One of the things I want for my daughter is room for her to find her own way, without her mother or me hovering about. Yet I find myself looking out the window of our house, checking our own back yard, making sure she’s OK. I’m trying not to be a helicopter parent, testing the line between consciousness and overparenting.
Here’s a fact: more kids ride to school than ever before. “The most recent data on active transportation among school-age children represent a significant decrease since 1969. The number of students walking and biking to school has decreased more than three-fold over the past few decades, from 41 percent of students in 1969 to only 13 percent of students in 2001.” Surely, part of this is a function of consolidated school districts, which are generally larger. But one parent on our street acknowledges driving her child the few blocks to the school.
I can’t help but think that much of this trend stems from a six-year-old boy named Etan Patz. He walked to school in 1979 in New York City and never came home; it was only in 2012 that someone has confessed to killing the child at that time. Etan Patz was the first missing child to appear on a milk carton. In those days, one had to wait 12 or 24 hours before the police would truly respond to a missing persons report. But after other high-profile crimes, there are amber alerts that take the info about a missing child across the region, or even across the country, almost instantly.
There are some parents to deign to raise what has been dubbed free-range kids, children who get around on their own, pretty much as I did when I was eight or nine, going off to the playground with no parental or other adult supervision. And I did that before the days of cellphones. These current parents have been highly criticized in some circles. What if something happens?
I find myself regularly conflicted between safety and a more laissez-faire attitude.