Lisa's Lines

Lisa Ingebrand

Parenthood conundrum

I’m hesitant to write this.

Parents are judged at every turn—every decision.

And, I’m a parent. I’m mom to two young ladies, Anna (8.5) and Ellen (6), who enjoy playing outside with the kids in our neighborhood and exploring.

They climb trees, fish, build forts in old woodpiles, campout in the backyard, and try to catch little critters.

They get dirty, sometimes injured, have touched poison ivy, and have wiped out on their bicycles.

They also like to roam. They roam through neighbors’ houses and backyards, a nearby woods, and a designated section of our street.

And sometimes—brace yourself—we don’t know exactly where our children are.

Granted, we’ve engrained in them our expectations and armed them with basic safety skills, and have given them boundaries and a few rules—stick together, help each other, be kind, and be smart.

It’s a lifestyle I love for my family.

My kids come home with stories of adventure, covered in burrs, snow or mud. Sometimes they tell me of arguments that erupted between them or the neighbor girls, and I listen to the drama spill from their lips—and try to stay out of it.

Sometimes their feelings get hurt and one or both of them come home in tears. Other times, they hurt someone else’s feelings.

They are not perfect.

They are learning.

They are kids.

Yes, I sometimes worry about where they are and what they are doing. I read newspapers every day and watch the news. I know my little neighborhood is not immune.

However, there are an equal number of stories and news flashes about large numbers of children battling anxiety and depression.

It’s an interesting parallel.

As a parent, my goal is to raise kind, well-rounded, independent children.

But, at the same time, parents are warned not to let a mature child sit in a locked car for five minutes while they run into the store to pick up a jug of milk or pay for gas. Something could happen.

We’re bombarded with expensive, "child-friendly" event sign-ups for activities where children will be micromanaged and monitored.

We’re warned never to leave our children unattended—anywhere or anytime. Again, something could happen.

But, we must. It's our responsibility to give our children tastes of independence when they are still young so they gain confidence in themselves—and learn that they are not invincible and have to take responsibility for their actions.

Unfortunately, granting these important tastes of independence feels like a risk for many parents--not necessarily a child safety risk, but as a parenting risk. Will a neighbor call and report that my (mature) kids are outside playing by themselves? Will I be questioned about my child's bumps and bruises from sequential mishaps on her scooter?

The State of Utah recently passed the country’s first law legalizing so-called free-range parenting, and groups in multiple other states are starting to push for a similar law that would give parents “permission” to allow their children to be more independent and roam without the fear of child services knocking at their door. It’s an interesting idea.

I don’t think our state needs this law on the books to protect parents (or at least I hope not), but it does show how far the pendulum has swung away from giving kids the freedom to do things alone—do things that promote happiness, health, and independence.

The law also shows how critical some people are of parents who are working to build the blocks of independence in their children. I've experienced it first hand. It's not fun.

Being reprimanded or reported to child services for granting mature children freedom--within reasonable boundaries--is a fear for many parents.

No one wants bad things to happen to children. Safety precautions need to be made, but how far should we go? I don’t know the answer…

I’ll get off my soapbox now, but I won’t ditch the big bell I use to call my children home for dinner (in lieu of shouting from my porch).

Childhood adventures are precious and important.


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