The fears behind free-range parenting

Nothing gets your heart pounding after dinner like racing for the back door, dripping sudsy dishwater all over the floor as you worry that your child might have been kidnapped.

Let me back up. For the past couple of summers, I was able to keep the kids contained on the back deck while I was bustling around the main level, washing the dinner dishes. We had wooden baby-gates across the stairs and slide, so they were essentially penned in — free to play with the sand table or blow bubbles while they waited for me.

Once I had finished clearing the counters and stuffing the leftovers into the fridge, I’d join them on the deck and open the gates. They’d be down the slide and into the grass as quickly as they could, and I’d be right there to watch them and play with them. It was a good solution that allowed them play outside for as long as possible each evening, while always being supervised in the (unfenced) backyard.

But this summer, at age three and five, they were clawing at the gates and begging to be free …

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene

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