Monday, June 29, 2009

Free-Range Kid

I picked the Mermaid Girl up from her first day of camp a couple of hours ago. She was chowing down on mango and complaining about how HUNGRY she was and how I didn't pack enough lunch and can I please pack more tomorrow because she was STARVING, when the phone rang.

"Hi," said a kid's voice. "This is Trillium. Does MG have plans for today?"

MG took the phone. "Sure." She said. "Okay. How about in fifteen minutes?"

I said I'd walk her, but before I even had my shoes on, she'd finished her mango and thrown a skirt over her leotard.

"I'm going now!" she called, and was out the door. By the time I had my keys, she was down our half-block hill and across the street.

I followed, far enough behind to see her, but too far to call out comfortably and be heard. She knows the way to Trillium's house; it's less than four blocks away, most of which is the same as her route to school. So I didn't try too hard to catch up, just kept an eye on her as she walked down the street, past the school, and through the schoolyard.

She passed out of sight as she rounded the corner to the next side street, but as I passed through the schoolyard gate I could see her standing on the corner of the semi-busy street that separates the school and Trillium's house.

That street makes me nervous, even more so than the Main Street a block away. Especially in the late-afternoon rush. There are no street lights on Semi-Busy Street, only four-way stops at every corner; commuters use it all the time as an alternative to Main Street, and they don't always stop.

MG stood on the corner for long enough that I had a chance to observe her observing the cars. She danced in impatience as one car zoomed past heedless of the stop sign; then I saw her take a step, and wave at something, and hesitate while looking purposefully to her right--and now I was close enough to see that she was looking at the next car to make sure it was definitively stopping for her. Then she run-skipped across the street and dashed the few short yards to Trillium's house.

She walked up the stairs to the front door, then turned around and walked back down--nobody had answered her knock, I figured--and went around to the back.

She was in the house and out of sight by the time I caught up. Trillium's mom was waiting in the doorway and waved at me. I waved back, said a few words of greeting, and turned around to walk back home.

Last week I read Leonore Skenazy's "Free-Range Kids", and was intrigued. I especially liked the card at the back, meant to be clipped out and carried around and shown to worried adults. "I am a free-range kid," it reads, and goes on to explain that the bearer knows how to cross the street safely, knows not to go anywhere with strangers, that the adults in his/her life know s/he is out and about and that this is okay with them, but if the reader is concerned, here are the parents' contact phone numbers, which they should feel free to call.

When I finished the book, I'd shown the card to MG, and asked what she thought about it. I wasn't sure she would approve; she has an ambivalent relationship with autonomy and independence, and often asks us to to do things for her that I think an almost-nine-year-old should be able to do for herself. She even likes us to pick out her clothes for her.

She read the card, and gave a wordless, eloquent thumbs-up.

I think she's just given it another one.


Anonymous badgermama said...

Totally unrelated: You were SO right about Saffy's Angel. I love it!!! It makes me so happy! I'm going to read all her books!

8:48 PM  
Blogger liz said...

Good parenting!

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi elswhere,

Apologies for another unrelated comment... Along with Mae Callen of Driving Fast on Loose Gravel, I'm working on Queer Canada Blogs, an active blogroll of queer blogs from Canada and/or by Canadians.

Your blog has been added to our list; Please check it out and let us know if you have any suggestions for other blogs we can add.

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(Feel free to delete this comment... I just wanted to contact you, and couldn't find an email address!)

10:31 AM  
Anonymous cheesefairy said...

I really liked this. Love the image of you skulking behind her.

(obviously catching up on your blog at the moment)

7:36 PM  

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