Some Free Range Zen

OK, so if this is your first time here, some quick background info: I live in an inner city neighborhood and am a free range mom of three. My son will be 15 at the end of the month, my elder daughter 12 in August, and my younger daughter is 8.5. All three use the city’s public transit system to varying degrees. My oldest is perfectly capable of planning a route to anywhere he wants to go (volunteer work downtown or a sporting goods store in the neighboring suburb) by using the transit book, my middle child travels mostly direct routes with the occasional transfer on familiar routes in our neighborhood, and my youngest is always accompanied by at least one of the older two. We’ve talked about the difference between making conversation and fishing for information and what they should and should not divulge. We’ve discussed the unlikely possibility of abduction or assault, what they should do if they are threatened and what they can do to prevent being targeted in the first place. They stay home alone regularly while I run errands in our neighborhood on weekends and occasionally while I’m at work, which is only 10-15 minutes away. One of my next door neighbors is retired as is the couple across the street, and there is a police substation less than a quarter of a mile away, should an emergency arise that needs addressed faster then I could get home. They know where the power breaker is, how to shut off the water supply to each toilet as well as the main water supply to the house. They know that unless I have told them I’m expecting someone to drop by, they are not even to approach the door if someone knocks and I am not home. We’ve discussed what to do or not do if there was an attempted burglary.

So this is my little free range success story. Short version: My three kids were home alone, making ramen (on the stove *gasp*) when someone came to the door. I had actually stepped away from my desk to speak to a coworker and missed two calls and a text from my son that someone was at the door and wouldn’t leave. When that someone entered the back yard, my son called my direct number at work but I didn’t quite make it back to my desk before it went to voicemail, but seeing the missed calls on my phone, figured it had been the kids and called right back.

“Mom, why haven’t you been answering your phone? This guy just stole my bike.”

So it takes me a second to gather that this is actually still in progress and the guy is still in view of the house. I figured was a good time to take my lunch break, told my son to hang up, call 9-1-1 and that I was on my way. I got home 15 minutes later, and as I approached the turn onto our street, the burglar was being apprehended around the corner from home and my kids were in driveway giving a police report to another officer. They’d already given a detailed scenario as well as descriptions of the stolen bike, what the guy was wearing, and his general physical features. The officer asked about how old the guy looked, and Tyler said, “eh… 35 to 45 years old. Halle chimed in, “I’d say he was in his late thirties.” Daija was pouting because they made her hide in the closet and she didn’t get to see him at all. Both girls were green with envy as Tyler left with the officer taking the report to ID the suspect and the property. When they returned, the officer explained our options, and I was proud again that Tyler indicated a desire to aid in prosecution.

When one of the officers that apprehended the burglar returned Tyler’s bike (and an empty propane tank… don’t know why he didn’t take the nearly full one from the grill?) a half hour after that, he asked me to tell my son (the spokesperson at the old age of 14) how proud he was of him, and all of them, and what a great job I’d done preparing them to handle an emergency.

I basked in the knowledge that my kids stayed calm and handled the kind of worse case scenario most parents cite as justification for helicopter parenting, then went back inside to share his praise (as well as one or two things to do better if we ever find ourselves in that situation again).

As I headed back to work, they had already resumed their lunches and promised me they were going to make sure to clean up the kitchen & dining room as soon as they were done (oh, they lie so earnestly…). Just before I shoved it into my purse, I looked down at the police report information the officer gave me before he left…

The suspect will be 37 in a couple months.

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  1. June 4, 2011 at 5:44 AM

    That is awesome! They should be proud of themselves for handling it so well!

  2. Melinda
    June 4, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    Wow, what a story! What great kids you have and how well your preparations with them have paid off! I will not however say that you and your kids are amazing. That’s because I can’t help being put in mind of the 15-year-olds of generations past who were working full time and raising families. Your kids are not amazing; they are simply being allowed to be themselves. “Children” have far more potential skill than most “adults” realize. Good for you for recognizing that.

  3. Donna Stebbins
    June 6, 2011 at 10:05 PM

    What a great story. How wonderful to see your efforts raising strong independent children pay off and show in such a positive manner!

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