Recently some friends were having a conversation on Facebook about Free Range Kids.

Not being a parent, I didn’t feel qualified to comment. But instantly I thought of Kurdish kids — now those are Free Range.

I am awake at 7 in the morning. One of the smaller children I’ve met is playing outside in the street. I think he is about four. There are no adults around, no other children, he is banging a stick against the ground. We’re in a tiny village. The houses are made of mud. I can feel the sun just starting to warm the air. What is he doing all alone out there?

The answer is, there is no reason for him not to be all alone out there.

Kids in this part of the world are independent. There are about a hundred adults in the village to watch out for them. And virtually no dangers. No one is going to kidnap him, no sexual predators, just miles and miles of farmland dotted with small villages like this one.

Kids who don’t live in the village have already made a career for themselves.

In Diyarbakır, the historical capital of what would be “Kurdistan” in Eastern Turkey (just that simple statement is politically loaded; the historical Kurdish name for this city is Amed) I met this boy. He wanted to give us a tour of the mosque. Actually, his English and knowledge of history were pretty good. I imagine he makes a fair amount of tips each day.

This little spitfire (pictured below, with his sister) is only three years old. He roams freely, playing amongst the goats and chickens and wandering around practically on his own, to and from the playground, with minimal supervision from his older sisters. We’re in the suburbs now.

Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned. –Lenore Skenazy, Free Range Kids

Although Lenore Skenazy is a New York City parent who allows her 9-year old to ride solo on the subway, I see some similarities. Whatever the “range” of your living area clearly a child needs some freedom to roam inside it. Whether your area is New York City or a village in Eastern Turkey, kids need room to explore.

Kurdish boys, at least, must grow up to be independent. Girls may stay closer to home, but some go to university and leave their families. Much about their lives is both very traditional and very uncertain. That’s because of the ‘politics’ I mentioned earlier — war could be in their future, or peace. That’s not something a kid on the NYC subway deals with every day. Or is it?

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