While I do not yet have kids of my own I caught this blog, www.freerangekids.wordpress.com , on Freshly Pressed at WordPress.com yesterday and I’m pretty intrigued. The basic idea is that kids today are way too micro-manged, over scheduled and smothered. That through the pervasive fear of what could happen they are not being allowed to explore on their own by parents. And if a kid is permitted to walk alone to the park or to a friend’s house there is the possibility someone will freak out and report this “gross negligence” to the authorities. I think fear about your kids safety is normal but it can go to far and I think about all the amazing things I’d have missed out on if my parents hovered like that.
My siblings and I were encouraged to play, and explore and do things on our own to get outside and get dirty. We created an entire world on a family trip to Maine in the woods near our rented cabin that for all I know still exists. There may be other children playing in Glinda’s poppy field and assisting the snow elves that live near rabbit rock.
The story that really comes to mind is from when I was nine years old and my mom brought me and my three siblings to visit my grandparents who were stationed at a naval base in Japan. We went off base one day to visit a battleship and there was a huge festival occurring at the same time. It was a flurry of colors, people, games, treats. Well, my little brother had a balloon on a stick that popped and was upset, but by that point were on the ship which was located at the opposite end of the festival from the balloon stall. So here I am, nine years old in a foreign country of which the only japanese words I know I learned from Big Bird Goes to Japan and my mom presses some yen into my hand and tells me to go get another one and come back. And you know what awful thing happened because she let me loose like that in a strange place?
I’d been raised thus far to be self-sufficient and sufficiently intelligent to make it there and back. I had a great adventure along the way too, one stall vendor gave me a free cone of roasted almonds, another had a pinata that I was invited to take a swing at and when I missed I was given a consolation prize, and then finally I was able to figure out the currency and buy the precious balloon and return to the battleship and my family without incident.
I’m not sure that I have much of a point beyond reminiscing, I just know that it was really important that my parents gave us that freedom and trusted what that the basic safety rules they’d instilled in us stuck, and I’m pretty sure my mom enjoyed not having four kids under her feet all day every day while she tried to get things accompished at home. And really what is the point of a life lived in a protective bubble, lived in fear and worry of what could, might, maybe happen, what does that teach children besides fear of new experiences?
I think it was even more important in my family that we were given such freedoms (within reason), there are four of us and because we were ably to play together, explore together, imagine together we are still very close to this day. I doubt that would have been true if we were parked in front of the tv/video games all day every day (we had a 20 min limit on such things). I’ll grateful for the adventures of my childhood , my memories are hilarious and exciting and real, and I’m glad my parents didn’t think it was dangerous to have them.
Photos courtesy of Tori Place