Can’t Argue with Success

Hi Readers! First of all, thank you SO MUCH for the fantastic suggestions on how to help parents get over the fear of BLAME, in the post below this one.  Here’s one response that I wanted to highlight because I hear you: We need success stories here, too. Enjoy this one! L.

Dear Free-Range Kids:  *Other* parents’ ability to let go of that worry have encouraged me to do the same. A recent example: My 13-yo son is attending band camp, 2 miles from our home, for an hour a day M-F. Problem is, I tutor 2 days a week and am not available to get him there on those 2 days. A friend called and said her son (a friend of my son’s) was going to camp as well, but she babysits little ‘uns and the strain of getting them all out the door for 2 there-and-back trips was a bit much, and would my son want to walk with her son?

I wouldn’t have sent him on his own, because the guilt would have killed me! But with someone else? Why not try?

They have been walking it for almost 3 weeks now. A female friend has joined them, and then another girl came along 1 day, but her father followed them in the family minivan all the way there, and then home again later. (I don’t know whether to be amused or insulted!)

Funny thing is, the friend who “instigated” this venture has an older daughter who also went on foot 4 years ago, but Mom is taking flak for *making* her son do it, because he’s in a WHEELCHAIR. As if that makes him incapable. He’s traveling with 2 or 3 other people, never by himself, and she’s getting guilt-tripped because he’s in a WHEELCHAIR, and how could she MAKE him do it?! And get this, the other kids had to start riding their bikes to keep up with him (he does NOT have a motorized chair, BTW).

Last cool thing: Mom had to drop off a form and did it at the end of the day’s session so she could just give him a ride home. His response was, “Thanks, Mom, but I need to catch up with my friends.” How can you argue with THAT success? — A Mom in Illinois

38 Responses

  1. Great story!!

  2. That is a great story! 🙂

  3. The wheelchair criticism just infuriates me. Her child is in a wheelchair; he’s not helpless! She should throw that right back in their faces. Establishing independence and confidence is important for children with disabilities. Because there will come a time when you won’t be around to tend to them.

  4. Awesome! (btw, my 13 yo rode the city bus two days ago to a place she had never gone before. Her 15 yo sister walked her to the pick up spot and her other friend was on the other end. All good and she felt great.)

  5. I love this story! When I have kids, hopefully I’ll have the courage and wisdom like y’all to let them be kids and explore their freedoms.

  6. It is so wonderful that he has friends and gets to hang out even though he is in a wheelchair. This boy will grow up and be capable of whatever career he chooses!

  7. Kudos to these parents for encouraging the independence and comradery that surely developed amongst this group.

    My husband and I have been encouraging a little independance with our 6-year old since he was about 4.5 or so… little things, of course, but we have been rewarded nicely over the last year. He and his friends merrily run off into the playground while we parents sit and chat at a designated location in the park. And my son, for the first time this summer, took a completely solo trip to a public bathroom. When I asked him if he needed me to go with him, he said, “No Mom. I’m going to the men’s room. You have to wait outside.”

    I look forward to the days that he and his friends go back and forth between their houses and running off to the park or the corner store for treats.

  8. Fabulous! I can tell you that if I saw a group of kids walking to camp, one of them in a wheelchair, it would totally make my day!

  9. This is great. Thanks for highlighting this response. I used to walk to and from school, and some of my greatest childhood memories are from that hour we spent together, walking tall and feeling independent.

  10. last week, I let my 8 yr old son ride his bike down the big hill to the pool for his Jr. Lifeguard program, he had to lock his bike at the pool himself (without me watching him to say it was done right) and check himself in, all without me having any visibility of him… while he was doing that I walked down with my other son and baby, to the coffee shop and then to the park beside the pool… When I got down the hill I saw his bike locked on the fence(not as secure as I would ever let him leave it) and watched him do a new jump into the water he had just learned (if I had to walk with him he would have been late and missed that jump lesson) I saw several parents looking at me with a look of horror, that I let him go unaccompanied… But I know when my son turns 16 he will be able to get his license to drive, and I believe letting him do small steps now is helping me prepare him for the future!

  11. That’s great! I remember walking to my elementary school, summer camp, and Girl Scout meetings with my friends. It was awesome!

  12. My brother in law has a genetic disorder that causes his bones to break easily. He spent much of his childhood going between body casts, wheelchairs, crutches and physical therapy. He still did just about everything his physically able siblings and friends did. He did have to skip swimming while he was in a cast, but other than that he participated in the same things everyone else did. You know what that created? A fully capable and independent adult despite being in a wheelchair.

    Kudos to both moms. The one for learning to let go and the other for teaching her son, and the other kids, that physical disability doesn’t have to steal your life. The irony is parents tell their kids that we’re all the same while treating kids with physical limitations like they have to be bubble wrapped and kept in the china cabinet for fear they’ll break. Often times this is more crippling than the physical disability. I hope the clucking mothers choked on that child’s words, or at least learned a lesson.

  13. My neighbors across the street growing up had 7 kids, one of whom had Cerebral palsy. He had hearing and speech impediments, and walked with a cane. But he was treated just like the rest of the kids. He never got out of chores, punishments, or anything else because he was disabled, and he never got left out either. He went to a special school, so he had to take a bus there. But if he wanted to go anywhere else he either had to walk or arrange transport for himself if mom and dad were busy. I was best friends with the youngest daughter of this family, and her disabled brother was just as obnoxious as all the rest of her brothers. I fondly remember him one day trying to trip us with his cane when we walked by. We finally got fed up, took it, and left it two rooms over before we ran. His mom’s response was, “Well, leave your sister and her friends alone then.” Awesome, awesome family, who turned out 7 great kids. The son with CP is a CPA and an independent adult, and it all came from not babying him or limiting him when he was young.

  14. […] Read more from the original source: Can’t Argue with Success […]

  15. Off topic, but I just came across this article on fearmongering when it comes to biking with small children, and its delightfully snarky tone makes it sound like Lenore could’ve written it herself:

  16. There are able-bodied kids out there with helicopter parents who are more “handicapped” than the boy in the wheelchair is, thanks to his brave mom. Very cool story.

  17. I love the trailer article myself. *snrk*

  18. CW– Thank you for posting that article. It’s wonderful! If everyone consumed the news with that level of critical thinking, maybe there would no longer be any junk news to consume.

  19. I can’t imagine criticizing a parent for sending their kid in a wheelchair off with his friends. More like congratulate. There is nothing good in making a disabled child feel more left out than absolutely necessary.

  20. That’s awesome. I hate that whole “why make them if you can do it for them” attitude some parents have.

    I caught flak years ago because I made my kids walk to school when it was -20F even though the car was parked out front. My neighbor demanded to know what I was thinking letting my poor precious little ones walk in the cold (at that point I was still walking with them so I was freezing, too). Never mind it would have taken twice as long to warm up the car, dig it out of the snow, navigate the icy roads, deal with drop off at the school (which is completely unorganized and a death trap waiting to happen) and then drive back. It takes less than 10 minutes to walk to school.

    But I was a horrible mother for not making things easy for them. The only time they ever got rides was if my husband felt like driving them when he was home. That usually wasn’t unless it was pouring down rain or was super cold. They accepted that. Rides were a big treat.

    I’ve also been told in the past that I’m an irresponsible mother because I don’t own a car of my own–because my kids have to take the bus or, if there was no bus, they’d have to walk 2 1/2 miles to school and because I refuse to walk forgotten things to the school, etc. Apparently all adults in the US should have a vehicle to tote their children around in. We used to have 2 vehicles but mine was used like once a week so we haven’t really felt any urge to replace it after it died. And even if I did have a car my kids would still ride the bus and would still walk every where and I still wouldn’t run forgotten homework to the school.

  21. justanotherjen, I get comments sometimes for always having my kids walk to school, and we don’t even get snow very often, maybe once a year. It’s under a quarter mile, and I can’t imagine hauling the car out and fighting the crowds of parents who also drive their kids to school. Walking is just plain faster, no matter the weather. Comments are definitely less friendly when it’s raining, although some admire the stroller cover I have for the youngest.

    I do walk with the kids, but I expect that to change this year. Just have to teach them to better deal with the distracted drivers all around the school. We’ve nearly been hit a few times with me checking the street, so I think a little extra caution is reasonable. Even with me along, they’re the ones who get to decide when it’s safe to cross – I merely keep watch for those drivers who are paying less attention than they should.

  22. What a great story. Good on both moms.

    Re walking in whatever weather: up here in the frozen north I walk my 2 year old to his day care all year round, -35 included. He has a snowsuit, and a raincoat, and a sun hat…me too. Maybe this is because we’re used to the cold, but I never get any comments, just smiles. Though I do carry him across streets when the roads are really snowy or visibility is poor — not that he isn’t learning to cross streets safely, I don’t trust drivers to be paying attention.

    When I was a kid I HAD to walk a half-mile home for lunch unless it was -23C or colder. School rule.

  23. Sounds like there’s a kid in need of a proper racing wheelchair…

  24. I love the wheelchair bit, anyone familiar with Malcolm in the Middle and how Stevie’s wheelchair was simply normalised by everyone?

  25. Very good point in this article… disabled children are not as different as you would think. One thing I have found, though, in some of the comments on other articles is that some people on this site often don’t think that way, particularly when commenting about children with autism or ADHD on articles not about the topic. To those who say “I would do free-range, but my child has [a chronic physical or mental condition… anything from autism to a food allergy to paraplegia] and thus cannot be trusted outside of my care”, I say “Yes, and what are you gonna do when he’s off at college or work?” I mean, seriously, would you rather him learn how to live independently while you are still around to correct any major mistakes, or would you rather him experience the shock of the real world, possibly not knowing how to cope with his condition and putting him in real danger? Kids with chronic conditions of any kind need the free-range philosophy MORE than others. You see, most people can quickly adapt to situations, but those with disabilities often have trouble due to reduced usage of their bodies. Those with disorders often adapt slower… sure it might be a couple more years before they’re ready to walk to school, but when they are they will tell you (or at least not strongly object when you try to have them do it). Much better to let them slowly learn while they’re young then to be forced to quickly learn when they are older.

  26. I loved this story initially when I saw it, along with the one who told off the mother who had the nerve to say that his mom was a bad mom for leaving him at practice. Both are great examples of kids standing up for what is right.

    KyohakuKeisanki, I think that some of the parents who say “I would do free range except for my child has….” are actually trying to say “I will do free range when it is developmentally appropriate.” As the mom of a boy with speech issue, auditory processing issues (meaning I could say “STOP!” but he would still act for 30 seconds until it got through his brain) and vision issues that caused him to look like he had ADHD in his attempts to see straight, I have never thought that my son can’t do it all. It is just on a different time table. If he can’t see how far away the car is (because he couldn’t see in 3D) and I can’t yell to tell him to not cross the road, then I can’t let him cross the road on his own. Given that he is also impulsive, well, he had to be on a leash for a longer period than I would have thought (Because I have two hands and three kids.) It is not that I don’t have rules…it is that he was not developmentally ready to follow them. Now that things have been addressed, he sees in 3D and he is mature enough to understand the consequences of not darting into the road…well, he is getting more freedom.

    It is not always never, sometimes it is “not just yet.”

  27. Love this story! My daughter (9, 10 in October) also “took herself to camp” this week. This is at a gymnastics place a 1/2 mile from our house. She’s been making the trip on her own for about a year to get to gymnastics class and to pick up things at the store or books at the library, all in the same block. Today, the last day of class, she called to see if we were going to meet her with the dog that is visiting or if she should come home. I told her to come home. 2 minutes later, they called me to confirm that they should “let her go.” It really makes people uncomfortable to see a child on his or her own, but she loves getting around our neighborhood on her own. I am now noticing that there are children out on their own in our neighborhood, so we are not alone in our Free Range approach!

  28. @Nora I find it interesting people gave you a look of horror for letting your son go to a junior lifeguard lesson on his own. If he’s learning how to guard other people’s lives, letting him learn to take care of himself is exactly the kind of thing you should be letting him do. Good for you.

  29. Ya know, we have an intern right now who is in a wheelchair, and has muscular dystrophy. He is the FIRST one to tell you that BECAUSE lots of kids with MD don’t live past 30, they should be allowed to experience life. They should be given some freedom and responsibility, because honestly, lots of them don’t have much time. He’s had friends of his start dying in their teens, and it was a regular occurrence. He now mentors other kids with MD, and he gets kind of upset with the parents who try and shelter their kids too much. This guy has gotten himself through college, got an internship in a city far from home, and has generally looked after himself. Just food for thought, particularly for parents who want to shelter disabled children.

  30. That is AWESOME! Good for you, Mom of child in wheelchair! Double thumbs up.

  31. I found this great blog that lists articles from 100 years ago, with PDFs to them. Maybe it’s because he’s a new father, but a lot of them have to do with children, and it’s really fascinating to read the worries about childhood from 1911. You really should check this one out.

  32. @Uly, thanks for posting that link. It was very interesting.

    It seems like parents of kids with a disability tend to be less helicopterish than those of non-disabled ones. Parents of kids in a wheelchair or with another disability worry about what will happen to their kids when they’re gone. They want their kids to have as many self-help skills as possible to alleviate those concerns. Because of their disabilities, the kids may be on a different timetable than their non-disabled peers. But their parents and teachers work with them to make them as independent as possible in the long run.

    A while back there was a guest post on this site from someone whose child went to a school that also had classrooms for autistic kids. I don’t remember the specific details of this guest post. But the main point was that the autistic kindergartners had to put on and take off their jackets by themselves or with as little assistance as possible. They also had to hang their jackets up by themselves. The “normal” second graders at that same school stood like little statues as their parents took their jackets off and hung them up for them.

    I’ve worked with severely and profoundly retarded teenagers in a group home situation who were incapable of living on their own. But each kid still had chores or small tasks to do. Some of the kids had to be supervised because they were extremely low-functioning, but they still had to do the task on their own as much as possible. The higher-functioning kids had to do more because they were able to, but even the very low-functioning kids did simple things on their own (e.g. dressing themselves and using the toilet without assistance). One severely autistic boy in the group home, who was non-verbal, was very insistent about choosing the clothes that he wore and would throw a tantrum if you tried to pick his clothing for him.

    I’ve come across (American) parents who don’t have their normal IQ kids do any chores around the house or choose their clothing in the morning because they feel that it would be too stressful for them.

  33. @justanotherjen I was raised by a single mother who didn’t have a car until I was 5 (just in time for me to walk to and from school). She did (or rather not did) everything you described. I don’t know if anyone called her irresponsible but I do know that I learned to be prepared and how to adapt if I’m not. Keep it up. I know when my husband’s car dies we aren’t replacing it. Our family has no need for two cars, or the costs that come with them.

  34. I taught a young man a few years ago that was born missing a hand. What could he do? Anything he wanted to, including: canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and (would you believe) high school quarterback. No one ever told him he couldn’t – so, he figured out how he could.

    We should all face our weaknesses with strength, as he did, and we’d have the same degree of character.

    Way to go, to both mom and son (and dad, I assume, as well)!

  35. I get similar flak from other parents because my two youngest children have learning issues and the older of the two is visually impaired. She has always been the most “wild” of my four children and very independent, so I let her. She can in fact see and as long as SHE is careful she is fine (I can’t be careful for her). They walk to and from the bus stop by themselves, they walk down the block to play with friends (they are 8 and 9) and they ride their bikes and scooters in our very tame neighborhood. I check on them while they are out, set times for them to be home, and in the summer, they play until dark (the one is night blind, so this is a hard and fast rule). I also refuse to bring forgotten items to school or manage their day beyond chores during the summer. And homework? You should see the shock on other parents faces when GASP, MY kids are responsible for their own homework, chores and even OH NO! dressing themselves. This means that sometimes they are wearing plaids with stripes or my daughter is dressed in her 16 year old brother’s clothes (she is quite a tomboy). But my kids (all four) are also independent, intelligent, and well-spoken. They know about basic safety and can handle themselves in an emergency, at least to the point that any 8 or 9 year old can. I refuse to coddle them because they have challenges.

  36. @SheilaK, I live in a low income area full of gangs and crime(one of the higgest crime rates in the city), the corner that I walked him to start his ride has had numerous shootings, and the park beside the pool, 2 years ago my friends child was approached by a convicted pedophile(the child has a learning disability and he was always running away from her he went in the woods) so I can see how it does have its REAL dangers.

    I can not let him do all the things I would like because of where we live, but I know the area very well and I know the route he was taking is not one where the problems are, the problem areas are the buildings next to us and the parking lot and playground across the street, we have to walk that way every day, they have never been allowed to play in that playground(I call it garbage park for good reason).

    The route was down a major street(on the sidewalk) he had to cross one cross walk and go down into the big park to the pool I could watch him right until he went into the park, he knows not to go anywhere but the pool.

    It is vital to me that I teach my child independence as early as possible, so if he finds a better school or program that he wants to attend he will have no issues going himself , I have 3 children and I know my oldest so far is the most responsible, if when he is 10 or 11 years old if he wants to attend something (school or program) in a different area he will be very capable of doing so, on transit by himself if I am not able to go with him. I am currently looking into changing schools so he can go to a better one that he would have to take 1 bus to and walk a block, he has been walking to school with friends for more then 1 yr now, more then 2 blocks and he is in a sea of about 100 children from our building walking past the corner where the gunshots have came from.

    It is very hard to give a child the gift of independence when you have heard the gunshots from your window, but I refuse to lock my entire family up in our home and become prisoners of society.

  37. my son has had many surgies obn his leg and has gone through many times of walking ofn crutches wearing leg braces etc he had surgery in aug and came home the day after he came home he wanted to go the mall with his friend i said sure i told my friend this she said i was it was probably none of her business but she didnt think it was smart of me to let him go i told her she was right it was none of her business she hung up on me and were no longer friends what do you think

  38. oh my son is almost 18 years old and is totally capable of going to the mall himself by bus

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