Wednesday, November 9, 2011


On Friday afternoon, a mysterious, hyperactive child appeared inside our new home in Melbourne.  After much questioning, I found out this child was named Talon (I confirmed this no less than six times with him), he was four years of age and no, he didn’t know where his mother was.  He then proceeded to take his massive scabby cat under his arm and head upstairs. And I didn’t stop him.  Because this is my new life.

We’ve only technically lived here, in Willsmere, an old asylum for just on a week.  And just quietly, it’s leading me down the loose parenting path rather quickly.  Seriously, there are a THOUSAND children in this place who appear to roam around the joint unsupervised for an alarming amount of time.

I find this difficult to deal with because while I wouldn’t say I was ever a helicopter parent, I certainly knew where my kid was at any given moment.  Which was usually inside our own gates, at our own home.  But here, well here it’s a bit of a free for all. 

And I should embrace this.  I grew up that way.  We’d leave in the morning, walk to our friends house (who had a pool) about 15 minutes away, and return at nightfall.  And this was with an extremely strict parent.  It was great, taught me life (and road skills) and well, made up my childhood.  But something feels wrong about giving the green light to a four year old to roam around what is essentially the set of a Hitchcock movie.   What if he goes missing? Where do I start looking?

And it started after Jack’s first day here at kindy.  He came home and told me with determination that his new best friend was a kid called Harry.  I took this on board and then quickly forgot it as a) he lies and b) he changes his best friend like he changes his Batman undies.  Turns out, Harry lives 3 doors down from us.  And in even better news, his dad owns a WINE SHOP!

So, their 3 children and our 3 children will be spending a fair bit of time together it seems.  And their parents are tops.  But I’ve always been weary of these kind of situations.  My mother always warned me about “living in each other’s pockets” and I’ve always taken that on board.   Luckily with all of us working 5 days a week and having a sweet communal pool, I think there will only be so much time allotted where we can actually bug each other.

We’ve also since then, met no less than about 20 people over drinks, BBQ’s, poolside encounters and general car park rage. Seems like our new home is a very social, welcoming and inclusive place.

So back to Talon and his mangy cat.  I never did meet his mother but he turns up from time to time.  He came over just yesterday afternoon, spewed a whole bunch of sentences at me, none of which I could understand other than the word ‘ukulele’ and bolted off again.  I’m not even entirely sure he was speaking English.   My bet is he belongs to the guy who is a professional Opera Singer at 210.  But at this stage, that is just a hunch.

And look, don’t get wrong, it’s all kinds of wonderful to potentially live amoungst families who, just like us,  are a little bit fucked up, a little bit tired and emotional after a full week of work and ready to live and let live as a general rule.

All I know is that if I can cut a balance somewhere between the uptight parent I guess I once was and Talon’s mother, I think we’ll be OK.

How about you?  Did you grow up ‘FreeRange’?  Do you overprotect your children or let them go for it?


Madmother said...

Free range here, and one of the reasons we live on the mountain.

I didn't want my kids growing up in a concrete courtyard in Sydney.

My childhood was one of building dams in the gravel curb on the side of the road, walking to the park a block away, running between friends houses.

Photographer Mum said...

Bit of free range here too. I had a great childhood and am aiming to give my own kids an equally good one although, in my opinion they are still too small to be wandering around by themselves at the moment.

Shelly - Tropical Mum said...

Free range here too. Don't think my parents ever saw me during the daylight hours of my childhood, but I was always within earshot of my Dad's whistle.

I know whistling for your child is akin to whistling for your dog and not ideal, but it was very effective in beckoning me home.

I think we've got a nice balance here. We live in a cul-de-sac and the boys are allowed to play on it with other children who live on our street, but they're not allowed to venture further. I always know where they are, but they have the freedom to play outside their own yard.

Smudgeblurr said...

Hey Bern,
Glad to hear you are finding your feet down there. when you talk of helicopter parents it reminds me of a you tube video I watched at Uni - cracked me up!!
Enjoy -

Fiona said...

We looked at moving into Willsmere for a while, Bern - too funny to read your account, it's really a bit of a different place to the norm. I think you would need to find a balance between living in people's pockets but also being sociable. Hope you are settling in well and hope the kids are finding their feet.

Diminishing Lucy said...

A bit of both - freerange in comparison to how I keep an eye on my kids though.

I had older brothers who knew were I was though.

Bern, your new lifestyle sounds very cool...


Wendy said...

Shelley, so glad to hear I wasn't the only one 'whistled for' (it worked bloody well really).
We were mostly free range, would love to let my kids do the same but some tool is driving around the Gold Coast trying to nab little kids it seems {sigh}....

Anonymous said...

Free range and I was sexually abused as a child so it does have its disadvantages! I don't helicopter my son but I am very careful about where he is, who he is with etc.


The Hand of a Jeanie said...

The girls are mostly free range, as long as I know where they are and who they're with.

Have you been to Hays Paddock yet? Best playground in Kew, or anywhere. The hot air balloons sometimes take off or land there early in the morning.


bailey j said...

I was under pretty strict rule but still did a fair share of roaming. I wish the world, or atleast my tiny town, could be as safe as it once was but times have changed (and im only 20). Talon sounds like an interesting character, his sticking around could be quite entertaining! your neighborhood sounds nice. it seems these days as if no one has any interest in anything but themselves, a sense of community could be quite refreshing!

Jules363 said...

We were free range kids. Just discovered your blog, and love it, hence reading back a bit and finding this sister lives at Willsmere :-)

Mandy Moves said...

I can't really tell how I first reacted to the image... My parents would definitely laugh to something like this!

Corenne Tavares said...

I'd love to know when you finally do find the little one's parents! I'm somewhere in between. Sometimes I'm over protective and other times I'm less so but in South Africa there is no roaming free unless you live in a security estate. Even when I go for walks with my girls we have encounters with some freakish people ... and we're in the burbs!