free range children

Lyd has two friends over today, a sister and brother, for a final playdate before the sister and brother and the rest of their family move to the other side of the country tomorrow.  (The movers are at their house today, packing and boxing, so I offered to take the kids to give them something to do.)  They were playing nicely in the house, but starting to get a little bored, so I gave them each a plastic bag and told them that they could go anywhere they wanted on the property (with a few exceptions).  But, basically, they could go wherever they wanted.

Excitedly, off they went.

As they headed off, I pondered whether this was a safe thing to do or not.  (There’s an interesting blog that I found a few months ago, called Free Range Kids, that ponders this topic of letting kids go off on their own.)  As far as the ages of these three kids go, we’re talking about my Lyd, who is 4.75 years old, the boy who is 5.5 years old, and the girl who is 7.5 years old.  So they’re not babies.  And, 20 years ago, I doubt that many parents would have thought twice about sending their kids out to play unsupervised, especially on a property such as the one we live on.  But my brain then reminded me of the three burglaries that have happened on our back street in the past 6 months.  I think of the kids who were (likely) doing drugs in the church parking lot at night.  That was about 2 years ago, but still.  How much do you hold on tight to your children, and how much do you just … let them be kids?  These are smart kids, (overall) obedient, respectful — they deserve to have a little free range, especially when it’s a beautiful day outside, it’s a quiet summer day, and it’s these kids last chance to play together — forever.  Really and truly forever.  There’s a fairly likely chance that they will never see each other again.  Lyd has been sad about losing these best friends of hers for weeks.

After ten minutes, when I decided to go outside and find them, I couldn’t find them.  Anywhere.  I didn’t (completely) panic, because we live on an almost 2-acre property, but my heart did start to beat a little faster.  I did a basic circle of the property, but no children were to be found.  Finally, I thought that I’d better check back up at the house first, just to make sure.  And there they were.  The girls had had to use the bathroom.  All was well.  And, oh, were they excited about the time they had had to themselves (all 15 minutes of it!)  They had found the ripe yellow plum tree down by the school office, had each picked a plum off of it, and had brought them home to wash and eat them.  (They are delicious, sweet plums.)  They were overjoyed when I told them they could eat as many plums as they wanted, so long as they washed them first.  Eyes wide with glee, they raced out the door and down across the property to the plum tree.

They’re fine.  And then they played in the house with dolls, yes, even the boy.  Now?  They’re back outside, running in circles, playing tag.

It’s good to be a kid.  I’m glad they have this afternoon to just — be kids.

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One thought on “free range children

  1. This really strikes a chord with me. Just this year I have been “encouraged” by my husband to let go of the strings a bit more with our oldest few. I’ve started letting the 6 year old go to the creek (within eyeshot of my porch, but down a ravine) by himself.

    I’ve been amazed at the changes I see in him in just this simple privilege I’ve given him. He shows such responsibility!

    It would be nice to be able to just let them run and not have to worry about psycho neighbors, etc…

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