Raising Free Range Children through Free Range Chickens…

I recently found Lynn’s site through babble and I kind of devoured it over the course of an afternoon. Do you do that with new blogs you like? You stumble upon something that really hits home and then you just read and read and want to see everything that person has ever written? 

Anyway, she is all for free range children. So am I. …and while I am not for letting my kiddos go alone on the subway yet, I am totally with her on a lot of things. She is an advocate for being able to leave your kids in a locked car on cool days to drop your preschooler off at school or running in to drop off library books. She is an advocate for letting your kids actually play outside without constant over the shoulder supervision. She is an advocate for letting your kids have a little adventure and a little life in their life. So am I.

It drives me crazy that I feel extreme amounts of guilt for leaving my sleeping baby and grumpy 2 year old buckled in their carseats, car off, 50 degrees out and raining while I run my eldest into the preschool class a few hundred feet away. What could possibly happen that would be prevented if I were there? Isn’t the risk of pneumonia from the rain a bigger threat than whatever could happen in the 30 seconds I am leaving them buckled in the car. Seriously?

I want my kids to skin their knees and learn how to take a fall. I want them to bonk their heads a few times and climb trees and learn how to build a campfire so they know their limits and they know adventure. I want to raise men that know how to hunt and fight, but men that know when to use their skills. I want to raise men that love to play and love to seek adventure, but men that don’t need to do those things in adulthood because a need for those things was not met in childhood.

I have to stop myself from running behind the big wheel jeep when my 1 year old is strapped in and I have to stop myself from yelling at them to stop rolling down the hill because they are going to run into a tree. I need to make myself join them when they are sledding and join them doing cannonballs into the pool because it is not my nature to want to do those things (but of course I enjoy it once I join in!) 

…and the chickens? They will be free range and their diet of chicken feed will be heavily supplemented by weeds, grass and hopefully stink bugs in our yard. My kids are going to learn to be kind to the chickens, lest they get pecked and my kids are going to learn to care for the chickens by giving them food, and water and cleaning out their pen. They are going to learn how to handle eggs gently, and they are probably going to break a few along the way, but they are going to learn. They are going to learn that this is where chicken nuggets come from. They are going to learn to respect the food we eat. (No, we are not going to eat our chickens, but I want them to see the creature that meat comes from).

There are so many things I want to teach them, and so many things I am sometimes scared to teach them. Should I protect them from bullies or give them a lesson in how to swing a fist and then teach them whether they should use their skill or just walk away? Should I teach them how to carry scissors to lesson the chance of an accident or just not let them have scissors until they are 15 years old? Should they have to use baby scissors when they are no longer babies, or should I lecture them until they are deaf on proper scissor safety?

Such are the lessons of parenthood. While I am on the free range side of the fence, I still have questions and concerns. I know that I won’t ever know if every decision is the right or wrong one, but I at least want those decisions to be conscious. I want to make rational decisions on how to raise my children well. Decisions that are not based on public or popular opinion.  I want them to know of danger and know how to handle themselves, but I don’t want them to ever have to use their skills. I want them to be adventuresome, but I don’t want them to ever get hurt. I want them to be strong, but know how to use their strength to help the weak.

Are you a free range parent? 

While this is a serious post, I wanted to leave you with a few photos of the said chickens to make you smile.  
Remember when they were THIS BIG?  Now they are teenagers, with actual feathers and attitudes to boot.
 This little one has more attitude than all of them combined...watch that head cock...
ok...so a photo doesn't accurately capture the attitude...you just have to trust me that the cock of that little girl's head is deFIANT


Mud said…
Nice post. It echoes alot of things I hope to embody when I eventually have kids.
I am SOOO glad you wrote this! Ever since the twins were about 8 months I have left them in the car when I pick up my 4 year old from school. And may I share with you the looks of shame I have received from the other parents of one child:) I pretty much came to the same conclusion as you. What could possible happen? It isn't hot out, they are happy in the car and you know what? NO one has ever offered to help. Oh, and did I mention that their double stroller barely even fits through the door, let alone getting it down the stairs, grrrr. Sorry I vent:)
Such dilemma we face, parents, mothers especially, on how exactly are we going to parent a child. Sure, I want all those stuffs you mentioned for my boys, too, and more! I sure do hope a lot of things for them. Free range or not? I think being a parent is hard and sweet enough, that adding labels just adds to the pressures of it all. So I don't want to label my parenting style. I'd like to go by 'instinct'; to go by what I feel in my heart is best for my child at that precious moment, that will fit the child's personality and temperament.

We put a lot of labels for everything, including on parenting. But for parenting, maybe it's as simple as being there for the children as they grow, teaching them skills for life, and answering their questions the best way we could.

"The more people have studied different methods of bringing up children the more they have come to the conclusion that what good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is the best after all." ~ Benjamin Spock
As a parent of grown children, I have the benefit of knowing how they turned out..hindsight is always clearer than the crystal ball you have in front of you right now. As a parent it's most important to have your choices feel right to you, if it feels right, then you're doing it right!
You have some great ideas for raising your kids and I certainly think you are on the right path. Good luck to you, and I look forward to following your free-range adventures! ;)
Free range children - I like that!
I have the Free Range book ready to read as we speak!! Funny how I stumbled upon this post from Women Living Well link up--so glad I did!!
I think you'd LOVE The Dangerous Book for Boys (http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Book-Boys-Conn-Iggulden/dp/0061243582/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1303915265&sr=8-1). Lots of adventure in the pages. :)
I love this post. Like you I have to stop myself from hovering over Garrett sometimes. But I know it's best for him to learn from experience instead of never getting to experience anything at all. You wrote that so eloquently. I am totally in agreement with you.
Jessica said…
I love the free-range parent idea! I want my kids to run around and enjoy nature, too.
Audra said…
Thanks for linking up on Rediscovering Domesticity!

I am with you on being a free-range mom. I feel my littles are safer strapped in their seats while I unload groceries rather than mauling each other in the house while I run in and out. I could go on and on...

I do have a great fear about governmental interference. My friend left her 4 children in the car at the gas station (all buckled in car seats/boosters). She walked 2 cars away to the outdoor pay kiosk. Someone called the cops on her who in turn called cps. She was investigated fully because she choose to keep her kids buckled in their seats rather than drag them across a busy gas station parking lot. Crazy!