"Free-Range Parenting"—Another Ingredient in the Crock-Pot of Progressive Balderdash


By Larry Peterson

I grew up in the south Bronx of the 1950s and 60s. We kids in the neighborhood (and there were many kids in the neighborhood) would get home from school sometime around 3 p.m. Most of us went to St. Angela Merici Catholic School which was also the local parish. We all wore uniforms and within five minutes of getting home had shed those uniforms, dressed into our “play clothes” and were back out on the street. It was PLAY time. Most everyone had an important directive from their mom. In fact, it was the only directive. “Make sure you are home on time for supper.”

We roamed the streets, the alleyways, and we played stick-ball as traffic went by. We played curb-ball, punch-ball, zipped around moving traffic with roller skates on metal wheels that were held on by straps and clamps, and, of course, we played  Johnny-on-the Pony. Some of my friends still think that this was the greatest game ever. Others will agree with me. I still think it was Ringolevio.

Ringolevio was a game  developed on the streets of New York City and could be played anywhere. You formed two teams, set up a “prison” (usually a section of sidewalk marked in chalk), then the one team counted to a certain number while the other team ran and hid. The object was to track down and capture the opposing team members and bring them back to the “prison”. It was not easy tracking everyone down. Kids would hide in cellars, on rooftops, under stairwells while others stood there and dared you to catch them. You caught them by holding on to them and saying. “Ringolevio-123—three times. It was GREAT!

The bloody noses and black eyes and bruises that were incurred as the kid about to be caught fought to get away were a regular event and part of the fun. If you could hold onto your prisoner he had to surrender. But they could be freed if one of their team could break into the prison and yell, “FREE!”. They did this by busting through the “guards” put in place by the other team. The game was won by capturing all the opposing team and having them in prison at the same time. Rarely did we finish a game by supper time. It was easy to know when that was because Charlie Murray’s mom would yell out the window, “Charlie–time to eat.” That meant it was 5:30. It was amazing how quick the streets quieted down when suppertime arrived.

Today I have grandchildren. Today, my ten-year old grandson is not allowed to play “feeze-tag” in his schoolyard which consists of a flat, grass field. All the playground equipment that was there is gone. We cannot take chances that are kids might get hurt. If  parents decide to let their children (say age 10 and 8) walk a few blocks to a playground the children can be picked up by the police and taken into custody. The parents will be branded  “free-range parents” and can be accused of unsubstantiated child neglect.  Apparently, the litigiously paranoid world of the early 21st century has gone mad.

I guess if my parents lived today they would have lost their children to the state and be in prison. So would all of my friends’ parents. It also follows that since I was guilty of ongoing and numerous violations of this “free-range” phenomenon, I would be in the big-house too. I “parented” the way I was brought up. I never progressed and read one of those fancy parenting books written by an “expert” who never had any kids to begin with.

Today I hear reports that talk about “children” who are 26 years old being on their parents medical insurance. People 30 and 40 years old are still living with their parents. What have we done to the independent, self-sufficient responsible adult. Whoever started calling 26 year olds,”children”? They are NOT children.  When did society decide to add to its crock-pot of progressive balderdash, permanent childhood? I say “Free-Range Parenting” ROCKS! 

                             ©Larry Peterson 2015 All Rights Reserved

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