I Don’t Always Know Where My Kids Are—and I’m Great with That

girls riding bikes together iStock

I’ve been working on the couch for hours now. I’ve got a blanket draped over my lap and I’m sipping my coffee, just grinding away on my laptop. And I have no idea where my kids are.

They’ve been gone for some time now, gallivanting around the neighborhood, likely living their best lives. At ages ten and eight, they don’t have cell phones, either. So, I have no way of making sure they’re OK.

And I’m completely fine with all of it.

I know this laid-back parenting style may seem irresponsible to some. I may be called a “free-range” parent. And I get it. Kids have smartphones, Gabb Watches, and more so parents can keep tabs on them. Play dates are orchestrated so adults can be with their children at all times. And as a parent, I understand all of this. Keeping our kids safe is the most important. So, I’d never judge someone for doing what they feel is necessary.

But hear me out.

Giving my kids freedom gives me freedom, too.

You see, we live in a fairly large neighborhood. So, the kids are always out on their bikes roaming in and out of driveways. They also take to the wooded trails behind the houses, which link up to surrounding neighborhoods. They build forts and fairy houses and play tag in those woods. They set up sprinklers and squeal as they run through lawns.

They gather with friends of all ages and genders. Without parents around, they get into mischief and learn to problem-solve without us. There are times I know they eat way too much sugar or engage in what some might see as “unsavory” behavior, like climbing tall trees or sword fighting with sticks.

And sure, there are squabbles. But they’re resolving them without parents (for the most part). In fact, when my kids are home with friends, they fight more. They tattle on one another and expect me to settle their arguments or even bring down the hammer. But when they’re away, they simply have to figure it out.

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As for me, I feel like I’m giving my kids a gift—a childhood. They come home with grass-stained knees, tangled hair, and filthy feet. When they’re gone, I have no idea what they do, but I know they are living.

I’m also able to work from home in peace with just my Goldendoodle at my feet. It’s a breath of fresh air, knowing I don’t have to entertain my children all day, every day. When I was the one in charge of their daily schedule and social agenda, it grew exhausting. Of course, I love spending time with my kids (moms have to preface everything with that, don’t we?), but I also know that it’s developmentally appropriate for them to have some time away, too.

By giving them trust and distance, our bond has grown tighter. My kids aren’t constantly hearing their mother’s voice advising them what to do and what not to do. Instead, they’re learning to listen to the voice within—and at times, to ignore it.

Sometimes they make bad decisions. They’re kids, after all. And I’m sure plenty of the arguments they get into with their friends are their fault. But that is what growing up is all about—learning to navigate the world on your own.

Of course, when my kids tumble, I hear about it. Because they have space, they come back and tell me things when they feel the need to. I don’t know everything and I don’t feel like I need to. But I do hope this door stays open once they become teens because I know the problems will get bigger and grow more serious.

And though I won’t keep tabs on their every move, they’ll always know I’m right here.


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