Saturday, November 7, 2015

"Free Range" Children

"Write about something you experienced but that your grandchildren probably won't know anything about."  That was the assignment for my writing class yesterday.  The first man who read his work wrote about being part of a neighborhood group of kids who played in the streets and parks, made up their own rules for games, had their own pecking order and seasonal patterns.  Another woman, a retired guidance counselor who keeps up with the trends, wrote about the freedom she and her twin had to dash out of the house after breakfast and go play with their neighborhood friends, traveling dozens of backyards. 

She defined her childhood and that of the first man as fitting into a new term, "free range childhood." The group spent some time talking about the regimented lives of children now, the fears parents have, the necessity to be supervised when both parents work and they often must have designated activities in non-school time because parents aren't home. Nostalgia was thick in the room, of course. I was certainly a free range child although I was on a farm and had no nearby playmates. So my free ranging was helping in the garden or in the kitchen, wandering around the farm with my little brother although he soon became big enough to spend most of his time with our father.

I understand the changes in society that have come with two working parents, latch-key kids. And I think many of the after school activities are enriching. I suppose sports will always be part of boys' lives and I'm glad girls are now playing sports too, especially soccer. But the fear of letting a child out of your sight, the fear of kidnappers and various kinds of sex predators has been greatly revved up by the media.  In general, my impression is that children are in much greater danger from the bad moods, and actual violence against them by their own parents who bring frustrations home from work, the many who use alcohol and drugs and are inattentive, irresponsible, unloving parents. There have always been bad parents and child abuse. I don't think it's increased, really.  And I'm glad there are counselors at schools who listen and help children.

Actually the class could have gone on and on but we had to move on to the woman who wrote about typewriters and the man who related being trapped in an outhouse at his grandfather's farm when a mean rooster stood guard outside the door waiting to attack.

(The happy kid in the photo is my middle great-grandson, Cole.)


Kass said...

Oh June, this post triggered so many childhood memories and made me think about the psychological concerns you raised.

Wonderful picture of your care-free great grandson.

June Calender said...

Thanks, Kass. I hope the childhood memories were good ones.

barbara judge said...

Cole looks like the epitome of a free range child as he runs along the beach with that big smile. I would have liked to have sat in on your class discussion. I take my dog to a dog park and many of the owners are overly attentive to their dogs. So this tells me that many folks are probably overly attentive to not only their children but their animals as well. And what is wrong with this situation is that some of these attentive do-gooders have taken it upon themselves to form "vigilante" groups to report what, in their depraved minds, are wrongdoings by parents or pet owners and reporting it to the police. I am certainly glad that my children are raised and on their own now. I could go on but I won't. You present an interesting topic that has many social ramifications. -- barbara

June Calender said...

I agree, Barbara, society has become infested with a kind of vigilanty-ism that is both good and very bad. I remember the "see something, say something" signs that appeared in many public places soon after 9/11 when everyone was afraid of terrorist bombs. People now call the police when a dog locked in a backyard barks all day while the owners are at work -- they don't report noise, they report abuse. The same happens with suspected child abuse. It's a complex question and needs to be considered case-by-case. Meanwhile many older adults are nostalgic about the freedom they enjoyed as children, and rightfully so.