Folks! I liked this letter because it reminds us that Free-Range Kids is not dogmatic and not silly. We don’t say you MUST trust your child in every situation or you are a lily-livered ninny. We don’t reject thinking things over, or even erring on the side of caution. All we DO reject is knee-jerk “worst-first thinking” — immediately assuming the worst in all situations. – L
Dear Free-Range Kids: Parenting Free-Range children does not mean throwing all caution to the wind. While reading through some people’s stories and comments I have commonly seen the inner struggle of “should I or should I not?” in trying to determine what is best for their children. I consider myself a Free-Range Parent even though my kids are young. I do not let mainstream media or exaggerated emails govern the raising of my kids in a state of fear. However, I was met with a Free-Range struggle last week at the park.
My son and daughter were happily playing soccer with another set of boys, with a total range of age from 3-5. Out of nowhere the dad of the boys appeared and started playing with the four of them. I watched from my bench as everyone was having a great time. I was thankful for this dad entertaining my kids, even though he did not speak English (I’m an ex-pat American living in Europe) and my kids were a little confused regarding his instructions. I did notice he seemed to be slapping my daughter on her skirted rear end quite a bit. At first it was a “good job” sort of thing but still I just didn’t like it, cultural differences or not.
My son ran up to me and said he had to go to the bathroom. The bathroom at the park was a good 5-minute walk away and not that clean. So here I was presented with a choice: I could leave my 4-year-old daughter with this man I have just met so she can continue playing, and trust that he will look after her. Or deal with the “I don’t want to go” tantrum and take her with me.
My first instinct was to take her with me. But a voice crept up, “Shouldn’t you trust this man you have never met before in your life? Isn’t that what being Free-Range is all about? Aren’t you giving into senseless worry, if you fear leaving her with a stranger? What would Lenore think?”
I ultimately decided, no, leaving my 4-year-old daughter with a man I don’t know is not being Free-Range. It is taking an unnecessary risk, especially when I live in a country that is notorious for abuse. Lenore would want my little girl safe. Her time to be truly “Free-Range” will come soon enough. As for now, my role is to teach her how to be safe and ready for the world ahead of her.”
I write this in case any other parent who believes in Free-Range philosophies gets struck in this sort of conundrum — the ” I feel like I shouldn’t but maybe Free-Range says I should!” spiral. It is important to believe in your kids and yourself, but don’t throw all instincts out the window. I have faith in people and society but I don’t consider myself blind to it all either. – A Mom Abroad