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Can I Hover at a Distance?

I've long maintained that "free-range parenting" and all of those let-your-kids-roam-free approaches to child-rearing are contextual. For instance, my friends who live on a giant acreage in a small community can probably afford to let their littles go wild outside without any direct supervision. I'm pretty sure that most people know each other in that community, so it's likely that if something were to go sideways, other people in the neighborhood or town would be able to intervene or assist. That whole "it takes a village" thing? Totally would apply in a situation like theirs.

Gorgeous urban living

However, a big city is another context entirely. The fact that a lifetime ago, I used to work with the feds and had direct knowledge of and contact with paroled sex offenders gives me an inherent bias and caution that other parents might not have. There's also the reality that most people in a big city don't know each other, and tend not to intervene in others' affairs. This means that, while a stranger might still insert themselves into a situation to help a child who is lost or in danger and alone, there's also a good chance that an adult engaged in a situation with a screaming crying kid might not raise any red flags or cause a stranger to get involved. I was at Whole Foods a few weeks ago when a woman started screaming at a child (presumably hers); I wanted to stop and ask how I could help, but I talked myself out of it because I wanted to mind my own business; by the time I had reconsidered, they were gone. Keep in mind, I'm usually pretty outspoken and ballsy, too; if I hesitated, I'm pretty certain that most people with less gumption than I would have done so as well.

There's also a difference in traffic between small communities and large cities. In our current neighborhood, there are several intersections that are very busy, and major thoroughfares that surround our building. I have been to small towns that only have a whopping  two sets of traffic lights, favouring 4-way stops that are two city blocks apart. Perhaps it's just me, but somehow the 4-way stops seem infinitely less menacing than the city streets filled with people racing around in their BMW's and Lams (yes, we have an abundance of sports cars and Bimmers in our parkade).

Throwing her American Baby doll

It makes me wonder how things will shake out once we leave our urban concrete jungle for the suburban life. Right now, I keep Little L pretty close, and would probably be accused of helicopter parenting; I hold her hand when we walk down the sidewalk, and I am never more than 10 feet away from her when she's playing on the playground equipment (okay, usually I'm closer than that, but that's because I'm spotting her while she climbs, or pushing her on the swings).

But then again, she's only 3. Maybe that's to be expected. Maybe every parent of 3-year-olds hovers.

And helping "baby" climb the ropes

As she gets older, I would definitely like to increase my proximal distance (lest I be accused of helicopter-parenting my first-grader!), and am looking forward to seeing how having a larger home in a smaller community might lend to that goal.

What kind of freedoms do you give your 3-year old? How does free-range or helicopter parenting look like in your family?


Andrea Firmani said…
For us things changed when the eldest went to school. He gained more independence overall and it slowly trickled into our own family life. I don't fret and get all uppity when we are at the playground and he wants to play on a different side.
I think it depends on the kid and their level of awareness too. Some kids are just sharper than others!
We've taught both the 6 and the 3 year old how to properly cross streets in traffic. How we look for cars and how we don't assume the car is looking for us.Since we walk a lot through tout all of the city, we get so many chances for lessons. That being said I haven't yet sent the 6 year old out on his own to go to the corner store for milk..but that day will come.

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