A couple of years ago, someone raised the issue of “free range parenting” in a professional context. As in, an attorney identified their client as a “free range parent” and expected me to know what they were talking about.
“What the heck is a ‘free range parent?’” I asked. I mean, really, I have been a family law attorney and mediator for 25 years and I thought I had heard it all.
“Google it,” the other attorney commanded. It’s days like this when I want to just hang up my hard earned law license and become a professional trolley driver in Hanuama Beach, Honolulu. But I had a job to do, so I went ahead and googled it. The problem was: what kept coming up instead was “free range chickens.” Apparently, it wasn’t quite as popular of a search term as this attorney thought it was.
“A free range parent is someone who lets their kids play outside by themselves,” is more or less what the other attorney came back with.
“Doesn’t that make everybody a free range parent?” I asked.
“No, no, they let their kids ride the subway at age 9 by themselves and play in the park all day by themselves and do oil changes by themselves,” is more or less what I heard them say.
Well, that’s just stupid, is what I was really thinking. I mean, I get it. Parents often feel their kids are overscheduled and/or have no sense of responsibility. When my brother and I were growing up, during summers, we left the house in the morning with our friends, rode our bikes to the playground or the lake and played jacks, hopscotch, basketball, or swam all day. I guess you would call us free range kids. But that was pre-social media and a whole different time in general.
I asked myself: isn’t there something in between the Helicopter parents and the Set Your Children Loose on the Subway parents?
This week my parenting paradigm was challenged. Christian, my oldest, attended sleep away rowing camp at Princeton University for a week and Michael attended Theater Camp at the Beacon Theater in Beacon, NY (as opposed to the other one) all day.
I was more or less okay with my oldest being away until the last day. I woke up and I felt like someone had ripped by newborn out of my arms. Too dramatic? Sorry, that’s how I felt. I had enough, I was ready to pickup my son. Wouldn’t it make a great blog if I could say my son told me he had a great time but he really missed being with his family. Well, he had a great time. But he didn’t really miss us. Maybe a smidge. In fact, he had the time of his life and probably would have stayed there for the rest of the summer if the camp were still going on. He wasn’t free -- they rowed 20 miles a day; and his range was the Princeton campus. But he had a lot more freedom than he was accustomed to and he loved it.
I feel fortunate. My kids and I all row. We are together. Not in the same boat but the same location. We are outdoors on the Hudson River, enjoying nature, sometimes battling the elements. They are free to range as far as their oars and their legs will take them. As long as they stick with the motorboat and get back before practice ends.
Would I let my 11 year old ride the subway alone or sit in a public park all by himself all day? I would not. If that’s your thing, more power to you. We all have to make choices. I choose a messy, disorganized house in favor of spending more time rowing or sailing or reading or basically doing anything with my family. There will be plenty of time for cleaning the house. Some day …
Have a great day, everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo. For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, go to www.LoBiondo.org