Letting the Kids Stay Home Alone. For a Week.

Hi Readers! You’ll love this! — L

Dear Free-Range Kids:  This isn’t so much a camp story as it is an “independence” story.  My son was by nature very timid and could have easily have been crippled by this nature had I allowed it.  Instead, I kicked my kids out of the house on every nice day and made them find something to do rather than sit inside.  Many a summer night saw my backyard filled with up to a dozen neighborhood kids in sleeping bags under the stars and unsupervised.  Shockingly, they were never once kidnapped or molested.  In spite of this, my son never wanted to go to camp and rarely stayed at a friend or relative’s house overnight.

When he was fourteen and his sister sixteen, my husband had to go to New Orleans for work and I decided to tag along.  We chose to leave the kids home alone to fend for themselves; we had many neighbors they could call on in an emergency and they were trustworthy kids.

The week before, we took them to the grocery store and let them shop for the meals they wanted to eat while we were gone.  Did you know there are seven different brands of frozen pizza, so they wouldn’t have to once eat the same thing during the week?  Neither did I until after that shopping trip.  Though I was not terribly happy with their choices, this was their independence week and I was determined to let them be in charge.

Armed with pizza, a $100 bill and my daughter’s driver’s license, they faced the week alone.  As my husband and I said our goodbyes, I could see the concern in my son’s eyes, but we knew they could take care of each other.  During the week, they checked in before school, when they got home, and to say goodnight.  We heard tales of burnt pizzas, trips to the market for milk and getting along and taking care of each other.  That alone made the trip a success. But never did I expect what my son did when we got home.

He thanked us.

Always one to worry, he had apparently been thinking about college and had been concerned he would not be able to go because he had a fear of being away from us.  He said his experience during the week had made him realize he could take care of himself.

I could have very easily made him a mama’s boy, but instead I constantly pushed him to do something scary.  Our trust in him gave him trust in himself. — Janelle Cawley Kennedy.

What happens to teens taking care of themselves for a week?

P.S. Today, my son Stan is 24 and sharing a house with some of those same friends he played with as a boy.  My daughter is 26 and has moved to St Louis where she lives with her husband and my grandson.

Yay! Charges Dropped vs. Helpful Kid Arrested for “Abducting” 3 y.o.

Hey Readers — As we head into a weekend celebrating life and liberty (at least on this side of the pond), let’s celebrate the liberty that has come to Edwin McFarlane, the young man charged with abducting the lost 3-year-old he was trying to help. The State Attorney’s Office announced it won’t prosecute.

Here’s our original post on the topic. And here’s the happy ending — complete with mentor overload for the young man, who now has a whole bunch of adults hoping to help steer him to a successful life. We hope the same thing for him! Happy weekend to all! — Lenore

Found: A Free-Range Kid Of Recent Vintage!

Hi Readers — We talk (a lot!) about raising Free-Range Kids. Ever wonder what it feels like to BE one in this day and age? Or if there even ARE any in this day and age? Read on!

Dear Free-Range Kids: Well, I am actually 17, and for some strange reason, found this blog and I check it every day. I definitely agree with the idea of Free-Range Parenting and am happy to say that I had a Free-Range childhood (in the 90’s-00’s! gasp!) and will be raising my kids that way.

That being said, in my old neighborhood we lived maybe one third of a mile from my school and my mom usually walked me over. I wanted to go myself, and when I was in second grade, I was granted that privilege. I didn’t know many of the kids in my neighborhood, so I didn’t roam around that much, but I do remember my dad taking me to explore the woods near my house (until they bulldozed it) when I was maybe 5.

When I was about 10 we moved  to another neighborhood with tons of kids, about 12 others in the cul-de-sac alone, plus my two siblings, and another seven or so who would come up from down the street. I consider that to be when my childhood really began, even though I was already a little older. I suppose that may have had something to do with why my mom let us be so free, but my brother and sister were 6 and 7, respectively, and they were granted almost the same privileges, so…who knows?

Anyway, one benefit of Free-Ranging seems to be that kids grow up slower. I was playing imaginary games, exploring the woods, and going on adventures with the kids up until I was about 15.

Another family with three kids and us formed a “gang” called the Half-Dozen Pickles and we would ride our bikes around the neighborhood. Before another subdivision tore down the woods, we built forts and teepees out there. There were also a couple abandoned houses in the woods, and we (very scared at first) approached them and sneaked around the garage. Eventually we became more bold and roamed the entirety of the houses, playing hide and seek and bringing our lunches down there to eat in them. Once we wandered in the woods almost a mile or two when it snowed and we almost got lost.

We loved to play chalk houses, babies, teenagers, army, pine straw houses (where we “drew” houses by moving around the pine straw in the woods), capture the flag, hide and seek, manhunt, and lots more. Capture the flag and manhunt were our favorites, and it was great having so many kids to play them with. The only thing that was disappointing was that two of our friends had a pretty protective mom who wouldn’t let them leave the cul-de-sac and play after dark — which was the most fun time for those games anyway 🙂 This made things difficult, because we’d often have to sneak away from those two kids to have our adventures, so they wouldn’t know we were leaving and be disappointed, since they weren’t allowed to come.

We would stay outside all day if possible with all the kids, only returning to grab lunch (although we usually took it with us and had picnics) and staying until our mom called us back in, usually after dark. The only rules were we had to be within calling distance when the streetlights came on, so we could hear her. Our “range,” now that I’ve looked it up on Google Maps, seems to have been four miles from our house, although I’m not quite sure my mom actually knows we went that far 🙂 We’re perfectly fine though… actually, excellent, since we were able to have the freedom to explore.

Just thought I’d post this to show it’s not impossible these days, and that all of us kids, in my opinion, are amazingly ready for real life thanks to that freedom we were given. — Megan

When Can Parents Trust a Teen?

Hi Readers — Let’s help this teen together, shall we? Here is his letter:

Dear Free-Range Kids: You probably don’t get too many emails from kids and teens, but being a child with overbearing parents I have some things I’d like to ask.

I’m in the middle of reading your book (how sad, a kid reading a book on parenting) and I find it very intriguing. Actually,  my parents let me be fairly free in my childhood. The problems I’m facing now are being free enough in my teen years.

I can now drive and my social life is returning (I used to be quite anti-social). I can handle the curfews  and the need to answer the cell phone when my parents call, but the problem that I am facing is what happens when my friends’ parents are not home, or when my parents want to call someone’s house before I go over. My parents go insane over the prospect of a friend not having a parent home, or of me not having them home when I am hanging out with a friend. I feel like this is very detrimental to my social life and I’d like to give you an overview of different factors that come into play.

I’m an avid reader (non-fiction books on politics, economics, and history), and my parents always tell me I am very mature for my age. As a matter of fact I socialize very well with many adults (sometimes better than I do with kids). I am in a martial arts class (Oom Yung Doe, to be specific) and I truly have developed a system of responsible/socially conservative principles that I adhere to — not because my parents said so but because I truly believe in them.

I have been offered drugs (only weed thus far) and have always turned it down. Nowadays kids don’t put as much pressure on other kids to drugs — contrary to what many adults think. As a matter of fact, there are many situations when one kid will put more pressure on someone and the rest call him out and tell him to “stop being a dick… dude.” They realize that peer pressure is a bad thing. Furthermore, I suffered from a major depression in 8th grade and I saw, first-hand, many kids with psychological problems (many of them pertaining to drugs) and I saw how much drugs can screw up your life.  I would never take that risk.

I have a close enough relationship with my parents to let them know that I have been exposed to drugs and always turn them down (and they believe and trust me). But I really feel let down when they feel that I cannot make a proper judgment on what friend’s house it’s ok to go to. They build up my ego with this praise of my maturity but then shoot me down and act as if I can’t make proper values assessments. I feel as if this will tear our relationship apart because exposure to these things is inevitable unless I’m truly locked in cage and became a “teacup child.” (But generally teacup children go off to college and then get incredibly drunk and high and it works against what the parents were planning.)

What I now have been driven to do is to say that I am hanging out at a friend’s house and then, when I get there,  we all head out somewhere else. I don’t like lying to my parents but I want to maintain a social life and get a girlfriend for once (that is right, age 16 and I have never had a girlfriend).

So, as you can see, I have a few questions. Where is the line drawn? Should I really not be allowed to go to a kid’s house if the parents aren’t home, or without my parents and theirs being in contact? How do I get this across to my parents?

Please, please, please respond and I will be incredibly grateful.

That’s the letter. Personally, I’d say two things to the writer:

1 – His parents may be more worried than they’d be otherwise because they remember his bout with depression and it scared them to the core. (Understandable.) If it reassures them to have some basic contact with his friends’ parents, that shouldn’t be such a big deal.

2- Knowing that their fear comes out of love and perhaps trauma, he has to assure them that he is almost of legal age, he has made the conscious decision not to take drugs, and he is both mature and responsible. They can’t ask for more than that, except to have him also promise never to get into a car with a friend who has been drinking or doing drugs. Of course, if it would help, maybe he and his parents could also pay a trip together to his former psychologist or his pediatrician, who could assure them that at some point kids need to be able to hang out together without direct parental supervision.

I’m wondering if you, readers, have any more advice for the parents, or for the letter writer. If so, please add it. Maybe he can share your thoughts  with his folks. Thanks! — Lenore