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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 3:27 pm | A Few Clouds 66º


She Said, Z Said: Free-Range Children in a Helicopter World

What's your breaking point for letting your kid fail ... or fall?

She: Time’s cover article last week was, “The Case Against Over-Parenting.” Do you think we over-parent?

Z: I think that because we’re having this conversation, by definition, yes.

She: I actually think I over-parent and you under-parent, so hopefully together we’re doing OK.

Z: Except when it comes to cookies. You way under-parent in that category.

She: I hope you won’t be offended, but if anything ever happens to me you’ll be legally required to run all major parenting decisions by my sister, your sisters and a few of our friends. It’s just a precaution.

Z: Why would I be offended?

She: And just talking about how you raise your kid doesn’t count as over-parenting. It seems minimally conscientious at worst.

Z: I guess I’m comparing us to previous generations. It used to be if you lost a couple of your kids to the lions, it would mostly be a drag because now you only had 10 children working your fields instead of a dozen.

She: We have one egg in one basket, and I’m not letting him near any lions. Or you anymore, for that matter.

Z: You’re right, it’s different now. One kid changes the equation. Cocooning him in bubble wrap every morning doesn’t always seem like a terrible idea.

She: So I won’t cancel my order, which is good, because otherwise I was going to wrap him in Charmin.

Z: The problem is that when you do that, then you kill all sorts of learning possibilities. If you’re always protecting your kid, then they never learn to protect themselves.

She: Alive and helpless isn’t the worst thing.

Z: Back when I was Park Dad, I had a rule of thumb for when he was climbing something, or learning a new piece of playground equipment.

She: You let him climb stuff? Seriously? You don’t love him.

Z: I always let him get high enough that it would hurt if he fell, but it wouldn’t maim or kill him.

She: Maiming was your threshold? That’s it. In the event of my death even minor decisions will have to be run by a jury of my peers.

Z: Honestly, breaking was my threshold. Serious scratching. Whatever. I wanted him to find out what his limits were, without putting him in real danger.

She: Well, it is true that we’ve kept him out of the emergency room (knock on wood).

Z: Other than the time we starved him when he was first born. My bad.

She: I don’t want to be an overly overprotective parent. I joke about having to balance you out, but the truth is I do fight against my helicopter instincts on a pretty regular basis.

Z: The only way a kid learns the right way to fall is to fall a few times.

She: Hey, I read the book on Free-Range Kids. I know all of the statistics on why we shouldn’t be afraid to give children at least the same amount of freedom that we had as kids.

Z: What’s the worst that could happen?

She: I broke an arm and nine fingers when my parents left me home alone.

Z: See? You can’t give in to the fear.

She: My favorite line from the Time article was that “Fear is a kind of parenting fungus: invisible, insidious, perfectly designed to decompose your peace of mind.”

Z: You’re going to be a bundle of fun when he gets his driver’s license, aren’t you?

She: My imagination splinters into a million fearful little pieces whenever I think about anything bad happening to Koss.

Z: On the other hand, I do agree that you can be too laissez-faire. I’m not a huge fan of the local day-care provider who let her own kids plus one of her charges go free-climbing up the side of a cliff.

She: I’ve got mixed feelings about that one, but I wouldn’t let Koss do it. I’ve still got the gray hair from when we let him go rock climbing — in a harness and safety gear — with his teacher in second grade.

Z: You realize he has that same teacher again this year?

She: And you realize that if they do it again this time, you’ll be the one chaperoning while I’ll be in full denial mode.

Z: You’re good at that.

She: It’s been a while, but your youthful sky diving, mountain climbing and river rafting days gave me a lot of practice.

Z: Yes, dear.

— Share your free range opinions with She and Z by e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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