I’m No Longer A Free Range Mom After My 4-Year-Old Broke His Elbow

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free range children signI am not a helicopter mom. In fact, I horrify many of my friends who live in safer, less populated suburbs with the amount of freedom I give my young city-dwelling children. At ages two and four they walk everywhere, including up and down the massive subway stairs to school every single day. As they get a little older I imagined them riding the city bus to school together, but without me. Until last week.

My son broke his arm and all my visions of their growing independence went swirling down the drain, round and round, just as the blades on my helicopter mom-ness started spinning.

Before this accident I was far more free range than anything. I frequently let my children out of my sight at the grocery store and the playground.  I even let my son (the older of my two children) ride his scooter in the adjoining school lot on weekends while I push my daughter on the swings.  To say I don’t overschedule them would be an understatement. We don’t do any – I mean any – extracurricular activities and their toys are basic blocks, puzzles and books.  Figure it out kids!  We have nothing planned for the summer but trips to grandma and grandpa’s house outside of the city.  I threw all germ-phobias out the window once my thumb-sucking daughter started crawling around the city playgrounds.

After the accident?  I want to hose them with rubbing alcohol daily, swaddle them in bubble wrap, and buy them both leashes. No, leashes have too much leeway.  How about handcuffs?  In the event any of these are not an option I plan to schedule their every living moment until they move out of my house. All activities will now take place in a room intended for learning rather than playing.  Yes, the accident and the aftermath were just that traumatic.

We were walking home from the bus stop near our apartment.  My son ran ahead as he always does to play in the brick-lined garden outside our building.  I didn’t even see it happen.  I ran up with my daughter to find my son writhing on the ground (presumably he tripped over a brick ledge and fell) holding his elbow which was swelling faster than my feet in summer.

This is when it sucks to live in the city.  It was nearly five p.m. which is the double whammy of rush hour and taxi shift change.  Which meant I was never going to get a cab and, if by some miracle someone wanted to give me a ride, it would take 20 minutes to go one block.  So I picked my screaming child up and corralled my very worried 2-year-old across the street towards the nearest hospital.  After one block my son’s hysteria infected my daughter who was now screaming “uppy uppy uppy” and refused to walk another step.  I wasn’t sure we would make it.  No one looked at us, not to mention offer to help.  Normally I am happy when my kids are tantruming and no one even raises an eye to us, but today I regretted that attitude.

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