I recently learned of a book about kids in America. The book is titled “Free-Range kids” ( Amazon.com). The writer talks about children that play and imagine, get dirty and tire themselves out playing. I guess you could say my children were one of the few Free range kids that this writer talks about.
On the farm my kids wandered the yard, which was about 2 acres in size. They could also go on the full 60 acres if they chose to. The woodsy areas full of life and wonder.
Before my daughter was born, my son and I explored the 60 plus acres. The land had sat fallow for many years. I always enjoyed exploring the woods. to see the creepy crawly things. One particular spot my son loved was his ship. It was two small, sapling size tree trunks growing on the edge of a back water pond, that was fed by the creek.
I recall the first time we were at the ship. It had started to rain and we decided to get back to the house. Paul being only 3, tried to go around the trunks on the water side. He slipped and fell into the water. I was so shocked that it happened, I looked down into the water to see him laying on his back, looking up at me thru the water. I jumped down, into the water, scooped him up and set him down on the bank. Looking him in the eye, I asked him if he was okay, he looked at me with all the indignation in the world and said “I’m all wet”. I will never forget him looking at me thru the water. No fear in his eyes just surprise.
He spent many an hour on that ship sailing the seven seas. I would venture down with him and check out the creek on the property. He would hunt for frogs, salamanders and tadpoles. Sitting by the back water and watch tadpoles dart around. Sometimes we would catch a few and take them up to the pond that was in the front yard. We would watch the miracle of transformation as the tadpole slowly turned to frog.
My two children would spend hours in the summer exploring the yard, swimming in the above ground pool, picking blackberries and blueberries. Watching for frogs in the pond. Catching gardener snakes. Even catching salamanders that are not seen much any more.
I grew up in a typical suburban neighborhood. Every house looked the same. I always knew after school a bunch would be out playing and riding bikes. Some days I would wander into the woods behind our house and explore or play some imagined game. In the winter I would walk on the swamp that was frozen and pretend to ice skate. The pond was not that big but it was big enough for me.
I became a creative thinker from all this play when I was young. I did not die from critters in the swamp. I did not get diseases from getting dirt on me. I did receive a few bumps and scraps from the pavement and the trees I climbed. But I certainly survived.
I became hardened. I knew what real pain was. Not being alone, but I was comfortable alone in my skin. I learned life has ups and downs. And yes people get hurt but they live. Not like today’s kid that cannot go out in the rain. Or walk to the park. Or swing on a swing. I see kids today take a fall on a skate board or bike and they are thru. They ball, and ball until mommy comes to the rescue. It is to bad mommies of the world have to save their children from what. Really the saving is from bullies not trees, from predators not dirt. Start allowing kids to imagine, start allowing them to get dirty. start allowing them to explore. You might be surprised at their independence at home.