This is my goal. I read a lot, and since becoming a parent, I read a lot of parenting books. There have been several that have really impacted me, but one that had a huge effect on the way I want to parent is Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. It’s about not overprotecting your children, not hovering over every little decision, allowing them to play outside unsupervised. It’s about raising your kids to not just believe that they are capable, but to actually be capable. Giving them freedom. In essence, that’s what it’s about. Giving your kids the chance to become self reliant.
She’s got all kinds of statistics to back her up, hard evidence that the world today is as safe, if not safer, than it was when I was kid. Kids are almost never kidnapped by strangers, and teaching them to be afraid is the wrong lesson. People are basically good, I believe that, and after reading her book, I realized that I wanted my kids to believe that the world is a good place, and that strangers aren’t dangerous and scary. I want them to feel confident and secure, and if I constantly hover over them, never letting them go out of my sight, they’ll learn only that their safety is entirely dependent upon my presence.
So that’s my goal – to let my kids experience a childhood filled with all those things that we think of when we remember the best of our own childhoods. Backyard campouts, playing outside for hours, ranging all over the neighborhood, walking home from school and to and from the library. Bike riding everywhere, just because we wanted to go. It’s letting Jessie and Sam play outside without me there. It’s letting Jessie walk to the store without me, trusting that she’s smart and careful. I’m not good at letting go. I want to be, so I keep trying. Because I want them to be strong and capable and independent. I want them to feel safe and secure by themselves, not just when I’m with them. I want them to feel like they can do anything – and to know that they can. They won’t know that unless I let them try. Unless I let them play outside by themselves, unless I let them out of my sight and let them run. Let them do the laundry, microwave their own food, go to the park without me (although I’m not brave enough for that one yet).
I struggle with it, right now, they’re outside playing and I feel guilty that I’m not outside watching to make sure that nobody steals them. Jessie wants to walk down the street to the Honey Farms by herself and I’m almost ready to let her. She’s walked ahead of me, by a lot, and done fine. Looked both ways, twice, on every cross road and was so pleased with herself as a result. I let Jessie hold Julianna – because I know that she’s careful and I know that her sister is safe in her arms. As a result, Jessie is supremely confident around babies. Because I trusted her, taught her how to do it, and let her. That’s the key. I let her. Which is good for Jessie and Julianna.
So I’m a free range parent. Mostly. Because it does sort of go against my natural instincts – which are to keep them safe, within my line of vision at all times. I love my kids and the thought of them being hurt or even worse, kidnapped, is so horrible to me. But I have to keep telling myself that the chance of that happening is so small, and that the price to be paid by never letting them learn how to be without me is really high. In order to let them grow up, I have to let them learn how to be without me. In the same way that I taught them to eat solids, and to walk, and how to write and read. I have to teach them how to be responsible and smart and then let them do that. Because if I never let them experience life without me, they’ll grow up completely protected and coddled and be incapable of living their own lives. And I want these kids to have the amazing lives they deserve.