Monday, October 29, 2012

Fear Versus Freedom

There are many fears to tackle when you have children.
First is to get the kid out of your body with no harm done.
Then to raise them into toddlerhood from infants.
From school-age child to teen.
From teen and into young adult.
It's a nail biting time, the worries about everything from poisons, to abductions, to illness surround a person when raising another one.
I just finished a great book Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy (she has a great blog.)
The author let her then nine year old son ride the subway home in NYC from Bloomingdale's alone and she was dubbed "America's Worst Mom" for it.
The book helps us understand where our fears come from in terms of poisons, abductions, and the general unknown outside our front doors.
Maybe things aren't so scary in the world.
That it's okay to give your kids some freedom to be what they
To let them walk to Wendy's after school with friends, to let them play in the woods behind the house, to let them ride their bike to school.
Yes, there are bad people in the world.
The news is sure to tell us that.
But I inherently believe most people are good.
The homeless guy on the corner...good.
The guy walking his Corgi everyday after work...good
The lady at the fast food restaurant who cleans your tray away...good.
I think I've always been a bit of a free-ranger.
When I was just an aunt and my nephew and cousin would visit me, I would allow them to walk to Starbucks alone or to the corner store. 
And that was in Chicago.
They were teens.
They knew where to go and I trusted them to come back in one piece.
My own kids now are old enough to play in the woods behind our house without me.
They take our dogs with them, two fifty pound beasts who love to bark.
I trust them not to wander off the path and they know not to go with anyone they don't know.
Zoe also goes into a local drugstore for me to buy stamps and mail envelopes.
I wait in the car or am at the gas station just next door pumping gas when she does her job.
She likes to do it.
I let her take something back to the store shelf at Walmart that I've decided at the last minute I don't want to buy. 
My belief that something bad will happen to her while doing this is at 1% (there's always a small chance of something happening, probably that she'll trip over her own feet more than being abducted.)
While there are many scary things to sit and ponder over that can happen to your child, I've already had to deal with the scariest thing of all.
A disease that the parenting books don't warn you about.
There's nothing to buy at Babies R Us to heed the warning about cancer coming your way and how to protect your child.
My daughter has had the devil of all devils at her front door and she has fought back.
The boogey man has not taken her from us.
The world doesn't seem quite so scary now that we have lived through two years of poison that's been deliberately given to her.  
Now that we have seen what could become of our daughter.
To know other families who have lost their child to cancer. 
Now that we know what's really scary in the world.
I am raising independent children.
I don't want to hover over Zoe anymore than I have these last few years. 
So, I will continue to let her go into the drugstore alone.
I may let her go into the grocery store to buy milk while I sit in the car balancing my checkbook.

I will let her and her sister play in the cemetery, looking at the family headstones, the angel statues, and the beautiful flower displays.
I have seen what's really dangerous in this world and we are not letting that put us into a shock.
We are living our life with less fear of others.
We live in fear of disease, but one thing is for sure.
That "thing" is that she is going to live her life with a vengeance.
A vengeance to be free.    

I would be interested in your own thoughts on Free Range Kids.
What do you let your kids do without you?
What freedoms do you allow your kids?  


  1. "My daughter has had the devil of all devils at her front door and she has fought back.
    The boogey man has not taken her from us.
    The world doesn't seem quite so scary now that we have lived through two years of poison that's been deliberately given to her." LOVE this quote!
    I try to be as free range as possible. I try to increase my kid's skills so they can be as independent as possible. When I have become separated from them in a store, my worst fear was not abduction.....I have taught them that most people are going to be nice and helpful. I have taught them the benefits of being friendly. I am glad they can strike up conversations with adults when we go places. We have met many nice people this way.
    If you are not teaching them to be fearful of strangers/"don't talk to strangers" speech, then I have found it to be difficult in describing how some people ACT nice, but they might not ACTUALLY be nice (in case of worst case scenarios). I think I am doing a good job in my approach...I just don't think many kids have much experience with this tricky behavior. We have role played, but still....I let my children play outside without constant supervision, yet they have been told that there is NO reason a strange adult should approach them and ask them questions (way out here in BFE). They have been told if someone approaches them in their yard, to yell, "I'll go get my mom" and run inside to get me.
    Finding that balance can be hard.....knowing they are ready for certain things without supervision, them being able to figure it all out, making mistakes....being a parent can be hard sometimes... :)

    1. Hardest job I've had!!
      My kids are more meek. Never easy for them to talk to people they don't know. Which I like but hope they can find their voice if need be.

  2. Going to head to the library site and request that book right now!

    I let my oldest who is 8 ride her bike every week to piano lessons by herself. We have an acquaintance who takes piano at the same place and even lives closer who does not allow her daughter the same privilege. I do it for mainly selfish reason - the little one is napping at that time but try to convince myself it is fully for Nan's benefit. (and try very hard to ignore the acquaintance's comments about it)

    Let me read the book and get back to you! Love to discuss parenting stuff like that and Carla is one of my favorite people to do that with! :)

  3. Jen, can I just be honest here too. When you write about the cancer, I am not sure what to say. I so much appreciate what you are willing to share. You say it so well! But I don't know how to respond...I feel awkward because I don't "know, KNOW" you. (I wonder is a day you need a hug for it or a day you just need to vent or a day you just are thinking and want to discuss....) Thanks for keeping on, keeping on with life and sharing what that looks like with the rest of us!

    1. Thanks Laura. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, I don't have cancer. But I also dont want anyone to feel sorry for Zoe. It's a shitty thing that's happened to her and I guess I write about it because it's such a life altering thing to have a sick child. I want other people to be thankful for their healthy kids. For their normal boring lives. Say what your heart tells you to say or say nothing at all. It's how I've come to deal with it all, to write.

  4. Thanks for understanding and sharing. It is such a big part of your lives right now that when you write about it I feel insensitive when I don't acknowledge it with a comment. I am more afraid of my words being hurtful instead of supportive. I love your attitude!