My Problem with Free Range Kids...

How do you feel about letting your children be Free Range Kids? I don't want to keep my kids shunned away from the great outdoors, but I don't feel it's the same 'world' out there from when I was a kid.

AKA: there's no one around.

With soccer practice, daycare centers, moms and dads at work all hours of the night, people shut up in their homes watching TV, on the computer, playing video games, whose outside watching the kids? Or, more realistically, what kids are left? There is basically no one out there to play with...the place is a ghost-town!

I remember getting to play outside a lot, and without my mother watching over me like a hawk. And I grew up right outside Detroit (12 Mile Road). I was free to roam the block by myself, ride my bike, play in friend's yards.

But the difference between that neighborhood and the one I live in today is that, while my mother may not have been outside to watch me, there was always a handful of neighbors outside in their yards, sitting on their porch, hanging out in their garages. No matter how many houses down the road I went, someone was there who knew me, who knew my parents, and knew when to head me back home.

Where we live now?

There is no one outside. Zero adults. And kids? I know there are some around, but you'd never know it by looking outside. I tell you - it's a ghost town!

But my kids are outdoor animals. They love to run around crazy, dig in the dirt, climb trees. Bikes, hikes, swimming pools. You name it, they're game. And our neighborhood is okay. There's space enough to roam, some street traffic but not much. However, unless I'm out there with them, I can't just leave them out there by themselves. How? There isn't a living soul out there besides them. No one is watching them. There's no one outside ever. No adults. No kids. No one. It sucks.

So enters my problem with free range kids. I think our world has changed. At least in ghost-town suburbia. Of course I can shell out hundreds of dollars a month to involve my kids in sports and classes so they can 'play' and 'make friends'. It seems that's what every other parent out here on the East Coast does. But I want my kids to have time to be kids. I don't want them bombarded with more rules and restrictions and uniforms. So, instead, they have each other and a sea of empty lawns they're not supposed to walk on.

God forbid someone step on grass made of gold...

Yes, I am cranky. I thought this was going to be easy, as in easy to give my kids what I had - freedom. I don't want to say that letting your child have free range is a bad thing. I love it! I want that for MY kids too!

But with vacant neighborhoods and children being abducted right out of their own front yards, I don't know what to do. I don't know what is the safest bet anymore: let them play outdoors with the mosquitoes (benign) and occasional stray wandering adult or teenager cutting through the neighborhood (not so benign); or keep them safely indoors to tear up the place, play Wii all day, never getting time to become acquainted with Mother Earth, bugs, trees, sunshine, fresh air...

What about you? How do you feel about this? Do you allow your children free range of the neighborhood, sans supervision? Or are you like me, possibly letting your imagination get carried away, possibly not.

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