Sunday, May 10, 2009

Free Range Kids

Being Mother's Day, there are lots of articles, stories, features, etc. about motherhood, parenting techniques, etc. and I spent a bit of time this morning browsing them.

One thing I learned early on in this parenting gig, is there is an opinion or article or expert to back up nearly everything. Are you pro-family bed? There are lots of resources. Against it? There are lots of resources! Same goes for breastfeeding, Baby Einstein videos, potty training, shoe brands, you name it.

But we Mommies are an insecure bunch. We have to learn on the fly, make it up as we go along, endure lots of failures, and so we search for validation. From each other, from experts, from the product we create, our children.

I read an article that led me to this website that provided me with some of that necessary validation for some the parenting choices that I have made. I've always said that I am raising my kids to leave me. In order for them to be successful in the world, they need confidence, independence, curiosity, respect, and they need to learn to make a few mistakes. Kids don't automatically learn this stuff when they're 18 and getting nudged out of the nest. They need to learn it slowly, and they need to LEARN it. Not be TOLD it. So, Ray and I have tried not to be "helicopter parents;" we've tried to let our kids have some freedom, independence, etc.

I'm not trying to compare myself to a helicopter parent or even say I'm better. I probably will feel quite the opposite next time I'm in the emergency room with one of my kids (a rare occurrance, knock on wood). And who knows what awful experiences have happened to other people and their families, but that all factors in to the choices we make as parents. I had a "free range" childhood and I think I can draw some direct lines from the freedom granted to me to the parent I am now.

My kids hike in the woods on their own, some of their friends aren't allowed to. Some of their friends haven't ever really explored the woods! I let them wander around Target while I am buying groceries. Aidan goes to the movies without us. They can make their own scrambled eggs, fill the motorcycle gas tank (yes, they both can ride it), walk to their friends' houses without me as escort. They even climb trees that are tall enough that they'd break bones if they fell. While their playmate's parent was hollering at them to "get out of that tree before you get hurt!" I find that sad.

I love seeing the sense of adventure and the pride my kids have when they are granted each bit of independence. I hope these baby-steps of freedom and independence will grow into big strides that will insure their success as they reach adulthood. I'll miss them. But that means I will have done my job.

1 comment:

Michele S said...

My kids are totally free range. I love that expression. I'm going to have to steal that too.

Happy Mother's Day!