Hi Readers — Just got this poignant note from a young woman who sees life, risk and joy pretty clearly! L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: I am fortunate to live in a community with several wonderful county parks and, growing up, swimming in the lakes there was a regular part of summer. But then life got hectic and I hadn’t been to the lakes in years, so to celebrate the 4th of July, my parents and I decided it was time to revisit one.
As a child, I never wore my swim shoes in to the water. My siblings and I would stake our claim at a picnic table or lounge chair where we would drop our shoes, run across boiling hot pavement, sink our toes into to warm sand and then bounce joyously in the water all afternoon. I could hardly wait to re-live those memories.
Unfortunately, since those days, Mom has heard stories of shards of glass, even needles, piercing children’s feet at the lake, so she did not want me to take off my swim shoes this time.
I am 21 years old, so I could have refused to listen, but I decided maybe she had a point. Maybe we DO have to be more careful these days. I kept them on. But then…something just wasn’t right. I couldn’t bounce around the way I remembered, or kick my feet to swim, because the shoes weighed me down. I found myself standing sullenly in the water thinking I might as well have just stayed on land.
“Can I please, please PLEASE take off my shoes?”
“Okay, but if you hurt yourself–”
“I will take full responsibility for it,” I promised.
Instantly, my shoes were off, my day was transformed and my feet were never even scratched. But after that experience, this blog came to mind.
I would say my mom was a Free-Range parent when my three older siblings and I were growing up. When the weather was beautiful, she would not allow us to sit inside, watching television. And although it wasn’t safe for me to do so, being totally blind in a community with no sidewalks, my siblings would frequently bike to the grocery store or walk to a friend’s house. So to learn that even my own mother had become consumed by fear surprised me.
Of course, those stories of children contracting diseases after stepping on a needle at the beach are horrible. [NOTE FROM LENORE: And rarer than shark attacks!] But while I don’t have statistics about this, the fact that this never happened to me or my siblings or anyone I know makes me think that, in the same way kidnapping is so unlikely that it is not worth staying locked in the house, the likelihood of stepping on a needle at the beach is not strong enough to justify missing out on the incredible joy of swimming barefoot. I hope today’s kids don’t.– Allison Nastoff
Allison is a college student majoring in journalism at Carroll
University in Wisconsin.