May 29, 2010
I am a Free Range Mom
A friend of mine recently started a group on Facebook that is called Free-Range Parent Society. While the group is new, the concept is not (but boy am I glad that she gave it a name!). I am a Free Range Mom, and have been since the birth of my first son. I encourage my kids to dig in the dirt, wander the yard, play in the sand, and explore their surroundings. I allow them the flexibility to learn as we go.
While this often delays us, my kids know that stopping and smelling the flowers, but also touching them, and sometimes even tasting them, is not only acceptable, but encouraged. I teach my kids to be independent, to make their own choices, and understand the consequences of those choices. I empower them to explore their world – it’s their world too after all. If that means that they are a little more dirty, come home a little late, or have to sit a little longer with a friend or sibling to work things out, then so be it.
Too often we are caught up in the day to day things to realize that our kids are growing up quickly, and that they need time to be kids, but also to explore and learn to be independent. I send my kids outside to play regularly, by themselves, and have done so since they were all pretty small. They need the freedom to explore without my watching their every step. They need to learn confidence in their choices, and know that getting dirty is part of being a kid. Being outside, away from me, helps them develop all kinds of great skills (not to mention the benefits alone of playing outside). My kids don’t need a security details when they roam. They are free to ride bikes, play soccer, visit friends, you name it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very safety conscious. My kids wear helmets, are all in car seats, and taught basic safety as well as stranger danger rules. But I also encourage them to roam the world with their eyes open – knowing that they might encounter something unique or interesting. Instead of looking to me for support, they are examining their surroundings and stumbling on incredible things. They have learned to negotiate treaties, build bridges (literally and figuratively), deal with strangers, and deal with boredom. My children are independent, free thinkers who often wander off the path.
It was hard to take that first step towards being a Free Range Mom. I knew early on that I wasn’t a helicopter parent – far from one as a matter of fact. But I also knew that there had to be a balance between letting my kids roam free, and safety. So, I taught them what I could, empowered them to make good choices, then set them free. As they reach certain milestones, I let them do more and more on their own. Learning what your kids are capable of is part of this though – you need to maintain the safety and at the same time let them walk their own path. This particular path has led me to three well behaved, forward thinking, independent children (and a fourth that’s well on her way) that make their own choices, deal with their own consequences, but most of all are allowed to be who they want to be. Dirt, sand, rocks, adventures, friends, and sometimes tears all have a place in our house, and I hope they do in yours too.