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Free range parenting...on ice

A website I love that covers contemporary gender roles recently replied to a tweet of mine asking why we live in a culture of helicopter parents. I'd told them that I really enjoyed their article on encouraging our children to fail--in order to learn life lessons, mature, learn responsibility, become freethinking members of society, etc.. I said I really have no clue. Instant gratification? Lack of personal responsibility? Overly prolonged childhood? I dunno why parents feel the need to hover. I just know that's not us.

Partly because we have highly independent children. Cole has very few timid bones in his body. He's a run and play and jump and get dirty kind of kid. Asking him to hold your hand in the parking lot is a major victory if he does so willingly. He likes the zoo not for the animals, but for the long pathways to explore.

Even little Leda has caught my attention as an independent baby. She loves to be held, sure. But has grown more and more willing to fall asleep on her own in her play yard. And most of the time she likes playing on the floor with her toys the best. If her big brother is around, she gives him a smile and shows interest (which is not mutual, I might add). Other than her tendency to talk while she chews, you rarely hear anything out of her as she rolls on the living room carpet.

The attitude of letting kids be kids came home yesterday with an ice incident though. Cole loves when you give him ice to play with and he usually carries it around until he decides to suck on it. Unfortunately, this strategy has flaws when you're outside on the patio in the gravel and dirt.

He quickly found his hands covered in mud, small stones sticking to his cube of ice, and then a tongue covered in gravel. I was tempted to stop him, but that seemed like it would violate the spirit of outdoor summer play. What good is it to be a little boy if you never get gravel on your tongue?

Mind you, this attitude of mine is strongly influenced by Kelly's "rub some dirt on it and get up" life philosophy because my own childhood was clean, had no broken bones, and has little resemblance to Cole's attitude about diving into things.

So I sat, chuckling, as my son used his muddy hands to scrape his tongue, making the cutest "ew, that's really horrible" face at me. What was really making me laugh was that it didn't really bother him. Lesson learned? Perhaps. But I doubt it. Cole isn't the best at taking heed. His attitude is more like if he fell down he knows he needs to run harder at whatever object next time.

Don't get me wrong, he's clever and extremely physically capable. Usually his second attempt at things goes far better. It's more like somehow I know his joy at sticks and rocks will eventually overcome him and he'll end up with another mouthful of dirt at some point. Or sand. Or scraped knee.

Or report from his teachers that he was running in the halls again.

I love Lenore Skenazy's summary of Free Range Kids on the "Why?" section of her website:
We are not daredevils. We believe in life jackets and bike helmets and air bags. But we also believe in independence.
 Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned.