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?