I often think back on my childhood and remember how much I enjoyed the freedom I had. I'm talking about the freedom to travel outside my house without my parents having to be concerned of where I was and what might happen to me.
In 3rd grade, I was allowed to walk down several blocks to friend's homes to play. I remember going to a movie by myself. It was a special matinee for grade school students, but I remember being dropped off and walking in and sitting all by myself.
In 4th and 5th grade, I was allowed to play and explore the local foothills for hours at a time. I also remember selling door to door for fundraisers without my parents accompanying me. I remember going over to the local grade school and playing, with friends, on the playground.
In 6th grade, I remember riding my bicycle everywhere... and I do mean, everywhere. Even though my boundaries were pretty lenient, I often went beyond them. I loved the feeling of exploring new places and felt fearless and adventurous. I was also allowed to go to the mall with friends.
And as early as 3rd grade and every year thereafter until I was in high school, I remember walking or riding my bike to the local 7-11 or neighborhood liquor store to buy candy.
I loved this freedom I had. But times changed. The reasonably safe world I lived in as a child slowly stared dwindling away and I could not let my children enjoy some of the same freedom I had when I was their age. I don't think I was an over protective mother, just one with eyes wide open to the dangers that lurk almost everywhere. I was always concerned for their safety. I often wished things were different so my kids could have run and explored their world and then, ultimately, discovering themselves in new and fun ways.
I watched the Dr. Phil show today which was titled "Extreme Moms." There were moms who hovered over their children and monitored their every move. Extreme, indeed. And then there was a mom in New York who had her 9 year old son ride the subway home - not because he wanted to, but because she thought he needed to have the confidence to do such a thing. It's just my opinion, but I feel this is extreme, too.
At the time, this same mom wrote an article for her NY newspaper, "Why I let my 9 year old ride the subway alone," and ended up on the morning shows and pegged as the "America's worst mom." From there, she started a blog: Free Range Kids. I may find some of her methods extreme but I like that her blog opens the discussion on what is extreme and what our kids need. I encourage you to check it out.
As with anything, extreme isn't good. Balance is healthier and happier. And part of parenthood, and childhood, is finding the balance that works for you and your family.