A Sweet, Simple Moment (That Nonetheless Made Me Cry)

Hey Readers — Just a nice summer note from a gal named Lynn:
Dear Free-Range Kids: So, last week were were out camping at Chincoteague, VA, and my kids and a man with four kids ranging in age from about 5 to maybe 10 or 11 were in the pool.  The man with the four kids had a son who was about the age of mine, and they ended up playing together.  I’d give them the “go” and they’d jump in the pool at the same time, seeing who could jump furthest.
Anyway, in the course of this game, the man and I made eye contact, and grinned at each other and struck up the occasional short conversation.  In time, I heard him telling the kids that they needed to get out of the pool because they had to go move their campsite.
The kids didn’t really want to go, but were good about doing as he asked.  So I offered to watch his kids in the pool while he went and did his thing, and when they were ready to go, I’d bring them back.  He was surprised at my offer, but said that if I didn’t mind, that would be great.  So he told them that if they wanted to stay in the pool that I was in charge.
On signal, the kids kind of pulled together and played in the shallower end where my kids were, and eventually, when they were ready to go, we headed back to their campsite.  No problem.  Nobody drowned.  Kids were happy to play a bit longer.  I was happy to be able to help.  The dad was happy to be able to go move the campsite without having to haul the kids out first.  Kids made new friends at the site.  Win win.
Also while camping, my 6 (almost 7)-year-old, usually very much a “Please do it with me, mummy”-type of kid, asked if she could go to the camp store and buy milk.  By herself.  So I handed her some money and sent her off to get milk and to bring me the change.  Which she did, coming back as pleased as punch with herself.
Perfect place for independence. I mean, really.  A campsite.  A family campsite.  The lady who ran the store had seen us in and out all week and recognized my daughter.  Even though I could see the store from our site, I just did my thing, trusting that she’d be all right.  And she was.  In a way, that’s what communities should be like everywhere.  People recognizing each other and wanting to help each other and keeping an eye out for each other.  Too bad it’s not like that everywhere. Free-Range?  Love it. — Lynn

18 Responses

  1. Great story for summer.🙂

  2. Very nice! My mother always said this was one of her favorite things about camping–that you could trust the other people you were camping near. We spent most of our family vacations camping in a variety of states, and not once was so much as a match stolen. I’m glad to see that camping can still be a fun, safe family adventure.

  3. Yay! Camping rocks.

  4. Isn’t that sweet?? Camping is the best place to meet like minded open families. We were out a few weeks ago at a site with tond of climbing rocks. My two sons had a blast with tons of kids they had just met.

    On the last night my youngest boy, 7, asked if he could go “next door” with his friend to the next site over. He had to come back when it was so dark you couldn’t see his hand flapping in front of his face. I just waved at the parents, never really met them, but knew my son would be fine with them.

  5. For some reason I feel like camping is a perfect opportunity for exploring free-ranging. That’s a big part of why the best thing I’ve ever been paid to do is to lead several two-night tent camping trips – with one other teacher, no parents – for 10 five- and six-year-olds. For a lot of them it was their first time away from home without mom and dad, and the trips are chock full of opportunities to extend their independence!

  6. This is a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.

    It makes SO MUCH SENSE for these kids to be able to play and this father to be able to get his camp scene moved on his own, one thing at a time. It truly is a great scenario how it worked out.

    Our neighborhood is a lot like this… “with some complaints”, that is there are those who overreact or whatever (had the cops called on my 6 yr. old for being out and about once, which resulted in CPS, blah blah). But since so many let their kids out it creates a free-range friendly scene. More so than previous neighborhoods I’ve lived in.

    Lynn, Lenore – and other parents/carers/citizens weighing in – thanks for doing your part.

  7. Camping is the best. My 8 and 9 year old girls begged to sleep in their own tent on our last trip – I thought for sure they would be running back to us in the middle of the night but nope, not a chance. They slept alone for three nights in a row and loved every minute of it. Even got up to pee by a tree in the middle of the night unassisted! Best of all…they had to deal with their own rubble (clothing heaps) so we had less mess to have to deal with in the big tent! A win/win and great for their independence!

  8. One of my childhood memories (I must have been about 5 or 6) is being in France, walking to the campsite shop holding hands with my brother (2yrs older), chanting the French for “2 ice packs, please”, and clutching a handful of change.
    Yes, my parents had sent us to get them, alone, not speaking a word of French (I think we were taught to shout “help” as well, just in case).
    I can still say it too… deux pacques congelez, s’il vous plait! (excuse my spelling, we were taught to SAY it, not write it down)

  9. Yep, my own precious holiday moments were freerange too. I toured through Europe with my parents and younger sister. We were always up first, so our parents got the idea to make us buy the bread at the camp store before it was sold out. I can still ask for 10 bread buns and a baguette in about 6 different languages.😉

    And our freedom was even greater on camping trips. Imagine being allowed to play outside until 10 pm.🙂

  10. This is a wonderful story, and one that I see happen all the time in campsites. I find I’m more relaxed about what my kids (5, 7 & 9) are doing while we’re camping. Yes, going to the playground out of sight by themselves. Yes, going to the camp shop by themselves. Yes, riding their bikes around without supervision. And of course, staying up way late playing. And not for one minute, does anyone make any other parent feel like they’re neglecting their duties in “allowing” these things to happen.

    I used to think it was about so many kids & families being in such a small area, but really the same could be said for our street or the park down the road. Whatever the reason, we love it & we’ll keep on camping largely because of it.

  11. Good job, Mom! 🙂 I sent my six year old across the store to get the free cookies from the bakery last night and also let him go in the men’s room alone (could see him the entire time on his cookie mission and stood outside the bathroom, but he didn’t know that!)

  12. My son was velcroed to my side until we hit Disneyworld. We stayed at a resort on property. He became quite good at going to the food court, getting drinks and coming back, all by himself. Since that time, he has taken broad swipes at the apron strings.

  13. So over the 4th weekend we go camping about an hour from home. On Sunday night my kids 15, 13 and 7 take a soccer ball to the field by the restroom. Soon they are joined by a few more kids of all ages. Then more and more.

    Eventually there were so many kids playing you could not tell who was on a team. Very good high school players were playing with second graders. Other kids were watching and cheering while parents got out the camcorders.

    It lasted two hours only ending when it was too dark to play. then they switched to some sort of dodge-ball/volleyball hybrid with flash lights until the DNR made them go to bed when quiet hours started.

    It was like an RV commercial and is definitely the reason we go camping

  14. I love camping with my kids, particularly in state parks where there are trees to climb and places to explore all around the campsite. I let the kids go wherever they like within the campground while it’s light. After dark I go with the younger one to the bathroom, but the older one goes by herself (but tells me where she’s going first). We were once at a campground where a 10 year old kid was crying because he couldn’t find his way back to his campsite after going to the bathrooms, so I’m aware they could get lost, and might need to be found….

  15. I love the instant community that pops up at State Parks. Kids are instant best friends, Husbands are instant story tellers and Moms have the best marshmallows – or save the day with extras for the next site over.🙂 Makes me wanna smell like camp smoke and have dirt in every crevice of my feet.🙂

  16. my son is only 2.5 yrs, so I’ll have to wait awhile…. But I think I’ll stop by the sporting goods store tonight and pick up a tent so we’re ready! Some of my fondest childhood memories are from camping! 11 years old, taking the canoe out w/ my friend to go fishing… we caught one, but didn’t have the gumption to pull the hook out of it (it had completely swallowed it), so we dangled it over the edge in the water and paddled back to shore so my dad could do it… LOL

    OHhhhhhhhh… but now that we’ve all learned about the dangers of falling tree limbs shouldn’t we be working to close those dangerous campgrounds? ;-p

  17. I have to confess, I’d have watched her go to the store. Not out of any concern or lack of trust, mind you, but because I just love watching my children do independent, big-boy things. It’s such a cool thing to see and, by definition, my spying opportunities are few and far between.

  18. family vacations are good specially if you spend them near beaches or tropical rain forests ”

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