A Great Free-Range Moment! (If You Ignore the Blood)

Hi knrnkrrikf
Readers — Enjoy! (And just don’t ask if I get MY kids, aged 13 and 15, to do all this stuff. Wish I did!) — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I just had a great `Free-Range’ moment!  I regularly get my kids (5 and 7) to do chores around the house, unloading/loading the dishwasher, laundry sorting/loading/folding, vacuuming, etc.  Today my son cut his finger while unloading the dishwasher at my mom’s house.  It was on one of those huge chef knives and it went pretty deep so I make the trip to the ER since I didn’t know where Urgent Care was.

With it being a knife injury, the staff ask a couple of questions to make sure it wasn’t a domestic situation.  My son (7) told them how he was unloading the dishwasher and the nurse and doctor looked at one another in surprise.  I thought, “Uh oh… will I have to explain my parenting philosophy again???”  The doc then turned to my son, “Do you always unload the dishwasher?  Your mom has raised you right.” — Commenter Jenn

74 Responses to A Great Free-Range Moment! (If You Ignore the Blood)

  1. FreeRanger January 10, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Never put the good knives in the dishwasher!

  2. Cheyenne January 10, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    My 7 yr old has been invited over to a friend’s house for a play date. I’ve never met the family, so I told her she could go but that I want to meet them when I drop her off. I am trying to not hover, but I am a bit worried about letting her go. What is the normal “protocol” for this? We are pretty free range in every other way, but this is a first for us. Usually play dates are with our neighbors and people we already know. I do want her to go. She’s a smart girl, but I am still nervous. Please help ease my mind. 🙂

  3. madmothermusings January 10, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Cheyenne, I think I can answer that for you. I am a pretty Free Range parent myself, and this is the kind of situation where Free Range Parenting and Laissez Faire parenting greatly differ. My kids are very young (all 3 under 5) so they have only been to family member’s houses, and the neighbors, alone, in other words, someone who knows my number and whereabouts in case of an emergency. That being said, I’m pretty FreeRange with my oldest. She plays outside alone, and is a pretty independent gal. (She was all celebratory the other week when I asked her to go in and pay for gas. In PA it is against the law to leave children in the car “unattended” so, rather than break the law while my youngest two were sleeping, I sent her in to pay for the gas. The look on her face was amazing as she told me “Mom, I did it! I can pay for it!” Now she asks to pay all the time. Cool with me, since I don’t have to drag everyone out of their car seats. One gentleman shook his head, telling me “Its a shame. I used to leave my kids in the car so I could pay, and nobody batted an eyelash. These days, you can’t even trust the guy at the next pump to stand with them.”) Anyways, back to the point. My Mom let us go to a friends house, but we were armed with information! We all knew the phone number to reach my parents at, we knew right from wrong, and we knew our house rules. (Nobody goes into a bedroom/bathroom alone with someone other than a family member.) We didn’t have someone tagging along all the time, but in a family of six, we kept an eyeball out for each other, and we knew anywhere we went, anything we did, there was always a family member we could count on, or reach in a time of need. Did it mean our childhoods were rosy and free of difficulty? Nope. But we knew what to do in a “situation” and we did a pretty good job. My Mom knew things could happen, so she taught us what we needed to know, and trusted us to act on that information. She didn’t scare us with gory details of what COULD happen, she simply told us what SHOULDN’T happen in pretty generic terms. No one should ask you to do something wrong, and if they do, make an out and seek a family member, there is strength in numbers. I had a happy independent childhood as a result. I hope my children do as well!

  4. Marie January 10, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Very nice. My kids empty the dishwasher regularly and do other chores too, but we’ve been fortunate enough to not have any accidents more serious than a broken dish. I usually handle that cleanup because while my kids do sweep the floor, they aren’t thorough enough and I really hate glass in my feet.

  5. Jenn January 10, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Unfortunately the knife was a clean knife in the drawer so when my son put the cutlery away, his finger got sliced by the chef’s knife. When he was little, I used to take the sharp stuff out of the dishwasher myself, but I see now that sharp knives still find a way of hurting us, despite our best efforts!

  6. socalledauthor January 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    I was about 7 when I started going to friends’ houses. It usually started with riding the bus from school to that friend’s house (though sometimes vice versa.) Then, if I’m not mistaken, the parent of the friend would drive me home, with me telling them where I lived. I knew the main roads, so they’d figure out how to get from their house to the major road(s) and back to my house. Then, my parents would meet them and usually chat for a little while. I did have to supply the phone number of my friend (well, this was pre-cell phone, so it was friend’s parent’s landline.) But my parents didn’t worry about meeting the other kid’s family before they were okay with letting me spend the afternoon there. I don’t recall if they spoke on the phone first, when I was very young, which they may have, but beyond that, they just weren’t worried about it.

    On another note, I do think there’s a strange shift towards children NOT doing chores. I know almost no children of any age that help around the house, let alone do chores that could be considered “dangerous.” My high school students do almost no chores, and never have. I still remember asking my parents why I *always* had to do chores… and them replying, “What do you think we had kids for?” Seems many kids today get a pass on chores until middle or even high school, then parents can’t figure out why the kids fight so hard to continue avoiding them. I was doing the dishes, myself, out of large buckets my mother lugged from the bathtub (no running water in the kitchen– yay old houses) from the time I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I was probably helping rinse before that. Including sharp knives.

  7. dmd January 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Wonderful story.

    Have to share my son’s recent free range moment. We landed at the airport and I had to use the bathroom. My normally rather timid son (10) said he would go to baggage to get our luggage. And just walked off to do it! I used the rest room and then went down to baggage. On the way, I realized we came in at a much different (and pretty confusing) terminal and I’ll admit that I had a moment of fear. But at the end of the journey, there he was waiting by the turnstyle for our bag! I was so incredibly proud!

  8. SMK January 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    I like to acquire the parents of my daughter’s friends as possible friends for myself! I am often the one to initiate a playdate, and I usually invite the other parents over for coffee and hanging out while our children play.

  9. Cheryl W January 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    “Thats why we had kids!” I have to remember that one. I do believe that I heard it a bit as a kid, hauling in wood for the stove, washing dishes and such.

    I have to say, I think that Socalledauthor is right. If you get them to do it young, it helps. However, they can’t do it perfect at first, so I think many mothers (particularly stay at home mothers) think it is easier just to do it themselves. I sometimes find myself falling into that, but I try hard not to.

    I do find it is much easier to have 50 large birds (ducks and geese) now that my daughter does most of the feeding, watering and putting away at night. She wants them for 4-H, and will not let us eat them, so she has to take care of them.

  10. Roberta January 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    I’m ashamed to admit that my brothers and I were pretty lazy as kids, and we knew that if we just ignored Mom long enough, she’d eventually give up on us and do whatever it was herself. Plus she hated to “nag” — which is critical if you’re going to get kids to do things. So my poor Mom ended up doing everything while we sat around in front of the TV.

    But when we were in our mid-20s, mom got sick. And one of the things she said as she looked back on her life was, “I wish I had nagged more.” She saw that the situation hadn’t worked, for us or for her. She was resentful and we were useless.

    Now Mom is gone, and my brothers and I have all learned to manage the necessities of life pretty well. And I sure wish she could see our kids doing chores – I think that would make her smile.

  11. daysleeper January 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    I wanted to share another “yay zero tolerance policies” moment (even though the school denies that policy): http://www.ajc.com/news/gwinnett/gwinnett-rethinks-youths-suspension-1296747.html

    A student found he’d unknowingly brought a small knife to school, so he turned it in, and found himself suspended for it. The school originally gave him 4 days of in-school suspension, then reduced it to 2 days. I feel bad for the kid, who was apparently only doing what he thought was the right thing, and found himself punished anyway.

  12. hineata January 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    dmd – Wonderful! What a great kid!

    Any ideas what do we do about these timid kids? My 15-year old tends to be the one who checks that doors are locked and windows closed before we go out, tells me off for leaving the car windows down fractinally for air, crosses the road to avoid gangs of fellow teenagers he doesn’t know (maybe that one is just common sense, as he is a fairly skinny kid!), and errs on the side of caution every single time he’s faced with a new challenge, or so it seems to me. I have always been fairly freerange, probably because that’s the way a lot of people down here are, but although he’s a capable kid who actually does lots of chores, sometimes he seems more like a middle-aged man than a teenage boy, LOL! Can I do anything to change this, or is it just personality? He actually seemed anxious from day one….

  13. owen59 January 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Hi Hineata. I think you may have to go up a level for a 15 year old. And that may need more professional services to show him a way of looking at the world as a great game, a challenge, to take courage, Maybe he made a subconscious decision to protect you or perhaps that life was dangerous. If he can learn how to review his own mind at his age he will lead an extraordinary life. I would recommend Landmark Education. But there are many pathways.

  14. AztecQueen2000 January 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    On the issue of chores–my five-year-old and three-year-old both put their clothes in the wash and have to pick up their toys. My five-year-old is learning to fold laundry and help with simple kitchen chores (pulling the leaves off the spinach, pulling the husks off the corn, throwing things out, etc.) I want them to learn how to put away dishes.
    On the subject of play dates–since both kids are fairly young and prone to “storytelling,” I have to know the family well.

  15. knutty knitter January 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    The main reason for doing stuff round the house is to make it easier for them when they leave home and go flatting. From personal experience there is nothing worse than a flatmate who can’t cook and puts the wrong things in the laundry (grey/pink undies anyone 🙂 I lost a whole set of pots teaching one friend to cook (she is a good cook now) basic stuff and several cherished woollen things to another who didn’t understand what should and should not go in the washing machine.

    My teens can cook and know what happens with laundry even if they aren’t particularly good at chores. They can also mow grass, wield a vacuum cleaner and use an iron. I can’t say I’ve managed to get them to tidy their rooms much but at least they know how 🙂 My aim has always been to produce young adults by the time they leave home. Not people who have to live on takeaways and live in pigsties (except by choice).

    Chores are a necessary part of growing up.

    viv in nz

    ps Hineata – I have one like that too. I suspect its permanent but he has so much going for him in other ways that I think it will not be an issue long term. Hopefully!

  16. BMS January 10, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    For one of the requirements for a cub scout advancement, my scouts had to track the chores they did for a week. One of the moms has been raving about this assignment ever since. It allowed her to realize that hey, these kids can do things! She even extended the chores to her second oldest, and she couldn’t believe how much they could do to help her. Sometimes, it just takes a little nudge.

  17. sue January 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    i teach riding to fairly young kids[4 and up]. when mine were growing up they all helped around the house and barn as soon as they could walk. some of the kids i teach now have no clue how to even put things away or sweep or know what a broom is! the parents aren’t much better ” oh i always do that for them
    ‘. uh what do they think will happen when they’re out on their own? magically learn overnight?

  18. Rachel Banzhaf January 10, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    My daughter is 1 and already wants to help out with chores. This morning she noticed the clean laundry basket had stuff in it and screamed at me to get it out. Her help right now is limited to pulling stuff out of the basket and giving it to me (and the “help” of pulling everything out of her dresser drawer afterwards). Right now it mostly produces more mess but I welcome it – train her up early!

    I could install catches on the dresser drawers and fold laundry during naps so I didn’t have to refold as much. I guess that’s what “most” parents do? Sounds like madness to me. An eager if ineffective little helper is awesome!

  19. anburdell January 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    @ hineata – That was about the age when I started taking martial arts. A better thing for the self-confidence and courage of a young man has never been invented.

  20. Sassystep January 10, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    The lack of chores is a constant battle in a step situation. The kids mom has the attitude that “they will have to do a lot of work when they get older – childhood is just about relaxing”. We have SS9 making his bed each morning and both kids have to carry their backpack in after school and put away their lunch bags. Their mom has indicated that this makes my DH a Nazi. I really worry that we are going to have two kids who are incapable of anything when they get older. SD6 is still being dressed, wiped after using the toilet, fed when necessary and given a sippy cup. SS9 is still being bathed and has his clothes put out for him each morning. Such a shame since her kids thrive in our environment where they have a little more responsibilitiy, but a whole lot more freedom. Because of our unique situation the kids don’t have regular chores (other than the bed making and backpack emptying), but they are both able to set the table, clear the table, sort laundry, etc. SS9 even put a load in for us the other day!

  21. thinkbannedthoughts January 10, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

    Love it.
    That used to be our kids’ job until the dishwasher broke a couple months ago, now they ARE the dishwasher 😉
    I make them take turns during the week, one helps make dinner and the other one does the dishes. That way we’re all in the kitchen together and I know that when they grow up they’ll have the skills to take care of themselves.
    Glad this parent, and the ER doc, see the light.

  22. kiesha January 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    I had chores as a kid, but I found the quickest way to get out of them was to purposefully do them wrong. I mowed the grass once and only once. My parents have a lot of land, so we mow on a riding lawnmower. I did not want to do that job in the least (and knew I wouldn’t be perfect at it anyway, which is what my dad expected), so I purposefully did a terrible job – uneven grass, etc. My dad was so mad he kicked me off the lawnmower and did it himself from there on out. Worked out perfectly for me. How has this affected me as an adult? It’s made me realize that I really enjoy having a landlord to take care of that stuff for me.

    Also, I never cooked dinners as a kid, but learned how to do it as an adult and now enjoy it. I’m a fan of chores and giving kids responsibility, but just because a kid doesn’t do something as a kid doesn’t mean they’ll never be able to do it as an adult.

  23. Stella January 10, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    Now he knows why Mama always tells him to be careful with the knives. There’s nothing like personal experience to drive the point home.

    This morning my 3yo son learned the same lesson with eggs. Trader Joe’s has tiny carts for the kids, and my son always insists on being the designated cart-pusher. I always tell him to be careful with the eggs. This morning he learned what happens to a carton of eggs if you tip it over. Fortunately we were able to get a new carton of eggs for no extra cost. And there were no injuries. But someday the knife lesson may occur too. He’s already had the lesson about taunting the cat, and that one was painful if not bloody. Just saying “no” doesn’t have the same long-term effect. Because the answer isn’t always ‘no’. I want my kid to pet the cat and help with the groceries and use knives. The answer is, “Yes, but pay attention to what you’re doing.”

  24. christina January 10, 2012 at 11:26 pm #


    I think you need to ask yourself what you are trying to learn by meeting the parents. What are you trying to protect her from and will just meeting the parents be sufficient to let you know. And what will you do about it once you are there with an arranged play date.

    We have a “being reciprocal to be polite” rule – which means sometimes my kids are over at a place before I’ve met the kid (not even the parents), but the second time I’ve met the kid. (Once they got to school, there was a whole lot of “Can I ride the bus home with Riley” – “who is Riley” “my friend” “well, let me talk to his Mom or Dad and make sure they are ok with it, do you have a phone number”) And we usually have them over for dinner – a good chance to discover if the friend has been taught manners. If the kid seems …… wrong, I can discourage the friendship (subtley). We had one of those when our son was in second grade – good choice, the kid is now spending a LOT of time suspended from school – but my son isn’t. If the kid has been taught manners, chances are pretty good that the friendship can be encouraged and the parents aren’t bad.

    After all, if the parents were pedophiles, I wouldn’t know by meeting them.

    By the way, the kid who is on the path for trouble – his parents – particularly his mother – are nice people, their house is clean, they have a great dog.

  25. Heather G January 10, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    My two year old has “chores”. Other than picking up his own things and setting the table nothing is required yet but he helps put dishes away, do laundry, dust, etc. Once he is able to do these things on his own (soon) they will become official chores. One of the things I’ve been working on teaching my husband that “perfectly executed” isn’t the goal but raising “capable and independent children” is.

  26. Jaimie January 10, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    reminds me of the comment my pediatrician made at my very active toddler’s well child checkup: “I see lots of bruises – good, he is getting lots of active play time”

    good for you for teaching your kids to be responsible and help out!

  27. RobynHeud January 11, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    Our two year old also helps do the dishes, rinsing and stacking (it probably helps that most of our dishes are plastic) including knives. He also helps transfer things from the washer to the dryer and from the dryer to the basket. I was also told as a kid that my parents had us in order to help with chores and I often joke with my own husband that’s why I wanted to have kids as well. And yes, I’ve also noticed that the kids who have regular chores and responsibilities, are often the best behaved.

  28. Kitlope January 11, 2012 at 12:31 am #

    It’s kinda funny but I never realized until reading this story that when I let my 11 year old daughter empty the dishwasher that there would actually be paranoid parents that would disagree with it. I also let her walk, by herself, the 4 blocks to her school. I went to the same school 25 years ago and it’s sad to see a block in either direction full of idling vehicles with parent’s waiting for their kids, in the mid 80s there was just a few cars because everybody walked.

    Anyhoo, I’m glad I’m teaching my kid some independence and to learn to deal with life. As we know, life is about risk. Let them learn risk while they’re young (and the bonus is they heal fast!)

    These shielded children are going to have some serious issues when they get older.

  29. Steve January 11, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    The following list has been around for many years, and although it cannot be attributed “for sure” to the Houston Police department, it is a list worth reading and taking to heart.


    Twelve Rules for Raising Delinquent Children

    The following has been attributed to the Houston Police Department, who supposedly put out a pamphlet with the above title, and listing the following rules of raising a delinquent child.

    1. Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. In this way he will grow up to believe the world owes him a living.

    2. When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. This will make him think he’s cute. It will also encourage him to pick up “cuter phrases” that will blow off the top of your head later.

    3. Never give him any spiritual training. Wait until he is 21, and then let him “decide for himself.”

    4. Avoid the use of the word “wrong.” It may develop a guilt complex. This will condition him to believe later, when he is arrested for stealing a car, that society is against him and he is being persecuted.

    5. Pick up everything he leaves lying around—books, shoes, clothes. Do everything for him so that he will be experienced in throwing all responsibility on others.

    6. Let him read any printed matter he can get his hands on. Be careful that the silverware and drinking glasses are sterilized, but don’t worry about his mind feasting on garbage.

    7. Quarrel frequently in the presence of your children. In this way they will not be too shocked when the home is broken up later.

    8. Give the child all the spending money he wants. Never let him earn his. Why should he have things as tough as you did?

    9. Satisfy his every craving for food, drink, and comfort. See that every sensual desire is gratified. Denial may lead to harmful frustration.

    10. Take his part against neighbors, teachers, policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child.

    11. When he gets into real trouble, apologize to yourself by saying, “I never could do anything with him!”

    12. Prepare yourself for a life of grief. You’ll surely have it.


  30. justanotherjen January 11, 2012 at 12:57 am #

    My 18mo helps unload the dishwasher. All of our dishes are plastic (have been since the older kids were babies) and the kids’ dishes are in wire drawers close to the ground. The baby puts away the kids’ plates, bowls and cups.

    My 5yo has been emptying the dishwasher without help since she was 3 (putting things she couldn’t reach on the counter near where they go). She also folds and puts away her clean clothes (has since she was 3 1/2 as did my older kids). The older 3 wash their own clothes. They are 11, 10 and 9. I taught the older two to do laundry when they were 8 and 9 because I was tired of rewashing clean stuff all the time because they weren’t putting their clean clothes away.

    The other day my 9yo asked why they have to do alllllll these chores. I just laughed and said, “why do you think we had all these kids?” She rolled her eyes at me. Like I tell them–they make 90% of the mess in the house, why should I clean it all. They make the mess, they clean it up. I’m working with the 1yo now to learn to put his toys away and throw away garbage he finds on the floor.

    We had our free-range success story last summer. My 9yo (then 8 1/2) was riding her bike at the park with a friend and fell, tearing her knee and arm all up. They were near her friend’s house so she ran home to get some band-aids. They cleaned my daughter up as best they could, plastered her knee with band-aids and they rode home. My daughter was a mess. Her knee was really torn up with blood everywhere but she managed to keep her head, stay calm and get home. She didn’t even start to cry until my husband looked at it and then it all hit her. I was so proud of her. She didn’t freak out and knew what to do when faced with a crazy accident (I still don’t understand how she fell and wrecked her knee so badly).

  31. Lollipoplover January 11, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    @Steve- those are great!

    As for the dishwasher unloading, I agree with first poster- good chef knives stay out of the dishwasher, but good for you for teaching your kids how a household divides up the chores.
    I have two girls who loved the movie “Cinderella” and one of my favorite ways of “reminding” them to do their share of the chores (especially when they are acting lazy) is to call them Drusella and Anastasia. They know it was unfair to make Cinderella do all the chores, but when I call out a Cinderella reference, they hop right to it.

    As for the ER, I had my son there for stitches last year (fall on ice) and they were treating a boy who put his hand in a paper shredder. They said they see it all the time (and this kid was older, too!)
    I’d rather admit my kid was emptying the dishwasher and handling sharp knives vs. telling them the dipshit put his hand in a paper shredder any day.

  32. pentamom January 11, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    “Never put the good knives in the dishwasher!”

    Let’s just say this: my using them and putting them in the dishwasher, is better than what I’d do if I didn’t put them in the dishwasher — never use good knives.

    I don’t disagree in principle that it’s better not to put them in the dishwasher, but we do what we have to do.

    I remember when my daughter was about 6, my brother, who had a 5 year old girl of his own at the time, was amazed that she “helped out” by doing things like unloading the dishwasher. I’ve always felt a bit guilty that I don’t make my kids do more (the old “It’s just easier to do it myself” thing), but unloading the dishwasher at the age of six seemed pretty trivial.

    I remember the joy I had in realizing, when we moved into this house a few years ago, that I could finally put my regular dishes in an upper cupboard like I wanted to, since all but one of the kids could now reach them, and my new kitchen was big enough for the smallest one to pull out a stool when necessary. All those years I put my dishes where I didn’t really want them, specifically so my kids could do the jobs of table setting and dishwasher unloading.

  33. Eika January 11, 2012 at 1:54 am #

    I spent a lot of my childhood dragging chairs about ten feet. That’s what let me get the dishes over the counter. Or, when I was younger than that, what let me climb ON the counters to get the dishes, or just plain climbing on the counter, something my parents scolded me for (Yes, I put my grass-stained, muddy pants on the counter. I didn’t seem to get the whole germs thing.)

    I think my parents wouldn’t have had me doing that particular chore at that age normally– we really couldn’t store our glasses/plates where I could reach– but I spent my time as a toddler climbing everything I could reach, so they decided to use it to their advantage. I knew the theory of dusting, even if I was terrible at it, by eight; sweeping was something I could do at five, but vacuuming came much later because ours was really heavy.

    And I’m always surprised, how many college freshmen I have to teach laundry to every year. (washing machine instructions are posted on every machine, and they still can’t figure it out!)

  34. Library Diva January 11, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    I think it’s great that Jenn (and anyone else who’s doing so) is teaching their kids how to do things around the house. Especially their sons. My fiance’s mom did everything for him growing up, and it’s been an uphill battle to make him realize that I’m not about to step into that role. I also had a college friend (male) who stank. His dorm room stank. Another friend of ours worked up the nerve to ask him and he admitted that it was because he didn’t know how to do laundry, hadn’t done any himself (this was mid-October) and was too embarassed to admit it or let anyone see him try to figure it out. Our laundry rooms were open 24 hours a day, and my friend met him down there at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday for some lessons. So yeah, it’s a good thing to learn this stuff at home.

  35. Jenny Islander January 11, 2012 at 2:30 am #

    The one thing I disagree with in that list of ironic do’s is the one about giving kids everything they want “beginning in infancy.” Infants have brains the size of oranges. They don’t have the brains to say, “I’ll yank my parents around because I can, haw haw.” They ask for what they need because they need it. So pick them up, even at 2 a.m. Cuddle them, feed them, rock them, carry them, wipe their bottoms, check to see that they aren’t being itched or pinched by their clothes, and sing the same song eleventy billion times. Toddlerhood, when kids can begin to do a few things for themselves, is the time to begin teaching them that they won’t always get what they want. Not the helpless period of infancy, when babies ask for everything because they can’t do anything.

  36. Lollipoplover January 11, 2012 at 3:01 am #

    @Library Diva- my college roommate flooded our kitchen when she tried running the dishwasher filled with Dawn. She then used her Dry Clean Only duvet to wipe up the frothy river on our kitchen floor. I walked in as she was screaming and had to help her, as she was spazzing out. She also set fire twice in our kitchen by not removing the plastic covering on a takeout rottisserie chicken. Fire fighters also came when she ignited our toaster oven by burning a pop tart and also the pop tart box that she put on top of the oven while toasting.

    She went to a very presigious boarding school and was a pre-med major. I don’t think that worked out for her, she actually transfered after her sophomore year and we lost touch.

  37. Rachel Banzhaf January 11, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    The stories of incapable college students makes me think there should be another website: Free-Range Freshmen. Full of stories about college students doing their own laundry and dishes for the very first time and -shock!- not going home every weekend! I wish it would be considered a parody site but there’s so much genuine incompetence that it wouldn’t really be parody at all. Might even help some people…

    I remember doing laundry in the dorm at the same time as someone I didn’t know… He was all set to start the dryer when he noticed me emptying the lint trap and copied the action – it’d clearly never occurred to him before! The signs say to empty the lint trap when you’re done but I quickly learned to do so before AND after because so many people don’t even know what a lint trap is!

  38. Jenn January 11, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    My kids started unloading the dishwasher when they were about 18 months (exception was sharp stuff and heavy glassware). It seemed to be that every time I was unloading, a toddler would get in the way and try climbing in the dishwasher or pulling out stuff to play with. I then asked them to help, and the job went much faster and my toddler learned how to sort (very important academic skill) and of course, responsibility.

    That year I was teaching grade 4 and one student kept (intentionally) leaving homework at school. I told the parents that the student was more than welcome to come back to the school until 9 pm as it was open every day until then. Mom protested that the child couldn’t walk on her own to school, despite their backyard backed onto the school backyard. I offered to mom to come herself and since she’s doing a job for the child, the child should then do a job for her, like unload the dishwasher, or fold laundry. My philosophy with kids is that if I’m going to help you (especially when it is something that they should have done in the first place), you need to return the favour somehow. She protested that her daughter (again, age 9), “Couldn’t possible unload the dishwasher! She could drop things and they would break!” Unless your dining on your fine china, a couple of broken dishes (or stitched up fingers) are a part of growing up. She thought I was insane for expecting my toddler to help with chores. He’s now a 7 year old who started his own snow shovelling business while her 15 year old is failing high school because she doesn’t hand in her school work.

  39. Steve January 11, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    Jenn said:

    ” She protested that her daughter (again, age 9), “couldn’t possibly unload the dishwasher!”

    I love it! Nine years old and not allowed to unload a dishwasher?

    These kinds of examples come up on this blog all the time. I’d like to see a loooooooonnnnngg list of them. (You could use it on your TV show.) A list of 100 real life examples would have power. The Power of The Ridiculous!

    And it would probably be a list people would copy and email to friends and family. In fact, Jenn, I can imagine you sending this mother “The List” with her 9-year-old mentioned (not by name of course) along with others who:

    2.) Can’t butter his own bread.
    3.) Can’t cross a street by herself
    4.) Doesn’t make her own bed
    5.) Isn’t allowed to walk a block to school
    6.) Doesn’t know how to cut her own food with a knife at age ___

    Perhaps the list should start with “MOM won’t allow” ___.

  40. Michael January 11, 2012 at 5:59 am #

    I was horrified when I read this story. Simply horrified.

    Who puts good knives in the diswasher, I mean really people, next thing you know you’ll tell me you put wood cutting boards in the dishwasher.

  41. Jenn January 11, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    As for the comments about putting knives in the dishwasher, please read:

    Jenn, on January 10, 2012 at 11:53 said:
    Unfortunately the knife was a clean knife in the drawer so when my son put the cutlery away, his finger got sliced by the chef’s knife. When he was little, I used to take the sharp stuff out of the dishwasher myself, but I see now that sharp knives still find a way of hurting us, despite our best efforts!

  42. Heather P. January 11, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    Knives in the dishwasher–I agree with the above commenter about the paper shredder. One is industrious, the other idiotic. I haven’t been injured, and neither have any of my kids–yet– because I’m fussy/OCD enough that I teach them to put the blades down. And why.

    And chores? They have to, or they don’t eat. If I had to do everything, and clean up after everyone, I wouldn’t have time to prepare meals.
    Yes, they can prepare more than PB&J on their own, but they like my cooking. 🙂

  43. Jenn January 11, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    @Jenny Islander – You make some very valid points about infants but I think some people parent a little differently and don’t pick up their infant every time they cry or make a sound. I’ve come to see it’s a parenting choice that is tied to each person’s philosophy on parenting.

    Personally, I didn’t pick up my babies immediately every time they cried. I often spent a few minutes listening, learning what their cries meant. My daughter cried every time we put her to sleep so we would go through our sleepy time ritual for each nap and at bedtime. We then set the timer for 5 minutes, if she was still crying, we knew that she needed us. 75% of the time, within two minutes she was consoling herself, an important life skill in my opinion, and by 5 minutes she was fast asleep. There were also times when I couldn’t pick her up right away, even though I know she needed me, either because I was dealing with my other children, my own personal needs (like using the washroom!) or just needing a moment to keep myself calm (I used to wear headphones so it took the edge of the crying).

    I think the point of the original post was that we don’t need to feel as parents that we have to or need to meet every demand that our child throws at us, regardless of the age. Sometimes our own mental health, must be a priority over a baby’s cries.

  44. Los Angeles Mom January 11, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Here’s a flip-side:

    Our boy had a playdate this weekend. I picked the friend up from his house and his mom asked me to text her when we arrived in safety (this is Los Angeles and I took the freeway, so that is only mostly absurd). After I arrived home I dutifully texted and got a reply: “Don’t let him slide down the stairs in socks! My rule is shoes or bare feet, no socks!”

    So, she doesn’t let her precious little boy walk on the stairs in socks for fear of him slipping. How old is this little bundle? 3, 4, an uncoordinated 5?

    He is about to turn 9.

    I can’t imagine how stifling it is for a 9 year old not to be trusted to walk down the stairs on his own! He is so “loved” so smothered, that I really fear for his future. He is the epitome of “helicopter kid”.

  45. hineata January 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    Ta very much for the replies earlier people, really appreciate them. Particularly regards Landmark, which I had not heard of before and assumed we would not have, but evidently there is a place in Auckland that does it, so if I can save up the dolleros I might send him up there later on in the year, as it sounds great! Also martial arts – might look into that. You would think a Eurasian would know all about martial arts – his friends are always teasing him about being Jet Li! But we have only recently found one that fits in with our religious beliefs….

    Regarding dishwashers, we got one a few months ago and are all trying to learn how to use it properly – they seem to take so long to do the dishes that it’s just easier still to do them by hand. What about drying clothes? Do your kids hang them out to dry, or do they know how to use the dryer? I hate letting the kids use the dryer – nothing to do with free-range, it just seems like such a waste of money….

  46. pentamom January 11, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    Jenn — I think the comments about knives in the dishwasher are not about preventing such incidents, but because it’s really not that good for quality knives to put them in the dishwasher.

    I didn’t take anyone as saying “This shouldn’t happen because you shouldn’t put the knives in the dishwasher”; more of an “Oh, BTW, you really shouldn’t put the knives in the dishwasher anyway.”

  47. Sarah January 11, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    And yesterday, a woman gave a presentation on birthday party planning to my mom’s group. She suggested using frosted-together cupcakes in place of a cake, so that one wouldn’t have to have a “knife around the children”. Oh yes, since cake-cutting knives are so very sharp and dangerous. Even worse, several mothers thought it was a wonderful idea! *shudder*

  48. Sarah January 11, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    Of course, I’m the mom who is letting my four-year-old learn how to use a table knife properly by sitting at the dining room table cutting a large piece of styrofoam to pieces. 🙂 Messy, yes, but not sticky – and when I mentioned it to someone else their reaction was “do you have him wearing safety goggles”? Um, no – but maybe I’ll offer them to her when she next comes to dinner.

  49. kiesha January 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Hineata – Dishwashers do take a while, but ours saved our marriage. I cook the majority of the meals and felt it was only fair that my husband do the dishes. He always said he would, but then, oh, it would be 10:30 and time for bed. Then the next day there would be a pile of dishes. Sometimes I’d do them and be angry about it because he promised he would do them. Sometimes I’d just let them pile up until he would actually do them and then he’d be angry that I didn’t just do them. When we were offered a portable dishwasher by a friend, we snatched it right up.
    I’m willing to do a lot of things around the house that he won’t (cleaning the toilet, for example), but our hatred of washing dishes is an 11. That dishwasher, even though it takes a while and ties up the faucet, is a miracle.

  50. pentamom January 12, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    Dishwashers take time, but they don’t take *my* time. And a good one probably saves water, at least if you’re doing full, well-stuff loads.

  51. Ines January 12, 2012 at 2:31 am #

    Haha. I agree with the comment above: I never put good knives in the dishwasher. They get ruined. This comment made me laugh. Much needed today.

  52. BMS January 12, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    The only benefit I can see to frosted cupcakes is that everyone gets the same size piece (and a crusty corner piece too – my personal favorite). Otherwise, unless you are juggling the knives over the children’s heads, I don’t think it’s a problem.

    Mmmm. Cupcakes…. (Sorry – no lunch today)

  53. View Point January 12, 2012 at 3:32 am #

    Library Diva, said:

    “My fiance’s mom did everything for him growing up, and it’s been an uphill battle to make him realize that I’m not about to step into that role.”

    You probably don’t want to hear this…but I’ll say it anyway:

    I hope you think more than twice before marrying this guy, because the way he grew up and is behaving now is probably how he will act after you’re married. You are both products of lifetime habits and belief systems.

    If you had said, “”My fiance’s mom TRIED to do everything for him growing up, but he was very independent and always rebelled,” then you’d probably not have anything to worry about in this area. Or if you’d said, “He couldn’t wait to get away from his meddling mom because he always liked to do everything for himself,” that would be okay, too. But in his mind his mother’s behavior is a template for “what a mom does.” So he will also expect you to do everything for your kids.

    You said: ” it’s been an uphill battle to make him realize…”

    But he could just as easily say: “It’s been an uphill battle to make HER realize _______…because that’s what good moms do.”

    — So, ask yourself this: “How willing am I to make a lifetime commitment to doing “everything” for him, as well as for our kids?”

    You will of course tell yourself you are the one who is right, and that you couldn’t make a commitment to doing something you thought was wrong for the rest of your married life. And he might very well think the same thing about his lifetime habits and beliefs.

    … Although people can change and do, many people marry someone whom they expect to “change,” and discover later that the only person you can really change is “yourself.”

  54. kiesha January 12, 2012 at 3:41 am #

    Death to the CupcakeCake. Trying to use cupcakes to make shapes never turns out well and the bakers tend to slather the frosting on three inches thick.

    They make these things called cake servers… they’re not sharp.

  55. hineata January 12, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    Keisha – loved your comment! In cases like that, a dishwasher sounds like lifesaver, LOL! Pentamom – I’m sure we’ll get used to the dishwasher eventually- right now it just seems like a pain in the proverbial. Especially when you have three kids hanging around who are more than capable of doing the dishes. They make most of them anyway….Just put the jolly thing in because if we want to sell the house (we re-did the 70 year old kitchen, which has served us well for 16 years, a few months ago) it seems everyone expects one these days.

    P.S. What’s a portable dishwasher?

  56. kiesha January 12, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    It is a dishwasher on wheels with a lovely butcher block top. You can move it around so that when you’re not using it, it’s not in the way. You plug it into the wall and then attach a hose to the sink faucet via a piece of plastic you pick up at a hardware store. Turn the faucet on full blast, put the soap in, lock it up and start it up!

    There are two tubes on the hose, one for taking in water and one for expelling water. It works remarkably well. I was suspicious about it, but, like I said, it was a miracle.

    It takes up about 1/3 the available floor space in our tiny NYC apartment kitchen, but as I really have no counters, it also provides a cutting/assembling/rolling-out-pie-crust surface. A keeper on all counts.

  57. kiesha January 12, 2012 at 4:06 am #

    The best part is that it came to us from a couple who also hate doing the dishes, P & J. I think they were in a similar situation wherein someone promised to do them and then didn’t, and then it became a standoff situation. It got to the point that they were eating off paper towels because every dish was dirty and neither would break. They went out one night and passed a Best Buy (or other similar store), and J said, “Pull over. We are buying a portable dishwasher this f***ing minute.”

    They did and are happily still married. 🙂

  58. oncefallendotcom January 12, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    Well, now your kid won’t touch the sharp end of the knife. Lesson learned.

    I didn’t have a microwave as a kid, so if we wanted warm leftovers, they go in the oven. Well, I put some leftover chicken in the oven in a cast iron skillet (anyone still use those, BTW?). Well I forgot to wear an oven mitt. I didn’t forget to run my hand under cold water, though. My brother called me “Kentucky Fried Hand” for a month. Lesson learned. Today, CPS would’ve been called and my mom arrested for neglect (my brother and i were home alone, I was 8 and my brother 10 at the time)

  59. Library Diva January 12, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    @ View Point, I realized after I hit “submit” how awful I made him sound in that comment and had felt badly about it ever since. His mom likes things very, very neat to the point where she washes all of the towels every single day, and I think that with three kids, it became easier to just do the work herself than have battles with all three of them on a daily basis.

    The problem with him when we first started living together was that he simply wouldn’t see what needed to be done around the house, and it also wouldn’t occur to him to do it. He’d only lived on his own for a couple of years before we moved in together, and it was in an environment with three college guys who’d just throw their garbage on the floor. I had a little more practice at that stuff and had had my own place all to myself. The number of raging fights we’ve had about housework has decreased over the years, and of course (karma for posting that) I came home from work that night to find the kitchen cleaned and the laundry put away.

    He’s a great guy in many, many other respects. He does make dinner every night, he’s a very caring person, an excellent listener, seriously I swear not at all the selfish spoiled jerk I made him sound. But improving on the housework and taking responsibility was a process!

  60. Robin January 13, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    My kids are 17 and 14. They’ve done their own laundry since age 12 and have done the dishwasher forever. We alternate days, one day our daughter sets the table and unloads the dishwasher, next day is our son’s day. Sunday is our day. They clean their bathroom, mow the lawn, empty the trash and take it to the curb, take down the recycling, and occasionally vaccum and dust. They can make themselves grilled cheese, soup, my son made him and a friend quesadillas. My daughter bakes. Isn’t it my job to prepare them for adulthood? Who do these parents think are going to take care of their kids when they leave the house? Hm, I’ll tell my son to earn money at college doing the other kids laundry.

    One poster earlier said that stay at home moms were worse than working moms at getting their kids to do chores. In my experience, we have the time to show them how to do a good job and redo it if necessary. When everyone doesn’t get home until after 5 and the kids have homework it seems to me the parents would chose expediency over teaching. Just my opinion.

  61. Jenn January 13, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    @Pentamom- I keep saying the knives were in the drawer because they never were in the dishwasher in the first place. And it wasn’t my dishwasher, it was my mom’s!

  62. pentamom January 14, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    Jenn — I realize that. But I guess what I’m saying is that people chiming in aren’t necessarily talking about your knives in your dishwasher in that instance. It’s more like, knives came up, dishwashers came up, and yeah, people didn’t make the connection quite right, but since no one was accusing you of doing anything foolish, it really doesn’t matter if they misread it and started talking about not putting knives in the dishwasher so you don’t wear them out prematurely. They weren’t putting any negative spin on *what you did,* just trying to be helpful in offering a tip for caring for knives. At least that’s how I read it.

  63. ebeth January 14, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    I must be one of the original free-range parents. My kids have made their own lunches for school since (full-day) kindergarten; cleared their dishes from the dinner table since they were out of a high chair (take them to the kitchen counter…it’s not rocket science) and so on.
    At 16 and 14, my two swap weekly dishwashing and recycling/garbage duties, and each cook dinner one night a week (without help); if they want to try something new, I am available for advice/help if necessary. The older one has a lifetime transit pass (my husband is a transit driver) and has had it since she was 13; it took her a few trips to get confident riding the bus, but she now plans trips across town and lets us know when she’ll be home. The younger one has had regular sleepovers with friends since she was about four.
    I am a teacher, and am honestly shocked at how few of my high school students do chores, can cook, or have any freedom whatsoever. This isn’t new with our kids’ generation, however; my boyfriend when I was in high school had literally never poured himself a glass of milk when we started dating.
    I am constantly shaking my head. Thanks, Lenore, for encouraging people to parent, rather than coddle, their children.

  64. Larry January 16, 2012 at 4:08 am #

    The saddest part is that the event was note-worthy.

    (When I was little “dish washer” — like “computer” — was a job title.)

  65. Kirsty Fraser January 23, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    I take the adage- “it is my job as a parent to ultimately make myself redundant!!” Of course you hope you have a wonderful relationship that continues to evolve and change into adulthood but showing kids the way is our job. My son went to a year 5 camp last year – the teacher approached me afterwards – my initial though was ‘oh oh’!! Then she said” I just wanted to congratulate you – do you realise your son is the only child in both classes who can work a vacuum cleaner?”. I could not believe that 9 and 10 year old boys did not have a clue. This sad reflection on society is that we are breeding a bunch of useless, incapable beings who think they have a right to do as they please. Parents need to stop expecting society to educate our children in life and get on with the job of parenting.

  66. Jenn January 29, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    @Kirsty -pretty awesome! We used to have a dog and we joked that the dog was our vacuum cleaner. When the dog died we noticed the crumbs under the kitchen table so I bought the kids a really cheap vacuum (like $25) and told them that it was their job. They were 2 and 4 year olds! It’s not that they were vacuuming the whole house but I figured that they liked vacuuming (had a toy one), it was their crumbs and hey, they’re closer to the floor, why not get them to get the worst of the mess off the floor. The kids now fight over who gets to vacuum (because the other kid has to pull chairs in and out).

  67. 18 inch dishwasher March 3, 2012 at 4:41 am #

    I like reading a post that can make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

  68. spinning bikes for sale March 11, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and engaging, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is something that too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I found this during my hunt for something relating to this.

  69. oasis dating site March 16, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    Having read this I believed it was rather informative. I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this informative article together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

  70. Test Anchor March 27, 2012 at 5:35 am #

    It’s hard to find educated people on this subject, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  71. Plastic Dog Beds March 27, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that too few folks are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy that I came across this in my search for something regarding this.

  72. search engine agency March 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    Wonderful! I wish my child (now 13) would do dishes without having to be asked. My wife and I gave her too much room as a young child now we are asking her to help around the house, well it looks like we didn’t teach her young enough about helping around the house because everything has to be asked twice.. as for getting cut by the knife, well it happens, It hurts but it also teaches the fact that you don’t pick a knife up by its blade! I know he will always handle a knife the way it should be held! 🙂

  73. Best headphones under $100 April 7, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    I really like reading through a post that will make people think. Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!


  1. Never too young for self-reliance | Musings from a Stonehead - January 13, 2012

    […] A Great Free-Range Moment! (If You Ignore The Blood) (freerangekids.wordpress.com) Rate this: Share this:TwitterFacebookStumbleUponEmailPrintLinkedInDiggRedditTumblr Frugal Living, Sustainable Living & Self Sufficiency children, cooking, Food, postaweek2012, self reliance, Self Sufficiency Dunnideer at night Smile for the camera […]