Recently, I read some information on a website about raising free range kids. I've been thinking quite a bit about the concepts, in fact I've been talking about it for the last week or so. I grew up free range. From an early age, I would walk the couple blocks necessary to get to school, as I got older it was the school bus. At nine I was the first one to arrive home in the afternoons. I have wonderful memories of taking off on my bike, or on my horse. These memories are some of my favorite memories from childhood.
I'm afraid we are robbing this generation of these experiences. According to the web site, today is safer than any previous time, yet we are coddling our children. We are afraid to let them out of our sight, afraid to let them start spreading their own wings. I worry that through our fear we may be crippling them.
When Ben started school this week, I decided that now as a first grader I would allow him to cross the street with the crossing guard (and I might add police officer) turn one corner and walk a block to where I am waiting for him. At no time during this walk is Ben outside of either my site, or the site of the police officer. I felt like this was a good baby step. Yesterday, when I parked to wait for him I noticed parents walking to get their kids. I saw one mom, who lives directly across the street from the school walk across the street just to walk her 3rd grader home. I was amazed.
My goal is for Ben to eventually walk home by himself. I want him to be able to ride his bike to friends' houses. I want him to be able to go the less than one mile distance to the nearest park. We live less than 3 blocks from the school in a very safe neighborhood, that doesn't seem too far for an elementary school child to walk. I am teaching him about watching carefully for cars, he has been carefully instructed on who he is ever allowed to get into a car with. We even discussed his back-up plan in case I'm not parked on the street waiting for him. I want him to have coping mechanisms. I want him to know what to do!
If we never give our children opportunities, how can we ever know what they are capable of?