Dear Free-Range Kids: I am currently deployed to Afghanistan on my third tour, and I am part of the new female engagement teams. These teams consist of medical, security and intelligence specialist. We go directly into villages, unaccompanied by male troops, and meet face to face with the women and children of the villages. We provide medical care, work with the women to build skills so that they can help support their families, and listen to the concerns of the women and children and try to help. I can promise you, that in the grand scheme of things, bugs, babysitting, and the cold are such silly things to focus on as a society. [Topics of fear recently discussed here on Free-Range Kids.]
In my three deployments, here are a few of the children that I have had the honor of meeting and the privilege of helping:
*8-year-old Avizeh, who lost her leg last year because of a Soviet-era mine. She walks to school 2 miles on crutches every day, because she fears that when we are no longer in the country, she will be denied an education, as her mother was.
*12-year-old Dehqan, who is the sole caretaker of his 5-year-old brother and 3-year-old sister. He lost both parents to cholera, and he works 12 hours a day caring for the goats and crops with only the 5-year-old for help.
*And finally, 16-year-old Belahrah, who lost her sight at age 4 because of a infection that would have been cured with a simple penicillian shot, which she didn’t receive because the male doctor refused to treat her because the Taliban demanded that all women must be treated by female doctors. But 12 years ago, women weren’t allowed to attend school, let alone become doctors. So female doctors are extremely rare.
These are the things that should worry parents, not the petty things we have focused on in the States. We don’t have to worry about our child losing a limb to a mine left behind 25 years ago, or going blind simply because the most basic of medical care is denied on the basis of gender. When you have a mother kissing your hand over and over and crying with gratitude because you showed up in her village with a simple supply of DTP vaccines, you realize the other worries are just silly. Afghanis would laugh at our Free-Range ideas, because here, all the children are Free-Range — and then some! — Kristi
She then added in a follow-up comment:
I didn’t mean to imply that our [American] problems are silly. I was referring to the … attempts to protect our children from all possible risks, and the overreaction to every perceived danger…. I will always be an outspoken proponent of common sense parenting and fight against the helicoptering mentality because I have witnessed what children are capable of in the most horrific of environments and am confident that the average American child can survive and thrive without all of the silly rules and safety regulations authorities seem determined to force upon them.
Kristi has served 18 years’ active duty in the United States Army. She is currently on her third deployment to Afghanistan. She is soldier, wife, and mother to five Free-Range children.