The Meitiv family has made the news again. You remember them — they’re the Maryland family who allowed their children to walk home from the park, and were reported to CPS.
Well, they did it again. They let their children walk home alone, and this time the children were picked up by the police and kept in custody for 5.5 hours, without the parents being notified for much of that time.
I love the idea behind Free Range parenting, popularized by Lenore Skenazy. After all, it’s how most of us parents were raised.
We had free reign of the neighbourhood (and quite often, the town), and the woods and fields if we were lucky enough to have some close by. We spent hours outside completely unsupervised, using hammers and nails to build tree forts, or riding our bikes around town (without helmets) grabbing snacks at our friends’ houses or at the store downtown.
It was a different world.
Really, we’re living at a great time to allow our children the freedoms that we enjoyed. I love the idea of my kids being out of the house for hours at a time, wandering our small town, and exploring nature.
And they do wander our little neighbourhood when we kick them outside. But certainly not as much as they should, or as much as I would like.
Because as much as I love the idea, I also know what happens when parents allow their children too much freedom.
We saw it play out in real time with the Meitiv family, and I’ve seen it happen here too. Here was a family willing to go against the common consensus and enable their children to learn independence and the life skills that go along with that independence.
They did it once and were investigated and charged with unsubstantiated child neglect. They did it again and their children were picked up by police. And now it sounds like the Meitivs have decided to assert their parenting philosophy in other ways.
Because here’s the thing: we’re gambling with our children when we go against what society deems is wise.
The CAS and the CPS have been given the power to remove children from their homes, and so they should when warranted. It’s a necessity in matters of abuse that none of us would disagree with. And the workers involved need to act on the information they have. They need to follow, interpret and extend the laws as best they can and often on a moment’s notice.
But from what I’ve seen, once children are in the care of the province or state, it’s very hard to get them back.
That’s why I’m a free-range parent in name only.
While I agree with the philosophy of allowing our kids as much freedom as we had as children, I will not gamble their care on it. It’s simply not something I’m willing to risk.
There is only one thing I would risk their care on, and that’s my faith in Jesus. Anything else is not worth it. How I discipline or what freedoms I allow my children are negotiable. Because when my children are in my care, I can make up for whatever deficiencies I see in how I’m allowed to parent.
Realistically speaking, if my children leave my care, I no longer have much of a say in how they’re raised.
So while I understand the outrage and the injustice that the Meitivs and other families feel when the state or the province tells them how to parent their children, I also know this: being a free-range parent is not worth losing your kids over.
What do you think about the controversy surrounding free-range parenting?
Do you agree with the Meitivs decision to find another way to challenge the system?