Going Free-Range…After an Abduction

Hi Readers: Here’s a note of transformation from a mom of five who is going Free-Range after three decades of fear. Her oldest is 32, youngest is 10.

Thank you, thank you. I went from “You have got to be kidding — she let her kid take the subway?” to “This makes so much sense and I totally have to change my mindset.” I am still reading the book, and I can feel truth replacing fear in my whole perception of life around me.

I am in that rare statistic of knowing someone well who was  abducted and murdered. A child, and abducted by a stranger no less. A stranger who came across state lines for the purpose of abducting a child. Make no mistake, I had the fear before that. Ever since Adam Walsh was abducted and murdered. My oldest was two at the time, and I became certain that if I did not watch her at all times, the same would happen to her.  My children have been all spread out in age, and now I am 51 years old with my oldest being 32, and youngest being 10. I have five children and four grandchildren. I have raised my children in fear. I called it caution. When the Adam Walsh scenerio became real in my own town – in my own small church, right in the middle of vacation bible school – it closed the lid tight to any chance of letting my children out of my sight.

 Your book was the miracle that lifted that lid, just enough to get a glimpse of the world I had been raised in. The “olden days,” when parents let their kids be kids and didn’t fear for their lives every second they were out of sight.

Even when I think of scenerios that don’t have an evil stranger around every corner, other cautions come to mind. Like, our country roads don’t have shoulders for riding bikes. Like, traffic lights in our area are awful, and don’t take pedistrian traffic into consideration at all. So many cars are turning right on red that when the light changes, well – cars are ALWAYS coming. So I admit, I am in a bit of a dilema. But I’ll figure it out.

We have an outdoor ice-cream stand only about 3/10 of a mile from our house. That is going to be my first baby step for my sons who are 10 and 12. They will walk there and get ice-cream, and walk home. Before the summer is out, I’d like to allow them to ride their bikes about a mile away and go fishing by themselves.
 
My eighteen year old son really pushed the envelope with me this summer. He planned a trip. He had worked, and paid for it all by himself. He is trying to promote his music, and wanted to play in coffee houses and for church youth groups. He planned it with a friend. He planned who they’d stay with (friends or relatives), what cities they’d go to, and that they’d travel by bus (yes, and have a layover in Washington DC that was basically an all nighter). He made all of the arrangements for the buses, and for the flight home at the end.
 
I am so, so proud of him. Would I have “let him” do it if he had given me a chance to say no? Not on your life. I’d have suggested many things first – don’t ask me what. Maybe I’d have even driven him to “a few places” to help him “get it out of his system.”
 
I had told him “WASHINGTON DC!!!!!??? That’s like, the most dangerous city – please don’t stay there for 6 hours in a bus station.” He tried to reassure me that the bus station was probably “nice-ish,” being that it was a big city, and that some of the places he’d already been were “probably much worse.” He told his sister by texting while there “Don’t tell Mom, but this place is really pretty scary.”
 
Maybe he wasn’t all that wise in some of the places he went and had his layovers. Your book came to me at the end of his trip, which lasted three weeks. As his trip went on, day by day, I began to realize that what he was learning was priceless. He was learning risk assessment, how to make arrangements, that sometimes bus stations are closed and you can’t get the ticket you generated on-line, but it works out because you can get it at the next station and they let you on the bus anyhow. He saw different places, from Brooklyn, NY to Oklahoma City, OK. He learned that if you sit in the grass in Oklahoma, you might get “chiggers.” He learned that he had to tag his guitar as fragile.
But the greatest thing he gained was confidence. He truly did this on his own, and it was huge. Our big kids who were raised in this fear need to Free-Range, too. I am so glad he pushed the envelope with me. But glad I was reading your book at the same time.
Finally, I homeschool my children, and that will not change. Much more than caution (though it served my caution-mindedness well), it is a choice I have made for various reasons.
Now I’ve told my youngest boys my plan – of letting them walk to the ice-cream place. Should have seen the looks on their faces. Priceless. They can’t wait.
 
Neither can I. — Deb Turner
  
And neither can I, Deb. Thank you for this letter. — Lenore

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22 Responses

  1. What a wonderful, honest letter. 🙂 Thank you!

  2. Yay! Thank you for this, Deb. 🙂

  3. Yay Deb! Congrats and welcome to the better side of parenthood. 🙂

  4. An extreme aside: D.C. is far from being the murder capitol that it was in the 80’s. That’s not to say it isn’t seedy in many parts but it’s no worse than most major urban areas and probably better than several.

  5. THANK YOU DEB FOR TAKING TIME TO RESPOND ON THIS BLOG. I HAVE SEEN CHILDREN GROW UP WITH SO MUCH FEAR BECAUSE IT WAS FORCED ON THEM BY THEIR FEARFUL PARENTS. SO SAD.

    HOPE ALL GOES WELL FOR YOU IN YOUR PROGRESS. PLEASE LET US KNOW HOW YOUR DOING. MAYBE START YOUR OWN BLOG?! IF YOU ARE SO INCLINED, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I WOULD LOVE TO FOLLOW.

    HUGS FROM MAINE

  6. So awesome. 😀 Massive props to Ms. Turner.

    Angie

  7. Good for you.

  8. Deb – good for you! Here’s hoping you find the strength to push past all the irrational fear and stay the course.

  9. Oh my god, this was beautiful. I’m so excited for you and your children. There is no better feeling for a teen, tween, or two-year-old than “I can do it myself!”

  10. Beautiful and moving. We all need to hear more stories like that.

  11. What a great story. I have a friend that grew up just boarding buses every weekend and going to a new place. She ended up spending a year in Europe and has the most amazing stories to tell. I hope my kids are this adventurous and I will strongly encourage it even though I will be terrified and praying the whole time they are gone. Deb, I hope your son gets what he wants from this trip and he will forever be grateful that you did not stop it from happening. Good luck!

  12. Good for you, Deb! It may seem like home-schooling is limiting to free-range (no bikes to school, no buses to catch alone, etc), but when you consider all of the opportunities your kids have learning from home & on field trips that are unavailable to full-size classes that are operating under fear of liability, it can be even MORE free-range!

  13. Deb you ae proud of your son I am proud of you. Life is the process of growth. Not only did your son learn to address his fears you are learning to address yours. Sometimes we adults are slow learns. The issue is do we learn.

  14. Every time I read this blog I am reminded that the fear doesn’t stop a single negative outcome from happening, but it is exceptionally good at stopping all of the positive ones.

  15. Regardless of your fears, Deb, even before you discovered Lenore’s book, you were doing something right. Your 18 year old is willing to take normal risks to expand his world. Your ten year old is not intimidated by the thought of going down the road for ice cream. So many kids are hobbled by their parents fears. You’ve done good!

  16. Thanks everybody for your good thoughts. Should’ve seen me those first days of his trip. It was agony. My fears were so big, I was certain at times that I would never see him again. Then I’d make myself breathe deep … he learned a great deal, and so did I. Glad Lenore’s book came to me before his trip was over. It really helped me to put things into perspective.

  17. crossgirl, How’d that happen anyhow, that my children are not afraid? I’d yell outside “What are you doing in the tree by the road?? You know you shouldn’t be near the road.” They knew what that meant – a car could stop and someone could snatch them right up. They’d come out of their favorite climbing tree (like someone is going to climb up after them, right?), and meander over to the middle of the yard. How is it they are not afraid? I have no idea.

  18. Good for you, Deb! To face head-on one’s mistakes and move from fear into truth is really the core of the human experience, and requires courage. Someone told me once that every emotion, every choice and every action has its root in either fear or love (which is the truth, right?) and each small decision in either favor can have long-lasting consequences.

    Keep on keeping on. 🙂

  19. Deb – what a wonderful letter. Thank you so much for writing it.

    I homeschool too – not out of caution though, for many reasons. I’m wondering if when school starts and those times my eldest is out and about if I’m going to get busted for truancy… 🙂

  20. Deb – good for you!

    I’d like to share my son’s experience in D.C. the summer he turned 15. He flew from Tulsa to Dulles Airport to spend a week with my mom. They had made arrangements to meet at baggage claim and could use their cell phones to help find each other. However, when my mom was trying to meet him at carousel 13, there wasn’t one – she was at Reagan National Airport.

    Mom talks pretty quickly and started going on about go catch this bus to that station, which made him a little nervous since he’d never been there before. As we were playing round robin on the cell phones, I told him to take a moment and a deep breath to collect himself and call Grammy back to ask her to repeat her directions, tell her to slow down when he needed her to, and repeat them back until he was sure he had them. Then I told him to look around for an information booth, which turned out to be almost right behind him, and ask them where to go to catch the bus that he needed. By the end of that conversation he was confident and ready to get me off the phone. The next time I heard from him, he had met up with Mom and been to eat burgers & shakes at her favorite place…when I called *him* to see if it had worked out. Again, couldn’t wait to get off the phone with me.

  21. How is it they are not afraid? I have no idea.

    Like kids everywhere they probably just figured “Mom’s crazy” and tuned you out completely 🙂

    Incidentally, that’s one big reason I temper my own fears (mostly of my monkey nieces falling as they climb ever higher) when dealing with the nieces. The last thing I want to do is to have them think that because I said “it’s not safe, it’s not safe” when it actually WAS that, therefore, NOTHING is dangerous and can hurt them.

  22. Good for you, Deb. Hopefully you can start spreading the message amongst other home schoolers. I don’t think my mother has yet got over me dashing off to Indonesia on a language study tour as a 19yo following by numerous backpacking trips including a solo, four month jaunt around the Middle East when I was 25yo. My own children are now 6 and 10yo and I can already tell that the 6yo is going to be a traveller when he grows up. He loves being in new and different places and was in his element when we took him to Asia last year and were moving from place to place every couple of nights. He was totally undaunted by crowded markets, squat toilets, different modes of transportation, people around him speaking in different languages etc etc. I couldn’t be happier for him as travelling is a such a great, rewarding passion to have.

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