My feelings on this are mixed. Aidan will be in 4th grade next year and I don't even know if I am going to let him ride the school bus because it is mixed with 4th grade up through high school kids.
I grew up in a non-traditional family situation. At my dad's house on weekdays we had really strict rules: curfew, couldn't be out driving after a certain time, couldn't eat certain foods that were normal in other houses and on and on. On the weekends I would go to my mom's house and there weren't any rules over there. My mom's car only seated 5 so two of us rode in the trunk area (it was a station wagon type of car). My sister almost drowned in the ocean because we went swimming and there was a strong undertow and my mom had no idea where we were at the time. Before I moved in with my dad, I lived with my mom in Hawaii. She let me walk home from school as a Kindergartener and a man followed me home once and was trying to get into the house while I hid under my bed praying he would go away or that my mom would come home. Another time she left me in a sugar cane field on the side of a highway and drove off. She still says to this day that she would have left me there if my little sister hadn't been crying so long and loud for her to go back and pick me up. I rode the Bay Area Rapid Transit (subway system in Northern California) from the time I was 10 to get to my mom's house on the weekends. Once a man was staring at me from across the aisle and touching himself. Actually, a lot of that kind of thing happened to the girls in my family and it stunk!
I can't help but wonder what my life would have been like had I been a little less neglected by my mom and a little more trusted by my dad. It is true that at my dad's house I walked to school and was allowed to ride my bike all over the place until dark and without a helmet. I was allowed to have sleep overs.
Now as a parent I am way too cautious. I do let my kids ride the school bus and most of the time walk home from the bus stop, but the bus stop is only one house away. I let them play outside, but only in the backyard and it is fenced in and I am secretly checking on them about every 20 minutes. When they ride bikes in the neighborhood I go with them. If they want to play with a friend that isn't right next door, I walk them over. I don't allow them to have sleep overs. I am afraid to take them camping because of weirdoes and wild animals. So I guess I am in the helicopter camp. I don't like them to play at a friend's house if only the dad is home. I teach my kids what to do if they do get lost, they know their phone number, etc., and what types of people to go to for help (a mom with kids, someone with a name tag, etc.,). I wish I could be more of a free-ranger, but my childhood was more like A Series of Unfortunate Events than Little Women.
Is the world a scarier place than when we were kids? What do you all think? What type of parent are you?