When I was a girl I was often up and out the door after a quick breakfast. I played and explored outside all day and only came home to eat and use the washroom. I was called in at dinnertime and then was out again until the street lights came on (and woe betide me if I was late!). I played and ran and had fantastic adventures with my friends.
Depending on where I lived, I also tramped around in the bush by myself and learned how to tell time by the sun and find my way home after becoming lost. I ate wild berries that I’d learned were safe and drank stream water.
I think it was good for me to grow up semi-wild and independent. I was always extremely healthy and became a bit of a free-thinker. I learned from nature and observation. Although I was a dreamer, I also became very observant of what was going on around me.
Things are different nowadays. Although our children are statistically safer than they were back in my day, they are coddled and protected more now. This false perception of danger, according to one journalist, has led to unhealthy, socially stunted kids.
Another article warns that “the mental health of 21st-century children is at risk because they are missing out on the exposure to the natural world enjoyed by past generations.”
I’m afraid I would have to agree.
But there is a movement afoot to set the children free. Lenore Skenazy, the journalist who was labeled “America’s Worst Mom” for allowing her nine-year-old son to journey home on the subway alone, has started Free Range Kids and has even written a book on the subject (see Resources, below).
Lenore says on her website, “We are not daredevils. We believe in life jackets and bike helmets and air bags. But we also believe in independence. Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned.”
Hear, hear! Let’s temper our fear with a little more common sense, shall we?