Readers! You’ll love this! — L
Dear Free-Range Kids: This isn’t so much a camp story as it is an “independence” story. My son was by nature very timid and could have easily have been crippled by this nature had I allowed it. Instead, I kicked my kids out of the house on every nice day and made them find something to do rather than sit inside. Many a summer night saw my backyard filled with up to a dozen neighborhood kids in sleeping bags under the stars and unsupervised. Shockingly, they were never once kidnapped or molested. In spite of this, my son never wanted to go to camp and rarely stayed at a friend or relative’s house overnight.
When he was fourteen and his sister sixteen, my husband had to go to New Orleans for work and I decided to tag along. We chose to leave the kids home alone to fend for themselves; we had many neighbors they could call on in an emergency and they were trustworthy kids.
The week before, we took them to the grocery store and let them shop for the meals they wanted to eat while we were gone. Did you know there are seven different brands of frozen pizza, so they wouldn’t have to once eat the same thing during the week? Neither did I until after that shopping trip. Though I was not terribly happy with their choices, this was their independence week and I was determined to let them be in charge.
Armed with pizza, a $100 bill and my daughter’s driver’s license, they faced the week alone. As my husband and I said our goodbyes, I could see the concern in my son’s eyes, but we knew they could take care of each other. During the week, they checked in before school, when they got home, and to say goodnight. We heard tales of burnt pizzas, trips to the market for milk and getting along and taking care of each other. That alone made the trip a success. But never did I expect what my son did when we got home.
He thanked us.
Always one to worry, he had apparently been thinking about college and had been concerned he would not be able to go because he had a fear of being away from us. He said his experience during the week had made him realize he could take care of himself.
I could have very easily made him a mama’s boy, but instead I constantly pushed him to do something scary. Our trust in him gave him trust in himself. — Janelle Cawley Kennedy.
P.S. Today, my son Stan is 24 and sharing a house with some of those same friends he played with as a boy. My daughter is 26 and has moved to St Louis where she lives with her husband and my grandson.