Free Range Parenting

From 1972 to 1976, my family lived in Alice Springs, Australia. At the time, it had a population of about 13,000 people, and no major grocery store, movie theatre (though it did have a drive-in), bowling alley, or mall. What it did have was abundant space for a teenage boy to get in the appropriate amount of trouble.

Sometimes inappropriate amounts, too, since teenage boys are inclined to do dumbass things like set the lawn on fire. Here on the Palouse, the adults set whole fields on fire, so I think I should get a retroactive pass on that particular infraction. Just saying . . .

My brother and I, on a regular basis, would shove a can of beans into the sleeping bag and head into the bush with our friends. When asked where, we'd kind of wave a hand in the general direction we intended to go. Parents would nod. It was understood that we should be home at a reasonable time the next morning.

Sleepovers (always outside in sleeping bags and sometimes tents) were augmented with a midnight trip downtown to the donut shop/Christian center next to the pizzeria. They had the best donuts ever, and I first started drinking coffee there.

Random Saturdays would see us climbing Mount Gillam, random granite formations, or heading off to the pool on our own. Lizard hunting was popular, too.

When we got back to the States, we wore the tread off bike tires, hiked the woods behind the house, and messed around with pellet guns. Again, general notice was required to be given and permission was pretty much assumed baring a major punishment.

When I became an adult and had kids, we encouraged them to head outside and play. Yep, needed to know roughly where they were at and with who, but the kids were relatively free to explore. My with and I used the same admonitions as our parents. Don't get into trouble. Be home by dinner/dark, whichever came first.

They have a term for such bad parenting behavior now - Free Range Parenting. In Maryland, they'd like to make it a crime. The authorities get substantial help from busybodies who apparently have no idea that the world has gotten safer, not more dangerous. In this case, CPS abducted the kids, held them for five hours, and then returned them to the parents.

Now my daughters are having kids and I am tickled that they are raising free range youngsters. I'm watching as they grow more competent and independent as they learn how to conduct themselves in a variety of environments and discover their own capabilities.

You know, the kind of things that lead to adulthood.