Family Life


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Should kids have more freedom?

kids climbing a tree

Honestly, parents were way more chill decades ago. As kids we hung out under the sun, not always under our parents’ watchful eyes. Is summer the season of supervision, or should we let our kids roam until the streetlights come on? Two parents raise interesting points from both sides.


As a free-spirit, and someone who gains awareness from being alone in my thoughts and space, I feel like I was meant to parent in another lifetime—the 1970s or 1980s.

I spent hours outside when I was a kid—free to explore and “just be.” It built resilience and fostered those crucial skills of self-regulation and resourcefulness. There was no parent driven boredom-busting in our house; my older sister and I had to figure out life on the daily during summer break, and I’d say we were happier and better adjusted for it. I crave freedom for my kids.

I remember when playdates meant walking down the street to find friends instead of scheduled and chauffeured dates arranged by Mom and Dad; when trips to the beach were spent splashing carelessly and throwing mud pies, not subject to reprimand. Dad could park it by the pool to catch some rays, not watching every cannonball, and it wasn’t a topic of scrutiny. Mom could nosedive into a book at the park and not be given sideeye by onlookers because she took a hot minute for herself. Fun was something we figured out—it wasn’t driven by two months’ worth of endless break-the-bank, over-planned experiences. We used outdoor voices and played in our backyards. Our parents didn’t worry about bugging the neighbours—their kids were out too. The goal was to make memories, not magic. The ordinary was extraordinary.

Yearning for that lowpressure parenting style, I admit I’d let my gang do a heck of a lot more if I wasn’t so aware of how quick society is to judge a laissez-faire approach. Today we’re barraged with too much information and we’ve come to equate good parenting with overprotection. I wonder if we’re hindering our kids’ confidence and trustworthiness.

I say bring back that ’70s summer vibe (with a few modern-day innovations like helmets, lifejackets and seatbelts—preventable injuries and accidents weren’t cool back then and they’re not cool now). The kids are gonna be alright; I’m done with over-parenting and sheltering. #BringBackWildhood. — Sonya Kerr, Mom of Four


Sure, letting the kids roam free sounds awesome but there’s just no way—I’m far too anxious to let my kids have the same liberties and freedoms I was allowed as a child. The mere thought of leaving my two girls unsupervised for any length of time starts every doomsday scenario possible in my head—they’ll get hurt, they’ll be approached by strangers, they’ll get lost, something even worse will happen—you name it, I guarantee I’m pondering it.

Now don’t think I’m a some nutty fear monger or afraid of my own shadow. I know there are more good people in the world than bad. But you can’t deny the horror stories we hear every single day (note to self: stop watching and listening to the news); they make me want to keep my babies on a very tight leash. I am all for giving my kids every opportunity I can afford them—they will be allowed to have copious playdates with friends, we’ll take daytrips to amusement parks, overnights at cool waterparks—but these will be done with mommy (or daddy) dearest present. If they grow up not knowing anything different than me being within arm’s reach at all times, I’ve made peace with that. And I don’t think they’ll feel slighted in the least.

My girls are still little, but I can’t see my attitude and parenting style changing as they approach their tween and teenage years. (In fact, I’ll likely get more protective.) I’ll be the parent who gives the kids choices that give them the illusion of freedom (“Want insert-friend’s-name-here to come over to our house or do you want to go over to her house?”). And as long as I’m the one taking the kids to play places, indoor pools and the like, I can be parked in one place while keeping my eye on everything (and everyone) around us. They can feel as if they have the freedom to roam—I’m even cool if they fall and scrape their knees—in the cushy bubble of safety I have created. Look, this isn’t the ’70s. Times have changed and this anxious mama still needs to sleep at night. The kids probably won’t know the difference. And I’m totally OK with that. — Whitney Hilts, Mom of Two

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, Spring/Summer 2018

a man carrying two children

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