In 1963, my seventh grade English teacher told us to read a book about humor for a presentation, so I latched onto a copy of Robert Paul Smith’s Where Did You Go? Out. What DidYou Do? Nothing
. If memory serves me well, it is about “free range kids” and the chance for youngsters to use their imaginations. Because I grew up on a farm with reasonable parents, numerous playmates, and plenty of outdoor attractions, the book’s theme worked for me. Kid life should have times of exploration, imagination, and goofy fun. My siblings, cousins, and I excelled at the goofy part.
But in this age of drone parents and smartphone GPS tracking, the term “free range” holds various connotations. As reported by NPR, “Parents have made news recently after being detained for purposefully leaving children on their own, prompting renewed debate about so-called free-range parenting.” I guess it’s a fine line between independence and neglect. Family dynamics, a child’s personality, and, of course, location might be factors in how “free” children can be—whether that means playing in the pasture or walking to school.
I’m just glad I grew up in an era when the term “free range” was not in our lexicon. Neither was the term “confinement.” On our farm, the hogs, cattle, and chickens had basic shelter when needed, but they had plenty of feedlots and pastures. As a matter of fact, they escaped their pens so often, maybe that’s why the term “free range” was coined. We farmed before the era when a pig might not see the light of day until it is carted off to the bacon factory.
We kids saw the light of day no matter what the season. After breakfast, Mom would access the app (aperture) called the front door and scoot us out so we could download the fascinating world a farm had to offer: groves, haymows, pastures, creeks, tree houses.
We didn’t have smartphones to download games, take Instagram pictures, or text our friends. Instead, we were building dams on the creek, playing king of the hay stack in the barn, or sledding down a snow-covered hill in the pasture. We also missed the digital parent syndrome—no GPS on us if we slipped farther down the creek to check for beaver dams; no text message warnings from parents about putting on enough sunscreen; and no curfew alarms on our cell phones.
I’m a grandparent, so I know child safety is important. Maybe we were just lucky back then, but at the end of our free-range sessions, we made it back to the house in basically good shape, ready for a late afternoon snack and maybe a viewing of the Mickey Mouse Club. Annette Funicello with mouse ears and Mom’s homemade cookies—we were free rangers, but at times we didn’t mind being confined.
by dan gogerty
Note: check these out
** Website: Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids–How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Kids (Without Going Nuts from Worry)