As I was sipping my first cup of coffee, half listening to the Today show, my ears perked up when they started talking about the Maryland couple accused of child neglect. This is a case I have been following since I got wind of it in late December.
A little back story: On Dec. 20th the Meitivs’ let their two children, ages 10 & 6, walk home from a park that is less than a mile away. Someone driving by saw the two children walking alone and called the police. The kids were picked up by the police about halfway between the park and home. The police asked the father to sign a form saying he would not leave the children unsupervised until CPS followed up. When he refused, saying he needed to talk to a lawyer first, the police said the children would be removed if he did not sign the form.
On February 20th the family received a decision letter stating that the CPS investigation had been completed. It cited a finding of “unsubstantiated child neglect” and the file would remain open for 5 years.
The Meitivs’ practice what is called “free-range” parenting, believing that children learn self-reliance by being allowed to make choices, build independence and progressively experience the world on their own. This is in direct opposition of how a majority of parents and society think today. Most parents are “helicopter” parents, going along with the idea of “take your eyes off your kid for one second and they’ll be snatched”. So they drive their kids to school even though they only live a couple blocks away and get their 6 year olds cell phones.
When I was a kid I walked about a mile to elementary school. Then a mile and a half to junior high. For one high school the walk was a little over 2 miles, then when we moved that walk turned into 3 miles. I would go out and ride my bike around the neighborhood and was told to “come check in once in a while” and “be back by dark”. I would walk to the mall that was 4 miles away. And guess what? Nothing ever happened to me! Gasp! My husband grew up on a 350 acre ranch. He would walk 7 miles into town to go to the store by himself and he was 6 years old at the time. Nothing ever happened to him either, other than maybe a blister or two the first time. When did it become such a crime to let your kids walk around?
“But kids will get abducted if they are out on their own!” The instances of child abduction have not increased since I was a child in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but due to people being connected via the internet and social media the cases are more publicized. This has led to parents seeing child abductors and molesters around every corner. My teenage daughter has friends that won’t walk 2 miles to school. If they sleep in or miss the bus they just don’t go to school that day. Then she has friends that get dropped off at school everyday and they only live a block away. Is that the kind of mind-set these kids need? What happens when they become adults?
Since when have we become gerbils ladies and gentlemen? The next thing will be micro-chipping just like we do with dogs, or kids will have to wear ankle locators like people on house arrest.