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.

Free-Range and the Freaked-Out Mom

Hey Readers — This is very cool. Last weekend I gave a Free-Range talk in Tucson. (Want one in your community? Check out Speaking Engagements, above). Anyway, there I met a woman who’d written to this blog very early on, and whose story I actually included in my book (pp. 51-52). Her name is Amy and she let her grade school boys bike three blocks away to a friend’s house and the friend’s mom accompanied them home, “just in case.”

Well here’s what happened a day or two after the Free-Range talk, with Amy and another skittish mom:

Dear Lenore, I recently got my anxious neighbor, Allison, to read some of your book.  She decided to take one of the ‘Free Range Baby Steps’ and let her 5 year old daughter cross the street without holding her hand.

Allison said that normally her daughter goofs off when crossing the street, pretending to faint while pulling on her mother’s arm or swinging it hard back and forth.  So Allison was very hesitant to let her cross the street without holding her hand because she thought of her daughter as so goofy and distractable.  But she found that when her daughter was given the responsibility to look both ways and make sure it was safe to cross, suddenly that goofiness disappeared and she took the job seriously.  She looked carefully for cars and crossed the street quickly and calmly!

First off, let’s hear it for Allison — being open-minded enough to read a book not totally in synch with her parenting style, and even try one of the tips out! And then let’s hear it for that ol’ one-two punch: Giving kids a little freedom and a little responsibility. Thus does the world begin to change! — Lenore