Free Range Adults


Editor says: note the author’s name.

The Free Range Kids movement, if we dare call it that, was started by Lenore Skenazy who had the audacity not only to send her then-nine-year-old son all by his lonesome to navigate the New York City transit system armed with a Metrocard, a twenty-dollar bill, and a handful of quarters, but also to be public about it.

After her column appeared in the now-defunct (and sadly missed) New York Sun, the almost-immediate TV debate was whether she was “America’s Worst Mom.” Due to the reaction that a seemingly innocuous slice-of-life urban parenting provoked, Ms. Skenazy was motivated to start a website where other parents can share stories and also to monitor the insanity of modern child-rearing, which extends until the “children” enter college.

Earlier this year, parents in Maryland were facing charges for letting their children walk home from a park, but a court in its wisdom cleared them of charges of neglect. This is not an isolated incident. The news is full of stories of busybodies who call the police once they spot a kid outside of immediate adult supervision—playing in the park or walking home from the library. The police come, followed by a brigade of social workers, and tax dollars are spent and families are torn asunder. The notion that kids should—let alone desire to—take a stroll in the wide, wide world, unfettered from parental control is nearly unimaginable.

This isn’t to mourn the good old days, when a parent could give a kid a fiver and expect him to trot down to the corner market to get a pack of cigarettes or a fifth of gin (with a note signed by his mother).

But it is to mourn today, when a kid can’t get out of the house armed with a library card and some kind of smarts to remember which street leads where…and where an adult can’t leave the house without being surveilled by electronic monitoring, which we voluntarily submit to. It’s time for a revolt. It’s time for Free Range Adults.

For most of us, Free Range Adulthood cannot be accomplished on a daily basis. Our employers have us burdened with IDs and keycards, and without these shreds of electronica, most of us wouldn’t be able to make it to our workstations. But on the weekends, why not try a bit of Free Range Adulthood?

On a Saturday or Sunday, leave the house with just your house key, that is, if you don’t feel safe leaving your door unlocked. Leave your cellphone or device at home. You don’t need to make calls or take pictures of your feet when you out and about. Leave the credit cards at home and use cash. This may take a little pre-planning, and a visit to the ATM the day before, but you know how much cash you might need for an afternoon out. Bonus: when you pay in cash that is the end of transaction for you. There is no record that goes to the credit card company and is mailed to you three weeks later, and no interest if you don’t cough up the full balance. Paying cash is good for the environment. It’s sustainable!

If you choose to drive on your Free Range adventure, unplug your GPS. Yes, you will have to rely on your wits, and that map tossed on the backseat. One concession to the man you’ll have to make is to bring your license. It is one thing for parents to claim that their kids are free range, but it is another to have to explain to an officer of the law that you are a free-ranger. There is one free-range grown-up that I know who keeps her license behind the sun visor in her car. That’s right. She doesn’t carry it on her person at all times. She doesn’t need it any other time, and if she is picking up a six-pack, she’ll take it with her. She lives in area that is bonkers for carding.

Carding can be a problem for free-ranger. On your afternoon out, you may want to enjoy an adult beverage. But, being a Free Range Adult, your ID is at home. When you claim you left your ID at home, some snooty server may say, “That’s our policy.” But if you don’t look over 21, then you aren’t dressing well enough. That said, be prepared to leave. There are other purveyors of refreshments who will happily take your money.

If you spend an afternoon as a Free Range Adult, you will find it to be liberating and perhaps a bit naughty, like skinny dipping. But you will find that you can do it, and your confidence will grow, and you will to stretch out your afternoons to an entire day. In time, you will search for moments where you can try out your Free Range persona at work. You may not be able to make it through a whole day, but you may be able to slip in from lunch by tailing a colleague.

There is no reason why kids are the only ones who can reap the benefits of slipping the leash now and again. It is something that we all should do, and do more often.


  1. Gary

    Ms. Bombshell,
    You probably have been city-dwelling far too long. We more rural types free-range quite frequently. I particularly enjoy the trout streams out of cell phone reach. Even so, leaving doors unlocked — a standard rural practice — has become more of a problem now that certain city-dwellers have means to roam our countryside and poke their noses where they don’t belong. I’m sure you’re not that type, but still… If you decide to free-range outside city limits, please be neighborly, say hello, but don’t tell anybody where you’ve been. They’ll all want to visit and we would prefer not becoming overcrowded.

  2. katzxy

    Paying cash also reduces the chance of identity theft.

  3. We do the “free range adult” at our cabin. We do take the cell phone, only because we are thirty miles from the nearest actual phone, but we turn it off. There is one road in and no one is allowed to drive anywhere but the road. God gave us feet–we should use them. We have a solar panel and a couple of DC lights. It’s our “get away from it all” sanctuary.

    I can turn off a GPS while leaving, but I may need it to get home. No wait, I always find my way back, even if the route is three times longer than need be! And I find all kinds of new places I had not seen before!

    Really good post. We should all be more Free Range Adults. Speaking of free range, my range needs mowing, so I’m leaving behind the electronics and taking up the mechanical.

  4. Briggs


    Have you noticed with me the increasing number of bien pensant articles about how bad cash is, how it’s expensive, how it’s only used by criminals, how it’s actually being charged with crimes, and so on? If you’re not doing anything illegal, why do you need cash?

    See also Wired Workers. Companies want to track you wherever you go. It’s for your own good.


    Be without a cell phone? What if there were an emergency!? Do you want us all to die?

  5. Robbie

    “This isn’t to mourn the good old days, when a parent could give a kid a fiver and expect him to trot down to the corner market to get a pack of cigarettes or a fifth of gin (with a note signed by his mother).”

    I mourn the passing of those days.

    An example of the changes in Los Angeles: As a 12 year old I rode my bike a few miles to the rifle range with my .22 rifle strapped to my back and with ammo in my backpack. That was perfectly legal, and nobody gave it a second thought.

  6. Gary

    My wife requires I take the cell phone even if I can’t/don’t use it. The fish don’t care either way.

  7. Kids used to be grown ups at 18. Now, it doesn’t happen, or it happens around 40.

    If you’re on welfare, having more than $20 on your person could get you arrested. Sure, you’re not on welfare, but it does mean the police can stop you and ask a lot of questions until they verify you’re not on welfare.

    No ID (driver’s license), or insurance card is a problem. Bad things happened when my wife didn’t have hers. The cop didn’t write her a 10-day cure ticket. No he invaded our home.

  8. Larry Geiger

    I’m free range most of the time when not at work (I’ve been wearing a badge for 29 years and I hate it). Until April I had a geezer phone that was always turned off and that I never took anywhere except for extended trips (to call my son who bought me the phone so that I could call him while I was away on extended trips). Last Saturday we took a walk in the Charles H. Bronson state forest. Free range. Just wandering around. Otherwise we get on the GoldWing, ride to the next intersection and then ask each other, “Which way next?”. We always end up somewhere.

  9. Mike in KC, MO

    I may leave my keys at home, but I refuse to leave without my pipe and pistol. What do you think I am, a barbarian?

  10. Dave

    Good article. Regarding leaving your cell phone at home, I agree with the sentiment, but disagree with the idea of leaving it at home and here is why.

    The problem with cell phones being everywhere is not the fault of your cell phone, but of your inability to control your use of the device. A few thoughts on self control regarding cell phones.

    If it rings, you are not required to answer it, unless you are Jack Bauer and POTUS is calling you direct.

    Taking photos and videos is fun, but just how much crap are you dumping into the cloud? Couldn’t that bandwidth be used for something more useful. At the very least, limit your photo and video uploads to only the very best and most interesting subjects… Quality over quantity… Selfies are never quality.

    Finally, our smart phones enable socialization. Be social on you free range days, it’s ok. People matter too. Reach out. Reach out and touch someone.

  11. Amen to all of this. Free ranging makes for healthy adults.

    Scary what the world has become. Safety above all; Including the good things in life.

    I free range in the city myself and its better. Keys and cash. Life is simple, and life is good.

  12. Bob Lince

    If you please, whence comes the photo illustrating this post?

  13. swordfishtrombone

    Very amusing post. I assume I qualify as a “free range adult” as I have neither a mobile (cell) phone nor a credit card.

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