So, About That Free-Range Parenting…

A couple nights ago, my kids were out playing a bit past dark. We’re talking 8:30-9:00 pm. My husband and I had assumed that they were both indoors, since we did not hear them outside the house (they are really loud). Upon entering the house, Husband found the front door open (not unusual when they go out to play); but no kids. He stepped outside the door: no kids. He called them a few times: no kids.

Panic time, right?

Finally, after multiple increasingly louder calls, he watched them power walk from the west end of the block, sans shoes. They had heard him, but they had walked farrrrr away. Far, far away. Farther than they had asked permission to go. Particularly at night. When no one else was out.

Husband was obviously upset–these are, after all, his little girls. He freaked. And I agreed. I was not as upset, though… Or I guess I was upset for a different reason.

I was not too worried about them going down the block; even at night, our neighborhood is mostly a good city block if you stay out of the alleys. Not much danger (other than Saturday night drunks and opossums or a possible but highly improbable stray bullet) lurks around here for kids.

Nawl, I had a problem with the kids for 2 big reasons: tell me where you are headed before you go and you didn’t ask because you knew I would say no since it was late.

My kids are slightly sheltered, no doubt–but they are wily little effers. They are THINKERS–especially that 9 year old. She had already calculated the risk versus reward of going adventuring and determined: better to ask forgiveness than ask permission on this one. She knew that Husband would not spank her. She knew that I had sworn off the corporal punishment. So she figured a good talking to would be a worthwhile payment for walking as far as she felt comfortable going.

Deep down, I am proud of her. One day, she is gonna read this and know that for a fact. But right then, her “ass was grass” and “I was the lawn mower”. Husband took TV and outside privileges; I took technology and books. I then proceeded to do what I hate: talk.

I explained to the eldest why what she did was wrong and dangerous. That until she turns 18 and moves out, Husband and I are responsible for her actions and the consequences of those actions. I explained that she is NOT as smart as she thinks she is–that in a real situation a bad adult could have snatched them both up and we would never have known–but she didn’t realize that because, “YOU ARE NOT THAT WISE YET.” That those are the reasons that she has to do what I say. Because. I know things that she doesn’t yet.

I am still not upset at them walking off, though. I think it is good for kids to explore–as long as I know what you are thinking about doing. This is where I draw the line with free range. Society is not like Mayberry. Real dangers exists, and you cannot depend on other adults (even those with kids) to do right by yours. So I want them to be independent with reasonable boundaries.

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