Confessions of a Free-Range Chicken

D.C. Barry, not so deep in thought Credits: Facebook

I found myself in the local Barnes & Noble yesterday. I hadn’t been there in a while.


I was struck by how much of the store’s floor space was now devoted to puzzles, board games and the like. Not that I have anything against one enjoying a “Simpsons” themed game of Yahtzee or learning American History via “Family Guy” flash cards. It’s just that somewhere along the line I got used to bookstores selling, well, books.


One section of the store had resisted this tide and held actual books.  It was the “Parenting” section.  To be honest, a lot of the titles struck me as a tad aggressive. “You too can be a Tiger Mom or Tiger Dad!”  “Teach your toddler computer programming!’ “Get your child into an Ivy-League pre-school.”

Sign Up for E-News


I grew up in central New Jersey suburbia in the ‘60’s and ‘70s.  My parents had four kids, two jobs, elderly parents and an ever-changing cast of dogs, cats and short-lived carnival goldfish to contend with.  They loved us but were overwhelmed by it all. They were simply trying to hang on and keep the circus running one more day.  If they had a parenting philosophy, it would have been called “coping.”


Some have called this approach to raising kids  “free range parenting.” Looking back, I was raised more like a free-range chicken.  I was expected to be awake very early.  When I wasn’t in school, I was expected to be pecking, I mean playing, outside with my friends. I was expected to come inside when called for feeding and to roost for the evening. Evening discussions with my parents didn’t involve discussions likely to land me at Harvard.  Our discussions tended to involve threats of dire bodily harm if I didn’t take a bath.


Strange as it may seem today, my parent’s approach to “parenting” was typical for the times.  It was a world with a different risk tolerance when it came to kids.  It was a world without child safety seats or seatbelts.  It was a world without child safety lids on aspirin bottles and where medicine didn’t come in bubble gum flavors. A world in which it was accepted that “playing” might result in a kid’s scraped knee or hurt feelings without a lawsuit being filed.  Where bicycles were ridden without helmets. Probably the best evidence that the philosophy of “parenting” was very different back then consists of just two words: lawn darts. 


While this old school approach tended to result in resilient, capable kids, it had down sides.  If I had worn a bicycle helmet, maybe I could have gone to Harvard.  If I hadn’t played with lawn darts, maybe I could wear shorts in public.  Maybe it is time to browse some of the books in the “parenting” section.


Sorry, I’ve got to go.  I just rolled “Double Homers.”  Yahtzee!!!

D.C. Barry is an East Brunswick, New Jersey based writer and commentator.

When timely, TAP into East Brunswick will feature the voices of some nearby friends who are impacted by current local and national events.  If you are interested in submitting a feature article, essay, or column, please send it to

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Brunswick

Vets4Warriors Gives Struggling Veterans a Lifeline

February 18, 2018

Fatima Aguilar’s first day on the job at Vets4Warriors was anything but normal. A military veteran who’s currently enlisted as a Second Lieutenant with the New Jersey National Guard, she found herself in a potential suicide crisis situation as soon as she hit the phones.

“I started around three and a half years ago on the overnight shift, and my very first call was a US ...

South Brunswick: Volunteer Soccer Coach Charged With Possessing And Distributing Child Pornography

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – A volunteer youth soccer coach and former Sunday school teacher is charged with possessing and distributing child pornography, officials said Thursday.

FBI agents and local law enforcement arrested Waldo Milla-Guerra, 49, at his Kendall Park home Thursday morning after executing a search warrant, officials said.

Milla-Guerra, a volunteer soccer coach with the ...

How to Talk with Kids About the Florida Shooting

Guest Column

The tragedy of the Florida school shooting is devastating leaving 17 killed and 15 injured. Our children can easily identify with what occurred yesterday. It will be the topic of conversation today in schools everywhere. School administrators are doing all they can to provide support and guidance. The shootings affect children, teachers, and school personnel. The ...

Giving Back: Learn How to Help Victims of Sexual Violence

February 22, 2018

Every year since 1984, trained volunteers with the Union County Rape Crisis Center have helped victims of sexual violence through the emotional, medical and legal aftermath of trauma. New volunteers are welcome to join the next series of training classes beginning on Thursday, March 22.

No previous experience in crisis counseling is necessary.

“Over the years our Rape Crisis Center ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, March 4, 3:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

Staatskapelle Weimar

Arts & Entertainment

Fri, March 23, 8:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey , New Brunswick

Motown the Musical

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, April 7, 2:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Arts & Entertainment

East Brunswick Public Library Holds South Asian Community Day of Wellness

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ— On Saturday, March 3, Cancer Support Community Central NJ Jersey (CSCCNJ) will be hosting a Day of Wellness at the East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center, ). This program is part of CSCCNJ’s South Asian outreach initiative, which is made possible by the Shri Krishna Nidhi (SKN) Foundation.

The Day of Wellness is being offered at no ...

Library Hosts Program On Joint Replacement Surgery

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital partner to present the special medical program “Considering Total Joint Replacement in 2018” at the library on Tuesday, March 6 at 7 pm.

Lead by board certified orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Stephen Kayiaros, the program gives a brief overview of arthritis of ...

Prayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb

Prayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb (Altria, 2015)


Years later, after the tragedy, someone remembered the Dumb Supper and what had happened there. That was the cause of it, they said, because the ritual wasn't a game after all. It really was magic, but magic has rules, and she broke them. Even when they call it a 'senseless tragedy,' people always try to find a ...

Super Carb Diet by Bob Harper

Super Carb Diet by Bob Harper with Danny Pellegrino (St. Martin's Press, 2017)

It's hard to go on a serious diet, one on which you expect to be successful and maintain a loss. Fortunately, in his new book Super Carb Diet, Bob Harper has given the weight watching world a sensible new diet plan to help achieve a healthy weight.

Harper, host of NBC's popular show The Biggest Loser, ...

EBPD: Safeguarding Students, Staff, and Residents in the Public Schools

February 20, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The East Brunswick Police Department, in cooperation with the East Brunswick Board of Education, will be assisting the school security staff by providing police officers at our township public schools. It is the goal of the East Brunswick Police Department and the East Brunswick Board of Education to safeguard our students, staff and residents at our schools on a daily basis ...

'What Stays' exposes family secrets and lies

‘What Stays’ exposes family secrets, resentment and lies

By Liz Keill

SUMMIT, NJ – In an original play by Laura Ekstrand and Jason Szamreta, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre has provided an enlightening, funny and heart-felt view of family foibles.

Ekstrand has said that the germ of the play came from conversations with the ensemble members of the troupe, based on ...