This morning, my 5-year-old daughter Sasha proposed that her 8-year-old brother A.J. should walk her to school sometime. Her timing could not have been better.
I've been wanting to write about Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids for a while now, but my thoughts on the subject have been swirling around in my head, refusing to coalesce into actual words. Please forgive me if this article seems a little raw, but I'd really like to launch some dialog among parents and other members of our community. (And by "community," I mean everyone who might be reading this article. So whether you live in Half Moon Bay or elsewhere, whether or not you have kids, I want to hear from you.)
When I was in kindergarten, I walked to school with a friend who was also in kindergarten. Without our parents. My husband was chaperoned to kindergarten by his 7-year-old brother. We somehow lived to tell the tale, so why does my blood run cold at the thought of my own kids doing the same thing?
We live about a mile from my kids' elementary school, along a fairly busy street. I have to admit, neither of my kids is very good about looking before crossing the street. Both tend to wander around with their heads in the clouds…but maybe that's because I'm always there to yank them back before they're smashed to a paste?
How old is "old enough" to walk to school alone, here on the Coast or elsewhere? I'll go out on a limb and say that five is too young, and while I think my 8-year-old could get himself to school, he's not quite mature enough to take responsibility for his little sister. I want to say this isn't because my head is filled with media hype and fear-mongering, but because I know my own children…but I'm not sure. If it were just a couple of blocks, I would give it a shot, but instead I told them, "Let's talk about it again in the fall." After all, we've only got two weeks left in this school year, so why not put it off a while longer?
And so, dear readers, I pose my questions for you: what do you think? If you're a parent, are you raising free-range kids? Why or why not? And if you're not a parent, what's your opinion?
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Stephanie Trelogan lives in Pacifica with her husband, two children, and a hamster. When not chasing after her kids or embarrassing them in articles, she writes about science, medicine, and forest animals. You can find out more about her at www.maskparadebooks.com.