This letter, just received, has me smiling. Maybe it’ll do the same for you! It’s certainly a nice one to cite when folks say, “Free-Range” is just a fancy term for “lazy.” Before you give your kids indepdendence you have to teach them a lot more than if you just kept them locked inside all day, as this lady proves!
“I am the mother of two “Free-Range” kids, ages 3 and 5. They are adorable little blonde girls – any abductor’s dream. So, rather than be freaked out about it when they were 3 I made sure they both new our phone number – AND could dial it from any phone. I made sure they knew our address and how to get there, as well as the address of their grandparents, the names of their schools, etc. I made sure they knew that IF we got seperated in a crowd and they got scared they should ask someone for help. People in uniforms or working in shops were good bets because they were likely to have a phone that my girls could use to call us.
“When ‘stranger danger’ came up at school and my oldest daughter came home terrified and crying, I reassured her that MOST strangers are safe. After all every friend you have was once a stranger! I reminded her to trust her instincts and that if someone ever asked her to do something she was uncomfortable with, that she should say no and to never let anyone force her into anything she didn’t like.
“My daughter might be the shortest kid in school by a good 6 inches, but she’s tough. She climbs trees and knows to go as high as SHE feels comfortable – NOT as high as I feel comfortabe watching. The two are very different! She swims, she does flips at gymnastics. In any fight between her and an abductor, I’m putting my money on her!
“And the germ thing – PLEASE. They’re germs, they’re not going to kill you. Well most of them won’t. We’re spoiled Americans, we have safe drinking water pouring out our taps, flushing our toilets and filling our swimming pools. Sure, the guard rails of the NY subway might one day lead to an outbreak of the plague or, God forbid, swine flu, but then again tomorrow Publisher’s Clearing House could arrive on my door with a few million dollars. The odds are about the same, and you don’t see me racking up my shopping bills in expectation of the windfall!
“By state law my children are not old enough to play at the park across the street from my house without me there. Thankfully I don’t yet have to keep them on a leash even when I am with them. I get looks from other moms because I let my girls play on thie big kid side of the playground instead of the baby/toddler side. I encourage them to do ‘dangerous’ stunts, and applaud when they pull it off. I also don’t rush over to coddle them every time they skin their knee. They know how to assess the damages and ask for a Band-Aid if it’s serious.
“When my daughters turn eight, they’ll get their first Swiss Army knives, and not the tiny ones with a nail file and some scissors, but real ones, big enough to gut a fish with.
“We have to start allowing our children to be people, we have to listen to them when they tell us that they can do it by themselves. They know what they are capable of, and it is our job to listen.
“And yes, once I even let my girls eat a whole bag of candy in one sitting, and you know what, it didn’t kill them AND they’ve never asked again!!
“Good luck to all you other Free-Range parents, for letting our children breathe!!”
Whew! That mom is more Free-Range than ME, good ol’ Lenore here (who has never gutted a fish, nor have my sons). And I applaud her! There’s no “right” level to this whole thing, just a willingness to accept that our kids are more capable than society says, and times are safer times than whatever you see on TV. (Epecially whatever you see on Law & Order SVU. — Lenore