Readers — It’s hard to believe, but the rest of the world is not exactly like America except with different condiments at McDonald’s. Here’s a note from far away:
Dear Free-Range Kids: We have definitely tried to embrace as much of the Free-Rangeness as possible into our kids’ life. One twist we have is that our children are both Type1 diabetic, which makes us a bit overprotective to begin with (how do you feel, are you feeling low, tell us before you eat, yadda yadda yadda).
Our family recently moved to Germany for a work opportunity. Our kids are 6 (Girl) and 8 (Boy). Both are confident and great at dealing with change. Upon arrival, the thing that was absolutely shocking to me was how un-overprotective the Germans were with their kids. You might see, for example, a pack of 6-year-old kids walking to school with no parents in sight. 8-year-olds riding the train by themselves to get to school. Giant rope parks and cool huge slides that had no safety devices you would expect to see in the States (and the parents OK with it).
Our view of the world changed again when we enrolled the kids into German public school. The lady who finds schools for kids was Type1 diabetic herself. Her first question was, “Is the 8-year-old giving himself his own insulin shots?”
Excuse me?! The thought hand’t even crossed our minds. Apparently all Type1 kids in Germany learn to give themselves injections when they are diagnosed. No such recommendation was ever given to us in the States (and we take the kids to a progressive university research hospital).
In a note the headmistress at school sent home to the parents, there were quotes like, “Please don’t come upstairs with your kids to drop them off,” and, “Wait outside for the children when you pick them up, they know where to go.” And, “Don’t wait around – drop your kids off and leave.”
If you look around German life, this type of upbringing makes sense. The country is filled with strong, independent people who can fend for themselves in the world. It also helps that they have a VERY orderly and rules-based society, but raising kids to be confident has a massive impact on society.
My wife and I talk about this almost every night. It’s truly amazing how much just a little more leeway with your kids can bring out even more confidence in their life. Aiden (8) is learning to give himself his own insulin and he has exceeded our expectations in this matter. Why didn’t we think of this before? Makes me wonder how we will adapt back to the bubble-wrapped world of the USA when we return. — Fred Thiel