I am believing more and more that the way we rear our children can cause fears and phobias. I have never liked the term "free range children," because it sounds too cattle-like to me. But I am coming to understand that term more and more.
When I was a child, I was never allowed to do certain things - do things that would cause me to get dirty, go places that could be less safe than others, etc. I was never allowed to go hiking, for instance, for fear of snakes and insects. I was never allowed to go to a lake because the water would be dirty. I was never even allowed play in the dirt. Believe it or not, I never even finger painted until I was in sixth grade. I was always pushed toward academics. Now, don't get me wrong, I have always enjoyed academics; but, to this day, there are some phobias that I have.
A good example happened on Friday evening. Kelsey and I took Taliesin and Nathanael to Salina's new water park. Now, you have to remember, I had not been in water other than the bathtub or sprinkler park since I was eight years old when I took two swimming lessons before I quit for various reasons. I am now thirty-five. Taliesin and Nathanael had a blast; and, I admit, I did, too. It was so nice letting go and just having fun. I think what really made it sink in was when Taliesin went down a small water slide, and I could not bring myself to. I have told myself, when we go back, I am going to go down that slide.
Since we have started unschooling (back when Taliesin was three years old), I have done things that I have never done before - hiking in the hills, finding rocks at the lake, playing at the water park. I think what I see is that I do not want Taliesin and Nathanael to allow fear to hold them back. I see children whose parents are afraid, much like my mom was, to allow their children to be children. I know what that feels like as an adult. I do not want Taliesin and Nathanael to grow up with those fears. I want them to be adults who aren't afraid to swim in the ocean or climb a mountain or fly an airplane or travel around the world (Taliesin's goal).
So does that make me a believer in "free range children"? I still do not like that label. And I still exercise caution with my sons. I'm not going to let them roam around anywhere they want to go alone. I do believe in adult supervision. But I also believe that children should be given the opportunity to try new things, even if that means scrapes, bruises, dirt, and bug bites.
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