Dear Jackrabbit #41 — Free Range Childhoods and Why That’s Probably Not Going To Be Much of a Thing For You

Dear Jackrabbit,

I wanted to be a little more caught up on these letters by today, but at least I’m not falling further behind.

Another busy week compounded by a sick dog that’s got me all sorts of distracted. Still, we push on and move forward.

Have I written about free-range childhoods yet?

I bring this up because of an article I read recently that mentioned numerous incidents in which parents were charged with neglect just for letting their kids play outside without direct supervision.

You have no idea how alien this seems to me.

Even at a young age–certainly by six years old– I was playing outside. When we lived on Rocket Street we’d go down to the little wooded area at the end of the street and look for turtles. We’d climb and jump the walls along the side of the road and into the grass. We’d run around all of the back yards in the neighborhood.

Don’t be fooled by the cherubic smiles on myself, Uncle Tim, and Uncle Andrew. We look like angels now, but we’re planning trouble as soon as we’re out the door.

By the time we were on Pleasant Street, we’d be exploring the woods on the hill, climbing the woodpile behind the Guild Guitar factory, hanging out at the loading dock by the Red Fox Soda Company warehouse, following “the brook,” as we called it, into the woods near the abandoned train tracks, grabbing discarded carpet strips from Pucci’s Carpets down the street to pad the floors of our tree forts–hell–we were dragging lumber and tools into the woods to make tree forts. Do kids still do things like that? I have no idea who owned that land, but over the years it saw numerous little construction projects by local kids.

We won’t even talk about swinging on vines out over piles of old quarry rock. And speaking of quarries… by the time we were on Pierce St., we were hitting the quarry swimming holes pretty regularly. I’m pretty sure I already wrote about this one. Pretty dangerous, I know. There were a few injuries and fatalities, but when you’re a kid you don’t think about stuff like that.

And sure, maybe cutting through the train tracks to get to the town park in the dead of night wasn’t always the smartest thing. Same with riding a bike to the beach after midnight where there are no street lights wasn’t entirely wise.

What was my point?

Oh, yeah…free-range parenting versus this kind of over-restrictive thing that seems to be the rage today.

Not fooled by that smile for one second. I’m keeping my eye on you, boy.

I hesitate to say one is better than the other. Sure, I think I had a pretty cool childhood with the amount of freedom I had, but at the same time–my judgement may not have always been the best, but that’s on my folks. I know some of the stuff my dad got up to when he was a kid, so he doesn’t even have the excuse of not knowing better.

At the same time, I know what I was like as a kid (and I wasn’t even the worst of the Teehan boys)… so I have a fair idea of what you will be like. Sure, you’ll have your mother’s influence as well…but not sure if we can really take that chance.

My plan is to trust your judgement… to a degree, and to the degree that we can get away with legally (that’s not to say we might not try to push a few boundaries here and there).

Now…the really bad news.

You’re probably going to have a much harder time getting away with things than I did as a child. There was no internet when I was a kid. Certainly no digital camera technology or social media. There is very little actual evidence of any trouble I got into back in the day. There was also no kiddie-lo-jacking. No cameras everywhere. No satellites taking pictures of every little minor sin.

Whereas for you, my boy, all I’ll probably have to do is check my “What The Hell Is My Son Doing Now?” app on my phone and there you’ll be–lighting firecrackers and tossing them into the… no… no… no… I’m not here to give you ideas. Not publically, anyway. Come talk to me later.

However it rolls, we’ll try out best to make sure you have a decent childhood, a modicum of freedom tempered with a sense of safety and responsibility…

…and just a enough trouble to keep it interesting. Don’t tell your mother.

All my love,

–Dad

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About jdteehan

John is a proud geek and nerd, a publisher, a freelancer, and a new dad. He’s into books, gaming, and music. He’s a good cook, a passing musician and artist, and terrible fisherman. The biggest thing in his life right now is being a new dad and he has started a blog all about that. Visit Dearjackrabbit.com for more on that. Also visit Merryblacksmith.com for word on publishing projects.

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