You've no doubt heard of Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids. I love her.
You know how sometimes you're absolutely sure of the rightness of something. When I heard about Lenore's quest to give her kids some independent breathing space, I just knew she was right. She's right that children deserve independence. She's right that being responsible is a necessary part of growing up. She's right that the world isn't necessarily any more dangerous than it ever was. She's right that parents today are so convinced that something is going to happen to their child that kids are growing up feeling like they've done something wrong.
And why wouldn't they? Many parents are so fearful of 'something happening' to their child they box them up inside their schools and homes like criminals. Leonore sites the example of a parent who won't even let her children collect mail from the mailbox in their own front yard.
It's not just the fear of abduction. Parents are fearful of their children getting run over, falling over, being maimed, trampled, bullied, getting lost, getting hit by a sniper bullet.... They watch their children every minute of every day and usually a few times during the night too. They schedule so many indoor 'extra curricular' activities that the poor child is surrounded by four walls from the minute they wake up until the minute they go to sleep.
Can you imagine living like that*?
I choose to believe that the world is a safe and loving place. Not everything in the world, but most of it. We've educated the Tsunamis from infancy about what is dangerous and what is not. We didn't 'babyproof' the house (although we're not unsafe: we used gates at the stairways before they got the hang of stairs and certain antics by The Badoo forced me to buy those plugs for the electricity outlet because, well, she's The Badoo). We practice crossing the road together safely every single time. We're quiet in the car when the traffic gets heavy. We would never go into a public toilet alone. We know that strangers are usually friends, but we don't talk to them unless a grown-up we know is also listening.
Now, marry Leonore's rightness with Richard Louv's Last Child in the Wood rightness and you've pretty much got our parenting style. The Tsunamis are lucky enough to live in a house surrounded on three sides by national park and reserve. They explore the reserve around our house and their own imaginations every day. They make mud pies and throw them at each other. They dig for worms and herd ants into houses made from sticks. Clambering over large sandstone boulders, climbing up swaying trees, reaching the top to call down to mum "you look like a barbie doll' (why, thank you my children). I let them roam. They're free-range, organic children with skinned knees and grubby faces - just the way nature intended.
Of course, every now and then I call out to them and they know they must call back immediately. If they don't Barbie will come tearing up that reserve so fast you'd swear she'd been shot from a cannon... Afterall, I'm free-range, not neglectful!
* Oh, wait a minute, I have a corporate job...