Readers — This essay comes to us from a reader who sounds like she had an enviable vacation (at least I’m envying it) and a revelation, to boot! Her name is Amanda Lee and her blog is passionfruit.[email protected]
Free-Range in Thailand by Amanda Lee
The crackdown starts as soon as we step back on North American soil: “Mind their fingers!” (On clearing the baggage check). “Where are her shoes?” (In my carry-on.) “They could get hurt!” (The kids are walking the wrong way on a completely empty moving sidewalk.)
We are returning to Canada from the tiny island of Koh Ngai in southern Thailand. There, the rule book was tossed into the serene sea lapping the shore. For one week my children ran with abandon: Free-Range in Thailand.
My two-year-old daughter potted around naked and barefoot. My five-year-old son hunted for crabs in the early morning rocks, while I lounged in our hut. He proudly displayed a bucketful of crustaceans to anyone who would look.
With a backdrop of mountain jungle, Koh Ngai consists of two kilometres of calm beach and resorts. As the days slipped by, I discovered a curious thing: the more freedom my children had to simply be and play, the fewer tantrums they threw.
Without micromanagement, my children’s natural exuberance came out like the tropical sun. Okay, so my son got so far stuck up a palm tree, he looked like a kitten that needed to be lifted to safety. My husband climbed up and airlifted him down. Later they managed to catch a sea urchin in a bucket. How, I’ll never know.
Not sure I want to.
Free-Range also meant free to make friends without playdates! The rules of tag are universal, so the language barrier didn’t matter. My son played Foosball with a United Nations of kids. Freja, a four-year-old from Denmark, spent days with my daughter and any other children they could round up, making sand castles, drawing, or washing the ornate elephant statues. Her parents and I compared notes.
“In Denmark you’d be considered a bad parent in you were too over protective,” they said.
Demark. Thailand. And even Australia, where I grew up: They all believed in letting kids get dirty and run around barefoot. It’s too bad it takes a holiday to give a Canadian kid a taste of childhood.