Growing up in small-town southern Missouri, I never realized how good I had it. After school and all summer, I roamed. Alone or with friends, restrained by little other than parental orders to stay within a reasonably large area and check in occasionally, I enjoyed the freedom of childhood.
These days, government treats unaccompanied pre-teens like re-enactments of the Charles Lindbergh, Jr. kidnapping — and their parents like Bruno Richard Hauptmann, executed in 1936 for that abduction and murder.
Ten-year-old Raffi Meitiv, 10, and his six-year-old sister Dvora, have been abducted off the streets of Silver Springs, Maryland. Twice. Not by Hauptmann-style evil-doers, but by police. They’ve been held by Child Protective Services. Their parents have been deemed guilty of “non-specific neglect” for allowing them to walk to and from a park near their home.
The ransom demand in the second of these abductions? That Raffi and Dvora’s parents sign a “temporary safety plan” agreeing to never, ever, ever let the kids go outside by themselves.
The Meitivs have focused media attention on the issue with their courageous decision to fight the nanny state nonsense instead of just doing as they’re told. Their situation is not at all unusual. Similar idiocy takes place every day, all over.
As Lenore Skenazy, “Free-Range Kids” blogger and host of the “World’s Worst Mom” reality TV show notes at Reason, “we all are beginning to understand just how insane, paranoid, and vindictive the state can be when it comes to respecting human rights — in [the Meitiv’s] case, the right of parents who love their kids to raise them the way they see fit.”
When my youngest son was five, he wanted to walk to the deli a block from our house — accessible via quiet, sidewalked, residential streets — and buy his own sandwich. After strict instructions to stay away from the busier street on which the deli fronted, I let him do his big-boy thing.
The first time, I concealed myself and watched him carefully. Once it became a regular thing, I awaited his return on the front porch, prepared to check on him if he was gone longer than expected. Then one day he arrived home in the back of a police car, and I got a lecture on how dangerous it was to let him walk a block and back by himself.
Nonsense! What’s dangerous is treating kids like babies well into their teens, then expecting them to magically blossom into full-blown responsible adults at 18 on the dot. Responsibility is a product of the freedom to learn and grow. When government gets in the way of that freedom, we’re all worse off for the increasingly infantilized society that results.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
- “The kids are alright, it’s the cops and bureaucrats who need to chill,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Muscatine, Iowa Journal, 04/15/15
- “The nanny state contributes to infantilization of adults,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Libby, Montana Western News, 04/17/15