Skip to content

MACNAIR: Free-range kids vs. bubble-wrap parents

T here is a new movement afoot in the parenting world that is out of character with the current generation.

There is a new movement afoot in the parenting world that is out of character with the current generation.

It's called free-range kids, or slow parenting, which means taking a more hands-off approach to raising our children and letting them develop in their own way and on their own time.

It's radical in many ways, since the over-protected, over-coddled youth of today have never known life outside of the watchful eyes of their parents.

Surely you've seen this scene before: a group of parents hovering around their children at the playground, offering advice on how to play in a friendly, respectful and politically correct manner, apologizing to everybody within earshot when their two-year-old doesn't quite grasp the concept of possession.

It reminds me of the dog park. Children are escorted to and from a designated play area under adult supervision and then returned home for feeding and entertainment.

It's a vastly different generation than mine, though I think we were certainly on the cusp of the emerging bubble-wrap parenting movement.

I remember playing outside with neighbourhood children without much, if any, adult supervision. We came when we were called by our mothers for lunch or supper but, other than that, we were outside all the time.

We bronzed in the summer and turned white in the winter, playing on nearby ice rinks that didn't require parental supervision either.

When I was growing up, I can recall walking to school every day. From Grade 3 or earlier, I would stroll along with dozens of other children who would help the smaller ones.

There were no parents. There were no drop-offs, or if there were, they were few and far between. There was no need for 200 cars to drop off 200 children at every school every day. We were young and our legs were made for walking.

I can recall one time on my way to school I urgently needed to commune with nature and knocked on a stranger's door. I wasn't abducted by the occupant. A kind old lady showed me to the restroom.

We seemingly live in fear that our children can't go through life without our constant supervision.

But the kids are all right and our fears are unfounded. Or, to paraphrase FDR, we have only fear to fear.

Allowing our children more freedom may even help with many of the associated problems of the bubble-wrap generation, including obesity, social isolation and living in mom's basement to the age of 30.

Adrian MacNair is a reporter at The South Delta Leader, a Black Press sister newspaper of The Tri-City News.