This reassuring note comes to us from Anna Borden, a stay-at-home mom from Enderby, British Columbia, mom of Dexx (stepson, currently 13), Wesley (4), and Rylee (3). I met her at a talk I gave in the Canadian town of Salmon Arm (!) last week:
Dear Free-Range Kids:
I got the pleasure of being a stepmom before I had my own children. I believe he was 8 when I started to leave a note and show up 30 minutes after him, after school. In the morning he would walk himself up one km to the bus stop (crossing the scary road all by himself, because I taught him how to do it safely) . After school and the walk back home, I would have one chore and a snack idea he could prepare for himself. Most of the time he was so busy doing his jobs that he was surprised when I came in the door.
When I had my son, my stepson started to act out and verbally came out with that he wants more attention. So I came up with the idea of having him cook a dinner with direct supervision. When he didn’t feel comfortable, I stepped in. But he beamed with joy and it was a direct compliment to him when everyone ate all that was on their plate. It was truly delicious. He was so proud and actually found it so much fun (who would have thought?) that we started doing it every week. We changed up the meal so he could experience cooking different foods. The only down side to this was that he wasn’t very interested in cooking class when he started middle school. 🙂 He had already learned those cooking techniques and was bored in class.
This same child then moved to Kelowna [a city about an hour away] with his mom, where he was expected to get his younger brother ready and walk him across the street to school after his mom left for work, then he’d walk himself to school about 1 km away. Well one morning, while getting ready, what happened? The fire alarm went off! What did he do but tell his brother get a shirt, shoes, and let’s go downstairs and out the front of the apartment building. They were the FIRST people out of the building and they were the only children with no parents.
That made me so proud to hear that! My Free-Range parenting had made both of them safe! Thankfully there was no fire, and they even got a reward from the building manager (a night at the movies). This happened when he was 12. He didn’t freeze, he acted. We need to continue to give our children confidence so they can show us they CAN.
Around the same time of year my son started to ride his bike with training wheels, and yes a helmet too. He rode all summer, every day, couldn’t wait to wake up and go ride his bike. Before preschool started in September he came up to me and said, “Mom, can we take my training wheels off?” Me: “Are you ready for that, Wesley?” My confident brave boy answered me with glee, “YES mom, I am ready!”
We took the training wheels off and he did great. He is “balance-ready” now for riding the dirt bike this coming summer. And those are his own words inserted as I was writing to you.
I love your message, let’s give them back confidence, let’s teach them safety instead of fear, let’s let them be kids while they are still young.
What can I say? Amen. And see Wednesday’s post about a dad who feared there’s no way to raise Free-Range Kids anymore. While I understand his fears that times have changed and neighborhoods are less neighborly, I hope this mom and her sons are an inspiration. – L