This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 6-year-old daughter Viva, who takes the L alone every day to shoot cans off a fence and poke raccoon carcasses with sticks.
The news this week has announced that Utah passed the country’s first “Free Range Parenting” legislation: the Child Neglect Amendments, which allegedly allow children to do things on their own without penalty to the parent. In the past 24 hours there have already been about a jillion fluff reports and opinion pieces praising the law — many on parenting sites where daddies and mommies can praise this “common sense” measure and talk about how this brings the world back to “the way things used to be,” i.e., a non-specific time in the past when all child-rearing was perfect, resulting in generations of perfectly well-adjusted adults.
What complaints and criminal cases in Utah is the law responding to? Well … none. No one in Utah has been charged with neglecting their children because they were walking home, but say you’re trying to return parenting to the realm of by-cracky heuristics and it sure plays well in the parenting media.
Republican Senator Lincoln Fillmore, whose parents thought that was a good name for their baby, passed the law saying, “we have become so over-the-top when ‘protecting’ children that we are refusing to let them learn the lessons of self-reliance and problem-solving that they will need to be successful as adults.”
How have we become over-the-top? What are these lessons they need to learn? The law and every article about it seems to be reacting to two cases, one in Maryland and one in New York. In the Maryland case, a family was investigated for letting their children walk home from a park in Silver Spring. The cops picked up the kids twice for this, including one time in which an officer saw them being eyed by a homeless man. And in New York, a mom got in trouble for letting her kid ride the subway alone, and has parlayed that incident into a career as a “free range parenting” guru.
Fillmore said the law is purposefully open-ended so police and prosecutors can work on a case-by-case basis. Oh, and another Utah lawmaker already added an amendment to a federal education bill in 2015 which said about the same thing … so the Utah state law doesn’t change anything, doesn’t define anything, and opens up a new line for defense in abuse cases. It’s just a lot of hot air.
But, by gum, it sure sounds like it allows these Gen Z kids with their SnapDabs and their Vape Drives to return to the halcyon days of our own childhoods when we all walked over railroad trestles looking for dead bodies and rolled inside old tires up to the old Radley place and tricked other kids into whitewashing fences … and we liked it.Arkansas considered a similar bill last year and rejected it. Utah, you just did something Arkansas thought was too dumb. Go to you room and think about what you’ve done, Utah.
No doubt I’ll soon see praise for this law all over my Facebook feed. Facebook, when not stealing your data to help the Russians tell you that Hillary Clinton is selling uranium to children in the basement of a pizza place, is a great place for the people from your high school who used to smoke things they found in ditches to scream about wisdom. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend on my social media as my generation slouches into middle age that suddenly people are reminiscing about how we all grew up swinging into ponds on ropes and playing kick the can.
Only, I was there. We didn’t. We grew up playing millions of hours of video games, begin driven places by our parents and trembling in front of “The Adam Walsh Story.” Every generation reaches a point where they forget that they were mollycoddled rugrats and starts to bloviate about how they beat the Kaiser to death with their divining rods and their bootstraps and their rugged individualism. I guess Gen X is there now.
Never mind that we spent our childhoods beating the hell out of each other in school and scratching our chicken pox and falling off of all-terrain vehicles, kids today with their play dates and their learning apps and their Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports have it all wrong.
So, enjoy the news today about Utah’s phony law and pat your brilliant “gut” proudly; you grew up in an enlightened libertarian Eden. Kids these days? Well, look at them with their BuJos and their Ariana Grandes and their school walk-outs and their million-plus marches begging not to be murdered — they’re just too darn sheltered.
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