Google+ Authentic Parenting: Running free (re-run)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Running free (re-run)

Image: Pink Sherbet Photography
I think my and my husbands generation might have been the last generation of Belgian children who were able to roam free. And roaming free we did. I remember taking my bike when I was about 11 and driving around far far from home. No cell phones, no maps. Once me and my girlfriend drove away so far and got lost. We stopped at a restaurant to call my parents if they could come and pick us up. We were at a 20 minute car drive away from our house. Yet this was never a problem.
Sometimes we would leave just after lunch, only to come back for dinner. I remember another time, my brother, my neighbors and me were having so much fun playing in the fields behind our block, we only arrived after dark. My mom got angry at us because she didn’t know where we were. But that was it. She still allowed us to go where we wanted, as long as we came back before dark.

But even after dark, our parents didn’t fear. We have this tradition that is quite similar to trick or treating. Kids get dressed up and go from door to door. We used to do that unsupervised, and we’d stay away for hours. That was just my brother, me and a neighbors’ kid. My brother could have been no more then 12, which means I was not yet ten years old.
But when I was about 13, we had the Dutroux case. Young girls started disappearing and turned up dead. Fear of pedophiles got embedded into peoples minds and children were no longer safe on the streets. Not even in small towns or in broad daylight.
Another attack at the free range child came from a totally different angle. Noise! Suddenly out of the blue, class actions started appearing resulting in playgrounds being closed down, on account of being a nuisance.

Two more factors eroded the child’s roaming freedom: open space is becoming scarse. New constructions pop up everywhere you turn. The plots where we used to play in our childhood have become residential areas. What used to be farm land and protected natural ground is being transformed into building sites.

Traffic has become more dense. Even if you live in a quiet area, if there’s concrete on your street, no child will play carefree or be spared the sickening exhaust fumes of cars.

Children are being taken out of the public view, and become more and more isolated, locked inside houses, daycare centers, indoor playgrounds. To the extent that some kids have never even seen a cow and think the purple Milka cow is an accurate representation.
Nowadays, if they are lucky, they get to play in the garden, which of course is nicely closed off from the world. If possible with a wall and some barb wire. If the rare occasion presents itself that a child has to take a trip outside, unsupervised, then he gets an electronic chip implanted in his arm, a GPS stuffed in his backpack and a cell phone in his hand.
To the extent that children are being shunned from society. You can hardly go to a restaurant or a shop with a child without people looking at you funny. And heaven forbid that child makes a little rubble!
What kind of children are we creating? Will they be able to enjoy life? Enjoy nature? Are we creating tiny agoraphobics or antisocial snails? Isn’t this fear excessive? How much pleasure do we steal away from our kids in having them lead a sheltered, overprotected life? How to find the middle ground? With so many dangers out there, can we still be carefree?
I’m so happy my family had the luxury to choose a lifestyle where our children will still be able to roam free and enjoy nature. My best childhood memories are of times when I was lost in nature and far away from supervision, probably doing things that weren’t very kosher. How about you? Do you let your children roam free? Are you afraid of what might happen?



  1. Good Post! So many people are basically anti-social because of fear they teach their children stranger danger and if an old lady reacesh out to touch your baby's rosy soft cheek they wrench their baby away and then write a post about it on facebook how someone dared to try to touch their baby. It's crazy. I kinda went completely opposite of that. I have an outgoing social butterfly that I've nurtured her love of people. If she wants to hug the lady in the check out line next to us. I let her and in turn, it makes that lady's Day! They exclaim, "oh my she's soooo friendly! What a sweet heart!" I can't imagine telling Vi No if she wanted to interact with a stranger or making her feel like it's a bad thing to do, to want a hug from someone she instictually knows is a good person. I can tell she reads people. It may sound kooky but it's true she reaches out for mama's and friendly papa types mostly.
    Anyways letting the little old lady shake your baby's hand is not gross and I wish we could be a friendlier culture.
    Sorry got a little rambly there!

  2. I completely understand, Katie! I feel exactly the same, so feel free to ramble

  3. I have a different view from Katie. I've never mentioned "stranger danger" to my children. My son is naturally shy, and I think it is rude of adults to believe it's okay to invade children's space in ways they would not do with other adults, such as caressing cheeks or tickling. I do speak up for my child in as polite a way as possible if they are not respecting his need for privacy and space. Many people have criticized me for his behaviors, but that's just the way he is. If he hugged the stranger in the check-out line, I'd be delighted!


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