The 3-Year-Old at the Library

Hi Readers — Just a little day brightener from the Free-Range Front. L.

Dear Free-Range Kids — I have a parenting theory: I never do for a child what that child can do for himself.  For the past few months I’ve given my three-year-old daughter my library card and stood a few feet behind her while she checks out her books in the children’s section of the library.  This morning I decided to take it a step further.  I gave her my card and told her to go check out her books on her own. (I did tell her to make sure she got her “ticket” receipt so I would know she completed her mission.)  She took the card and confidently strode off in the direction of the check out desk.

My little daughter was positively beaming from ear to ear when she returned from her errand!  She then trotted off happily to an area of the library where older (elementary aged) kids sit and read.  I guess she thought if she was old enough to check out her own library books, she was old enough to sit where the big kids sit!  🙂

Thanks much for encouraging me in letting my daughter take care of her own business! — Tara Kluth

Emma Thompson on Making Kids Brave

Hi Readers! Here’s a lovely little rant about raising brave kids by the “Nanny McPhee” (and, oh, Shakespeare) actress, Emma Thompson. It’s from an interview she did with BabyCenter. The whole interview is here. The rant is HERE:

On why ‘bravery’ is her favorite lesson Nanny McPhee teaches the children:

I think it’s good to be brave because then you’re also slightly more able to cope with failure and failure of course is your best friend in every regard really. Children are brave and they’re more likely to take risks and they’re more likely to learn really important lessons.

That’s really what I mean by being brave, you know. That we take care of our children very carefully and that’s absolutely right, but in certainly my culture children are being so, I think, stifled by sort of health and safety so that they’re not climbing trees anymore, they’re not taking risks, physical risks anymore.

My daughter lives in Scotland as well and she’s already fallen off cliffs and down gullies and so when she picks herself up and she says things like ‘well that’s a lesson learned,’ you know. That’s the only way she’s not going to go near the cliff edge again because she’s actually fallen off a small one. I think it’s the only way you really do learn how to look after yourself because just saying it, saying don’t go to the cliff edge ‘cause you might fall off and hurt yourself doesn’t cut the mustard.  It just doesn’t.

‘Don’t go out with that boy because he will take your heart out of your mouth, fry it up with bacon and eat it’ won’t work because no one is going to listen.  They don’t, you know that, we’re mommies, we know.  So you’ve got to let them get hurt and you gotta let them fail and to do that you have to let them be brave.

Guest Post: Don’t Call Me Brave!

Hey Readers — I’m not getting totally lazy (I hope), but I DO keep getting these great things I want to post and that I think you’ll love, too. Here’s the latest, from a Tucson, AZ.,  mom of four:

DON’T CALL ME BRAVE, by AMY UTZINGER

I don’t like being called brave. You’d think it’s a positive thing, but I don’t t think so.

So my kids are going to diving lessons this summer. We drive there on the way back from another activity, but the pool is quite near my house. The first day I stayed just to see what they were learning and how the class worked, but my 6-year-old is too young to attend and he was squirmy and bored sitting on the side of the pool for an hour and a half. So ever since the first day I’ve dropped the kids off and gone home for most of their lesson, then we stop by a bit before it’s over to catch the last few minutes and see what they’ve learned. When I did this, a few of the other moms (who had stayed the whole time) said, “You dropped them off and went home?!? You’re brave!”

What they really meant, of course, is that in their opinion I’m nuts and am taking unnecessary risks with my children’s safety. Then one mom, probably seeking to defend me, popped up with, “Well her oldest is 13, he can look after the younger ones in case something happens.”

In case what happens? It’s at a public pool with people swimming, diving and sunning themselves all over the place. What is likely to happen that my presence could prevent? A masked gunman could come in and shoot everyone, but I’m not bulletproof and I’d be of little help. I guess someone could drown, but the moms are all busy yakking with each other anyway and not paying attention to the kids, so that wouldn’t be any help either. I’m not depending on my 13-year-old to protect the others from anything, because I don’t think there is anything they need to be protected from during diving class.

I was called brave when two of my kids took a plane as unaccompanied minors to visit their grandparents. But it was a nonstop flight, and we put them on the plane, and their grandparents met them at the other end. They were in good hands throughout.

I was called brave when my first grader was assigned the chore of taking our dog for a walk, even though he only ever walks her around the block.

I was called brave when my 12-year-old started taking the public bus to his middle school, although he says it’s a lot calmer and more well mannered than the school bus ever was.

They even said I was brave to let my 8-year-old daughter go to a sleepaway camp that doesn’t let prents call, text or email for the 5 days the kids are there.

In each of these cases, the person calling me brave was looking at me like I was completely bonkers. It seems to be a code for saying, “What you are doing is reckless and foolhardy, but I’ll put a positive spin on it by calling it brave.”

But in a way I guess I am brave. Brave enough to go against the prevailing parenting theory that your child is never quite safe enough. Brave enough to ignore the peer pressure to never let my children out of my sight. Brave to allow my children the freedom to explore and have adventures without me looking over their shoulders.

What about you? Ever been called “brave” by someone who is giving you that “you’re nuts” look, for allowng your children to do something that was totally normal 20 years ago? Just curious! — A.U.