Home On the Range

6 Mar

danielle meitiv

Have you heard of Free Range parenting? And I’m talking about human parents, not chicken parents. Apparently everything old is new again because as I read this story I couldn’t help but thinking that this was a story about parenting in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s…you know, before the whirlybirds landed and took our old parents away and replaced them with the newer helicopter variety.

Anyway, In Maryland a couple who allowed their children to walk around their neighborhood unsupervised are now facing a child neglect ruling in their home county. Following a two-month investigation, Montgomery County Child Protective services found Danielle and Alexander Meitiv responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect… which means that their case will remain on file with the state for the next five years.

Authorities launched the investigation, after two police officers spotted the Meitiv children, a 10-year-old boy and his and 6-year-old sister, walking home from a park about a mile from where they live. The officers brought the children back to their house, where they confronted their father who was shocked to see his children being escorted home by 3 police officers…but he shouldn’t have been because this was his children’s second offense! A few months before, someone had phoned in an anonymous tip to Child Protective Services when they had observed the two youngsters playing alone at a different park a few blocks from their home.

This is why the Meitivs are known as “free range” parents (couldn’t we think of another name…please?) because they allow their children to “run off and play” as opposed to the so-called “helicopter parents,” who are known for hovering over every aspect of their child’s life (including play) in an effort to keep them safe.

Now in case you are wondering, an unsubstantiated neglect ruling typically comes when Child Protective Services gathers some evidence that suggests child neglect, but not enough information to support a more concrete conclusion. The Meitivs said they wouldn’t let their children walk around the neighborhood if they didn’t feel the children were capable of handling the responsibility. And they let their children regularly walk home from their bus stop, to the library, and to nearby parks, all of which are less than a mile from their home.

But in all fairness, they’re only the children’s parents…and do we really trust any parents these days…or any adults for that matter? Just a few months ago a 12 year old child was walking around a park in Cleveland, Ohio, pretending to shoot people with a toy gun. Remember that? And when the police found him they didn’t round him up and bring him back to his parents. They shot him! When I was a kid my friends and I would run around our neighborhood with toy guns all of the time, pretending we were our dads during WWII shooting Nazis… And no one went looking for us unless it was night time and we hadn’t returned to base all day. Boy, I guess were we lucky that nobody shot back at us with real guns or captured us and took us back to their leader.

So perhaps, as many of today’s parents might suggest, the Meitivs should consider themselves lucky that their children were returned to them safe and sound… but now what are “free range” parents to do?… on a range that is no longer as free as it once was, back in a day when the deer and the antelope played along with everyone else…and discouraging words or neighbors were seldom heard?

If they don’t comply and keep their children supervised at all times, the Meitiv’s worry that should their children roam free again…and be turned in again… they’ll all, parents and children, be in bigger trouble. Because now, not only is it unsafe for children to go out into the world unsupervised but also for the parents as well! Which I guess, sadly begs the even more important question:

What’s on TV?

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7 Responses to “Home On the Range”

  1. 1wanderingtruthseeker March 6, 2015 at 4:00 am #

    I grew up a free range kid. I would have been bored to death if my mother wanted to stare at me all the time or stood out side with me. How do you explore and learn stuff?

  2. RantingCrossin March 6, 2015 at 5:08 am #

    I never thought of myself as a free range parent because I hover at times over my child. Due to a chronic illness, I started allowing my son to take walks around the neighborhood when he was 7 years old. He new his home number and his address. He knew what streets he was bound within. I was so worried I was being a “bad” parent for allowing these solo walks that I asked various family members who all thought it was okay. Well, my son came home twice in tears because the nice police officer wouldn’t leave him alone unless he got in the police cruiser and was taken home. My poor son felt traumatized like he had done something wrong. When I asked both times what my son done did wrong, I was told nothing except some neighbors were concerned for the boy being outside. WTF? Since when are kids not allowed outside to run and play? I was deeply offended that even though my child was doing nothing wrong, he had to be brought home in a police car. What does this tell kids?

  3. sassafrass20 March 6, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    I’ll admit it, I’m a “free range parent”. I let my son walk to the library after school-which is 1/4 of a mile away, but still. I let both of my kids roam the neighborhood addition, but they both have boundaries and are punished when they go beyond them. I also live in a small community where people still look out for everyone else, and i count my lucky stars that I live here. The officers in our community are wonderful as well. My kids dad freaks when I let the kids play, telling me “Why don’t you go get them?!” Because I feel safe where I live, and I’m NOT a helicopter parent-please revoke my parent card if I ever turn into one!-and kids need freedom to learn and grow or they won’t be able to make decisions on their own when they are older. God forbid I tell my kids to go outside and play and enjoy the world!

  4. RAB March 6, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    Amen to all these. When I see my COLLEGE students phoning their parents periodically every day to say that they’ve had lunch, they’re on their way to class, they’re having a good day, I remember that my own parents were happy to get a call from me on Sunday evenings telling them, yeah, college was still fine and I passed my hourly exam in Physics. I would suggest that the hovering parent of childhood continues to hover forever, and the “free range” parent is creating a more autonomous individual. Is the world dangerous? Yes. A careful parent assesses the risks and the child and then makes a responsible decision. And caring neighbors call the police if they see a reluctant child being dragged away by an adult who is not the child’s parent; they don’t pull the alarm just because some kid is playing hopscotch unattended.

  5. avwalters March 6, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    If television is the alternative, why don’t we just put them to work. It’d be better for them. Childhood should be a time of exploration, of observing and of being in our bodies. Hothouse kids don’t fully occupy the physical world–and they suffer down the road for it. I was “free range” and enjoyed the freedoms and adventures. It makes me sad that we’ve substituted a world of safety and supervision for one of beauty and autonomy. Another step towards total subjugation of society.

  6. makagutu March 6, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

    I would side with these parents any day. Make communities safer for everyone. Let children play as long as they are not into anything a child wouldn’t do.
    Children don’t usually get into mischief with an intention of causing harm unless they have been badly taught

  7. unfreepersonsunite March 9, 2015 at 7:38 pm #

    At least the parents have not yet commited the audacity of allowing the children, as adults, to try living on their own…THAT results in Family Services TAKING them!…That’s what happened to me, and 4 years later, I MIGHT get my daughter released!

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