Travel (with Kids) Advisory

Hi Readers! I am on board with this (even though I am guilty of some of the “don’ts” myself!). The list-maker, Darreby Ambler, is a writer and mother of 3 from Bath, Maine. – L. 

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Dear Free-Range Kids: Thought you might like  this old list I found in a drawer yesterday.  When I read the first sentence, I thought immediately of Free-Range! These were the travel rules we used with our kids when they were smaller.  They are now 15, 19, and 21, and travel independently and joyfully around the world. (You can tell from the rules that it wasn’t always this way!  Hang in there, parents!)  — Darreby, in Maine
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Ambler Family Travel Rules and Responsibilities
  1. It’s good to talk to strangers.  The outside world is full of them.  The place you don’t have to deal with them is at home, which is where people who can’t cope with strangers will stay next time.
  2. Each traveler is responsible for finding things to be excited about, and sharing that enthusiasm.
  3. If the enthusiasm of others embarrasses you, pretend otherwise.  Being cool is dull, except in a sports car.
  4. Unusual foods are part of the point.
  5. Staying home is usually more comfortable than traveling, but traveling is more interesting.  Prioritize well.
  6. Travel disruptions are normal and a good way to show your readiness for more challenging adventures.
  7. Remember that your dislikes do not make interesting conversation.
  8. Wash your hands.  You have no immunity to foreign germs.  Throwing up is not interesting.
  9. You have travel in your future that you can not even imagine.  Adhering to these guidelines makes you eligible for such travel.

    Kids: If you travel nicely, you get to see things like THIS. (From one of my favorite countries: Turkey!)

How Can We Give Our Kids Freedom When It’s Supposedly “Dangerous?”

Hi Readers! I was reading this lovely link one of you sent in,  nodding along with the whole gestalt, and then suddenly found myself quoted. Nice feeling! Here’s the beginning of the piece, which appears in SFGate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle’s web site:

How Do We Teach Kids Independence in a Fear-Driven World? by Amy Graff

My 7-year-old daughter, Paris, spent a week with her grandparents this summer in the tiny coastal town of Gearhart, Ore.

If you ask Paris what her favorite thing was about the trip, she won’t tell you the about the root beer floats she and her grandfather enjoyed nightly, nor about the festive parade that passed through town on the Fourth of July. She won’t tell you about getting her first-ever pair of Crocs (something I refused to buy her), nor about learning to ride a bike without training wheels.

Rather she’ll tell you about going to the store with her 7-year-old friend Annabelle. She’ll tell you that she and her friend walked six blocks all by themselves to the corner grocery store where they spent their pocket change on candy.

When my daughter returned from her vacation and told me this, her eyes grew big and excited and she started jumping up and down and flapping her hands. This was the sort of sheer joy a parent almost only witnesses on Christmas morning. And it wasn’t the candy that made her so happy. It was the fact that she had done something without an adult standing on the sidelines watching.

…. I practically cried when my daughter told me this–not because I disapproved of her walking to the store with a girl named Annabelle who I’ve never even met. I nearly cried because I realized my daughter is deprived of freedom. She’s growing up in a fear-driven world where an adult has to watch every move she makes. She’s rarely allowed to step outside an adult’s eyesight unless she’s locked up inside her own house. If I had been there in Gearhart with my daughter, I probably wouldn’t have allowed her to walk those six blocks….

Read it (and weep) here! And maybe come up with some good ideas for all of us on how to loosen the reins AND deal with busybodies, all while keeping our kids pretty darn safe. Thanks! — Lenore

Guest Post: Free-Range On Vacation (It Can Be Easier!)

Hi Readers — This essay comes to us from a reader who sounds like she had an enviable vacation (at least I’m envying it) and a revelation, to boot! Her name is Amanda Lee and her blog is passionfruit.passionfruit@cogeco.ca

Free-Range in Thailand by Amanda Lee

The crackdown starts as soon as we step back on North American soil: “Mind their fingers!” (On clearing the baggage check). “Where are her shoes?” (In my carry-on.) “They could get hurt!” (The kids are walking the wrong way on a completely empty moving sidewalk.)

We are returning to Canada from the tiny island of Koh Ngai in southern Thailand. There, the rule book was tossed into the serene sea lapping the shore. For one week my children ran with abandon: Free-Range in Thailand.

My two-year-old daughter potted around naked and barefoot. My five-year-old son hunted for crabs in the early morning rocks, while I lounged in our hut. He proudly displayed a bucketful of crustaceans to anyone who would look.

With a backdrop of mountain jungle, Koh Ngai consists of two kilometres of calm beach and resorts. As the days slipped by, I discovered a curious thing: the more freedom my children had to simply be and play, the fewer tantrums they threw.

Without micromanagement, my children’s natural exuberance came out like the tropical sun. Okay, so my son got so far stuck up a palm tree, he looked like a kitten that needed to be lifted to safety. My husband climbed up and airlifted him down. Later they managed to catch a sea urchin in a bucket. How, I’ll never know.

Not sure I want to.

Free-Range also meant free to make friends without playdates! The rules of tag are universal, so the language barrier didn’t matter. My son played Foosball with a United Nations of kids. Freja, a four-year-old from Denmark, spent days with my daughter and any other children they could round up, making sand castles, drawing, or washing the ornate elephant statues. Her parents and I compared notes.

“In Denmark you’d be considered a bad parent in you were too over protective,” they said.

Demark. Thailand. And even Australia, where I grew up: They all believed in letting kids get dirty and run around barefoot. It’s too bad it takes a holiday to give a Canadian kid a taste of childhood.