Free Range in Baby Steps

We are inching closer to having Free Range Kids. Clap now.

We are dog-sitting our favorite (living) dog in the world, a beautiful, sweet Golden Retriever named Silka. She is awesome. She's exactly like our own beloved Chelsea, who passed on to Dog Heaven 3.5 years ago, and Silka fits right in with our family.

And she needs to be walked. So we are now letting our two boys take her for walks around the block with the following guidelines:

  • Around the block only. No street crossing -- which is for Silka's safety more than for their own, actually.
  • If you come across anything or anyone who makes you nervous or uncomfortable, RUN HOME FAST.
  • And because Silka is with them: bring a plastic bag and clean up after your pet. Do not put the bag in anyone else's garbage can but our own (that last bit was added out of necessity after the first walk).

It's worked out great. They go around, they check in, they go around again... And the world has not stopped spinning. They, however, love this tiny taste of independence.

And then today, I ran a couple of errands and let the boys stay home by themselves. Ground rules:

  • Do not open the front door. Not if someone knocks and not to go outside on your own. You have full access to the back garden and the entire house. You may not go out into the front garden for any reason whatsoever. (I actually put something in front of the screen door, so I could tell upon my return if the door had been moved. Barrier was still there when I got back!)
  • Don't answer the phone; screen the call and pick it up if it's mom or dad calling.
  • Call me if you see blood.

Again, earth still on its axis; boys happy because I didn't have to drag five kids (2 of them grumpy) on a few simple errands. The girls are young enough that a car ride is still a fun adventure for them.

They did call once. Not to tell me about blood, but to tell me that they had made me a treat. "I hope you don't mind, Mom, but we had to sample it a little." I came home to a sweet note and a sweeter treat. The note said: "Dear Mom, We hope you enjoy this treat. We call it The Cookies With Iceing and Sprinkles. love, Samuel and Vincenzo."

In the bowl, which was wrapped, there were 2 Chips Ahoy cookies, covered with chocolate jimmies, chocolate chips, two or three different colors of cake icing, whipped cream and a cherry. Yum! Actually, it was overly sweet, to the point of being pretty gross and hard to finish...but I muddled through. They helped, of course.

Anyway, I like this Free Range Kids thing. I'm calmer, because their lives are more varied, they get to do more things, and I don't feel like they are completely underfoot all day. While Silka has been here, if they get too crazy or loud, I can just say, "Hey, you two, take the dog for a walk!" I'm sure 17 walks per day are actually good for the dog, right? They are calmer because they get some time without me watching their every move. It's a win-win. Yahoo.

This is one of those times on the motherhood path that I get to stop, breathe, and realize that things, and children, and moms, change. If I'm having one of those days that seem like just another piece of stale popcorn on an unending, unvarying string, I can rest assured in the knowledge that before I know it, the string will indeed be transformed. My days will not always be about sheparding small children through the day, solving arguments, changing diapers, cajoling them to eat, and desperately seeking a little peace and quiet. And knowing that makes me treasure the time I have now, instead of dreaming up new ways to escape it.

All of this just because I let the boys stay home? Shoulda done this a LOOOOOOOOOOONG time ago. Like when they were 2 and 4. Just kidding.

note: I am borrowing my label for this post (and related posts) from the blog of Lenore Skenazy. Check it out for yourself!


nicole said…
you've added a dog to the are brave! I love the free range bit...I can't wait!

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