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I Grew up Free-Range but Turned Into a Helicopter Mom

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Read Time: 3 minutes

A note from a reader who changed after reading the note from another reader!

I loved my childhood freedom!

Hi Let Grow,

A friend of mine recommended your newsletter to me just in the last few months and I really enjoy it. 

I grew up in Vermont in the ’70s with LOTS of freedom. At 5, 6, 7 and 8 years old, I left in the morning to play in the neighborhood, came home for lunch, left again and came home for dinner.  Sometimes I’d go back out until it started to get dark. I walked at least three blocks to school each day, sometimes with a buddy but alone as I grew older. Then we moved to the country and as a pre-teen and teenager, I rode my bike on main roads miles from home, hiked in woods, and was a latch-key kid, even during the dark winter months. My parents would get home well after dark. 

But somehow I went from Free-Range to Helicopter.

Many years later, I live in a middle class neighborhood that has a nature reserve one mile up the road, and one mile the other way is the Boston line, an area with one of the highest crime rates in the city.  I have an 11 year old daughter who I won’t even let play in the yard alone.

I can preach all day about the importance of independence, responsibility and freedom, but when it comes to the most valuable thing in my life, I am afraid.  She also attends a small private school (where I work) so she doesn’t have neighborhood kids that she knows that she can go play with, or their mothers looking out for her. I absolutely will not let her have a phone until she’s in high school so I’ve struggled with letting her go out of my reach of safety, unable to call me if she needs me.  

And now? Even though I’m STILL worried…

So here is where I say thank you for your April 17th article, “I Let My Kids Walk to the Library On Their Own.”  I know it’s not much, but since reading the article, I’ve allowed my daughter the freedom to ride her bike a few blocks away from home alone.

When I say it aloud, it sounds absurd, like, “Of course she should be able to do that.” But even this is hard for me. I do not get anything done while she’s gone because I’m waiting and worrying, and she has to check in every 20 minutes. I know if we lived elsewhere, it would likely be very different but at least it’s a step in the right direction.  

I’m grateful!

Keep sending your newsletters!  Pray for the safety of our children and the strength for the moms to know that their children will be okay. 



Let Grow here: Of course we pray for the safety of all kids and the bravery of their parents! We even try to make both those things happen with more ease and joy, with our Let Grow Independence Kit for parents, and our Pledge of Independence that sends home an easy, bravery-building experience each week for 10 weeks. All our materials are free!

And if you’d like to chat with others about letting go — including questions and hesitations along the way — join our Facebook Group, Raising Independent Kids. As you’ll see, you are not alone. So many parents are surprised to find themselves hovering way more than their own parents did. It’s a sign on the times, not individual neuroses. That’s why Let Grow is constantly trying to make it NORMAL again to let go a little!

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