Just came across this comment from 'caiti' on freerangekids.com
'Before I knew about free range kids I didn’t have a short, general explanation of my approach to parenting. All I knew was that from the moment my boy was born, I had gut feelings and instincts that informed my parenting (like before he crawled, instead of giving him every toy he reached for, I encouraged him to figure out how to grab for it himself so he would learn that he wasn’t a helpless creature). Somehow I knew this wasn’t quite mainstream but I really had trouble explaining my approach to others, partly due to the effects of post partum I think. So I was a little embarrassed about it and afraid people would think I was an awful mother. (I mean, can’t I see my cute precious baby wants his toy and I’m denying him? )
Seeing Lenore’s blog was like a light bulb moment- I saw my beliefs mirrored and articulated and discussed among other parents who saw themselves as purposefully working themselves out of a job because they expected their children to be self sufficient at 18. (See? Now I can articulate it!) Now I’m proud of it and frequently nudge others to rethink their assumptions about the real dangers to kids. So to wrap this up, even if I had no kids to give a bracelet to, I’d still order a few as a way to support Lenore and the work she does, and as a small thank you.'
I couldn't have said it better. I parent most of the time by the montessori principle "Help Me to Help Myself". I want to work myself out of my job of child caring. I want them to be able to do all the things they want to do by the time they are capable and let them feel empowered. If there is a danger, I have to decide how likely it is and make a call. But depriving my kids from freedom, experiences and learning out of fear alone does not strike me as a good idea. Many of us are blocked by anxiety and fear but most of that fear is unreasonable once you go to face it. My kids only have one childhood and I want to get this right for them. I don't want them to miss out on some of the greatest childhood memories (sorted by age) that I had, and most of them did not involve any kind of adult or supervision:
- playing with water and friends, running around naked, giggling, best feeling ever (toddler til 1st grade)
- getting ice cream at the bakery across the street with my allowance when I was 4
- going over to my neighbors house to play in their backyard when I was 4
- walking to preschool (already to late and too far) with my friends through a little park with a creek (we loved to let leaves and little boats, made out of a twigs, float (no parent supervision, just little buddies sticking together)
- biking to a corn field with my best friend with a picnic playing family when we were 5
- walking to school by myself in 1st grade
- cooking pasta for myself for lunch 7 years old, of course, home alone
- going swimming in the lake with my friends after school every day all summer long (age 7)
- biking 12 miles to the next public pool through a forest where actually a 10 year old was kidnapped just 3 years earlier (What a trill! but let me tell you nothing happened to me, because the odds of this happening ever again there and then where very, very low, and the path to the pool so very, very beautiful, so my parents made the call, it's safe)
- biking with a group of 3rd graders to visit our teacher who lived in the next town for cookies and milk
- going to a restaurant for lunch ordering tomato soup with my best friend while on vacation in Yugoslavia (age 9)
- attending an adult workshop on how to write and publish a newspaper (age 10), my offset for my first venture
- taking public transportation (long train ride) to school in 5th grade
- biking by myself to school through a dense forest in 5th grade
- went camping with my friends (not summer camp) every summer from 6th grade
- taking a overnight train with 2 friends to summer camp when I was 11
- starting my first 'business' by publishing a monthly magazine for summer camp with 180 'paying' recipients (age 11)
- going to a travel agency and booking tickets to fly to summer camp when I was 12 (could have done it earlier, but thought it's too expensive for my allowance, turns out it wasn't. ;-))
The last one is also my Moms favorite story about my early strike of independence; the day I came home showing her my flight tickets for my upcoming trip to summer camp. I felt great. I felt capable.
These are some of my best memories from my childhood. I want to be able to share some of those with my kids. My only fear is someone calls the police if I let my kids do some of these fun things, like biking in the neighborhood or getting ice cream at the store. I know when they are capable and I want to make the choice if I think it's appropriate or not. I might be a little alternative with my views, maybe even a hippie, but my heart as my mom urges to give my kids this freedom at the right time. I know when they can. No one else.
And protecting kids from being seen without a shirt or pants while playing with water out of fear someone might watch them is taking freedom and sense of security away from the kids as the actual danger is. Educating them on their body, appropriate touch (abuse is usually done by a friend not a stranger) and mental illness, is way more powerful in protecting them as it is to shelter them from unreasonably danger.
Yes, it's a different time (actually safer then ever ;-)) and we live in a big city where you can actually buy guns (and drugs and alcohol) in a store, so what I can proudly report, I let my 9 year old do:
- bike around the block and to the park checking back every 30 minutes
- playing in the alley by himself
- walking 8 blocks home from school with a friend
- going to the library (on our block), checking out books
- going to chess club at the same library by himself
- going to the park (one block away) to play soccer
- going to the neighbors for a chat
- visiting a family friend that lives 2 blocks away for cookies and candy
- making sunny side up eggs and breakfast
- getting money from his account at the ATM
He also was on a school bus for over an hour - and he went to the bus stop (on the corner of our street) and also walked home from the bus stop by himself when he was 5. That was a stretch, but I am happy to report, it did not harm him or me and we saved a ton of CO2, gas money and stress by me resisting to driving him to school.
One thing that scares the heck out of me and where we are a bit old school is computer use and browsing the internet. I try to really hover and check on him whenever he does. I hope we can let him ride the public bus by himself this summer and also send him to buy ice cream in the store.
Even if this does not sound what you want to do with your kids, please let others do what they feel it's right for their kids by supporting the 'free range kids' movement and not calling the police, if a child is at play. I strongly believe kids need movement and unsupervised, unscheduled time for their development. Don't lock them inside out of fear or a demanding schedule. It's their right to be outside, even if it seems dangerous to some adults.
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Optimistic, curious, human bee.