Whose Idea Was it That Children are Fragile and Stupid?

Readers — Over and over I keep realizing how grateful kids are when we lean OUT of their lives a little and let them show us how competent they really are. I love this letter! – L. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I stumbled on your site when a backpacking guide friend asked me what approach she should use in talking to Girl Scouts and their moms about camping and other “risky” outdoor activities.  I’ve been witnessing the changes in outdoor programs since I joined the Brownies in 1955!

My parents gave me my first jackknife when I was 8.  Mom taught me how to cross streets and how to walk against traffic so I could walk to school.  I camped out alone in our yard all the time.  Rode the city bus to downtown Bridgeport, CT, every weekend, starting at age 10.  I had the same streetlight curfew as every other kid I knew.  I learned to build campfires, cook outdoors, ride my bike, and swim.  My mom didn’t hover, she taught me.  She TRUSTED me.  I trusted me!

I handled myself just fine when I met a flasher.  It didn’t scar me for life.  I learned about death and loss and wasn’t shielded from difficult truths about being human.

I was free to fall down.  I figured out that everybody faces challenges.  Nobody rushed in to defend me in the principal’s office.

When I was 18, I had a chance to fly to Switzerland to study for a summer.  My mom said, “Go for it!”  Her favorite line as I was growing up was, “I didn’t raise any stupid kids.  Use your own judgment.”  The woman was a saint!

And I rose to the occasion BECAUSE she trusted me!

Kids need freedom and respect, training to take risks, opportunities to find their own strengths.

What the heck have we done to them except tell them how helpless and incompetent they are?

Whose idea was it that children are fragile and stupid? — Holly

Lenore here: It wasn’t MY idea…

Girls -- stand back! There's a fire!

Girls — stand back! There could be fire!

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