Dear Grandparenting: My sister lives in Utah. We talk weekly come rain or shine. Last week she momentarily stunned me saying Utah’s governor signed a bill into law that makes it OK for parents to let their young children go off on their own.
My sister calls it being “free range.” That strikes me as ridiculous. Free range is a term used for raising farm animals, not our precious children.
I can just see all the great adventures those poor kids running free will have to look forward to: Maybe meeting some pervert or mingling with weirdoes and addicts, and so many grandchildren are way too inexperienced to realize the dangers.
When you’re young, you think you’re indestructible. In this day and age especially, it is total insanity to give kids so much rope. It is just asking for trouble, and there’s plenty of that out there. What’s your take? Nattie Jones, Marshall, Michigan
Dear Nattie: The “free range” movement began about a decade ago after New York mother Lenore Skenazy wrote a story about how she allowed her son, then 9, to ride the subway alone.
Previous columns have discussed “helicopter parents” that hover over their children’s daily affairs into adulthood. Free-range, which promotes independence and exploration, is the flip side.
Skenazy got off with being called the worst mother on the planet, but the rules have since changed. Free-rangers can find themselves in court. In one celebrated Maryland case, children aged 6 and 10 were in police custody for five hours after being picked up walking home from a park in 2015. Authorities opened a neglect investigation, subsequently dropped for lack of cause.
In Utah, the bill signed into law basically changed the state’s legal definition of neglect by permitting youth “of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities.”
But since it doesn’t clarify what constitutes “sufficient,” critics allege the law is ambiguous or even dangerous, apt to encourage parents to slack off as caretakers.
We’ve always maintained that a firm guiding hand gives grandchildren security and safety. As to what’s sufficient, the matter is surely best left for parents and grandparents to decide.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Deke Ellis, of The Villages, Florida, weighed in with the ”best job description about grandparents I’ve ever heard. A grandparent is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher and little bit best friend.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.