local mall. Then I’d climb back in later, or just sneak in the unlocked front door.

But alas, there is no more escape route. The windows are gone, and I’ll bet the front door is locked with an alarm.

I’m glad my mom was never arrested for letting us grow up and take our chances. I’m glad she never knew all the stuff we did. I’m glad we got to be free range kids.

We still turned out okay.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Shez says:

    Yes, I remember walking nine tenths of a mile to school. No car rides, no school buses, walking was good for kids. Even in the winter. I remember climbing trees, rollerskating in the street without knee pads, riding in cars with no seat belts, bicycles with no helmets, climbing and hanging by my knees from the monkey bars on the blacktop and strangely I do not remember anyone every getting seriously hurt. 😀

  2. Michelle Friedman says:

    I love that we were born when we were. The Lyons sisters changed everything. I too knew once i left the house to be home, either to be back at dusk, or when my mom rang the “cowbell” signaling dinner was ready. And in the Summer. Well rules were different. FREE RANGE looking for lightening bugs. Playing freeze tag riding our bikes etc. until we heard the dreaded “bell”. No worries. Oh btw. We settled our own problems, no parental intervention. Sent from my iPhone Michelle S Friedman


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