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May 22: Take our (free-range) children to the park and leave them there day

Renee 006
Since reading 'Free-Range Kids' a few months back, I've been letting my kids go off-leash and trying to give my helicoptering parenting style the pink slip with some successes and some failures to report. My older daughter has been walking to a neighbor's for Spanish class every Monday for weeks now. I no longer make her call me to say she's safely arrived after the 3 minute walk. Success! Then there was the day she and her amigos decided to play for 30 extra minutes after class. Without calling home. It was the longest 30 minutes of my life. Now, a normal person might have picked up the phone and called the host mom and said, 'Is my daughter still there?' Instead, I clutched my frantically beating heart after I could no longer wait a single second more and ran the distance between our houses, scanning the side of the road looking for signs of her abduction. I arrived at the house moments later, having found NOT A SINGLE CLUE, and was greeted with entirely reasonable apologies about the time just getting away from everyone and for not calling. My daughter now unfailingly calls when class goes over time.

There are some days when I'm more brave about free-ranging the kids. And other days when I just feel I can't give up the worry. But more often than not, I find myself asking: What would Lenore Skenazy do? Do I really have to be so freaked-out worried about everything? Mostly, the answer is no. And we encourage the kids to continue down the free-range road.

So here's a real free-range kids challenge. This Saturday, May 22. It's called: Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day. Now, this isn't for babies. It's for kids ages 7 and up, who might benefit and learn from some outside play time without parental supervision. The recommended start time is 10am. Thankfully, we have a totally open weekend. I'm not sure I'll be able to go all-out free-range -- but we do have a little neighborhood park near our library. Perhaps, I could go into the library while I trust that my 8 year old can take care of herself in the park across the street (And hopefully run into a free-range friend or two) while I browse for books. The library has big windows that face the park. And it's forecast to rain, so we don't have to make it an all-day affair. Baby steps.

Are you in? Are your horrified? Are you speed-dialing child protective services? What was your relationship with playing alone at the park when you were 7 or older? (the picture above is me and my brother, clearly under the age of 7, but we had a fairly free-range childhood and lived to tell).


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