“I Found Myself Agreeing with Your Work…But I Wasn’t Letting Go”

From ehsiaayfrk
Tamara Treber, a high school English teacher, comes this story she calls her “Reality Check.”

Dear Free-Range Kids: My husband and I have two kids (ages 7 and 5).  We live in an impoverished, largely agricultural area of Central California.  Nevertheless, we have a nicely appointed home on a quiet cul-de-sac.  I read your book, I follow the website, and while I found myself agreeing with your work and point of view….I wasn’t letting go.

Recently my parents were visiting from out of town and my mom and I took a walk around the block with the kids.  They were complaining of the heat and didn’t want to browse the garage sales we boring adults were enjoying.  “Well go on home then, and we will see you there,” said my mother, sensibly.  I nodded casually (my inner-control freak was freaking). But the glee and confusion were evident on my kids’ faces.  They took off back to the house a few streets over from where we were.
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We returned home, and both children were so excited.  During our walk my husband had left to run an errand, so the kids had come back to a locked, empty house.  My daughter knew the back gate was always unlocked, so she opened it.  Then my parents’ dog (who was also visiting) escaped and went for a free-range run himself around the neighborhood.  My daughter proudly recounted how she and her brother “rescued” him and brought him safely back, and used the hide-a-key to let themselves in through the garage.  She got them both Popsicles and turned on a movie for them to watch.  She put the dog in the bathroom with a bowl of water.
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I had no idea she knew about the hide-a-key.
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I didn’t think she knew how to turn on the TV, much less the DVD player…
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I have never seen her get a snack for herself.
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We do not have a pet of our own yet because I didn’t think the kids were “ready.”
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I am so proud of how my kids handled a simple situation — but more importantly they were proud of themselves. Time to let go (and maybe get a dog). –T.T.
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Yep and yay. Not to be too didactic but OUR KIDS ARE SAFER AND SMARTER THAN OUR CULTURE GIVES THEM CREDIT FOR!!! It is a joy to realize just how grown-up and how competent they really are…once we let go.
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Schools can make this happen school-wide by participating in the Free-Range Kids project. Basically, it just involves teachers telling their students to go home and ask their parents if they can do ONE THING they feel they’re ready to do that, for one reason or another, they haven’t done yet — walk the dog, bike to the library, make dinner, etc.
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Usually the parents say, “Okay,” since the idea is endorsed by the school and it is a “one shot” deal. BUT…once their kids come home just as proud and happy as Tamara’s kids, the fear in the parents’ heart disappears! It is crowded out by pride and joy. And that “one shot” deal of running ONE errand, playing outside ONE TIME or walking to school JUST THAT ONCE becomes an everyday event. Or rather, a non-event, as it is no longer seen as huge and dangerous, but normal.
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Which it is. – L.
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While the parents were shopping at a garage sale, their kids went HOME ALONE.

While mom was at a garage sale, the kids went  on a little adventure.

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24 Responses to “I Found Myself Agreeing with Your Work…But I Wasn’t Letting Go”

  1. sigh April 9, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    Hooray, we so seldom hear of a Grandma these days who advocates for letting kids out of their sight.

  2. Warren April 9, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    Good for Grandma and great for Mom to not overrule, and let them go home.

    Ì can see the older one sitting there, “Chill out, I got this.“

  3. Rick April 9, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    What a great story with a happy ending. Amazing how things can change so abruptly. This web site and your work is making a big difference.

  4. Papa Fred April 9, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

    I found this touching. A wonderful, even heart-warming, tale. Actually brought tears to my eyes.

  5. Susanch April 9, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    Great story.
    I remember at age six I would run out the door and down to my friend’s house after school — and not next door, either, easily 20 houses away — without having to notify anyone. On summer days I would go outside after breakfast and not return until sunset.
    Even though this was during the 1960s my parents were considered to be unusually hands-off. It was good for me though as I learned independence at any early age.

  6. Xena_Rulz April 9, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    This reminds me of “Home Alone.” When Kevin surprises everyone with how much he knows how to do – he can buy stuff at the store, wash clothes, go into the church when he’s scared, talk to a stranger. He had spent 8 years observing what went on around him and knew TONS of stuff!

  7. Steve April 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    Tamara, you said: “I read your book, I follow the website, and while I found myself agreeing with your work and point of view….I wasn’t letting go.”

    Why not? What thoughts were blocking a change in your behavior?

  8. Papilio April 9, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

    Hahaha, that was smart of that grandmother 🙂

    But how do kids need to be ‘ready’ for a pet?? What would be the criteria that a 5 and 7-year-old would NOT be ready yet??

  9. Tamara April 9, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    @ Steve- Great questions!

    I believe my reluctance was due to the fact that at the high school where I work, I interact with a very high-risk group of teens. I have lost several students mid-year to juvenile hall due to gang activity or teen pregnancy.

    My school requires training from Gang Task-Force officers, a police and parole officer are on duty each day, and we employ about twenty security officers. I see many of my students brought up with a high level of neglect. I believe I was confusing some aspects of neglect with teaching and encouraging independence and life skills. Many of my students have to raise themselves and siblings while their parents work in the fields.

    I agreed with Skenazy because I was raised to walk to school each day, and my brother and I were “latchkey kids”. I was responsible for doing my own laundry, keeping my room clean, turning in my homework, and dealing with problems myself…. sometimes this caused much anxiety and stress to my young little mind… .but it taught me the most important skills needed to succeed in life.

    I was requiring a high level of self-reliance in the home and at school, but not around my town. I think having my mother there in that moment, and remembering that I turned out just fine under her good judgement, became the fulcrum I needed to allow the kids some freedom. – Tamara

  10. Donald April 9, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

    @ Tamara

    Well done!

    Old habits are hard to break. I’m thrilled to see that you pushed through it.

    It takes years of work (road building as explained on my website) to believe in something whether it’s pro free range or pro helicopter parenting. It takes just as much work ‘road building’ to change this belief

    On this page, ‘the road building’ is about learning how to balance. However the same principal applies when building up your belief system in anything.

    http://www.onmysoapboxx.com/false-info

    This page helps explain worst first thinking. I tell people how easy it is to fall in this trap.

    http://www.onmysoapboxx.com/tough-decision

  11. Warren April 9, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

    Tamara,

    Great job.

    A lot of parents and adult could take a lesson or two from you. Like you they are in careers, in which they are bombarded daily with the harsher side of child rearing. Like the therapists, cops, ER docs, nurses and such. It is what they see everyday, all day, and it jades them. Skews their logic. Too many of them cannot step back and see it for what it is. You are doing an important job, but with the exceptions to real life, not the standard.

  12. Kay April 9, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    I love this!

  13. Celeste April 10, 2015 at 12:29 am #

    Inspiring. Thanks for sharing your story.

  14. sexhysteria April 10, 2015 at 12:58 am #

    A problem with poor parents, as well as many normal parents, is that their attention is worse than their neglect. Kids often do a better job of raising themselves without parental interference.

  15. pentamom April 10, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    “But how do kids need to be ‘ready’ for a pet?? What would be the criteria that a 5 and 7-year-old would NOT be ready yet?”

    Speaking for myself, a kid is ready for a pet when a kid has established (through other behaviors) that he’s responsible enough to tend to the basic, daily needs of the pet, with little or no reminding. Since pets absolutely must be fed and cleaned up after multiple times per day, and some pets need other basic things frequently as well (e.g. dogs need exercise, long-haired cats need regular brushing), a child is not ready to have a pet if the child is not reliable enough to remember to feed and clean up after the pet with near-perfect consistency. Many seven year olds and some five year olds are ready for this, but not all.

    Of course if the family has always had pets and the adults have always routinely cared for them, then I’m not saying you can’t have a pet in a house with younger children. But if it’s the child who wants to introduce a pet, and/or the parent wants it to be the child’s pet and not primarily another responsibility for the parent, then that’s what’s necessary.

  16. Opal April 10, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    This reminds me of the time when I was a kid and out playing and had done something wrong (don’t remember what it was) and was sent to my room for a time out from our backyard, where all the neighborhood kids were playing. My Mom was out back talking to another mother and had locked me in the house. I was looking out my window, which looked out on the front yard, and saw our puppy (3 months) get out the (presumably locked) dog door and run away. I figured out how to open my window, remove the screen, and chased the dog down, bringing her back even though I figured Mom would be angry at me for going outside. She was actually thrilled with my actions, as the dog could have been hit by a car, and that spurred a talk about good and bad times to obey adults. I was 7. Having a dog is so good for children. It makes them think about and care for a being other than themselves, gets them outside, and teaches them the importance of being kind, gentle, and consistent. Doing the right thing, even when you think you’ll be punished, is important. Kudos to this mother.

  17. Steve April 10, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

    ” a child is not ready to have a pet if the child is not reliable enough to remember to feed and clean up after the pet with near-perfect consistency. Many seven year olds and some five year olds are ready for this, but not all.”

    —————————-

    A child can be trained to be reliable with discipline, being held accountable on a regular basis by a parent. If a child is not held accountable, then he or she learns inadvertently to be “irresponsible and unreliable.”

    First the parent must “Believe” a child can do something.

    Then the parent must hold the child accountable for doing or not doing whatever it is.

    Many irresponsible kids were trained to be that way.

  18. pentamom April 11, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    Steve, I agree with you, but there is a time period between when they are born, and when a given level of training has been achieved. Until they are trained, they are not yet trained. That’s all I’m saying — a particular parent may determine that their kids are not at that point *yet*, and therefore conclude that the time is not yet right for a pet.

  19. Abigail April 11, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    Fabulous – it is nice to hear someone else struggle and progress from ideological acceptance to action!

    P.S. I’ve worked with at-risk teens in the Central Valley and can really relate! Higher rates of risk-engaging behavior means more negative input…it’s hard to keep one’s bearings at times.

  20. Papilio April 12, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

    “Of course if the family has always had pets and the adults have always routinely cared for them, then I’m not saying you can’t have a pet in a house with younger children. But if it’s the child who wants to introduce a pet, and/or the parent wants it to be the child’s pet and not primarily another responsibility for the parent, then that’s what’s necessary.”

    Yes, okay, I was thinking of the first situation rather than the second. (And cats come whine for their food whether you forget it or not…)

  21. pentamom April 12, 2015 at 9:19 pm #

    “(And cats come whine for their food whether you forget it or not…)”

    Yes, but some of them will pee in the bathtub or just generally start acting out like frustrated toddlers if you don’t clean their litterboxes often enough to suite them. Not that I know any cats like that or currently have the hair of a cat like that adhering to my clothing at this minute….. 😉

  22. Thea April 13, 2015 at 8:55 am #

    Great story. But you didn’t think your 7 yr old knew how to turn on the TV? My 15 month old can turn on the TV and my 3 yr old niece can work the iPad to get to her downloaded movies and games. I was getting my own breakfast at 5.

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  24. Beth April 15, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    So, I will start this off by saying I’m not a mother yet. I ended up her via the Washington Post, where I was reading the article about the kids picked up in Montgomery County, MD, which I think is horrible. The fact that free range parenting is a thing sort of shocks me, because I grew up in the 90s and “free range” as it is called, was my life. I was a latch key kid from age 8, and my sister joined me at home when she turned 8. We were responsible kids, knew that we had to get our homework done before playing, start dinner, etc. We spent our free time running around our neighborhood with the other kids, unsupervised. We knew we had to be home by dark. This isn’t to say my parents weren’t involved. They coached our sports, we had family time every night, and I am close to both of them as an adult.

    But the end result of all this free ranging? Two high functioing independent adults. But this leaves me wondering…will I be able to raise my potentional child the way I want, the way I was raised? Or is that not allowed in modern america?