Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Proof I am a Free Range Parent or, more acurately, Proof My Child is Free Range

The Cul-de-sac’s docile and relaxed appearance belies the busy lifestyle of its inhabitants. In actuality, I have very little time for enjoyment of my pleasant abode and its surroundings. Enjoyment is exactly the reason we have long weekends. However, those in the cul-de-sac, who own their castles, must attend to the often-neglected tasks: both the obvious, like cutting the grass and pulling weeds, and the not-so-obvious but essential tasks, like re-grouting the shower tiles. Priorities often conflict with outward appearances so I hurriedly finished my hidden task so that I could at least enjoy a little holiday sunshine – especially to get away from the fumes of the caulk.
Truth be told, I love cutting the grass and pulling weeds. I don’t like green socks and shoes, but it’s satisfying to see a lush (in places) uniformly green pasture. At least it’s uniform length in the places that it is growing. The problem is that a 3, going on 4, year old companion also desperately needs some fresh air. He can help, or pretend to help pull the “flowers” that Daddy calls dandelions, but cutting the grass is another matter. Whirring blades, even from my push-reel mower, and weed-whackers are not the safest things to be playing near. Of course, a responsible almost-four-year-old can understand the danger or at least listen to Daddy’s warnings to stay away. The question: how to occupy a child while I’m busy spinning dangerous blades at a safe distance. Then of course, I have to go do the back yard. Not undoable, but I must use my cunning to do it safely without resorting to sending the child inside.
Thankfully, two answers arrived home in the form of neighbour’s children, one, an eleven-year-old star soccer player, the other, only about a year older than mine. Suddenly, chalk is marking the sidewalk and soccer balls are being bounced between pairs of feet.
In no time, my obvious task is complete, and I’m ready to complete the backyard. A quick check with the older child and a word or two with my own and I am ready to venture out of sight. Worried? Slightly. Thankfully, Lenore Skenazy has been coaching me in raising Free Range Kids. I’ve yet to buy her book, but the next time I have the luxury of going to the bookstore, it is mine. I was sure that my son and I were both ready to take our first step toward becoming Free Range. Much preparation has taken place. However, this was still a little nerve wracking.
So, I went back to the yard work. I set a new fastest time in cutting and trimming the back – even though the grass looked like a hayfield, in the places that it was growing, and my check-ups on the kid’s chalk drawings. It barely even caused a stir in my heart when I came back to the front to find all three of our yards empty. The logical explanation was the right one. No abductions, no runaways. Just an invitation to a sandbox filled with toys where parents were filling boxes with flowers. Another clue as to how similar we are to our neighbours.
I am sure that my son is free-range. He simply is too curious not to be. I can’t make that decision for him. I can help him prepare for the challenges that life will present when his curiosity overcomes whatever fears I might instill in him, intentionally or otherwise.
My suburb is actually not too bad. I see pre-teen and pre-pre-teen children roaming or playing under what some would say are lax supervision all the time. I don’t think that the horror-stories mentioned in Lenore’s blog are too common here. Still, helicopter parents and minivan-cloistering is becoming more and more common. I just hope it doesn’t become more common than the sense, my parents tried to instill in their children.