Now, I’m not a free ranger—I’d like to be, but thanks to articles like this one I’m afraid of being charged with any number of unsubstantiated crimes. Yet it’s hard to see the above as an indictment of the Meitiv children. Despite our best efforts to be on top of them, my children have hit other kids and gotten lost. Indeed, it’s hard to find a child that hasn’t done these things. On this point, Roake even admits the premise of her own article isn’t rock solid. “None of these stories are damning—they only tell us that the Meitivs are kids who act like kids,” as she puts it. If that’s the case, why is she inviting everyone on the Internet to scrutinize their behavior?
As someone who serves on a school board at a K-8 school and otherwise spends quite a few hours on the playgrounds with my own kids, a far bigger problem than needing strangers to step in and occasionally help unsupervised kids is parents who reaffirm their kids’ bad behavior when they’re standing by and given ample opportunity to correct it. Many parents are afraid that if they say anything to their progeny that sounds angrier than an NPR host on Quaaludes they’ll irreparably damage Brielle’s already overinflated self-worth, yet it’s usually the same parents who get irrationally angry should a well-intentioned stranger kindly suggest their child stop kicking that poor dog.
But regardless, you know what it’s called when kids make mistakes without adult supervision and have to wrestle with the resulting consequences? Growing up. As free-range parenting gets more popular, I suspect we’ll see more knee-jerk attacks on parents like the Meitivs. I think most of America will welcome the free-range movement with open arms, but there’s little doubt this newfound freedom threatens the supposedly enlightened and tacitly authoritarian political program in very liberal communities such as the D.C. suburbs.