So, it’s official. I am officially on the PTSA board of our school as of today. I am still wondering if I have done the right thing, and also just what I have gotten myself into. My default is to jump in with both feet, and have already been brainstorming some fundraising ideas. I was told to relax, hold back, and take a “let’s see” approach. That’s not really my style. On one hand, I am chaos personified. I’m the mom screeching into the parking lot at the last minute, but I get there. I am the mom who gets it done, even if it doesn’t look pretty. There is some method to my madness, and I usually need at least a baseline plan in place to keep the stress levels down. I’m not very structured, but I need a basic idea of a plan to get started. At the moment, I’m floundering and I feel dazed. I’m not a fan. I will therefore sit back, and try very hard not to think too much about things. It just won’t be easy. I’m more of a doer than a not think about it type of gal.
After getting voted in, I was chatting with a mom friend about the changes, about summer, after school care next year for her daughter, and she asked how I manage to work from home when the kids are home. She was surprised by my answer.
“Well, the older one will play video games or read and entertain himself pretty quietly, and the younger one plays outside or with the neighbor kids. I’m trying this whole “free range parenting” thing out.”
She looked stunned. The video game comment gave her pause and a raised eyebrow. The free range parenting comment made her appear quite surprised.
The fact is, my son is an old soul. He is extremely smart (way smarter that me, to be honest). He’s responsible, a rule follower, and very mature. (Not like me). He gets great grades and is respectful and kind. That, along with some chores, is his “job”. As long as he is doing his job, and his grades are good, I don’t sweat the small stuff. I let him play video games with his friends after school. Sure, I keep the time down to a decent amount, but I let him play. It’s a form of socialization, and he enjoys it. It’s also sparked an interest in coding, which could be good for him. He accompanied me to the apple store and jumped into a coding class there. The instructor was very impressed with his knowledge and demeanor. I may take him for more. Currently, my son and his bike have disappeared down to the school to go hang out on the field/playground with his friends. He has his sister’s ipod which has wifi, so he can text me if he needs me. I’m only a few minute drive away.
The little one looks most forward to racing outside each day. I can see her from my home office window. I can call to her. We have a system, and it works. She never leaves the front of the house without telling me where she is going. There are also a group of great kids in the neighborhood that she plays with. The parents know each other, watch out for the kids, and text each other when kids are on route from one house to another. It’s working. I now have a happier child, who enjoys being outdoors and playing with friends.
For years, I have struggled with balance. Work vs home, fairness with the kids, and a constant battle of how their childhood is vs mine was. When my son got older, my daughter was still 4 years younger, so it was easier to keep them both inside. With my work schedule, there wasn’t any time to just hang with the neighbor kids. Growing up, I raced home, did homework, and jumped on my bike. I rode the back roads about a mile from my house to my best friends, and we would go back and forth between our houses, playing, riding, laughing, and making memories. I did this when I was about 8 or nine. My parents trusted me to do right, to call when I arrived, and to do be responsible. And you know what? I WAS. I DID. I called, and I was responsible. I knew quite clearly that bad behavior, or not doing as I should would eliminate my freedoms. Looking back, I believe my mom would drive the neighborhood to make sure I was safe and keep an eye on what I was up to. I fell off my bike once and she was there in minutes, without a phone call. (no cell phones when I was a kid, folks!). Nowadays kids have technology at their fingertips. Luckily they have ipods and the neighborhood is a wifi hotspot, so they can text me if they need me. That’s more than I had as a kid.
The fact is, kids were kids, but in many ways, we were more grown up than today’s kids. We had more freedoms and we learned to handle those freedoms appropriately. We learned responsibility. We had street sense. The small freedoms I received made me feel more grown up, and I behaved better. Why? Because I didn’t want to lose the privileges I had been given! Cause and effect is an important learning tool.
It occurred to me one day my kids might not really know how to cross the street safely. As in, which lane cars drive in, where to look, how to listen for cars, how to double check. I was horrified. The fact was though I was always with them and guided them. I started teaching them more street sense. How to manage if I wasn’t there. How to be safe, and to help their friends be safe. I started taking them on bike rides, to learn the layout of the neighborhood, where cross walks are, and how to read the traffic signals. It’s an ongoing lesson, but an important one. I keep an eye on them, but I am allowing more freedom and choices their way as they get older.
I notice other parents doing the same more than before. Maybe I’m just more in tune with it because giving the kids so much freedom is a bit daunting at first. The fact is, I am raising future adults. I have to balance teaching them a healthy dose of reality (ie. stranger danger, car safety, etc) vs teaching them to be independent and responsible. I need to teach them that outside is where magic happens. Healthy habits, spending time in nature is good not only for the body, but for the soul. Not to mention, they sleep AMAZINGLY now.
I’ll still be nervous. I’ll still keep an eye on them when they don’t know I am watching. At the end of the day though, this free range parenting, allowing the kids more freedom and responsibility has thus far been a good thing. The better they do, the better I will do. There are parents allowing their kids to navigate the city by themselves, take the subways, etc. I’m not there yet. We’re keeping with the neighborhood and going from there.