Editor says: note the author’s name.
The Free Range Kids movement, if we dare call it that, was started by Lenore Skenazy who had the audacity not only to send her then-nine-year-old son all by his lonesome to navigate the New York City transit system armed with a Metrocard, a twenty-dollar bill, and a handful of quarters, but also to be public about it.
After her column appeared in the now-defunct (and sadly missed) New York Sun, the almost-immediate TV debate was whether she was “America’s Worst Mom.” Due to the reaction that a seemingly innocuous slice-of-life urban parenting provoked, Ms. Skenazy was motivated to start a website where other parents can share stories and also to monitor the insanity of modern child-rearing, which extends until the “children” enter college.
Earlier this year, parents in Maryland were facing charges for letting their children walk home from a park, but a court in its wisdom cleared them of charges of neglect. This is not an isolated incident. The news is full of stories of busybodies who call the police once they spot a kid outside of immediate adult supervision—playing in the park or walking home from the library. The police come, followed by a brigade of social workers, and tax dollars are spent and families are torn asunder. The notion that kids should—let alone desire to—take a stroll in the wide, wide world, unfettered from parental control is nearly unimaginable.
This isn’t to mourn the good old days, when a parent could give a kid a fiver and expect him to trot down to the corner market to get a pack of cigarettes or a fifth of gin (with a note signed by his mother).
But it is to mourn today, when a kid can’t get out of the house armed with a library card and some kind of smarts to remember which street leads where…and where an adult can’t leave the house without being surveilled by electronic monitoring, which we voluntarily submit to. It’s time for a revolt. It’s time for Free Range Adults.
For most of us, Free Range Adulthood cannot be accomplished on a daily basis. Our employers have us burdened with IDs and keycards, and without these shreds of electronica, most of us wouldn’t be able to make it to our workstations. But on the weekends, why not try a bit of Free Range Adulthood?
On a Saturday or Sunday, leave the house with just your house key, that is, if you don’t feel safe leaving your door unlocked. Leave your cellphone or device at home. You don’t need to make calls or take pictures of your feet when you out and about. Leave the credit cards at home and use cash. This may take a little pre-planning, and a visit to the ATM the day before, but you know how much cash you might need for an afternoon out. Bonus: when you pay in cash that is the end of transaction for you. There is no record that goes to the credit card company and is mailed to you three weeks later, and no interest if you don’t cough up the full balance. Paying cash is good for the environment. It’s sustainable!
If you choose to drive on your Free Range adventure, unplug your GPS. Yes, you will have to rely on your wits, and that map tossed on the backseat. One concession to the man you’ll have to make is to bring your license. It is one thing for parents to claim that their kids are free range, but it is another to have to explain to an officer of the law that you are a free-ranger. There is one free-range grown-up that I know who keeps her license behind the sun visor in her car. That’s right. She doesn’t carry it on her person at all times. She doesn’t need it any other time, and if she is picking up a six-pack, she’ll take it with her. She lives in area that is bonkers for carding.
Carding can be a problem for free-ranger. On your afternoon out, you may want to enjoy an adult beverage. But, being a Free Range Adult, your ID is at home. When you claim you left your ID at home, some snooty server may say, “That’s our policy.” But if you don’t look over 21, then you aren’t dressing well enough. That said, be prepared to leave. There are other purveyors of refreshments who will happily take your money.
If you spend an afternoon as a Free Range Adult, you will find it to be liberating and perhaps a bit naughty, like skinny dipping. But you will find that you can do it, and your confidence will grow, and you will to stretch out your afternoons to an entire day. In time, you will search for moments where you can try out your Free Range persona at work. You may not be able to make it through a whole day, but you may be able to slip in from lunch by tailing a colleague.
There is no reason why kids are the only ones who can reap the benefits of slipping the leash now and again. It is something that we all should do, and do more often.