Aug 14, 2011

FreeRange Kids

When you come to pick up your kids from a playdate here on WildSide Farm, I may not know where they are. "They were here a while ago," I'll muse, then probably break into the old Bob & Doug McKenzie call that's become our family locator (though it tends to attract middle-aged beer-bellied Canadian campers too).

I am somewhere around if they need me, usually outside in the garden or reno project, but not hovering. Just gently in the radar, keeping them on the edge of my awareness, ready to respond to a cry or an injustice they can't work out for themselves. Stepping in to redirect play into a healthier mode. Helping fix a flat tire or hoist a log into some new playground invention.

Every so often I stop hammering and wonder where they are. I listen in the direction of the forest, where they might be making a fairy grove or challenging the bike jump. I lean on the hoe and listen for delighted squeals as they feed Baryshnikov the baby water buffalo. I look up from the laptop to see if they're still on the Lego blanket under the tree outside, or inside playing dress-up or quietly reading National Geographic on the purple couch. It could be hockey in the neighbour's driveway, or soccer/volleyball/baseball/badminton down in the field, or ping-pong/foosball in the hayloft. The other day I finally found them down by my workshop industriously sawing bamboo into little cups and telescopes.

Often, just as I start wondering if I should check in on them, they have the same stirrings, the vague need to reconnect. They drift my way, showing off a painting or recounting some great adventure, then move off into a new activity. They feel me out there close enough for comfort, and that provides the security and safe boundary to freely play and explore. They are being held, even from across the yard.

What a blessing to have 5.2 acres of safety. No busy roads to cross, no ponds to sink under, and only friends coming up the drive. Sure they get hurt and sure there's potential for danger, but it's as controlled a jungle as any child could wish for. Our children are learning to trust themselves and each other, trust the natural world to be a stage for their great and small dramas, and trust me to still be there when needed.

Where are your kids? They're roaming free-range and romping Joyously on the WildSide.

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