Sunday, August 7, 2011

I was so free range and didn't even know it

I faithfully follow Free Range Kids.

Easy answer.

Because it is so much easier to read about how children can (and are) surviving in this world, without spontaneously combusting simply because they are out of our line of sight, than it is to watch the horrible stories that have been chosen to be reported on the evening news.

Bad things happen. Yes, they do. My husband was molested by a volunteer in the youth ministry at his church when he was in junior high. I feel the affects of it almost every day. I totally get that bad things happen. But, that doesn't mean they will.

Having a 'free range' mindset doesn't mean being a bad, neglectful parent. It doesn't mean throwing caution to the wind or letting your children sit in the front seat of a car with airbags. It simply means allowing your children to experience life as it was meant to be without fear that they will kill themselves, be snatched away, or be in wildly remote danger.

If anyone would have been snatched up by the boogie man along the way throughout life, it would have been me. At least a couple of times. I was not a cautious child or young adult. I voluntarily put myself in more dangerous situations than I care to admit.

Okay, so more about me since we are on the subject. Well, really more about Audrey, our very-soon-to-be thirteen year old eighth grader. And me, her free range Mom.

Last Sunday morning, Audrey left for a week long mission trip to Chicago with her youth group from church.

Leading up to the trip, we had a couple parent meetings. Basics were given to us. What to pack. When the team would be leaving. What wasn't allowed on the trip. Who the responsible adults would be accompanying the group and their cell phone numbers.

You know... all of those important things.

As we were driving to drop Audrey off last Sunday, it hit me. Chicago is a big city. And, we have NO IDEA where in Chicago she will be. We have no idea what she will be doing. We have no idea of her schedule. WE HAVE NO IDEA.

Like. No. Idea. Nada.

Chicago is six hours from home.

I am a very structured human being. The word "very" is a huge understatement. Plus, see above note about my husband being molested as a child. I am not uber trustful in humans, period.

The kids on the trip were not allowed cell phones. Or iPods. Or, like anything that would allow them to communicate with us. Not necessarily us, but the outside world (aka those friends or boyfriends not on the trip). Which also meant us.

One week. Without us. In the 'hoods of Chicago. Yes, the 'hoods. Where gangsters and drug dealers hung. Where children roam freely without enough to eat.

Downtown Chicago was, of course, much safer than where my not quite thirteen year old daughter walked to ask kids to come join their Vacation Bible School for the afternoon. Every day.

Ey, ey, ey.

Yet, she lived to tell about it.

Plus, the kids made their own meals. And, cleaned up. They were responsible. Because they had to be.

They also did manual labor. Without their parents' supervision. They handled heavy objects. AND PAINT.

Believe it or not, I am thankful that Audrey experienced life outside of her very safe (or is it?!?) small Ohio town outside of my/our watch. I am thankful that she knows life isn't always so safe, and when she is in those situations, she needs to adapt. Life isn't always predictable, and it can be mentally and physically difficult, which is a good lesson to learn at any age.

It is also vital that children know that life also isn't unpredictably scary or dangerous.

As much as I would love to be there to protect my children every step of the way through life, I have to constantly remind myself that I am raising my girl and boys to, one day, be independent. That doesn't mean to just be able to balance a checkbook or learn to cook something other than ramen noodles (which they have mastered by the way).

Here we are, a week later from my initial panic attack in sending my daughter to Chicago, and Audrey is home, safe and sound.

And, I am a proud Free Ranger, even if it is a Free Ranger "in the making".

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