Raising a Free Range Child in 2016

Please don't jump, please don't jump!
Please don’t jump, please don’t jump!

Parenting these days is tough and there’s no denying that all of the information out there can be confusing and contradictory. Since there has been so much helicoptering in recent years and not enough Xanax to go around, experts and non-the-like are coming out with articles, posts and books about letting our children have more freedom. Our kids, like our eggs, have to be “Free Range”.  There’s only one problem, sometimes when people try and put to practice this exciting, “Free-Range Parenting” or what our parents used to call “Parenting”, they end up in the slammer.

Yes, we’ve seen it all before, “The Eight Best Ways To Be A Free-Range Parent” but there are so few clear guidelines to be that kind of parent without our neighbors calling child services on us, resulting in our precious babies ending up in Foster Care. How do we know what is right and what is wrong? Is what I am doing legal? Will they get hurt? Is that man pants-less? These are some of the important questions I ask myself while trying to implement a free-range lifestyle in Los Angeles.

Lots of self-doubt comes into play. I mean, I’m fully aware you cannot leave your kid in the car while you run into the AM/PM to pick up a pack of smokes like my mom used to do, or better yet, send your kid in with 80 cents to get them for you. But how about letting your eight-year old run into said AM/PM to buy milk while you sit in the parked car in front of the store? Wouldn’t that teach them a bit of independence? What’s the worst that can happen? When you ask it like that, the possibilities are endless but I cannot avoid sending my eight-year old into the AM/PM because a crazed gunman might create a hostage situation while the Pedophile lures him into the restroom with irresistible gas station snacks.

When I was 15 years old I would run into the convenience store to pay for my mom’s gas. I would go to the back of the store, pop the cap on a whipped cream can, suck out the nitrous oxide, stand there high as a kite, pick up a snickers and go pay for the gas. No harm, no foul. Sure, that might be considered shop-lifting but those were the days before reward points and I needed to feel valued for spending so much money there. It all worked out fine. This paragraph doesn’t have much relevance, I just love thinking back on “The Good Ol’ Days” of gas station drug use and shop-lifting. Teenagers, it’s a funny time.

Playing outside alone is another topic we have to consider. Children are no longer allowed to play in the front yard by themselves because they could be kidnapped. Contrary to popular belief, crime rates are down dramatically since the early 90’s, kidnappings included but the perception of crime rates has increased significantly. We live in a fear-driven society and I partake in this fear to an unhealthy level. I’d like my child to be able to play outside by herself because let’s face it, these posts don’t write themselves but the thought of her tiny self being nabbed off of the front lawn by some predator is too much to handle! I do it because I want her to know that I trust her. I can’t lie, I stare out the window at her like a cheetah waiting to pounce at the site of a slow-moving car – don’t get me started on the vans. I have no idea how to implement a more free-range attitude towards this one. It’s LA, there are crazy people everywhere. If you have any idea, please pm me, thanks.

My kid being "free range" in Wales because in Wales it's much easier to let them roam.
My kid being “free range” in Wales because in Wales it’s much easier to let them roam.

Venturing out on one’s own in LA is a far cry from when we used to head to Hallman’s General Store for some candy chewing tobacco. Riding our bikes carelessly down the steep hill near our house, no helmets, no knee pads, just our short shorts and Tretorn sneaks between us and the carelessly paved road. Here in LA you have to drive your bikes to the beach to ride along the beach path because in the dead-center of the city, the road rage and traffic are so intense that when I see a grown person on a bike I get nervous for them. What I will do is teach her how to ride her bike safely to the bike path that goes along the train tracks to the beach. I’ll also teach her how to play dice so she can hustle the vagabonds along the train route over summer break.

In all seriousness, it isn’t easy these days to raise Free Range children, especially in the city but I’m going to do my best to do what my mother did for me. I’m going to teach her how to be independent, I’m going to teach her how to ride the subway in NYC and I’m going to teach her that whippets are bad for your brain and stealing is wrong. Who knows, maybe she’ll write about it one day.


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