Posted on September 27th, 2012 by lskenazy
Dear Free-Range Kids: A few years ago you featured a story I shared of leaving my 3 month old in the arms of two perfect strangers (or potential child predators as some may call them!) at a Starbucks so I could use the restroom. Those two people were a mother and grandmother and it was quite a treat for them to be able to cuddle with a little baby for a few minutes.I have continued to try to raise my kids Free-Range, choosing to believe that most people are good and decent and that the best way to help my children be successful in this world is to avoid hovering and to allow them to encounter and tackle as many problems for themselves as they are developmentally capable of..I now have two children, Jude is 3 years old, and Evie is 21 months old. My husband has been battling cancer for the last year, and so we have had many times when I have had to rely on my trust and faith in my young children to be able to “fend” for themselves a little. I have never been so proud of them in the ways that they have shown me that they are capable of rising to the occasion.The kids spent 9 weeks this summer with family on the other side of the country, and had a blast touring around Los Angeles embarking on many adventures while I took care of my husband back home. They grew and became more confident in themselves during this incredibly difficult (for me) time that I had to let go of them. They didn’t spend every night crying for their parents, but instead were confident that they were loved and also capable of adapting to their surroundings..Before the summer, the 3 year old had learned how to prepare breakfast for himself and his sister (bagels with cream cheese… toasted no less!) and how to make me coffee (in our Keurig machine). He has never once spilled coffee or creamer, and is always sure to caution me that it’s “hot mommy… you must be very careful.”.He and his sister learned to play unsupervised in our playroom while I was upstairs tending to their father. I had a video monitor where I could keep an eye on things, but I was constantly amazed at how they figured out how to solve their own problems without my intervention.Now my 3 year old is potty trained, and on a cross country flight last week, I sent him to the bathroom by himself because I was alone on the plane with him and his little sister (it seemed pretty impossible and frankly downright silly to try to cram all three of us into an airplane bathroom). I mean really, if someone’s going to steal my child on a plane, where are they going to put him? I have also encouraged him to use the restroom by himself in small restaurants with single private bathrooms when we are sitting in plain sight of the door. I have gotten some strange looks from other patrons, but I feel I am giving my child confidence that he can handle something as basic as toileting himself without assistance..There are many many more ways where I am seeing my children’s independence and amazing capabilities shine, and I truly believe that my children are not little “geniuses” but that we as a culture have so lowered our expectations of what young children can do. I not only have seen the practical implications of my son and daughter being able to handle many of their own life skills, but have also seen their confidence grow as well.I continue to pray for wisdom to know what my kids can and can’t handle at any given developmental point, but also to keep letting go knowing that, statistically, they’re probably going to be just fine..Thanks again for encouraging us to not give up the good fight! - Rachel Hill
Rachel — Thank you and yours for not giving up the good fight(s), either! L.