My children are older and in grade school. My daughter was always an amazing daredevil — climbing slides and 20 foot waterfalls at only a year-and-a-half. I was extremely nervous over her. She was my second child and my first, my son, would never dream of doing anything as devilish as climb a slide! After she climbed the slide, I never returned to that park again because she scared the pants off me.
Both kids aged and started to meet friends. Through them, I met one of my dearest friends, J. She is highly intelligent and had some of the best child rearing advice I’d ever received. Additionally, she knew people I knew from the past. We had a lot to talk about and a lot to share. We spent quite a bit of time together, and since J was also my part-time sitter, she spent a lot of time alone with my children.
As I got to know her better, I started to observe how J raised her children. Consequently, J also cared for my children the same way she raised hers. Remember, I was the nervous mother who wanted to bubble wrap the children. J was the free-range mother who let her kids climb the walls. If they fell, they fell. She didn’t try to guard them against every scratch.
Of course, J kept them off the roof of her third story apartment, and when they moved to a beautiful farmhouse, she kept them far away from the pond. Other than that, she let them explore and learn on their own. I watched this and occasionally reached out to catch the climbing babies before realizing they’re allowed to climb!
As I watched her parenting style, I started to wonder about my own. I was the parent who kept my kids as safe as possible. Barring the few seconds I couldn’t watch my daughter as she scurried up to new heights, my kids kept their feet firmly on the ground. They never had a chance to explore and learn on their own. If they wanted to climb on the table, I was right there to tell them no. If they wanted to stack the chairs up high enough to reach the ceiling, I took the chairs away. I would not allow any risks that made me even slightly nervous.
I realized that J was letting my children explore on their own when they were with her. I also realized quickly that my kids were fine, and so were hers. J remains one of my most trusted babysitters, and I think it’s obvious that I barely trust anyone with my kids. I began to realize that her kids really don’t have a fear of trying new things. They just go for it.
It could be argued that the kids might get hurt, but don’t we all take that chance? If I could do it all over again, I would raise free-range kids. It was, after all, how I was raised. Somehow I lost sight of that when my son was born.
I baby-gated everything. Baby gates don’t work with her kids, because they can naturally escape them. I watched my kids like a hawk. She educates hers on the dangers of certain items, making sure they get the message loud and clear. I was constantly nervous. She seems more relaxed.
There is an argument for free-range parenting. Free-range parenting is not a new concept. Only a few decades ago, when my ancestors were raising farm kids, there was no other way to parent because there was always work to be done. After observing my kids compared to hers, I wonder if my ancestors weren’t onto something.
If I were to bear any more children, I would raise free-range kids. I would try to worry less and let them explore more.
I would be very interested to find out how they compare to my older children, and I would have a great role model to thank for the idea!