I am the latchkey kid generation. We were called latchkey kids because many kids wore their house keys around their necks or attached to their backpacks because they had to let themselves into their homes after school. Both of our parents worked. We did not have helicopter moms, they didn’t have time to helicopter us, they were breaking through glass ceilings and changing the working demographic. Back then, free-range parenting was just called parenting.
Now days things are quite different. I am a children’s pastor, and a mom of a high schooler, jr higher, and elementary school kid. I see helicopter parents everywhere I turn. And it’s hard, because the world we live in is no longer the world it was when I was a kid and my friends and I would leave the house and not come home until we saw the sun setting. On the contrary, kids aren’t even allowed to play in their front yards. I just brought several kids to camp with me, and just the fact that they could play around outside the cabin by themselves was shocking to some of them. Don’t worry helicopters, it’s a closed camp with no outsiders and no cars. But in the days of child abductions, is this the precaution we must take?
There was a recent kidnapping and death of a young teen in our neck of the woods. It sickens me. I can’t understand this level of darkness. If I told you that it hasn’t made me want to lock up my kids I’d be lying. But then I remember that they must be allowed to be kids. They need to ride their bikes down the street, adventure in the park, play Nurf wars with the neighbors. If we never allow them freedom, how will they ever learn to be free. If we don’t let them adventure, how will they learn to be adventurous. Sure they need precautions, and to be taught many lessons, and know things to watch for, but we may be doing our kids a disservice to grow them up living in fear with mom always hovering over them. And don’t even get me started with asking how those kids will ever learn to pick their own clothing, find their way home, or get a job!
I’m talking about age appropriate freedom within reason, of course. The pendulum can of course swing the other direction and then we have a kindergartner walking home from school alone or riding to the park alone. This is not what in suggesting. But the world isn’t changing and I for one want my kids to grow up and be cautious and not make dumb or dangerous choices, but I want them to go out and LIVE in this world without the hindrance of fear. What happened to that little girl is disgusting and dreadful. But she was a teenager, it was completely appropriate for her to be walking her dog. I am sad that we live in such a sick world where such a thing exists. But holding our kids at our sides isn’t the answer. They have to be allowed to learn independance and self sufficiency or the cost may be greater than we even realize as of yet.
My teenager has recently begun to entertain the thought of going to college in Europe. Of course she’s looking local, but she’s also looking at all ends of America, and beyond. Does this scare the pants off of me? Yes, but I will encourage her sense of adventure, because there is a great big world out there, and I want her to do more than observe it. I want her to take part in it, to roll up her sleeves and get dirty and do her diligence to make it better. And there’s nothing safe about that, but that doesn’t make it not good.