Free Range Kids
February 1, 2017 , All
I grew up with a lot of freedoms. I don’t remember there being any rules except for being home for dinner. We lived in the city for a while and I remember my brothers and I walking hand in hand to the library together, I must have been 3 or 4yrs old. I also remember spending my the afternoons ‘hiding’ in the lilac bushes beside the road, about 15 feet from the train tracks, we could be out there for hours before anyone checked on us or called us in for lunch. We used to find random pieces of clothing in the bushes down the road and wonder why people would undress there or why they would leave their underwear hanging in the trees. I also remember smashing open batteries with a hammer on the back step and pushing the goo around with a stick, wondering what would happen if I touched it with my finger.
How did we even survive childhood? Generally, our only safety instructions were, “Don’t do anything stupid”. But hey, when you’re clearly in charge of your own safety, you take it seriously… well, seriously enough… most of the time. I loved that childhood. Sure, I had my frustrations with such practical minded parents at the time, but right now, in my mid-thirties with three little kids running around, I look back at my childhood with pure love and appreciation. We had free reign over my dad’s workshop for crying out loud! I could use any tool I felt I could handle… and if I asked for a lesson it would be same as the lesson I was just given last year when wanting to use my dad’s tractor, “Turn it on. There’s there’s the leavers, you’ll figure it out”. If I needed more guidance than that, I could ask, but I never wanted to. I wanted to just ‘figure it out’ like I felt everyone always managed to do in my family.
Now I’ve got my own kids. Explaining this type of child-rearing to my husband comes across as… well… lets just say he’s sometimes left wide eyed. I’m not letting my kids shoot out the old TV by any means! We were at least 8 or 10 when we did that, and out in the country. Mine are still young… walking to the library by themselves young. But if we did that now, especially in the city, it would raise some eyebrows and probably some concern over out parenting abilities. Its a shame. I just want my kids to have the same freedoms I did. I found out much later in life that my mom actually followed us to school, running and ducking behind bushes along the way, making sure we made it safely. How beautiful is that?! They recognized the need to have freedom, to be awarded trust, the importance of pride. And yet, they also recognized the dangers of letting three little tykes walk to school by themselves beside the train tracks and along busy roads! She said she followed us for the first week until she knew for sure we could manage. My heart swells when I think of my mom doing that for us.
I’m excited to raise my own kids in the country, backing on to acres of woods and streams along the escarpment. I’m thrilled to be building fires with my children in the wood stove every day, letting them stoke the coals and put in small sticks. I love watching them discover a use for chucks of charcoal plucked from the ash bin. They help make tea every morning, they fry their own eggs for breakfast over a gas stove, they play for hours outside in the summer with their toes in the stream. I watch carefully, always close by, but try not to let them know. I want them to build that sense of freedom, autonomy, trust. I want them to feel proud of their accomplishments. I let them take on more responsibility when they ask.
But not every time, sometimes I just want to make my own darn eggs and I don’t want them scrambled 🙂