Don’t Get Me Started . . .

A great site called Free Range Kids helps me feel right at home in how I think about raising my children. I found this link at The Learning Umbrella from her post called Do Your Children Get Enough Danger.

Here is a quote from the site:

Another mom castigated me for my irresponsibility and proudly said that she doesn’t even let her daughter go to the mailbox in her upscale Atlanta neighborhood. There’s just too much “opportunity” for the girl to be snatched and killed. To her, I’m the crazy mom.

I just moved from a neighborhood like the one described here in Atlanta. Here’s a general picture of it with its nicely manicured lawns and matching Bartlett pear trees and white mailboxes. (Funny story: When we first moved in, we were “required” to purchase the matching mailbox signage at the price of $75. I refused for several months because of the overpriced conformity. They didn’t know what to do with me. Good thing I didn’t require the whole mailbox; that would have been $300!)

Anyway, a few months prior to us finding the perfect country home to move to, we were officially complained against by an anonymous neighbor. The charges:

She lets her children go barefoot; sometimes even in the winter. Guilty.

She lets her children climb dangerous things. Guilty.

She lets her children ride their bikes in the road. Guilty.

She lets her children near the pond. Guilty.

She lets her autistic children near the road. Guilty.

It’s crazy it even had to be investigated. My sin? Not being a “helicopter mother”, hovering over her children at all times, like everyone else does in the neighborhood.

The dangerous things referred to were maybe our tall front tree, but probably the idea that we let them climb into any construction equipment that is nearby under our supervision. We feel it is better to let them do these things with us then sneak and do them without us.

Tractor boys:

Sometimes, they get lucky:

Taking the controls:

Going up:

Job Complete:

Woohoo!   Teddy and all 🙂

The road they ride their bikes on and that my children with autism (yep, I don’t keep them caged!) are near is a cul-de-sac in front of our house. When I discussed this with one neighbor, she felt that I should always be watching them. I do keep tabs out the window, but it wasn’t good enough from her perspective. Of course, she admitted to not knowing how to parent seven children . . . ah, yeah.

Needless to say, moving to 15 acres in the country has been a freeing experience for all of us! No more neighbors deciding what is right for my children (considering none of the things listed above was illegal), and letting my boys grow up free range. I don’t want fear to dictate their childhoods. Here’s a picture of what our view is out our front door:

To take people back to when I first made a conscientious decision about raising my children free range, as I was raised, I share these quotes from the above site:

Not that facts make any difference. Somehow, a whole lot of parents are just convinced that nothing outside the home is safe. At the same time, they’re also convinced that their children are helpless to fend for themselves. While most of these parents walked to school as kids, or hiked the woods — or even took public transportation — they can’t imagine their own offspring doing the same thing.

I noticed this especially when we moved to the neighborhood I referenced above eight years ago. There was such fear and for a moment, I was going to get sucked into it. I remember when the actual decision came for me to make. My only daughter came to me and let me know that she was going to take her dog and explore in the woods across the neighborhood, and she would be back. She wasn’t asking, but letting me know because it never occurred to her that it wouldn’t be okay. But I hesitated and asked her to hold on a minute. She had justed turned 11 years old.

Fear told me to say no, but as I have been known to do throughout my parenting and unschooling life, I questioned that reaction. And, it was a reaction. I recalled my carefree days as a child. I knew I had equipped my children with intelligent wariness, but not fear. Was there a middle ground with this? So, I decided right then and there that I wanted my children to have fun and adventurous childhoods, without fear, but equipped with awareness. I asked her for two things: One was to always let me know where she would be and about when she would be home. The other was to be aware of any non-resident people (there were a lot of houses being built with many construction vehicles and other personnel all the time) being aware of her comings and goings and simply take another route into the woods if she saw this type of “stranger”.

She did this exploring for several years without incident, without fear, but with awareness. She has EXTREMELY fond memories of that time insomuch that when we were going to leave the area, she documented the area she called “Mye Creek”.

Now, we have 15 acres, 10 in woods, creeks, critters, etc. that beckon my two youngest. Do I limit them, or equip them with awareness and enjoy their adventures related each day? I say the latter. I ask that they stay within calling distance, but if they want to venture further out, to take walkie talkies, leaving one with me. Admittedly, these two are still learning, and they tend to act in the moment and disappear for an hour or two at a time. But, if we can’t enjoy our own chosen “relatively safe” property, then where can we?

I end with this quote:

They have lost confidence in everything: Their neighborhood. Their kids. And their own ability to teach their children how to get by in the world. As a result, they batten down the hatches.

I understand there are always risks, but they are calculated. I won’t raise my children in fear. I chose the educational method I use because I wanted to continue the trust and respect we enjoy as a family, and I raise my children in the same vein; because I DO have confidence in our ability to collaborate in learning what is needed to get by in this world.

Oh, oh, driving cars may have to go on the sin roll . . . LOL!:

7 responses to “Don’t Get Me Started . . .

  1. This is exactly why I live in the country. I want my children to be able to enjoy the freedom that I did as a child.

  2. Oh, how nice it would be to live in the middle of nowhere. I grew up on 8 1/2 acres and was allowed to explore as I saw fit. Here in suburbia not far from DC in a townhouse the kids don’t have the same freedoms I did. Of course when we go to my parents’ house (they are still in the house I grew up in) they can do whatever they want and for Cameron that means being outside most of the time we are there and, yes, occasionally barefoot (and without a coat, too!) in the winter.

    In a townhouse we are WAAAAYYY too close in quarters to neighbors and so I have to only allow my kids in our postage stamp backyard due to comments and things that have been made since we moved here. Of course the three of them go out to get the mail every day on their own (and generally barefoot). That’s down the street a bit (community mailboxes) and my next door neighbor thinks I’m brave to allow even the toddler to go (I couldn’t not let him – he insists on carrying the keys!).

    I’ve also had some very negative comments from neighbors about how my kids climb trees and often have bruises and scratches on their arms and legs (and forehead in the case of the toddler). Of course these are people with kids who I see walking to the bus stop at the corner, walking home, and then never again except maybe a few times in the summer at the pool. I’m not quite sure what they do when they get home from school. Sit on the couch and watch TV or play video games I suppose. I’ll take my very active and often bruised kids.

    Our pediatrician did make a comment the last time we were there that he was glad to see their bruises and scratches. He said if they’re on arms, legs, and foreheads it means their getting plenty of exercise and time outside and that’s a very good thing. Too bad my neighbors don’t see it that way.

  3. re: flickr (saw your comment on throwing marshmallows)

    After you drag the flickr widget to your sidebar, click on the little line graphic on the bar where it says “flickr”. You can put *your* flickr feed address there. 🙂

    If you get stuck, holler.

  4. Theresa, isn’t it wonderful!

    Heather, thanks for sharing your experience. At least I don’t feel “alone” now in experiencing negative vibes (and more) from overprotective neighbors. Good for your pediatrician for recognizing the benefits of bumps and bruises 🙂

    Andrea, thanks for letting me know. And, by the way, I had a feeling I put “Robin’s” name down instead of yours . . . mixing my two “administrator” names (Robin from LWOS). Sorry about that! LOL! Alright. Off to try to see if I can get flickr to work . . .
    -Cindy

  5. Boohoo, Andrea! I don’t know which one is my RSS feed address. I went to my Home page at Flickr, then I went and pushed the RSS feed button found at the bottom, and then I was using the addy that showed up at the top as my RSS feed addy, but apparently, it’s not. So, where is it?
    Thanks!
    -Cindy

  6. Hear hear! I loved this post and wholeheartedly agree! I love the idea of Free Range kids and will have to go check that out too. 🙂 BTW, your grandmother looks lovely! What a wonderful day it sounds like it was!

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