Free-Range Follies aka I Should Be Dead


Like many children of the 70’s and 80’s, I was a “free-range” kid. Of course, back then we were called “latch-key kids” or just “kids”. This essentially meant that for a good portion of our after school and weekend and winter break and summer break, our parents left us to fend for ourselves.

Luckily, I had two parents growing up and they took a fairly active role in me and my brother's lives. My mom would drive us to school and my dad coached my hockey and baseball teams. They also worked and it often meant we had to be out of the house when they were and weren’t around.

In general (and in their naivety), parents trusted us and gave us free reign to wander the neighbourhood. The big kids looked after the little kids and the little kids usually formed some type of pip squeak gang. As we got older, the boundaries got larger.

We only had one simple rule: Be home by the time the street lights come on.

When I talk to my friends about that time, they constantly yearn to return to those simpler days when they were free of responsibility and life was simple. The biggest dilemma was whose house to go to and where to find scissors to open the extra-large freezies.

Of course, when I am alone with my thoughts, I remember things a little differently. Thinking back on those golden oldie days, all I can think is: “I should be %$#@ing dead!”

When I was growing up, I was convinced that I would live forever and nothing could hurt me. I was a stupid kid who was ruled by impulse, cheap thrills and the desire to please my friends. Among the utterly stupid things that I did included:

  • Going down the basement stairs in a baby walker
  • Throwing rocks at a hornet’s nest
  • Driving my Big Wheel down a hill and crashing into a parked car
  • Dancing on the dining room table and smashing my face open not once, but twice
  • Taking a dart to the head
  • Sliding headfirst into a coffee table
  • Falling off a log bridge while crossing a ravine
  • Smashing into a billboard while tobogganing
  • Smashing into a tree while tobogganing

Count them up, that’s about 9 lives right there. But I was not a cat, I was a kid. Ironically, outside of some cuts, bruises, stitches and a bruised kidney, I came out of it relatively unharmed. I was incredibly lucky and there are times where I feel like I am in a Final Destination movie where Death has been cheated and is looking for the next opportunity to get me.

Luckily, I generally avoid roller coasters and saw mills.

I don’t look back on those days and think “man, I should raise my kids EXACTLY the way my parents raised me”. That would be bats#$t crazy. There are times when I am certain my mom wished that I would, not because she felt that she was a better parent, but rather that she secretly believed in karma and wished that it would bite me on a butt in a form of a Tazmanian Devil child of my own.

Spoiler Alert: My kids have all been relatively injury free but the verdict’s still out on the 4-year-old.



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Author: Mark Medland

Mark Medland is a 40 something father of five who lives in Mississauga, Ontario. When he is not working at one of the big Canadian banks or raising his kids, he likes to cheer for the Habs and eat amazing food with his wife Vanessa.

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