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Free-Range Parenting Now Legal in Utah. You May Be Surprised What That Means.

Utah Governor Gary Hubert signed a bill last week legalizing a controversial parenting method known as “free-range parenting.” Now, before you get out your pitchforks and accuse Utah of promoting child neglect, let me explain what this means, because it may surprise you. The bill will allow children ages nine and older to:

  • Walk to and from school alone
  • Wait in a (safe) parked car while their parent runs errands in a store
  • Travel to recreational facilities by themselves
  • Bike and/or play outside without adult supervision

In short, the bill allows kids to grow up just like we did in the 1980s. I’ll pause for gasps, fainting, and righteous indignation from the pearl-clutching section.

Did you sanctimommies get all the superiority out of your systems? Sweet. Moving on.

Lawmakers in Utah believe our culture has become overly concerned with judging parents for allowing children to have common-sense freedoms. We are seeing more and more cases of alleged child neglect, which turn into bogus investigations taking time and resources away from child protective services. The state of Utah wants to foster more independence in its families and thus hopes to make it harder to penalize parents for allowing their kids the kinds of freedoms listed above.

Imma join the Mormons on this particular issue with a hearty “Amen!”

As a society, we are crying a whole lot of wolf when it comes to child neglect.

A family in Maryland went to court for letting their kids–ages 10 and 6–walk home from a park.

A mother in Canada went through CPS investigations for letting her children play in their own backyard.

Another mom was reported for child neglect because her daughter had nine cavities at a dentist appointment.

It has gotten to the point where families are afraid to give children any independence whatsoever because they don’t know if a pietistic helicopter mom is lurking around the corner, waiting to report them.  You can’t even let your kid play at a park across the street while you are in your front yard mowing the lawn without some “concerned citizen” creepily approaching your child. Ask me how I know. Because, yeah, that happened to me.

You know what else happened to me? I once let my four-year-old play in an indoor play place while I watched him from below, coffee in hand. He began fussing for me to climb in because he didn’t want to get shocked by the plastic slide and he was too lazy to make his way down the stairs. That’s when a solicitous stranger decided to take matters into her own hands and collect the boy herself, thereby scaring the actual piss out of him.

Maybe it’s the prevalence of the internet, smart phones, and readily available video footage, but something has gone wrong when we can’t even allow a four-year-old to problem solve in a freaking foam rubber play place. We have created a culture of hyper-vigilance and mommy shaming, and it’s got to stop.

I just hope Utah’s efforts to normalize free-range parenting will knock some sense into the court of public opinion.