"Free Range Parenting" is a hot topic in these parts due to the news coverage of a family's choice to let there young children walk home from the park on a busy street. At the root of it all is the government's right to intercede in parenting. I ,as usual, am on the fence. In my years of working with children, there are times I wish the government would intervene sooner. My feeling is, if you aren't hurting your children physically or emotionally, then you should be allowed to raise them as you see fit. This statement, though, brings back nightmares from my philosophy class. What constitutes emotional and physical safety? Who decides this? Oy vey! Now my head hurts!
What I practice is "Me Range Parenting." In others words, I do what works for me. I work in a world where I have dealt with everything from parents who won't let their 6 year old feed himself to parents who don't provide food. The older I get and the longer I parent the lines of judgement blur. I tend to offer help first and judge later, but after multiple times, I can get a little"judgey."
I think one of the things that made me so self sufficient was the fact that I had so much responsibility at home. I wasn't always successful at school, but at home I was doing the work of an adult. I cooked, cleaned, and took care of my brother (I even changed his diapers at 4). My mother gave me these responsibilities not out of parenting choice, but necessity. Later, she expressed regret at putting so much on me and asked that I not do the same to my girls. I don't think my friends realized how much responsibility I bore at home. I grew up in a time and place where a latch key child being raised by a single mother was rare. I longed for a mother who served my friends homemade brownies and kept a spotless house.
No surprise that once I was a mother, I took on that role. Also, I am a perfectionist and it is easier if I do it myself. My girls grew up with the kind of ideal childhood that I thought they needed. But as they grew older, I realized I might have been cheating them of something. They might be self sufficient at school, but not always here at home. As life becomes more full and I grow older, I can't keep up the pace. Things get messy, stuff gets lost, we all get annoyed.
Enter "Me Range Parenting." I have been pushing the girls to take more responsibility around the house. Things don't always get done the way I'd like, but they are done. This is especially important for Caroline as she prepares to leave us, but it is also important for Lily's confidence. Sometimes people are surprised at the amount of independence I give her in some areas. Others think I should give her more. That's why this is called "Me Range," it's what's best for me (well really us, but me rhymes with free).
I have also been letting Lily watch the news with us. I think she is ready to understand that there is more to the world than her own personal experience. We watch the History Channel together and various science programs. She understands that history and nature can be cruel. I know that some would question why we would let a child who is diagnosed with anxiety watch this. We are with her and the conversations we have prevent anxiety. She seems to be less worried when she has information.
We'll see how this works out. Really, as a parents, all you can do is your best.