Friday, September 2, 2016

Free-range children

I recently read an article entitled "Free-Range Parenting Is A Privilege For The White And Affluent". I'd never heard of free-range parenting before. It sounds a lot like free-range chickens or pigs or something like that. Admittedly, at first I just couldn't get past the "free-range" part. The metaphor paints a hilarious picture in my mind of children running amuck in the neighborhood and the mom trying to herd them back for supper, enticing them with corn meal. I guess kids can be animals sometimes. After some research I found out that free-range parenting refers to the philosophy and practice of letting your child roam and romp about on their own in accordance to their ability and maturity levels, somewhat the opposite of helicopter-parenting, as another article put it. Apparently kids could do that at one point in time, like back in the 70s. Minus the corn meal. Way before my time.

Then I struggled with the rest of the title. "Privilege" is such a buzz word these days. It seems like all one has to do is throw up the word "privilege" and it will immediately evoke sympathy in the audience. Sort of like a special power in a Pokemon battle or something. Like, blogger pulls the victim of privilege card, it is effective! (I think? I'm not sure how Pokemon works.) Whenever I read "privilege", I cringe because I feel like the writer is utilizing a narrative power-up of sorts to rhetorically lure me into the aforementioned state of sympathy. Your tricks don't work on me, I'm an English major. Then there's the "white" and "affluent" part. Those darn white and affluent people. I kinda feel bad for the white people, the affluent people, and especially the white AND affluent people. They can't catch a break. And real quick, what about the black and affluent people? Do they get to free-range-parent too, or nah? But I digress; I'm getting ahead of myself.

After I read the article over (twice) my head hurt from all the whining the author spewed into her little corner of the interwebs. Because that's all her writing is. Her arguments aren't arguments, they're complaints.The bottom line seemed to be "I'm poor so my child can't go wherever she wants because the police will think I'm a crappy mother because I let my child wander about in a crime-prone area of town. And it would be even worse if we were black."

Stop. Just stop.

I grew up in a (half) white middle-class household in a neighborhood which gave me a unique socio-economic, socio-geographic (if that's a thing) perspective. At one end of the neighborhood, there lived a judge in the kind of house a judge could afford. At the other end were houses folks with humbler salaries could afford. We lived in the middle, in more ways than one. Smack behind my backyard was a country club golf course. Dad benefited from all the golf balls that found their way into our yard. Three streets down was a group of apartment complexes that myself and my brother were not allowed to go to. As a matter of fact, we were not allowed to go out past our own street. Mom did what responsible parents do: establish boundaries appropriate to the environment and our maturity.

 I think that's what the real free-range parent mantra is after: RESPONSIBLE independence. I read free-ranger Lenore Skenazy's FAQ section explaining her justification for letting her nine-year old son ride home on the subway in New York by himself. He had been begging for the independence, was well-equipped with a map, quarters, and street smarts, and made it home safe and sound. Contrast that with Nicole Gainey, whose case free-rangeless parent blogger bemoaned. Nicole Gainey was charged with a felony for letting her child play in the park alone, in a park with recent crime activity and known sexual offenders nearby. The child was no stranger to the park and had a cellphone, but panicked and ran away when a concerned citizen inquired to the whereabouts of his mother. Am I missing something? There was recent crime activity. The child spazzed, which could easily suggest a lack of maturity or ability to be out and about alone. What was the citizen supposed to think? I must say, given the evidence and story I read, I disagree with the felony verdict, but a slap on the wrist of some kind, or at least a reassessment of the child's ability to be out alone sounds reasonable.

Free-rangeless parent blogger wants to free-range parent, but she claims her problem is the stigma surrounding low-income people causes such a decision to fall under greater scrutiny than, say, a white affluent person. To which I say OF COURSE IT'S GOING TO FALL UNDER SCRUTINY. The scrutiny isn't personal, the scrutiny is a result of your geographic area, the crime that comes with it, and yes, your socio-economic status. Free-range parenting (as I understand it) demands risk assessment, risk acceptance, and risk mitigation. There is a lot more risk in a low-income, crime-prone part of town than a higher income, less crime-prone part of town. If you want to give your daughter more independence, move to a safer part of town. Safer doesn't have to mean more expensive. I live in a trailer park and feel safer than I did in my childhood neighborhood. 

It would be great if everyone everywhere could do anything they wanted. That, unfortunately, is not the world we live in. And when it comes to being responsible for little human beings that I brought into world, whose lives I was entrusted with, you can be damn sure their safety comes before my desired parenting philosophy. If I were in this blogger's shoes and deemed the area unsafe, I'd change my environment. If I deemed it safe, I'd let my daughter walk two blocks and back. (She lives in Montana, I don't know how unsafe Montana can really be?) And I think blogger parent would agree.

My problem is the fact that she whines about it. Whining offends my sensibilities. It's not really something to whine about. Free-range parenting isn't for the privileged, white, and affluent, it's for those who have responsibly mitigated risk. Yes, safer neighborhoods have it easier. Perhaps, mostly white and affluent people live in safer neighborhoods. But regardless, I wouldn't cry on the internet because of a stigma which, in more cases than she would like to admit, is reasonable. My child's safety supersedes my philosophical desires.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gracie Child

In my alternate reality, I would have realized the full extent of my love for ju-jitsu. I would have completely devoted myself to training under my teacher, supporting myself by working for some burger joint, slapping patties on a grill. After a few years of training and stuffing away cash, I would have moved to sunny, salty Torrance, California to train under the infamous Rorion Gracie in ju-jitsu heaven, more formally known as the Gracie Academy. Then, throughout my rigorous, devoted years of training, I would travel around the coasts, competing  against the finest female ju-jitsu players America has to offer, enjoying every passing second of community and glory. All the while supporting myself by slapping more patties, of course.

Yes, what a life. But alas, instead I am sitting here, desperately trudging through this blasted Spanish book, trying to not only understand the text, but understand what the homework assignment questions are actually asking.

Well. Eventually I’ll finish this assignment. I have to. Ju-Jitsu heaven awaits.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

social cues

I struggly, I try, but I just can't seem
to get it right.
It never came easy, this social thing.
Why are there so many rules? Why can't I just be me and you be you?
I say "hi", you say "hi", I say
"We can get along, be friends."
But no.
Too many cues, too many pauses, waits, speak,
no wait..
still pause.
Oh well.
One day I won't make a fool of myself.