An open letter to “Free Range Parents”:
I understand that you feel you have a superior parenting ideology. Most of us do. But what you don’t realize is how your choices affect everybody around you. As members of society, it is not just our job as parents to provide the basic essentials for our children: food, drink, and shelter. It is also our job to teach our children how to be fruitful members of society, which includes character traits like consideration of others and skills such as taking turns. I also understand that you think your children will somehow magically acquire these character traits and social skills if you just leave them to their own devises. You believe that simply loosing your children onto the world is preparing them to be independent, self-motivated, productive adults with good judgment skills.
I’m here to tell you that you are wrong.
I understand that you have no way of knowing that you are wrong because you are not there to witness what really happens. When you leave your children unattended in public, you force the rest of the world to parent FOR you. Because YOU AREN’T THERE.
When you drop your children off at the playground so you can go shopping without them, they aren’t the well-mannered cherubs you imagine they are. They run and climb with their shoes untied, falling into other children. They push my child off of the top of the playground equipment. They push past other children on the slide and the steps causing them to fall and hurt themselves. They help themselves to other people’s snacks. They take toys away from other people’s children without asking and won’t give them back. They are rude. They take unnecessary risks. They are inconsiderate. But you wouldn’t know that’s how they behave because YOU AREN’T THERE.
When you drop your children off at the library, they aren’t quietly browsing the books and sitting to read. They are climbing the bookshelves, and playing tag and hide-and-seek. They are being disruptive. They are asking other parents to read to them. They are taking books off of the shelves and leaving them all over the place. But you wouldn’t know that because YOU AREN’T THERE.
When you allow your child under 8 to walk themselves to and from the park, store, library etc, they aren’t walking with purpose directly from point A to point B. They are balancing on the curb leaving them open to fall into traffic in front of my car. They are darting in and out of traffic. They are walking down the middle of the street. This even happens daily in my neighborhood with older kids so don’t think your 10 year old is being a good example and protecting his 6 year old sister from getting run over. They are playing catch with their empty water bottle. They are cutting through other people’s property. (And when they get hurt walking through my yard, I have no doubt you will be suing me for damages when they shouldn’t have been there to begin with.) But you don’t know they are behaving this way because YOU AREN”T THERE.
When they are on their own, the rest of the adults who are there parenting their children, the librarians, and the general public are forced to deal with your child’s inconsiderate, aggressive behavior. Then you have the nerve to be offended when we rise up and stand together to say that we don’t want to have to parent YOUR child because YOU AREN’T THERE. The reason many of the age-appropriateness boundaries for being in public have been codified is because we are tired of having to do your job for you. We don’t want to have to tell your child they shouldn’t be walking down the middle of the street so that we don’t hit them with our car. We don’t want to have to chase them out of our yard because they are getting fertilizer all over them. We don’t want to have to tell them they shouldn’t be pushing past our kids on the playground. But we have to because YOU AREN’T THERE. And we are tired of it!
So please just put away your totally unrealistic ideology and BE there for your kids. I mean really BE there, not just in body but in spirit too. Watch them on the playground and if you see them pushing other kids, pull them aside and tell them that it is not appropriate behavior. Tell them what to do that IS appropriate. In fact, start telling them how to be kind, considerate people when they are babies and toddlers rather than laughing at how “cute” their rudeness and aggression are. Tie their shoes or tell them to tie their shoes. Walk behind them so that they can experience freedom AND safety. Tell them not to cut through other people’s yards. Tell them not to play in the street. Teach them how to be all of the things you want them to be. I promise you that they will NOT learn it on their own. It just doesn’t happen. But you won’t know it until it is too late…because YOU WEREN’T THERE.